BUSLOADS of Victorian-plated minibuses arrived outside of Parliament House today (April 9), calling for government action against war crimes in Ethiopia.
The march, which was organised by members of Australia’s Oromo community, attracted hundreds of demonstrators, young and old, from across Australia, says Dr Tareken Chimdi, president of the Australian Oromo Community Association (AOCA).
The Oromo, Dr Chimdi says, make up the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia but have for decades been persecuted by the Ethiopian government, even after the inauguration of current-president Abiy Ahmed, who is himself Oromo.
“We are a voiceless people. These people back home are ruled by a dictator and ruled over ruthlessly,” he says.
Most of the Oromo community live in Victoria, says Dr Chimdi, and come from a refugee background. They have witnessed or been subject to the repression of the Ethiopian state and are in contact with family members back home who are still under threat, he says.
“We want that the situation and their voices to be heard. But also for their plight to be understood,” he says.
“What we are looking for is for the Australian government to put pressure on the human rights violations that are occurring. And that through its offices, to engage the Ethiopian government to hold accountable those who are implicated in human righters violations.”
On the lawns of Federation Mall, demonstrators waved the Oromo flag, chanting “Ethiopia is a failed state” and “Abiy is a killer. Abiy must go”. They echoed Dr Chimdi’s calls for greater action by the Australian government.
In November, civil war broke out in Ethiopia after the army sent troops into the Tigray region, which is home to militant factions.
“In the past few weeks in Ethiopia, we’ve seen the government ramp up its killings once again,” says Omar Hussein, a 23-year-old Oromo university student from Melbourne.
If the situation does not change, Dr Chimdi fears there will just be more blood shed.
“We fear that the creation of a situation like Rwanda will be eminent and we don’t want to see that,” he says, referring to the genocide there.
“That’s why we we want to air our voices on behalf of those who are dying now. It is better to do something before it is too late.”
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