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Imposing Apartheid Like Segregation in the Name of Development
BY T.T. LEMMU
Apartheid is defined as a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race according to the Oxford dictionary. Basically if a regime is protecting its own kind and attacks others over differences, that is a good sign of a racist segregation policy but for argument reason I will start by defining the racial line between the Oromo and other oppressed people and the northern Conquerors. Then I will try to reveal with concrete evidence the institutionalized and policy based segregation of Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) targeting specifically the Oromos. At the end I will try to explain how those sort of domination are unacceptable for any society who strive for justice, unity and co-existence among its members.
Today the Apartheid policies against the Oromo in the Ethiopia empire are conducted systematically. In the past the domination and segregation had focused in creating subjugation by declaring war on Oromo values. Oromos were denied to speak their language, cherish their culture and tradition and practice their religion. Those who denounce their identity and accept the assimilation policy were highly rewarded but those who even dare to speak their language was severely punished. Even though the expansion and conquer policies of Menilike II and then by ‘emperor’ Haile was met by strong resistance from the Oromos their brutal nature and support from the colonial power of that time had resulted in the fall of the most traditional democracy of our century, the Gada System, and the rise of the worst kind of subjugation in Oromia and the rest of the Ethiopian empire. Before 1886 the Oromo have existed as a community in the horn of Africa for several millennia (Prouty et al., 1981), but after that the occupation of Menilke II officially put most part Oromia under the new Abyssinia rule and led to the creation of the current Ethiopian empire.
The current Ethiopian Empire ethnic composition
After the fall of ‘Derge’, the military regime of Ethiopia which has tried to convert the empire in to socialistic republic, a rebellion group led by another Albania social ideologist, Mellese Zeniew comes to power. Due to the past subjugation policy of the empire at the time the Derge regime falls the national movement of different ethnic group was strong enough to threat the empire in to disintegrating, therefore the rebellion leader was forced to accept the suggestion of organizing the empire into ethnic based federalism by different national movement. Unlike the previous regimes of the empire, for the first time in the empires history the empire was recognized as a multi ethnic nation and one the process the political power successful shifted from one northern to another northern. The empires population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups. According to the Ethiopian national census of 2007, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 34.4% of the nation's population. The Amhara represent 27.0% of the country's inhabitants, while the Somali and Tigray represent 6.22% and 6.08% of the population, respectively. Other prominent ethnic groups are: Sidama, Gurage, Welayta, Afar, Hadiya, Gamo and others The Ethiopia empire was therefore reorganized into nine ethnically-based regions (kilil): Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumaz, Gambela, Harar, Oromiya, Somali, Southern Nations Nationalities and People's State, Tigray, the Addis Ababa federal capital district and Dire Dawa chartered city as of Dec 1994, but the implementation was deliberately conducted into three specific lines.
One is targeting the subjugated nations of the empire, the second is targeting the previous dominate nationals and the third is targeting the creation of new political, economical and social elites. After almost 2 decades of implementing this policy targeting and considering the citizen of the empire in to three different class and also creating a class system that consider citizen into different classes based on their loyalty to the TPLF dream of domination has clarified and widened the ethnic divided not only on cultural and traditional level but also on every social-economic level. The creation of an economical elite which is composed of only one ethnic group which also completely dominate the political and military power has created suspicion among ethnic group and forced the political structure and party affiliation to be clearly of ethnic line. This further deepens the divide and create a racial divided similar to the race line of the last apartheid regime in Africa. For showing this system I have taken examples from policy subscription to personal domination in different government, private sector, military and state economic sector. For the lack of information from international media on the subject, I will use source from different opposition group which has made expose on this domination and try to compile them in way that reflect the subjugation domination relationship of the Tigerea elite to the rest of the Ethiopian ethnic group in General and the Oromo in particular.
To show the policy based segregation of the TPLF government between the north and the rest subjugated people I will consider the land tenure police and its constitutionality as an example as well as the development and environmental approach difference between the north and the rest of the empire oppressed people. To show the land tenure policy difference between the north and the south I referee my analysis for detail understanding to a paper “Review of land grabbing policies of successive regimes of Ethiopia” by Malkamuu Jaatee and Zakaariyaas Mulataa presented on Oromo Studies Association annual conference (July 14 – 15) 2012 Minneapolis, USA.
According to the new constitution of federal democratic republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), the constitution approved and confirmed the state ownership of the land in Ethiopia (FDRE, 1995). The right to ownership of rural and urban lands and all natural resources is exclusively vested in the state and the peoples of Ethiopia (FDRE 1995, article 40). The article stipulated that the land shall not be subject to sale or other means of exchange and any transfer of land is prohibited. It further stated that the right of Ethiopian peasants to access land without payment for grazing and cultivation purposes and the right to be protected against eviction from the possessions (FDRE 1995, article 40: sections 3, 4, and 5). However the regime systematically articulated its constitution to develop a segregation line between the North and South Ethiopia. Federal rural land administration proclamation transfers the authority of land administration, including rights to distribute land, to the regional governments and vests them with the power over the assignment of holding rights and the execution of distribution of holdings (constitution of the FDRE, proclamation No. 89/1997 article 2.6). In the north (Tigray and Amhara regions), the right to access land depends on status of the residence in the kebele (local administration). These regions have already formulated fair systems to introduce certificate that designed to increase tenure security and to reduce border conflicts. Inheritance rights have also been specified (Crewett et al. 2008). Therefore land use right of rural communities of North Ethiopia (Amhara & Tigray) is constitutionally protected by their government.
On the other hand The TPLF regime has successfully formulated three restrictions at its regional government of Oromia
●Article 6.4 grants the expropriation right to the regime if the land is required for more important public uses;
●If land users fail to use their land in every production season (except in the case of restoring fertility) the land use rights can be terminated (article 3.5); and
●Article 22.1 grants the regime to expropriate rain-fed land after three years and irrigated land after two years if land users fail to cultivate the land (RGO, 2002).
With these restrictions the TPLF regime has transferred the right to land exclusively to the state of the TPLF regime and through the establishment of “land banks”in the name of investment right to the more commercially valuable land to its federal regime. The more alarming part of this approach is the possibility for the government, being owner of the rural land, to change communal holdings to private holdings for private investment (the rural land administration and land use proclamation No.456/2005). Therefore land use right of rural communities of Oromia is constitutionally violated by TPLF government. More over the implementation of this policy has resulted in the eviction of thousands of poor peasants from their fatherland and reduced those peasants from landowners to labours and security guards. If one search land grabbing in Ethiopia on the Internet the alarming number of articles written on the subject and its danger and the number of international organization expressing their concern is enough evidence on the fraud of this policy. What makes this policy resembles more of the apartheid approach is the response given to the concern of those affected by the policy. Rather than engaging the affected people into consultation and discussion the regime responded by gross human right abuse and violation. Mass arrest, intimidation and violation of all sort of human right had become a common practice in the Oromia and other oppressed nation regional government.
The second example I want to consider is the development and environmental protection approach of the TPLF regime in the north and south. Literally one can say the TPLF regime economical approach to Oromia and the rest south is economical exploitation, this is clearly explained when one see the economical development news coming out of the empire. Resource and raw material extraction with no concern to the environment are the main news coming out of Oromia and the south where as sustainable development supported by advanced research institute in collaboration with western best research institutes to regenerate the over utilized northern highland at the expense of the south become the norm of the day. Drying up of lakes like “Harmaya lake” in eastern Oromia, the conversion of once full of life lake to toxic green lake like “Lake Koka” due extreme pollution, the conversion of ones very thick tropical forest to a bare land due to ignoring environmental issue in gold extraction in Borana Oromia and the alteration of land use and displacement of farmers with no environmental mitigation and no proper compensation can be taken as examples. What resembles once again to apartheid policy is the response given to those raising the environmental issue and advocate for the affected people. Every environmental and human right groups in Oromia are targeted by the regime security force and systematical silenced. Their members have been targeted to the extent of extermination. Personally I was the member of one of this group and I witnessed from imprisonment to torture. Even junior environmental clubs in high schools and universities did not escape from this systematic extermination. Those clubs are alternatively changed to pro TPLF groups who don’t even have a slightest interest to those issues. The ones vibrant and concerned students are made to become dormant due to fear of execution and deliberate denial of opportunity.
The Total Domination of the Army
To show the TPLF segregation policy by dominating every institution by Tigreans to implement its domination policy, I will take three example; the military, state managed economic sector and private economic sector. For showing the dominance in the military institution I will use the report compiled by ginbot 7, an opposition group in exile. Unlike any other time in the empire history, a minority ethnic group that comprises no more than 6% of the total population (80 Million) controls the entire military. Article 88, Sub Article 2 of the Ethiopian constitution states: “The State shall have the duty to respect the identity of the nations, nationalities and peoples and on the basis of this promote equality, unity and fraternity among them”. However, despite what the Constitution says 93.5% of all key military positions in the Ethiopian empire National Defence Forces are occupied by ethnic Tigreans, far in excess of their 6% representation among the Ethiopian population (Ginbot 7 report). I referee the readers to visit the defence force website and the Ginbot 7 report. Since the Ethiopian empire army is organized to defend TPLF officers and their loyal and ethnically related elites it might seem reasonable in their eyes, but for Oromos and the majority it is a complete and unseen kind of domination .The dominance is becoming more and more worrying from time to time. The transition government was supposed to build a military that compromise every nation and nationality based on equal representation, but the beginning of that transition has been deliberately dismantled and converted to ethnic dominance.
In a country like Ethiopia, the military is not only a means of defending the nation national interest but also intimidation tool to keep the citizen from asking their God given right. The domination is purposeful in this respect, It is easy for the TPLF elites to control every tool to decide the fate of those nation and nationalities. On many occasion the military has been deployed to silence from student protest to the peoples protest about everything. I remember in 2001; when students asked for a better accommodation in Arba Minch University, the entire campus was flooded by a military that speaks “Tigerean” which is neither the nation working language nor the local language. Just like the south African apartheid its purpose is to create fear, intimidation and instability in questioning their policy. Intended to defend the interest of the TPLFities the nation army is made to be loyal to the TPLF leaders rather than the constitution of the empire. Through the process the 94% and the majority of the empire population is effectively excluded from the national decision making process.
Dominating the State and Private Economic Sector
The Ethiopian economic structure is theoretical market based economy with the sate playing a significant role, but practically the economic ladder is divided into four groups: the Sheki Al-Moudis, MIDROC and other foreign investor who do not question the system, the EFFORT congealment, the State managed business and TPLF loyal private sector. A lot have been said how EFFORT that stand for endowments fund for the rehabilitation of ‘Tigrea’ controlled almost every sector way beyond the border of tigrea. The USA state department cable leaked to the public by Wikileaks described this congealment as follows: “EFFORT’s and similar EPRDF parties endowments’ companies receive preferential access to limited credit and/or foreign exchange stocks, or treatment on government bids and contracts, customs clearance, and import/export license and these “party-statals” likely receive preferences even over the special treatment received by state-owned enterprises.” Some citizen watch groups has been able to count more than 66 company's with initial capital more than 10 million operating mostly outside Tigrea region. The board chairmen and the CEO of these companies are among the TPLF high officials and most of the companies have never seen external audit or any other way of check and balance and are mostly known for their tax avoidance.
The most dominate state entity that controls the Ethiopian economy is the Ethiopian Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC) controlled and managed by the military that has come to dominate the Ethiopian economy in less than one year. This state and army controlled entity headed by Brigadier General Kinfu Dagnew, now controls 15 industries and 100 factories. It has its fingers in everything from dam and other construction such as Grand Renaissance Dam to arms factories, from producing and distributing commodities to constructing many factories such as fertilizer factory and sugar factories and many more. The total contract this organization take from the government amounts equal to the capital expenditure of the government, thus this indicate almost every contract coming out of the federal and state government has to pass through this corporation and the benefit goes to once again to one minority ethnic dominated private sector through subcontracts. The surprising link created deliberately between this single most important component of the empire economy and the military has resulted the entire more than 15 industries and 100 factories CEO and managers to be exclusively from ‘Tigrea’. These sort of dominance and segregation has never been seen in the empire history. Disguised as economic development, the move is also further evidence of unabashed wealth transfer from a much-suffering population held hostage to an unrepresentative ethnic minority that has created a police state.
The remaining private sector players are forced to compete in a disadvantaged “free market” with no hope of winning. We had witnessed most of the previously established economical elites and businessmen and women either fleeing the country or committing unexpected suicide due to unbearable burden created on them due to unfair and unbalanced treatment. They had lost their business interest because they happen to be not from the tigrean and one the other hand their tigrean counterpart has become billionaires and millionaires over night. The tax burden created by TPLFities business interest was left to be filled by small businesses all over the empire and this burden forced many small business to close their door and their benefit to the community. This is a apartheid like approach to segregate the tigreans from the rest of the empire people, in a country of 84 different ethnic group this can not be any less worse than the South Africa apartheid ugly face.
Forced Exodus of Relatively Educated Oromos and Other Oppressed People
The last puzzle of the TPLF approach to completely implement its domination policy is to force those opposing it to exile. The TPLF government systematically force the relatively educated section of the Oromo to choose exodus as the only option for survival through intimidation, harassment and denial of opportunity while attracting the “tigrean elite” to join the apartheid like system by giving them financial and other incentive. Those Oromos who dare to return home are jailed through accusation of link to the opposition group. Opinion post, comments and other posts on social networking sites are enough evidence to sentence an Oromo a life sentence or death penalty in the TPLF court. Many examples can be used here but since a lot have been said on this issue even by their ex TPLFities, I take only the two cases that I found clearly show this unfair and inhuman treatment. Masfiin Abbabaa Abdiisaa a Civil engineer who has been sentenced a death penalty and Tasfaahuun Camadaa Gurmeessaa a civil engineer who has been sentenced to Life for their link with Oromo liberation movement. They were sized while asking for protection from political motivated execution in Kenya. Their return to their home land sent them directly to a death and life sentence by the TPLF court. These two examples are very imminent as the prison speaks Afaan Oromo according to TPLF ex- politburo member said. This unintended comment suggest how the Oromos are targeted by this apartheid like government. Fearing these sort of intimidation, execution and harassment those who are able to score international scholarship never go back while their Tigrean counterpart are extremely motivated to go back. While the rest use every resource they have to escape this system, those unable have put themselves in a very silent opposition.
Most of Oromos and other oppressed people think tanks have adopted their residence country has home, even though their soul is burning with the love of their home land, family and friend. On the other hand Land have been given for free to tigrean elites residing abroad to attract them to join this apartheid like system in the name of investment, but we have to remember this land is the land taken away from the poor Oromo peasants through the TPLF unfair land policy as one can see this free land is not available in Tigrea region. Even forums conducted by Ethiopian foreign mission are set up exclusively for people with tigrean origin. Secretly invitation letter are circulated to those privileged and discussion forums and new opportunities are presented to this privileged section of the society in the name of the Ethiopian Diaspora.
IMPLICATION AND CONCLUSION
We have seen how the current regime has established ethnic based domination. This sort of one ethnic domination as never been seen in the that empire history. Yes, we the Oromo people are unfortunate to go through this sort of extreme segregation after we went thought one of the most brutal imperial system by the emperors of the Habesha elite and then by Leninist-Maoist authoritarian junta. Instead of creating a democratic multinational government based on consultation and public discourse which aspires justice and equality, the TPLF decide to create a system that resembles the apartheid system of south Africa. The empire has become a prison of nation and nationality and the ethnic federalism the Oromo and other oppressed people fight for has been high jacked from all groups by Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). The surprising part of this development is the lack of attention given by the ‘peace loving’ international community. They ignored the long term stability need of the horn of Africa and opted for the short term stability that is created by force in the name of their national interest. In my view peace and stability created in a prison like statehood by using force is a solution in no place.
The defenders of this Apartheid like regime’s do not seem to understand what is at stake, ignoring the fact that even them are disposable let alone the people they are told to keep in the dark, they try to justify this domination. They tell us all military high offices are occupied by tigrean origin because they have spent more time fighting the ‘derge’ regime. They try to justify the economic domination by preaching us ‘they are Ethiopians too’. They also even try to blame us to be racist, for opposing this unseen and unfair domination. But the fact of the matter is no reason can justify why a single minority, has exclusive power and right to decide the future of that empire and control every institution in the empire while the majority of nation and nationality of the empire still linger in a system no different than the apartheid system the world have taught buried once and for all. This drum of TPLF about development is no different than accumulation of wealth and power by few, which happen to be from the ethnic tigrea. No development approach that ignores the need of the majority and lacks the concept of equality is sustainable or acceptable. The only result of the TPLF development approach is the creation of tigrean landlords over the majority of other Ethiopian ethnic group with the worst possible subjugation no different from the apartheid system of South Africa
I believe in every society, the nature of human being is to advocate for justice and freedom, but history teach us some ill intended individuals have used one ethnic group to believe as if they are superior over another for no good reason other than defending their trust for power. In my view the same is happening in Ethiopia. The tigreans are made to believe as if they are better of in this apartheid like system, but the truth is the majorities are no more than a butlers of the system. I believe the tigreans will be well better of if a nation that aspires the values of democracy, justice and liberty and a statehood is built based on equality of nation and nationality. Therefore, I call up on the tigrean to understand the long term dangers of this approach and oppose this system and strive for equality and justice. I also call on the international community to see what is actual happening in that empire not the cooked figure coming out of the TPLF propaganda machine and strive to build a long term stability in the region. To the Oromos and other oppressed nation and nationality my message is simple, No one will liberate you from this ugly suppressive regime except you, therefore strengthen your effort in seeking unity not only to expose and overthrow this regime but also to replace it in a transparent, democratic and just system.
Down to suppressive regimes and victory to oppressed people!
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