Long, long ago Oromo and Habashaa lived side by side one independent of the other under mutual mistrust. Though there were raids on both sides no one of them was able to capture territory as long as both were armed with the same types of weapons. But international and domestic relations were to change in favor of Habashaa.
Habashaa territory included Bulgaa, Tagulat and Manz and the Gondoree and Tigree lands to the north. At certain stage the equilibrium was changed. The Habashaa were able to amass tremendous firepower from then big powers of the West. The Oromoo situation remained constant. Therefore Habashaa force was able to break the defense lines of Tuulamaa and northern Macca, the tribes on the forefront. Buttaa, a teenager then has witnessed a part of it.
Because of the change in balance of firepower the internal fabrics of society was shaken. Political and economic structures changed hands from natives to the invaders. Social relations got confused. The politico-social culture built over time immemorial came under threat with the adoption of new alien religion. As a result many indigenous institutions suffered the consequences.
Traditionally Oromoo youth practiced an open system of dating called qabdoo. Girls introduce their boy friends to their parents and refusing was safuu (omen). There was no premarital sexual intercourse. But kissing was allowed. Both were said to be “michuu” for each other. The michuu of a girl is not expected to marry her. He only protected her up to marriage.
The boy can take his michuu to dances and evening parties after telling the parents. They have to trust him. Those who adopted the new religion could not distinguish social culture from faith so they started to hinder it. That also affected their outlook for traditional marriage. By the invasion a new class of rich people was created. Intermarrying within a class was sought. So there was no consideration of hobo and coora. No tracing of family roots for diseases and other background history.
Many prominent clans were uprooted. Leaders that resisted were killed, sent to prisons on Habashaa plateaus to their north or banished from their area. The resistance was so formidable that the army of the king was kept at bay for a long time. Then Oromoo lands south of them enjoyed relative peace because of the sacrifices the central heroes made. Now with breaking of that defense line a flood gate was opened to the south.
Buttaa was born at Roggee. Roggee is a plateau to the north of Finfinnee. It was a known big market for exportable items. After the invasion it became a slave trade center, it was told. It was considered as God sent curse for human beings to be sold like horses, cattle and donkeys in the market. Warjii, an Oromoo clan was transplanted during those days from their ancestral holding to a new one at Daalatti south of Finfinnee. In Warjii’s place settlers from the imperial army were planted. Emperor’s grain silos were also built there.
Such displacements and new settlements have contributed to further dislocation of social order. Open dating of young boys started to be considered despicable by the new class. Buttaa’s parents were among those who were proselytized and started to adopt the rulers’ ways. The father always had a book in his armpit hanging from his shoulders in a hide bag. He was not proficient in reading. On the other hand both grandfathers of Buttaa died in the war of resistance. All tongues specially singers and minstrels praise their courage even long after they were dead. They both were remembered by nationalists as heroes to be emulated.
Buttaa was almost thirteen. She was reserved in her actions but decisive when the need arises. She didn’t see her period yet. But she had her eyes on a neighboring boy, Jijoo. On the other hand he was shy and doesn’t see any one in the eye. However he was known as an outstanding athlete among his peers and as a brilliant sociable boy by the neighborhood. He comes from a humble family that was unable to revive from the calamities of war. But he was a native of high standing in descent.
Some how, she coaxed him to dare and play with her. They have tried to keep their relations on low level and confidential. But rumors started to circulate throughout the village that they were sitting qabdoo (dating). It was her age that was presented as a concern for every body. Most living in the neighborhood were settlers. They understand relation of boy and girl only as sexual intercourse. They didn’t have the michuu institution practiced by the natives.
Jijoo’s father was scared when he heard the rumor. They had nothing to hide from each other so he asked his son and verified all that was happening. He found nothing out of the ordinary but it was enough for the enemy to incriminate him. So he and advised his son to sever that relation. But he told his father that it was impossible as long as he lives in this area. So he assured him that he wouldn’t stay around to shame him. That was also a big blow to the impoverished father. He was his only son. He lost his wife and many family members to the war. He narrowly escaped from the wound sustained in the war. He had become a recluse and doesn’t want to be reminded of the past. His will to live was motivated by the existence of his children.
Jijoo was his only hope to look after the sibling if any thing happened to him. But the rumors were destroying his hopes. Danger was again looming over the family because of a traditional practice. Buttaa had already made a covenant with Jijoo as her Michuu. Because the parents didn’t accept, the matter was kept confidential. That was what caused the rumors.
More over her parents warned her that what she was doing could be harmful to the boy and his family. By your act, the told her, you are daring to challenge our new religion. But she refused to budge and insisted that they recognize him as the old tradition demands. The matter has nothing to do with his family but her and Jijoo. I am only doing it in memory of my beloved grandfathers, who taught me all I know about myself. Don’t you see I am helping to revive you after death, she asked her parents.
You both had told me that you had michuu before your marriage she complained. Then why did it become unacceptable when it came to me? The father responded, that is past and gone. We are now new people. We had already given up the old religion, the old political system and all the old ways. All are too primitive to us now. Don’t you see? Do you want to make us a laughing stock in our own neighborhood? Do you want us to lose the respect we got after we sacrificed our honor and dignity? Do you want the rulers to call us Gaallaa, the name they attribute to all they enslaved and those who didn’t take their religion?
Father, she called him to attention; how low can you go to satisfy them? You have lost your Caffee, your Bokkuu, your Caaccuu and Kallacha what else is left for you to give up? Is it not yesterday that your father laid his life for his family and people’s honor? Who is going to avenge them, are you not the one who were supposed to do that?
Leave the vengeance she said to him, are you not responsible to uphold your people’s culture and language rather than murmuring with that book you carry under your armpit? Now you are forbidding your daughter not to practice her youth. What next, are you not going to give her to the gun wielder to gain small favor? What is more despicable than that? Whether you like it or not I am going to have my michuu by my side until you give my hand with my consent; the reverse of old ways do not work for me as well.
The father was furious; he raised his voice and asked her to get away from his presence. Ok Abbayyee, what ever the matter you still are my father, I don’t hate you for ignorance and opportunism. There are many things to hate and I don’t want to add to it any more. Please call for me when ever you cool down. After this he threw at her something in his hand, she dodged and exited. He didn’t run after her but instead started sobbing from indignation and shame.
One day a wave of horde came marching from the north. Roggee was flooded with gun, spear and club carrying country men, heavily loaded pack animals and slaves. They were going to Dildilaa to join the imperial army preparing for southern invasion. It was a mixed body of men.
The horde included Gondoree that submitted to Tigree after the death of their mad sovereign; Tigreans that could not save their king’s head from being severed by the enemy; the long defeated and displaced Agawu and Oromoo peasants. All have failed as groups. Now they have much to prove as individuals. This massive human throng attracted so many young people that some joined it while others simply followed it.
Jijoo told Buttaa of his decision to follow the marchers to where ever they go. Buttaa was stunned. She didn’t expect challenges to come so fast. She had clashed with her parents for his sake. If she stays behind she is going to lose him. All in all she is going to be the sole loser. She couldn’t comment on what he said but was lost in thought and couldn’t make head and tell of what is happening to her. She said to him, it would have been better if we had decided together but you might have enough reason for doing that. You have left me with no choice than go with you where ever you go.
He frankly told her why he had to so urgently decide to go away. He also told her that if every thing goes alright he will be coming back for her. If any thing happened to him he believed at least she would remain with his memory. Otherwise for both of them to take the risk of going into war would be irrational. He said to her that he believed she would be there for his father in his absence.
She replied to him that she appreciates her reasoning but she has confidence in his heroic father that her help would be insignificant. My life I believe is interwoven with yours. Therefore I cannot live without you, my life or death has to be with you. I cannot leave you alone; we have to face evil and virtue together. Therefore forget living me behind and going alone with this brutal horde.
He tried to make her change her mind. But no is no more an answer for her. She had already made up her mind. So he was forced to agree. Her father didn’t call for her since he threw a missile at her. The mother was on the side of the father. So she had no more love left for them. For her they were enemy worshipers.
Both left home without any provision and runaway with the colonial army. He took her to his father and informed him of their decision. He blessed them and told them to be vigilant at all times. They left him to join the march. In the march no body noticed them as different from the rest. So they peacefully moved with part of the horde that spoke their languages, the mercenaries that joined the enemy. By chance they caught the attention of an old warrior who asked them to stay closer to him. He was a Waaqaa fearing individual and despised the new religion. Buttaa envied him and in her heart she asked, why didn’t my father be like him?
The old warrior advised the not to be deceived by what they see. This horde has no brain of its own; it is flowing with the stick of the king of Shawaa. Its mission is to destroy what ever is left of us. I am moving with them as their partner. But my intentions are different. I want to save as many as I can from temptation to join hands with our enemy and destroy our own. I will go with them as long as I could. But I want you to be ready to leave this northern army when I tell you. Until then stay with me. You shall act only on my orders.
The northern army joined Goobanaa’s force after reaching Finfinnee. Goobanaa, said the story teller, was the great general that helped the conquerors to subdue his own people. His old enemies had been armed by unforeseen war machines. He felt it would be difficult to face them head on. So he decided to join them and share the booty. He chose his selfish interest over the honor to die fighting for independence of his people. On the other hand his compatriots couldn’t stand the shame of losing liberty without a fight. They all looked upon Goobanaa with contempt and cursed him for standing with the historical enemy.
Goobanaa said the storyteller, remained an example of a quisling to this day. The march from Finfinnee was like a dam whose walls were broken from water pressure. The whole population in front of the deluge was devastated and lost self control. Almost half the population was wiped out. Those that survived were traumatized and confused.
Community after comminuty was blown away by the torrent. Jijoo and Buttaa followed the current from behind under the auspices of the old warrior. It was a campaign against Walisoo and Sooddoo. When they reached Bacho the old man advised them to part. He gave them small provision from what he had. He told them to go to Ambo where they could sale their labor and live. He knows the area in detail. So he told them where to rest and when to move.
Before seeing them off, he gave them a piece of advice. So far he said, you have seen how devastating a war is. This flood that you are observing will run out. Probably half of it may go to the end. On the opposite side are people who fight for their freedom though going against the torrent it would not be easy to subdue them. They will be broken after destroying a good portion of this horde.
You have seen how people are traumatized and scared. You have also seen how this militia kept on hammering upon them that they are subhuman and have to serve “ye sew lij” (the children of men) without question. If you have a keen eye you could see the plan lying ahead. They want these people remain traumatized and meek so that they use them as they like.
It doesn’t need to be a prophet to see what is in store for the future. This exercise of keeping the conquered people in doldrums of trauma and the effort to confuse them will continue as long as they have advantage of the gun over these people. Generation to come will find themselves in such trauma shaped society and remain worshiping the values and grandness of their conquerors.
They are even going to sing in praise of this war and the leaders as if it was for their own redemption and glory. Even people like me who are born and brought up in liberty have started to worship and praise the leaders as if they were Waaqaa. We had never exalted our leaders, the Luba and the Abbaa Gadaa above humans. How can one expect our descendant who know nothing except these Bulguu (monsters) do otherwise?
I wanted you to part this group at this junction because I want you to survive and tell this story to your children. The way I show is relatively safe. We have fought like leopards but luck was not on our side. We ourselves defeated ourselves. Then we joined the victor against our own people. The leader of this horde is an Oromoo that caused our defeat. Still he is continuing to lead the massacre against peaceful people, as you have observed. He is presenting his own freedom to his masters on silver plate. I have also joined him in this shameful act.
Now go your own way. Try to live on your on sweat. Never forget what you have seen and experienced in life. Let your children know about it and pass to their children in turn. A day may come when people cannot bear humiliation any more. I have no doubt that this great people one day will explode. If there is enough information of its past such explosion could be thoughtfully guided. Even after that it may be difficult to produce liberated minds that will reassert their proper place among nations. But there is no doubt he said, that they will be produced with time.
History is full of such episodes that come and go. This will be one of them. The fallen will rise and the risen will fall that is the truth of development. But this pain will continue far beyond your life span. Then he bade them farewell with his eyes full of tears. He probably brought to mind his children of the same age who fell fighting by his side. After that they started westward towards Ambo as advised.
The story teller paused for a while. He interjected his observation. You see children, these days we hear about liberation fronts here and there. Those are the children of the people who were traumatized during Buttaa’s days. They are taking longer time than expected to show satisfactory result. That is because there are among their ranks those that are not yet liberated from the century old trauma. Their parents had been hammering on them the indomitableness of the Habashaa as they were hammered on by their parents. They still think that their umbilical cord is plucked from their mothers and inserted into the colonial system. Therefore the horde that looked like a river breaking its dam comes to their memory as if they witnessed it.
On the one hand they are afraid to cut this umbilical cord and erase this memory. And on the other hand their conscious self puts them to shame for living in the past. They are not yet sure if they have the muscles to bring about change. It is such ambivalence that makes them to waver at every turn.
The enemy had changed itself to cope up with changing situation. It is devising methods of keeping them within its own control. It speaks their language of liberation but with a very faint sound. That makes them more eager to hear what it is saying rather than to raise their voice and force it to listen to them.
The story teller then continued on the trail of the couples. On their way he said, they found shelter at a rich farmer’s home. He was called Fayisaa. This area was under direct control of one of the quislings, Qusee, who was loyal to the emperor. For this reason the trauma that the others suffered was not that strong here. Buttaa and Jijoo told the farmer that they were heading for Ambo to look for a living. And told him their entire story and that they were not yet married but loved each other, they were still michuu. Fayisaa was surprised at such a strange event.
He told them that he could take them on his farm as helping hands and also arrange when they reach of age for their marriage if they were willing. To do this he only demands from them to live according to his rules. They didn’t believe their ears. When they heard the offer they looked at each other and so gladly expressed their acceptance simultaneously. In their hearts they said if your rules are harsh we can run away as we did from Roggee.
Fayisaa gave them a cottage to which the boy can move immediately. He told them the girl could stay at his home until she reaches fifteen. Then both agreed and thanked the farmer for giving them shelter, though the separation seemed unnecessary since they came all this way protecting their honor. But they didn’t want to counter their patron.
The boy started helping the farmer in plowing and cultivation. The girl took part in duties assigned for the farmer’s daughters. Though she couldn’t say it openly she felt she was unfairly separated from her hard won boy. So she started to plan how to hasten her wedding.
After staying for a year in that way one day she thought of communicating her feelings to the farmer. She never doubted his kindness and understanding but she was shy to talk to him about wedding when she was yet not fifteen. It was holyday. During holidays green grass and certain aromatic leaves are spread in the house as sign of peace and tranquility. There was a stinking herb called muka udaanii or cuqun (wormwood). When cut a small piece could spoil the whole room.
She was sent with another girl to cut grass for the purpose. Buttaa added to her cut a small piece of cuqun. And she spread her part in the bed room of Fayisaa. Invited guests came feasted and left. Fayisaa went to his bed room to sleep. But there was stinking odder which almost made him to throw up. He went out and asked all children to go in and check what was stinking.
They searched every corner but nothing was found. Buttaa was also turning every grass as if she doesn’t know the exact location. Finally after an exhaustive search she picked it up and said, here it is, it is this small cuqun that polluted the world. Size doesn’t matter for Cuqun and girls, she said with astonishment.
Fayisaa got the message and decided to send her the soonest possible. As a patron of the couple he has to prepare both psychologically and materially. Preparation for the wedding party started way ahead of the wedding day. Buttaa was then part of the family and the community around there. So like all girls of the area she has to begin a continuous singing and dancing party that will involve boys and girls. Dancing will be there every night that has moon light.
The singing included praising or raising the memories of all they have relation with, the dead and the living. Her new parents and friends had also to be raised. The singings are divided into two. One is retelling history and appealing to each relative to save her from what is going to happen and that was called seenaa or mararoo (hinsiree). The other is defaming the in-laws and is called arrabsoo (tartarii-tartarii, araba durbaa…).
The rich farmer had two wives. Their houses were about two miles apart. Buttaa lived with the second wife while Jijoo’s cottage was in the neighborhood of the senior wife. Wedding preparations were being made in both houses. Usually gabbaraa (dory) was expected from the boy. That also was prepared by the senior wife who is now acting as Jijoo’s mother. A bull and a heifer, bullukkoo for her mother (junior wife), tamboo and coffee for councilors were prepared. For the bride jewelry from gold, silver and beads were packed.
The escort consisted of twenty horse men and twenty men on feet. A saddled mule was also taken for the return journey with the girl. As they reached their destination girls waited for them singing songs that praise the bride and defame the groom. The groom and his entourage spent the night at the girl’s residence.
In the morning the councilors and the mother were present on the blessing ceremony. They blessed the couple the escorts and the clan and gave the girl’s hand to the waa’ilaa (best man). He took her and mixed her with the brides group. Girls sang song of farewell sending away their friend with tears for the change of status she is going to undergo. For the girls she is no more going to dance or play with them. She will be a married woman and her interest would be with married woman.
The girl was first put on a horse and then transferred to mule for it was bad omen to put her on the ever barren mule first. Then the wedding procession bade the host’s farewell and left the area mounted. Gifts from the junior wife and other people to the bride were loaded on five donkeys. It included utensils, special food, dresses etc. The escorts sang war songs until they reached the groom’s quarter. At home girls lined up in front the house and sang songs that praise the groom and condemn the bride. There was commotion when the girls refused to late the bride in.
The bride and the bride groom stand on the threshold in front of the door. The mother performs a ritual give them some beverage to sip. Then a ram is brought and the couples anoint it with green grass. The groom then slew it and both stride over the blood and got into the house. That process was called “rakoo qaluu” (slaying rakoo). It is what others call “tie the knot”.
Both were virgins. It was the first night of sleeping in each others arms. There was no struggle like the other girls; these had been together during a long journey on foot. Though under different blankets, they used to sleep side by side. Their relation never exceeded kissing each other in sitting position. They were eagerly waiting for this day to satisfy their craving. They proved their virginity beyond doubt. Fayisaa gave her a lactating cow and a plot of land. He gave Jijoo a rifle and pairs of oxen with all their equipments. Fayisaa and the wives were very happy.
Both started life with those initial gifts of Fayisaa and the wives and friends. They were grateful to these kind people and showed their gratitude when ever they got the chance to demonstrate. The farmer trusted all his domestic activities to Jijoo when ever he was away on business. He looked after the wellbeing of the wives, the cattle and the proper handling of the cultivations and harvesting. He was like a son.
With hard work Jijoo and Buttaa became very rich. They bought more plots of land and expanded the type of cultivation. They befriended an Italian POW of the battle of Adowa who chose to remain behind after he was freed. He was settled around there by Baalchaa Saafoo a famous artillery expert of that battle. He showed them some skills of farming and they improved a lot from the surrounding. They added oil seeds and vegetables to their farm item. They also improved their churning system and started to produce more butter for the market. Vegetables and fruits were added to their table.
Every weekend they took their produce to Tulluu Boolloo. It is around there that Qusee Diinagdee and Baalchaa Saafoo were captured in an earlier war. Baalchaa was amputated and he cannot reproduce. Both were wholly converted to the culture and religion of the conquerors and so led battalions during the campaign witnessed by Buttaa and Jijoo. Their loyalty to the captor was absolute despite their historical background. In return the whole area was put under Qusee’s private domain. That was why the area was relatively peaceful.
Buttaa and Jijoo had several children the eldest, Galaanee was fifteen and the last one was five years young. They lived a happy luxurious life. They have hired a monk to teach their children reading and writing the alien language. Except for the smallest all had become literates. In the mean time a school was opened at Tulluu Boolloo with better facility than they can provide at home. So they sent one of their boys, Badhaadhaa, to attend that school. They kept him with a friend they recently made from among the new comers.
The boy stayed there for the weekdays and returns home on weekends. After staying at school for a month he refused to go back. His patience was exhausted. He complained that the people he was living with do not appreciate any thing he does and treated him differently from other children. They also refer to me he said, as “aramanee”, (bestial heathen). In addition at school students harass me by calling me names like “basbaassaa Gaallaa, qimaal ballaa Gaallaa, kabt Gaallaa, timbahoo gorash Gaallaa, farii Gaallaa) etc” (dirty, lice eating, tobacco munching, animal, coward). All I have come to know are bad attributes.
The teachers also mock my name because they say “da” rather than “dh”. I think it means something funny in their language. They always ask me to change it. But I told them that it is given me by my parents and they are the only ones that could change it. But they repeat the same comment every day. So I cannot bear their insult I better remain here and live like all my peers. Galaanee intervened and said for his age the lesson we get here is enough so please, she beseeched her parents not to force him back. They agreed and he continued to study at home with his siblings.
It was all part of the effort to deny the conquered people self confidence, the monk told Buttaa when she asked him why such things happen. Mental and physical harassment will continue as long as inequality of peoples existed. They don’t want colonial people to feel equal human beings with their conquerors. They have to be forced to accept that they are subhuman. Otherwise with their numbers it would be difficult to keep them underfoot for long. If they could instill inferiority at such young age the boy will remain submissive throughout his life; that is the purpose of the harassment said the monk to Buttaa.
You know the monk continued, the saying “utuu sareen gurra qabdu bukoo koo nyaatteewoo” jennaan “utuu dubatiin qodaa see qadaaddatu naan jetteewoo” jette sareen. (“Had a dog that have fame/ear eaten my dough?” to which the dog replied “had a woman who covers her utensils blamed me so?”). Your brother and all as tender as him do not see what the dog saw. So they will be cajoled to believe the wretched personality of their abusers as an ideal one and will be hard for them to aim higher. That is what they wanted, to keep the colonized see no virtue in themselves. In the short run that may hold water but down the road the flood will engulf them, that is what we learn from history.
Jijoo and Buttaa is far from direct discrimination thanks to Qusee the patron of Fayisaa. They had several maid servants and farming hands. They had also given chance of attending the monk’s lessons for children of some of their servants. Most of the servants were persons displaced by the war. They appreciated any thing that could give them repose even if temporary. Their mentors are their own flesh and blood that Waaq has preserved for them in this corner. They have seen how the alien treats them before they found this sanctuary.
For some one who has lost wealth, independence and human dignity, talking about right in a lesser setting becomes a luxury. As long as they get shelter and buddeena (food) on the plate for the family and no fear of burning and hanging they were thankful. For them there was no one greater than the people who gave them shelter. Badhaadhaa didn’t have similar experience that was why he was hurts by verbal abuse of people he met in town.
One of the farmers had a handsome son sixteen years of age. His name was Namoomsaa. He goes to the monk’s class with permission of Buttaa. He helped her in confidential errands when ever she wanted. In his lessons he was outstanding among peers. They were at the same level with Galaanee. Competition between them was high. They both finished reading the Psalm together.
The teacher was well educated in Gi’iiz, the church language. So he started teaching them Gi’iiz so that they can understand what they read. He himself was one of those who survived from the war. After his father and elder brother were killed resisting the invasion he followed a caravan moving north word. He parted from the caravan in Salaalee and took shelter at a monastery called Dabree Libanos. He became a monk at a young age. It was there that he learned Gi’iiz and all the books of the Coptic Church. With Dabree Libanos as his base he had traveled to most Absinian monasteries famous for their teachings. By all standards he could pass for Habashaa elite.
After completing his lessons in theology he left the monastery and starting looking for a teaching job. It was then that he came to this area. Originally he was from Maaruu, not very far from Tulluu Boolloo. He had gone there but couldn’t find any one whom he could recognize. All his relatives were displaced or killed. He didn’t want to investigate more for there could be negative as well as positive flashbacks. So with grief on his heart he headed towards Ambo. On his way he was offered this teaching job.
Since then he helped his students to see thing critically. He made them know the dogma of the church. But he didn’t express that those were the only truth. He never made value judgment on traditional religion that had adherents still. But impliedly showed reverence for it. His teachings imparted to the student a sense of responsibility and self consciousness. He subtly inculcated them with a profound belief that no people is superior to the other and that all people deserve equal opportunity and independence for development. From his lessons they came out with resolve that freedom has no alternative.
The colonial office at Tulluu Boolloo had shortage of literate personnel. When they heard about the monk they sent for him and ordered him to work for them. He requested them for some time to roundup his contract with Jijoo and his wife. He was granted three months out of the six he requested. So within that time he gave Namoomsaa and Galaanee a crash program that would enable them to teach reading, writing and the conquerors language. He in confidence made them to swear that they do no harm to the natives with the knowledge they acquired.
The monk left the rest of the students in the hands of the new scholars and bade them and his employers good bye. Overall he made Galaanee responsible for running of the school. He suspected government may also send for Namoomsaa if they hear about his abilities. But Galaanee being a girl is protected by tradition not to leave home before marriage.
Therefore, he thought the school can have a longer life. He also prayed Buttaa to give a chance to the children of the area by keeping the school open. She promised to do that as long as she lived. He also told her in private that he has encouraged her daughter to teach the native language while Namoomsaa handles the alien one. Her face brightened at ones and she gave him money and some provision over and above his salary and saw him off. In later years it was heard that he was summoned to Finfinnee to work for the church. It was also told that he had even risen to the rank of Icceeggee (cardinal) before his death.
Buttaa was very happy. She felt her grandfathers were going to be avenged in different way. Thanks to you Waaq of my ancestors she said holding her hands up to the sky. I didn’t know my daughter can read and write my own language. In her heart she said thank you monk, you are the impermeable horse bean that escapes roasting in what ever heat it passes. As long as there are persons like you our nation shall survive.
One day the daughter approached her parents asked them to take Namoomsaa as her michuu. Buttaa was furious. How dare you reduce yourself to servant level? Don’t you know who you are? All people native and alien look upon us as shining stars and you want to dim it. Please, Buttaa said, don’t ever repeat this joke. Jijoo didn’t comment, but asked her to go out until she was summoned.
After his daughter left Jijoo started to laugh very laud. He remembered what she told him about her parents. He said this is what they say history repeats itself. She is becoming your replica. But she snapped at him and said, my parents knew you genealogy but this one, how do we know who he is? Then Jijoo snapped at and said, if you are looking to it that way who are we, who knows us? He then said I don’t want to contradict you but what do you want us to tell her? What if she says go to hell and continue with her plan?
Buttaa said with fury, I would not be as docile as my parents but will hogtie her and teach her a lesson. I am doing it for us not for our enemies like them. I know she is closer to you than me. But simply keep quite and I will tell her how to behave as long as I live. She will be told she may run away but cannot escape my wrath. They agreed and she was called in.
Buttaa started by saying, I have raised the matter with your dad but I told him to stay off for this is a woman matter. The reply to your request is “over my dead body”. Understood? The girl didn’t show any emotion. She was cool in her composure. She said mother, I am not talking about you it is about me. I came to you thinking that you will be happy that I even asked you.
You see around you when girls run away with colonial soldiers that can take them farther from home, from their parents’ life of pretense?
But you live in dreams where I will be stepping ladder for you to colonial echelons. Don’t you think it will be hypocritical to say you love your grand parents and your people while you are fast embracing alien values? How do you reconcile the love for your people which are majority poor and rejecting a needy but intelligent national to be your daughter’s michuu?
He is one of the unfortunate individuals that were dislocated by war of aggression just like you. Who knew who you were when you arrived here? Who knows you even now? Thanks to grandpa Fayisaa you are what you are now. Does that teach you any thing? Is it Namoomsaa’s qaroo (intellect) or his class that bothered you? Have you observed any thing immature about him? He can read and write his language and others, can you?
Dad, don’t make me despise you. Why do you say you stand for equality of genders and leave mom to mess up against her own woman right. She is refusing me to decide for my self because I am a woman. I didn’t ask much, I asked only the one proclaimed by the Gadaa fathers of the past. Should we change that for our selfish interest because there is no authority to enforce it? Didn’t you tell us to abide by the rules of safuu (ethics and law)? Why did you keep quite now?
Let me tell you frankly. I don’t need a michuu, forget it. From this time on I don’t accept your words because you both are not truthful, you are hypocrites. Thank you for allowing me to learn the secrets of foreign language. If you go to them to accuse me they understand me better and you will lose. If you want to use force against me you have to justify it to grandpa Fayisaa your patron and the alien law. So forget that too.
I am now fifteen and have reached puberty. Bless me to find my own way. The father broke down with tears; he couldn’t utter any relevant word. The mother got up and went to her bed room as if with her tail down. All the bragging was bitten. The daughter bent down and hugged her father. She told him she didn’t mean to hurt him but to defend her right. Go and console her and have a good sleep and we shall go over it in the morning, she said and went out.
She went to the Fayisaa’s with the boy and knocked at the door. The servant let them in. She asked for grandpa. Grandpa heard her and came out. What brought you at this time Kumbee (that was the way he addressed her endearingly)? Are your parents not well? She replied, I don’t know. Then she told him what they did to her and that she came for his help. Since they refused him as a michuu I have decided to take him as my husband. I have proposed this to him and he has accepted. I know that is strange but when they act strangely what can I do?
Don’t take it as disrespect for you. Where else can I go except to you at this testing time in my life? She pleaded to him. Can you send jarsaa (councilors) on his behalf the soonest possible? Otherwise I am going to run away without permission and without a husband. I will not marry without their consent as long as I live around here. Grandpa, she called him to attention and said that he was going to lose her if he doesn’t act promptly.
The grandpa was surprised at the parent’s response more than he was amazed at the girl’s daring request? What happened to them is happening to their daughter. Why did they entertain double standard in their judgment? He was puzzled by general human behavior. He asked her to give him some time to think over it and do what he deem necessary. He told her to have patience until he calls for her. That night the boy went to his parents’ and she went to her junior grandma and spent the night there. Before that she has gone in and chatted a bit with the senior grandma. She has informed both as to what was going on.
Though not biological grandparents Galaanee knows only these ones as her grand parents. Oromoo society is divided into two moieties, coora and hobo. Grand children and parents belong to the same moiety. So they are natural allies against parents. These ones were also expected to stand with Galaanee since they are the only grandparents she knew. So they encouraged and advised her to stay cool and rational in her acts. If it comes to face off they assured her their unconditional support.
Galaanee and Namoomsaa were waiting eagerly for a response from the grandfather. In the morrow she went to see her father. But he asked her for more time before he meets her. She felt alienated and was pondering for her next step. In the mean time they heard about school in Finfinnee that has started to teach Faranjii language. So they decided that Namoomsaa goes and join it if possible.
Namoomsaa left and she was now alone, waiting for a contact from him, her grandpa and parents. In the mean time school program went on as usual. After two weeks she told her grandfather to suspend her request if he was thinking about it. He asked her why she changed her mind. Akaakaa (grandpa)! She called for his attention; time is running we cannot go on as if we have all the time on earth. Governors are changed, markets change, values change, and everything changes so fast that unless we try to catch up we would be caught unprepared like your grandfathers.
It is now over fortnight since I requested you for your help. But you are not yet ready to give me an answer even if it is “No”. Since then several things happened, events had forced my boy to run away. And your service may not be required unless he changed his mind and comes back. Your saying of “let us sleep on it” doesn’t serve the modern situation. Fast decisions are required to cope with these changing times.
Didn’t you hear the empress is seriously ill? What if she died? Do you think relations would remain as they were? How would the tug of war between Xaayituu and Tafarii going to end? Qusee is said to not to be in good terms with Tafarii, can he stand his ground? You know how Tafarii involved Qusee in the false accusation of Iyyaasuu. Do you think his conscience will not be disturbed when he learned he was used? When elephants quarrel the grass is affected as the saying goes, wake up Akaakaa!
The grandfather had no much to say. The time question has bothered him too. The speed of modern society is not as uniform as it used to be. That is why new comers are advancing while we are deteriorating, he was talking to himself. Fast but accurate decisions are required for every aspect of life. To be caught between possibilities and be unable to make a choice fast could end in losing every thing.
The little girl is right said grandpa in his stomach. He apologized for the past and promised to cope up with time in the future. He was surprised about her knowledge of palace intrigue which he is keeping to himself. Finally he advised her to keep her knowledge about Shaggar to her self for even the air has ears. As for me I have lived enough but you are going to see many rainy days. So try to make them worth living.
The story teller said it took Buttaa two weeks to come to her senses. After which she expressed her regrets to her husband for putting him in such an irrational and awkward situation. With the new religion I have picked up new values which are alien to our own. At the same time I want to uphold our culture. I feel no aspect of it is inferior to any other. We were society of equals. The one I am adopting is that of tiers. I declared in front of my child that our family is superior to that of Namoomsaa. I am caught between fear and pride; fear of retributions by the conquerors and pride for belonging to an old rich tradition of the Gadaa.
The new system has no remorse for putting a group of people over the other. As long as you satisfy your individual desires you don’t bother about others. There is no forum which equalizes everyone. I have started to enjoy this and I didn’t want to be interrupted. I was also not sure to sustain such a privilege if I don’t accept the supremacy of the new ruler’s values. I am suspecting my own ability. But safuu is still lingering in my blood. Publicly that is what I would like to assert when within my Oromo peers. But when it comes to practice I am torn between the two values. I don’t worth what others think of me, after that she started sobbing putting her head between her knees.
We are neck deep into the sin, started the husband. Let Waaqaa forgive us. We have, if not significantly, helped in the mowing down of our own people since we joined the horde. Thanks to that old warrior we are lead away from that torrent of destruction. Since we came we have lived under the umbrella of a quisling and consciously enjoyed it. But we had also lived pretending that we enjoyed the memory of our grandfathers that had fallen resisting the enemy. We found ourselves in a situation which didn’t give us time to pause and think.
Let us not be afraid to tell the truth to our child and bless her to find her own way. We have become what we are and our physical contribution henceforth would be minimal. But we can tell our children what we have witnessed first hand on matters concerning the enslavement of our people. They must be told about the resistance and the ultimate sacrifice the heroes paid to defend their independence. They can add their own experience to ours and pass it down to generations. The coming generation must know that it had a culture and history to be proud of. So my dear said Jijoo, stop cursing yourself and do what is in your reach.
I know said Buttaa; we are fresh out of the trauma of war though all of us were not equally affected. Even we who had a light part of it still see nightmares. This is going to affect many generations down the stream. The struggle between nationalists and collaborators, the struggle with the colonizer, the struggle within the nationalist camp and the struggle to survive are interwoven.
To sift the chaff from the grain needs wisdom and sober mind. Only liberated mind could differentiate the important from the trifle. It needs a great revolution to reach that stage. Otherwise we cannot help transmitting our personality shaped by fear, terror and subservience to our descendants.
Did you observe Jijoo, asked Buttaa, when I boil baaqilaa (horse bean) a few come out of the boiling water unscathed. The rest will become as soft as butter. Those few are similar to nationalists who come out liberated from the trauma. The rest are the masses which are highly affected and so their transformation requires tact and wisdom.
Buttaa continued there may be some among the few horse beans that are half boiled and may require returning to the water. Those are the ones with ambivalent quality. Even among nationalists such may create obstacles because of their nostalgia for the traumatic life. They will be partially liberated and in balance their inclination will be opportunistic.
I appreciate the depth of your understanding, stated Jijoo. Let us call Galaanee and tell her our experience and our view of the world. Let us also listen and learn from her. We have to admit that she has matured to a level where we have no capacity to criticize. Then her brother was sent to tell her to come home after school.
After school she appeared before them. She was not sulky. As usual she hugged and kissed them in turns and took a chair in front of them as if nothing passed between them. I am sorry said the father opening the discussion, last time I couldn’t say any thing. I was in conflict with my self. What I used to believe is right and what I have now taken as wrong was troubling me. We both were ashamed of how we handled the situation. It was a spontaneous reaction not well thought as should be expected from us.
The mother then continued to narrate their history. She started by saying we are the third generation of colonized people. We were at our early teen when it all happened. We lost so many of those we loved including our beloved grandfathers. That sent thrill into the psyche of all survivors.
My parents soon forgot their parents and started to collaborate with their killers. Jijoo’s father had lost his parents and wife. Bringing up children was hard on him. He was not the type to live as a running dog. But for his children he could have left the area soon. He didn’t change his religion. Those who changed and the alien called him Gaallaa. It was referring to him as cruel and beastly heathen. That was what my parents shunned to be called. I despised them for giving up on the Ayyaanaa of our ancestors so easily and worship alien deity. History is very harsh it doesn’t investigate cause and effect to excuse the action of traitors.
We run away from home and we reached where we are now. The agony of this area started long after Galaan and Eekkaa, the clans we came from, were defeated. Now we are Ammayyaa, what does it matter as long as we are Oromo? Because of me his family was disturbed. To save them he chose to run away. My parents as I told you long ago rejected my relation with him. I loved him so I run away with him. We gave each other unconditional love and hope. The rest you already know.
Our patron, your grandfather is a very kind person. He is related to a native favored by the colonialist. He might give information about the surrounding but we never saw him harming our people. We don’t know what he does behind doors. He loved us like his own children. We were never unfairly treated. We were also not curious to ask him about matters of government and his relations. It was because of him that we started to live in peace when majority of our people are subjected to live in hail. That is where our arrogance came from, my child.
Forgive us for our mistakes. We cannot openly go back to our old system giving up our newly acquired privileges. We have to go to church every week to prove our loyalty to the system. We have to perform all the rituals it requires. But away from the eyes of our “nissabbat” (confession father) we worship Waaq, the only God. As a wife of an elder son I carry the callee (beads) of Jifaaroo, his mothers Ateetee. He has brought it with him while fleeing home. So I celebrate Ateetee in May when they worship Lidataa. Lidataa is the day of St. Marry blended with Ateetee practice.
As far as possible we shall perform certain rituals under cover of the new religion. It has also so many elements of Waaqeffannaa, the traditional religion. We shall keep the spirit alive in our own ways. We hope you will also find your own ways to keep it alive and pass it to the coming generation.
The only advice we give you is don’t be like the tall sorghum. It cannot escape the snatching of a bird or the attack of the catapult that is shot to keep away the bird from it. You have to move with the mass so that you will not be targeted early. If it be your will I request you to keep your grandmothers callee until Badhaadhaa is married and his wife takes it over.
We are also sorry for not taking you to Roggee so far. I myself am planning to go soon if you would like we intend to take you all before our death. I have never gone since I left. Your father went there only once when he brought his sisters. His father refused to come with him. He preferred to be miserable and remain nearer to his ancestral dhibaayyuu and the graves of his parents and the spot where his umbilical cord is buried. The sister are married since and with children as you know. He heard about his father’s death from travelers not long after that.
They said he was given a heroes funeral by Galaan and Eekkaa. Jijoo feels that he betrayed his father twice; once when left him alone and runaway and another when he failed to give him hope by moving to Roggee to assure him the continuity of the sanctity of ancestral grounds. His father is a survivor of the war of aggression and died without bootlicking the enemy for favors. My parents died early disgraced by the colonizers as happened to all collaborators. It is a long story for you to investigate in the future.
Galaanee thanked them from the bottom of her stomach. She embraced both kissed them and sobbed like her age. She then turned to talk like an adult. She started by saying, to protect you I don’t tell you how I am going to handle the situation. But I would like to assure you that I have understood what you just said. You have told me about my great grandfathers and how proud you are about them. How we plan to live up to our ancestors may differ but we all, I believe, are proud of them. Some of us may pretend to be ashamed of them in public, while others may avoid arenas where such challenges arise.
Sometimes we cannot help showing our furry. It could sometimes be educative. One day my friend and I were at the shrine of Abbaa Oofaa. We were taking a solemn oath not to betray the Ayyaanaa of our ancestors. Then we heard some sort of commotion outside the shrine and went out to check. It was a man with long unkempt plaits of hair wearing dry sheep hide. Some call the likes of him hermit. He had a metal cross raised above his head and cursing the believers. You, he said worshipers of idols and alien gods shall perish in hail.
One believer challenged him, saying show me the idol you talk about, show me the alien goods you mention. We are worshiping only one Waaqaa, under the shade he gave us. There are no idols in our practice. Rather we see you carry likes of men and something rapped in cloth on your heads, something that looks like curved plank, how do you account for that? Waaqaa is ours, never alien to us. Abbaa Oofaa is our Qaalluu or qees (priest). You better revise your dogmas hermit, he concluded in the language the hermit speaks. He then told the worshipers what the hermit was talking about in their own language.
It was then that all believers rose against him. That commotion ended with hermit fleeing. I caught the sight the person who challenged him but he avoided my eyes and slipped away. He was well camouflaged. But for sure he seemed a person I know to me. He looked like the monk that was my teacher. His voice and his reasoning were of a learned man. If we occasionally get such people who can blend into the people and tell them that there is nothing to be ashamed of our tradition it is a blessing. The people will get the courage to standup for their rights. To choose what we worship is our own individual right. No body should prescribe religion for us, said Galaanee.
A good number of our nationals had voluntarily taken Islam as their religion. They did it not to confess the same faith with their conquerors. Many others also took a different denomination of Christianity for the same purpose. Those like you who took the colonizers religion are considered as collaborators by many. Organized religions had some methods of keeping you apart from people of different faiths however the blood relation maybe. In your case, the enemy also wants you to appear as its buddy or brethren. But when it comes to your basic rights it treats you no different. That is why wise people say religion should not divide the oppressed. It should be taken as a line of communication with ones God.
All the new organized religions come from the Middle East. Even there they are full of controversies. We should not import those controversies into our life. We have to differentiate religion from cultural history that shaped the Middle East. As a people we have to find those things that will unite us. That could be found in our past history. That part of religion that tie us with super natural power should be separated from our worldly common aspirations.
Our laws, our culture and our tradition are good sources of things common to us all. Above all we have one language and one country. Had we had organized religion before our conquest things might have been different. But it seems we had recognized ahead of all that religion was a private matter that should not be organized against any one. We had come down for centuries as secularist state.
We have to guard ourselves from divisive elements. They want to keep us apart at all levels. Deprived of our political and social culture we had become vulnerable to infiltration of foreign elements. They will device a means to set us one against the others based on belief, family, clan, tribe, region and wealth so that we remain under them. They will destroy every thing that we identify with. They don’t want us to sustain common identity. That is what we should understand and vigilantly guard off.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pour out my feelings to you. That is what I expected from parents and that was what you gave me now. Namoomsaa and I have independent thinking. We may go a distance together or we may go our own ways. Don’t worry about us. We know what we are doing. If we agree to form a family it will not be emotionally driven. Nothing will also be done without your consent.
What I beg from you is to keep your school alive. I will be around until I prepare replacements. After that I may go in search of knowledge. Until then I will be in my own corner in this house if you permit me; of course going to my grandmothers’ occasionally. Even if I go away I will keep in touch by all means.
Namoomsaa was enrolled in the new school easily. The school taught language and arithmetic. Outstanding student were selected for scholarship abroad. Galaanee told her grandpa that she wanted to go to Finfinnee. So he took her with him during one of his visits. He kept her with his relatives and told them to give her the freedom she wants as long as she wanted to stay. So she was able to find her way to Namoomsaa’s boarding school which was a stones throw from the Palace.
Namoomsaa had permission to stay out on Saturday and Sundays. So they were able to spending the days together roaming the town and visiting unusual places. It was during one of her visits to Finfinnee that Namoomsaa passed for a scholarship program. But he was denied because of his name. They told advised him to change his name for a Christian or a civilized one if he wanted to win the scholarship. But he chose not to. He rather preferred to leave the school and go back to his village. Galaanee also consented and they both returned home.
After years Namoomsaa and Galaanee were married with the blessing of their parents. They both returned to their school and added English and Gi’iiz to their curriculum. Both husband and wife believed that knowledge is power. Gi’iiz they say will make children understand their colonizers properly while English will introduce them to a larger imperialist world. Namoomsaa taught Galaanee what he had learned in the modern school.
After some years elapsed the empress was dead. The patron of their village, Qusee was getting old and was on the verge of being discarded. Galaanee and Namoomsaa understood this from following current affairs closely. They got their information from travelers and an only news paper run by the government that they sometime bring.
As feared Qusee was put aside by the crown prince and mysteriously died short after that. The new overlord gave the area to his loyal. The new arrival erased every thing related to previous ruler. In the process the land holding of Qusee’s relatives was reduced. People around him were scrutinized. The school was closed accused of trying to open the eyes of Gaallaa. It was a below for Galaanee and Namoomsaa’s ambitions. They were even thinking of developing into a rival school to that of Finfinnee.
They left for Finfinnee to start a new life leaving behind their ageing parents. They were present for the funeral of the grandfather who died from shock after he heard the humiliation of his patron. He was fortunate enough not to live beyond Qusee’s death. The empire came under harsher regime that employed more helping hand from imperialists. A young man became an emperor and ruled they say with iron hand for fifty years.
He was once exiled when his empire fell to Fascist Italy’s force. It was then that Oromo tried to be liberated. But they couldn’t keep him out for he was supported by a big power. He thus survived exile, the world war and many other attempts to dethrone him and reigned for another period. But his end was no better than those he eliminated. They said he was killed by his own servants and his body hidden in the latrine of their chief. For over fifteen years it was told, they defecated on him until he was discovered by another regime and his skeleton given a resting place.
It was told that Namoomsaa and Galaanee visit Roggee every year to give sacrifice to their ancestral Ayyaanaa. They were more connected to Eekkaa and Galaan in every day life. But they claimed Ammayyaa when ever roots were inquired. Ammayyaa was not as it used to be. Relatives of Fayisaa were dislocated and their land given to colonial agents. Except visiting the graves of their parents and grandparents as passersby they couldn’t dare to make formal sacrifices to their Ayyaana.
Namoomsaa and Galaanee might have lived to see that disastrous end of the cruel sovereign, said the story teller. The drums and trumpets that were sounded and the tanks that rolled to signify his demise might have filled them with hope of the nearing of liberation. They have heard from their parents about the first colonizer and his other two successors. This was the third one and a more modern and better prepared to exploit colonial resources, human and material.
For that they knew he used torture, imprisonment, killings and banishment more than his predecessors. Both, husband and wife probably lived in Finfinnee blended with the people under a condition where nobody bothers as to who was who. They might have even been propped by their children to go out and see the street jubilation. It is easy to imagine their old eyes field with tears clinging to each other and saying “we did it” when they saw the march and heard the slogans condemning the emperor.
The grand father they knew, Fayisaa, was of Maccaa descent. Macca extends from Hawaas River to the Sudan border in the west. They also claim Maccaa rather than the Tuulamaa stock of their great grandparents. It was with that claim, it was told, that their children later enrolled in Macca and Tuulamaa Association, a body that gave the empire a great shock. It never survived from that shock for a long time to come it was told.
Jijoo wanted to live away from farming for the rest of his life and started trade. He bought and sold farm products at Ambo market. He was afraid to go to Tulluu Boolloo. The rulers there hunted for Qusee’s fans. He had bought a descent house in Ambo and the family was to move there when all of a sudden he was killed by highway robbers. His children were present for funerals. Buttaa was devastated. She lived only for a year and died at the age of sixty five from depression. All the children were by the side of her deathbed as she passed away.
Buttaa and Jijoo had once visited Roggee. They were happy for renewing their childhood memory. They had performed dhibaayyuu, traditional libation ritual, on their parents and grandparents graves. With that sweet memory they passed away probably clearing their conscience from the guilt for not visiting them so far. They had also taken their children and showed them all important spots. Buttaa might have a trace of guilt for denying her daughter to have a michuu of her choice though she had repented and got forgiveness from the daughter long ago.
This was the story of one girl and her lover, dislocated from her place of birth by the tragic effect of war. The end was not so bad for her. Thousands left their homes to unknown destination. Thousands were abused or devoured by wild animals while running away from tyranny. And thousands were sold to slavery in side the empire and across the Red Sea.
Buttaa could have told much about her peers who went out and never came back and about those she saw whose bodies were scatter all over the fields from Finfinnee to Bacho. Within two decade a nation lost its freedom, identity and peace. Buttaa died with a broken heart for surviving all she loved.
One of her children learned sculpture. He had already curved her statue to replace that of the horse man in the heartland of Oromiyaa. The epitaph he prepared read:
“Here stands a little known girl as a witness to the carnage of colonial War from Roggee to Tulluu Boolloo. Let the Ayyaana of those perished bring araaraa and nagaa on the living”.
Let us repeat this epitaph before we part, concluded the story teller.