Under this title some aspects of Oromo struggle which are purposely distorted by political actors will be presented periodically in the simplest possible way and be clarified. Here issues alone will be discussed not personalities or groups. We hope Oromo of different outlooks hammer out their difference through dialogues in order to pave the way for a civilized debate between the peoples of the Horn. That is the only way out of dependency.
The Oromo were the most productive people before they were reduce to serfdom and their labor freely exploited to a never heard of magnitude. That happened over a century ago when they came under alien rule, which threw them into a long slumber. One tribe did not know how the others lived because the country was partitioned into several tiny segments. Awakened from this long slumber of over a century Oromiyaa found herself disease ridden, famished, impoverished, illiterate and enslaved. The challenge now was how to put oneself in order and start to tackle the problems in unison. A kaayyoo (guiding national principle) was set and for the first time a united Oromiyaa put a freedom march in motion under its vanguard organization the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Its awakening and the demand to be free has ignited the fury of its enemies that unleashed a hidden genocide throughout the land. The OLF, which was mainly instrumental to this awakening was enough to be an excuse for the reprisal, but did not raise itself to the level of militancy required to counter such genocide. It suffers from lack of a solid organization and firm and unified leadership at the present time and that requires an urgent attention. The Oromo believe their redemption lies in their unity while leadership could appear when the time comes. They have no prejudice for other people but love for their freedom. Oromo is a major entity in the region. Therefore Oromo freedom is a harbinger of freedom and unity for all nations and nationalities in the region.
The role of Kaayyoo:
OLF was the first Oromo political organization that brought Oromo of all regions under one banner and a consolidated front to struggle for their freedom. The OLF is adored more for the principle it advocated for, than its achievements in the battle fields. Many fail to understand it in that way. There is more depth and breadth to it than the structured organization and its political program. Those who found it are no more relevant for OLF’s continued existence. It has become treasure of the nation by its own merit. Because of the kaayyoo it upheld and life of peace, tranquility and liberty it promised, it has already won hearts and minds of the people before the promised destination is approached.
With the sacrifices its heroes and heroines paid it has gone beyond the consideration of being a mere political organization. It has turned to be the Ayyaanaa (spirit) of the people dead and living. It will only be ignorance or arrogance for one group or organization to claim a monopoly over achievements attached to its name. It is the nation that blade for it. There is no Oromo home or organization that was not affected by the struggle waged by or against the OLF. Therefore what ever dealings made in that name, with external parties, affecting national interest, have to have the understanding and endorsement by the majority Oromo. Otherwise it will be counter productive in matters of national unity.
For the liberation of Oromiyaa Oromo unity has a priority over all other considerations. All activities of a nationalist or a national organization is weighed against the benefit it accrues towards national unity. There is nothing more than a firm national unity that could guarantee Oromo freedom and independence. Therefore, today as in the past, there will be swarms of opposing forces to hinder its being forged. Those will try to set one group of Oromo against the other to deny them internal cohesion. They will be successful in that venture only if there is weakness in internal arrangements. No internally solidified and harmonious organization had ever been broken in from the outside by its enemy. External force requires an inlet to dismantle it. Therefore the demise of an organization comes when there are cracks made from the inside. A political organization’s negligence in that aspect could overflow to threaten national unity.
Oromiya is a country with definite territory. Majority of its inhabitants led agrarian life. The Oromo has one language, one root to claim and extended relation with most surrounding indigenous African peoples. From among Cushitic ancestry its stem and root is traced to a person that gave it its name Oromo. There are several branches that sprouted from it. These branch out into Booran and Barintuma that in turn further branch out into Sabbo and Goona, Sikko and Mando, Ituu and Humbanna, Maccaa and Tuulamaa etc. those again descend into tribe, sub tribe, clan family, sub-family etc. The lower cannot identify itself as a nation without mentioning the upper tier. The upper one cannot be wholesome without the lower one. That was how Oromo created unity out of diversity. Their unity is not something that is forced upon them but internally galvanized. As a result all have common psychological make up as a mark of nationhood.
As a people the Oromo are striving hard to strengthen their unity and make it meaningful. When the Darg was brought down in 1991/92 and a transitional government was formed, some Oromo organization partook in the formation. At the same time hearing the coming back of kaawoo (victory) several people from all corners of Oromiyaa converged on Finfinnee. When they met they were never strangers to each other. Greetings and inquiries about each other started immediately. It seemed as if they were separated just yesterday not in the 16th century. By their struggle the barrier was broken. They are now one people under one kaayyoo claiming back their country, Oromiyaa, standing together in the heart land of Odaa Nabee.
They were not without worries after hearing that Oromo were represented by five organizations in the transitional arrangement. They knew also that was not the same as the five Baallii (Gadaa Parties) .The phenomena they felt could dash their hope of freedom that has started to rekindle in their hearts and derail their march ahead. So seniors were selected to contact the five organizations and discuss with them about their concern and try to forge agreement between them so that they together move under one kaayyoo. But their plea fell on deaf ears. For one of the five that was impossible for it was not of Oromo make. The rest had background history that needed some time to revise. All were yet shrouded in their little hives and could not see the world that was bursting around them.
The enthusiastic approach of the seniors did not help much. Seniors were from various backgrounds; their unity of purpose was solid and so also was of those masses behind them. The problem is with political organizations. Four of them seemed to believe in the independence of Oromiyaa but had mistrust for each other. A stride towards trust making started long after that when a step was taken to found United Liberation Forces of Oromiyaa (ULFO). That was the first step in the right direction. But still much more remains to be constructed. ULFO was mostly formed from groups split from OLF at different times. Whatever degree of dissention their splitting was not without causes. How much of obstacle those causes might be in the reconstruction is yet to be seen. But one thing is certain; they all are for the kaayyoo, the guiding principle of freedom and independence.
A strong and united Oromo is essential not only for the fulfillment of first phase of the kaayyoo but also to release the suppressed human energy for high productivity. Given the incentive of liberty Oromiyaa can produce in abundance and relieve the world from some of its burdens of feeding the region. Free Oromiyaa has more chance of creating work for skilled and non skilled labor of the region. A united and free Oromiyaa will place almost half the population of the region under stable and peaceful democracy. A democracy can help to stabilize the region through persuasion rather than the accustomed violent methods of autocracy. A dispersed and continuously humiliated population of this size if subjected to further identity crisis can be a great destabilizing factor in the region. Therefore if the Oromo question is not resolved in time it does not need a prophet as to what the result would be. The great kaayyoo by which the nation is led transcends region and religion to unite Oromiyaa. Divided Oromiyaa has the potential for pockets of regionalist and religious fanatics cropping up that will have no moral obligation to any higher body except their own entity. Therefore timely understanding of the situation that has high possibility to come will save the continent and the world from another embarrassment.
Oromiyaa is one of the cradles of democracy. Its citizens cannot be any other thing than democratic when together. This has been observed in every day life. Those Oromo who are super obedient when under alien slave drivers will risk any thing and refuse dictation when in their own community. They demand the practice of ilaa fi ilaamee (expressing opinion in turns). A democratic Oromiyaa has more chance to influence democratization of the region than distance democracies. If Oromiyaa is free and democratic there will be no hired galtuu to disturb peace of the region and Oromiyaa. Oromiyaa has tremendous potential in natural resource and manpower that could be freed only if the country is free. So Oromiyaa can be free if united and united Oromiyaa is a guarantee for abundance, self reliance, peace and stability. Guided by the kaayyoo there is no reason why Oromiyaa cannot attain that.
Starting from Ashangee in the North to Mooyyaale in the south; Jaarsoo in the east to Begii in the west Oromoo are a nation that are proud of their Oromoness. Though they had been subjected to tyrannical rule for over a century and forced to call themselves by tribal, regional and /or by religious names and officially referred to by a general name Gaallaa, they have never forgotten that their root is Oromo. Now, with struggle, they have forged their unity in kaayyoo and the rest will not be far off. Few tribes had forgotten speaking their language but the majority still speaks a common language they all call Afaan Oromo. All of them remember Oromo history of the Abbaa Gadaa era with pride. Though they are not now practicing the historic equality and liberty all are waiting with hope and craving the era of freedom and the return of its lost eminence.
The colors of Gadaa fathers, white, red and black were symbols of their history, valor and hope. They are now adopted by many Oromo groups in what ever form of layout, to serve the same purpose. The Oromo fathers carried out so many activities concerning individual and society under the shade of a tree. They had declared wars and made peace under them. Trees used for these purposes are all called by their generic name Odaa even if they were not Odaa proper. It was revered as a symbol of peace, unity, freedom, democracy and equality. Different levels of deliberations were carried out under the shade of Odaa. People rested under it when traveling or when tired. Meetings for conflict resolutions took place there. Oromo loves and reveres natural environment. Odaa represents also that Oromo love and reverence for nature.
Odaa also served as a tree for libation of Irreecha. Irreecha is a holyday where they thank Waaq for carrying them through the rainy season to the bright birraa season. Birraa is a season in which the rain is phasing out, springs starts to trickle every where, the land is covered with flowers of Hadaa and the likes and fresh produce is ready to be enjoyed. It is for all that they thank Waaq at Irreecha Holliday by laying green grass and twigs under the tree and on a water body. It is that process that is actually called Irreessa (from verb irreeffachu). It was a merry making day. The Oromo remember Waaq when they cross Malkaa (river gorges) and pass by the Odaa tree. And so may throw green grass to them as Irreecha.
Odaa also serves as a place of worship for all people. Great feasts of Gadaa took place there. Odaa was a multipurpose assembly hall of the time. The Oromo nation of the present has adopted Odaa as its national logo. The OLF has a banner with Odaa at the center as emblem for Oromo struggle; flying it, so many great sacrifices were made. It unifies the dead and the living in struggle. The Oromo has now integrated its past and it’s present. They have understood their potential and what they can achieve. Then who could claim unity more than a people that has one country, one language, one root, a long history that comes down from time immemorial, one kaayyoo, common colonial economic life, similar symbols of liberty and unity, common source of domination and similar love for freedom and a common cultural, common psychological make up.
These days much is talked about lack of unity among the Oromo. As we indicated above Oromo unity is essential if Oromiyaa has to be free. So far it has sacrificed immensely in the struggle for freedom and independence. In this struggle as in the past, there are Oromo nationals that collaborate with the enemy. Degree of collaboration may vary but all are united in purpose. From historical records and daily practices the Habashaa is not yet open to share spoils with others. But since the collaborators are opportunists question of principle doesn’t affect them. As for their nations struggle for freedom their position cannot be different from the colonizer with whom they are in cahoots. Therefore they cannot be partners in the struggle for freedom and independence unless they openly absolve themselves.
The type of unity required is among those nationals who believe in the kaayyoo of the nation that can be achieved only through freedom and independence. This could be possible only between disciplined revolutionaries with democratic vision. Those who have deserted such a camp and run to live under a dictatorial system had already chosen autocracy over democracy. The Oromo is proud of its Gadaa African democratic tradition. The rulers of Ethiopia had never practiced democracy from the dawn of time. Pretension of expecting them to change overnight by some Oromo nationals is only an intention to cover up ones opportunistic stance. The Oromo had learned a lesson from history that democracy cannot flow down from a colonizer. Therefore unity will be forged with those who are faithful to the kaayyoo and who are committed to democracy, freedom and independence.
When the struggle for liberation commenced all youth were not on one side. They were divided into those who say our country must be out of alien hands and those who want to appease the empire state and live in harmony with the oppressor tolerating the pains it could possibly cause them. That had divided Oromo line of thought into two. Those who wanted to snatch out their country from the hands of the aliens persisted and stayed the course thanks to the thousands that gave their lives for freedom of the fatherland. Unfortunately as we have indicated above, there are some among comrades of the fallen that had had broken the oath they made to them and slipped out towards enemy camp.
Such galtuu (fifth columnists) are repeating themselves over and over again in Oromo society for reasons not yet established. Why does a person prefer dependence on alien force in a land where every thing is in abundance and the reverse was possible? By all standards it will be honorable to stand with ones compatriots and defend these resources against others at all cost. But the galtuu rather prefers to enroll with the aliens and help capturing it. Whether he defends it on their behalf or for himself, the risk factor in defending it would be the same. History of previous deserters was evident. They all were used, munched and spat by the alien. It is mind boggling why some refuse to learn from past lessons and alienate themselves from their own base. Why is dependent syndrome repeating itself from generation to generation? Such actions had affected national struggle throughout history. The enemy had been successful to divide nationalists and get its way to victory easily during the feudal age.
Now it is a period of information technology. Victory doesn’t depend on greatness of an army or the war machine with which it is armed. What matters is the information and commitment to use it. Thousands of deserters cannot be a guarantee to impose ones will on a nation any more. The source of information is wide open for any one interested. This the deserters know. They know that the enemy is a giant with Achilles heels. But yet they are hypnotized by it and knowingly march towards their death under a command that sends them to their doom. The clash now is between human brain and man made gadgets. Men are kept under subjugation with fear of those gadgets and the unknown, death. But now human being with determination is showing commitment of the highest degree. Once the fear of death is surmounted no gadget could keep down any one is a modern experience. Thus technology had opened so many holes in iron curtains of colonizers so that all can see and learn from others. That is how colonialism and empire state are going to be irrelevant to the age of information revolution.
When we talk of enemy of the Oromo we are not limiting ourselves to the external only. Historically it is the internal enemy which has proved to be more deadly than the declared alien ones. Oromo resistance was broken by the traitors that led enemy battalions against their own nation and those snitches that supplied internal information. At a time when the nation needed them they preferred to stand on the side of the enemy for left over or from personal grievance. By that they may get leftovers after the alien invader got the lions share. To this day goobanaas have no self-confidence to stand by themselves. But they can remove a mountain under alien command. It was almost their sole sacrifice that broke and is still breaking the back of national resistance to facilitate for the enemy easy access to national wealth.
Those collaborators have served not only in breaking the Oromo but also other nationalities and nations in the region. They are the spearheads of forces of reaction and aggression. Had it not been for them the southern nationalities would not have lost their freedom. They have tarnished the good name of the Oromo among their neighbors that some neighbors even used to look upon the idea of its liberation as their doom. Hence unless Oromoo are able to put their house in order and deny the occupation army its source of collaborationists, not only the freedom of Oromiyaa but that of the whole region could be a lost dream. In the war of colonization Goobana Daccee stands out as the greatest warrior that betrayed his people and passed them over to aliens with shackles. That is why all Oromo that collaborate with the enemy since then are referred to as goobanaa or goobanee if female. Goobanuu has now added to its original meaning, which is “became full moon” another one to mean “quisling” (that word was also driven from a Norwegian traitor Vidkun Quisling). The greatest enemy therefore is not the alien colonizer but Oromo collaborationists that facilitate its success in subjugating Oromiyaa and others.
In hindsight statements by diplomatic personalities and behavior of some members of the OLF before the crisis and a little after that had messages whose meaning are getting more vivid since then. OLF was said to have two wings. That may remind many of us of the alleged two wings (left and right) of organizations during the Darg period. Before the OLF knew, it was told that OLF had a wing that believes in violence and another that believes in peaceful resolution of conflicts. It is getting clearer now why and who are branded into such wings. But no honorable leader of OLF will take an oath saying “truth, nothing but the truth” and tell the existence of such groups without perjury. Yes, there are now those who refuse to flinch on the original program as amended in 1998. The Oromo is a peace loving people. Because it wants independence it should not have been branded as violent. Rather any one who followed alien enticement and manipulated organizational rules and regulation and marginalized fellow Oromo is unOromo and not reliable for any rapprochement. Even if the allegations were true it was not the concern of parties external to OLF. The action only divided the OLF and no benefit commensurate with that action was achieved by any group since. Wise men will admit to that and repent for their misgivings.
OLF is the senior and the biggest Oromo organization. Harm that possibly comes because of its split could affect the whole liberation movement. For this reason self correction by it can have great benefit for the nation. Time and resource wasted in skirmish against each other could have taken the movement one step forward. Wounded feelings caused by such misunderstandings will be incalculable. The solution requires staying higher than ones ego and fear of vengeful public opinion and go for salvaging what ever remains. You can strengthen your movement and get respect and credibility from other parties only if you are firm in your conviction about your policy on Oromiyaa. Those who are ideologically bent to join the enemy have already chosen their way. Probably there are in that camp those who are unintentionally there but accidentally found themselves in a nest of domestic and international conspirators. They are those who if they disentangle themselves from that nest could enrich the liberation camp. As the Oromo saying goes “Eat with aliens but turn to relatives to swallow” Therefore to turn back the face that has been turned away will be a plus for Oromo struggle.
OLF was an organization founded on democratic principles. Its members were not paid ones, but volunteers. All who came determined to sacrifice themselves for freedom must participate in decision making in accordance with the rules and the law they agreed to, before joining. Decisions are made by majority vote. An assembly that takes major decisions is expected to be transparent. It has to be constituted in accordance with democratic traditions and practices and the law governing convening of such an assembly. Such an assembly can change or amend the laws and the constitution. This is the way of OLF, the secular nationalist organization. Its internal and external enemies hate both component parts of the organization, democracy and secularism. For the declared enemy both the objective for which it stands and the name should be razed if Oromo has to remain subservient as before. Some Oromo individuals and groups think erasing the name OLF will give them free pass to the hearts and minds of the people. But all attempts will be futile for the OLF has become part and parcel of Oromo psyche. Its foundation was built with concrete mixed in the spirit and blood of those giant freedom fighters whose names are mostly unknown. The Oromo never give up on the spirit of their dead; they will fly the banner they died carrying, deep down in their hearts if they cannot do it high up in the sky.
Interventions from unlikely player:
The OLF and all with similar stand believe that their struggle forced the Wayyaanee to include the right of nations to national self determination into its constitution. The Eritrean leader and the Amaara allege that Wayyaanee included that article to divide and destroy Ethiopia. They take article 39 of Wayyaanee Constitution as a divide and rule device at the expense of Ethiopian unity not as a solution for long standing issue (see Isayyas Afawarqi’s, interview of June 10/ 07). The undated publication reflects elements of the interview on its cover saying, “It is our persistent stance to strive for a united Ethiopia” in Amharic, Tigrinya and English in green yellow and red Ethiopian colors respectively. The same colors they used to disrespectfully wrap salt and flour with only yesterday. Since when did Eritrea start to promote Ethiopian symbols? Maps on both front and back, out and inside of the covers, speak more than what they were intended for. The 1991 conspiracy to sabotage Oromo revolution and Amaara revival was obvious. What brought the partial change of heart now?
The President grumbled, “What makes it more astonishing is that there was no such division according to ethnicity and promotion of sub-national sentiments in Ethiopia before”. This statement shows that President Isaayyaas has longing for pre-Wayyaanee Ethiopia of “One Ethiopia or Death”. Wouldn’t that be too imperial for “a new bred of African democrat”? Was his direct involvement in encamping and annihilating Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in 1992 in alliance with TPLF militia part of this deep sited commitment to keep Oromiyaa under the empire state? What did his buddies in the OLF tell him about Oromo liberation? Wayyaanee, around the same time of this interview, said that it will stand by Eritrea if it was attacked by any force. Was it a considered position or shear propaganda as the Eritrean leader wanted to whisk it away?
As it stands both want to say, “Harreen waldhiitt malee ilkaan walirraa hin fixxu” (donkeys kick but don’t break each others teeth). Be it as it may, Shaabiyaa is for the continuation of the Habashaa empire state as opposed to OLF’s objective for dismantling it. It is also opposed to Wayyaanee’s recognition of Oromiyaa as an entity. Even if it is only on paper, in principle, which one is better, the one that recognized your right or who denies it? That Wayyaanee is disastrous is well known. Now Shaabiyaa came out more catastrophic. All are doing what they did, not on concern for the Oromo but for their own national interest. Could the intention of Isaayyaas be to induce those of us, who love our rights to ally with the one who claims to recognize them? He has already an open ended OLF segment which he can unleash for and against Habashaa. Does he intend to make us fight form opposite ends as OLA and Ethiopian Patriotic Front? It is an amazing development with significant implication for the region.
When analyzing the situation of the people of Tigraay vis-à-vis the others, the Presidents laments the TPF had “harmed the people of Tigraay more than others”. No where does he mention the harsh situation in Oromiyaa. Witch hunt to the level of genocide is daily conducted. The population is being displaced and the whole Oromo society destabilized under the pretext of investment. The Oromo of Gullallee, Sululta, Meettaa, Eekka etc. are being driven out from the vicinity of Finfinnee to make it free for the invaders. The investors hire not the displaced of that area but those from other states. Natural forests that have started to be destroyed when TPLF and EPLF were in cahoots are still going on. Mr. President is aware of it but said nothing about them. Is it because he believes that, that was what a colony deserves? So that is good he is taking us for what we are as sympathizer of the colonialists. Does he pity the Tigraawway because they speak the same language with him and prophesy the same faith or is that because they are merely his neighbors and kin? Infrastructures for Tigraay are being developed at the expense of Oromiyaa; didn’t the President see the national and international statistical reports? Are not those structure meant to transcend the rule of TPLF and serve the people of Tigray for posterity?
Isaayyaas knows well that the Oromoo paid immense sacrifice for the recognition of its right to national self determination including independence. The Oromo also had given unconditional support for the liberation of Eritrea. In the said interview he should be thanked for acknowledging the support he got from Oromo during that struggle. The Oromo in good faith expected a similar unconditional support in return. From the interview it seems the President has started to have hindsight with some regrets. What ever might have expired we do not forget that Highland Eritreans had paid a lot in the conquest of the south and so shared benefits. Therefore it is logical to defend his heritage whether rightly or wrongly acquired. But we innocently thought that he has forgotten the long buried umbilical cord.
Like the Oromo dog said, “beekaa huubaa waliin nyaannaa” (knowingly we eat with litter). Mr. President, let us not rub salt on an old wound. The Oromo is softhearted not naive. Even their under ages know situations by inference. The Habashaa and their likes oppose the unity and liberation of Oromiyaa for various reasons. Because of its size, if left to itself it will unreservedly consume its resources and there would be no leftover for them. Therefore they want to make sure its people get no more than necessary to stay alive and release the rest for their insatiable appetite and capital accumulation. A united people of Oromo size they fear, would be indomitable and so can impose its will on others. They know Oromo are peace loving and can be a stabilizing factor in the region; they shun that because so far they benefited from regional turmoil and had no experience with stability in which their supremacy is not assured. They fear the consequences of being denied free access to Oromoo resources. For more than a century Oromiyaa has served them as free source of raw material, free and cheap labor, big market for their products, an opportunity to get employment in Oromiyaa for their down trodden. Above all it has been serving them as a source of galtuu for their ruthless occupation army that has existed to this day causing devastation from Qarooraa to the Indian Ocean.
Now the president is indicating that Oromiyaa should not go away from Habashaa hand. This cannot be out of ignorance about the status of Oromiyaa with in the empire; for no body doubts of the President’s being a well versed African politician. We, peoples imprisoned under the Ethiopian empire shall have no shoulders to carry dictators, alien or domestic, for any more time. It must be known that Oromo tolerance to live as subservient to any alien autocratic rule is exhausted. Mr. President has to understand that Oromiyaa is for Oromiyaans. “It is one country under Waaq indivisible”. Mr. President has to be thanked for reminding the Oromo to go back and check their records. This needed to be raised now, because an issue defying the basic principles of Oromo struggle has publicly cropped up from unexpected corner.
The Gadaa model:
The Gadaa system had different compartments for its political, economic social and religious affairs. Religion was guided by the high priest called Qaalluu. Abbaa Muudaa was the paramount Qaalluu to whose shrine every Oromo from all over the land used to go on pilgrimage occasionally. Despite that he had no significant role in political administration. There were situations where the qaalluu institution had helped as electors probably equivalent to functions of modern election boards and no more than that. After colonization the institution withstood the systematic negative propaganda against it and the infiltration by Habashaa sorcerers and preserved certain relics of the past for our present understanding. Qaallicha (the Qaalluu) was distorted to an extent that it became synonymous with magician or conjurer, a role the Qaalluu never played under the Gadaa.
In the Gadaa system there were five Baalliis (parties). All the five were duty bound to protect the Gadaa constitution. Pluralism was practiced under Gadaa state. For this reason there was no group whose voice was not heard. The five Baallii articulate and present the voice of majority and minority of their generations. Uniformity of outlook was also not expected. During the rule of each of them difference in result was expected. It is common to hear the period of so and so will be famine, rainy, war, peace, abundance etc. In addition to the different basic platforms each traditionally had, there was an expected phenomenon attached to each Baallii.
The Legislative Body of the nation was known as Gumii or Caffee. The sitting of deliberative assembly convened at Gumii periodically is called Kora. Those who sit Kora were not only those elected but any citizen that was present can participate in deliberations. This seems a mixture of direct democracy and modern representative assembly. Kora is held at legally and traditionally sanctioned Odaa shade. Decisions in most case are taken by consensus. How ever long it takes, differences will be hammered out before a decision was reached. The structure of Oromo society is like human cell. The cells have individually all they needed but for more viability together they form tissues. Tissues together form organ. Organ together forms organism. All depend on each other; they are one and different. To be separate does not weaken unity; but add to the strength of the upper echelon. If one becomes defective all become defective. The Oromo condition is like that.
We have indicated that Oromo society believed in pluralism. Starting from family, clan, tribe and their interconnecting moieties the Oromo society grows into state and becomes Oromo. All Oromo were guided by law and aadaa common to all, which were parts of the wisdom of the Gadaa system. Differences of opinion were not only tolerated but also encouraged. For these reason divisions into smaller branches were seen as strength of the state never as its weakness. For the family to be strong the clan must be strong; for the clan to be strong the tribe must be strong; for the tribe to be strong the moiety must be strong; for the moiety to be strong it has to be wielded into the nation. In that way they go up to the level of state. A strong state had more advantage to put up strong common defense against any danger than all subdivisions under it. Upper and lower tiers have line not to be crossed (safuu) between them. The upper tier is senior for the lower. The hierarchy of authority also follows the same trend. All tiers under the state were internally organized in such a way that they can face life alone without waiting for other tiers. The other tiers are essential for quality and growth of each tier. Relation of higher body with lower ones were democratic and are governed by law legislated in open deliberation. Nobody was above the law.
Structure of society is subject to change with time. The way it is built and the relation between the different bodies reflects the mode of production. The structure needed for nomadic life, as cattle herders and that which was forced by sedentary life were different. The norms of human relations that members are expected to follow are not the same. It is possible that when some have strong tribal relations, others had shaded that totally and left only to interfamily relations. Technological development comes with so many paraphernalia. The whole society does not start to use technology with the same pace. The level of change could be uneven. For that reason every conscious Oromo has to take that difference into consideration in understanding the nature of struggle Oromo is waging. Failing to understand it may bring under question not only the unity but even its nationhood. One who loses its nationhood becomes dependent, loses its identity and lives a life of paranoia always scared. Though urban dwellers are insignificant in number yet they also had to be reckoned with. They live a life style different from farmers, nomads and semi nomadic population.
Under the Gadaa it was impossible for an individual or a group to come to power without the will of the people. That gene still exists in the blood of present day Oromo. For that reason alien methods of running liberation organization had not succeeded. The Oromo sees the concentration of power in the hands of one person as the overtaking of a kraal by a leading bull. That is the way of domestic animals not that of human society. The human way according to Gadaa system depended on law and aadaa. The Oromo had to match its practices with Gadaa principle. That is where one finds liberty and equality for all human beings. Imitating alien selfish and arrogant style would be regressing to animal way and so jeopardizing unity of nationalists.
Religion in Oromo society
From history and oral tradition we learn that the Oromo had been a secular society that had treated its spiritual and temporal life separately. That be as it may, then there was only one traditional religion which its followers call “Waaqeffannaa”. Oromoo has now added two major faiths Islam and Christianity among others to the traditional. Though the three have different spectacles for it, they say God is one. The name of the God worshiped by Oromo is “Waaq”. When speaking in Afaan Oromoo both use the same name for their God. For this reason there seems no conflict in that aspect.
Movements based on faith and region in Oromoo struggle didn’t succeed so far. Nationalists were able to handle religion in place of religion, politics in place of politics like their forefathers. That is not what they have to learn from aliens but what they got by heritage. Much has been tried to split the Oromo on religious lines but failed. The Oromo from experience has learned that it could reach no where divided. But it does not mean that self-serving ambitious groups will not gang up to use that card to disrupt Oromo unity. Such groups dream of how they could mobilize people of their faith to get political advantage over other members of the society. Except for Waaqeffannaa other faiths are all over the world. No one of them can out wit the other when push comes to shove. The wise will not try such an exercise that is predetermined for failure. The united kaayyoo way is the only true path to national victory.
That was the way of Maccaa and Tulama fathers as declared by the charismatic General, Taaddasaa Birruu at Arsii Dheeraa in 1966. As has become traditional, food was prepared separately for Moslems and Christians but Taaddasaa himself a practicing Coptic Christian beseeched all to eat together. He said the animals slaughtered are our own and they died to save us and no reason for “laguu” (abstinence). They were all Oromo and he sees no reason for separate table. His suggestion was accepted with acclamation and all Moslems and Christians that came for the gathering ate together. It is only logical that present Oromo consolidate this heritage and strive for higher achievement. To go back on what our elders have transcended is retrogression. As Oromo valor song goes “Kan abbaa caale jannaa; kan abbaa hankaake farraa” (He who excels his father is valiant and he who falls short is a freak). Colonial administration has devised a means of keeping persons of different faith apart so that they do not socialize. That orientation must be washed out from the minds of free Oromo. It should not be reason for not intermingling and having fun with each other. That burden lies with Oromo religious establishments.
Those self-serving individuals could spread lies and give false hopes and tempt the naïve. For this reason Oromo nationalist have to be vigilant and guard the integrity of the nation against those who try dividing it on religious basis, taking advantage of present political heat. It is imperative that free Oromiyaa protect the freedom of worship for all. Nationalists should oppose religious domination with no less zeal than those with the intention to dominate others of different faith. The Oromo nation is the sum total of all its practices. By nature and tradition Oromo had never been extremists to which ever walk of life they may belong. The enemy may provoke to bring that factor into Oromo life, but it will fail. Yet there is no guarantee than to remain on guard. No religious society accepted secularism willingly. But they accepted it when they were left with no alternative if political and social peace has to be maintained. Oromiyaa, a land of believers of different faiths has also no choice than being secular for the same reason as well as the dictates of Gadaa tradition.
The concept of Oromummaa:
The other that needs consideration is what is called hamlet favor and regionalism. Hamlets and regions are the birth places of all nationals. They have a place in the hearts of individuals born and brought up in them. When one mentions about love of a country it starts with love of those places. It is the love of some things one sees and hears and brings to memory when one is away from them. The love for ones nation starts from the family. Love for ones country is the memory one has for the surrounding one was born in, its grass, herbs, trees, rivers and springs, animals, rain, air, wind, markets, the holidays etc. The place where one is born brought up is ingredient part of ones personality. It is there that one experienced the harsh colonial life. It is also where one first encountered sadness and happiness. For this reason the name of a village or region should not be raised negatively. It doesn’t mean that one who is out for the struggle of national liberation has no place of birth or childhood.
But one has vowed not to make discriminations based on hamlets or regions. To assure that there are constitutions and laws that one has voluntarily taken oath to obey. Any one who creates hullabaloo about somebody being a regionalist should not be passed in silence but must be forced to prove it. The masses must be protected from false allegations by hired cacophonous individuals. Revolutionaries by commitment are against any form of discrimination whether on the basis of region, religion, sex, color, race, tribe or family etc. Any problem coming that way can be solved by accepting the supremacy of the law. Any one, who creates any sort of dissension between comrades in that way, let alone to lead the Oromo struggle, should not even be trusted to the administration of a home. Oromummaa is far higher than stunted and underdeveloped petty minds could understand. In Oromummaa there are aspects which could be explicable only by raagaa, persons with wisdom from long experience, investigation and natural gift.
The obvious we can innumerate as follows. One of the most important elements of Oromummaa is the rule of law. Laws were made by representatives of the people and their implementation supervised by the Luba under Abbaa Gadaa. Those officers of high standing were subject to public scrutiny periodically. Laws can be changed or amended according to laid out procedure. The other element is respect for collective aadaa Oromo. Aadaa is the way of life emanating from social practices of society. Different tribes, regions and religion might have variations but there are common practices that are of collective heritage. Another element is filling offices with elected officers. Officers can be held accountable by their constituency. That means there is a mechanism of control against possible abuses. Another element of Oromummaa is decision by consensus. Issues used to be discussed at length until consensus was reached. This minimized dissention and created unity of purpose. Another element was strict discipline in observing the rule of law. From a common herder to Abbaa Gadaa all have to observe the letters of the law strictly. No one can escape the wrath of law if broken.
Another element of Oromummaa was self sufficiency and self-reliance. Every one is expected to live independently of the other in basic needs. All segments of the state must be able to tackle problems by themselves before calling others for help. The Oromo believes in pluralism of ideas and structures. That was the purpose of having five parties that govern the country in turns. The internal arrangements of check and balances by the incoming and out going groups are another aspect of pluralism. Another very important element of Oromummaa is respect for human rights and nature. Government is limited to governing and doesn’t cross a line to interfere in civil liberties. All human being have the right to be heard before they were judged. Even strangers have the right to be protected until their statuses were verified. Every animal from crawling bug to the elephant, plants, from grass to the giant trees have rules protecting them.
Finally for all these to be meaningful they must be expressed with nagaa and araaraa. Nagaa is the absence of pain, confusion, disorder and disharmony. Araaraa is nagaa manifested in reconciliation and forgiveness. Nagaa and araaraa are required for unity between members of society, society and nature and society and Waaq. Then national unity is achieved. All have to work for nagaa and araaraa to achieve national unity which is the prerequisite for freedom and independence of the nation.
It is told in many history books that Oromo means Ilmoo Ormaa or the child of People. Under the Gadaa system all children of peoples are free and equal. There were even laws that rule the way a captive can get its freedom and become Luba if he wills. Oromo individuals were also free to take any child from any race or creed into guddifachaa (adoption). An adopted child had the right of a natural born of the level of seniority it was adopted to. In addition the Oromo under Gadaa system was known to take into its ranks not only individuals but also a whole tribe or nationality. Through its inbuilt devices they were naturalized. That is why it is said Oromummaa is not a matter of DNA but acceptance of rule of law, national values and ethos. And that is what makes it a nation. Supremacy of the law was accepted by all. The Luba supervises implementation of the law but itself was not above the law. Since laws were made by representative of the people it means they are the will of the whole nation. No segment of the people can be above its will. To break the law means to challenge the will of the nation. For that reason such acts cannot escape from people applying the full force of the law. That is a tradition worth emulating by modern Oromo society. Law and order as promulgated by organizations must be upheld by members. The failure to do that had already its casualty in the camp of Oromo freedom fighters.
We have seen the poison sprayed into different Oromo associations like those of community, religious, professional etc in the Diaspora. With it associations had split. Others are seen paralyzed and unable to move. All were meant to disable the Oromoo from moving in unison towards realizing its kaayyoo. Now that Oromo nationalists are presumably united, problems created because of them or by them will also come to an end. In cases where problems were external to Oromo society it will be a good opportunity to challenge them together. But how can they cross the dividing line that had kept them apart so far and come together? There is no harm to expect magnanimity from one corner that would arrange for a rendezvous!
At the end of July 2007 individuals that claim to represent Shane Gumii, a function of OLF based in Asmara, had dragged Oromo nationals who oppose them to a foreign court. But the case closed without much ado. The Ayyaanaa of the fallen martyrs did not will its continuation. Here we present the issue not to give room for rumors that are directed against Oromo unity. This could be the beginning; much more could come as the struggle becomes more acute. On the file presented, the plaintiff asserted that individual defendants –“passed themselves off as OLF for the purpose of purloining OLF’s members and donor base”. It also alleges action of the Defendants “—interferes with plaintiff’s prospective economic advantage” Like wise it states that since 1974, “OLF has expended substantial resources developing its goodwill, reputation and donor base” with respect to its efforts to liberate Oromo.
OLF as a liberation organization won the hearts and minds of the people by the sacrifices its members and supporters and the Oromo people paid, not by its resource manipulation. The way the statement was made makes political struggle irrelevant for OLF and the sacrifices of martyrs purposeless. Did not the Oromo individuals that were dragged to court contribute to the creation of the said goodwill? What are the measurements of contributions? At least one of them is a person that no one in the OLF can claim membership seniority over him. The Oromo nationals that were taken to court had no other mission other than addressing what they feel about present Oromo struggle. It was an opportunity for Oromo people to learn the much talked differences between Oromo nationalists. Therefore there could have been no harm to the interest of the nation. But the after mass comment of a novice has crossed the line of seniority showing how low we have descended. Like all other things this case was not well handled. Its benefit and lose for the nation was not well assessed. On both sides thousands of Oromo money was wasted on legal expenses extending the “donor base” contribution to aliens.
What ever a liberation movement does should be evaluated against what it could contribute to national interest. Individual and group interest should not be given priority over that of the nation. The propaganda that will be triggered by this case is going to destroy the moral and ethical values Oromo holds dear. The person who ordered for that arraignment has to be accountable not only for whatever positive effects it might have brought to the group but also for the negative affect it has on unity of nationalists and the good name of the nation. To consider a political rally of nationals as a donor base and as if the goodwill developed by the blood and sweat of all Oromo nationals were achieved through expending is nothing but shameful and reactionary.
We hope this was an isolated case for which there are individuals accountable for what happened. At this critical time of Oromo history there is only one choice for freedom lovers, to stand together and face the historic enemy. On the surface the court case seems a simple matter. But the principle it challenged has a far reaching consequence. It takes all Gadaa values to the ditches. For now it has ended and has saved the nation from further being a laughing stock. That be as it may it is certain that there is no power that can erase the desire for freedom and unity from Oromo mind. It is an insult for an alien to interfere in internal affairs and try to suggest how Oromo should relate to each other. He who tolerates insult is only one who does not have own conscience.
For lack of unity and lack of competence of those who were supposed to defend the rights of their people many achievements of past struggle are being reversed. People are being evicted from their land at will without due compensation. They are suffering from man made and natural calamities than they had ever experienced in the past. In the name of investment land and natural environment is being misused. Famine, ignorance, deceases and poverty are being trade marks of the nation. Enemy machination is dividing Oromoo encouraging one to lease land the other is evicted from. Those who are evicted join the ranks of the unemployed while those who replaced them become myrmidons of OPDO, a conglomeration of goobanaas for subduing Oromiyaa. The unemployed had become source of cheap labor for alien wealth accumulation and constant supply of manpower for military establishments. Most of all a witch hunt is unleashed for followers of OLF. OLF is not yet capable of thwarting it. Therefore genocide is taking place hidden from the eyes of the world and it requires a rethinking by Oromo freedom fighters on how they should handle the whole national affair.
This suggests that there is a national crisis more than ever. Families are being displaced in the name of new settlers and investments. The OLF’s name as indicated is serving for alleging any independent minded Oromo as a terrorist and drugging them to death or torture and prison. If this cannot weigh on the conscious of Oromo liberation movements leaders and make them put their grand differences behind in order to find a way and rescue the nation in crisis, what would? The occupier they vowed to rout out of their land has dug in its heels more than ever and is destroying all the means the nation was clinging on for survival. On the other hand some Oromo leaders are busy tearing down Oromo institutions and values as if the enemy has asked for their help. They have all lost their directions such that the whole trend of the struggle needs reassessment and rehabilitation.
To solve the problem created in Oromo struggle all groups must prove their independence from alien influence. It is doubtful if an organization that is dependent on a body that has conflict of interest with the Oromo can have the right to self determination for itself, let alone for the nation. Likewise leisure time is essential to give thought to what one does. A mind that is always occupied in rat race would be panicky and cannot focus on matters of importance. Be it to strengthen ones organization or refresh ones idea require to give one self repose. Had there been a strong organization such matters could have automatically been handled. When self reliance and giving thought to what is to be done starts it will be easier to solve Oromo internal conflict. It needs only good faith and the will to do it. Assuming that there is good faith and the will, groups in conflict must sit down together and solve their problems. Then get rid of the technical obstacles that created dissentions in the past. Democratically constitute Kora Sabaa (National Assembly). It would be unnecessary to ask each other to change ones position. A conflict in outlook shall be decided by Kora Sabaa so convened. Whatever the Kora decide will be implemented, Waaqaa forbid, even if it is surrendering.
Then an assembly of araaraa for reconciliation and forgiveness shall be called to effect nagaa. Nagaa and araaraa are two important elements of Oromummaa. Then in front of assembled public every one will take oath and start working accordingly. Such simplistic suggestion is not out of naiveté. All have seen what they can honorably do and what they cannot do concerning the struggle. If that is not enough for them to provoke rethinking it means the problem for the break up was not as told. Therefore those that stick to the original kaayyoo shall carry on in that name from then on. But it is always better if the Oromo can move together to break enemy camp. Let no one project own individual fear, fantasy or despair on the rest of his compatriot. There is always an incoming Gadaa that has a fresh and ground breaking tactics to wipe out the enemy. At least let all hope that way, not to lose hope from current episode.
After bringing to rest what ever has internally divided it, the OLF should make an extensive deliberation with other Oromo organizations. That would be on how the goals of ULFO can be accomplished. Again the Oromo cause should not be seen narrowly but with wider vision. There is no reason why that could not be. Each Oromo organization might have a hidden agenda. But our role here is discussing not what is hidden but what is in the open. According to that all of them understand that their end goal at this stage is the liberation of their country, which is not in their possession now. But some want to behave as if they are political parties competing for a political power. They yet fail to envisage the long walk ahead of them. So far none of them showed different objective than forwarded by the OLF. Even the organization that had religious adjective to its name has now taken a secular name. So, all seem a replica of OLF, except for the difference in their zeal at presenting the question. That is an asset to build on.
Since all have, assumingly, the same objective there will be problem not in the revealed outlook but in the ego of personalities that lead these organizations. Therefore the solution must be directed on how to overcome individual idiosyncrasies. Self realization is the first step to the solution. That solved the hidden agenda is a mater to come out in the process. Care has to be taken so that, what belongs to free Oromiyaa may not be brought foreword untimely to become obstacle for the liberation struggle. Kaayyoo bilisummaa should be the only outlook to be entertained. We live in a shrinking world. Our competitors are on our threshold. To get ready for the combat we have to lift ourselves to their level or higher, in all possible aspects. Constant self appraisal at all stages is imperative. Finally if Oromo nationalists are presumably united, problems created because of them or by them will be solved and the society will hopefully get the chance to hope again for life full of peace and harmony. In cases where problems were external to Oromo society it will be a good opportunity to challenge them together.
Before coming to conclusion let us try to pinpoint as to who are against Oromo unity and liberation. First and foremost are the occupation force and the misguided elite of the colonizing nation that still believe Oromiyaa was destined to be their fief. With them are Oromo who are benefiting from the system through dishonorable means and the turncoats that snitch on their own people. Big powers can be mentioned as partners to the colonizer from the very beginning. Many of them see advantage in autocratic despots that depend on them to stay in power. Democratic governments that are responsible to their own people, they believe, cannot be twisted at will for they play by the terms of the rule of law. The Oromo is looking forward to form an independent democratic Oromiyaa based on Gadaa principles. So they are not sure if it can be a good partner in the globalize economy and politics as well as in the ‘culture clash’. Others are Oromo who have innocent blood on their hands and are exposed to blackmails of the rulers. With these are the cowards who see no alterative to stooping. The naïve that are easily swayed by manipulators for lack of firmness in their commitment also contribute to thwarting Oromo unity and struggle for independence. The tactics such draw only supplement the adversary’s strategy and jeopardize national unity.
Others are those who are in self denial of not being Oromo in their hearts. Among these are those whose minds are not yet liberated from their belief of being inferior to the colonizer. They still live with slave mentality. Some of these cite legends of coming from somewhere else in time immemorial. Minorities that had collaborated in humiliating the Oromo as a subhuman cannot see living with independent Oromiyaa, however tolerant and democratic she might be. They feel more comfortable with oppressive minority. Finally to shorten this list we can add Oromo revolutionaries that are tired of the struggle and have joined hands with saboteurs of Oromo revolution and short circuit its flow. Our hope is the famous maxim, “there is no permanent friend but permanent interest”. Those who have truth and justice on their side need wisdom, commitment, determination loyalty to Oromummaa and persistence, to be understood and come out with victory. It is then that nagaa and araaraa shall reign.
Finally like we mentioned above Oromo is a nation with one country, one language, one kaayyoo, one root, one history, similar life outlook, common source of subjugation, similar love for freedom and one cultural gene to claim. All were robbed off their land and themselves also turned into property of the invader. They were looked down upon and humiliated by forces from the same source and their cohorts. To be respected it is imperative to be independent. To rely on aliens with conflicting interest with the Oromo and to be dependent will be to elongate the life of humiliation. Oromo struggle is not expected only to stand against oppressive colonial rule but also find solution for the rampant disease, famine, poverty, illiteracy and slavery. Its vanguard organization the OLF is not yet up to expectations. But nobody can deny that it has paid great sacrifice and contributed to the development of Oromo national consciousness and has the potential of transforming itself to a strong force that can achieve the goal it is created for.
Pluralism was one of the elements of Gadaa democracy. Oromo believes in plurality in every aspect of its life. The subdivisions of Oromo society, region and religion are strong virtues of Oromummaa which aliens try to hammer as its weak links. It is only the galtuu with alien mentality and the enemy behind them that would try to divide the Oromo and set groups and individual against each other according to those divisions. So far it was tried but utterly failed. There were no people like the people of Kuusaa in the region that were democratic and had maintained freedom and equality for their members. Even in recent history there was no one like the Oromo state that had democratic culture, tradition and political administration in the region. For this reason it has nothing to learn from megalomaniac leaders of a historically oppressive system.
Despite the ups and downs in the struggle the unity of Oromiyaa is still strong. Odaa Nabee is remembered for strong united Oromiyaa. That unity was achieved by adhering to Oromummaa whose ingredients were, the rule of law, respect for collective aadaa, government by representation, decision by consensus, strict discipline in implement the law and observing national ethos, upholding self reliance from individual to state, respect for human rights and natural environs and upholding nagaa and araaraa to give meaning to what are enumerated. Even after Odaa Nabee those who followed the principle of Oromummaa were strong enough to stand against the enemy during the colonial war maintaining internal order and harmony. But the weakness of the nation worked against them.
Nagaa is the absence of pain, confusion, disorder and disharmony. Araaraa is nagaa manifested in reconciliation and forgiveness. Nagaa and araaraa are required for unity between members of society, society and nature and society and Waaq. Then national unity is achieved. All have to work for nagaa and araaraa to achieve national unity which is the prerequisite for freedom and independence of the nation. Oromiya is rich in natural resources and its people are the most productive in the region. Aliens are competing to own the resources and Oromo all together. The Habashaa saying “ka mony dajjii mofar yiqqorraxal” (from a tree in the threshold of the fool others obtain yoke) is a maxim that all Oromo must remember. There are many groups that are against Oromoo unity and libration. It is only unity that could keep the culprit away from ones threshold. The people are united but the disunity of those that lead it is slowing Oromo stride towards freedom. The Oromo has no prejudice against any other people but love for its freedom. Oromo freedom means freedom and unity for all nations and nationalities in the region.
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our forefathers!
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.