By Ibsaa Guutama* | September 2012
Though not a fundamental one, a symbolic change is taking place in the Ethiopian Empire. A famous kingdom of Wala’ita was destroyed; its leaders wiped out; and its population reduced to less than half of what it used to be from death and enslavement by Habashaa invaders a hundred years (1894) ago. Those enslaved were turned into pack animals to carry goods, and mills to grind grain for the army that continued to invade other lands. Their women, in addition to the labor assigned for them, were also used as gratifiers for the gun wielders. Many were sold in domestic and foreign markets, and converted to cash. Those enslaved had also a great contribution in building the invaders’ palace founded in 1886 in Oromiyaa, another new colony. Today, one of their sons is going to make that palace his dwelling and be their king, and a commander-in-chief of the modern version of that army without forging a spear. Like they made his ancestors prostrate, they are also going to prostrate in front of him.
His religion is one they refer to as “Kinishaa” (derogative for Protestant) with contempt or “Tsera Maariam” (anti-Mary). Even if he is de facto their puppet, de jure, he is their highest king. Nothing could move without his signature. It is not hard to imagine what impact this would have on the psychology and morale of the chauvinists. Since he is yet a tool of oppression, no benefit will come out of him for the oppressed. But, the symbolic victory to be gained by that – will not be simple. Some say because there is the hidden hand of “Xosso” in it, no one can reverse it. They believe that even the money TPLF plundered and piled up, and the network it laid down to ensnare other peoples cannot bend that hand. Like it is said, “That who abuses the destitute cannot become rich.” Even if the hand of “Xosso” or other is not there, the catastrophe that is approaching darkening does not seem to turn back. Maltreatment has reached to peoples’ necks.
What are happening now are different from the past. Though past Habashaa kings were not themselves Habashaa, their origins were highly confidential. For that reason, they used to tag them to Solomon. Before the composition of the Darg was known, it was rumored that their chief was a “Walaamoo.” Even after they were made public, except for the leader’s color being dark, his origin was never mentioned though the onlookers assumed him to be anything they liked. It was tried to make him a son of Minilik’s illegitimate son. After all were gone, the question, “were not the emperor as well as Darg’s leader Oromo?” started to be asked? All that was to say that, since Oromo had contributed leadership for the empire over a long period, they have no right to ask for independence. They know in their hearts that Oromo had never joined them as a people, except as captives, servants and assimilated individuals.
Tigrawayi did not bother to insist on false evidences from history. They tried to mold changes that seemed all-inclusive. First, they said “federal.” Now, they are talking about equal participation in the party. With that, the son of southern peoples, in particular, that of a Wala’ita, has publicly mounted onto the saddle. There is also a fake election surrounding it. All the colonies are in it by a pretentious election. They want to claim that their party is all-inclusive. Still, the system is what the colonizer has laid down for itself. It does not work for others, except for themselves. Many may say that one who mounted has no own personality, except identity to console themselves. The system has decayed; how far the present maneuver can buy it life is not known. But, unless the rights of peoples to national self-determination are publicly recognized and implemented peacefully, what has decayed could suddenly fall apart, and cause more damage.
To benumb liberation movements of the peoples, Wayyaanee had gathered and created for all an organization it called “People’s Democratic Organization,” and declared EPRDF as a coalition of equals. In there, the Southern peoples, Oromo, Amaaraa and Tigrawayi have one organization each. It means on paper south and north has equal voices. That they may not question its authority in the course of time, TPLF entangled them in a system and laws denying them harmonious relations by continuous assessment cessions. Despite that, the others are starting to come forward by utilizing the same system it laid down. True power lies with one that has upperhand on the economy and control mechanisms. For the time, that is Wayyaanee. Whether to dodge hate piled for twenty years or because the rein has fallen from its hand, it has stepped back. It is said that, even most of the economy is in the hands of individuals whom only Mallas knew. What is known in the name of the organization is considered not even to be able to foot credits. It is not known if there is other force behind what is going on at present. For the time, the struggle going on in the oppressor’s camp is covered in mist.
An empire with Habashaa body and non-Habashaa soul is springing forward. The colonial system is trying to refresh itself in that way. The camp of liberation activists is also expected to come up with a matching transformation – if it has to reach its goal. Otherwise, the colonizer tries to transit from era to era with clay shoes that seem strong hiding weaknesses that befall it. Direct enemy is not the people from whom those who constructed the empire system originate, but the system. Be it Amaara, Wala’ita, Oromo or Anyuwak – whoever is at the head, the empire is simply an empire. Oromo in EPRDF do not feel that. Still, they are not released from Mallas’s voodoo. Even now, they did not demand voice that matches the people they pretend to represent.
Solution can be found only if the empire system crumbles. It is like what is said, “changing stoves does not make sauce more palatable.” If a snake molts its skin, it only loses the old one for a new, but it remains a snake. It rather becomes fresher. For this reason, whatever is to be done has to be done before it grew stronger. It is said, “rather than jumping on and snatching away dogs trail after cattle with loose horn hoping that they drop for them.” There are those that are tempted by that in the camp of the oppressed. They never visualize rallying their people and snatching away what belonged to them during the weakness period of the transition, but rather follow them meekly salivating. It needs to be a revolutionary to think in that way.
The time we were born, the time we grew up and the time of our old age had all differences. Technology, human knowledge, climate, etc. will slowly go on bringing about change. It is possible that development and growth that come with time may bring positive or negative change with them. All that could have influence on one’s outlook. If change is dragged, it may invite revolution. By change, it is meant that, when in society, something that is different from the known way happens. It is like the one where a non-Habashaa becomes the head to the “Christian Island” without his identity being hidden. As one knows an empire in which only Habashaa is the head. A social condition is a meshed up web where change comes in turns. The desire of a human being for independence, freedom, peace and justice will not be satisfied by changing faces of the oppressor. It rather continues to sharpen its methods in order to go on surviving.
When coming to the struggle for independence and freedom, we do not look at it differently from possible changes taking place in society. Whether change comes slowly or in a revolutionary way, it is to negate stagnation problems in society. That is something that comes naturally or hastened by leadership. When one says ‘live according to the times,’ it means to compete with change that occurred as not to be overtaken by stagnation. Since there is no growth in stagnation, society has existed carrying out a never-ending change to accommodate the coming new generation. For this reason, to move leaving space for others is a natural order. Lack of that could create chaos. Chaos serves no one sane purpose.
No reason can hinder struggle for survival. Life is a life of competition. Those who are prepared overcome it. Time, that comes changing, demands more strength than the previous. Many peoples and civilization in the world were wiped out or swallowed by the powerful. Those that survived destruction so far are those that had strong systems and are ever prepared to face what comes and save their identity. Oromo was one among those. It came so far falling and felling, falling and springing up. It is one that has strength that could save oneself. Had the gene of the Gadaa system not remained in Oromoo,Oromummaa could have been lost so far. All are hurrying up to wipe out that from Oromo.
It can be observed that, in the world, the desire to enrich oneself by consuming the other is getting more aggressive than ever before. To look at it silently will have without doubt fatal repercussion. If the Oromo chose to look at that silently, they may exist not as self sustaining nation, but as downtrodden individuals for the time. Soon, they will not have country, language, history, culture and tradition to refer to. That could be learned from some Oromo tribes in the north. But, if they pull all the courage and defend themselves with determination, the opportunity for survival is immense. Self-defense is blessed by all situations, religion and laws. Even if activists of that time are now aging, the Oromo struggle that commenced four decades ago is still young. It should not be surprising, if there are among them some, who are fed up of the long journey. But, if patriotic activists and the young generation start disarming before the questions that released the struggle got answers, then only could it be worrisome. With that, Oromo survival as a people could come under question.
Those against whom the struggle is being waged still question if Oromo have any claim against them. They are rather seen planning for more sinister move to extend their rule over Oromia for eternity. There are among Oromo activists, who ignited the fire for the liberation struggle and who said to them “had you understood the question we raised, you would have known that they were not meant to separate us; forgive us if it appeared that way, and let us plan together on how we can be accommodated in your grand plan.” It does not even seem if they have arranged for a fallback if they refuse accepting their apology. Is this what they say, “Do not stand by, but join in plundering of your father’s house?” or is it contempt for oneself?
Many saboteurs were born in the process of the struggle. For over a hundred years, they kept the Oromo people apart. They divided Oromiyaa into several regions convenient for their purposes. They scattered Oromo tribes that were its pole and rafters over those regions. Regions, tribes and religion that were strong for generations – now became their weak joints. They have to go back to situations before they were occupied, and look into how these differences served as strength and Oromize their outlook. Otherwise, looking at the self and each other with alien spectacles will blur their sight.
Regions in which they find themselves are those that aliens divided them into and not something they made for themselves, so cannot be things to brag or be proud about. Oromo tribes are still foundations of their unity. That means they are their poles and rafters. Oromo nation is the top most structure, its pillar and roof that knots them all together. Tribalism is not something that competes with nationalism, but strengthen it. Concerning religion, Gadaa system had already laid out on how harmony could be achieved. In the past, Oromo had only one religion. Even then, religion does not interfere in the affairs of politics, and vise versa. That was how the forefathers of Oromo kept religion and governance apart. The present generation has a lot to learn from them.
Oromo is one nation. Being one does not guaranty having unity. Unity is to be wholesome and show integration with harmony knowing, but not exaggerating, existence of differences. Required unity is the unity of kaayyoo, the unity for defending one’s country and people from evil. The love of one’s country must be expressed from the heart, not from the mouth. That would be realized when one starts to look at the self, at each other and at the world from the Oromo perspective. Oromo had ethical standards, lines not to be crossed in internal and external relations. In the independent Oromiyaa, the laws of Waq and those of men enforced them. Now, they may need social pressure and volunteers to be reintroduced and enforced.
Oromo have several political organizations. It will be a mistake to see those or cause to be seen same as none existent. To run away from strengthening those that are already there and try to suggest coming up with a strong new one is unlikely. The brain and experience are those that built, but unable to pull it down or prop it up. The seeming weak that different problems hindered from leaping forward have only a temporary glitch and will overcome soon. Like it is said, “Broken pieces are together wholesome.” They can make it faster if they rise hand in hand. That is likely.
Habashaa elites can no more hold the empire – as it used to be. For now, they have chosen their commander-in-chief with own identity from their colonies for the first time. Though fake, it has a symbolic significance for the region. What TPLF started as “federal” to disguise the nature of the empire state, without changing its structure and function, now has crossed to political party. They are coming out declaring one whom peers voted for in the party can rule the country irrespective of the national origin. But, that cannot change nature of the state. There coming that far indicate their understanding of problems going to engulf the region. They know that, for the enslaved, the change that started cannot be stopped until the empire state is dismantled. “One does not live as one knows, but as time demands” is a saying with great depth that came down from Oromo forefathers. It is required to wait prepared to catch what the time hurls. To be active – so as not to miss for laziness the opportunity that time holds can save one from extinction. When Oromo enemy comes out with changed tactics and strategy, unless one meet it with matching organization, counter tactic and strategy, it would be extending agony on oneself. It should not be forgotten that assumed weak joints that the enemy tries to poke at are also each others strength. To understand Oromummaa together and see problems ahead with one eye, it is wise to go back and search for solution in the Gadaa system. Oromo is one; it is a people that have one language, one history, one common base for culture and tradition, and one common source of oppression. So far, no Oromo has come out denying this. What is mixed up is the inability to fix in common the standard of good and evil, honor and humiliation. An enemy for one is seen being friend for the other. If they cannot differentiate that together, they are bound to be enemy to each other. That is happening because their source of reference is not their own, but one that aliens kept aside for them. Oromo civilization is different from others. To use that, it is essential to go back to one’s civilization roots and research. The panacea for doubting and wavering could be found there. In a struggle, there could be no alternative with success to commitment and determination.
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 is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.