The status, however, may have changed on a sunny Sunday of Nov. 12th when a group of young (and some old) residents of the town confronted a government inspecting team of not more than “half a dozen,” according to a young grocery owner in the area. Residents suspect the officials were there to push though deals to transfer a nearby field used by local youngsters as Sunday football pitch and clear a forest reserve for an upcoming investment project. Officials from the Oromiya regional state, to which Ginchi belongs to, and the central government deny any of this happening. But it was too late to stop scenes of extraordinary defiance and students-led protest that started from Ginchi and spread throughout the country for the last four weeks.
Reason? It was no longer the football pitch and the forest residents of Ginchi say they would protect at any cost; it was the Addis Abeba city hall’s ambitious (if ill-fated) plan – ‘Addis Abeba and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan’. Known in short the “Addis Abeba Master Plan”, federal authorities say it is merely aimed at creating an economically integrated Addis Abeba with six of its surrounding localities currently under the special administration of the Oromiya regional state.
The four weeks that since ensued have seen protests (most of them led by elementary and high school students, but also joined by University students in cities where university campuses are available) spread like bushfire. Geographically, all protests are happening throughout the Oromiya regional state, the largest of the nine states that makeup Ethiopia. Commenting on the domino effect of the small protest in Ginchi, the young grocery owner said: “never in my lifetime could I imagine this.”Min
Ambo was next
A university city just over 30 km before Ginchi, and 120 kms west of Addis Abeba, Ambo, a three hrs drive from Addis Abeba, is the bedrock of Oromo opposition politicians such as the renowned Prof. Merera Gudina and their constituency. Going by a recent past, similar Oromo students’ protests in April and May 2014 saw the highest death toll per city and a fierce crackdown by government security personnel that also saw the arrest of several protesting university students. Oromo activists say more than 60 protestors were gunned down during the two month 2014 protest; the government’s own account put the death toll at just 11.