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The Oromo Protests have Changed Ethiopia


The struggle of the Oromo people has finally come to the attention of the global public conscience.

November 12 marked the first anniversary of the Oromo Protests, a non-institutional and anti-authoritarian movement calling for an end to decades of systemic exclusion and subordination of the Oromo.

Although the protests were sparked by a government plan to expand the territorial and administrative limits of Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, into neighbouring Oromo towns and villages, they were manifestations of long-simmering ethnic discontents buried beneath the surface.

The Oromo are the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and East Africa, comprising more than 35 percent of Ethiopia's 100 million people. Yet, Oromos have been the object of discriminatory and disproportionate surveillance, policing, prosecution and imprisonment under the guise of security and economic development. 

The year-long protests, which brought decades of hidden suffering and abuse to the Ethiopian streets, were held under what Human Rights Watch described as a "near-total closure of political space".

As the protests grew in magnitude and intensity, the government responded with overwhelming and disproportionate force, unleashing what Amnesty international called "a vicious cycle of protests and totally avoidable bloodshed".