In the coming days, weeks and months, I am going to release shocking stories of people – human right violations and atrocities committed by the Ethiopian government security forces against the Oromo people.
In a recent interview with a local media, Mr Abdulaziz Mohammed – the Vice President of Oromia Region stated that “No one is arrested and we don’t have any information about the arrest.” The Vice President’s single statement says two contrasting ideas at a time – denying the arrest allegations and ignorant about the arrest. In the first place it is a shame for the Vice President to deny the reality on the ground – where more than 49 people were killed and 800 people have been arrested, tortured and imprisoned.
These atrocities are in response to a series of demonstrations or protests by the Oromo people who demand the government to stop removing farmers from their ancestral homeland in the name of ‘development’. The demonstration at the initial stage was peaceful and in order before the government’s heavily armed security forces and the military started shooting and killing people.
The harsh environment for the media in Ethiopia has made it absolutely difficult to get information about the depth of human right violations in Ethiopia. I was furious with the government’s intent to belittle the recent killings and human right abuses in many parts of Oromia – Ambo, Bale Robe, Adama, Bushoftu, Nekemte, Guder, Haromaya, Bulle Hora, Dire Dawa and many small towns in Western Oromia. I decided to visit the communities that have gone through these abuses and met with different people in a very cautious and careful way.
I made my first visit to Ambo – where the arrests and torturing are still taking place. I talked with mothers who have lost their children, and young men who have been beaten and tortured, and people who have survived dreadful bullet hits and bodily injury. Ambo stories are dreadful and shocking!
“My name is E.B. I am 18 years of age. I dropped out of grade 5 – to help my poor parents to make some income and buy food. I live in Ambo town – where I do a labor job. I joined Ambo University Student’s protest about the government’s decision to take away farmers land around Addis Ababa. The first day was peaceful. But on the third day of the protest – the morning of 30th April 2014 the government security men started shooting demonstrators. It was unbelievable and shocking to see the soldiers shooting at unarmed people. We started dispersing to save our lives. Everyone was running except some of the young men who were trying to turn and shout at the shooters. I was running when a young man before me fell into the ground. I stopped to help him. I kneeled down beside him and lifted him up from his head – his eyes were blinking too fast. He was bleeding from his head. He was hit by a bullet in the back of his head. While I was trying to help him, I felt a sharp sting in my back. I felt watered-down my lower chest. I left the dead young man there and I tried to run a few meters. I looked my bottom chest and saw that air was getting out through the bullet wound. The bullet hit me in the back and went through my lower chest. I was staggering and fell into the ground. I didn’t recognized what happened since then – before I regained my consciousness two days later in a local hospital. The room where I was lying was full of people who were wounded by bullets.”
E.B. was hit by three bullets in his back. His friends lifted him from where he fell and took him to hospital. One of the bullets went through his lower chest and two more remained in his belly. He had to go through operation – where the two bullets were removed with his infected pancreas. His parents covered the cost of his medication from their meager income – his father as a clinic security guard and his mother as a cook.
“The doctor told me that I shouldn’t do any labor job and be careful with my injury. He told me that as my pancreas has been removed, there is less likely to recover from any future wounds even if I am not even sure whether I am going to fully recover and survive the present injury. Oooops it is painful – can’t sleep comfortably. I am worried about my future as I still continue to depend on my parents since this young age or…?” Tear gushing down from his eyes…this shouldn’t have happened to me. We were protesting peacefully… we don’t deserve bullets in return!”