#Oromoprotest updates: arrests intensify, gov’t summons public and Chief of Staff holds untimely interview



De Birhan


Almost four weeks have elapsed since the #Oromoprotest, the most widest and large-scale  anti-government protest since the post-2005 general election protest, started around the Oromia regional states of Ethiopia. Activists and rights groups are stating that over 70 people have been killed while protesting against the current Ethiopian government’s policies especially in relation to land.

The government as usual took the most brutal measures against the protesters. It also vowed to take “merciless” measures against the protesters, although the rhetoric of charging words and the alleged bogeymen behind the protest have wobbled from foreign based terrorist groups, social media, OLF to Ginbot 7 Movement.

Today reports from various sources indicate that government securities have detained hundreds of suspected protesters from several towns of the Oromia region. In Addis Abeba and other towns, local government officials summoned the public to warn them and force them to denounce the protesters as anti-peace elements. Government media news reports are dominated by footage of meetings and interviews with “some residents of Addis Abeba”, who condemned the protest and the protesters.

Radio stations have also reported that a mother, Sirinee Gudeta, who refused to give up her son to police, suspected of taking part in a protest, has been killed with her son in Chancha, Wollega Zone of Oromia region yesterday.

Amid this unprecedented and unexpected protest, when the regime seems to be overwhelmed by violent protests and clashes in Northern Ethiopia, Gonder and large scale nonviolent protests in South West, Central and Eastern parts of Ethiopia, Samora Yunis, the Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), held a special interview with the state owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.

The 30 minute interview was nominally held in relation to the honorary professorship he recently received from China but the questions he was asked were “structured.” In this time of large scale protests and unrest, Samora was asked questions that were not related to his award. For example, the third most question he was asked was “During the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000, you were known for your heroism and the new generation knows that. Your Excellency General Samora, have you/do you ever thought/intend of any other profession or job than this one?”. Samora said at the moment he only thinks about his current job but may think of other jobs when he retires. However, he also stressed saying “But I know that I can do I want to do but there is no other thing I am planning to do.” He was asked how he views the trajectory of his promotion with the Defense Forces.

Generally, he stressed that the Force was established with a constitutional democracy and primarily protects the constitution, accepts/respects officials elected by the public,  views all people in the nation equally and he personally does not want repression or seeing repressed people.

Few are not those who view the timing of the Honorary Professorship he received, the length, timing and types of questions he was asked in relation to the current large scale national and Oromo protests in Ethiopia. Time will tell.