Minneapolis, London, Paris ... In early July, protesters gathered around the world to demand more freedoms in Ethiopia. In Paris, Monday, July 6, anger was visible on the faces of dozens of men and women, placed in a line in the center of the Place de la République. Whether French or Ethiopian, all belong to the Oromo ethnic group, the majority in Ethiopia.

In the crowd, the demonstrators held up placards and banners. "Free all political prisoners", Prime Minister "Abiy Ahmed, dictator" or even "Justice for Hachalu": ​​the messages inscribed made reference to the multiple demands of the Oromo people, who denounced today there the repression of the capacity with regard to them.

A hundred demonstrators of the Oromo ethnic group, the majority in #Ethiopia, gathered today in Place de la République to demand the release of journalists and political opponents. #oromos #manifestation #Paris pic.twitter.com/jXiAL14SRL

- Tiffany Fillon (@Tiffany_Fillon) July 6, 2020

This demonstration was organized in response to a recent event, which engulfed Ethiopia. In the evening of June 29, singer Hachalu Hundessa, considered a spokesman for the Oromo, was shot dead in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The following day, crowds of demonstrators converged on several large cities, notably located in the Oromia region, which surrounds the capital.

At least 239 dead in Ethiopia

Violence quickly broke out, causing dozens of deaths. According to Ethiopian police, at least 239 people were killed in the protests that rocked Ethiopia last week. 

"As a result of the unrest in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives," Deputy Oromia regional police chief Mustafa said on state television on Wednesday. Kedir. Police in Addis Ababa had previously reported that ten people, including two police officers, were killed in the capital.

Authorities said some people were killed as part of the crackdown on the security forces and others were killed in clashes between various communities. To control this agitation, more than 3500 suspects have been arrested.

>> Read also: The murder of an Oromo singer takes Ethiopia to the brink of conflagration

In France, the Oromo are worried about the methods used by the Ethiopian government. Present at the demonstration in Paris, Mussa, a 25-year-old refugee, exclaims: "We need equality and justice in our country".

Others claim that Hachalu Hundessa was assassinated "under the orders of the government in place [...] Hachalu died because he was Oromo", according to a press release from the association organizing the demonstration. 

But since then, a twist has occurred in this case. On Friday, the Ethiopian attorney general announced that two men had confessed to the murder of the singer and that a third suspect on the run had been identified. 

"The assassination (of the singer) was a cover to try to take power by force," said prosecutor Abebech Abbebe in a press release broadcast on state television, without giving further details.

"Oromo fight against other Oromo"

In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, himself from the Oromo ethnic group, is not unanimous. "Today there is a civil war between Oromo", explains René Lefort, researcher and specialist in the country interviewed by France 24. She opposes, according to him, "those who support Abiy Ahmed, those who are in legal opposition and those who took up arms "against the government. To sum up, "Oromo fight against other Oromo", he specifies.

These opponents of the Prime Minister denounce in particular the political and economic marginalization suffered by their ethnic group since the 19th century and the colonial division of Africa. But for some Oromo, this reality goes beyond the sidelining of their community. Monday on the Place de la République, this feeling was shared by Duniya.

"We thought that Abiy Ahmed supported our cause because he is Oromo but over the past year Ethiopia has become a dangerous country for the Oromo," she said. A reality nuanced by Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International researcher for Ethiopia, interviewed by France 24. "The repression of human rights concerns everyone in the country," he said.

The government "is getting closer and closer to an authoritarian regime", decrypts René Lefort. He cites in particular "the thousands of political prisoners locked up all over the country", the political opposition treated below ground "and the beginnings of a" press self-censorship ". 

These abuses were also denounced by the Parisian demonstrators. "The Internet has been cut in Ethiopia since June 30. We cannot know if our family is doing well," worries Mussa. "We have no contact with our families. We do not know what is happening at the moment in Ethiopia," denounces Duniya. 

The Oromo's disappointed hope

If Abiy Ahmed divides within his country, he has not always aroused so much hostility. In April 2018, his coming to power had even been seen as a sign of hope for the Ethiopians: the release of thousands of prisoners, the return of opposition political parties banned by the previous government or the repeal of repressive laws ... Without counting all the peace efforts with Eritrea, rewarded on October 11, 2019 by the Nobel Prize. 

>> Read also: The Ethiopian Nobel Peace Prize Abiy Ahmed: a premature "encouragement"?

But the first Oromo head of government in the history of modern Ethiopia has failed to remain popular, particularly among the Oromo ethnic group. "Abiy Ahmed has done nothing to reconcile the country, torn apart by inter-ethnic conflicts. His main objective is to assert his power," analyzes René Lefort. 

The next general elections, initially scheduled for April and then in August, have been postponed to an unspecified date due to the coronavirus crisis. These postponements have exacerbated tensions. Pending this decisive election, the government will have to face, according to René Lefort, the "conflict between Abiy Ahmed and the radicalized street". 

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