Chicken Live Better and Safer!

The Oromo people, indigenous to Africa and incorporated into Ethiopia at the end of 19th century, constitute about 40% of the 110 M population of that country. Ever since their incorporation into Ethiopia, they assert that they have known nothing but sweeping repression and negligence by the government. Denied freedom and justice for a century and a half, they have suffered economic, cultural and political marginalization at the hands of governments led by politicians from other ethnic groups.

Their land, Oromia, one of 9 federal zones of Ethiopia, is the most fertile and dubbed “the economic bread basket of Ethiopia”. All of the five top exports of Ethiopia: coffee, oil seeds, gems (including gold), vegetables and live tree/cut flowers come from Oromia.

oromia coffee

Yet, they are the most internally displaced people in the world today.

According to UNHCR Feb. 2019 report, of the 9.7 million internally displaced persons in Africa, Ethiopia received the dubious distinction of having the highest number - at 3.19M (33%) – of internally displaced people, which according one report is “the biggest displacement crisis that almost no one is talking about.”

A graph that show people displacement data in Africa

This video clip [following] is a heart wrenching story about one such internally displaced Oromo persons albeit a very minute minority crammed into a makeshift camp in Yambaroo locality, located in Bunno Beddelle, Oromia. Conditions in this camp are appalling. As you will see shortly, thousands of families live here in one of the most intolerable and inhumane conditions.

Their next-door neighbors live in a gated community where the displaced Oromos are not welcome – a modern day apartheid of a different kind: Not one based on race or any other human attributes but, believe it or not, on species. What are we talking about? Let us find out from an Oromo News Network (ONN) reporter.

As the administrator of Yambaro himself just told me, up to fifty displaced Oromo persons occupy each of these make shift tents made of plastic. What is more, the refugees also told me that they are not permitted to cross over to the fenced off housing side. The reason they are not allowed to approach the fence is because the houses in the fenced off community are owned by Midroc and are used for poultry farming by the owner, Sheik Al Amoudi, said the ONN reporter.

displaced oromo persons vs chicken live
Decent houses used for poultry farming. Chicken live in it. [left]; Makeshift tents made of plastic. Internally displaced Oromo persons occupy them. [right]

That poultry life is valued more than that of human beings is difficult to comprehend in the first place. Add to that the fact that chicken lives in a gated community where human beings are not allowed to venture, and it becomes surreal and unearthly for any decent human being. We ask, where is the moral outrage of their estimated 45 M Oromo brethren? Where is the world community? Red cross? Red Crescent? Others?

Be that as it may, in this particular makeshift camp, next door to the Sheik’s poultry farm, where chickens are afforded better housing than their next-door human beings, the ONN reporter continues narrating what he was observing.

"How many families live in this tent?” ONN reporter asks a resident. The resident answers, “As you can see, ten families share this tent. There are tents shared by up to 20 families too. We don’t have separate kitchen. Cooking takes place in this same space. I know of persons who lost their sights because of the smoke in the tents.”

Then the reporter walks over to a lady resident of the tent sitting on the floor and poses the question “What is your name, Miss?” The lady responds, “My name is Halima Daawwe Alisho.” “Where is your bed? Where do you sleep?” asks the reporter. “I sleep right here – on the floor. This is all we have which we are sharing among 10 families consisting of husbands, wives and their children.” The reporter continues, “So where do the parents sleep? And the children?” to which Halimaa responds “right here, on the floor. All of us sleep on the floor.”

The reporter continues his tour of the camp and enters what looks like a small shack. A toilet bowl in what used to be a bathroom. It is now a home, a living room, a bed room and a bathroom for these displaced Oromo persons. To contain the sewer smell emanating from it, they cover it with rugs.

"What is your name mom?” he asks a resident. The resident responds “My name is Xayyibaa Saanoo. We were displaced from Harargee in 1994 (Eth. Calendar). I was imprisoned in TPLF prison for two years accused of being an OLF member. Upon my release, I returned to Hararge, got married and bore children. But not for long, for the TPLF government continued to accuse me of membership in the OLF and making my life difficult. I was forced to leave my home town in 1994 with my three children in tow."

The resident continues, "We were settled here upon the government’s false assertion of the camp being livable. The same room is being used as a living room, as a bed room and as a bathroom. We are not provided with enough food. About 30 individuals have died due to malnutrition and the living conditions in this camp. Humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross are not permitted to visit our camp. If they show up here, they are turned back” explaining why she believes they are not receiving aid.

05 img4 2f1f0
Displaced Oromo persons' children. Yambaro, Bunno Bedele.

Hidden from the eyes and ears of their compatriots and that of the international community, these Oromos and their children suffer immeasurably. Ethiopian regimes are known for their neurotic obsession with how they are viewed by western governments that sustain them in power. Concern for wellbeing of their peoples is a distant second.

They are bent on maintaining a false image of political stability and economic progress to the detriment of the population’s welling because they fear internal displacement can be an indicator of political instability in the country. Ethiopia’s history, for instance, is filled with famines that devoured its peoples unbeknownst to the international community because the government of the day would not let news of the famines out. The 1972 and 1984 famines are some such examples.

The awareness in the country is not better. Inside the country, most Ethiopian and Oromo media practice self-censorship either because they are owned and/or sustained by the government or for fear of government retribution. As a result, the population is kept unaware about what is really going on a few miles away in their own communities thereby hindering them from providing whatever support they can offer. It looks like the main stream media in the country has chosen cozy relationship with the current regime than reporting the suffering of internally displaced Oromo persons. In so doing they have left a big void that smaller media outlets like Voice of Independent Oromia and ONN are left with filling.