This week, I stumbled upon a Facebook post by Suleman Abdullah, offering a distressing personal narrative about the harsh consequences of displacement in areas around Addis Ababa, now referred to as Sheger. The narrative illuminates the severe human toll of the urbanization efforts led by the Oromummaa.
Abdullah disseminates an emotionally stirring tale on social media about a newly minted mother. Only four days post childbirth, her home was intrusively raided. Her chilling narrative lingers: “Just four days have passed since I gave birth. As I was on the brink of the fifth day, they intruded upon my home.” She recalls, “when I informed them about my infant, they coldly retorted ‘ask your husband, we are not him.’ I pleaded, ‘where should I go? The harsh sun and cold will be my demise,’ to which they replied nonchalantly, ‘find anywhere that offers shade.'”
This distressing anecdote underscores the harsh realities that these individuals face, coupled with a shocking lack of regard for their well-being. Such brutal violations of fundamental human rights and dignity are not only inhumane, but they also breed a deep-seated public sentiment of considerable discontent and resentment.
As Abdullah’s narrative demonstrates, the citizens bearing the brunt of these actions are not abstract entities, but real people with families, livelihoods, and dreams. Their voices and experiences need to be at the forefront of any discourse about the ‘Sheger’ initiative and the broader Oromummaa movement. Their experiences should serve as a catalyst for collective action, demanding a more humane approach to urban development and political power consolidation.
The socio-political landscape of Ethiopia, particularly in the capital Addis Ababa, has recently seen the rise of a powerful political force: the Oromummaa. Known for their influence and dominance in Ethiopian politics, the Oromummaa are actively reshaping the demographics and urban infrastructure of Addis Ababa through a controversial policy of urban development known as ‘Sheger’. However, concerns have been raised about the legitimacy and intent of these actions, with critics suggesting the ultimate goal may be less about development and more about creating a political stronghold and fostering a policy of superiority.
The ‘Sheger’ project is presented as an urbanization effort aimed at transforming the region surrounding Addis Ababa into a smart city. This initiative, spearheaded by the Oromummaa, has resulted in considerable property and societal upheaval. A number of residents are being displaced; their homes are demolished to make way for the envisioned smart city. Yet, these drastic actions are occurring without a clear plan for housing these displaced individuals, which has led to accusations of forced relocation and social injustice.
Prominent Oromo leader, Jawar Mohammed, addressed this matter in his last article, contending that the urbanization of the Oromummaa is integral to the broader Oromummaa movement. However, critics argue that this urbanization drive is a thinly veiled strategy to consolidate Oromummaa’s political power in the heart of Ethiopia, effectively encircling the capital with a new class of Oromummaa elites.
Alarming to many is the apparent indifference of the central government towards these developments. Instead of intervening or expressing concern, the political powers seem to be turning a blind eye, thereby emboldening the Oromummaa in their expansionist plans. This passive stance raises questions about the government’s role and responsibilities in protecting the rights of its citizens and managing urban development in a fair and equitable manner.
A notable example of this movement is the planned construction of a palace by the Oromummaa in the Ethiopian capital city. Marketed as part of the smart city initiative, this move has been met with skepticism and consternation, adding to the growing sense of unease and discontent among the populace.
The question then arises: why is there a seeming silence from the wider community? Is it fear, apathy, or a feeling of helplessness that is causing this lack of protest? Whatever the reason, the plight of displaced residents seems to be going largely unnoticed or unaddressed, and the unchecked activities of the Oromummaa continue to stir unease.
This unfolding situation in Ethiopia demands a thoughtful and balanced discourse. It’s crucial to foster a sense of inclusivity, respecting the rights and aspirations of all citizens while striving for sustainable development. If unchecked, these actions could exacerbate social tensions and contribute to long-term instability. Therefore, all stakeholders, including the government, the Oromummaa, and the wider Ethiopian community, should engage in open dialogue to find a resolution that ensures equity, justice, and sustainable urban growth for all.
It’s essential to consider the critical role that the general public plays in shaping socio-political narratives. The citizens, as the backbone of a nation, possess both a right and a responsibility to express their views and concerns about the actions and policies that directly affect them.
In the case of the Oromummaa movement and the ‘Sheger’ initiative in Ethiopia, public involvement becomes even more crucial. While the government and the Oromummaa may be key players in this narrative, it is the citizens who are most affected by these changes. It’s their homes being demolished and their lives being uprooted.
Public demonstrations and peaceful protests can be effective means of expressing dissent, communicating dissatisfaction, and calling for action. These actions are not merely about expressing discontent but are also a means to safeguard democratic principles and ensure that governments are held accountable. It’s through these acts of civic participation that individuals can communicate their views and affect change.
However, public involvement must extend beyond demonstrations. Public debates and utilization of various media platforms are all effective ways to raise awareness and initiate dialogue. Social media, in particular, can be instrumental in rallying support, spreading information, and mobilizing the community.
Lastly, community organizing can serve as a powerful tool for change. By forming or joining local action groups, individuals can amplify their voice and impact. Such groups can work to provide support to those displaced, bring attention to their plight, and advocate for more equitable policies.
The struggles faced by Ethiopian residents due to the ‘Sheger’ initiative and the wider Oromummaa movement can be met with concerted, peaceful protest and strategic acts of civil disobedience. It is through such sustained efforts that justice can be sought for those affected by displacement and inequality.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power. Ethiopia’s citizens, standing together, can defend their rights, ensure equitable development, and shape their nation’s future.
(The author can be contacted via email at Essulesanu@gmail.com)
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