By Dr. Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni
With whom are the European Union, the United States, and the African Union Officials meeting to discuss and end the exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people in Ethiopia?
In response to the Ethiopian government’s unrelenting attack on the ongoing #OromoProtests, the United States, European Union, and African Union have been sending delegations to Ethiopia to express their “concerns” about the killings, large scale mass arrest and torture of Oromo Protesters; and urge the Ethiopian government to end the systemic exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people from Ethiopia’s economic, political, social and urban lives.
But, with whom are these American, European and African Officials meeting and talking in Ethiopia if they don’t meet a single Oromo? More specifically, if they don’t meet and speak with a single Oromo on an Oromo issue, in a country where the Oromo people constitutes close 50% of the population, with whom are they convening and speaking? Who is representing and speaking on behalf of the Oromo people in Ethiopia?
One may think the OPDO, the Oromo wing of the EPRDF- the ruling party in Ethiopia, is representing and speaking for the Oromo people. That is not actually the case. No official from the United States, the European Union or the African Union ever spoke and convened with a single OPDO officials over the last four months.
For instance, no one from the United States delegations that visited Ethiopia in recent months including Ambassador Samantha Power (United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs), Ms. Gayle E. Smith (Administrator of USAID), and Tom Malinowski ( the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) convened and talked with a single OPDO officials both at federal and regional levels. They all met with non-Oromo Ethiopian officials with no Oromo present and discussed about the plight of the Oromo people and left, or they told us so.
Similarly, no one from the European Union officials who recently visited Ethiopia to express their concern on the Oromo people’s economic and political marginalization and exclusion and the ongoing bloody crackdown on the #OromoProtests met with a single OPDO official, both at the federal and regional levels.
Some might think these European, African and American officials who visited Addis Ababa over the last four months to express their concern about the systemic exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people in Ethiopia are meeting and holding consultation with the only legally registered Oromo opposition party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), officials. That is not the case either.
In early February this year, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who went to Ethiopia to participate on the AU Summit held consultation with the Ethiopian authorities on the Oromo issues. She also said she met with the Oromo community representatives.
It turned out Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield did not meet with anyone from the Oromo wing of the EPRDF, the OPDO, as well as the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), the two known groups who claim to represent the Oromo.
Dr. Merera Gudina, the Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, stated on record that no one from OFC met with the delegation of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield including Ms. Gayle E. Smith, the Administrator of USAID. It is mindboggling who met with Ms. Thomas-Greenfield delegation as there is no known Oromo community in Addis Ababa let alone Oromo community representatives.
Similarly, the African Union spokeswoman stated that African Union is talking with the Ethiopian Authorities behind closed doors on the #OromoProtests. But, who are these proxies with whom these officials are speaking on behalf of the Oromo people?
The representation of the Oromo professionals in the Ethiopian federal government bureaucracy including in the Ethiopian federal security and defense forces are virtually non-existent. One may blame the Amharic only monolingual language policy of the federal government for the total and complete exclusion of Afaan Oromo speakers, but that is just one reason among many written and unwritten exclusionary policies in place.
The critical questions though are, how long could the Ethiopian government keep the Oromo people in obscurity as non-existing majority with no representation?
And how long could the United States, the European Union and the African Union turn blind eyes and deaf ears to the plight of the Oromo people in Ethiopia?
Are violence and war necessary prerequisites for the rights of peaceful people like the Oromo to be respected?
Is investing in peace not less expensive in comparison to investing in war, violence and the resultant humanitarian crisis for the so called development and security partners of Ethiopia, particularly the United States and United Kingdom? #OromoProtests.