State-Sanctioned Genocide and War Crimes Targeting the Wollo Oromo in Amhara Regional State in Ethiopia

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Press Release

Date:  March 31, 2021

Subject: State-Sanctioned Genocide and War Crimes Targeting the Wollo Oromo in Amhara

               Regional State in Ethiopia

One of several villages reduced to ashes by Amhara Special Forces in Artuma Furti district in Kemisse, Wollo, Amhara regional state   

“Under the pretext of war on OLF-Shane, genocide and war crime are committed with impunity in Ethiopia’s Amhara Regional State targeting Wollo Oromo by Amhara militia and special forces because; 1) they are Oromo, 2) they are Muslims, and 3) because radical Amhara elements decided to use them as bargaining chips  to accomplish their group’s interest outside their region by placing and incrementally tightening noose around Wollo Oromo’s neck until they (the radicals) eventually secure their group interest all over Oromia.”   English translation of a speech by Mr. Mohamed Hassan, parliamentarian, Wollo People’s Representative in Ethiopia Parliament at its monthly parliamentary session held on March xx, 2011 [1] [2].

In line with the Prime Minister’s threat to redeploy security forces to Oromia as soon as the war in Tigray is over, and no sooner than he declared victory, aided and abated by Amhara Regional State Government Special forces and Eritrean armed forces, Amhara  militia and special forces launched a horrific genocidal ethnic cleansing attack against the Wollo Oromo in Oromia special Zone in Amhara regional state, in North Shawa zone, and in Metekele,  in Benishangul Gumuz state. They used heavy weapons and conventional war tactics to murder innocent unarmed Wollo Oromo farmers, including children, women, and senior citizens.

As reported on the BBC Oromo language program, and according to one of the affected district’s Administrator, Mr. Jamaal Hasan – the Administrator of Northern Shewa, Amhara Regional State, in Jille Dhumuga alone, the AmharaMilitia torched the village for over a week, killing people and animals, destroying crops and homes with personal belongings. In the affected districts, the attack reportedly displaced a total of 80,600 Oromo farmers and their dependents, with 76 individuals confirmed dead, 114 seriously injured and 815 homes reduced to ashes. The injured who could find their way to the nearby clinics were denied medical service and were forced to endure pain, and were left to die.

Following these attacks, Wollo Oromo parliamentarians pleaded with the PM, at a monthly parliamentary session, to deploy federal forces urgently to protect their people’s safety and security.  The parliamentarians stated that Amhara supremacist militia are committing heinous crimes against Oromo civilians to drive them entirely out of their ancestral land incrementally, either through terror and forcing them to flee, or by simply eradicating them. Sadly, the Prime Minister, instead of heeding their plea, chose to respond by confirming that Amhara militia and Special Forces were deployed at his request and with his tacit approval in the past, and vowed to deploy them throughout other regions at his discretion going forward.

The Wollo massacre came on the hills of intensified extrajudicial killings of Oromo in Oromia over the last 3 years, especially following the Assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, a famous Oromo Artist known for his revolutionary songs demanding justice for Oromo. Even before the slain musician was laid to rest, Abiy’s Attorney General blamed Oromo Liberation Front (“OLF-Shane”) for the assassination. Sounds familiar? Why would Oromo Liberation Front assassinate its most loved celebrity and a fighter for justice for Oromo?  From the time the movement launched armed struggle to end slavery and occupation of Oromia in the 70’s, successive Ethiopian Empire rulers, including TPLF- EPRDF, have sought to explain their vicious crackdown on Oromos. Their campaign is to douse Oromos’ aspiration and struggle for equal rights, self-rule, and rights to develop and use their language and culture. Successive Ethiopian governments framed this as a war on a “separatist” Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a group they often falsely branded as terrorists.

Dr. Abiy and his party, previously known as the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), came to power in 2018 following the austere of the TPLF due to sustained Oromo youth popular uprising over the previous 3+years. Sadly, Abiy’s ruling junta essentially uses the same tactic his previous TPLF masters used, to neutralize Oromo’s struggle for justice and equality. Abiy’s ruling junta is rightly terrified with the prospect of participating in an election with real Oromo opposition parties, the OLF and Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). These two Oromo parties command the respect and support of over 90% of the Oromo public, contrary to Abiy Ahmed’s prosperity party.

Therefore, Abiy Ahmed has resorted to discrediting, killing, and incarcerating the OLF and OFC leaders and their supporters.

The extrajudicial killings in Oromia by Abiy Ahmed’s security forces and Amhara Militia are too many and too gruesome to cover comprehensively in this short release on the Wollo Oromo Massacre.    International observers, including the United States Government, were able to verify and report (see US Department of State’s 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ethiopia) on some of the war crimes committed by government security forces and Amhara Militia targeting Oromo in Oromia.

The Tigray Precedent

Ethiopia declared victory in its war over Tigray Regional State at the end of November 2020. On November 28, PM Abiy tweeted “I am pleased to share we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region.” He was also quoted for his famous assertions that not a single civilian life was lost during the conflict and that the Ethiopian security forces conducted the operation needed to restore law and order to guarantee the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since then, though, despite the officially acknowledged internet and communication blackout for weeks, the news about most dreadful events is spreading all over the globe.  The world has, and is, learning each day about the mass murder, desecration of human remains, sadistic extrajudicial killings of unarmed young men and women, pushing dead bodies off the cliffs, looting and destruction of properties.  Ordinary citizens are tormented and tortured before being sadistically executed.  Tigres are being expelled from their ancestral lands by the Amhara Special Forces supported by the Ethiopian and Eritrean National Defense forces, many taking refuge in a neighboring Sudan. The ordeal the surviving refugees share with whoever cares to listen now constitute lead headline news on Tigray and on almost all major media outlets.

It is massacres and devastation of a similar proportion that PM Abiy threatened to bring to Oromia.

After months of denying civilian causalities in the region, participation of Eritrean security forces in the conflict in Tigray, and occurrence of war crimes and rapes, now that the outside world has been able to see and hear from alternative sources, the Ethiopian government had no option but to acknowledge that  crimes have been committed [1] and that indeed Eritrean forces are in Tigray [2] [3].

It is these same forces of mayhem and destruction that PM Abiy vowed to deploy to Oromia once his mission was accomplished in Tigray. As of today, there are credible reports that these same forces are deployed to Oromia, including the invading Eritrean forces.

In a statement that defies any logic, Abiy Ahmed also announced at a parliamentary session that the Amhara militias and the Amhara regional security forces also participated in the war on Tigray and did so at the Federal government’s explicit approval! Not surprisingly, following the Tigray forces’ retreat, the Amhara militias immediately occupied the border districts of Tigray they claimed was forcibly incorporated into Tigray by the TPLF-dominated previous regime. Subsequently, they expelled the surviving citizens to flee to Sudan and appointed Amhara Administrators and technocrats to rule over Tigray’s newly occupied districts. The Prime Minister and his security chief also announced that the Amhara militia and Special Forces would be redeployed to other regions, particularly to Oromia and Bene-Shangul Gumuz, a promise they have now kept as the Wollo massacre demonstrates. It would not be a stretch to expect to see them occupy Oromo lands and appoint Amhara Administrators and technocrats to rule over these areas.

The decision to deploy Amhara forces to the other Regional States defies logic, given the country is on the brink of disintegration simply because of the Amhara supremacists refusal to end their domination that Menelik and his successors institutionalized through the imposition of Amhara hegemony all over the country for the last 100+ years. A coalition of liberation forces representing different nations and nationalities that replaced the Military regime in 1991 set a process in motion to jointly transition the country into a multinational federal system, to guarantee the equality of nations and nationalities and their right to self-rule. Its implementation over the following 27 years was never perfect. However, for over 90 million non-Amhara Ethiopians, it sustained the hope that a better future is ahead; when every nation’s rights are respected, all nations are treated equally and free to exercise their right to self-determination unhindered. That effectively kept the country together. Nonetheless, the current regime of Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the Amhara supremacists seem willing to risk dismantling the multinational federal system using a melting pot assimilation model for their selfish agenda. The Amhara supremacists wish to restore old Ethiopia, re-enslave other nations and nationalities in the country, and secure the imminent economic benefit that comes with it that they enjoyed for 100+ years. The current illegitimate ruling junta of Abiy Ahmed has already made it abundantly clear that it seeks to retain power at all costs in order to evade accountability for the atrocities it committed over the last 30 years.

These are some of the actual drivers of the ongoing genocides in Oromia and Tigray that are paving the way for a violent disintegration of Ethiopia – ala former Yugoslavia.

The way forward

Emperor Menelik founded Ethiopia in the late 1980s by forcibly incorporating free nations and nationalities south of the then Abyssinian Empire with a vision to assimilate all those incorporated nations into an Amharic speaking and Orthodox Christian believer’s nation called Ethiopia. King Haile Selassie nearly completed the physical control of the incorporated nations by the 1960s, before the sporadic resistance to the occupation that started as soon as the occupation project started was transformed into a full-blown armed struggle representing multiple occupied nations between 1960 and 1980.

Under both emperor Haile Selassie and the Military government of Mengistu Hailemariam, the only demand of the occupied nations was equality, justice, and their right to develop and use their language and culture as well as their right to self-govern be respected. Regrettably, the rulers responded with more killings and incarceration of the Front’s members and supporters. That error eventually resulted in Eritrea’s breakup from Ethiopia in 1991 when the Mengistu’s regime was replaced with the coalition of liberation fronts representing the remaining nations in the kingdom. The transitional government that followed the fall of Mengistu’s military junta laid a good foundation for the country to transition into a more open and democratic society where citizens’ rights are respected. Unfortunately, the TPLF regime that took power from the military junta, was not willing to implement the key elements and principles enshrined in the current constitution. Instead, TPLF misused the constitution, installed its servants in all federal regions to exploit their economic resources. Hence, the TPLF failed to respect and enforce the federated nations’ rights to develop and use their respective languages, exercise their culture, and self-govern. Its colossal failure was having not respecting and practically implementing the legal rights and powers of Regional State governments as stipulated in the constitution. As the result, the TPLF violated most of the constitution’s critical elements, seemingly to hold on to power forever and use the power to transfer wealth and knowledge to their people and region until they were sent packing in 2018.

The current ruling junta, which is led Abiy Ahmed, seems not to have learned sufficiently from the past Ethiopian history. That is the tumultuous process of forming the empire and the history behind their journey to the power corridor. They are now engaged in reversing the modest gains achieved over the last 24 years and vowing to take the country back to the Menelik era using exactly his strategy and tactics – terror and genocide. For now, they have already caused untold misery and destruction, with the country reeling in turmoil. By so doing, they are accelerating the country’s disintegration for good, which is looking more and more likely with every passing day.

The international community should take note that Abiy Ahmed, and his Amhara ethno-nationalist (neo-neftegna) political elites, must be held responsible for paving the path to Ethiopia’s very likely violent dissolution by subjecting it to unprecedented ethnic conflicts and internal population displacements in pursuit of hegemony over the fragile state.


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