Calls for action against Ethiopia’s government amid ‘stampede’ deaths In Australia

Over 50 people have been killed and dozens more injured in Ethiopia’s Oromia region after security forces confronted protesters at a festival.

Witnesses say some people died in a panicked stampede after police employee tear gas and rubber bullets.

Thousands had gathered for a religious festival in Bishoftu, around 40 kilometres from the capital Addis Ababa.

It comes just hours after a candlelight vigil in Sydney by parts of Australia’s Ethiopian community over what they say is a government campaign of violence in their homeland.

Parts of the Ethiopian community are calling on the Australian government to help stop what they say is a Rwandan-style genocide being carried out by Ethiopia’s government.

They say they face a campaign of threats and intimidation in Australia, too, but they have had enough and will not be silenced anymore.

The New South Wales chairman of a group known as the Ethiopian Association, Tesfaye Engdawork Maru, is among those sounding the alarm.

“They are terrorising the Ethiopian people. They are killing our people. You know, genocide. They’re killing indiscriminately.”

He says, if the West was moved to act in Syria, or Rwanda, it should intervene in Ethiopia.

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“We are trying to bring the world’s attention to what is happening in Ethiopia and to bring those people to justice.”

For Ethiopians enjoying the relative safety of Australia, the bitter reality of what is happening back at home is hard, they say, to leave behind.

(Child:) “Mum, why are you crying?”

(Mother:) “I’m not crying. It’s okay.”

This woman, a refugee from Ethiopia who we are calling Mona, says her father was killed for his political views.

She says, soon after that, her brother went into hiding.

“Always he was hiding at home, wearing dresses. And he no go, going outside.”

But one night, she says, he did go out.

By morning, he had not returned, and Mona says she went looking for him.

“There was a lot of blood, on the wall and on the floor. My brother! Too much … (crying …) Too much blood. I … I see him.”

She says he had been shot in the head.

Mona has only agreed to speak out if her identity is hidden so her family in Addis Ababa is not threatened further.

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Asked why she is scared now, she says:

“Because, before, the government … killing my dad … killing my brother … (crying …) Now I have my mum and my two brothers, and I am scared for them.”

Abullah Agwa, of a group calling itself Ethiopia’s Multicultural Action for Humanity, says Ethiopian-Australians are traumatised because of the Ethiopian government’s action.

He says he was tortured and jailed for five years.

And he says it is common for Ethiopians in Australia to face intimidation.

But Mr Agwa says it is time for the community to speak out.

“For Ethiopian-Australians, this is the right time to stand and have our voice out for the voiceless people who are intimidated, who are jailed and who are suffering.”

In Ethiopia, the Oromo and Amhara people are protesting what they see as a government land grab, known as The Master Plan.

It has triggered the worst unrest in more than a decade.

Last month 90 people died.

Another 75 had been killed in November and December last year.

Finishing the Rio Olympic Marathon, runner Feyisa Lilesa crossed his wrists overhead in solidarity and later offered this warning:

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“I am personally very fearful that this is going to take an ethnic dimension where you will see a Rwanda-like situation, where ethnic groups turn on each other.”

With its vigil in Sydney over the weekend, Australia’s Ethiopian community is increasing pressure on the Australian government to review its relationship with Ethiopia.

Solomon Kebede of Ethiopia’s Multicultural Action for Humanity says it needs to be done.

“Whatever support the Australian government is giving the Ethiopian government, they have to make sure they’re not using it for their own political purpose.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has told SBS in a statement: the Australian government has consistently raised human rights concerns with the Ethiopian government.

But Tesfaye Engdawork Maru, with the Ethiopian Association, says that is not enough.

“Raising concerns doesn’t mean anything to the government in Ethiopia. They have to put a stop to it.”

He says the protesters want Australia to ask the United Nations to intervene and create an Ethiopian government of national unity.