Ethiopia:GEM condemns OPDO apartheid policy

An injured protester waits for help after several people died during the Irrechaa, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Press release * letter to the United Nation (UN), African Union (AU), The Republic of South Africa (RSA)

Over a quarter century has passed since apartheid ended in South Africa, but the Ethiopian ruling party has decided to go back in time and adopt ethnic apartheid.

Last week, the regional arm of the TPLF ruling party in Ethiopia, the OPDO, officially announced that its Ministry of Education will no longer accept or enroll ethnic Somalis in its “Oromia Regional State” colleges and universities. This so-called “ethnic ban” of “alien” students in Oromia schools is unprecedented and inhumane.
Similarly, the decree also bans ethnic Oromos from attending colleges in the Somali regional state.

Such primitive proclamation is unacceptable and it does not belong in the 21st century. This reckless decree announced by OPDO will also cause more division, distrust and it will complicate ethnic relations in urban centers like Dire Dawa, where both Oromo and Somali communities call home and whose residents have common ancestors of mixed ethnicity.

The new discriminative policy (effective November 3, 2017) sets a dangerous precedent for all other ethnic enclaves around the country to impose a similar ethnic ban. It implies that the Ethiopian State promotes ethnic-based exclusionary policies, which sets up a foundation for more genocidal acts of violence in the long-term. It is time for the African Union and United Nations to act in defense of human rights and the rights of minorities.

In a country where ethnic territories are disputed and historically overlap, it is dangerous to deny the natural right of ethnic minorities to live and learn in the land they inhabited for many generations.

G.E.M. condemns this OPDO apartheid decree and it should be retracted as soon as possible. This illegal decision by OPDO follows another destructive decree by Somali officials in Jigjiga who announced on Facebook their plan to create “special” ID cards for ethnic Amharas. Both cases indicate the dire political situation in Ethiopia. In recent months, ethnic massacres have become the norm. The inhumane actions taken by the Ethiopian government and its agents, including Liyu Police and the OPDO, are irresponsible and dangerous. It is time for the United Nations and the African Union to confront the Ethiopian regime before it is too late. There is no justification for instituting ethnic apartheid anywhere in Africa, especially at the headquarters of the AU.

The G.E.M. is a worldwide anti-tribalism advocacy group for millions of mixed ‘ethnic Ethiopians,’ who are marginalized under the current regime in Addis Ababa. Ethnic Ethiopians are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

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