Begna Dugassa, Ph.D | November 14, 2014
Dear the Secretary General & the Minsters of the Ethiopian Federal Government:
I am writing this letter to defend the latest Amnesty International (AI) report BECAUSE I AM OROMO’ Sweeping Repression in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia1 from the attacks and mischaracterizations of the Ethiopian government presented on BBC Radio and other media outlets. I believe I am entitled to do this for four reasons.
The first reason is, I was born and raised in Oromia among the followers of the Oromo indigenous religion– Waqefaata. I have witnessed human violations perpetuated by consecutive Ethiopian regimes. During the Haile Selassie regime, I witnessed my family members giving a quarter of their harvests to the Abyssinians and paying taxation without representation in the government. I witnessed many Oromo family members tried not to allow baptizing their children in the Abyssinian Orthodox Church. In the belief that if someone first goes through the Waqefaata ceremony known as Amachisa, the person will remain Waqefaata, my community members developed strategy to take their children through the indigenous ceremony first. Accordingly, in the Amachisa ceremony I got the name Tolera = things are good. After that, they had me baptized because the Oromo people were forced to baptize their children in the Orthodox Church. In the ceremony of baptism they gave me a name Gebre Giyorgis = the slave of George. I leave it to the readers to compare the differences in meaning between the two names.
I heard many stories about many innocent Oromo persons being charged with the crimes they did not commit. In most cases it was to free the Abyssinians from crimes they had committed. There is a case that I well knew- about an Oromo person being penalized for referring to the Supreme Court judge as (አንች=anchi) ‘you’, a term used in Amharic in reference to women,-instead of (እርስዎ=irswo) ‘you’ used in reference to the higher officials. The person did not use the term አንች (anchi) to undermine the Supreme Court. The reason was that he did not fully understand the Amharic language. This means that the Oromo people’s cultural rights are regularly violated and such violations are legal. As the UN document clearly states “human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent”; the rights of the Oromo people to social, economic, political and cultural rights are being violated and this is clearly demonstrated in this case of a person being penalized for making a grammar mistake.
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