(OPride) — Ethiopia’s federal security forces have killed more than a dozen civilians and wounded over 50 others since authorities imposed a sweeping nationwide state of emergency on February 16, 2018.
On March 2, the country’s single-party parliament approved the controversial decree in a disputed vote. 88 MPs opposed the measure, 7 abstained, and nearly a 100 lawmakers skipped the vote. Oromo activists responded to the decree’s ratification with protests and by launching a three-day strike and market boycott.
Outside of the capital, Addis Ababa, mobile internet remains shuttered. Phone lines are unreliable but details of heinous crimes are beginning to emerge. Extrajudicial killings, including of minors; arbitrary arrests; beatings; and coercion and intimidation of merchants who closed shops to observe a stay-at-home strike.
Consider, for example, the case of Obsa Endale, 15, from Nekemte in Western Oromia, Ethiopia’s populous and restive state, which has been the epicenter of anti-government protests since March 2014.
Protests began in Nekemete on Feb. 25, a day after the military command post, which is ruling the country, blocked an opposition rally and detained Oromo leaders, including Bekele Gerba, who was released from prison a week earlier after more than two years of unjust detention.
At least 21 Nekemte residents were injured after soldiers fired on protesters. Some, including Obsa, were struck by live bullets, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to the Voice of America (VOA). Obsa succumbed to his injuries on February 28.
In a gut-wrenching interview with VOA’s Afaan Oromo service, Obsa’s father, Endale Fufa, who himself has been in and out of prison on tramped up terrorism charges, recounted the tragic death of his diabetic son.
Here is OPride’s abridged translation of that interview:
Obsa’s tragic fate is but one of the many stories coming to light as military crackdown intensifies across Oromia. In Ginci, where the #OromoProtests were ignited in 2015, a 23-year-old man was shot dead on the night of March 3 and his body was left on the streets. In the morning, soldiers prevented locals from collecting his body. And opened fire on mourners. In Mendi, West Wollega, two people, one 13-year-old, were shot and killed at a place of worship.
What is more shocking is none of these victims were armed. None posed a danger to society or even the trigger-happy military forces. In fact, many were not even at a protest. They were hunted down and executed because the military was ordered to take “all necessary measures” to suppress the budding Oromo revolution.
Here is another example from Addis Standard that illustrates the ongoing execution-style killings across Oromia:
Not all casualties were related to protests as is the case for Kelbessa Mokonnen, 24, who was “shot from the back” in Gimbi, western Ethiopia, on Sunday. He was “on his way to see a doctor for a headache he was experiencing,” according to Abdi, a relative who wants to be identified by his first name only. “Kelbessa died on the spot,” Abdi told Addis Standard, adding “there was no protest in the city when Kelbessa was killed.” He was raised by Likitu Haile, a single mom who is working as a waitress in a restaurant in the town, Abdi said. Four other people, including Israel Deresu, Kelbessa’s friend who was accompanying him to the hospital, were also wounded.
For families of these victims, the indignity doesn’t end with the bodily injury or a loss of life to a senseless official violence. For example, in order to take the body to a hospital for autopsy, first they need a note from police, and then they have to be accompanied by a police escort and travel a long distance to the capital. When they arrive, hospitals don’t have medicine, medical equipment, and doctors are often too stretched for life-saving surgery.
The fleeting western media attention is focused on the succession battle in Addis Ababa. As a result, these atrocities are not receiving even a cursory coverage. Even the recycled statements of concern from western capitals are few and far between. But the death toll continues to rise – each tragic incident more staggering than the previous one.
Take, for example, an incident in Guder, west Shawa, on March 3 when a father and son were shot in their home for no reason at all. The father, Digafe Danda’a, died on the spot. His son Tarafa remains in critical condition, according to Waquma Digafe, himself a survivor, outlined the gruesome details in an interview with VOA:
The current state of emergency is only two weeks old. It is expected to last for six months and could be extended by four more months. Already, outside of the glare of media, scores innocent lives have been lost and many dozens wounded. If the decree was meant to ensure the safety and well-being of Ethiopian citizens, at least in Oromia, it had the opposite impact.
It is these killings that turned ordinary protests against an undemocratic regime into a revolution promising to restock the power decks in Ethiopia for years, if not decades, to come. It is also what is threatening to tear apart Ethiopia’s social fabric. If the resoundingly rejected decree is not repealed and the killings continue, the country may never recover. And the public anger and resentment will only harden as outraged parents and relatives and friends dig in for the long haul to ensure their indignity isn’t repeated on others.
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