Greater Addis Ababa plan sparks Oromo protests
Another battle for control over urban space is heating up in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa—concerning plans to expand the city's municipal boundaries and absorb several smaller outlying towns where the traditionally excluded Oromo people are still dominant. The "Integrated Development Master Plan" has sparked a wave of protests, principally by Oromo students. Official figures say seven have been killed by police in the protests since late April, but independent reports claim the death toll is more than 20.
Addis Ababa, called Finfinne by the Oromo, was the center of Oromo culture and the principal city of Oromia (then divided into several small states) before it was conquered in 1869 by Emperor Tewodros of the Amharic-dominated Shawa (Shoa) state, the founder of modern Ethiopia. It was named the country's capital by his sucessor Menelik II in 1886. It is today one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with a population of over 4 million, fueled by a high rate of rural-urban migration. Since Ethiopia's 1991 revolution, the ruling elite has been Tigrean rather than Amharic. But the Oromo continue to be marginalized politically—and overrun in their own homeland. (HRW, May 5; Zegabi, May 2; Oromo history page at Gadaa.com; Ethiopia history page at Embassy of Ethiopia, UK; Ethiopia profile at BBC News)
This struggle recalls current schemes by urban planners in Israel to change municipal boundaries to effect a "transfer" of Arab populations, and to break up or usurp Palestinian lands with highways and touristic-archeological projects. Or the expropriation of peasant lands by municipal governments to facilitate urban growth fueled by the real-estate boom in China. It would be nice to see Oromo-Palestinian solidarity, and even making common cause with the disenfranchised Chinese peasants...