Oromo in search of “equality and justice”

Since the death of Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa at the end of June, Ethiopia has been the scene of unprecedented violence. Members of the Oromo community, marginalized in Ethiopia, condemn the lack of freedom in this country, which according to some specialists is approaching an “authoritarian regime”. Report in Paris, place de la Republique, during the Oromo demonstration.

Minneapolis, London, Paris … In early July, protesters gathered around the world to demand more freedoms in Ethiopia. In Paris, Monday, July 6, anger was on the faces of dozens of men and women, lined up in the middle of the Place de la Republique. Whether French or Ethiopian belongs to everyone the Oromo ethnic group, majority in Ethiopia.

In the crowd, the protesters held up placards and banners. “Free all political prisoners”, Prime Minister “Abiy Ahmed, dictator” or even “Justice for Hachalu”: ​​the inscribed messages referred to the many demands of the Oromo people, who today condemned the repression of their capacity .

This demonstration was organized in response to a new event that engulfed Ethiopia. On the evening of June 29, singer Hachalu Hundessa, who is considered to be Oromo spokesman, was shot in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The next day, masses of protesters gathered in several large cities, especially located in the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital.

At least 239 dead in Ethiopia

Violence quickly erupted, causing dozens of deaths. According to Ethiopian police, at least 239 people were killed in the protests that erupted in Ethiopia last week.

“As a result of the unrest in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives,” Deputy Chairman Oromia Police Chief Mustafa said on state television on Wednesday. Kedir. The Addis Ababa police had previously reported that ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the capital.

The authorities have claimed that some people were killed as part of the breakdown of the security forces and that others were killed in clashes between different communities.500 suspects have been arrested.

>> Read also: The murder of an Oromo singer takes Ethiopia to the brink of burning

In France, Oromo is concerned about the methods used by the Ethiopian government. Present at the Paris demonstration, Mussa, a 25-year-old refugee, exclaims: “We need equality and justice in our country”.

Others say that Hachalu Hundessa was murdered “during today’s government […] Hachalu died because he was Oromo, “according to a statement from the association that organized the demonstration.

But since then, there has been a twist in this case. On Friday, the Ethiopian lawyer announced that two men had acknowledged the singer’s murder and that a third suspect on the run had been identified.

“The murder (of the singer) was a cover for trying to seize power,” prosecutor Abebech Abbebe said in a press release broadcast on state television, without providing further information.

“Oromo fights other Oromo”

In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself from the Oromo ethnic group, is not unanimous. “Today there is a civil war between Oromo,” explains René Lefort, a researcher and specialist in the country questioned by France 24. She opposes, according to him, “those who support Abiy Ahmed, those who are in legal opposition and those who have taken up arms “against the government. In summary, “Oromoses fights other Oromo”, he specifies.

These opponents of the Prime Minister condemn in particular the political and economic marginalization suffered by their ethnic group since the 19th century and the colonial division in Africa. But for some Oromo, this reality goes beyond the sidelines of their society. On Monday in the Place de la République, this feeling was shared by Duniya.

“We thought Abiy Ahmed supported our cause because he is Oromo but over the past year Ethiopia has become a dangerous country for the Oromo people,” she says. Ethiopia, interviewed by France 24. “The oppression of human rights affects everyone in the country,” he said.

The government “is getting closer to an authoritarian regime”, decrypts René Lefort. He cites in particular “the thousands of political prisoners locked up across the country”, the political opposition being treated underground “and the beginning of a” self-censorship of the press “.

These drives were also condemned by the Paris protesters. “The Internet has been shut down in Ethiopia since June 30. We can not know if our family is doing well,” Mussa worries. “We have no contact with our families. We do not know what is happening right now in Ethiopia,” condemns Duniya.

Oromo’s disappointed hope

If Abiy Ahmed divides into his country, he has not always provoked so much hostility. In April 2018, his emerging power had even been seen as a sign of hope for Ethiopians: the release of thousands of prisoners, the return of political opposition parties banned by the previous government or the repeal of repressive laws … Not counting all peace efforts with Eritrea, awarded on October 11, 2019 by the Nobel Prize.

>> Also Read: The Ethiopian Nobel Peace Prize Abiy Ahmed: An Early “Encouragement”?

But the first Oromo head of government in modern Ethiopia’s history has failed to remain popular, especially among the Oromo ethnic group. “Abiy Ahmed has done nothing to unite the country, torn apart by inter-ethnic conflicts. His main goal is to assert his power,” analyzes René Lefort.

The next election, which is planned first in April and then in August, has been postponed to an unspecified date due to the crown virus crisis. These postponements have exacerbated tensions. Pending this crucial election, the government will, according to René Lefort, face “the conflict between Abiy Ahmed and the radicalized street”.