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News: Oromia president pledges to address Muslim community’s concerns over demolition of mosques after discussion with religious leaders

Religious leaders during the discussion with Oromia President (Photo:ETV)

Addis Abeba – Following a five-hour intensive discussion between the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, under the leadership of Sheikh Haji Ibrahim Tufa, and Shemelis Abdissa, the president of the Oromia Regional State, to address the ongoing concerns over demolition of mosques in Shaggar city,  the region sought to address the concerns raised by the Muslim community. 

According to a statement issued on Thursday by the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council, the Muslim representatives expressed their deep concerns highlighting various challenges faced by the Muslim community in legally acquiring land for mosques, obtaining construction permits, and securing expansion areas for existing mosques across the country. 

The representatives conveyed their profound sadness and distress over the conditions resulting from the mosque demolitions in Shaggar city, and emphasized the need for a moral and compensational solution to alleviate the dire situation faced by the Muslim community.

Moreover, they expressed their deep concern over the direct targeting of peaceful Muslims by security forces, resulting in loss of lives, physical harm and a prevailing atmosphere of fear.

The statement reiterated the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council and the Muslim community’s support for the development and growth plans of cities, including Addis Ababa. However, it emphasized that faith institutions should be made accessible to believers, thereby contributing to the humanization of urban areas.

In response to the discussed issues,  the regional president acknowledged the mistake of not addressing the issue earlier and conveyed condolences to the Muslims who lost their lives during the incident over the past two weeks. 

He assured the attendees that Shaggar City would be established based on religious values, with provisions made for institutions representing various denominations, including Islam. The regional government is committed to providing suitable lands for religious offices in line with the city’s plan and expressed a desire to construct modern mosques that conform to the city’s architectural vision, the president stated.

Furthermore, plans were unveiled to construct a prominent national-level mosque in Shaggar City according to the statement. The president also stressed the importance of engaging religious institutions as partners in the process of building Shaggar City, with the objective of preventing illegal construction while addressing existing structures.

Additionally, the president affirmed the continued provision of religious institutions and cemeteries throughout the Oromia region, including Shaggar City. Efforts will be made to replace the 656 religious institutions built outside the city’s plan with legally compliant establishments through collaboration between the Oromia Regional Parliament and the respective religious institutions. The government commits to refraining from further demolitions in this regard, and instead agreed that the religious institutions should demolition illegal structures by themselves.

As an interim measure, the Oromia Islamic Affairs Higher Council and the Shaggar City administration pledged to facilitate the provision of mosques for Muslims residing in areas where houses have not been completely demolished, until the implementation of the new Sheger City Master Plan in July, when the Muslim representatives, in collaboration with the state government, will review the areas designated for religious institutions in the Master Plan to ensure their appropriateness.

According to the Ethiopian Joint Security and Intelligence Task Force three people were killed during last week’s Friday prayer at the Grand Anuwar Mosque in Addis Abeba and “some people were injured”, whereas “63 police officers and members engaged in security work have suffered light and serious injuries”.

A week earlier, on 26 May, at least two Muslims, Siraj Mohammed and Abubeker Elias, were killed and more than 40 people were injured after police crackdown against Muslim protesters in and around the Grand Anuwar Mosque who were protesting against the illegal demolition by Oromia region security of at least 19 Mosques in the newly formed Shaggar city, which was formerly known as Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said 140 individuals had been arrested in the aftermath of the protests, and urged their release “unless there is sufficient proof of criminal act and credible charges to be filed against them.” AS

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