Why Africa should not let such happen again
By Lukmon Akintola
Last Sunday, over 50 people were killed in a stampede that happened in the Oromia region in Ethiopia. This came after Ethiopian security agents fired tear gas and warning shots at the anti-government protesters, during their Orrechaa religious festival.
An Oromo activist, Jawar Mohamed, noted that about 300 people were killed and many more were injured in the stampede. He stated that security agents used helicopter gunship to open fire on protesters, driving people off a cliff and into cliff.
Irrechaa festival is a thanks-giving festival of oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromo region. At the festival, which attracted about 2million people, crowd was chanting “we need freedom” and “we need justice”. Some protesters cross their wrists above their head to show a symbol of Oromo protests. Also, community leaders deemed close to the government were prevented from delivering their speech.
Witnesses noted that protesters were waving the green, yellow and red flag of Oromo Liberation Font, an organization that the government recognizes as a terrorist group.
The people of Oromiya have incessantly complained about political and economic marginalization. Last year, there was a plan of expanding the state’s capital to the region, this brought fear as farmers were afraid of losing their farmlands.
While protesters stated that all they were doing is a peaceful demonstration, Ethiopian government blamed them for causing mayhem in the country. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, said the rioters were the cause of people’s death. He said the police did not open fire. He however praised the police for protecting the lives of people and vowed to bring the evil perpetuators to justice.
Why the government should be blamed
The sanctity of life should be respected and protected at all time. The ‘raison d’être’ of any government is to protect the lives and properties of its citizens. This is the mandate that is conferred on any government by its electorate. It therefore becomes disheartening that Ethiopian government has failed to protect the lives of its citizens. The unprofessional actions of security agents have led to the death of over 50 people. Citizens have the right to protest and relay their grievances when they feel marginalized or cheated. However, it is the responsibility of the government’s forces to tactically manage the scenario without any casualty.
An instance that came to mind was the nationwide protest that in 2014 that was tagged “Occupy Nigeria”. This came after former President Goodluck Jonathan removed the fuel subsidy on petroleum products which led to 120 percent increase in the price of petrol. Despite the magnitude of this protest, few casualties were recorded. In the same, if Ethiopia’s security managed the Oromo protest effectively, death of dozens would not have been the resultant effect.
Amnesty International, International Criminal Court and other relevant international agencies need to investigate this crisis thoroughly; this will serve as a major way to end the crisis in Ethiopia.
To put an end to this mayhem in Ethiopia, there are short term and long term remedies. On a short basis, the government should directly address the people of Oromo region, give them hope, make them understand their role in state’s governance and the development of Ethiopia.
On a long term basis, the government should stop the marginalization of the Oromo people and respect them as citizens of Ethiopians. With the benefit of hindsight, the Orrechaa festival is a major tool that could be utilized by the government to calm the Oromo people and also influence their views. Government could sponsor this festival and make it’s a nationwide event. In this vein, Oromo people will feel important and respected. Their grievances of politico-economic marginalization will be minimized.
Ethiopian President, Hailemariam Desalegn