March 23, 2009
President: Dr. David J. Skorton
300 Day Hall
Cornell University; Ithaca, NY 4853
Dear Mr. President,
I am writing this letter on behalf of the International Oromo Youth Association (IOYA) and Oromo students in Ethiopia.
It is known that Cornell University is cooperating with and supporting the Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia. Although this is a commendable partnership in order to expand education opportunities for thousands of students, we feel this continued cooperation must be on the basis of fair and equal opportunity for all students of the University, with no ethnic discrimination.
Contrary to this, as recent as last week, Ethiopian government federal police and security forces raided the Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia and targeted Oromo students and arrested 80 of them. The students were beaten and some, including female students, detained and others were dismissed, and there seems to be no action from the University to counteract the abuses. These actions by the Ethiopian government are just one example of the systematic ethnic discrimination it is pursuing on students from the Oromo nation who constitute over 40% of the entire population.
Particularly starting in 2003, Oromo students in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities have been the target of the brute security and military forces of the regime where thousands from all levels have been dismissed from schools, including 330 students dismissed from colleges and universities in Addis Ababa in 2004 alone. Several of those who participated in peaceful demonstration demanding their rights as members of the society have been brutally beaten and/or murdered in front of their parents. Many have been extra-judicially killed or disappeared without a trace rounded up by the regime’s henchmen from their homes, schools and university campuses. Still thousands are being kept in prisons and military garrisons where they are tortured.
Several thousand students have been exiled and are in refugee camps in neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East where they live under constant fear from Ethiopia security agents who kidnap or assassinate at will. These actions by the Ethiopian government have been reported by independent local and international human right organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and governments organs such as the US Department of State and EU Parliament, Committee on Human Rights, etc.
Mr. President, we trust that under your leadership, an institution that discriminates against, beats, tortures, imprisons, and dismisses Oromo students should not continue to receive the cooperation and support of your great University. On behalf of the victims of the Ethiopian government brutality, we appeal to you to pull off the deal made with such regime and suspend assistance to the Bahir Dar University until the regime stops its practice of ethnic segregation and discrimination against Oromo students.
President, International Oromo Youth Association