Monday, March 31, 2008

OLF Letter to Department of Homeland Security

23 March 2008
The Honorable Secretary Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Honorable Secretary Chertoff,

We are writing this letter to protest against the unjust labeling of our organization – the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) - as “undesignated terrorist organization” by the Department of Homeland Security of the United State of America (USA).

This is of grave concern to the OLF for two reasons. First, such labeling of the OLF is erroneous and unfair given OLF’s long standing and declared position against terrorism of every sort, regardless of whether it is perpetrated by states or by other groups. The OLF, on various occasions, has categorically condemned all acts of terrorism without reservation whether they are committed to attain political objectives by freedom fighters or to deny those rights by states as in the case of the current regime in power in Ethiopia. The OLF believes that military activities purposefully targeting unarmed civilians to achieve a political goal are immoral and against its policies. Consequently, the OLF is completely surprised and gravely concerned about this labeling by the Department of Homeland Security which the OLF believes is based on accusations of the Ethiopian government. Our second concern emanates from the plights of Oromo refugees currently granted, or in the process of applying for, protection in the USA. According to verified information we have received, some of our compatriots are being denied protection on the basis of this unsubstantiated, unfair and erroneous labeling of our organization - the OLF – as “undesignated terrorist organization”. These are human beings who had to escape the TPLF terror campaigns in their homeland and have found refuge in the USA and who would be killed or imprisoned if they were to be sent back to the very government they have escaped from in the first place.

Mr. Secretary,

The OLF is a political organization established in 1973 to lead the Oromo national struggle for self determination and liberation from a century old Abyssinian domination. It is in search of this internationally recognized right of the Oromo people that it had fought against the communist military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam of Ethiopia for 17 years. At no time did the OLF purposely target unarmed civilians during those long years of struggle. Realization of the same right of the Oromo people continues to motivate OLF’s actions today. However, just like its predecessor, the current regime of Meles Zenawi continues to deny the right to self-determination of the Oromo people through terror campaigns and military means. As a result, the OLF is left with no option but to resist aggression by the current Ethiopian regime and in self defence without resorting to terrorist means.

Our struggle is in line with the historic struggle of the American people for independence against British domination. The OLF and the Oromo nation of estimated 35 million people are struggling against Abyssinian domination and subjugation with the aim of establishing a democratic state of Oromia based on our long democratic (“Gada”) culture. With its profound history of War of Independence, its long tradition of democracy and its admirable support for decolonization (self-determination) of Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, it is our hope that the government of USA will continue its historical responsibility and extend its support to the OLF rather than to the inhumane dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi which is engaged in state terrorism against the Oromo and others.

We would like to bring to your attention that, in fact, the U.S. Department of State Annual Reports on Human Rights Practices of Ethiopia, have on many occasions stated that the Ethiopian government's human rights record remains poor; that its security forces commit unlawful killings, including alleged political killings, beatings, torturing, and mistreating detainees. Moreover, the reports stress that the Ethiopian government arrests and detains persons arbitrarily, particularly those suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the OLF. In our view, it is morally unwarranted to deny protection to refugees who escape from this sort of inhumane treatment by Ethiopian state terrorism. Furthermore, we fail to understand how the decision to label a legitimate movement supported by millions of people a “terrorist” organization without evidence can be justified.

Mr. Secretary,

We would like to reiterate, once more, that our policy is to work towards a lasting peace treaty between Oromia and Ethiopia according to the established international norms. However, the OLF cannot be held responsible for the terrorist actions of the Ethiopian regime.

Finally, we would like to appeal to the government of the USA to reconsider its decision to label the OLF as “undesignated terrorist organization” and lift this unwarranted, unjustified and unfair categorization of the OLF. We would also appeal to the Secretary of Homeland Security to reconsider the refusal decisions given to Oromo refugees and asylum seekers due to the aforementioned unfair categorization of the Oromo Liberation Front.

Yours sincerely,
Dhugassa Bakakko
Chairman Oromo Liberation Front

cc: The Honorable Secretary Dr Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520


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