For Immediate Release: January 11, 2020
In early December 2019, 17 Amhara university students, 13 young girls and 4 young men were abducted by a faction of Oromo Liberation Front/Army (OLF/A) from Dambi Dollo University in Oromia Region. Sadly, there was;
- Muted Response from the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.
- Muted Response from Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) and Amhara Regional Government.
- Muted Response from Oromo Regional Government.
- Muted Response from the university administrators where these students attended.
Unfortunately, this is emblematic of the lack of empathy to the plight of Amhara students by the Ethiopian Government at all levels.
Amhara Association of America (AAA) is concerned for the safety and lives of these young bright students who have been kidnapped by a violent militia group that is actively fighting Ethiopian security forces.
Amhara Association of America (AAA) is devastated by the continued violence at Ethiopian universities. The targeted attacks against Amhara students in universities in Dire Dawa and Oromia region has killed 24 Amhara students and severely injured additional 52 Amhara students. We are heartbroken at the loss of so many young lives and mourn with the families who lost their children. No Ethiopian parent should expect to lose a child at an academic institution.
Tens of thousands of Amhara students have been displaced from several universities in Oromia Region due to targeted attacks. We also recognize the emotional and physical torture of thousands of Amhara students who have witnessed horrendous atrocities committed against their peers. While we are relieved these students managed to save their lives without the assistance of the Federal or Regional governments, we understand that the impact of dealing with the traumatic experience will be devastating and last a life time.
Amhara Association of America is infuriated by the failure of the federal government to ensure the security of the brightest of the country. We understand that campus conflicts are often triggered by tensions outside campus related to ethnic divisions and often exacerbated by lack of willingness among authorities to listen to legitimate concerns of students. The attacks against innocent human beings in Oromia region is widespread and the students were forced to leave campuses because of the attacks from local extremists who are not students. In light of the upcoming election and the risk of escalation at the university campuses, we share the Amhara students concern that it is very risky for them to return to campus.
Amhara Association of America (AAA) disagrees with the Ethiopian authorities’ argument that increasing security forces in campuses will create a safe environment. On the contrary, AAA recognizes that forcing students to go back to campuses where they have witnessed torture, killing, and harrasment is an impediment to their wellbeing and academic performance. Thus,
- is supportive of students’ reasonable requests to be reassigned to other campuses where they will be safe and can focus on their studies.
Furthermore, Amhara Association of America (AAA) strongly condemns the administrative actions by University of Gondar, Bahir Dar University, and Wollo University against students, staff, and faculty for showing solidarity and providing support to the disparate situation of Amhara students kidnapped, killed, and displaced from universities in Oromia region. Leaders, members, and supporters of Amhara Student Association (ASA) have been the primary targets of the university administrators. The university administrators and government officials should partner with ASA to ensure the grievances of the students are addressed and a safe environment is provided at all university campuses.
In addition to the staggering number of students expelled, the process followed to make the decision in the above-mentioned universities appears to lack due process of law. The standard practice when students and faculty are accused of violating policies and rules is a disciplinary committee hearing would be conducted at the department, college, and university levels before the administration makes a final determination. Instead, a security and political team collected cases and transferred them to university administrators to take action without giving the students an opportunity to respond to the accusations. As a result the university disciplinary process is no longer independent but instead heavily influenced by external political pressures. The administrative actions have become politically motivated attacks against students with a clear goal of silencing their legitimate demands.
Thus, Amhara Association of America demands:
- The Federal Government take action to release the 17 hostage students and return them safely to their parents and hold OLF/A, the militant group accountable for this egregious action.
- All involved to commit to peaceful dialogue and refrain from violence.
- The Ministry of Science and Higher (SHE) education compensate parents and students for their emotional, psychological, and material loss.
- The Ministry of Science and Higher Education (SHE) to reassign Amhara students to campuses in Amhara region and Addis Ababa where their safety will be assured.
- The Ministry of Science and Higher Education (SHE) work with the universities to ensure students receive psychological support to recover from this traumatic experience.
- The Amhara Democratic Party (ADP) and the federal government to stop scapegoating Amhara Student Associations (ASA) for problems that are structural and nationwide and instead work to foster a positive working environment with student leaders and other stakeholders.
- All universities to readmit Amhara students unduly expelled from their programs for supporting Amhara students demand to be reassigned to safe campuses. And, university administrators to refrain from taking further administrative action against students for voicing legitimate concerns.
- All civil society groups to document and report gross human right violations occurring at higher education institutions in Ethiopia.
- The international community to pressure the Ethiopian government to stop forcing students to go back to deadly campuses and to respect students’ right to education in a peaceful environment.
Names of Students Abducted by Oromo Liberation Fron/Army (OLF/A):
- Belaynesh Mekonen Demlew
- Sergut Gete Tibebu
- Tenalem Mulatie Kebede
- Atalelegn Getnet Derse
- Samerawit Kere Asrese
- Tigist Mesay Mezgebu
- Eskalehu Chekol Tegegn
- Kindeye Molla Gebeyehu
- Zewdie Girmaw Fetene
- Meseret Kefyalew Molla
- Asabie Ayele Alem
- Mulu Zewdie Adane
- Zemed Birhan Desie
- Bitewelegn Atinafu Alemu
- Girmachew Yineneh Adugna
- Monamen Belay Abebe
Girmaw Habite Emeg