By Natnael Fite @NatieFit
Addis Abeba – Bonga University, located in Bonga city, the capital of Keffa Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regional state, has reportedly expelled 54 Oromo students for unspecified reasons. Some of the expelled students who spoke with Addis Standard said that they have left the campus and returned to their families, after being expelled for “unknown reasons.” They also claimed that they suffered serious injuries in a scuffle last week inside the university campus and demanded clarification about the death of Dereje Mamo, a first year student at the University.
The opposition party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) issued a statement on 02 August saying that “reliable sources confirm that Dereje Mamo, a Bonga University Natural Science faculty student born in Ilu Abba Bora Zone, Bacho District, was hung and found dead in the university campus. Students at the university requested a clear and transparent investigation into the student’s killing. Before the tragic death of Mamo, there was constant intimidation and harassment of Oromo students by the campus security officers and some individuals around the university.”
A student of Bonga University who left the campus after being expelled and did not want to be named told Addis Standard that “the current incident has been going on for [the past] two weeks. Students who are natives of the area where the university is located were organized and have beaten up Afaan Oromo speaking students. Then the discovery of the death of student Dereje on campus exacerbated the matter,” he said. Scuffles ensued “when we started asking for clarification about the death of the student; the local students and the local community who entered the campus and the university guards who identified the Oromo speaking students started beating us,” he added.
Kelele Adisu (PhD), University Administration and Student Service Vice President, declined to comment when approached by Addis Standard. “I cannot provide information by phone” Dr. Kelele said.
“There is nothing left but some students who have not left the campus yet, waiting in fear to take the upcoming exam”
The student said during the scuffles the attackers came armed with sticks, iron bars and sharp tools. He added that it took members of the federal police to protect them form the attackers. “If it wasn’t for the Federal police, our injuries would have been even worse,” he said. The 54 students were rounded up and taken to jail for two days, he said, “After two days of detention, we went on hunger strike and then the university guards took us back to campus. Later they made us gather all our belongings and take us all the way to Jimma. But then they separated a student called Lemmi from us and took him back. We still don’t know where he is. Many students, including me, have returned to our homes,” he said.
“We have nothing in Bonga anymore. We got out of it with the help of God. We have nothing to believe in going back. Many Oromo students have left the campus. There is nothing left but some students who have not left the campus yet, waiting in fear to take the upcoming exam. They [the administration] told us to ask openly about the problem but they beat us and chased us away,” he added.
Sisay [name changed due to security concerns], is another student who spoke to Addis Standard. Sisay said he was unaware of the reason for his expulsion and returned to his family after being expelled. “I had information that there was a problem, but there was nothing I was clearly aware of. When I went out for lunch, I was arrested by the university guards, put on a car and taken to jail along with other students. They kept us in jail for two days without telling us anything and sent us back to campus. Then they told us to pack our belongings and took us out of the campus. We left campus and went back to our families without being officially told we were being expelled,” he said.
Attempts by these students to contact the Bonga University administration by writing a letter were unsuccessful, Sisay said, adding that he finds it difficult to predict his future. “Now, I’m going to my village. I don’t know what will happen next. But I just know we got out alive, that’s all I know.”
In the statement, the OLF said that the Oromo students of Bonga university were demanding that the case of the deceased student be clarified, and stated that even before the tragic death of the student, intimidation and security problems were being experienced by the Oromo students. OLF strongly condemned “the failure to respond to the rights demands of the Oromo students to the university administration and the action taken in return. “After the death of Mamo, Oromo students of the university, with credible evidence substantiated by a medical certificate, requested the University management to clarify the issue. Rather than doing justice, the university management has fired 54 Oromo students. Intimidation, beatings, harassment and brutal killing of Oromo students for the very fact of being Oromo is heinous and irresponsible. Such acts are not expected from an institution supposed to uphold free speech, create enlightened and fair citizens.”
The party further cautioned Bonga University and its leadership were “legally and historically responsible for threatening and expelling Oromo students without any crime by calling them “Shene” just because they speak Afaan Oromo,” the statement said. Furthermore, OLF requests the Bonga University management and the country’s law and security establishments: to give an appropriate and legal response to the peaceful and justifiable quest of the university students concerning rights abuses, to correctly and transparently investigate the killings of student Dereje Mamo and disclose the results to the families, his fellow students and the Oromo people, to cancel the firing of 54 Oromo students and reinstate them into their studies, and to ensure the peaceful learning and teaching atmosphere in the campus for all students and stop the outrageous intimidation of the Oromo students.
Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to reach the Academic Vice President of the University, Dr. Anteneh Wendimu, were unsuccessful. AS