Ethiopia: civil rights activist Obang facing threats

Obang Metho _ Ethiopia
Obang Metho (photo credit : EPA)

By Teshome Borago
Follow him on twitter@MTBorago
August 8, 2020

Obang Metho, one of the top civil rights activists in Ethiopia, is reportedly receiving death threats in Oromia after he condemned the latest mass killings of minorities in the region. Some observers say the government should provide Obang extra private security, considering the dangerous situation in the country.

Widely regarded as the MLK of Ethiopia, Obang has been a defender of human rights there for over 16 years, since the 2003 Anuak Genocide. In December that year, some civilian mobs in Gambella, together with security forces, targeted ethnic Anuak and massacred 424 of them.

Last month, Obang became the latest high profile Ethiopian to unequivocally condemn the religious and ethnic cleansings that occurred in Oromia after the June 30 assassination of musician Hacalu Hundessa. Over a hundred non-Oromos were killed by an Oromo mob while several Orthodox-Christian Oromos were also killed by Muslim Oromos. Obang warned that such mass killings will continue unless the drivers of nativism, extremism and tribalism are stopped in Ethiopia, including the infamous ethnic-federalism system. According to this system legalized since 1991, every ethnicity in Ethiopia must live in its own ethnic bloc or otherwise become a second class citizen upto quasi-citizenship.

Obang has repeatedly asked the Ethiopian government to outlaw the dangerous ethnic-federalism; in order to allow all Ethiopians the right to live anywhere or free movement of people nationwide.

“I am not scared,” said Obang, regarding the recent death threats he is facing. “I already died 16 years ago. Afterall, my reason to exist is to defend the human rights of all Ethiopians,” he added.

Obang is the founder of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), which is dedicated to unite Ethiopians by breaking ethnic and religious barriers. For over a decade, his advocacy was a major nuisance for the former rulers Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), damaging the TPLF diplomatically in the West as Obang was the face of Ethiopian human rights during several United States Congressional Hearings.

“Nobody with a conscience can deny the reoccurring ethnic cleansings taking place in Oromia,” Obang said. “As I have worked with many international human rights organizations before, I will continue to advocate and highlight the signs of genocide wherever they occur today.”

Obang also said he wants to raise more awareness for victims and organize marches for human rights; to support ethnic and religious minorities inside towns devastated by violence in Ethiopia.

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