Ethiopian gov’t slammed over death of hundreds in religious festival

October 11, 2016

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) condemns the TPLF-led government of Ethiopia for the death of hundreds during a protest at a religious festival in Bishoftu, 25 miles from the country’s capital Addis Ababa last Sunday, October 2. Food sovereignty is one of the most important demands being advanced by the indigenous people of Oromo who participated in the protest.
 
The police forces’ repression of the protestors – firing guns and rubber bullets from the ground and even from helicopters, and using teargas and batons – is the main cause of the stampede which killed many participants of the protest and the religious festival.
 
The Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) claims that more than 700 people died in the incident and these deaths are simply unacceptable and revolting. This recent incident is a continuation of the 2015 violent repression of protestors opposing the government’s plan to incorporate farmlands near the capital, which killed more than 500 people.
 
We support the people and indigenous peoples of Ethiopia and the world in condemning this crime.
 
We condemn Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for trying to project a smaller death count, to feign mourning over the incident, and to blame the protestors for the stampede and the deaths of hundreds.
 
We likewise condemn the Ethiopian government’s iron-fisted rule over the country. We condemn its tight control over the parliament and even the Internet, its murder and human rights violations against critics, and its continuing imprisonment of food justice activists Pastor Omot Agwa, Ashinie Astin, and Jamal Oumar Hojele.
 
We condemn the US and other foreign powers for supporting the illegitimate and repressive Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian government, a close ally in the US’ war of terror, is inflicting terror on its peoples and on indigenous peoples. It is using the food and financial aid it is getting from the West for political repression.
 
The heightening repression of critics highlights the Ethiopian government’s increasing isolation from the people who are angry at its refusal to heed the indigenous peoples’ and the Ethiopian people’s legitimate demands.
 
We call on the government of Ethiopia to heed the demands of the indigenous peoples Oromo, Anuak, Amhara and other disadvantaged communities against their economic and political marginalization and for food sovereignty. It is no wonder that the many of the two million attendees of the religious festival, many of whom belonged to the Oromo, were chanting “We need freedom” and “We need justice.”