May 25, 2014
By Mekuria Bulcha
The so-called Addis Ababa Master Plan (AAMP) has ignited an Oromia-wide protest involving university and high school students. The TPLF-led Ethiopian regime has responded to the peaceful protests staged by Oromo students against the plan with tanks and live ammunition, killing dozens in the crowds. The protest, which started on April 24, 2014 at Jimma University, is joined not only by tens of thousands of the students of all the universities in Oromia but also tens of thousands of high school students and members of the local population in many cities, towns and villages. The voice of this massive Oromo rally against the AAMP cannot be silenced by bullets and tanks as in the past. It concerns not only the cause of the Oromo farmers in Central Oromia, whose livelihoods will be affected by the AAMP, but also that of all the Oromo farmers and pastoralists throughout Oromia whose farms and pasturelands have already been sold and are targeted to be sold to land grabbers by the present Ethiopian regime. In short, it concerns the survival of the Oromo as a nation.
It is important to note that the conflict over the AAMP is an extension of the conflict which was ignited by the 2003 decision of the TPLF regime to evict Oromo institutions from Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) city and relocate them to Adama, a town about 100km to the southeast.Then the Oromo attempted to stop the eviction with peaceful protest but were met with atrocities by the TPLF regime. Leaders of the Maccaa Tuulama Association (MTA) and university students who organized that protest were arrested and jailed. The property of the MTA, a self-help organization which was established in 1963, was confiscated outright by the government. More than 300 students were expelled from the Addis Ababa University alone. Regrettably the struggle over Finfinnee which started 11 years ago is not over. The impunity of the TPLF regime, as reflected in the killings of many students who opposed the so-called Addis Ababa Master Plan, has continued.
In this article, I will attempt to explain why the present regime is consistently refusing to pay attention to Oromo grievances, such as the present student protest, even when expressed through peaceful means in keeping with the current constitution. I will also point out why the opposition started by the students of Jimma University on April 24 against the AAMP has turned into an Oromia-wide movement within a very short time. I will discuss how the uprising will reinvigorate the Oromo struggle for independence. In a speech he made at a demonstration staged to oppose the removal of Oromia’s capital from Finfinnee in 2003, the late Secretary General of the Maccaa Tuulamaa Association, Obbo Bekele Nadhi said that
The decision that Finfinnee [the Oromo name for Addis Ababa] is no more the Oromo capital is wrong. Oromo claim over Finfinnee is historical and legal. Therefore, we demand that the decision be revoked. Until the decision is revoked we will continue with our protest. If our protests will not change the situation, we will continue with the next phase of our struggle (Gadaa.com. April, 2014; translated from Afaan Oromoo by the author)
The TPLF regime was forced to halt the eviction of Oromo institutions from the city in 2005 under pressure from both Oromo and non-Oromo opposition. That did not mean that Finfinnee was made to serve the Oromo people. In reality, the regime did not withdraw its decision, and the struggle over Finfinnee was not concluded. For unknown reasons, the Oromia Regional State did not build Oromo institutions in the city during the last two decades. Finfinnee (Addis Ababa), which is constitutionally the capital city of Oromia, is without a single public school that uses the Oromo language as a medium of instruction or a single newspaper which is printed in Afaan Oromoo. All of the newspapers which were started in the early 1990s were banned and their journalists were in jail or in exile by the end of the decade. To paraphrase what the young Oromo artist Jaafar Yuusuf has expressed with poetic eloquence and for which he was detained and tortured, Finfinnee is the capital city of Oromia and of over 35 million Oromos only in name. Thus, despite their historical and “special constitutional interests,” the Oromo who number between half a million and eight hundred thousand (or 20% of 4 million inhabitants of the city, UN Habitat, 2007) are marginalized and denied the use of their language. Finfinnee remains an Oromo city under a foreign occupation.