Oromia, the biggest and most populated regional state of Ethiopia, has had non-stop protests, known as the #OromoProtests in social media, for consecutive nine months. All 18 zones of Oromia have witnessed more than thousands of mass protests. Brutal response by security forces have cost over 400 citizens’ life. These protests, despite security forces brutality, have not come to end. Instead, they have been followed by the #AmharaProtests.
The Oromo protests began in April 2014 with the introduction of the so called Addis Ababa Master Plan, a plan feared to expand the territory of the capital into the land of the Oromo farmers. In February 2016, OPDO (Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization, the ruling party in the region) however announced the cancellation of the Master Plan, and the Prime Minister of the federal government asked the people for apology. But it was too late. The protests had already grown to raising many other issues, including the federal government’s lack of respect for Oromia’s regional autonomy.
EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), the ruling party of Ethiopia, is a coalition of four parties formed on the basis of ethnicity. It is however not democratic. TPLF (Tigraian People’s Liberation Front), is superior to the other three members of the coaliation. This, even though the ethnic group of Tigray only consists of 6% of Ethiopia’s population. People, especially from the regions of Oromia and Amhara, with the last mentioned the second most populated region, have grievances of discrimination from power and economic benefits on the basis of ethnicity. The Oromo Protests, therefore, continued despite the cancellation of the so-called controversial Master Plan.
Last month, deadly protests erupted, and they in turn gave birth to Amhara Protests, mainly located in the Gondar city of the Northern Amhara Region. The protests started after security forces of the federal government tried to arrest committee members of the Wolkait people. According to the committee, the Wolkait people are forcefully annexed under the administration of the Tigray region even though they want to belong to the Amhara. On August 4, 2016, the Amhara people in Gondar city underwent a massive and peaceful public demonstration to condemn the arrest of the committee members. They reassured that the quest of the Wolkait people is also the quest of Amhara people.
Another protest erupted in Gondar city on August 5, when police tried to disperse peaceful protesters when they were getting back to their homes after attending court trials of a committee member, Col. Demeke. The incident lead people in Bahirdar, the capital of the Amhara region, to join the movement in Gondar, and the protests are currently ongoing. Protests have however been on and off all over Ethiopia – from western Gambella to the southern Konso people. The protesters of the Amhara – and of the Oromo regions have come together to form virtually one massive protest affecting the entire country. The biggest cities of Amhara, Gondar and Bahirdar have risen and joined the protests by flagging their own question in a movement activists called the Amhara Resistance. So far, solidarity have been witnessed among those taking part in the protests, and they have formed a virtually united protest to the tyranny of the TPLF. This is something that many activists view as a necessary condition for a change.
Death tolls of peaceful protesters is however increasing. The only responsible body to the damage is the government. But it does not end there. The Ethiopian government tries to oppress the online discussion by shutting down the internet, leading to lack of information and reports. In the shadow of the silence, police brutality has worsened. Internet has been down for the past two days. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are still not accessible.
The #EthiopiaProtests will continue forward. It is time for TPLF and its sub-ordinate EPRDF members to surrender to the people’s power. Because no matter what happens, with or without election, with or without Internet connection, if united the PEOPLE WILL WIN.