By Tsegaye Ararssa)
That the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is not an independent institution and that it is incapable of doing human rights monitoring has long been admitted by the regime itself. So, no report it presents is a result of an independent inquiry. No statement it makes is an impartial statement. What we heard yesterday is not even close to the admission of guilt on the part of the regime made by the Prime Minister and the Spokesperson earlier in the year.
We have yet to see its report, the methods it used, and the personnel it mobilized to conduct its investigation. We have yet to see whom they identified as these “other forces who sought to take advantage of the people”. We have yet to see how “these other forces” are implicated. We have yet to see a full description of who did what so that we can make them responsible. To blame indefinite (and invisible) forces for the people killed (over 500 now), for the people injured (in thousands), and for the people arbitrarily arrested (estimated to be over 50,000), for the destruction of property (through vandalizing and burning of university campuses), for the suspension and dismissal of Oromia’s civil administration unconstitutionally (without even a semblance of legality that could be seen if there were an emergency declaration or a “federal intervention”) is a farce of incredible proportion. And we reject that completely, and we say NO!
Referring to “these other forces” as the responsible bodies without clearly identifying them and without establishing the mode of their involvement is only deflecting responsibility from the regime that acted completely lawlessly (illegally and unconstitutionally) to take “merciless and definitive measures” on protestors and to subject the entire region to military rule. This is simply unacceptable. And we say NO to impunity!
The report claims that the federal army, special forces, federal police, and the entire intelligence personnel was unleashed on Oromia to kill, injure, arrest, and terrorize the people [totally in accordance with the order of the Prime Minister to take “merciless and definitive measures”] on the invitation of the region. However, it doesn’t even care to tell us when was it requested, how it was requested, and according to which rules of procedure (apart from that put in place for a legitimate Federal Intervention in the regions). This is completely illegal and unacceptable. We reject this, and mercilessly and conclusively say NO to that, too!
The report claims that the crisis was caused, among other things, by a misunderstanding of the Master Plan. This suggests that the Master Plan is an appropriate plan. This is utterly unacceptable. We say NO!
By issuing this statement by the EHRC, the regime is now suppressing and displacing the truth of the atrocities it perpetrated on innocent protestors.
We say NO to this suppression of the truth, our truth, just as we say NO to the repression of the protest, and the wider systematic oppression of the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia by a regime that has rendered itself not just undemocratic but utterly anti-democratic.
The modest road we suggested from the start remains to be the only road the regime has to take in order to restore peace (and survive this crisis as a regime).
We state it to them again:
1. Rescind the Master Plan unequivocally (both in Addis and in the adjacent Oromia Zones). Take a clear, public stance by issuing a Parliamentary Resolution against the Master Plan.
2. Stop the violence and remove the Army, the Special Force, the Federal Police, and the intelligence personnel from all civilian life in Oromia.
3. Release all the political prisoners arrested in relation to the protest, including political dissidents arbitrarily taken captive in the wake of the re-eruption of the protest.
4. Set up a genuinely independent commission with members and/or observers from international organizations to conduct a proper investigation to the crisis and to make efforts to establish responsibility (political, administrative, legal, and moral) for the harm caused in the process.
5. Take political responsibility as a government, apologize to the public officially (with a clear statement written and delivered in a proper forum fully transparently to the media), and take all appropriate measures to restore the dignity of the victims and pay reparations to the same.
6. Remove all officials who are at the forefront of political and administrative responsibilities, for by being implicated in the bloodbath that they caused in the course of the crisis, they have totally lost the moral legitimacy, the legal competence, and the public credibility to govern.
7. Ensure that those who did and caused the killings, injuries, rapes, tortures, and arbitrary arrests be held legally accountable (in accordance with the criminal law of the country) before an independent court of law. Allow a forensic determination of guilt and punishment in proportion to the degree of their participation. Fail to do this, the regime will be haunted by the possibility of being brought before international justice institutions (or at least they will face the inconvenience of having to defend themselves).
8. The Government in Oromia has lost all the credibility and all the legitimacy (which it never had anyway!) to govern the region. It is imperative that the Caffee Oromia dismiss itself and call for an election before the next parliamentary year (leaving the day to day administration of matters to a care taker government of the old cabinet).
9. Stop all acts of eviction of farmers from their land which, to most of them, is their only means of livelihood. Work towards a better (possessory) tenure security over the plots of land they now have. Stop all activities of land grab and consequent displacement of people everywhere (in Oromia and beyond) even in the name of “development.” Work towards a more legally entrenched, fair, just, and consultative mode of development planning where necessary expropriation is done with due, effective, and adequate compensation.
10. Ensure that the ‘Special Interest’ clause of the constitution is implemented urgently. In the determination of the content of the Special Interest, Oromia’s voice must be properly listened to as well as that of the city government of Addis Ababa. Start a comprehensive, inclusive, open, and genuinely participatory discussion with all the peoples of Ethiopia about where to place the federal Capital city. In an act of bona fide cooperation, the Oromia government should take steps towards suggesting another options and modes for relocating the capital city within or outside of Oromia (and its own contribution, as the largest State in the Federation, towards building the new capital–if this be the option).
These things are doable things. These things are easier things to do for the regime. Anything short of this will only provoke a more vehement and persistent resistance. To do anything less, or anything other than these modest suggestions, is an invitation for further crisis.
We will do everything at our disposal to resist this. We keep saying NO!
We keep saying NO to justification and rationalization of State terror.
We keep saying NO to all forms of impunity for the gross violation of human rights in Oromia and beyond.
We keep saying NO to all forms of eviction from land including through the Master Plan.