July 26, 2007

"Marching for the people ... arrested back home"

Oromo people marched to the State Capitol to raise awareness about human rights violations in Ethiopia.

By Ifrah Jimale, Star Tribune

Two thousand Oromo people, part of the largest ethnic group in East Africa, marched Thursday to the State Capitol to raise awareness of human rights violations in Ethiopia.

People came from around the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe to march from Dale Street and University Avenue to the Capitol in 94-degree temperatures. Last week and this week have been declared Oromo Week in Minnesota.

"We're marching for the people who are arrested back home," said Kamer Hurumo, holding a large U.S. flag and walking with marchers holding Oromo Liberation Front flags. Hundreds carried signs saying, "U.S., stop supporting Ethiopia."

Oromo people are the majority in Ethiopia but have no representatives in the Ethiopian government, which is ruled by a minority ethnic group.

Thursday's march was organized by the International Oromo Youth Association in cooperation with the Oromo Community of Minnesota and the Oromo American Citizens Council.

"Ethiopian solders who are now in Somalia are committing atrocities against the Oromo refugees in Somalia," said Gawar Mohamed, president of the youth association. "Since Ethiopia invaded Somalia, more than 30.000 Oromo refugees were deported back to Ethiopia. Many of these are in prison now."

Aduu Joba, 20, and her brother Olyad, 19, came from London for the march.

"We have so many relatives back home who cannot demonstrate peacefully like we can," she said.

"Almost every person here today has lost either a father, a mother a sibling or close relatives," said Rammy Mohamed, a student at the University of Minnesota and member of the International Oromo Youth. Her cousin was killed two months ago; he was an engineering student at the University of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

"He had nothing to do with politics and yet he got killed right in front of his family just because he was Oromo," she said.

Oromo people have been experiencing persecution under the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Party (EPRDF) led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Many fled to neighboring countries and settled in refugee camps.

"We hope this is a wake-up call for the international community," Mohamed said.

Ifrah Jimale • 612-673-4165 • ijimale@startribune.com

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