Oromummaa and Oromo struggle for identity and Freedom

The enemy is trying to erase Oromo identity as independent people to deny their claim over Oromiyaa.  But gallant Oromo that have thirst for freedom are shaking the earth from mountains and valleys of their country.  The enemy is a wobbling tooth that has no remedy except pulling it out.  But who will do that fast? Most national political organizations that claim Oromo names are avoiding concentrating on what they were supposed to do. Instead of daring to implement what they have been declaring, call for unity and merger and alliance seems to become their raison d’être. The objectives declared on their political programs are only for public relation purposes. That is why there is incongruity between their words and deeds. That is why the teetering Wayyaanee is causing undue damage when it could have been seen off long ago. We should not get bored to remind each other as to who we are, from where did we start and where did we reach and where we are bound to head? Oromo is one of the branches of Kuusaa or Kush. Kush, if not the oldest is at least one of the oldest cradles of human civilization. Without any doubt Oromo civilization branches out from this civilization. When one talks of being Oromo it will not be complete without mentioning this connection with the ancient civilization the traits of which it still manifests. The symbols, which surviving Gadaa Fathers use and their rituals are remnants of that civilization’s practices which in many places are now extinct.  For the Oromo that is a reminder of the long way they travelled in history, the denials, treachery and hostility they encountered. It is such rich history that fuels Oromummaa in the search for lost land, identity, independence and freedom.

After the downfall of the Kushitic Empire centered in Barabra (Nubia) it seems communication was lost among the different branches. The Oromo probably started a separate development after that and Gadaa system also started to take shape and replace the Candace system of governance. Oromo movements to the south have left footprints throughout the eastern half of Africa from north to south. Ancient Oromo (Oromdur) left behind from southward migration of part of the population were subdued and taken over by Habashaa and Adel forces until well-organized Oromo army returned and rescued them in the 16th century.  That was the time when Oromummaa reached the highest level and shook the enemy. But later with internal and external pressures authority of Gadaa system started to wane. Finally for Gadaa in particular as a political system the death knell was sounded by the occupier at the end of the 19th century.  Oromummaa also came under attack from which it was unable to recuperate until the 1960s.

Oromiyaa lost its land and independence to the colonizer. Without land the claim to be human remains hollow.  The colonizer divided Oromiyaa into compartments called “Awuraajjaa” and distributed the land to its nationals and Oromo collaborators. It also dismantled the political, social and economic fabrics of Oromo society.  National identity of any sort that could bind the nation was buried. It was a painful experience that was going to stay for more than a century.  Under that situation it became easy for them to destroy Oromo culture, tradition and political organization.  The types of abuse in all the Awuraajjaa were directed from the same headquarter subjecting them to similar agony that prepared them for common challenges. As mucha as they enjoyed all the good together they also tasted the most bitter together.  Though much damage was done by the occupation it was not able to make them forget pain of subjugation and erase memory of their glorious Gadaa past from memory.  Oromummaa transcended all obstacles to bind the nation once again.

That was how Maccaa and Tuulama Association were able to bring together Oromo people to discuss about wellbeing of their nation. Then the OLF came with a political program for the first time in Oromo colonial history. It had members, cadres, leadership and followers. Cadres had taught the essence of Oromummaa as related to liberation of Oromiyaa and its relation to the world. Thousands of adherents were produced and thousands were sacrificed in the process.  With banishment of 1992 only few members of the leadership and leading cadres were exiled. Most members, cadres and population that were agitated remained in the country and continue the struggle. Thus the Kaayyoo is still surviving with a great latent force lying low but bursting at times. 

It would be disservice to Oromo revolution not to recognize that force and reach out to them. Sometimes our personal frustrations and poor judgment may drive us into utopia without realizing it. Oromo struggle is not about activists involved in it at certain time. No one denies those activists matter but one has to try to see the bigger picture and all that it took to grow and what it requires to flourish. It took the activists we know to reach where we are. There is no guarantee that what was problem for them will not be problem for future ones as well.  Be it imagined or real weakness related to actors should not distract the struggle from its set goal. There is no word “impossible” in the dictionary of revolutionaries. Therefore there should be no reason for them to run away from internal problems and come out with untested ideas to solve human relations problems. They should have rather tried to wage internal struggle to revive national tradition of “Ilaa fi Ilaamee” (dialogue or discourse) while moving on.

One is not required to start from the scratch when there is already in place political structure that has won good will and an infrastructure built with blood and bones of martyrs. If we have new ideas and technics, let us enrich and fill the gap created by human frailty and material shortcomings. Let no one assume as if there is total vacuum in the field of Oromo struggle. The enemy had never thought it that way. It is out to destroy the vanguard of Oromo liberation movement that still advocates for independence of Oromiyaa, the OLF and all symbol of Oromo liberation.  For TPLF nothing that reminds the Oromo people days of their past independent existence should be left hanging around.  It would be unwise for Oromo activists to misconceive such enemy machination and unintentionally become instrumental to its success.

Oromummaa is rising as Oromo world outlook for liberation advocating for free and independent democratic Oromiyaa. True to Gadaa tradition Oromummaa prophesies, equality for all human beings, peace and calmness to the world and a situation in which there is no group that claims superiority over any other because of race, creed, gender or any other differences. Now, conscious of their national identity after years of slumber, many are rising to join those activists that are already in the jungles of Oromiyaa. Oromummaa is ideology of liberation not a racist ideology; the Oromo does not believe in purity of race for comradery but in the willingness to defend the democratic principles of Gadaa, sovereignty of Oromiyaa and believe in equality, justice and freedom. 

Oromo highly appreciate courage, wisdom, justice, peace, freedom, tolerance and patriotism and are proud of their glorious common history, culture, tradition, myth, language and common Gadaa heritage. These they back with appropriate organization to implement and safe guard them as well.  Oromo have laws for all living things not only for human beings. Oromo had no cruel and inhuman practices except probably those learned from the enemy and perfected.  Even that was not ruled by Gadaa Assembly.  All human beings are considered as equals. No one because of wealth, caste or because one is captive shall be treated outside authority of the law. That is considered Safuu. Oromummaa is the culmination of these elements of character and the rule of law.

Oromo had a political system in which assembly of the people or their representatives is supreme. All offices are filled with elected officials for term of eight years. Each generation has a role to play in affairs of the nation. Governance is done in turns the younger replacing the older every eight years. Thus every Oromo national has the opportunity to participate at every level of political and social echelon. The people had the power of pulling back or impeaching a representative at any time during his term of office. Office holders are respected because of their office. But nobody worships them. Oromoo respect one who is truthful and trustworthy, one that does not build and demolish ever y other day, who does not keep on bouncing from here to there like flea sniffing opportunity.

Oromo means people; their system is open for all peace loving humans. The Gadaa has systems of giving other peoples or individuals temporary asylum and permanent naturalization. Those were known by terms like “Luka Kennaa, Moggaasa, Guddifacha and Luba Baasaa”.   Once you are accepted into the system you pledge loyalty to constitution of Gadaa and to no one else. Ones accepted a person becomes a member of a tribe and through it that of the nation. It is safuu for him and for anyone else to mention background history of the naturalized to avoid discrimination and regrets. Naturalization is a voluntary assimilation never a forced one. Even captives are given the choice of going back to their people or apply for citizenship after completing their terms. Those that are naturalized into the different states of the world in modern times should understand how Gadaa system was advanced on this issue.  

Thus the Gadaa outlook has genetic traces from ancient Kushitic civilization and self-developed values for courage, wisdom, justice, peace, freedom and patriotism. That is the fountain head of Oromummaa the unifying ideology of the Oromo nation. Oromummaa was defined by the same writer in Gubirmans Publishing website as “∙∙∙ a passionate manifestation of patriotism for liberation, peace, equality and independence of Oromiyaa.”  It is rooted in love of humanity, country, people’s glorious common history, valor, culture, tradition, myth and common language. It is the way Oromo see themselves in relation to human community in general. Oromummaa is anti-dehumanization, anti-domination and anti-injustice.  Above all it is anticolonial.

When one thinks of one’s country the first thing that one recollects is the field in which he or she grew up frolicking with peers. It is from there that the whole picture of the country starts to build up. Without that field you have no memory or personality to remember about. It is that field that the colonizer wants to deny you and with it the memory of belonging to somewhere, a country or a village. Even the dead if they can afford they will be inserted temporarily into rented locker like structure “FUKAA”, the days of burial grounds are gone under Wayyaanee. Those alive are thrown into the streets from their ancestral holdings. Customarily there is no more harm than to be denied land to burry umbilical cord and to get permanent burial place after death. Unless one has control over one’s country’s land it would be difficult to talk about Oromummaa and Oromiyaa. It is from there that Oromummaa has to radiate out and cover the world.

Many Oromo political organizations, are like “Aayyer Baayyer  Marchants ” (non-producing, non tax paying individuals) because they do not have connection with the producer or distributers on land.  They are seen making frequent air to air calls for alliance, which is of no use even if they succeed to be heard. It will be that of quantity not quality. The same people that previously said they were unable to move together are now calling each other for another round of entanglement. Except the outburst of Oromo masses nothing ever changed in the group since they parted. Any one who wants to make a sincere call, before anything else has to show action on the ground in Oromiyaa. Otherwise it will not be different from “carpetbagger” practice in US history.  Why did they breakup if they cannot go it alone to start what they vowed to set in motion?  They rejected the initial kaayyoo (objective) and said they have different approach for the Oromo, now are they going back to the original or how are they going to reconcile the different positions?  Calling OLF and those believe in kaayyoo or for OLF to answer such a call, tantamounts to mocking on independence of Oromiyaa.

To be worthy of the name all Oromo political organization must function from Oromiyaa. Example usually given for nation to exist without a country was the Jewish nation. Almost the whole population was evicted from their country and lived scattered all over the world. The strong common bond they had was their ancient faith based on Scriptures, the discrimination they faced as the Diaspora, their limited options, business and education that kept the spirit of nationhood in absence of territory. Even those, after so many testing times to their existence as a people were forced to look for place they call their own. Throughout their period in exile they have never lost hope in promises of their faith.

The Oromo are being displaced in their own country; those that were pushed out for political reasons were insignificant in numbers when compared to those left behind. Any struggle to reclaim their country has to be lead and executed there itself.  The Jewish model is beyond imagination for Oromo “Diaspora” for it has no historical or factual similarity. The Hayila Sillasee’s model expects foreign interference and guidance.  That becomes superimposing of a group that had been away from its people and country for long. There can be no difference between such group and a colonizer. From Hayila Sillasee’s return to Ethiopia helped by British forces, one can learn how victories of home fronts could be hijacked. They were the patriots that liberated Ethiopian empire but later they were the exilees and the Bandaa (traitors) that benefited from it. No one in the right mind could condone the hanging of the great patriot Balaayi Zallaqaa by the runaway returnees for expressing his mind.

Oromo everywhere need strong organization social or political. In particular it will be advantageous for those living in foreign land (The Badii) to build strong community organization to maintain cohesion among members of the group and also protect their descendants from future identity crises. With strong community it will be easier to lobby for their ethnic interest. It also helps design relevant common program to teach children their history and language.  For many children it may be difficult to adjust to third world life after experiencing the comfort of the first world.

For this reason if there are those who cannot go to see or work in their country at least something has to be formulated so that the memory of their ancestor’s land is kept in their memory. They can build strong federation of worldwide Oromo Badii community to coordinate and exploit their human and material resources for the common good. A strong community formation based on Oromummaa can prop up national struggle back home. It is advisable to note that to love one’s country is not manifested only by participating in politics. It is good to play the role that one can perform best and encourage others to do the same. Something good could come out from combined talents to solve chronic problem of their country. Most of the time what comes to mind is the deeds of organizations like Madda Walaabuu Media Foundation, OMN and Afaan. They are engaged in what they can contribute without controversy. They have become voice and object of pride for Oromo people. Other than that it is good to be able to say to each other “Go and collect grave stone for you are not fit for lamenting”.

At this juncture of the nation’s history most functions of a political organization can operate only underground. What is legal abroad is criminal at home. What we plan under freedom of western democracy is sure to harm someone in a target country. This is not with political party in mind but a liberation movement that is engaged in fighting the national enemy. At home even to be Oromo and have independent thought is crime. It is those at home that can understand where it hurts. To share their pain leaders and knowledgeable must be available nearby at all times. Compatriots abroad have a lot to contribute to raise the domestic capability.

Historical development had brought Oromiyaa to the stage where she finds herself now. Oromummaa was the driving force throughout the long journey. Learned activists could take the role of giving it philosophical basis and shape. The occupier had done all it could to destroy Oromo national identity. Political and social structures were destroyed and only the language barely survived to rejoin the nation again. It is now almost half a century since self-awareness developed fueled by Oromummaa that set on anti-colonial resistance movement breaking Awuraajjaa boundaries.   Oromummaa is thus anticolonial liberation world outlook not a racist ideology like ultranationalists of many countries. It is based on Gadaa philosophy of freedom, human dignity, supremacy of law and equality. The Oromo love peace and freedom. Their elected offices, limitation of group power to eight years, People’s Assembly being the supreme authority, check and balance of generations are all meant to protect those aspirations of the people. Oromo struggle should not be viewed as Badii based risk free adventure. It has to be lead from where the problem is by courageous patriotic nationals. The swarming of political activists and discourse they make in foreign land cannot be of use unless totally transformed. As it is they are similar to the flea that said, “Cup me on the hip let them say she said that and died” Land is declared to belong to colonial government. Oromo is put out of balance by land grab and abuse of human rights. The enemy is on the heels of nationalists and destroying symbols of national identity and the liberation movement. That is the problem at hand that is driving Oromo people into fury and the colonizer to genocide. Indepenent minded Oromo are being harassed because OLF was declared as terrorist. The remedy is unequivocal commitment and relentless struggle with determination and iron discipline.  

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 fore parents!

Ibsaa Guutama
June 2014

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