UPDATE 29. August 2020: Yassin Juma Contradicts Kenya Ministry's Statement on His Release
UPDATE 27. August 2020: US Senators call for release of Ethiopian detainees & Kenyan Journalist’s Arrest Highlights Ongoing Press Freedom Concerns in Ethiopia
UPDATE 26. August 2020: Abiy Ahmed tries to enforce more drastic measures with COVID-19 related medical-martial law to quell the uprisings in Ethiopia. Supported by irresponsible news outlets - like the BBC - again only fear of the WHO-imposed pandemic is spread, while also in Ethiopia most people are already immune against SARS-CoV-2 due to the high prevalence of cross-immunity. The real problems of the people and especially of the Oromo Nation are not addressed. &
UPDATE 23. August 2020: The governmental killing spree continues - over 200 civilians were killed in the new unrest, which lets the number of people killed by armed forces since the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa soar to over 400, with over 1,000 people who suffered gunshot wounds having survived and bear witness. Meanwhile almost 13,000 civilians opposing the totalitarian regime are jailed by Abiy Ahmed, and now get COVID-19-infected in cramped cells. The situation in Ethiopia is back to where the previous dictator Hailemariam Desalegn had placed the country. Desalegn was toppled by Abiy Ahmed with the help of the USA, and while Desalegn now seeks a top slot in the UN, Nobel-Peace-Prize-Dictator Abiy Ahmed has engaged in civil-war with the people. It is simply appalling to see that governments even from constitutionally democratic countries like Germany or Canada continue to support African dictators, who either in public office or later with multinational entities just continue their inhuman and criminal activities with impunity.
Famous Oromo scholar and human rights defender tortured in Ethiopian jail, while also many journalists are still not released. Over 180 killed by the regime.
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed believes that despite the international outcry he just can continue to unleash horror on innocent people. He must be stopped before his steep descend from undeserving Nobel Prize winner to state terrorist costs more human lives.
By Mustefa Ebro - 20. August 2020
Jawar Mohamed was illegally arrested after having returned to his homeland Ethiopia and working tirelessly to build the country, and he is now held under inhuman conditions in the infamous dungeons of the Ethiopian regime. His Twitter account is abandoned since 29. June 2020 and his official Facebook account was deleted, but not by himself.
The life of Jawar Mohamed - a well-respected political scientist, who graduated from the University of Stanford, and human rights defender as well as media man - is now in serious danger.
Jawar is known for being an unapologetically proud Oromo - always telling the truth and saying it as it is. He does never shy away from correcting the course of history, written by the oppressors of the people and of his motherland Oromiya in the confines of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia.
For his hard work and character he is loved by millions but hated by many, who want to maintain the status quo of the government-imposed doctrine demanding 'one culture, one language and one flag' to be superior to the other cultures, languages and identities of the different true nations and nationalities within the boundaries of the conglomerate dubbed the Federal Republic of Ethiopia today.
I, myself a former refugee from Ethiopia who found asylum in Canada, met Jawar for the first time in Winnipeg, when he came as a guest speaker in support of some protest activities driven by Ethiopian Muslims, who spoke out against the increasing religious discrimination.
A good number of Oromos from the diaspora and I went to Winnipeg airport and picked him up. We brought him to my place to get all the latest news from home, and I found him to be a very friendly and easy going man - very sociable and a personality who loves to lough. I was among those who hosted him all three times he came to Winnipeg and I had the privilege of talking with him about the plight of the Oromo people - both in public and in private.
The young, but wise and ambitious Jawar always speaks highly of the power of education and the power of the Oromo youth - known as Qeeyro - both at home and in the diaspora, who are the real hope for the struggle of the Oromo nation. Jawar is certainly the key intellectual inspiration for the International Oromo Youth Association (National Youth Movement for Freedom and Democracy), popularly known as Qeeyro (also Qeerroo - the "Youth"), but always urges for peaceful actions and moderation.
"You are always online, whether it is 12 at noon or 3 in the morning?" I asked him and wanted to know what gave him all that hope and energy. He laughed and said there are people who gave their blood and there are people who are giving their lives for this cause.
He said: "Mustefa I don't have a dream of having fame, wealth or a position, all I want is to see the freedom of my people. All I want is: to see an Oromo mother smile for once. All I want to see is that this Oromo mother can send her kids to university and never would need to worry that one day she would receive the dead body with a bullet wound of any of her kids. I want to see the Oromo farmers enjoy what they cultivated and I will fight for the Oromo businessmen to have equal rights and opportunities within the republic as well as in international trade. My fight is to see that the Oromo scholars can get their fair shares of opportunities in research and innovation like any other citizen of the country. I will fight to end the dismissal of Oromo students from university for just speaking out and demanding justice - that is not a crime for which they could be arrested. For all this, he said, I am willing to sacrifice not only my time but also my life, and these are the only valuable possessions I have."
As Jawar promised, he successfully led the 2012-17 #Oromo protest and #Oromo revolution that led to the resignation of the former PM, dictator Haylemariyam Desalegne (Hailemariam Desalegn), and brought Abiy Ahmed to power.
Interestingly Haylemariyam Desalegne now seeks an UN top job, like the former Ethiopian Health-Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus got the WHO top slot - though both stand accused of crimes against humanity,.
When Jawar decided to go back to Oromia after the successful #Oromo Revolution, we were all worried and asked him not to go, but he had made up his mind. After arrival in Ethiopia he worked day and night to make the transition of the country a success story and to bring real change and democracy to his land. However Abiy Ahmed had a different plan and after he was elected as Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy was never happy with the presence of Jawar.
When Abiy Ahmed then refused to hold the national census during his first term and was reminded by Jawar, who also is the key man in the powerful OMN Media, the dark forces even tried to eliminate Jawar already in October 2019 with an assassination attempt that luckily failed. Thereafter t he prime minister also skipped the elections, which were scheduled for May 2020, and their relationship became bitter. Still Abiy Ahmed clings to power, breaks his earlier promises daily and manages with all sorts of excuses - including now COVID-19 - to not hold elections.
Jawar Mohamed, a man of integrity, who never compromised his identity, and a man of action to help others, who disregards own material possessions as means to be admired, suddenly was hated by the very person whom Jawar helped to come to power. Abiy Ahmed had him arrested and then also the new OMN studio ransacked and destroyed.
Kenyan journalist illegally detained, tortured and infected in jail
After the political assassination of activist and artist Hachalu Hundessa - on 29. June 2020 - Abiy's governmental forces wrongfully arrested and detained Jawar along with many other political leaders, activists and journalists - including the foreign correspondent Yassin Juma.
Yassin Juma, a Kenyan journalist and photographer, is a good friend and ally of the Oromo struggle since many years. It must be remembered that Mr. Juma was the first independent Journalist who traveled deep into the OLF stronghold territory during the times when the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) was in power and with his famous documentary “Inside Rebel Territory" the true picture of the struggle of the Oromo Liberation Front was for the first time aired internationally. That work won him the hearts of millions of Oromos and much international recognition, yet caused for him also serious problems, since he then became the worst enemy for those who wish to crush the Oromo people. Yassin Juma had also made the famous documentary 'Dreams and Nightmares' (NTV in 2011) on human trafficking in Ethiopia that showed the darker sides of powerful networks in Ethiopia.
Collins Juma Osemo, whose nom-du-pen is Yassin Juma or Yasin Juma, was already once arrested in Kenya in 2016 under strange circumstances after reporting from Somalia, but quickly set free. On a governmental level Kenya and Ethiopia have always worked closely together - no matter who committed the atrocities. Many Ethiopian refugees in Kenya face this threat even today with Ethiopian embassy operatives hunting especially Ethiopian dissidents of Oromo nationality in Kenya, where the protection promised by UNHCR is almost non-existent.
However, after the TPLF regime was officially gone and Abiy Ahmed had come to power, Yassin Juma felt safe to continue working in Ethiopia. But also he was betrayed by Abiy Ahmed, who now wants to get rid of him, because he reported honestly about the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa for the international media.
After being jailed under completely false allegations for now more than a month, the public prosecutor couldn't provide any evidence of Juma's wrongdoing and Yassin actually was to be set free immediately - so the Attorney General. But in Ethiopia the jurisdiction always fulfils what the prime minister wants and so he didn't squash the case. Only due to the mounting pressure from the international community, from the Oromo people and the friends of the Oromo nation, as well as from the human rights organizations ECOTERRA Intl., Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch unison with the fraternity of journalists, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the East African Foreign Correspondents Association (EAFCA) and even the Ethiopian Foreign Correspondents Association, the judge granted him at least bail. Now even the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission - a governmental entity - feels compelled to speak out against the atrocities and demands an inquiry, which in the African context then only would be a futile excercise to take off the heat.
However and for almost two weeks now since that bail-ruling, the police still keeps him in their custody, and it once again becomes obvious that there is no rule of law in Ethiopia. Likewise the heinous games continue, because it was now officially stated that Mr. Juma was found to be COVID-19 positive and had to stay in 'quarantine' under police custody.
The Kenyan government then reported somehow phony that Yassin had been put in a "government isolation facility" but in reality he is still unjustly detained and held by police together with 68 other inmates who tested SARS-CoV-2 positive with these internationally now disputed PCR tests.
The quarantine is nothing but another horror-jail. Despite multiple pleadings for improved detention conditions by his defense team during the court hearing, the Ethiopian regime appears to be determined to inflict maximal harm on an innocent journalist. That is torture and that must stop.
Jail torture of Jawar Mohammed leads to life-endangering health problems
In the meantime we are hearing about the horrible medical condition of Jawar Mohammed. His sister and the defence teams told OMN/Oromia Media Network that Jawar has been critically ill. His face, both legs and hands are severely swollen, he appears disoriented, is unable to speak and not really able to comprehend what is going on. Despite his severe medical and psychological condition, the police dragged him to the court for a hearing, which had to be interrupted multiple times for Jawar to leave the court and to at least catch some fresh air to breath.
From inception to date Ethiopia holds a horrific track record and history of political assassinations, poisonings and torture of the regime's political opponents. The Oromo nation and also the good people of the other Nations and nationalities of Ethiopia, as well as many internationally are outraged after hearing these tragic news.
The news of Jawar's medical condition and the deprivation of any appropriate medical attention sparked now another wave of protests across Oromia and especially in Eastern Oromia, where many extrajudicial killings by government forces are reported. We have seen very graphic images during the past few days - even of young children shot by security forces for just peacefully protesting.
Extrajudicial killings of innocent Oromo civilians increasing dramatically
We have seen a teen still handcuffed to a hospital bed fighting for his life after a gunshot, of which he then died. What we had to observe in eastern Oromia over the last week was nothing less than the Soweto Massacre of South African school children.
So far the death toll from direct gunshot wounds climbed to over 180 and an unknown very large number of people were wounded. As we saw in Eastern Oromia yesterday, the killing of innocent Oromo civilians just continues, since the mad armed forces under the command of Abiy Ahmed seem to hit anyone who comes onto their way. But now the Oromo Nation says: Enough is enough.
Even one of my friends from the Sidama Nation phoned me and said to me "Jawar is an Oromo by blood, but he is the Che Guevara of our Nation and our people too. He helped us to keep our head up high and to fight for what is rightfully ours. We got the chance to decide on our fate because of him. The Sidama region was born because of the bitter sacrifices of our hero Jawar and his unreserved help.”
It is true, Jawar is a champion of real federalism and his aspiration is to create an Ethiopia in which all nations and nationalities enjoy the right to self-determination and self-rule. He works to ensure that the federal power is restrained and that state resources are shared amongst all according to their contribution and population sizes.
The question today is only, will the Qeeyro proof those, who have lost now hope, wrong once again and free Jawar and bring true democracy to Ethiopia or will Ethiopia go further down the hill of disintegration as a result of Abiy’s failed policy and incompetent ideology?
Time and I will tell …….
Mustefa Ebro - Canada based Human and Oromo Rights activist & Registered Nurse - can be reached via
#FreeYassinJuma - Urgent Fundraiser to help the family of illegally arrested Kenyan Journalist Yassin Juma - detained by the Ethiopian regime.
Yassin Juma Contradicts Kenya Ministry's Statement on His Release
By MICHAEL MUSYOKA - 29. August 2020
Yassin Juma in a government isolation facility in Ethiopia - FACEBOOK YASIN JUMA
Journalist Yassin Juma on Saturday, August 29, contradicted earlier reports by the Kenyan Foreign Affairs Ministry that he had opted to stay in Ethiopia after his release. [Promptly then falsely reported also by the BBC and others and others]
The statement read in part.
“The Kenyan journalist Collins Juma alias Yassin Juma is now free to return to Kenya after his arrest, subsequent release from police custody and from WOREDA 7 Health Centre where he was in isolation after he tested positive for Covid-19, while in police custody.
“Mr Juma has, however, decided to stay in Addis Ababa with his friends.”
Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, the journalist disclosed that he was out of the government Covid-19 isolation centre after testing negative, but he had been prevented from travelling back to the country.
"Kindly treat as misleading, pedestrian talk, wreckless rumours and sensational reports that I chose to remain in Ethiopia with friends'. I could not stay here after all that I went through. Furthermore, it compromises my security," he stated.
He revealed that Ethiopia's Ministry Of Health had imposed new travel regulations that required him to spend 14 days in house isolation before being issued with a Covid-19 status certificate.
Journalist Yassin Juma in Ethiopia - FACEBOOK
"I was ready with my luggage set to fly back home immediately after l left the health facility only to be informed about this regulation," Juma explained.
The journalist added that the Kenyan Embassy was aware of the developments upon his discharge from the health centre.
"I am however looking for alternative means to have a certificate issued by the African Union (AU) the earliest possible so that I can be able to fly back home and reunite with my children, my grandson, friends and supporters," he added.
Juma added that he was being hosted by a local and was still concerned about his security. He disclosed that he was taking time to rest and trying to recover fully after being ill for 17 days and 49 days in detention.
The journalist was arrested as he covered protests that followed the assassination of Ethiopian artist and activist Hachalu Hundessa and charged with inciting violence.
Ethiopia's Attorney General on Tuesday, August 18 ordered the release of the Kenyan journalist.
According to Juma's lawyer Abduletiff Amee, the AG acknowledged that Juma was wrongfully arrested and blamed the misunderstanding on the language barrier.
He was, however, taken to a government isolation centre when he tested positive for Covid-19.
"My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it. It is 50-50 with Coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less," Juma wrote in a letter from jail.
File image of journalist Yassin Juma - DAILY NATION
Two US Senators have sent a letter to the State Department requesting for help over the detention of Ethiopian opposition figure Jawar Mohammed.
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith want the department to "take all appropriate actions" to ensure that Mr Jawar and fellow activist Misha Chiri "are treated humanely".
They also want the department to assist the pair to "exercise their full rights".
Mr Jawar was previously exiled in the US where he established a media business in Minnesota.
He was detained last month by Ethiopian authorities after being linked to the murder of a policeman during violent protests following the killing of music star Hachalu Handessa in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Mr Jawar's allies deny his involvement in the murder.
"The recent political unrest and responsive actions taken by the Ethiopian government have threatened the progress that has been made," the senators said in their letter.
Kenyan Journalist’s Arrest Highlights Ongoing Press Freedom Concerns in Ethiopia
By Salem Solomon - VOA - 27. August 2020
Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo, also known as Yassin Juma, in Ethiopia on assignment. (Photo courtesy Yassin Juma) [N.B.: We ave reason to believe that VOA placed a wrong caption here and the picture actually is from an assignment in Somalia.]
WASHINGTON/ADDIS ABABA - The arrest and alleged abuse of a Kenyan journalist working in Ethiopia is renewing scrutiny of press freedoms in the country.
Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo, also known as Yassin Juma, said he was in Ethiopia on assignment for the U.K.-based Sky News as a producer. Juma said his own company, Horn24 Media, also planned to film a documentary for the Oromo Broadcasting Network, an Ethiopian government affiliate in the Oromia region.
In an ordeal that lasted more than two months, Juma was arrested and faced multiple charges, including inciting violence and plotting to kill senior Ethiopian officials. Juma told VOA that he contracted the coronavirus while in a detention center in Addis Ababa. He also said he broke a rib during an altercation with men he believes were security personnel after he was released on bail.
Fekadu Tsega, the director at the Office of the Attorney General, on Thursday disputed Juma’s account and denied that individuals in custody are mistreated, telling VOA, “That’s not how we work.”
In an interview with VOA, while in quarantine as he prepared to return home, Juma said his experience shows the press in Ethiopia continues to face severe restrictions.
“All I can say is that I think maybe the world celebrated a little bit too early on the perceived changes in Ethiopia,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent journalism advocacy group, reports that in the wake of protests following the June 29 killing of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa, Ethiopia has shut down the internet and accused some media outlets of inciting violence. The government has ordered investigations into media organizations and arrested a total of 4,700 people, CPJ reported.
For years, rights groups and dissidents have raised concerns about the Ethiopian government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to target journalists. Violent unrest in the country, and concerns about the role of inflammatory news reports and social media posts in stoking violence, contributed to public support for the laws.
Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma pictured with a group of armed men while working on a documentary about an insurgency in Ethiopia's Oromia region. (Photo courtesy Yassin Juma) [N.B.: The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is the internationally recognized and legit armed wing of the Oromo fight for liberation. The freedom fighters of the OLF are persistently tagged and persecuted as "terrorists" only by the Ethiopian regime. The OLF is not on any list of terror organizations - neither the USA, the EU nor the African Union or the United Nations, though Oromo refugees have been targeted with discimination by e.g. the UNHCR, which is based on the strong economic ties with the Ethiopian regime and its strongarms inside the UN.]
“It is of the larger Ethiopian population’s belief that something had to be done,” said Zecharias Zelalem, an Ethiopian journalist who writes about the country. “There had to be [something] done to criminalize some of these really inciting media posts.”
The concern, Zecharias added, is that the government will overreach.
“There is also the well-placed fear that we might go back to what was a very dark era for independent journalism, the pre-2018 era of journalism, which saw legislation used simply to crack down on any Internet, any sort of internal dissent, whether there were bloggers, journalists or just influential social media personalities,” he said.
In an interview from a health center in Addis Ababa, Juma said he was arrested while visiting the home of jailed Oromo opposition leader Jawar Mohammed. Along with several employees of Oromia Media Network, he was detained by federal police and faced charges ranging from blocking a funeral procession to not having the proper accreditation to work as a journalist. He said all the charges were eventually dropped.
Ethiopian prosecutors questioned the documents Juma filed when entering the country.
“It was not clear that he was a journalist at first, as it was written saying ‘IT professional,’” Tsega told a VOA Amharic radio program. “While others were saying he was a journalist, [Juma] himself said he is an IT professional.”
“When there was a search in Jawar’s home, and in connection with what was found in the residence and satellite-related equipment under investigation, he was arrested because he was suspected of assisting with these efforts,” Tsega said. “His profession as a journalist came after the fact, and why he wanted to hide this information himself, he [Juma] only knows the answer.”
The prosecutors also alleged that Juma didn’t get the proper accreditation to operate in the country.
“We also looked into the case when we heard that he is a journalist from media outlets because all foreign journalists have to go through accreditation through us. We found that Yassin Juma is not registered in our records anytime,” the director-general of Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, Getachew Dinku, said, speaking in Amharic.
However, Juma said he obtained accreditation to work on a documentary from the Ministry of Tourism when he embarked on his project.
“I have the accreditation,” he said. “The government knows I have it. They can check all the Ministry of Tourism. Actually, it’s the Ministry of Tourism that gives accreditation, not any other Ministry, not Information. So, they have it, and the government has it. They can check.”
Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo, also known as Yassin Juma, in Ethiopia on assignment. (Photo courtesy Yassin Juma) [N.B.: We ave reason to believe that VOA placed a wrong caption here and the picture actually is from an assignment in Somalia.]
After he was released on bail in early August and walked out of the Arada Sub City Police Station in Addis Ababa, Juma said he was approached by people who he believes were plainclothes security personnel.
“All of a sudden, six armed men came with a small van and then I started, well, I started protesting,” he said. “I mean, ‘why are they stopping us? We’ve just been freed.’ And then they were stopping us. So, while we were protesting, they started now beating us. One of us was hit on the wall and then, I sustained the broken rib and my back also … We were forced into a vehicle. And they warned us not to protest or do anything or they are able to do anything to us.”
The vehicle drove around the city and the men took Juma and the others back to the police station they had just been released from, and then left them there, the journalist said. He told VOA the police officers looked confused when he was returned.
Juma was moved again to a crowded city jail in Addis Ababa, where he said he contracted the coronavirus.
Tsega, from the Office of the Attorney General, denied security officials were involved in picking Juma up after he was released on bail. “If [Juma] is truly saying that he has been beaten and experienced harassment, let him formally report it,” Tsega said, speaking in Amharic.
He said Juma was kept at the detention center for a couple of days after his bail as a quarantine measure because he tested positive for the coronavirus.
On August 20, following efforts by the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Correspondents’ Association of East Africa and other international groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Juma was moved to an isolated health facility to recuperate. He said he expects to return to Kenya this week.
This is not the first time Juma has faced pressure from the government. He was accused of working with a rebel group in Ethiopia’s Oromia region a decade ago while working on a documentary about the insurgency in the region.
“Part of me coming back to Ethiopia was to do a documentary of my return to Ethiopia after the perceived changes two years ago,” he said. “After I was banned, I was actually labeled a terrorist 10 years ago.”
While Juma’s ordeal appears to be drawing to a close, questions linger about how existing laws might be used in the future to target journalists.
“We’re just sort of distancing ourselves,” Zecharias said. “The country is still distancing itself from the era of authoritarianism. It is hard to say for certain whether these laws will be implemented with the fairness that Ethiopian people and Ethiopian journalists deserve.”
Horn of Africa Amharic Service’s Meleskachew Amiha contributed to this report from Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia: Abiy Ahmed Doubling Down on a Failed Governance Model
•Aug 26, 2020
Ayana Ayantu unpackages recent events in Ethiopia and explores the history and prospects for Ethiopia under PM Abiy Ahmed. She discusses the history of internal colonisation in Ethiopia that continues to be worked out to this day.
Yassin Juma Moved To A Gov’t Isolation Facility After Contracting Coronavirus
Journalist Collins Juma Osemo alias Yassin Juma has been moved to a government isolation facility, Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed.
This was after the freelance journalist tested positive for the novel COVID-19 a week ago at Sostegna Police Station.
In a tweet, the ministry confirmed that the journo had been set free. [WHICH WAS WRONG]
Kenya Embassy in Ethiopia has managed to assist Collins Juma Osemo alias Yassin Juma, Kenyan journalist arrested in Ethiopia, to move to government manage isolation facility after he tested positive to COVID-19 at Sostegna police station where he was held until yesterday. pic.twitter.com/IaeK4YNuwn— ForeignAffairsKenya (@ForeignOfficeKE) August 20, 2020
“Kenya Embassy in Ethiopia has managed to assist Collins Juma Osemo alias Yassin Juma, Kenyan journalist arrested in Ethiopia, to move to government manage isolation facility after he tested positive to COVID-19 at Sostegna police station where he was held until yesterday,” the tweet read.
On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s Federal Attorney General’s office ordered for the immediate release of the Kenyan national who has been incarcerated for close to two months.
Speaking to the Nation, Mr Juma’s lawyer Abdulletif Amee said that the AG’s office said that his client was arrested due to language barrier. However, Mr Amee felt that ‘language barrier’ was only an excuse to escape liability.
“According to the Office of the Attorney General, Juma was detained wrongfully because of language barrier. Is it convincing enough to say he was detained because of misunderstanding? Is that a tactic to escape from liability?” posed Mr Amee.
Mr Juma had earlier on been released by the Lower Court and the High Court, but Ethiopia’s public prosecutor insisted on the case, asking for 15 more days to “conclude investigations”.
Juma was arrested on July 3 in the house of prominent Ethiopian media mogul Jawar Mohammed and is accused of crimes related to subverting authority.
He is also accused of fueling violence following the assassination of popular Ethiopian musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa.
Protesters shot, 9 killed in Ethiopia clashes, say doctors
Ethiopian forces fire on demonstrators protesting against the detention of opposition leaders in the Oromia region.
At least nine people have died in clashes in the Oromia region between Ethiopian security forces and protesters demanding the release of an opposition politician and a media magnate, health officials said on Thursday.
The unrest highlights growing divisions in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Oromo power base as powerful ethnic activists, who were once allies, increasingly challenge his government.
The protests started on Tuesday after a social media campaign for the release of prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed, who were arrested days after the killing of an iconic Oromo singer, Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
Jawar, once a staunch supporter of Abiy, had turned a vocal critic, while Bekele is a leader of an opposition Oromo political party.
Deaths have also been reported in 13 different locations in the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, according to a statement from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a government body.
The commission "is deeply alarmed by the loss of life amid protests in Oromia, and calls on authorities to prevent security forces from using excessive force," said the statement, which did not include a death toll.
The singer's death on June 29 sparked protests in Addis Ababa and spread to Oromia, killing at least 178 people.
On Tuesday, Harar region's Hiwot Fana and Jegol hospitals admitted 32 people with gunshot wounds, most from Oromia's Aweday town, two doctors told Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity.
Six of the wounded died and one was in critical condition at Hiwot Fana Hospital, a doctor at the hospital said. "They were shot in their head, chest and abdomen," the doctor from Hiwot Fana Hospital said.
In Ciro, 320km (200 miles) east of Addis Ababa, 30 people were taken to hospital, 25 of them with bullet wounds, a health official told Reuters. Two people died on Tuesday and a third on Wednesday.
Abiy's office referred Reuters to the Oromia regional government for comment. Getachew Balcha, the Oromia regional government spokesman, did not return calls or text messages seeking comment.
The office of Ethiopia's attorney general on Tuesday defended the government's response to recent unrest, saying in a statement that investigations would reflect a "commitment to human rights".
Ethiopia's Foreign Correspondents' Association calls on Ethiopian authorities to release journalists including Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma pic.twitter.com/QMFzYUdYKz— Emeline Wuilbercq (@EmWuilbercq) August 19, 2020
Ethiopia protest clashes kill at least nine, most by gunshot, doctors say
By TS - 20. August 2020
• The protests started on Tuesday after a social media campaign for the release of prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed, both arrested days after the killing an iconic Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
•Jawar was once a staunch supporter of Abiy now turned vocal critic, while Bekele is a leader of an opposition Oromo political party.
Ethiopia's current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is an ex-intelligence officer of the previous totalitarian regime. Image: FILE
Clashes between Ethiopian security forces and protesters demanding the release of an opposition politician and a media magnate have killed at least nine people in the Oromiya region surrounding the capital, health officials said on Thursday.
The unrest highlights growing divisions in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Oromo power base as powerful ethnic activists who were once allies increasingly challenge his government.
The protests started on Tuesday after a social media campaign for the release of prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed, both arrested days after the killing an iconic Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
Jawar was once a staunch supporter of Abiy now turned vocal critic, while Bekele is a leader of an opposition Oromo political party.
The singer's death sparked protests in the capital Addis Ababa and spread to the surrounding Oromiya region, killing at least 178 people.
Harar region's Hiwot Fana and Jegol hospitals admitted 32 people with gunshot wounds on Tuesday, most from Oromiya's Aweday town, two doctors told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
Six of the wounded died and one was in critical condition at Hiwot Fana Hospital, a doctor at the hospital said.
"They were shot in their head, chest and abdomen," the doctor from Hiwot Fana Hospital said.
In Ciro, 320 km (200 miles) east of Addis Ababa, 30 people were taken to hospital, 25 of them with bullet wounds, a health official told Reuters. Two died on Tuesday and a third on Wednesday.
Abiy's office referred Reuters to the Oromiya regional government for comment.
Getachew Balcha, the Oromiya regional government spokesman, did not return calls or text messages seeking comment.
The state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission called for an investigation.
“Authorities should ensure that the right to peaceful protest can be exercised, and law enforcement measures against anything beyond that do not exceed proportion," spokesman Aaron Maasho said in a statement.
The FCAEA welcomes the call by the FCA-Ethiopia for the release of Yassin Juma. We also share their concern for several Ethiopian journalists detained alongside Juma for over a month. Stand in solidarity with them for a free press. #journalismisnotacrime #FreeYassinJuma pic.twitter.com/9aVlIuzzmm— FCAEA (@FCAEA) August 19, 2020
Yassin Juma: Ethiopian attorney-general orders immediate release of Kenyan journalist
By Linda Shiundu - 19. August 2020
- The Office of the Attorney General clarified the investigative journalist was wrongfully arrested
- According to the Ethiopian attorney-general, Yassin was arrested due to a language barrier
- His lawyer, Abdulletif Amee, however, questioned the reason the state had given for Yassin's wrongful detention
Ethiopian attorney-general has ordered immediate release of Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma, who has been detained in the country since July 3, 2020.
The Office of the Attorney General said the investigative journalist was wrongfully arrested due to language barrier.
Yassin was arrested on July 3, 2020 in Ethiopia. File-Photo: Yassin Juma - International journalist on a former assignement in Somalia. Source: UGC
A report by Daily Nation indicated Yassin's lawyer Abdulletif Amee questioned the reason the Ethiopian government had given for Yassin's wrongful detention.
“According to the Office of the Attorney General, Juma was detained wrongfully because of a language barrier," Amee said.
"Is it convincing enough to say he was detained because of misunderstanding? Is that a tactic to escape from liability?" Abdulletif posed.
The latest development came after the trial against the investigative reporter and nine other suspects resumed on the morning of Tuesday, August 18.
The public prosecutor objected bail grant and requested the court to give him an additional 15 days to conclude the investigation but the court rejected his request.
Yassin is reported to have missed the court session because he was in quarantine after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Ethiopian Attorney General said Yassin Juma was arrested because of a language barrier. File-Photo; Yassin Juma in Ethiopia - Source: Facebook
In a letter to the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, Kenya had termed the continued detention of Yassin as a violation of his rights to justice.
The letter said Ethiopian authorities should have freed the journalist on August 5, 2020, as was ordered by a court after he deposited bail of $85 (KSh 9200) as had been directed.
“The continued detention of this Kenyan national despite the decision of the court and payment of bail is highly regrettable," it said in the letter dated August 12.
"It has caused immense anguish and anxiety to him, his family, the people and the government of the Republic of Kenya," it read on.
Yassin was arrested on July 3, 2020, in the house of prominent Ethiopian media mogul Jawar Mohammed.
He together with other journalists and several politicians were accused of crimes related to subverting authority.
They were also accused of fomenting violence in the wake of the assassination of popular Ethiopian musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa.
Yassin was among more than 4,000 people who had reportedly been picked up by the police during the demonstrations where over 80 people lost their lives.
However, other emerging reports alleged that Juma was arrested because of his friendship with Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohammed.
Ethiopia: Oromia Reeling From State Violence After Security Forces Kill, Injure a Staggering Number of Protesters
A street in Assela, in the Arsi Zone of the Oromia Regional State. Addis Fortune
By Etenesh Abera and Bileh Jelan - Addis Standard (Addis Ababa) - 19. August 2020
Doctors and nurses in two hospital in east Hararghe were scrambling to save the live of gunshot victims as the number of causalities overwhelmed their hospitals
A staggering number of civilian protesters were killed and injured by security forces in several cities and towns across the Oromia regional state in the last two days alone.
Based on several eye witnesses who spoke to Addis Standard over the last two days, we were able to confirm that some of the most affected areas where security forces have either violently dispersed protestors, or used excessive forces, including killings of protestors, include areas in west Arsi: the city of Shashemene and Gedeb Asasa; in Bale Robe and the city of Ginir in Bale zone; in west Hararghe in the towns of Asebot, Galamso, Ciro (formerly Asebe Teferi), and Hirna; as well as towns in East Hararge particularly Haramaya and Aweday cities and in Kombolcha town.
Security forces have also violently dispersed protesters in Fadis, Dhangago, Midhega and Irressa towns and local districts in Harari regional state, as well as Dire Dawa city.
In West Oromia in the city of Ambo, security forces have detained several protestors on Monday August 17 late afternoon. Many of them were released on Tuesday morning, some of them were beaten.
Protests were ignited for two reasons: On Monday August 17 late in the afternoon instant protesters erupted in Shashemene, Ambo, Aweday and Haramaya, among other cities, after news broke that Jawar Mohammed was critically ill and was unable to stay through his court appearance.
These instant protests took place one day before a mass protest in Oromia called by activities to protest against mass arrests of opposition politicians and killings of protesters in Oromia by security forces in the last eleven weeks following the assassination of prominent Oromo artist Haaccaaluu Hundessa. (This is the third such round activities have called for protests in Oromia to protest against the government).
The following are some of the eye witness accounts Addis Standard gathered on the phone over the last two days:
Haramaya, east Hararghe
According to a medical doctor working at Hiwot Fana Specialized University Hospital in Haramaya on Monday August 17, 12 people with gunshot wounds were admitted to the hospital late in the afternoon two of them have since died. And on Tuesday August 18, as widespread protests took place nine more people with gunshots were admitted to the hospital; one of them died soon after. Quoting his colleagues at Jegol Hospital in the city of Harar, the medical doctor, who wants to remain anonymous, also said that at least half a dozen people with gunshot wounds were admitted there both on Monday and Tuesday. "Those who died have sustained severe injury and it is difficult to know the number of death at this moment," he told Addis Standard this morning. Among the victims is a young boy aged between 11 and 12.
Dr. Ibssa Musa, a medical Doctor at the hospital told Addis Standard as of this afternoon, 26 people who sustained injuries as a result of gunshot and beatings were admitted to the hospital. Two of, both men, have since died of their wounds; both died of gunshots.
Currently, there are 12 patients admitted to the surgical ward of the hospital. One patient with severe head injury is admitted to the intensive care unit and is placed on mechanical ventilation. The others are receiving treatments for light injuries.
In Qobo, a small village on the way to the city of Harar two people were shot and killed by members of the Oromia Special Forces, Lega Chercher, a local resident told Addi Standard. One of the two were killed yesterday, and the second was killed today.
Aweday, east Hararghe
Adem Dhalate, a resident of Aweday told Addis Standard that he personally know of 18 people who were shoot and wounded. Among those who were fatally shot are Lemmi, a pregnant woman who was shot and killed in the specific area called Ganda Usman; and Tahir Amin, who was killed in the specific place called Walembo. "It was a bloodbath," Adem said. He shared several graphic pictures with Addis Standard.
Sharifa, originally from Aweday & a resident of Addis Abeba who is said, "There is something going right now in my city, my parents have taken the children and left for the country side." She referred to a relative of hers who was in the city when security forces started cracking down on protests. Sabonna, Sharifa's relative, spoke to Addis Standard via a phone call from Aweday. Speaking to over the sound of ongoing gunshot on August 18 evening, Sabonna said: "I am in hiding, they chased us down the streets, they fired at us indiscriminately and left a ton of bodies [on the street], a neighbor of mine was shot." he said. Gunshots were continuously heard during the phone call.
Another resident of Aweday city who spoke to the VOA Amharic said she was "short of words" to describe what took place after protesters went. "People were hurt beyond expected. We have seen for sure that eight people have died, and we know for sure that 15 people were injured, but it is more than that in rural parts," she said.
Similarly, an eye witness who spoke to the BBC Amharic said members of Oromia Special Forces and federal army started to stop protestors who were chanting slogans. Then shooting started and ten people sustained gunshot wounds." The same eye witness said two people were also shot dead.
Ciro (formerly Asebe Teferi), west Hararghe
Dr Sadam Aluwan, Acting Medical Director of Ciro Hospital, told Addis Standard that as of this morning 29 people were admitted to his hospital on August 18. Of these 24 of them were admitted during day time, and five were admitted late at night. Out of them 20 were admitted for gunshot wounds. Two patients: a 40 year old woman and a young adult in his early 20s, have died of their injuries; both were shot from the back. Nine of the total 29 were admitted for injuries sustained after severe beating.
Dire Dawa City Administration
Several businesses remained closed as of now in Dire Dawa. A resident of the city who wants to remain anonymous told Addis Standard that five people were shot dead between today and yesterday. Four of them were killed yesterday while the fifth was killed today at the specific place called Lagar, he too was shot and killed by security forces.
But the city's police commission said yesterday that two people were killed and four were injured on August 18. In the statement, the city police said that the city was turned into "chaos orchestrated by anti-peace elements with a wicked purpose." The protests called for August 18 (12/12/12 in Ethiopian calendar) were organized by "forces of destruction from abroad" were put under control after organized efforts by the city police and the community, it said.
Later on, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) Eastern command issued a stern warning that "any chaos and incitement outside of the democratic way of peaceful assembly is not acceptable, and that the army will not tolerate it."
Ambo, west Oromia
Gunshots were first heard in Ambo on Monday August 17 after protests erupted in the city. But "there were no injuries or deaths that I have come across from my side," said a source from Ambo University Referral Hospital who prefers to remain anonymous. On August 18, the city was normal after a long night that saw the arrests of many, most of whom were released early morning, "They arrested a lot of people in the middle of the night but I know most of them were released this morning. Some of them with minor wounds" said the source inside the hospital.
Yesterday some businesses in the city have gone back to normal according to Ashe, (only first name) but "some businesses were closed except for few Bajajs and taxis operating normally in the city. The transportation to and from out of the city remained closed."
Gedeb Asasa, West Arsi
According to Isaac Eshetu, former copy editor of Kesem and Yemuslimoch Guday magazines, on August 18 security forces have shot and killed a local Imam and his nursing wife at their place of residence; their infant is also reported to have died later on. Earlier in the same day a deputy Imam of a local Mosque was also shot and injured inside the Mosque, according to Issac, who is currently a Vlogger & Blogger at Talk Ethiopia.
Shashemene, West Arsi
According to a resident of the city who held Addis Standard team report from the ground in the wake of Haacaaluu's assassination, protests erupted in the city in the specific area called Kebele 01 on Monday late afternoon after the news of Jawar's illness broke out. "We didn't know what happened except when we saw protesters forming on the streets and chanting "free Jawar." Soon after that, members of Oromia Special Forces started to indiscriminately shot at protesters. "I ran for my safety and did not see what happened after that," she said.
An eye witness who spoke to VOA Amharic said a teacher teaching at Kuyera elementary school was shot in his dead and died; two others were also shot and killed and many others were injured. Shashemene Melka Oda Hospital General Manager Dr. Bokona Buta confirmed to the news portal that patients were admitted to the hospital after gunshot wounds, but there was no dead among those who were admitted.
Aisha and Mohammed Awol, two eye witnesses who spoke to Addis Standard on the phone said the roads leading to and from Robe and Ginir cities were blocked on August 18 we heard similar reports of such sort "Oromia Special Police are chasing people into hiding & dispersing gatherings by means of force," Aisha said.
"I heard sounds of gunshots but I don't know if there were any injuries and I can't confirm if it was really gunshots. I was out but they chased me back to my home," Mohammed said on his part.
A list of victims
Activists are sharing a "partial list" containing of names and places of the victims. The list contained 42 names of victims killed by security forces in the last two days alone. Most of them are from east and west Hararghe while a few are from west Arsi. Several graphic pictures are also making rounds on social media. Addis Standard cannot, as of now, confirm the total number of causalities. However we have received several graphic pictures from two hospitals in east and west Hararghe.
Getachew Balcha, head of Oromia regional state communication bureau, said yesterday that attempts to turn the region into a war zone by calling on protests were quashed and with concerted efforts between members of law enforcement agencies and the public. He did not mention causalities and his statement was published on the regional state's communication bureau Facebook page, copied by all state owned media. AS
Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma and his lawyer [Photo/Courtesy]
Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma, who is detained in neighbouring country, Ethiopia, now says that his health is deteriorating by the day having tested positive for Covid-19 a few days ago.
Yassin Juma, whose real name is Collins Juma Osemo, has been in detention for over 47 days and efforts by Kenyan authorities to secure his release have not been successful despite an Ethiopian court directing police to free him on bail.
Juma was arrested by the Ethiopian military while covering protests that erupted in Ethiopia’s Oromia region following the death of musician Hachalu Hundessa.
Reports indicate that Juma was arrested because of his close relationship with the controversial musician, one of few people who have openly criticised Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
He is facing charges including incitement and involvement in violence.
The former NTV journalist has penned an emotional letter, detailing his struggles behind bars in a foreign land.
In the letter, Juma noted that it has been a week since he was diagnosed with Covid-19. However, Ethiopian authorities have neglected him as he has not received any medical care so far, adding that his life is in danger.
“I am currently being held at block (W) with 68 other Covid-19 positive inmates with no access to medication in overcrowded cells, no running water and no diet to assist us with our condition, ” he wrote.
“My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it. It is 50-50 with coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less.”
Juma cried out to the Kenyan embassy in Ethiopia to secure his release as his detention is “illegal”.
“The Kenyan government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has failed to secure my freedom even after two courts (Lower and High Court) released me last Monday, ” he wrote.
Juma details that he was rearrested and assaulted shortly after being freed on bail at Arada Police Station.
“I was beaten and forced into a minibus together with three others who had been freed too. We were taken around Addis and later dropped at Arada Police and informed we had been re-arrested, this time not by the Federal Police, but by Addis Ababa Police, ” said Juma.
The journalist says that the police do not have a case against him as they don’t have evidence linking him to any wrongdoing.
“It is a game they play to have us incarcerated for long after the law courts freed us. The investigators’ trick is to keep on asking the judge to be given more time. But holding me for 47 days without charging me is against my human rights. Denying me a chance to communicate with my family in the last 47 days is also against my human rights, ” he says.
“My family depends on me. I do not know how they can manage to feed or pay rent. I have seven children and one grandson living with my ex-wife. They all depend on me.”
He now calls on Ethiopian authorities to charge him or release him unconditionally.
“They have failed to bring evidence in court to charge me, ” he added.
He says that it’s wrong for the government to link him to the country’s politics as he is just a journalist doing his work.
“I came to Addis Ababa on June 6, 2020, for a series of shoots as a Producer for Sky News, the UK-based media organisation. The series was a special report on Ethiopia, but mainly cultural. My company, the Horn24 Media, was later assigned by the Oromo Development Association and Oromos in North America Association to produce a documentary for government-affiliated TV station OBN, ” the letter reads.
“…The documentary was about a project funded by Ethiopians in the diaspora that introduces e-learning to at least ten secondary schools in the Oromo Region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received our delegation before and after completion of establishment of servers in the ten schools as a pilot project. I was still in the process of interviewing, travelling and editing at the time of my arrest.
“…I am a respected journalist, and in my decade and a half in this profession, I have won awards for my exemplary work, including (features) ‘Inside Rebel Territory’ (for NTV in 2009) and ‘Dreams and Nightmares (NTV in 2011, on human trafficking), both shot in Ethiopia.
.”..Kindly pass my greetings to my children and grandson. It has been 47 days.”
Painful letter from ex-NTV Journalist Yassin Juma from Ethopian prison, suffering COVID-19
It has been 47 days since Kenyans journalist Yassin Juma was arrested and detained in Ethiopia.
Now, Yassin whose real name is Collins Juma Osemo has written a letter on life in detention.
Yassin was arrested while covering the aftermath of the assassination of Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa.
Below is the letter from the ex-NTV journalist,
“Kindly pass my greetings and love to my children, my grandson and all those supporting me through the #freeYassinJuma online campaign.
I can’t thank them enough. Remember me in your prayers as I fight coronavirus and injustice
It is my 47th day in detention at Aradar detention cell. It is also my 7th day since I was diagnosed with Covid-19.
I am currently being held at block (W) with 68 other Covid-19 positive inmates with no access to medication in overcrowded cells, no running water and no diet to assist us with our condition.’
My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it.
It is 50-50 with coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less.
The Kenyan government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has failed to secure my freedom even after two courts (Lower and High Court) released me last Monday.
I was literally kidnapped by six armed men in civilian clothes, a minute after I was released on bail at Arada Police Station.
Yassin further penned,
I was beaten and forced into a minibus together with three others who had been freed too. We were taken around Addis and later dropped at Arada Police and informed we had been re-arrested, this time not by the Federal Police, but by Addis Ababa Police.
According to the letter by Yassin, he has even been denied the chance to communicate with his family.
Being the sole bread winner, Yassin hopes the Ethiopian government can let him go.
‘It is a game they play to have us incarcerated for long after the law courts freed us. The investigators’ trick is to keep on asking the judge to be given more time.
But holding me for 47 days without charging me is against my human rights.
Denying me a chance to communicate with my family in the last 47 days is also against my human rights.
My family depends on me. I do not know how they can manage to feed or pay rent. I have seven children and one grandson living with my ex-wife. They all depend on me.
All I am asking the Ethiopian government is to either charge me or set me free. They have failed to bring evidence in court to charge me.’
He further explained how he found himself in Ethiopia.
‘I came to Addis Ababa on June 6, 2020 for a series of shoots as a Producer for Sky News, the UK-based media organisation. The series was a special report on Ethiopia, but mainly cultural.
My company, the Horn24 Media, was later assigned by the Oromo Development Association and Oromos in North America Association to produce a documentary for government-affiliated TV station OBN.
I am a director and editor at Horn24 Media, a regional news agency offering news services to international media especially on conflict areas of the Horn of Africa.
We have bureaus in Nairobi, Mogadishu, Djibouti, Khartoum and Juba. We do documentary production, training for journalists and media consultancy.
I also, sometimes, work as a freelance journalist for Al Jazeera and Sky News.
The documentary was about a project funded by Ethiopians in the diaspora that introduces e-learning to at least ten secondary schools in the Oromo Region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received our delegation before and after completion of establishment of servers in the ten schools as a pilot project.
I was still in the process of interviewing, travelling and editing at the time of my arrest.
It is such opportunities, brought about by the perceived changes in Ethiopia two years ago (when PM Abiy took over) that attracted us to this country, in the spirit of regional cooperation and integration. ‘
Yassin says he was just doing his job and does not understand why he is being crucified for it.
I am just a journalist doing his work and I have never been involved in the country’s politics. For 16 years, my specialty has been in covering the region: Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and the rest of the Horn of Africa.
‘I am a respected journalist, and in my decade and a half in this profession, I have won awards for my exemplary work, including (features) ‘Inside Rebel Territory’ (for NTV in 2009) and ‘Dreams and Nightmares (NTV in 2011, on human trafficking), both shot in Ethiopia.
In the last 47 days, a consular official (from the Kenyan Embassy in Addis Ababa) has managed to visit me twice but any efforts to have me released have seemingly stalled.
Kindly pass my greetings to my children and grandson. It has been 47 days.”
May he find justice and may he be released soon.
Former NTV journalist Yassin Juma is still behind bars in Ethiopia, two weeks after his arrest.
The freelance journalist who was covering the protests that erupted in Oromoo following the death of musician Hachalu Hundessa is expected back in court on July 28.
According to a lawyer representing Ethiopian journalists arrested during the protests, Milkyas Bulcha, Juma has not had legal representation since his arrest.
“He had no legal representation in court. I was only helping him because he had no one to help him translate,” Mr Bulcha said.
He also noted that he is unaware of any efforts by the Kenyan Embassy to get the journalist appropriate legal representation.
The lawyer disclosed that the Kenyan reporter was apprehend at the home of Jawar Mohammed, founder of the Oromia Media Network (OMN) who is also behind bars.
Juma and Mohammed, among other politicians, the lawyer revealed, are facing charges of instigating inter-ethnic violence and causing outrage to the dignity of a dead body.
Following Hundessa’s shooting on June 29, the week long protests saw 239 people dead and about 3,500 arrested.
While reason behind Hundessa’s killing remains unclear, the deceased had apparently been receiving death threats.
The Ethiopian government has on its part blamed Egypt for the chaos that rocked the country weeks ago.
According to them, Egypt was against them continuing with the Grand Renaissance Dam project, set to be Africa’s largest.
In 2016, the freelance journalist cum blogger was arrested by Anti Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) after he blogged about the Al Shabaab attack on the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) El Adde base.
Update on the situation of Yassin Juma: The FCAEA has learned Juma has contracted Covid-19 while being detained by Ethiopian authorities. Juma is still being held despite a court ordering his release more than a week ago. #freeyassinjuma #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/HwxZT1ZONK— FCAEA (@FCAEA) August 14, 2020
Between July 2 and July 18, 2020, security personnel in Ethiopia detained Kenyan freelance journalist Collins Juma Osemo, who goes by the name Yassin Juma, and four employees of the satellite outlet the Oromia Media Network: news director Melese Direbssa; journalist and TV show host Guyo Wariyo; news anchor Mohammed Siraj; and a driver with the station, Chibsa Abdulkerim, according to Tuli Bayyisa and Kedir Bullo, two lawyers who are part of their defense team, who spoke to CPJ via telephone and messaging app.
The four journalists and media worker appeared at the Federal First Instance court,Arada branch, in Addis Ababa, the capital, several times through August 12, 2020, but authorities had not formally charged them; authorities said they are investigating them on allegations that include incitement to violence and operation of illegal communication equipment, according to Tuli and Kedir, as well as two statements emailed to CPJ by Yibekal Gizaw, the head of the National Human Rights Action Plan Office, a department within Ethiopia’s office of the Federal Attorney General. On August 5, the Federal First Instance court ordered Juma, Melesse, and Chibsa released on bail but as of August 12, they had yet to be released, according to Tuli.
Article 59 of the Ethiopian Criminal Procedure Code, which CPJ reviewed, gives the courts the discretion to remand arrested persons for up to 14 days, but this can be renewed an indefinite number of times at a judge’s discretion.
The four journalists and a media worker are among at least 4,700 people arrested in Ethiopia following the June 29 killing Hachalu Hundessa, a popular artist known for his political music, which sparked violence that led to the deaths of at least 181 people, according to media reports. Officials shut down the internet and launched investigations into several media outlets, including the Oromia Media Network, on allegations of inciting violence, as CPJ documented at the time and according to media reports and the statement from the office of the attorney general. In one of its statements to CPJ, the office of the attorney general said that journalists from the Oromia Media Network are under investigation for their role in “broadcasts involving repeated calls for ethnically targeted attacks” which led to “the widespread damage of property, looting and killing of ethnic minorities.”
In his statement Yibekal referred CPJ to a Twitter thread containing three videos in which people speaking at what seem to be public forums make comments that include calling for homes to be burnt and for people to be exterminated. One video carries an OMN logo; one video does not have an OMN logo nor any other identifying marker, and in the third, there is no logo but a woman speaks at a public forum into an OMN-branded microphone. CPJ did not find these videos on any platform associated with the network. The Network did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment on these videos.
On July 18 security personnel in Addis Ababa detained OMN anchor Mohammed Siraj at his in-laws’ house, according to his wife Sada Haji and Kedir, who both spoke to CPJ via messaging application. Mohammed appeared in court on July 20 and police said they were investigating him on allegations of incitement to violence; outrage against a dead body; killing of a police officer; and attempt to kill a ruling party official, according to Kedir and Tokumma Daba, another lawyer in the defense team. He was due back in court on August 14, according to Kedir.
Security personnel arrested OMN reporter and TV host Guyo Wariyo on July 17 from an Addis Ababa residence where he was staying with his family and said on July 18 in court that they were investigating him for broadcasting false news and inciting ethnic and religious violence, according to Tuli and two relatives who spoke to CPJ via messaging application but requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. Guyo had interviewed Hachalu a week before his killing and authorities had linked Hachalu’s killing to the Oromia Media Network interview, alleging that the program’s format was deliberately changed and claimed that the interview was edited to remove sections in which the musician spoke about threats he was facing, according to media reports.
In its July 31 statement to CPJ, the office of the attorney general said prosecutors were reviewing Guyo’s case to determine whether to charge him. Guyo was also due back in court on August 14, according to Kedir, as police have been given more time to investigate him.
Mohammed and Guyo are being held at a primary school in Addis Ababa, around a neighborhood commonly known as Enkulal Fabrica, that has been converted to a detention center, according to the Tuli, Kedir, and the relatives who spoke to CPJ.
Kenyan journalist Juma, who also edits news website Horn24News, was arrested on July 2 in Addis Ababa at the home of Jawar Mohammed, an Ethiopian opposition politician and former head of the Oromia Media Network who had been arrested on June 30, according to Tuli and an Oromia Media Network employee who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. Juma’s Nairobi-based wife, Asha Mohamed, told CPJ that the journalist had moved to Ethiopia last year to work on documentaries. The office of the attorney general told CPJ that Juma was arrested by police who were executing a search warrant at Jawar’s house and claimed that he did not identify himself as a journalist.
OMN News Director Melese and Chibsa, the driver, were arrested separately on July 2 after they tried to go to the Oromia Media Network offices that had been shut down by authorities on June 30, according to Tuli and the Network employee who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity.
Tuli told CPJ that Juma, Melese, and Chibsa are co-accused in one case and police have claimed in court that they are investigating them on the same allegations as Mohamed Siraj. These are also the allegations leveled against Jawar, according to a statement by the rights organization Amnesty International.
However, the attorney general’s office told CPJ that the allegations on outrage against a dead body and murder allegations only apply to Melese whom they claim was arrested at the scene of a June 30 incident in which Jawar and others are accused of having attempted to forcefully turn back the body of Hachalu, which was being transported to its burial place.
The attorney general’s office also told CPJ that Juma and Chibsa are under investigation on allegations of having operated illegal communication equipment found in Jawar’s home, a satellite which the government says is authorized for use only by diplomatic missions. According to the defense team, authorities have not raised these allegations in court proceedings.
After visiting Juma on August 3, Tuli told CPJ that the journalist had recently, and for the first time, been interrogated on allegations of intercepting government information. The journalist told his lawyer that he had trouble communicating with police, because he does not speak Amharic.
Tuli also told CPJ that as of August 3, Juma was ill and had reported suffering from a fever for at least five days. Tuli told CPJ at the time that Juma had not received any medical tests but had been given medicine by a clinic at the Addis Ababa Police Commission, commonly known as Sostegna, where he is detained alongside Chibsa and Melese.
In ordering the release of Juma, Chibsa, and Melesse from Federal Police custody, the Arada branch of the Federal First Instance court said authorities had not provided evidence linking the co-accused to the allegations for which they are being investigated. Authorities appealed the order but the Lideta branch of the Federal High Court quashed their application on August 7. However, as of August 12 the three had yet to be released and Kedir told CPJ that they had been transferred to the custody of Addis Ababa Police, who brought them to court on August 11 and claimed to be investigating them for the same allegations as the federal police. They were due back in court on August 13.
#FreeYassinJuma - Urgent Fundraiser to help the family of illegally arrested Kenyan Journalist Yassin Juma - detained by the Ethiopian regime.
Mass arrests in Ethiopia raise spectre of repressive past
Ethiopia has detained more than 9,000 people after deadly clashes last month, the staterun human rights commission told Reuters, raising fears that a government hailed for reforms is returning to the ironfisted tactics of past administrations.
By Reuters - 13. August 2020
ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia has detained more than 9,000 people after deadly clashes last month, the state-run human rights commission told Reuters, raising fears that a government hailed for reforms is returning to the iron-fisted tactics of past administrations.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 promising democratic changes in one of Africa’s most repressive nations, is struggling to rein in resurgent ethnic nationalism that sporadically explodes in bouts of violence.
Abiy’s changes have unleashed old disputes over land, resources and local power, and he now faces the challenge of protecting citizens while preserving fledgling freedoms that helped win him the Nobel peace prize last year. He’s promised to hold Ethiopia’s first free and fair elections in 2021, which would be a milestone for Africa’s second most-populous nation.
But the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said around 9,000 people had been arrested since the June 29 shooting of a musician sparked days of protests that killed more than 178 people in the capital and surrounding Oromiya region – the deadliest spasm of violence since Abiy took office.
Asked to comment on the arrests, the government signalled that order was its immediate priority.
Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for the prime minister, told Reuters, “One of the government’s primary roles and responsibilities is ensuring security and stability and that the rule of law prevails … actions taken over the past weeks are a reflection of the commitment to law and constitutional order.”
Abiy’s critics detect disturbing echoes of the past.
Among those detained: opposition activist Dejene Tafa, whom police dragged from his bed in the middle of the night on July 8 as he slept next to his pregnant wife. Dejene is a university professor and secretary of the Oromo Federalist Congress party.
Aselefech Mulatu, his 42-year-old wife, said her husband is being held without charge and has contracted COVID-19 in prison.
“We thought we had transitioned to a democratic system,” she said, her belly large with their fifth child.
Tegene Regassa, spokesman for Ethiopia’s health ministry, confirmed Dejene had been hospitalised for COVID-19 but said he had recovered.
Dejene had already spent two years in prison without charge for taking part in the street protests that toppled the previous prime minister, his wife said.
Getachew Balcha, a regional government spokesman, confirmed 7,126 people had been arrested in Oromiya alone. He said did not know how many had been charged but said “files were being prepared” on 500 of them. The state office of the attorney general did not respond to requests for comment.
Mass arrests were common under the previous administration which used security forces to crush dissent. When anti-government protests propelled Abiy to power, he speeded up the release of tens of thousands of political prisoners.
But now activists like Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia analyst, fear Abiy’s government is resorting to the arbitrary mass arrests of his predecessor.
“The government arrests people and then looks for evidence,” said Fisseha. “This is in line with previous experience.”
OMN: An ‘alien’ star in Ethiopia’s skewed media universe is ‘cancelled’
By Girma Gutema - 12. August 2020
Oromia Media Network was a rare non-Amharic voice in Ethiopia’s media landscape. That is why its bureau was shutdown.
(Ethiopian Insight) — Oromia Media Network (OMN) is an independent media enterprise established in the U.S. six and a half years ago. Its stated mission is producing original and citizen-driven news and stories on Oromia and Ethiopia. The network is financed and operated by an extensive network of grassroots movements and the wider diaspora.
Among its early successes, OMN successfully guided the peaceful struggle of Oromo youth–the Qeerroo—that propelled Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018. In a move that history may record as ironic, OMN became the victim of its own success, when Abiy’s “reformist” government cracked down on the media house following the assassination of Oromo artist and rights activist Hachalu Hundessa on 29 June.
Two days after Hachalu’s killing, security forces raided and effectively shut down the OMN operation in the capital, Finfinne, the indigenous Oromo name for Addis Ababa. The premises were illegally searched, staff members detained, the organisation’s bank accounts blocked, and computers and broadcast equipment seized.
After establishing itself in exile as a Pan-Oromo voice—bringing stories from Oromia to the world and vice versa for more than four years—OMN was warmly welcomed by millions when it returned home in August 2018, particularly at the official event organized at the Millennium Hall. The move created such an excitement within the international community that the 26th World Press Freedom Day celebration was held in Ethiopia in recognition of the country’s bold move in opening up the free media landscape.
OMN had to replicate its U.S. operation to get established as OMN-Finfinne in Ethiopia (henceforth referred to as OMN), but maintained a close working relationship with its mother company, the Minnesota-based OMN. The government swiftly offered support, particularly in cutting bureaucratic red tape during registration and licensing. OMN’s working relations with the country’s media watchdog organization, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA), began well, but soon soured due to political interference, both from the Prime Minister’s Office and from other detractor groups within the media establishment that may have viewed it as a threat to their control of the dominant narrative.
Ethiopia’s tightly-controlled media machinery has historically been defined by its imperialist slant. The direction of flow of news stories and agendas has always followed the route of the imperial march—from north-to-south! That is to say, elitist media narratives have always been set in the perspectives and language of the Abyssinians, whose wilful indifference to issues of justice and equality for the peoples of the wider south continues to this day, adding more layers onto the edifices constructed within the Ethiopian state to preserve their dominant status.
Hence, OMN was an ‘alien’ star beaming a light onto a “black hole” within the stellar constellation of Ethiopia’s historically inequitable media universe. It therefore had to be snuffed out.
What’s more, just weeks before the crackdown on OMN, it was reported that there are 30+ television and 60+ radio stations operating in Ethiopia with legal licenses. Most are based in Oromia’s capital Finfinne, but only a few of them use languages other than Amharic. To be precise, only four, including the state-owned Oromia Broadcasting Network, broadcast in the Oromo language—Afaan Oromoo.
The regulator, EBA, allowed this to happen in the heart of Oromia—a decision that could reasonably be taken as an act of imposing cultural imperialism, if not an outright linguistic genocide against the indigenous Oromo people of the area. OMN was erased from this historically unjust media firmament simply because it stood out as an ‘alien —an ‘alien’ that would be unimaginable in any country that maintains even a shred of press freedom. But, alas, this is Ethiopia.
Just as Al Jazeera’s initial mission in 2006 was to counteract the global monopoly held by western news outlets over the media narrative—that flows from northern to southern hemisphere—OMN challenged the historical biases and linguistic domination that are the hallmarks of Ethiopia’s mostly state-run media, flowing in pretty much same geographic direction. By boldly bringing to the fore stories and perspectives from Ethiopia’s diverse south, OMN provided a welcome alternative to the ‘everything’s wonderful’ picture painted by establishment media. And by so doing, OMN not only shone a light on the long-stifled quests, stories and narratives of Ethiopia’s historically subjugated southern peoples, the Oromo included, it also shook the historically biased media cabal to its core.
In all, not a bad record of achievement during the brief time OMN was permitted to operate from within the country.
And here is where the probable cause for the recent assassination of the popular Oromo artist and rights activist Hachalu Hundessa comes in. In his interview on the OMN, Hachalu had spoken about the Oromo understanding of who Emperor Menelik II was. In this telling, Menelik II was a medieval-era-styled 19th century feudal ruler who founded the Ethiopian empire by waging some of Africa’s most brutal wars of conquest and subjugation against many of the indigenous peoples, including the Oromo, in what is today southern Ethiopia.
Historical accounts of the human cost of the conquest written by foreign observers, including the emperor’s own Russian advisor Alexander Bulatovich, told that Menelik II committed crimes of genocidal proportions on some of the linguistic and cultural groups, using modern weapons provided by his European and Russian “Christian friends” from 1880 to 1900.
For instance, Bulatovich, a devout admirer who accompanied Menelik II’s army battalions during these wars of colonial conquest, wrote in his 1900 book titled “Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes” — that the Gimira people were on the verge of total extinction due to the war; but were spared after “his majesty, the emperor” ordered his army commanders to stop killing the remaining Gimira as “they shall be hunted down and caught to be sold as slaves”. Bulatovich wrote that Menelik II’s war of conquest had exterminated about 80 percent of the Gimira and 50 percent of the Oromo populations by that time.
Another book by a foreign observer, the French Catholic missionary Martial De Salviac, who had travelled extensively across the Oromo country, appears to precisely corroborate Bulatovich’s account. De Salviac’s 1901 book, “The Oromo: An Ancient People: Great African Nation” reports that of the 10 million Oromo population he estimated at the time, five million were killed in Menelik II’s war of conquest. These two independent foreign sources suggest what in another time and place would be called a genocide against the Oromo by Menelik II’s invading army, which “reduced the Oromo population by half”, to use Alexander Bulatovich’s words.
These historical accounts resonate well with a compelling argument made by the Israeli historian Yuval Harari in his best-selling book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. Harari argues that building and maintaining an empire often required the slaughter of large populations and the oppression of everyone who was left out. Harari notes that the standard toolkit in building an empire includes war, enslavement, deportation, and genocide.
“When the Romans invaded Scotland in 83 AD, they were met with fierce resistance from local Caledonian tribes, and reacted by laying waste to the country,” Harari writes. “In reply to the Roman peace offers, the chieftain Calgacus called the Romans ‘the ruffians of the world’, and said that ‘to plunder, slaughter and robbery, they give the lying name of empire, they make a desert and call it peace”. It is perhaps worth noting that, in a rare interview with a local radio station, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Harari’s book is among his favorites.
In his fateful interview with the OMN, Hachalu made a casual comment about the statue of Emperor Menelik II that stands in downtown Finfinne, suggesting that it is inevitable that the genocidal emperor’s statue would eventually be taken down in a city that is the capital of both Oromia federal state and Ethiopia’s federal government, as well as headquarters of the African Union. Hachalu’s comment came amidst of a globally heating up wave of protests that has witnessed statues of imperialist leaders and slave traders being torn down.
Historians like Harold G. Marcus regard Menelik II as the “greatest slave entrepreneur” of his time, who expropriated 10 percent of all his captives from southern Ethiopia into slavery. In line with this, in a paper he published on the journal of African Economic History, Charles W. McClellan wrote that “while some of the slaves were deployed in the imperial gibbi (Menelik II’s palace), many others were exported to slave markets in Egypt, Arabia and east Africa, providing an important source of income for the government of emperor Menelik II”.
Hachalu’s offhand comment infuriated the falsely named “Ethiopianist” establishment, which exercises near absolute control over Ethiopia’s historical narrative. The establishment portrays Menelik II as a benevolent king, if not saint, who founded the “holy country” called Ethiopia, through “holy wars” of conquest. To dare to mention the feudal emperor’s genocidal deeds and suggest that his statue should be removed from Oromia’s capital is tantamount to trying to destroy their “emiye Ethiopia”. Measured by this yardstick, Hachalu’s comment was treasonous.
It should be underscored here that this viscerally violent and pre-political “Ethiopianist” group was resurrected and essentially emboldened not just by Abiy’s nostalgic imperialist rhetoric about the “great Ethiopia” of the past, which never existed anyway, but also by some of the practical measures he took in his “palace renovation project” that were offensive to many southern peoples.
A day after Hachalu’s comment was broadcast, social media erupted with calls for his immediate murder—also see some of the comments written under OMN Facebook and YouTube pages in the days after the interview’s online publication. Two days later, PM Abiy appeared to indirectly criticize Hachalu, saying “only historians, not ordinary folks [like Hachalu] should make comments on the history of Ethiopia”. This statement, at a totally unrelated event to inaugurate a new bakery, can even be viewed as incitement against Hachalu.
About a month after Hachalu was assassinated, a group of young men in the capital came out in ecstasy to the street celebrating the killing of artist Hachalu, jubilantly chanting “Hachalu is dead, Jawar will be next”. On the same day, however, another youth group in the streets of the city spared Jawar from death via their rather lenient slogan “Jawar rots in jail”. In that fateful interview he had with OMN, Hachalu also told to the journalist that he has long been enduring death threats and other forms of intimidations including physical attacks from such “proud Ethiopians” every time he drives in the city.
Prime Minister Abiy’s attitude toward Hachalu’s dissent had previously been documented. In a book titled “The Hijacked Revolution” written by an anonymous author (pen name: Mudhin Siraj) and published about a year before Hachalu’s assassination—on page 109 of the book, the author recounts how Hachalu was summoned to the prime minister’s office for a ten-minute lecture. It was not a dialogue, but a stern ‘executive order’ in which Abiy told Hachalu in no uncertain terms that:
“…the Oromo political struggle is over. The country is now being led by an Oromo Prime Minister and, therefore, you shouldn’t dare to produce any music work which opposes my government. If you obey this strict order, we can fulfil all your material needs. But if you defy, I will not tolerate you even for a single day. Whether you like it or not, I [Abiy Ahmed] will remain leader of this country for at least the next ten years”.
As I am writing this piece, it has come to my attention that Abiy’s government has concocted a ridiculously amateurish video suggesting there is some link between Hachalu’s cold-blooded murder and two powerful Oromo opposition political groups (Oromo Federalist Congress [OFC] and Oromo Liberation Front [OLF]) and an independent, influential Oromo media house (OMN). This amateurishly doctored drama draws a fictitious triangle that purports to connect these three Oromo organizations that Abiy’s government considers its sworn opponents. The people in Oromia/Ethiopia should reject this laughable disinformation ploy; and I believe they have.
Since the day the OMN headquarters in the capital was shut down, all state-owned media and those affiliated with the ruling party have been waging a sustained propaganda campaign against the OMN. Their reason? OMN did a LIVE broadcast as Hachalu’s fans and supporters turned out in their thousands to accompany his body in the early morning hours of 30 June. But certainly, given the artist’s massive influence in Oromia and the entire country, it must have been odd for any Ethiopian media to ignore the story and come out criticizing what OMN did on that day. But alas, this is Ethiopia.
Plus, we see these days the government propaganda machines and affiliated detractors accusing OMN of conspiring with the propagandists’ own former master and ideological soulmate, the TPLF. The irony here is that some of these propaganda outlets like Fana Broadcasting Corporate, Walta Media and Communication Corporate are themselves the creations of the TPLF. Anyone who knows anything about OMN knows it would never have anything to do with the TPLF, or any other political party for that matter. The propagandists can choke on their words.
Furthermore, we have received credible information from within Prosperity Party circles over the last two years, that Amhara elements of the party have repeatedly demanded that the government should crackdown on the OMN and other popular Oromo entities like the OLF and OFC. And indeed, we knew this could perhaps come one day. It has long been a sticking point in internal political conversations between the Amhara and Oromo elements within the Prosperity Party, and we were anticipating the crackdown coming, especially if the balance of power tilts towards the former.
It should therefore be clearly stated here that the government’s move to shut down OMN’s headquarters in Finfinne and launch attacks against the OLF and OFC leadership is a political decision that has nothing to do with “upholding the rule of law”, as the state’s propaganda machine wants us to believe.
It is also worth noting that while the OMN and towering Oromo artists and activists like Hachalu have been sacrificing so much to save the Ethiopian empire from itself, Abiy and his “Ethiopianist” cabal are unyielding in pursuit of their counter-productive project of saving their “emiye Ethiopia” from the Oromo and the “other” peoples of the wider south. Will they be successful? The jury is still out.
OMN was established as an activist entity aiming to offer extensive coverage of Oromo news and stories suppressed or ignored by state-run outlets and other interest groups in Ethiopia’s media industry. By so doing, it has developed a reputation for grassroots activism, aspiring to help mobilize Oromos in their quest for democracy, justice and equality in Ethiopia.
When I took over as Executive Director in December 2019, part of my plan was to steer OMN’s structural evolution toward more professionalism and independence. In pursuit of those goals, we devised a series of steps aimed at re-designing the organizational structure and capacity building.
The first order of business was to de-couple the organization from the shadows of my predecessor, the influential former executive director Jawar Mohammed, who had chosen to enter party politics. At that time, a commission established by the prior leadership had developed a valuable five-year strategic plan that laid out the 3Ps of OMN—passion, performance and professionalism. To broaden the audience base, the network had engaged with rights activists and intellectuals from the south, so much so that any casual visitor at office could feel OMN was a home for the perspectives of Ethiopia’s diverse nations and nationalities. And therefore, it wasn’t difficult to see the increasing influence that OMN commanded within Ethiopia’s media community, even while operating in a hostile environment marked by intimidation from the government and other interest groups.
In a multi-ethnic country like Ethiopia where over 75 distinct languages are spoken, the successful containment and control of the deadly COVID-19 virus requires a multidisciplinary approach and using as many languages as possible to communicate vital health information to the various linguistic and cultural groups. OMN’s multi-linguistic strategy in the pandemic public information campaign was widely applauded. Our unique track record of accomplishment is on display for anyone to see and judge.
One key point should be highlighted here: It is a matter of public record that no other media house, public or private, managed to regularly bring together, on a single table, teams of high-profile experts from a multitude of health science fields. Among them were epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, medical anthropologists, virologists, pharmaceutical/medical supply system specialists, pharmaco-economists, health systems managers, community health workers, pharma/health technologists, preventive medicine specialists and others to inform and educate the public about the collective effort required to effectively fight the spread of the coronavirus. OMN also employed 18 Ethiopian languages, including sign language, in disseminating WHO’s vital health information as part of its fight against COVID-19. Certainly, no media in the country has been as multilingual and multidisciplinary as this in educating the public about the danger we face.
The big question
Indulging in a scholarly debate on the pitfalls of the barbaric political project called empire was not the objective of this piece. But this moment presents a unique opportunity. As Harari wrote in his aforementioned book, empires throughout history have crushed threats and rebellions with an iron fist; and when its day comes, a frustrated and sinking empire has always used all its might to save itself, usually collapsing into chaos and carnage. But as Harari argues, history has taken a different course since the collapse of the European empires—particularly since 1945 when the British Empire started falling apart as its colonies across the globe were liberated one by one — most of them without violence.
The current Ethiopian state has a blood-stained history down to its imperial roots. Its first constitution, written in 1931, boldly described it as an “Empire State”. Its territories and subjects were all “possessions of the emperor”. Ever since, Ethiopians across the board have waged bitter struggles — both political and military — to break the yoke of imperial oppression and transform the empire into a republic of and by the people. During all these times, Ethiopia has sustained the shocks of two major revolutions (1974 and 1991) and also a ‘peaceful internal political coup’ spurred on by powerful protests by Oromo Qeerroo that ultimately propelled Abiy to power in March 2018.
Now the question is, in light of Ethiopia’s past, and the failure of Abiy’s much anticipated “reformist” government to address the chronic contradictions of the historically imperialist Ethiopian state, will the forces struggling to keep Abiy in the the palace step aside peacefully in keeping with the precedent set by other post-1945 collapsing empires? Or, will the country descend into chaos and anarchy, as was the rule during the pre-1945 period?
Ethiopia court remands Jawar, Eskinder; Abiy vows justice and order
July 17: Jawar, Eskinder remanded over violence
A federal high court on Thursday granted police additional 14 days to investigate Jawar Mohammed, an activist turned politician associated with opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
Jawar was arrested, along with others, two weeks ago in connection with the unrest that took place in Addis Ababa and parts of Oromia region in the wake of the killing of artist Hachalu Hundessa.
The court adjourned the hearing to July 30, 2020. Privately-owned Addis Standard reported that Jawar informed that court he is being held at a basement in unmarked building. The prosecution also got 10 more days to investigate politician Bekele Gerba who was also arrested during the unrest.
Along with Gerba were his daughter Bontu, his son Samuel and his nephew Kiyya Belachew, who were detained at a school compound. During the pretrial hearing, judges ordered the release of all three whom the police initially accused of collaborating with Bekele.
Activist turned politician Eskinder Nega who was also detained on charges of inciting violence told the court that he had been physically abused by police officers. The court ordered a probe into the incident.
During the July 16 pretrial hearing, Eskinder stated that he will press charges against members of the police who were involved in his beating.
Internet connectivity was partially restored for persons using fixed broadband services earlier this week. Mobile internet, however, remains restricted across the country. The latest outage lasted two weeks.
State-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate, FBC; reported from a July 17 statement that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has reiterated that justice will be meted out for Hundessa and others who were killed in the protests that followed his death.
“We have to be aware of the forces that encircle us to take advantage of conflicts they instigate amongst us. We have to renew our political discourse and institutions. Doing so, we can realize our prosperity” the premier’s statement said.
“We have well identified those who instigated the chaos and disrupted their networks,” he added. He called for more support from the public to help combat the forces of chaos and violence.
The statement also noted that aside the loss of lives – put at over 260 – properties running into millions of birr were destroyed. With the partial return of connectivity, social media has been flooded with videos and photos of mass destruction across parts of the capital and Oromia region.
Some photos, also from Shashamene. Similar scenes in towns along the Rift Valley corridor to Bishoftu, including Arsi Negele and Ziway particular pic.twitter.com/KKN7aA0f0h— Tom Gardner (@TomGardner18) July 14, 2020
July 1: ‘Several’ killed in Ethiopia unrest after singer shot dead
At least 239 people have been killed and 3,500 arrested in more than a week of unrest in Ethiopia that poses the biggest challenge yet to its Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister.
In the Oromia region, the toll includes 215 civilians along with nine police officers and five militia members, regional police commissioner Mustafa Kedir told the ruling party-affiliated Walta TV on Wednesday.
Officials earlier said 10 people were killed in the capital, Addis Ababa, eight of them civilians, amid outrage after a popular singer was shot dead last Monday.
Hachalu Hundessa had been a rallying voice in anti-government protests that led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking power in 2018. Abiy swiftly introduced political reforms that also opened the way for long-held ethnic and other grievances in Africa’s second most populous country.
The military was deployed during the outrage that followed Hachalu’s death.
In remarks last week while wearing a military uniform, Abiy said dissidents he recently extended an offer of peace had “taken up arms” in revolt against the government. He hinted there could be links between this unrest and the killing of the army chief last year as well as the grenade thrown at one of his own rallies in 2018.
The 3,500 arrests have included that of a well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, and more than 30 supporters. It is not clear what charges they might face. The Oromo make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but had never held the country’s top post until they helped bring Abiy to power.
Local reports have said that in some places ethnic Oromo have attacked ethnic Amhara, and in Shashamane town some people were going home to home checking identity cards and targeting Amhara residents.
Businesses have now begun opening slowly in Oromia after the violence in which several hundred homes in Ethiopia were burned or damaged.
But Ethiopia’s internet service remains cut, making it difficult for rights monitor and others to track the scores of killings.
July 6: Weekend offline amid high security, mass arrests
Ethiopian police over the weekend were patrolling the country’s troubled Oromia region and the capital, Addis Ababa, following a week of unrest in which 166 people were killed and more than 2,000 arrested, after a popular singer was shot dead.
In Oromia, 145 civilians and 11 members of security forces were killed, Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner in the region, told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate. Another 10 people were killed in the capital, eight of them civilians.
The internet was cut last week to try to dampen the protests and made it difficult for rights monitors to track the scores of killings.
More than 2,280 people were arrested in Oromia and Addis Ababa, said police. Arrests included that of a well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, and more than 30 supporters. It is not clear what charges they might face. The Oromo make up Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group but had never held the country’s top political post until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.
The arrest of opposition figures “could make a volatile situation even worse,” Human Rights Watch has said.
The unrest erupted after popular singer Hachalu Hundessa was killed. He had been a prominent voice in anti-government protests that led to Abiy coming to power. The singer was buried Thursday in a ceremony shown on national television.
The new disturbances amount to the prime minister’s greatest domestic test since he took office, say analysts. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for dramatic reforms, including welcoming home once-banned exile groups. However, Abiy’s steps to open political space have been used by some Ethiopians to air ethnic and other grievances. At times it has led to deadly violence, and human rights groups have accused security forces of abuses.
Speaking about the week of unrest, Abiy said he had recently extended an offer of peace to dissidents, but they have “taken up arms” in revolt against the government in a week.
Those who participate “in the destruction of the nation cannot be considered guardians of the nation,” Abiy said on Friday.
“It’s a moment when people need to pause and de-escalate,” said Murithi Mutiga, project director for the Horn of Africa with the International Crisis Group. He cited a series of challenges in Ethiopia including an armed insurgency in parts of the country and tension over the timing of the next election. The government recently delayed the vote, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is not the first but one in a long line of grave provocations by an actor not yet identified,” Mutiga said, adding that the “wiser course of action is to strive to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and dialogue.”
The past week appears to be the most serious challenge yet to Ethiopia’s transition to multifaceted democracy, Mutiga said. “Thankfully, the situation seems to have calmed down in Addis and parts of Oromia but the scale of the violence, the degree of grievance witnessed on the streets and the danger of instability was quite high.”
July 1: ‘Several’ killed in Ethiopia unrest after singer shot dead
Ethiopia’s prime minister says “several people” have been killed in unrest that followed the killing of a popular singer this week. Some reports say over 50 people were killed. Three bombs exploded in the capital Tuesday, police said. It was not clear whether anyone was killed.
Angry protests were reported Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa, after Hachalu Hundessa was shot dead on Monday. He had been a prominent voice in anti-government protests that led to a change in leadership in 2018, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking office.
The killing was a “tragedy,” Abiy said Tuesday, vowing that the perpetrators would be brought to justice and declaring that “our enemies will not succeed.”
“Our enemies think they can easily disintegrate us; however we will use this incident to unify the country and to ensure our plans for peace and security of the country continue. The government will step up its works to realize the peace and stability and sovereignty of the country,” he added.
Internet service has been cut again in Ethiopia, where tensions continue after the government delayed this year’s national election, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The singer Hachalu is set to be buried Thursday in his hometown in the Oromia region.
A well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, was among 35 people arrested during the latest unrest. There was no immediate sign of protests in Addis Ababa on Wednesday and roads were empty.
June 30: Ethiopia arrests Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed, OMN shut down
The arrest of prominent Ethiopian pro-democracy activist Jawar Mohammed has been confirmed by multiple sources from the country. His media outfit, Oromia Media Network, OMN, has also been shut down by authorities.
The arrest comes in the wake of mass protests against the shooting and killing on Monday night of a famed Oromo musician and activist in Addis Ababa.
Hachalu Hundessa, was celebrated as a symbol for the Oromo people – Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group. His songs spoke out about their political and economic marginalisation and became a rallying point for activists in their fight against Ethiopian regimes.
The musician had also been imprisoned for five years when he was 17 for taking part in protests, an analysis on the BBC Africa LIVE page added.
Jawar was reportedly arrested along with Bekele Gerba, a veteran opposition activist. The duo were arrested at the Oromo Cultural Center in Addis Ababa, where they were attending the funeral of Hachalu.
OMN reported on Tuesday morning via its Facebook page that their offices had been raided by federal security agents who ‘arrested’ employees. They also said the OMN offices in Addis Ababa was under control of the state.
Jawar vs. Abiy: Season II
The latest incident is the second major face off between Jawar and state security agents. In October 2019, Jawar – now a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC; was shielded by supporters after he announced that the state wanted to arrest him.
Jawar’s supporters demonstrated against Abiy after Jawar said police had surrounded his home and tried to withdraw his government security detail. Protests in the capital and other cities resulted in 16 deaths and dozens of wounded.
“The majority of people believe the transition is off track and we are backsliding towards an authoritarian system,” Jawar said, sitting in his heavily guarded Addis Ababa home-office at the time.
In December 2019, Jawar joined the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC, led by veteran politician Merera Gudina. The OFC has joined a bloc of other opposition parties in the Oromia Regional State. The state is Ethiopia’s largest and most populous.
It is also the home region of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Abiy and Jawar fell out last year after the PM told parliament of media personalities who were fomenting unrest with their outlets, Jawar said the claims were an attack on him.
Social media reactions
Jawar Mohammed Biography: The Interesting Profile of an Influential Man
Jawar Mohammed: Background, History, and Profile
Jawar Mohammed: Influential Activist
Jawar Mohammed is the energetic, dynamic and controversial political face of the majority of young Ethiopian Oromo’s, who now have been given the green light to freely participate in the country’s changing political scene.
It is evident that he now has a wide reaching network that spans across continents, namely, the Americas, Europe, and obviously Africa.
Jawar has perfected the art of disseminating his views to reach his massive audience base through the expert use of the many media outlets, some of which he runs.
His OMN (Oromia Media Network) was a constant source of information for those hoping to hear and watch the news from a TV broadcast that was not associated with the government.
Furthermore, Jawar’s handling of Facebook with a following of no less than 1.2 million people, as well as, his skillful use of various other social media tools has helped firmly place him as an important and influential leader in today's ever changing Ethiopian political landscape.
Jawar Mohammed: Childhood
Jawar Mohammed was born in Dumuga (Dhummugaa), a small and quiet rural town located on the border of Hararghe and Arsi within the Oromia region of Ethiopia.
His parents were considered to be one of the first in the area to have an inter-religious marriage. Some estimates claim that Dumuga, is largely an Islamic town, with over 90% of the population adhering to the Muslim faith.
His father being a Muslim opted to marry a Christian woman, thereby; the young couple destroyed one of the age old social norms and customs in Dumuga.
This situation placed Jawar in a unique position at a young age to learn a great deal about society’s effect on family through either negative or positive social affairs.
Nevertheless, theirs was a peaceful marriage with both families reportedly doing their best to make one another feel accepted.
Jawar has time and time again stated that this vital aspect of his upbringing has played a crucial role in the shaping of his beliefs towards religious tolerance.
In Dumuga, Jawar’s childhood can be characterized as average for the young boys of the area. Young children are expected to spend as much time as they can with their elders, for the specific purpose of gaining knowledge and wisdom.
Jawar, therefore, learned about history, law, and politics from his grandparents and their acquaintances.
One insightful lesson he derived from these interactions were the comparisons that he made of his father’s and grandfather’s generations.
He believes that elders of his grandfather’s generation were more prone to be open and free in their communication with the young, as opposed to his father’s more conservative generation.
Yet in still, Jawar claims to have great “admiration and respect” for the people which made up the 60’s and 70’s generation. He believes them to have been progressive, selfless, and dedicated.
When the time came, he enrolled and attended the town’s elementary school but was told to leave and stop his education before completing his studies.
This could be seen as providential, because it enabled him to continue his studies in institutions of greater and greater quality.
The larger city of Assela was Jawar’s next move, and there he attended a Catholic school for about a year.
Constantly in motion, Jawar Mohammed, once again left the Catholic school and enrolled at Cilaalo Secondary School, which he completed in a year’s time.
Consequently, Adama or Nazareth, Ethiopia’s second largest city and the capital of the Oromia Region, was our young traveler’s new home.
Here in this bustling city, Jawar took the High School National Exam, a nerve-racking experience for most Ethiopian students.
Jawar Mohammed's Education
In 2003, with exemplary results from his life as a young student, Jawar Mohammed, as fortune would have it, got accepted to a college in the affluent country of Singapore.
Here at the United World College of South East Asia, Jawar began to show his inclination for developing his knowledge for all matters pertinent to his Oromo heritage.
He began by studying Afaan Oromoo, the language of the Oromo’s, among his other course work for the college.
The two years Jawar spent in Singapore would see him mingle with students from over sixty countries around the world along with over a hundred languages being spoken.
With his small town upbringing, being thrown into a world full of new cultural and linguistic aspects caused young Jawar to experience the culture shock of his life.
But barriers are made to be broken and Jawar took it to the next level by learning to assimilate into the new environment he was in.
In accordance with this assimilation, he began to take his school work more seriously, and along with it came an opportunity of a lifetime.
Programs offered by the college, afforded him the chance to travel to various countries throughout North America, Asia, and Europe for the purpose of learning from historical sites, gaining experience from volunteering, and organizing conferences that serve the youth.
This life changing experience for Jawar helped him get a better understanding of the world’s multi cultural nature and to see how his own country’s oft times troublesome situation is far from unique.
Once again on the move, Jawar in 2005, upon completing his studies in the Asian country of Singapore moved to California in the United States.
He furthered his education in the renowned institute of higher learning called Stanford University located in the heart of Northern California’s vibrant “Silicon Valley”, the hotbed of modern tech, which comprises of companies such as Google, Yahoo!, and Hewlett-Packard.
Perhaps his new home was the perfect match for the dynamic Jawar.
It could be inferred that his close proximity to the world’s home of tech, led to his expertise in the use of social media and such platforms of communication.
By 2009, Jawar encountered two blessings, one in the form of a marriage to the love of his life, Arfaase Gemeda, and the other an undergraduate degree in Political Science.
Upon completing his studies in Stanford University, he left for the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., and did an internship there.
The ever active, Jawar, went on to conduct his own independent research, till it was time to return to his education for his graduate studies.
He chose to study in another internationally respected institute of higher learning; Columbia University.
Located in Upper Manhattan, New York City, the school is a private Ivy League research university, very suitable for the aspiring researcher and writer.
He went on to leave Columbia Unversity's Graduate School in 2012, claiming that his studies helped give him the philosophical and theoretical understanding to the beliefs and experiences he had already held.
Jawar as a Young Activist
Looking to promote his views and beliefs on Ethiopian and in particular Oromo politics, Jawar began by going on an offensive against the OLF or Oromo Liberation Front, through articles discussing their failure.
The OLF was and is the premiere Oromo opposition group that fought against the Derg communist regime and more recently they have been vehemently attacking the EPRDF or Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the current government in Ethiopia and their one-time allies.
Through articles such as “Failure to Deliver: The Journey of the Oromo Liberation Front in the Last Two Decades”, Jawar was clearly able to express his views on the Oromo’s political situation.
Jawar Mohammed presented himself as an activist at a time when there was an obvious vacuum in leadership, with the OLF disintegrating and Oromo’s at large becoming disillusioned.
But here was a young activist who was obviously well educated and had a knack for piecing his ideas in a way that the mass public could easily comprehend.
The fading elder members of the OLF were unable to reverse the organizational and ideological crumbling of their group, leaving the door wide open for a new voice.
But attacking the OLF and the EPRDF through articles were not to be his only methods of promoting his campaign for the fresh revival of Oromo opposition politics.
Jawar as a Youth Organizer
The International Oromo Youth Association, was founded by Jawar Mohammed in response to the lack of a coherent and organized Oromo youth group operating within the often polarized Diaspora.
With his earlier experiences in the field of organizing conferences and summits around the globe, he approached the Oromo youth with a naïve enthusiasm for a quick solution to the myriad of problems facing their society.
One of which, was to stay away from the internal politics of the Oromo society, and remain nonpartisan.
Despite this, the youthful energy emanating from both founder and members, enabled the group to grow, and within two years they had successfully completed several projects.
But to grow further, and to affect meaningful change, Jawar knew that he could no longer remain on the sidelines when it came to expressing his ideas on political issues dealing with the overall Oromo issue.
Along with this realization, he also went through a period of self doubt and crisis of confidence, in which, he began to question the adequacy of his knowledge pertaining to all things Oromo.
The next two years of Jawar’s life can be characterized as a period of self discovery and learning while keeping free from politics and the youth group.
He attended the prestigious Oxford University in England for a semester, the school is a collegiate research center known for being the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
The globetrotter’s next stop was India, home of the largest democracy in the world. He studied the inner workings of the Indian’s system of voting, election, and other relevant processes.
Jawar also took time to take a close look at how Mahatma Ghandi conducted the “salt satyagraha” or the Indian brand of civil disobedience, in which goals are achieved through non-violent resistance.
Satisfied with the new knowledge he gained, Jawar then decided to travel back to his homeland of Ethiopia.
At a time when his confidence was at an all time low, reconnecting with his roots must have held special appeal.
He also took this time to gain a clearer, on the ground perspective and understanding of the politics in Ethiopia.
Jawar: Core Political Belief
In my view, keeping the current state, but changing the political process from one of domination and marginalization to one that fosters a pluralistic, inclusive and democratic coexistence holds the best advantage for the Oromo people and everyone else.
There is no question that the Oromo people have the legal and moral rights to establish an independent state.
But, it is crucial that we rationally evaluate the benefits and costs of such a decision.
It’s obvious that the formation of an independent Oromian state would bring an end to the existence of the Ethiopian state and lead to the subsequent disintegration of the over 80 ethnic groups in that country.
Such a scenario would engulf the entire region into chaos.
Even if we assume Oromia can be self-sustaining due to its size and resource, the neighboring people would have a difficult time surviving, and the resulting desperation and inevitable conflict would have drastic negative impacts.
Even if a warring group might not fight the Oromo, being surrounded by such a group would cripple Oromia’s economic development and could be a security nightmare – a situation that would undercut any hope of having a democratic, stable and developmental government in Oromia.
Therefore, those advocating this position have the burden to tell us why their proposal is a better alternative to change within the current state.
Liberation to me is about building a foundation for a prosperous, just, democratic and sustainable future. Disintegrating the current Ethiopian state by the removal of any group is tantamount to committing collective suicide, and the Oromo have a vested interest and moral responsibility to prevent such a tragedy from taking place.
It is in our best interest to preserve the territorial integrity of the Ethiopian state, democratize the system, create an inclusive political community, and make the country home for everyone – and we can. We can draw inspiration as well as values and principles from the glorious Gadaa system, the oldest and most egalitarian democratic system in the world.
We are proud of our heritage, so let’s share it with our neighbors.
Let’s lead by providing an example of a brighter future that all can share. As a majority, we do not lose anything from democracy taking root in Ethiopia, but we have the capability to create a win-win situation for all.
Ending subjugation and empowering the Oromo people are essential for peace and stability of that region.
Jawar: Power Through Influence
Today, Jawar Mohammed is the Executive director of OMN or Oromia Media Network, which is fully funded by the Oromo Diaspora, and has a board of directors to ensure fairness.
Obviously, no longer feeling inadequate in his knowledge of topics relating to the Oromo’s, we can see Jawar’s need to express his views through his quick comments on every political development as they happen.
Through mass media, as well as, social media, Jawar affects responses on issues as they happen.
Recently in Ethiopia, rallies called in his honor saw thousands of people from all walks of life appear to show their appreciation of him.
His dedication and steadfastness to updating the public on every political dynamic in Ethiopia and globally, has earned him the respect of analysts and commentators, as well as, the detestation from some of his contemporaries.
Politics can be very divisive, and Jawar, free with his opinions is a likely target and has attracted a number of attacks against his integrity, his loyalty to a united Ethiopia, and his corruptibility.
But one thing is for sure, Jawar Mohammed, the proud Oromo activist, politician, inexhaustible writer, and charismatic orator is here to stay, and as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s conducts his audacious reforms, Jawar is sure likely to be an integral part of Ethiopia’s future.
Currently, Jawar lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife.