Wolayta Committee for Human Rights (WCHR)
April 18, 2020
WCHR is concerned that there is growing xenophobia in several towns in central Ethiopia connected to the ongoing CoronaVirus pandemic.
Unfortunately, the last two years of systematic and brutal ethnic-based human rights abuses in Ethiopia, particularly in the biggest state of Oromia, have not provided a lesson to our society. Thus various minority residents and witnesses in Oromia towns are reporting growing fear-mongering and hate-speech by Oromo “native” politicians against who they perceive as “foreigners,” ie Wolayta, Dawro, Dorze, Amhara, Gamo and others. The same politicians and activists whose hate-speech triggered massacres in Burayu, Sebeta etc are now re-igniting their incitement claiming that non-Oromos are infected or carry the CoronaVirus.
Such false propaganda should be publicly condemned by the Ethiopian and Oromia governments. Authorities must control the spread of such xenophobia before it gets out of control. Often, local politicians loosely employ labels like “Naftagna,” to insult minority communities from southern Ethiopia, who happen to use Amharic for commerce in Oromia towns. Previous comments by local Oromo politicians threatening to remove “settlers” or ban non-Oromo languages and outlaw interethnic marriages have had a major impact on the psychology of minorities in Oromia and contributed to deadly acts of terror. Instead of healing these wounds, the Oromia government media and opposition media (OMN etc) continues to broadcast politicians using similar inflammatory language and terminology. The Oromia region media also announced recently that it will waste money of its taxpayers by adding Swahili language to its broadcast, instead of reaching out to discriminated minorities or using various languages of taxpaying Ethiopian minorities living inside Oromia.
Unlike the Rwandan genocide over two decades ago, ethnic cleanings in Oromia and other regions of Ethiopia did not occur that long ago. The suffering of some of the Millions displaced in Ethiopia is still fresh and we do not need to look far in the past history to learn lesson from our mistakes. WCHR urges the Ethiopian and Oromia region governments to take urgent and appropriate measures to stop CoronaVirus-related xenophobic fake news from spreading farther and causing more violence.
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