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'The Oromo Students Protest Movement for Justice and Democracy and Violent Repression by the Ethiopian Government.

By/ Beekan Guluma Erena

Posted  20/11/2015

The history tells us our world passed upwards in which students directly protest and overthrown the dictatorships. In1918 the students of the National University of Cordoba, Argentina, demand a modernization and democratization of their University. Their protests and strikes lead to the intervention of the national army. The protest movement finally succeeds and brings about the so-called University Revolution, a reform of the universities including University autonomy and secular education. The protest movement inspired many similar protests and reforms in Latin America. In 1930A decade of ongoing student protests in Cuba is peaking in a massive student demonstration on September 30 in which the leader of the University Student Directorate, Rafael Trejo, gets fatally wounded by the police. In 1953-59 Cuban Revolution leading to the ouster of President Fulgencio Batista and the takeover of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary government. Competing student-based groups such as the Revolutionary Directorate, the Federation of University Students, and the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement play a crucial role in the revolution. Castro’s own organization, the 26 of July Movement, was largely composed of former student activists. In 1956 on October 23, students march to Radio Budapest in order to broadcast their demands which include independence and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. They are denied entry and the police open fire to disperse the crowds. This is the beginning of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 that is crushed by the military intervention of the Soviet Union in November of the same year.

In 1956 Following the events in Hungary, student protests are Organized in many Romanian cities. A large gathering of Students at University Square in Bucharest is scheduled for November 5. In the night of November 4, troops of the Ministries of the Interior occupy University Square and the initiators of the gathering get arrested. In 1954-62 Algerian Revolution leading to Algeria’s independence and the end of French colonial rule. The Algerian Revolution largely influenced later student and anti-colonial struggles all over the world in both practical and theoretical terms, especially through the work of political theorist Frantz Fanon. In 1960 Large-scale student protests erupt in Japan against renewing the US-Japanese security treaty AMPO. In the course of the events, 60 residents of Niijima try to bar the landing of US troops travelling to a missile testing site. In 1960 April Revolution overthrows the autocratic First Republic of South Korea under Dictator Syngman Rhee. The uprising is led by student and labor groups. In a huge protest march on April 19 from Korea University to the Blue House, residence of South Korea’s head of state, the protesters outnumbered the soldiers who killed 200 students. On April 26, Syngman Rhee is forced to resign. In 1962 Student protests against the Shah at the University of Teheran are dispersed violently. In 1968 on March 8 about 1500 students protest at Warsaw University against the ban of the performance of a play by Adam Mickiewicz. The protests were answered with violent attacks by the police but spread all over Poland within the next days including student strikes and a call for a general strike. The protests were countered with massive state repression.

In 1968 March of the One Hundred Thousand in Rio de Janeiro on June 26, 1968. The march was organized by the student Movement to protest against the Brazilian Military Dictatorship. Artists, intellectuals and other citizens joined the march. In 1968 The night of July 2 student protests erupt in Belgrade directed against the privileged treatment of youth members of the Communist party. The events of the night are followed by a protest march to the city center and the occupation of the Philosophy and Sociology faculties. Tito succeeds in defusing the situation by an appeasing speech. On October 2 1968 in Tlatelolco Massacrein students gather for the largest demonstration at the Plaza de las TresCulturas in Mexico city following the massive repression of student protests earlier that year, including the army’s occupation of the University. Around 15 000 students gather at the plaza when the military and police surround the plaza and open fire. Several hundred students are killed. In 1969 on January 16, student Jan Palach sets himself on fire in Prague to protest against the military suppression of the Prague Spring by armed forces of the Warsaw Pact invading the country to halt the liberal reforms put forward by Alexander Dubcek, new First Secretary of the Communist Party.

In 1969 on January 18 armed police forces dislodge students occupying Tokyo University to protest against US-Japanese cooperation, the Vietnam War, the US occupation of Okinawa, and restrictions on University freedom. The police intervention puts an end to a year-long strike. In1969 in January, Theodor W. Adorno calls in the police to clear the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt that has been occupied by protesting students. In 1969 On April 22, three young women come up to Adorno and interrupt his lecture on Aesthetics by bearing their breasts. Adorno leaves the lecture hall. The event becomes renowned as the “Busenattentat” (breast attack). In1969 Rozariazo and Cordobazo uprisings in Argentina. From May to September, the cities of Rosario and Cordoba experience a series of civil uprisings including student protests and general strikes protesting against the military dictatorship of the Junta under General Juan Carlos Ongania. During the protests, several students and workers are killed by the police. Both uprisings are then crushed by the army.

In 1972 May Revolt in the segregated Bantu education institutions in South Africa (known as the “bush colleges”). The revolt is inspired by the South African Students’ Organization Declaration at Alice in the Eastern Cape which calls upon black students to protest against the racist educational system. In general literature on social movements shows that student activism has been a catalyst in regime change in many countries around the world. In Asia and Latin America it had a significant role in the fall of many regimes. In the West, the anti-establishment student movements of the 1960s had significant effects on both national and global politics. The role of student movements in the struggles against colonialism and dictaterships in Africa is also on record.

This project focuses on Oromo students’ protests against repressive regimes in Ethiopia tracing back to the history of the Oromo struggle for self-determination. By historicizing successive Oromo movements for freedom, justice and human rights and synchronizing it with ongoing student protest, the project attempts to bring to light the Oromo question which successive Ethiopian regime had failed to answer so far. 

In Ethiopia, as elsewhere in the world, student movements contributed to regime change in the past. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Ethiopian students in universities, colleges and secondary schools had not only protested against the oppressive feudal regime in the country but also revealed the political and economic ideological underpinnings of the country’s history.

During those early times too, Oromo students had, on their part, relentlessly presented their demand for the Oromo right to self-determination, language and culture and for freedom from economic and political suppression under the successive Ethiopian regimes.  It is common knowledge that Oromo students from high schools, colleges and universities have been voicing grievances and were making peaceful demands on behalf of their people during the last fifteen years, and that the response of the Ethiopian regime has been naked violence. However, information about the grievances of the Oromo youth and the Ethiopian regime’s recurrent violent crackdown on peacefully demonstrating students had been limited to pieces of information in media. A scholarly investigation that provides a holistic picture of the contentious episodes that can help us grasp the nature of the grievances and the harms caused by the violent methods used to silence them is lacking.

Therefore, this project focuses on strategies which the Ethiopian government uses in silencing opposition, particularly Oromo students, and how the strategies strengthen collective political mobilization among the Oromo. It also probes into the trajectories of successive Ethiopian regimes’ responses to the Oromo questions for self-determination and analyzes the ongoing repression by the present government vis-á-vis its rhetoric of democracy and in contradiction to the international human rights conventions it had undersigned. In doing so, the project goes further to challenge the approaches of the West in general, and the US in particular, who advocate human rights, good governance and democracy on the one hand, and continue to give unreserved support to the authoritarian regime in Ethiopia, on the other hand. The project, therefore, aims at contributing to debate, dialogue, and knowledge production on the policies of the Ethiopian regime in general and with regard to its policies and responses to Oromo questions for justice and democracy in particular. In doing so, it attempts to provide a valuable insight to international institutions, governments, donor agencies and human rights’ organizations to double-check their policies and programs on Ethiopia – a state controlled by a regime that superficially presents itself as democratic, but is inherently authoritarian.

Beekan Guluma Erena: A Short Biography

Beekan Guluma Erena is an Oromo writer and scholar. He taught Afaan Oromo and Oromo literature at Ambo University, Ethiopia from 2007 to 2014. He has published several literary works that make references to political, social, and economic issues facing the Oromo in Ethiopia. His recent publication Novel is in response to the new government policy that would take the land of thousands of poor Oromo farmers in the name of Addis Ababa Master Plan. Other topics of his works concern the revitalization and development of the Oromo culture and language, which have been under oppression for more than a century. His works also serve as sources for Afaan Oromo students at the secondary and tertiary levels of education.  It is the content and use of his works that have placed Beekan at risk in Ethiopia. Beekan is also a well-known motivational speaker; he has motivated many young Oromo writers to write and publish literary works in Afaan Oromo, many of which he edited himself. He aspires to continue making a footprint on the sand of Oromo literature and scholarship. He has published 29 short literary pies in book forms and many articles. He has more than 2000 pieces of Oromo poem and five reference books yet to be published.

Beekan was born in April 24, 1984 in West Oromia, Wallaga, in a district called Nuunu Kumba. He was born into and grew up in an extended family. Most of Beekan’s siblings are engaged in farming because they did not get access to education. Because of the economic background of his family Beekan had to pass through many challenges, but was able to overcome them through his own relentless efforts. There were times he decided to drop from the university because of financial reasons but decided to face the problem. Beekan was medium student when he was in primary school. Though he had the potential to do much better, the economic situation he lived in restricted its release. Whatever his situation was, he firmly believed that the best tool to progress and better life is education. His belief had led him to rewarding results.

There are many records of what Beekan has contributed to his society. To mention one, when he was grade 9 student, he made a tent of about two meters width and began to teach uneducated people in his area. Because most of his students were farmers, the only conducive time for this activity was from 5:00am to 6:30am before they would go for farming. He taught 78 people who never got the opportunity to go to school. At last, 40 students could successfully be promoted to grade two. Now they are in the university. The local education office certified him for his innovative works. Beekan had a dream to be lecturer when he was a grade seven student. Fortunately, his childhood dream was realized and he became a lecturer at Ambo University as mentioned above. Having taught for one year in Ambo, he was sent to Addis Ababa University to pursue his MA degree. He received his M.ED in Oromo language teaching and literature and went back to Ambo University. Based on his successful performance as a lecturer and writer, Ambo University sent him again to Addis Ababa for his PhD education after teaching three years. He became one of the students enrolled in the department of Documentary Linguistics and Culture. Here he started conducting research on a title called ‘Documenting Oromo Oral Poetry and its Semantic Analysis’ as part of PhD work. The project focuses on socio-cultural and political oppression and resistance as reflected in Oromo oral literature. Oromo oral poetry is an under-studied area and it remains to be well documented, researched, and analyzed. It is this gap that he is focusing on and will fill through his PhD research. But he was unable to continue because the current Ethiopian government under the TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front) suspended him from continuing his study. After attending his PhD program at Addis Ababa University for three years, he is unable to continue his education because of threat he faced from the Ethiopian security police for his literary contributions and publications. 

Currently, Beekan is a recipient of the IIE-SRF and is at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Study Center of at Harvard University, USA.  Hutchins center is very appropriate for Beekan because the center promotes scholarly engagement in African and African American studies both at Harvard and beyond.  Beekan’s project while he is in Hutchins beside his writings is titled as ''The Oromo Students Demands for Justice and Democracy, and Violent Repression by the Ethiopian Government". Beekan believes that through this opportunity he can both preserve his life and continue his literary scholarship. He will also be able to continue peacefully pushing for cultural and political transformation to take place in Ethiopia.

All of his publications are available at Anybody interested to purchase can order online or any book shops in Ethiopia. 

Original Post at Beekan publications are the following.

    • TUUJUBA: Reference book on Oromo Language skills and Grammar.
    • NADHII: Oromo humor and jokes (oral tradition of Oromo)
    • GINDILLAA: A Novel (Resistance of oppression of Oromo), Published twice)
    • KIKIKSA: Short plays and folk narratives. (Published three times)
    • QASAATII: Oromo humor and oral folktales. (published three times)
    • DIMDIMOO: Oromo material and food culture descriptions.(Published twice)
    • GIIMII: A Novel (About Oromo resistance against massacre). (Published three times).
    • KOOMTOO; The Science of African and Oromo Oral folktales.
    • KOOTICHA KOTA’AME: A Novel (About resistance and historical movements (Published four times).
    • LOOKOO JAALALAA: A Novel (romance and political fiction (Published three times). 
    • MUDATA: Oral folk narratives and legends.
    • GAACHANA DHOMMOQE; Mysteries and Fictions
    • GUUBOO SEENAA: Oromo Historical Religion Fiction.
    • BAKKALCHA: Oromo oral narratives philosophy.
    • HAMUUMMANNAA: The science of Oromo oral songs and its science.
    • OONNATA: Oromo Hero and Heroism in traditional songs.
    • DHIKKIFANNAA: Collection of Resistance Poems.
    • BIIFTUU: Oromo skill language and it’s science
    • WAL’AANSOO: Method of study (Guidance and Counseling for Students)
    • YANDOO: Oromo Fundamental Literature.
    • NAATOO: Oromo marriage custom.
    • KATTAA: Writing skills philosophy of Oromo
    • SANYII: Advanced Reading skills for University students.
    • DILBII: Fundamentals of Oromo Folklore
    • A B C: Basic Afan Oromo teaching and learning guidelines and notes- (by two Beekan and Hundasa).
    • IMAANAA JIREENYAA. Novel (Cultural fiction)- (By two Beekan and Yerosan).
    • DEEMSA HINDHUMANNE: Novel (Resistance Fiction) (By two Beekan and Betel).
    • QUUQQAA: Poetry Book (Resistance and Oppression of Oromo Society
    • BARAKOOF KEE! Poetry Book (Inspirational Book).


 John Markakis, Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers, James Curry, 2011, p. 160

 In February 2000 I received a letter which was posted in Aqaaqii (often spelt Akaki) in the outskirts of Finfinnee from Geresu Tufa who introduced himself a student at the Addis Ababa University (AAU) and a member of an Ad Hoc Committee which was formed to fight the forest fires. He stated that instead of giving attention to the fire “the so-called government security” were harassing Oromo students and that some of them were suspended from their studies. He mentioned that “When we went there [Bale and Borana] we talked with many elders, photographed, recorded and wrote about this very uncommon fire.”

Getachew Jigi Dammaksa (2013) Qabsoo uummata Oromoo garbummaarraa hanga bilisummaatti:  Finfinnee, Oromiyaa

 Among those who were killed were three high school students, Dirribee Jifaar, a young female student in Dembi Dollo, and Alemu Disaasaa, a teenager from Jimma, were gunned down by government soldiers in April 2000. Another high school student, Getu Dirriba, was beaten to death in a military detention center in Ambo.

 BBC World News, AFrica, ”Arrests over Ethiopian forest fires”, February 29, 2000

 J. G. Goldmanner, “The Ethiopian Fire Emergency between February and April 2000”, IFFN No. 22, 2000: 2-8.

 Oromia Support Group (OSG) Report No. 45?.......

 Dechassa Lemessa & Matthew Pernault,”Forest fires in Ethiopia: Reflections on the socio-economic and environmental effects of the fires in 2000” UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia, 2001

 In economic terms the damage was estimated by researcher to amount to “The total economic damage caused by the forest fires in Bale and Borana zones of Oromia Region alone amounted to approximately US$ 39 million or 331,179,405 ETB” (see Dehassa Lemessa & Mathew Pernault, 2001)

 Dechassa Lemessa & Matthew Pernault”, 2001: 2.

 From a cable of U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa titled:Environmental Allegations Generate Protests, Mass Arrests” dated Feb. 22, 2010 and released by Wikileaks on Aug. 30, 2011. Accessed

 Opride ….

 Bonnie Holcomb, “What Do the Oromo Want? Looking Back and Looking Forward on Oromo Studies and OSA”, Journal of Oromo Studies, Vol. 20, nos. 1&2, 2013.

  Saman Zia-Arifi, “Halt Crackdown on Oromo Students”, HRW, May 2002

 Oromia Support Group (OSG) Press Release No. 37, July 2002.

 Vaughan, S. Tronvol, k. (2003). The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life, Stockholm: SIDa (2003: 74)

 Karl Eric Knutsson (1969: 98)

 Ermias Legesse ……p. 6

 Among those who were killed were Kabbada Badhasaa, Morkataa Edosaa, Gaddiisaa Hirphaasaa, Jagama Badhanee.

 Human Rights Watch (HRW), 2005

 Ermias Legesse …..p.4

 See ……

 Dandi Qajeela “A Chronological Review of Oromian Student Movement (OSM): November 2010-November 2011, Nov. 19, 2011.

 Vaughan, S. Tronvol, K. (2003: 98). The Culture of Power in Contemporary Ethiopian Political Life, Stockholm: SIDA

 Amnesty International, Dismantling Dissent: Intensified Crackdown on Free Speech in Ethiopia, 2011 (AFR 25/011/) p. 8.

 HRW, Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. HRW Vol. 17 No. 7(A), p. 4

 HRW, 2005.

 Personal communication, June 2015.

 HRW. Lessons in Repression: Violation of Academic Freedom in Ethiopia since 1991. HRW Report, January 2003.

 OSG Report No. 45, 2010

 Sudan Tribune, 8 September 2006

 Amnesty International, Dismantling Dissent: Intensified Crackdown on Free Speech in Ethiopia, 2011 (AFR 25/011/) p. 8.

 See report compiled by the Oromo National Youth Movement for Freedom and Democracy known as Qeeroo,……

 Tasfahuun Chamada and …..who were kidnapped from Nairobi in ….

 Siegfried Pausewang “The Oromo between the Past and the Future. Introduction”, in Exploring New Political Alternatives for the Oromo in Ethiopia, S. Pausewang (ed), CMI, Report 6, 2009, p. 7.



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