Islamm, the Orthodox Church and Oromo Nationalism

Abas Haji Ganamo


 The Oromo constitute the largest single national group in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Many of them were converted to Islam, some have embraced Christianity, whereas there are still some that remain faithful to their indigenous religion. Most conversions to the two monotheist religions took place after the conquest of Abyssinia, although there are some groups whose conversion antedates this encounter, as a reaction to imperial subjugation. Yet, despite some particularism and cultural changes resulting from Islamization/evangelization and cultural contacts, the Oromo share common language, belief in common ancestry, common history and memory, social institutions, etc., defining their peoplehood/nationhood and in which their nationalism is rooted.


The resistance against what is perceived to be an alien and oppressive state serves as a rallying point for their nationalism/nationalist aspiration.


  1. 1.The question this paper asks is then: where do Christianity and Islam stand vis-à-vis the developing Oromo nationalism? It will be argued that the roots of Oromo nationalism are not in Christianity and Islam–often reputed, in the Ethiopian context, to be the establishment religion and the anti-establishment religion respectively. Neither the driving force nor the future political agenda can be based on religious dogma. Muslims, Christians and traditional believers fully share the core idea of Oromo nationalism. This would entail that the path of Oromo nationalism is founded on twin policies: secularism and tolerance. Strict respect in religious matters does not only aim to maintain the harmony of the Oromo but also to define their national identity in an open and inclusive way due to religious differences among the Oromo themselves. Religious tolerance or accommodation of differences is not new to Oromo world view/cosmology. Despite this, there are some individuals who try, from within or without, to divide the Oromo, along religious/confessional lines or politicize religion.

2. This paper is an attempt to address the relationship between religions and Oromo nationalist aspiration from a sociological and historical perspective. Particular emphasis will be placed on Islam, which has been misunderstood by some foreign observers and misused by governing elite for political purposes. Through historical and ethnographic examples, the paper will demonstrate why the concept of political Islam/fundamentalism among the Oromo is irrelevant or a mere intellectual construct of clichés borrowed from other geographic areas and socio-cultural realities.

3. In writing this paper, my initial objective was to treat Islam and most particularly its ideological aspect, in order to understand if it has an influence on Oromo political thought and nationalism. But rather I found it more appropriate to see the relationship of both universalistic religions, Christianity and Islam, may have on the Oromo national movement, national consciousness and the formation of national identity. Religion, often, appears to be the easiest way either to divide or to unify people. Some commentators on the Oromo tend to have recourse, deliberately or not, to religion as a divisive mechanism. Thus some groups are labeled as moderates whereas others are branded as radicals. For its part, the Ethiopian government tries to use religion not only to divide the Oromo but also, under the name of “containment of Fundamental Islam” or “Islamic Peril” in order to receive the support of Liberal Democracies.

1. For the analysis of the debate on secularism see Alexander Flores (1997: 83-94).

2. Developmentalists and evolutionists considered that modernization and the spread of scientific idea


4. Currently, some Oromo seem to create controversies, particularly on Internet postings, about religion and politics. Religious issues are often sensitive and, as such should better be addressed at a proper forum. The only responsible and appropriate position in a multi-confessional society would be secularism and tolerance–i.e. separating religious spheres from political spheres. Secularism in the context of this paper, does not mean either to make priests and Chaikhs nor believers secular neither to propagate communist style of atheism 1. Above all, secularism should not be interpreted either in the framework of the legacy of social sciences rooted in the European enlightenment and the consequent modernization theory nor by lineal evolutionist paradigms (Hadden & Shupe 1989). Both have considered religions as based on ignorance, superstition and unscientific ideas which will disappear in the face of continuous processes of modernization. In other words, such premise stipulates, “as societies industrialize, urbanize and are led by secular leaders, religion will increasingly appear as an anachronism, as a remnant from the past, doomed to privatization and even, ultimately, disappearance” (Haynes 1994: 18). But, religions have not disappeared, and continue to be important even central, in many peoples’ life for now and for the foreseeable future.

5. Moreover, neither does secularism mean introducing a debate on secular culture versus confessional culture in the Oromo national movement; but to emphasize that the secular ideology of nationalism as a more unifying factor than religious based consciousness. The majority of the Oromo nationalists believe that they will build their future on their common heritage, history, memory and what unite them rather than a minor particularism that separate and the hope and destiny they share for the present and the future. This is generally what makes a nation as a French scholar, Ernest Renan (1934: 88), defined in his famous lecture of 1882 at the Sorbonne:

“A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle… A nation is a great solidarity, created by the sentiment of the sacrifices, which have been made, and of those which one is disposed to make in the future. It presupposes a past; but resumes itself in the present by a tangible fact: the consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue life in common.”

6. It is true that among the Oromo, as elsewhere, we have cases where a religion was imposed through force, or resulted from sociological imposition, or introduced through peaceful expansion such as trade and missionary activities. The study of the methods of expansion and consolidation of a religion may have historical and scholarly interests, but should not have an impact with respect to one’s freedom to live his faith fully. All Oromo are conscious about their religious differences, and, at the same time, they do not believe that religious diversity can be an obstacle to their unity and harmony or to live with people of different religions. It is not necessary to share the same religion to be a nation. Nor does shared religion ensure national solidarity–example, Somalia.

3. For instance when the Arsi Oromo arrived and settled in their current habitat, they never forced th

4. The Oromo do have centuries-long culture of tolerance and, as evidence, one  n say that the Oromo


Philosophically speaking, the Oromo world-view is more prone to particularism than universalism. They believe that the religions, institutions, including Gadaa and Qaallu,  etc., which define their ethnographic character, have been uniquely theirs, given to their ancestors (Legesse 2000; Abbas Haji Gnamo: 1997; Mohammed Hassen 1990). These should not be imposed on others who do not have the same ethnography/culture. For instance, they never tried to impose Gadaa on the neighboring peoples and those who lived among them. Only those who became Oromo, through adoption, marriage and other forms of cultural contacts (Baxter et al. 1996), and adhered to the core values of their culture were allowed to practice the Gadaa system and to make pilgrimage to Abba Muuda every eight years 3. Oromo’s communal religion was not based on a sectarian view and certitude about life after death–there is no an Oromo word for heaven and hell (Abbas Haji Gnamo 1997). Conversely, Muslims and Christians have engaged in a numerous controversies about “true” and “false” religions, where each considered theirs as the only true religion. This, though that was not the only reason, often led to many bloody wars and crusades throughout the Middle Ages.

Christianity and Islam Vis-a vis Oromo Nationalism

9. To develop my arguments on the relationship between Islam, Christianity, traditional religion and nationalism my working hypotheses are the following:

10.  first, Nationalism as an ideology or a movement is “backward looking and forward looking”. In order for any form of nationalism to exist there must be a pre-existing culture. While nationalism is based on and/or inspired by the past, it should have a project for the present and for the future as the past can not be fully replicated; above all, it aims to satisfy the political, economic and social aspirations of the contemporary society it claims to represent. Nationalism must have a core idea, a grand design, or clearly defined objective and strategies to attain it. As Hayes (1960: 15-16) argued: “Nationalism relates man to his nation’s historic past and identifies him and his descendants with the future life of the nation. And its goal is the assurance of freedom and individuality and autonomy, if not to the person, at least to man’s nationality and national state.”

11.  Second, Nationalism or the politics of nationalism, as John Breuilly (1985: 371) puts it, is used as a means of contesting the legitimacy of the state or imposing the legitimacy of the state.

12. The pre-existing culture in the Oromo context was neither Islam nor Christianity although contemporary Oromo culture is influenced by these religions and has undergone some transformations following conversion. Firstly, the preexisting Oromo culture is of African heritage largely and essentially rooted in the Oromo language, historical traditions, socio-political institutions, the myth of common origins, common territory, common memory and history, etc., and, above all, harsh colonial experiences undergone under Abyssinian rule (Mekuria Bulcha 1996; Baxter 1994). Although Oromos were converted to Islam and Christianity in large numbers over the last 150 years or so, these religions do not appear to be a rallying point or a source inspiration in the development of nationalism in the political meaning of the term.

The ideological Role of the Orthodox Church

13If Christianity has a long history in Abyssinia, going back to the first half of 4th Century, so too does Islam have a venerable history going back to the time of the prophet Mohammed since it was first introduced in this part of the Horn of Africa in the early 7th Century. Yet, many including in the Islamic world, do not know that almost half of the Ethiopian population are Muslims. Christianity became the state religion and an established church (Taddesse Tamrat 1972; Kaplan 1988). It furnished unqualified ideological support for the monarchy, state power and for its conquests. Eventually it provided the legitimizing ideology for the empire-state. For this reason Ethiopia was seen as “an Island of Christianity in an Ocean of Pagans”. The monarchy was inseparable from the Church and the two institutions fully supported each other until the collapse of the former and the consequent disestablishment of the Church in 1974. The historical and ideological role of the Church in the Abyssinian society was underlined by Gebru Tareke (1991: 15) in the following terms:

“By extolling the virtue of social hierarchy, the Orthodox Church helped to stabilize the Abyssinian social formation; it was the continuing edge of relations of exploitation… Central to the Church’s code of morality was the belief in divine omnipotence, the sanctity of royal authority, the justness of overlordship. Supported by a tradition of awesome antiquity, enjoying direct access to land and the product of the peasants, and exercising a virtual monopoly in education, the Church affected every facet of rural life.”

14. Beyond this traditional role in the Abyssinian polity, the Church justified imperial conquest and alienation of the subject peoples including its own followers whom it plundered and reduced to serfdom–the Church was allocated up to 30% of the land in the country most of which was expropriated from the newly incorporated Oromo regions. “Christianity was one aspect of the civilizing mission which the Amhara saw as their imperial duty” (Sorenson 1993: 13). Instead of preaching universal humanistic messages such as peace and justice, equality and solidarity, the priests usually followed imperial campaigns and justified the massacre and mutilation of the expanding army against those whose refused to submit by referring to the old Abyssinian royal guide such as Feteha Nagest as they did in Arsi Oromo country in the 1880s (Abbas Haji Gnamo 1999). The Feteha Nagest,  used by the Abyssinian kings with respect to the treatment of enemies or “unruly people” stated:

“When you reach a city or country to fight against its inhabitants offer them terms of peace. If they accept you and open their gates the men who are there shall become your subjects and shall give you tributes. But if they refuse the term of peace and after the battle fight against you, go forward to assault and oppress them since the Lord your God will give them to you” (Strauss 1966: 274).

15. Consequently, the expansion of the state and the consequent incorporation of more human and material resources were in the best interests of the clergy and the feudal order. The interdependence of the Church and the state in the newly conquered territory was consolidated more than ever before:

“This [the role of the Church] was recognized and promoted by emperor Menelik II, who had priests carry the tabot into newly incorporated Oromo, Sidamo, and other Pagan and Semi-Muslim areas of the empire, giving his military conquest the character of a crusade. Churches were built in the these areas, guarded by troops of occupation, made permanent by feudal grants under which the local population made the Gabbar (serf) was permitted to remain on the land as sharecroppers and peon of the feudal Church” (Messing 1985: 180).

16. It is striking, however, that some foreign scholars appear to have assumed that such Abyssinian royal guides based on legends Kebra Nagast (the glory of kings) and Feteha Nagast solved the question of legitimacy and laid a foundation for the formation of national identity. For instance Levine (1974: 118) wrote: “[…] The Kebra Nagest not only resolved the conflicts among the Cushitic and diverse Semitic components of Tigrean, it also chartered a mission for a national identity.” However, this is no more than a simple wish or a deliberate scholarly apology for imperial politics that has been refuted by the praxis; the questions of legitimacy and identity have been the root causes for political conflict in Ethiopia. Equally, those who play up Abyssinian state nationalism rooted in these ancient traditions or elements of the past try to downplay the significance for Oromo nationalism rooted in the Oromo’s past and socio-cultural institutions. For example, they dismiss reference to the Gadaa by Oromo nationalists to define their identity and nationhood as a manipulation. At the same time, they continue to refer to Kebra Nagast, which no one understood except the clergy and the ruling elites, Abyssinian Christian populations, as the basis for modern nationhood and identity (Sorenson 1993: 60-74).

17. Even after the Revolution of 1974, which led to official separation between the state and the Church, the latter has been considered as the mainstay or custodian of imperial ideology. This may be understood from the following passage, which reflects Oromo perception of the Ethiopian Church:

“The Orthodox Church can hardly be proud of its past relations with the Oromo people. Abyssinian priests never came to Oromia as the messengers of God and peace. They (priests) came as conquerors with Menelik’s generals, ‘blessing’ the massacre that the latter and their soldiers inflicted upon the Oromo People. They shared with the emperor, his generals and soldiers booties plundered from the Oromo. The clergy were given land that was confiscated from the Oromo peasants and became landlords; they owned Oromo peasants as Gabbars (serfs) and thrived upon their labor” (Mekuria Bulcha 1994: 8-11).

18. From the perspective of the newly conquered people, the Ethiopian Church has always incarnated “reactionary nationalism” unacceptable not only to Muslims but also to other Christian Oromo. Ideologically speaking the Church has been an embodiment of imperial legitimacy and official nationalism in its feudal or revolutionary and post-revolutionary regimes. Anderson (1983: 124) clearly stated the salient feature of official nationalism as follows:

“‘Official nationalism’ was from the start a conscious, self-protective policy, intimately linked to the preservation of imperial dynastic interests… The one persistent feature of this style of nationalism, was, and is, that it is official–i.e., something emanating from the state, and serving the interests of the state first and foremost.”

5  It has to be emphasized that not all Oromos are the followers of the Orthodox Church. Although many(...)

19. Consequently, in a multinational state or in a situation where the nation and the state are not congruent (Gellner 1983: 1) the composing units do not necessarily share official nationalism promoted by the dominant group but fight against it. This is the case of Oromo nationalism. Oromo nationalism, shared by Muslims, Orthodox Christians 5 and traditional believers, is opposed to the Ethiopian State nationalism. From a nationalist perspective, the Ethiopian state has been “owned” by the two ethnic groups, Amhara-Tigreans, or “ethnic core”, as some prefer to call them. The state, whatever the sources of its ideological legitimization might have been, imperial, revolutionary, democratic, according to the prevailing circumstances, has remained the expression of the Abyssinians, and, as such, has largely incarnated their vested political, economic, political and cultural interests.

20. It is important to note that, regardless of the autocratic/authoritarian penchant, nepotism and corruption of African rulers, nowhere in the contemporary Africa have one or two ethnic groups controlled the state as it has been in Ethiopia. The Oromo, along with other southern peoples, were conquered and incorporated during the last century, were not more than the second class citizens. Some scholars maintain, unconvincingly, the participation of non-Amhara-Tigreans in the exercise of state power in the different governments to downplay the power was shared between various elites. However, what is considered as participation is nothing more than co-optation. Markakis (1987: 259) demystifies the famous Oromo role in Ethiopia:

“The hallmark of this group was modern education, assimilation into the Amhara culture and society, and complete personal dependence on their patron, the emperor. Most of them came from Shoa in the center, where the process of assimilation had gone farthest, and also from the western Oromo region, where European missionaries had been active. They were retainers in the pure sense of the term, and in no way did they represent Oromo political participation in the ancien régime, for they represented no none but themselves and served only the interest of their patron.”

6  Mr. Abiyu Geleta accuses the current government of the following: polarization of the core-state of(...)

21. Despite the discourse of national integration, historic Abyssinia was not successfully transformed from old statehood to modern nationhood in which the foundation of citizenship could be laid; it remains essentially traditional which John Breuilly (1985: 309) defined as “one which limits political participation to traditionally privileged groups”. The speed with which the Tigreans, probably not more than 5-6% of the Ethiopian population, took state power and imposed their hegemony, has proved more than ever before that the Ethiopian state is ethnocratic or a monopoly of a single ethnic group 6. The TPLF has co-opted the non-Tigreans people in the Tigrean dominated state structure through a surrogate party, the EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front).

22. Thus, as a nation, the Oromo feel that they have been excluded from power though individuals were co-opted into the structure of state to better control and govern the empire since Menelik’s period right down to the current government. Needless to say that the co-opted individuals, over a century represented no one but themselves, as there was no meaningful political arrangements to encourage power sharing and participation based on equality guaranteed by a legal framework or constitution. Consequently, Oromo nationalism contests the legitimacy of the Ethiopian State, institutions, its ideological foundations based on master-servant relationship, and oppression. Oromo Orthodox Christians, though they share religion with Abyssinians, do not share the political/Ideological orientation of the Ethiopian Church whose main interest was the preservation structural inequalities enshrined in myths and legends, and power hierarchy inherited from the past or the status quo (Mekuria Bulcha 1994: 8-11). Likewise, Africa Christian churches and nationalists did not hesitate to challenge and struggle against their Christian oppressors from Europe.

Islam as a Protest Religion?

23. As opposed to Christianity, which embodied official/establishment religion, Islam was seen as anti-establishment religion and the religion of oppressed peoples. The Ethiopian ruling elites perceived it as their archenemy–and often presented the country as an “Island of Christianity in an Ocean of Muslims and pagans”. Thus, to those who were opposed to the Amhara, Islam served as a refuge. As Trimingham (1952: 101) noted, “[…] Islam’s force of expansion amongst pagans in Ethiopia was helped by the fact that it was the religion hostile to the Amharic race who lorded it over them.” For his part, Ethiopian historiographers of the last century and, in particular, Menelik’s contemporary, Astme, clearly confirms this point of view when describing the Islamisation of the Oromo. After giving the chronology of the Islamization of different Oromo groups before the end the last century Astme stated: “Even now, the rest of the Galla prefer to be Muslim rather than Christian, because they hate the Amhara; the Amhara priests, the bishop and the clergy do not like the Galla. They believe that Christianity cannot be understood by those whose ancestors were not Christians. Therefore, they do not teach them” (Bairu Tafla 1987).

24. This explanation is, however, not adequate because Islam entered the region long before the imperial conquest, and its remnants were a factor in the spread of Islam after the conquest. The present Southeastern Oromo region was a country of seven Islamic principalities, which used to be known in Syria and Egypt as the “country of Zeila” (Al-Omari 1927: 4). These included Islamic kingdoms such as Bali, Sharka, Arababini, and Dawaro, etc. After Ahmed B. Ibrahim al-Ghazi–called Grain in Ethiopia– waged his famous Jihad across the whole country (1529-1543), a Jihad which left both Muslims and Christians in a weakened state, the great migration of the Oromo gained momentum: they moved North and North-East from their original cradle land (Mohammed Hassen 1990: 1-47) and established themselves in this “Sidama-Hadiya” culture area (Trimingham 1952; Braukämper 1977). Theoretically, this implied the disappearance of the Islamic religion–the religion of “Hadiya-Sidama” populations–under the impact of the great migrations of the Oromo. In actual fact, it turned out that these populations did not completely lose their identity and Islam survived in some isolated places disguised under popular religions and cultural manifestations. Braukämper (1977: 22) calls the deformed Islamic ritual practices among the Arsi and the Hadiya “Medieval Islamic survivals” and argued that these pockets of cultural traits stimulated the process of (re)-Islamization of the region:

“[…] The expansion of the non-Muslim Oromo people during subsequent centuries mostly eliminated Islam in those areas. But some Muslim pockets, although cut off from the Islamic centers in the Horn of Africa, continued to exist, and in the folk religions of those areas, Muslim beliefs and practices survived in various degrees of adulteration. These leftovers from Medieval times […] acted as stimulating factors in the (re-Islamization) of southeastern Ethiopia since the xixth century.”

25. In other words, islam had roots from which it could grow again in the region and could use its new-found strength to counteract christianity. perhaps one could argue that elsewhere in oromo country, for instance among the tulama and the matcha, where ancient islamic influences did not exist, the expansion of the christian faith appeared smooth and unopposed. on the contrary, among the arsi and the oromo of harar where there was an old islamic presence, christianity failed to get a foothold. the majority of the oromo became muslims after the colonization and subjugation of their country; that is in an empire where islam was considered not only as a secondary religion but also expected to disappear in the future (ullendorff 1960: 112). the muslims were largely discriminated against in all domains. moreover, there was a considerable attempt to divide the subject people, mainly the oromo, along religious lines. for instance, the ethiopian ruling elite claimed that they were the most civilized and attempted to tell the oromo who were converted to christianity that they were more civilized than those who chose islam. in this context, islam became a sort of rallying point even a resistance ideology of muslims against abyssinian oppression. in effect, the oromo needed a strong ideology against the well-established state and the hegemony of christian rulers.

26. the introduction and expansion of islam among the oromo were not directly related to war and armed violence. neither was it backed by foreign power in expansion. historically, even ethiopia despite gragn’s jihad of the first half the 16th century which might have been motivated by economic and demographic factors, there were no many instances of forced expansion of Islam. This may be explained by the alleged friendly relations established between the Abyssinian rulers and the first Muslims who arrived, around 615, to escape from the persecution by non-Muslims in Mecca (Trimingham 1952: 44-46). Perhaps as gratitude to favorable accommodation of Muslims by a Christian king or because of their preoccupation with their war in many other fronts, the first Muslims did not attack Abyssinia. According to traditional Islam, the land were divided into two: Dar el-Islam (the country of Islam) and Dar el-harb the country of war or where the war can be waged against non-Muslims inhabitants. There is a third category, though debated, called Dar el-suhl referring to the non-Muslim countries that negotiated a peaceful co-existence with Muslim rulers for autonomy and peace in exchange of some kind of tribute or tax paid to the Muslim treasury (Mazrui 1997: 224). In the Abyssinian context, some traditions maintain that the Prophet himself was said to have told his followers “Leave the Abyssinians in peace as long as they do not attack us” (quoted in Cuoq 1981: 37). Whether the Arabs avoided a Jihad on Abyssinia because of this advice or physical inability to launch war in all directions at the same time cannot be said with certainty.

27. Let this be as it may, during the period that concerns this paper, the expansion of Islam was pacific, i.e. through trade, in some areas, and mostly through cultural contacts with Islamized neighbours by the intermediary of scholars, Ulama. This peaceful expansion in the region can be contrasted with the methods of evangelization: “[…] while Christian expansion in the Horn took place essentially by conquest, Islam spread mainly by peaceful means. Thus, there is no tradition of an aggressive Islam in the region, and consequently, Islam fundamentalism cannot spread easily (Huliaras 1995: 244). The process of diffusion and consolidation by voluntary conversion took generations. Islam equally influences even today, not all Muslim provinces and districts at the same level. This Islam, so to speak, was tolerant and popular in nature, and has co-existed with local/indigenous culture in contradiction, and at times in harmony.

28. Although the conversion implied the acceptance of its basic dogma, the Oromo have succeeded in maintaining the essential part of their culture and identity through the process of social change. It is true that some institutions disappeared, e.g. Gaada and Qaallu due to the combination of different factors, which did not owe exclusively to Islam, such as socio-economic transformation from within and without. It seems as if the Oromo, often unconsciously, took a part of the Shari’a and maintained their law and customs based on Seera (Oromo laws) in the functioning of their society. Observation of social life, social experiences permits to understand how Oromo cultural heritages continue to manifest themselves in practice of Muslims and Christians.

Wahhabism versus Popular Islam and Oromo Ethnography

29. Oromo Muslims, as other Muslims in the region, are Sunni Muslims; the variant of Islam largely practiced by the majority of Muslims of the globe. They have close relations with Saudi Arabia, not only because of geographic proximity but also because this country is where the Muslim holy places are located. Over the last decades an increasing number of Oromo left for pilgrimage (hajj) and advanced studies in Islamic Universities. Many Ulama (religious scholars) successfully completed the cycles of Islamic sciences in the Wahhabi tradition, an official Saudi doctrine, and have returned to their country of origin. Some ended up there just as immigrant workers during the oil boom as others made their way to North America and Western Europe and even Australia.

30. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia was built on a historical alliance between the House of ash-Shaikh, his descendants, and the house of Sa’ud, the royal clan. When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was set up in 1932 by Abdul Aziz, Wahhabism became its official doctrine (Asad 1993: 208-212). Wahhabism is generally known for its calls for orthodox interpretation of Islam, its restoration in its original purity, or as it was, and practiced during the life and times of the prophet and his immediate successors, the Caliphs. It is closely linked to Muhammed b. Abdul-Wahhab (1703-1787), the Najdi religious reformer. One of the main objectives of this Islamic school of thought is to combat against suspect innovations and popular superstitions, mysticism and Sufism which are perceived to be contradictory to the Shari’a enshrined in the Qur’an and the Hadith (Laoust 1977). Saudi Arabia’s government and political culture have been founded on the Shari’a, Islamic laws and many observers and writers in the West consider it as an officially fundamentalist state.

31. The strict application of the Shari’a, as they were during the period of the prophet must be difficult to apply among Muslims of Africa in general and Oromo in particular. In effect, many Shari’a laws were rooted in the ethnography and culture of pre-Islamic Arab tribes generally referred to as Jahiliyya (the period of pre-Islamic ignorance). Most of the laws were Islamized and diffused as integral parts of Islamic laws and practices to other cultural areas. A similar process took place within Orthodox Christianity through which the Amhara introduced and disseminated their cultural values, norms and lifestyle among the newly converted people. Religion has been an important cultural trait and there is no pure religion as such separated from the culture of those who propagate it.

32. Thus a systematic application of the Wahhabi tradition of Islam into non-Arabic culture poses a series of problems. In effect, if African Islam, perhaps in other cultural areas as well, easily expanded and got many followers it was mainly because it managed to adapt itself to local cultures and incorporate some rituals, beliefs and other traits of culture, by Islamizing them, although the acceptance of its basic dogma is a prerequisite to be Muslims (Tapiéro 1969: 74). Popular Islam in many respects is certainly in contradiction with the Puritanism of Wahhabi tradition.

33. It may be useful to take some concrete examples to make this point. The Wahhabi Shaikhs recommended clan endogamy or cousin/cross-cousin marriage, common form of marriage alliances in Arab culture and kinship organization. Even though cousin marriage is not prescribed in Arab society, culturally it has been a preferred form of marriage. However, both cousin marriage and clan endogamy (marriage within one’s Gosa) is in a complete contradiction with Oromo kinship system and matrimonial strategy based on a strict prohibition of clan endogamy. Despite strong resistance from the Arsi Oromo and, some Sheiks persuaded some of their supporters to accept a new form of marriage rule, often within their Gosa, and between cousins. Consequently, hundreds of such marriages were organized. But, these unions could not survive strong public criticism and disapproval; they all collapsed. The failure of these marriages can be explained mainly because they disrupted traditional definition of social universe and kinship relations and altered nomenclatures (kinship terms) and their social usage. For example, in such marriages, an uncle, father’s brother, who is generally classified as a father, becomes a father in-law and his daughter, who is a sister, becomes a wife, etc. It also confused all rules of property and inheritance. This affects the social fabric and interpersonal attitudes and there are many indications that this newly introduced form of marriage is extremely challenged by the Arsi Muslims to this date.

34. Secondly, the Wahhabis have tried to oppose to the cult of saints, the most important opposition being directed against the pilgrimage/cult to Shaikh Hussein. In Oromia and the Horn of Africa in general, the cult of the Sheik and visits to other Islamic shrines, have been the corner stone of popular Islam. For the Oromo, this pilgrimage (Muuda) represented a sort of continuity between the past and the present. In effect, when they abandoned the institutional pilgrimage every eight years to the Great Qaalluu, the cult of the Shaikh became a rallying point and an important factor in their spiritual life and world view (Abbas Haji Gnamo 1991). Thus, despite relentless struggle of the Shaikh of Wahhabi orientation to condemn this cult as non-Islamic or apostasy, Sheik Hussein has not lost influence. According to many informants, it was even reinforced; tens of thousands even more than hundred thousand Muslims continue their annual pilgrimage to Ana Jina, his burial place, and Sakina, a locality north of Shabale River, where he was said to have prayed–it has spread to Kenya.

35. Finally, the Oromo society functions, in large measures, according to its customary laws, Seera, although the Shari’a is applied in some aspects of social life. The exclusive application of Shari’a in a society where strong traditions persist cannot be materialized despite the Arabizing efforts of some religious leaders. In other words, in spite of their endorsement of some Christian or Islamic ethics, after their conversion, the Oromo are still attached to their beliefs, traditional religion, culture and ancestral laws described by a numbers of observers (de Salviac 1901; Bartels 1983).

Political Islam versus Oromo Nationalism

36. In this section we will see the meaning of political Islam and why it cannot be applied to Oromo cultural area and Oromo nationalism. The idea of Islamic fundamentalism or political Islam involves religion and politics (Jansen 1997). It associates political authority and legitimacy with the law of God, in this case, the Shari’a (Badie 1986: 251-253). Although the Wahhabi were said to have awakened Muslim intellectuals about religious reform to restore Islam’s past glory it was the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967 and the consequent defeat of Arabs that gave rise to greater politicization of Islam. As Abu-Rabi (1996: 262) put it: “It is not only that ‘Political Islam’ emerged as a viable political force, but that of Islam itself, as religion, history, and the central part of the collective subconscious, has assumed a new presence, and therefore, the post-1967 Arab discourse has been filled with religious language.”

    7.  Islamists as many other Muslims reject vigorously secularism as a Western concept irrelevant to Mus(...)

37. To this, one has to add the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, though the Shiite Islam has its roots elsewhere, which gave rise to a new dimension to political Islam. The combination of the two factors added to hegemonic western modernization/secularism 7 and materialism diffused through colonialism and later through global communication and the consequent discovery of Europe by Muslims, as well the legacy of corrupt and inefficient, autocratic national governments contributed to resurgence of Islam and religious revivalism in general (Haynes 1994). However, the development of Oromo nationalism has nothing to do with Islamic resurgence in the Middle East/North Africa; its has local roots but its trajectory is very similar with other ethno-political nationalism (Baxter et al. 1996).

38. Oromo Muslims are not familiar with modern Arab intellectual history, which have influenced militant Islamic resurgence (Abu-Rabi 1996). But, the existence of a political movement called Islamic Front for Liberation of Oromia may give the impression that Muslims may be interested in or/and inspired by political Islam. The fact is, however, that Oromo nationalism does not aim to build a religious state although Islam served as resistance ideology in the past and the struggle for religious equality and freedom constituted an integral part of decades-long resistance against imperial rule. The following declaration of the veteran Oromo nationalist and the leader of Bale Resistance (1963-1970) summarizes the root causes of Oromo nationalism:

“[…] Notice when the Amhara occupied our country with the help of European imperialists in 1885-1891, many of our people were massacred. Then the survivors were allotted like slaves to the settlers who partitioned our lands among themselves. Remember that they plundered and distorted our historical legacy that is widely known; that they violated our dignity, calling us the filthy Galla. Do you realize how many times you have been denied justice in the courts of law? You, Muslims, your religion has been denigrated and you do not share equality with Christians. Innumerable crimes that have not been committed by European colonialists on the African peoples have been perpetrated upon you. You have been crushed for eighty years now” (quoted in Gebru Tareke 1991: 131).

39. The formal, official recognition of Islam was just one of the consequences of the Revolution of 1974, the collapse of the monarchy and consequent divorce between the Church and the state. Following the Revolution, the military took some important measures such as the land reform of 1975, which was welcomed by the southern peoples in general and the Oromo in particular. Paradoxically, it was during the post revolutionary period that Oromo nationalism took on a new dimension and the Oromo Liberation Front and many other nationalist movements were created.

40. Oromo nationalists are aware of the role history and cultural heritage can play for the present generation and for generations to come. Sheik Abdul Karim, the founder and leader of Islamic movement, himself adopted the name of Shaikh Jaarraa. Apparently this choice was not made at random; Jaaraa is the name of the ceremony marking the end of Gadaa cycle, where the lubaa, outgoing Gadaa class, passes power to the incoming Gadaa class, lubaa. Jaarra is also the basis of the Oromo calendar based on the eight years term and passage to paternity or fatherhood and a sort of retirement from active political life after covering the five Gadaa grades each lasting eight years. The word (Jaarra) itself comes from jaaruu, which means getting older. By combining the title of Chaikh, meaning religious leader or chief (in some contexts) and Gadaa, he is trying to reflect or to marry the past with the present, Gadaa and Islam. This demonstrates the importance of the past in Oromo’s political thought. The reference to traditional institutions is in contradiction with fundamentalist perspective, which tends to ignore or undermine the pre-existing non-Islamic culture in favour of the Shari’a.

41. On the other hand, Muslim Oromos and Christians have proved time and again, that religious differences cannot prevent them from uniting on common goals. The Macha Tulama Association leadership embraced different religions and the movement heralded the birth of pan-Oromo nationalism. It got audience from all Oromo groups regardless of their religious affiliations. The most massive and unconditional support came from Arsi Muslims, as their objective was not to emancipate a particular religious group, but the Oromo nation as whole. Thus, right from the start, the Oromo nationalist movement has not been rooted in Umma (Arabic word standing for community of believers or community of the faithful) but in Oromumma (being/belonging to/or becoming Oromo) (Baxter et al. 1996); which involves a more inclusive definition of cultural/national identity based on common origins, idioms, history, memory and more importantly, a common harsh experience under an oppressive state and the consequent aspiration to transform this cultural nation into political nation as the only guarantee for developing and preserving their identity and culture.

42. As opposed to Oromumma based on nationhood and a specific territory, Oromia (i.e. the landed inhabited by the Oromo speakers), the concept of Umma does not recognize the idea of nation and nation-state. For political Islamists, the territorial state is the invention of the West, a creature of imperialism, alien to Islamic notions of authority, exercise of political power and the organization of political society. Consequently, as Zubaida (1997: 104) put it: “They seek a ‘truly Islamic state’, applying the Shari’a and unifying the fragmented Umma under a revived caliphate, thus providing for justice and the sovereignty of God. The primary model for such a state is contained in the ‘sacred history’ of the community-state embodied in the Arabian city or Madina in the time of Muhammed.”

43. The call for a Shari’a based political culture/system related to historic Islam, means a recognition of the Dawla of dynasty, or a clique, which enjoys an absolute power legitimized by Islam: though it has been suggested that contemporary moderate Islamists “have come to accept crucial elements of political democracy: pluralism (within the framework of Islam), political participation, government accountability, rule of law and protection of human rights” (Krämer 1997: 80). Conversely, Oromo traditional politics was based on popular sovereignty and egalitarian principle of participation-representation in the political process and distributive justice. Some scholars regard the Gadaa system as one of the most sophisticated political systems ever developed by non-western societies. In words of Professor Legesse (2000: 195) “Oromo democracy is one of those remarkable creations of the human mind that evolved into a full-fledged system of government, as a result of five centuries of evolution and deliberate, rational, legislative transformation”. Although there may not be a way to re-apply Gadaa as it functioned in the past it remains an important source of inspiration for building a new society. Some Oromo continue to believe that some aspects of Gadaa can still be relevant.

44. Here, the argument is that political Islam cannot be planted in all Islamic cultural areas or among all Islamized people like the Oromo and may depend on many sociological, political, economic factors and, above all, on the pre-existing cultures. The Oromo, as a people of liberal and tolerant tradition, cannot easily fall into zealous religious fanaticism and militancy of all kinds. This tradition can continue when leaders of secular thought are able to provide imaginative leadership and respond appropriately to the aspiration and expectation of their people. One cannot exclude, however, that the possibility that unsatisfied aspirations and frustration, inequality, deprivation, etc., may manifest themselves in religious terms (religious fundamentalism) as the only available alternative. The following insight of Emmanuel Wallerstein (Hopkins, Wallerstein et al. 1996: 223) can be relevant to my argument (the separation of religion and politics):

“Secularism succeeded as long as the vision of progress, under the aegis of reformist liberalism, reigned supreme. Religion was kept out of politics so long as people felt they could attain their political ends by political means in the only political arena that seemed to matter, the state. In so far as statism came under attack, however, secularism began to lose its major political justification. The re-emergence in new strength of fundamentalist/integrist/neo-traditionalist religious movements in some patterns predating the modern world-system, but rather as a revised, anti-statist mode of seeking to achieve the unfulfilled goal of modernity, equality in the realization of decent quality of life.”

8. Bertrand Badie (1986: 256) makes this point in the following terms: “Here the basic idea is that th(...)

45. Therefore, one of the possible means to prevent this development may be a genuine political settlement to century-old colonial relations and inequalities in the Ethiopian Empire. The failure to find just, workable and lasting solution and the monopoly of state power by discriminatory minority regime may induce many Muslims to have to recourse Islamic forms of protest against political authority 8.

47. I have tried to argue that the pre-existing culture is a condition sine qua non for the development of nationalism. Oromo nationalism cannot be an exception. Although Islam and Christianity are part of Oromo culture, their ideological aspects deflect Oromo nationalist aspiration. The paper did not study Islamic-Christian relations in Ethiopian history, but rather emphasized the importance of religious pluralism and tolerance in the multiethnic or multi-confessional society. Above all, I have indicated how the existence of Islam does not necessarily imply the prevalence of political Islam; its advent and development depend on specific historical, ethnographic and cultural circumstances. Thus it cannot spill over in all Islamic cultural areas overnight as some commentators and politicians seem to suggest. Yet, in a post-cold war situations in which international relations seem to be dominated by a “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm, many people do not seem to make this distinction (Huntington 1996; Halliday 1996; Mazrui 1997). Using this confusion, some regimes seek and receive the support of the West under the pretext of containing Fundamentalism, as did African dictators under the name of containing Communism during the Cold War, despite their poor democratic credentials and largely reported abuses of human rights and lack of internal legitimacy or popular support. In other words, “Islamic Peril” argument seems to be used a means of compensating a “strategic depreciation” of some countries after the end of the Cold War. As example Huliaras (1995: 244) mentions the case of Eritrea and Ethiopia: “Apart from the officials in Western capitals searching for new enemies, after the end of the Cold War, the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea […] tend to over-emphasize the Islamic threat, hoping to stop the erosion of public support and, more importantly, to increase their countries’ weakened strategic value after the collapse of the bipolar system.”

Centre for International and Security Studies/Glendon College, York University, Toronto.


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Oromummaa  a unifying ideology and the threat of borrowed ideologies against it


Muhammad was born in Mecca, located in the Arabian desert, probably in the year 570 A.D. He was a son of merchant father, Abdullah and mother Amina. Muhammad's tribe, the Banu Kinana, is believed to be the best chosen tribe of Allah. Hence, Muhammad was born being the best chosen man of Allah in the best chosen tribe of the Arabs. His parents claim direct ancestry from Ismael and Ibrahim. Muhammad's father and mother died one after another, and the orphan boy was taken by his uncle for adoption. He grew up as camel driver for his uncle in  Arabian desert. At the age of 25 Muhammad was asked by a 40 year old wealthy lady, Khadija, to marry him. He accepted her offer and happily married to her. They had begotten one surviving daughter named Fatuma who eventually became a fanatic Muslim like her father.


Though Muslims say that all nations had had their own prophets, their prophecies are imperfect and incomplete. According to the beliefs of the Muslims, Muhammad is the only perfect prophet, the greatest and the last seal of all prophets sent by Allah to complete hitherto imperfect and vulgar prophecies. Hence, rejection of Muhammad's prophecy shall incur unforgivable sin upon the infidels whose penalty is eternal damnations in the chamber of endless torture.


Preconditions for Muhammad's prophethood


It could be an unwise to deny the existence of monotheism in Arabia prior to the birth of Muhammad. If ancient Arabians had not known the existence of one Supreme Being, they wouldn't have developed ALLAH in their vocabularies to define the concept of One Supernatural Force. They were worshipping, praying and invoking the name Allah being under the Great Black stone, Kaaba though there were other stones used in different parts of Arabia to symbolise the invisible Allah. Since the desert climatic condition of Arabia cannot breed mangrove forest trees like the ones in the paradise land of Abbaa Muudaa Oromoo, Arab people's choice of erected stones as a means to reach their Allah was correct. Muhammad, being influenced by Jewish and Christian merchants, had miscalculated his own people's natural religion as idolaters and their belief in Allah was misunderstood.


In those days, Jewish and Christian merchants were coming to Arabia with the Jewish and Christian versions of monotheism. Muhammad was immensely swallowed by the merchants' new religion. In addition, they were telling stories of their great religious leaders. Perhaps, Muhammad could have developed a serious ambition of becoming a great leader after he learned the concept of One God from them that he started to compare his people's religion with the Jewish and Christian merchants’ religion.


Just like Jesus Christ, Muhammad also decided to live alone in a cave on Mt. Hira. It was at this place that Allah revealed to him via the angel Jibril to preach the true religion originally revealed to Ibrahim in the ancient time. He returned to Mecca and started to preach the idea of "no  god but Allah." He was rejected and vehemently opposed by Quraish leaders. When he was not able to convince them he devised new tactics. To make an alliance with  chieftains who would come to Mecca on pilgrimages was one of the tactics. He met six men in  620 A.D in Mecca who came from Medina. He preached them the concept of One Allah. The idea of One God was not new to Medina people since they learned from the numerous Jewish and Christian merchants living there. They agreed to spread his idea, however. Then, contact between Muhammad and the Medina chieftains  went on secretly. His second tactic  was to integrate himself into poor and weak Arabs who could be easily

attracted by his consideration and generosity. In spite of the 'best tactics', Muhammad could not win the Mecca Quraish leaders. Then, he had to escape from Mecca to Medina accompanied by a man called Abu Beker. It is this escape, from Mecca to Medina, that has come to be known as Hejira. It marked the beginning of Muslim calendar.


The Seed of Islamic Holy War

In Medina Muhammad had become very strong. He got many followers. Two years after the Heijira, Muhammad organised a squad of eight men under the leader of Abdallah Ibn Jahsh and sent them to attack a Quraish caravan who were passing by Medina. They attacked the men, killed one man and captured others. This was the first bloodshed in the name of Allah for the expansion of Muhammad’s  Islamic faith. It ushered the  root of Jihad war, which has been deadly translated as a 'Holy War' by European scholars.


After the first mission, under Abdallah, had been successfully completed, Muhammad decided to attack another Mecca caravan returning from Syria, now led by Abu Sufian. However, the Quraish intelligence service had learned Muhammad's plan and the leaders boldly decided to confront him. The two armies fought each other in the year two of the Hejira on the 18th of Ramadan near Medina, at Wadi Bedr. Muhammad won the war and his enemies fled in desperate and terror. This war was believed to be an  absolute  proof that Allah was on his (Muhammad) side, and it made him decide that the rest of the Arab world must be forced to obey Allah's words and commandments. “This decision began an era in which the sword was the chief missionary instrument of Islam."


How can war be praised as holy? If war is taken to be holy, regardless of its form as defensive or offensive, the human blood it has been shedding could have turned the desert barren lands of the birth places of Judaism, Christianity and Islam into prolific holy lands. The rocky mountainous lands  of central Asia could have been turned to hospitable plain. If it were holy, those murderous Abyssinian dictators, emperors and their right hand orthodox clergymen could have been the meekest  dove. From true believers point of view, be it defensive or offensive, any form of war is unholy. Nevertheless, to defend one's own fatherland from aggress regimes should not be confused with the fanatics question of holy war as ‘holiness’. The defence of fatherland  is purely a question of patriotism. It can be escalated to an offensive just war, which requires the art and science of war, not  a self-bombing dogmatic belief in indiscriminate killing and beheading the

dead.


The 'Holy Muslims'

Islam illustrates obedience to the will of Allah while those who accept the Islamic faith are demonstrated as Muslims. Most people in Arabia, in Asia and north Africa in particular had been the direct product of the 'Holy war' of Islamic sword  conducted  by Muhammad's successors, and the Ottoman Turkish Sultanates. Muhammad was the first person who declared himself a Muslim. Thereafter, anybody who wants to be a Muslim must heartedly say the following recitation in the presence of two witnesses.


There is no god but Allah' ' Muhammad is the messenger of Allah'

By saying these simple citation a person is entitled to be a member of world Muslim brotherhood. Thereafter, he has to follow the strict rules of Islamic laws and Quran as a source of the constitution of all laws. He has to observe dietary laws, marriage rules, form of greeting, five times pray a day facing to the direction of Mecca. He has to avoid untouchable relics of pre-Islamic ritual objects if he want to die being a holy Muslim and destined to enjoy eternal life in paradise after death.


Since conversion to Islam is simpler than the bureaucratic-colonial Christian faith, most people particularly in the continent of high illiteracy rates of Africa, are running to Islam as if it is superior to their colonial or traditional religions without having understood the enigma behind the recitation they are obliged to loudly pronounce.


The Holy Book of Allah


Muhammad is said to have received a total of 114 revelations when  he was in isolation on Mount Hira and in  Mecca, as revealed to him directly from Allah via the angel Jibril. This Holy Book is called Quran. After the death of Muhammad, his revelations were assembled together by his special secretary called Zayd who was closely supervised by a committee assigned for this purpose. The compiled revelations, after their accuracies had been proved by Muhammad's closest friends, were released  as the Holy Book of Allah for the Holy Muslims of Arabian tribes. For the Muslims, every word in the Quran is an  obligation to be accepted as Allah’s divine order. To raise any logical explanation for or against the verses is a sin, which automatically turns the holiness of the believers to the unholy qafir world of damnation. With the completion of Quran, Islam has become the third important written religion of Ibrahim's  (Abraham) children after the Jewish Torah

and the Christian Bible. Quran also serves the Islamic states as a source of constitution.


CONCLUSION

To sum up, there are Oromos who knowingly and deliberately evaluate Oromo natural religion, Waaqeffannaa, negatively, by using Judaism, Christianity and Islam as yardsticks for their measurements. However, the better we learn the origins and purposes of these religions, the better we understand and respect each other and the best we can measure and evaluate ourselves.


Tufaa Ch .Nadhabaasaa, Miseensa Gadaa Meelbaa




COMMENTARY



Some eight years ago, one Faranjii  person asked me  to tell him my religion.  His expectation was that I would be either a Christian or a Muslim. Nothing else. When I said, I believe in my  African  ancestors’ traditional religion, the man instantly responded to me by saying, “ This is amazing, what is the name of the religion and its book?  I answered, “There is no written book on it because we believe in the  incalculable and non-transmutable works, powers, commandments etc of God we call Waaqa, and Waaqa’s commandments, endowments and the likes, as we believe, cannot be written, codified and finished in any form. This is the  form of religion we inherited from our African ancestors” Then, after thorough conversation, this person commented, “This should be a true and humane region.”


It is obviously not good to assume that, the only correct way of worshipping and believing in God  is by having written of books of divinity or books of revelation. If a given people’s religion is  memorised and transmitted orally from generation to generation, that should not be taken and  be categorised as voodooism , paganism, animism or qafirism. These are disgraceful concepts of supremacists gathered around those chaptered, codified and itemised faiths of Abramic Scriptures with predetermined intentions. Today we see what that  is doing all over the world.


As far as  Oromos’ Waaqa blessed way of life is concerned, I dare say, the whole Oromo culture can be explainable in terms of Waaqeffannaa Oromoo religion and vice-versa. For this basic reason, any effort that aims to make Oromo traditional belief system a written  system, may not be able to segregate Waaqeffannaa from the main compound fruit of Oromumaa. If there is any attempt, its possibility would be in a fruitless compound. This is my belief. 


When  our mothers and fathers say, “ Hojiin Waaqa Uumaa, Dhumaa fi Calqaba hin  qabu”, they mean that  the works of the Creator Waaqa has no Alpha and Omega. However, according to the believers of the written religions, the double standard relationship they have had through their divine revelationists, led them to perceive the Alpha and Omega of God. These books cannot serve as exemplary model for writing book of worship for Waaqeffataa Oromos. If we see the etymological derivation of the Latin word, re-ligere (from which the modern word religion developed), it justifies nothing else other than the source and end of the Almighty Creator (Uumaa), and believers’ double standard destiny with their Creator.


The Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible and the Muslim Quran are all revelation histories of individual men in the societies they were members. In reality, adherents of these written religions  are believing in the revelation history of the men, to whom God was said to be revealed. If one wants to write a book of worship for Waaqeffataa Oromos, he will certainly face this problem, particularly in finding divine revelationists among the past and present Oromos. We believe in Waaqa’s revelation to all Oromos indiscriminately, not to one, two or three Oromos by discriminating the other million Oromos. Of course, Oromos do have an elaborate institution, responsible for maintaining and guarding the laws of Waaqa, as firmly and primarily  based on Oromos’ conception and perception of Waaqa. The persons who are in charge of the institution are not divine revolutionists, nor are they sheiks nor priests. They are  Qaalluus, endowed with  specific qualities to  observe and protect  Oromo social taboos in conformity to the Gadaa Oromo morality.


Conclusion

As to my belief, one who believes in the root of his Oromummaa  origin may not need to go to the domains of revealed books of worship to get answers to the problems he faced in his  spiritual life. The  further extended  Greco-Roman Empire’s book of ideological divinity, appeared  under the name  “ The New Testament” cannot offer him a ready made solution  for his politically, economically or socially bewildered  life as well.


In fact, our Oromo ancestors  had  had  ancient manuscripts  ever recorded in the progressive history of human society. There are inscriptions placed on tombs, statues, buildings and other manuscripts written on  papyrus bark,. These are clearly depicted and interwoven in ancient Egyptian and Cushitic civilization. It is  from his civilization the codified books of  today’s supremacists’ religions  had been  fraudulently forged. 


There are some old-timer Oromos who claim  how their ancestors  had had  a book of their own and  how it was lost. There are two versions in telling about the disappearance of the book. The first version says that, it was washed away by a river and  taken off. This river could be the River Nile,  the Awash river,  Gannaale river or Gibe river. We do not know. The second version  claims  how the book was eaten by a cattle, economically and emotionally the best favored domestic animal of the Oromos. To verify the  authenticity of the claims is another thing which could be practically difficult to prove. But we should know that the Oromos have had answers for any problems, for any questions facing them  from the granary of their traditional knowledge.  This traditional knowledge is  our treasury. It is the source of our Oromo-ness which shapes our code of conduct, ethical values and morality.   


Nagaan




THE FUTURE OF OROMIA!


In any form of struggle for liberation or emancipation, the emergence of deviant  faction after faction is inevitable. The problem of the OLF is not, basically, the formation of factions, nor can it be the factions’ clamour or non-clamour for “Bilisummaa”. The genesis of  its problem is deeply rooted in the behavioural activity of the coiners of the abbreviate OLF, which was supposed to be used as a guiding institution for the liberation of the Oromo people from Ethiopian colonialism. In the 1976 programme, it was clearly stated how the OLF would struggle for the final consummation  of  an “Independent Republic of Oromia”. However, it  is unwise to subsume as if all activities of the coiners voted for it. Though young we were in those terrible days, polarisations were used to be heard on discussions for conclusion on what should be done on the future fate of the Oromos after the mission of  “Bilisummaa” is completed. Hadn’t the vision for

an “ Independent Republic of Oromia” faced  lame visions from lame individuals within the founders in those days, present Oromo generations would not suffer from the wounds of the factions’ bad odour today.


Those who  had auspicious visions, audacious spirits and sagacious perspectives for the colonised Oromo masses, had given their lives  for the just cause of their beloved people. Prominent leaders of the organisation like Obboo Magarsaa Barii, the FIRST and the LAST CHAIRMAN OF THE OLF, distinguished cadres like Obboo Muhe Abdoo were not pernicious leaders. They were visionary leaders with competence and conformity to the original OLF’s mutual goal. After the martyred of these leaders, the OLF has not been able to produce CHAIRPERSONS. Nevertheless, after many years of stay in limbo stage, it was able to invent  “ The Offices of Secretary General and Deputy Secretary”, leaving aside the position of the chairpersons in disarray and the liberation struggle in confusion.. If anybody tells me who is the chairman and its vice chairman after the death of those visionary leaders, it could  help me correct my knowledge of deficiency about our  heroes’

struggle in this organisation.


The rejection of influence and counter-influence, in the rank and file of the OLF, has assisted  pernicious individuals at  the  leadership stage  to officially open their Ethiopinist door, per se as opposed to those visionary leaders’ strategic goal. So, to make  a “living reality” of their deadly agenda, the creation of factions after factions must be  their Ethiopianist daily duty context, so as to win the beauty contest of  Itiyophiyawwinnet; and simultaneously to kill Oromo people’s motto, “ Not for Itiyophiyawwinnet but for Oromummaa”. As it is obvious to everybody, the mediation for the winners of  the ‘Ethiopian political  Beauty Prostitutes’ Contest’,  has been going on through the “holy” efforts of MEKANEYESUS QEESOCH, from the heart of Oromia’s capital. The leaders of the factions have been more widely exposed to Itiyioyiyawwinnet through  the cascade of  the QEESOCH’s theological “holy“ communications. They can

easily come together for Itiyophyawwinnet, more than they do for compromising on Oromummaa. The agenda of “Bilisummaa Oromo” is  only meant to stimulate the “ holy” mediation efforts of  the holy mediators.


The minor difference the factions have, is that, one  faction has got ‘smart cadres’, who were accepted as “repentant Marxians” from the “Tiqidem” ancien-regime. These Tiqidem cadres  can easily help win the faction they are  serving as revolutionary cadres through the deadly tactics they had learned from the Tiqdem philosophy. Their efforts can be  more cosmeticised by their Ethiopian neftegna comrades. This is what the second faction relatively lacks to fully qualify for Itiyophiyawwinnet. Even after the quarrel on the proprietorship of the OLF got  foreign verdict in foreign court, the two factions didn’t stop to claim, “ I am the original OLF; I am the original OLF,  not You, not You“. The recently emerged third faction seems to be a play-ground of, and the victim of the two factional cabinets’ communications. Nothing can be said more than this single sentence about this faction at this stage. 


As to the other Oromo ‘political organisations’,  they couldn’t be free from the wounded OLF’s figure in the past, whether they come in the form of ULFO or in separate entities. They are rather found to be chosen by  factional shadows, particularly by the first faction,  to be the retinue of its Ethiopianist agenda. However, this doe not necessarily mean that, there are no individuals. dedicated to the reconstruction of the ruined road  to an “ An Independent Republic of Oromia”, but they couldn’t become a magic engineer to plaster the wounds of heir respective factions.


Hence what should be the solution?


As far as  Oromos’ liberation struggle is internationally facing diplomatic enemies from within itself, as far as it is  nationally confronting strategic struggles from within, it is certainly a complicated situation for genuine Oromo nationalists. But, since they went over the deadly ideology of “Ethiopianism”, the question of surrender to Itiyophiyawwinnet is already dead.The issue of reconciliation (Araara) among the factions and other Oromo political groups could be met if it is the willing  of the Ethiopianist camps to accept one of these conditions peacefully: (A) If  they drop the agenda of “Itiyophiyawwinnet” and  re-integrate themselves to the Oromo camp. Or, (B) if they declare their total separation from the Oromo camp and join the Ethio-Minilik camp without any Oromo heritage unconditionally. We must honestly acknowledge how two contradictory ideologies cannot be reconciled, but they can live in peace side by side within their own

clearly delineated  boundaries. Therefore the choice is hanging on the honest decision of the Ethio-Minilik Ethiopianists’camp, not on the pillars of Abbaa Gadaa’s self-defensive house.



BEING HABASHA IS A BEHAVIOR NOT ETHNICITY  

The problem we as a nation suffer in this so called land Ethiopia is not caused by Oromians and Ogadenians rebellion against the central government of the so called Ethiopia but the  problem lies on how the central government itself came into existence.  

If Minilik, Tafari, Mangistu and Malasaa Sena came to power by the killing of thousands, we can conclude that these men deserve no support but they did in the past and they still do have supporters.

 Who supports Minilik, Tafari, Mangistu and Malsa?  

Well, the Orthodox church and the Amharas supported Minilik and Tafari Bokonon Gudisa, the poor supported Mangistu and the Tigrians who are well fade support Malsaa and the PDOs assembled in Tigri guard him from death.  If we agree on this, we can move to another level of discussion i.e the major factors created by these situations followed Minilik, Tafari, Mangistu and Malasaa.

By factors, I am talking about the behaviors developed from the interest groups linked to these men mentioned above and the ideas that these men stood for. 

For example, the Amharas support Minilk because Minilik is an Amhara and Minilik also helped the Amhara identity to expand beyond Amharas villages.  Further, the Amharas love Tafari Bokonon Gudisa because Tafari transformed the Amhara identity to another level where being an Amhara grew beyond blood ties to behavior.  This is to say that to be an Amhara transformed into a behavior where even a Walayita man can be considered to be a good Amhara/Ethiopian so long he/s pronounced Amharic well and possessed  an Amhara name.   In this case, to be an Amhara means is to act like an Amhara, where  blood line did not matter any more.

Coming back to the issues of who supports who, Mangistu enjoyed popular support from those who believed in the international proletarian ideology that promoted strong Ethiopian identity who’s ideological base was the same  “United Ethiopia” slogan in which the Amhara identity built by Minilik and Tafari was the norm.   Any one who doesn’t accept these norms and values condemned to death.  

Following the same principle, ever since year 1991 led to the rise of the Tigrians power in the horn of Africa, here we are witnessing the same repeated reality of Minilik, Tafari and Mangistu eras.  During his reign, Mangistu became the beloved son of Ethiopia by hiding his OROMO identity and now Malasa became the beloved son of empire Ethiopia by adding his Tigrian identity symbol in the middle of Minilk’s  flag, the very flag he use to call “a pice of rug.   

What is intreating to note here therefore is the fact that those who came to power in Ethiopia failed in the same power trap when their followers also stood behind them to defend their interests. 

WHAT CAN BE LEARN 

I am certain that even those who don’t agree with an evolution theory accept the fact that humans develop from embryo to adult via  physical growth, a series of changes in size and form; and maturation.   But these is not true for the Ethiopians since they do not show interest in these process of social growth or development for some reason.   Because of such lack of mental maturation, the Abyssinians tend to forget a very basic truth.

As a result, even the Tigrians who got bombed by Ethiopia’s past rulers totally forgot what has happened to them just 20 years ago and became the bombers of freedom seekers of today.

Regarding the Minilik designed and manufactured so called Ethiopians, they still consider the Oromians and other 80 ethnic groups in their empire Ethiopia, as their own property.   It is like owning a horse that one loves because the horse gets his master to  a destination where the master wants to be at but the horse will be punished if it run away from home.  Like wise, the Oromians are loved by the Abyssinains so long they spoke their masters language and brought the grains to the market they have harvested.  If the Oromians say that they want to keep their grains, coffee and the cows to themselves, the master will get so mad and kill them off because he hates losing his export commodities.  Bombing, evicting and killing therefore becomes an acceptable tradition so here we are at it.

On the nationalist front, those who have reserved the “Ethiopiyawinet” title cry louder than the Oromians for the unity of their mother Ethiopia, and even wish to wipe out the Oromians and the Ogadenians at any cost of course if they can.   

Some who chose a diplomatic means over the killing, try to use their half blood  Oromo side or their brain washed Oromo wife who’s identity was striped off of her from the outset to show that we all are one and the same  In fact, some of them even go to the length of explaining those common traits that we share negating the fact that every living things share certain things such as eating, breathing, reproducing yet our master-slave relationship remains.

THE MAJOR CHALLENGES OF THE DAY

The Abyssinians are conditioned by their environment and by their experiences. That is, their brains links current to their past learned experiences.  This is to say that the superficial stories they grew up-in have conditioned their brain to think that they are the sons and the daughters of the Solomon dynasty, or linage chosen by God to rule over their subject, i.e the Oromians and the 80+ ethnic groups of the empire Ethiopia. 

What these Abyssinians past did to them therefore is, it provided them with past experience and knowledge and memory that informs them how to react to present situations. 

It is this conditioning which is responsible for much of their behavior to themselves, to others and to every situation they are facing and forcing us to face to day. It is this conditioning, which dictates their perceptions of reality of others and of themselves.   Because of that, they act like a programmed machine.    That is why they can only see Ethiopia of one language Amharic, one religion the greek Orthodox and the Ethiopia that must be ruled by the Amhara, Tigre or by a trained Orthodox Christian puppets.

THE SOLUTION

Finding a way to de-conditioning their minds and their behaviors will led them to think rationally and help them begin to recognize their wrong and then live with a fresh mind and outlook. Only then when they see reality as one big action and reaction, perhaps then they can come to see reality as it is: ever present, ever changing, always new.

The Abyssinians conditioned past and current exists in many forms and reactions, some of which they are not even aware of.  But as of now, many Abyssinians can’t even see the Eritrean map but see only the old map of Ethiopia in which Eritrea is included.   This is the conditioned mind that needs to be re-conditioned if we want to live in peace.

Abba Torbban Kutayee

AMBO

A Dogmatic Empire Ethiopia and the enslaved Oromians


As I understood the centre of  your proposition teaches tolerance. This is  so marvellous as you are exhuming the dying core value of Oromummaa  to be revitalised.  Its practical discernment   could be possible, primarily, if at all those Oromos who have made themselves  hostages of foreign values  are able to peer into it for the survival interests  of the voiceless Oromos. Let’s be practical and face the reality and Obligation


On this forum the issue of religion and region has been discussed several times, from conceptual levels to practical ones. We often preach and defend any Oromos right who  follow or wish to follow any form of religion. However, we  fail to defend ourselves when they are  attacking us by the rights and tolerances we have cherished  them. As we like to say, “ It is their right”,  we must also learn to say, “ These are their obligations”.

You may ask, who should say  this? My straightforward answer is, those who believe in the core values of Oromummaa. They should take the lead to voice their voices for  the voiceless Oromos. We have been crying for Tokkummaa, Tokkummaa. That Tokkummaa could not be realized because it has been given too  much “right” without touching on its counterpart, “obligation”.


                                       Dogmatic Empire

Ethiopia is not a country that was established on scientific bases. It is a dogmatic empire, born out of the old ecclesiastical ‘holy state of Axum’. Hence, the Ethiopian Nguse Negest Empire is an Orthodox Church Empire. As to me, it is naive to believe in scientific analysis and academic discussion as  mere solutions to come out of the slavery of the dogmatic empire.

Believe it or not, all Pheenxee Oromos do not believe in Bilisummaa Oromoo. How can a sect that is preaching innocent Oromos anti-Oromummaa values  accept Bilisummaa Oromoo? The Pheenxees are followed by those who see themselves  as  "ethicists of protestantism ”. Is there  any other important WABII other than what their Qeesoch  are doing and telling us today? Let’s be practical and face the reality.


 Likewise, Muslim Oromos who strongly believe in Islamic values cannot hold back themselves from promoting “Muslim Brotherhood” across the line of Oromummaa within the Ethiopian context in cooperation with Abyssinian Muslims.

Those hard line Orthodox Oromos  certainly prefer to join the Abyssinian Orthodox camps rather than  joining the Oromo Pheenxee or non-Pheenxee Christians clubs. Under this situation, the “qafir, pagan or animist” Oromos  will continue to be the play ground of  confusion makers and convention killers, while the camp of Itiyophiyawinnet is rising up. 

 

Regionalism and Tribalism.


These two forms of “isms”  did not exist  in Oromo political culture. But, they are recently  architected and developed by confusion makers and Kakuu (oath) Oromoo breakers. They are  using them as ideological weapons. With them, they are embarking on dividing the natural setup of Oromo’s population geography and ethnography  in order to meet their group interest.


Certainly, Oromos do have  regions;  well endowed regions of mainly three climatic zones. They  have  a well elaborate kinship system.  The various Oromo  kin groups, lammiis or Gosas,  are widely dispersed in all climatic regions. They are neither a localised clan nor a regionalised tribe. The current “talk of  Talks” on Oromo “regionalism and tribalism”, has no  any correlation with  lammii Oromoos’  historical geographical distribution and ethnographical descriptions.

Nagaan

  

     

  

 

I agree with you our core problem is not just having religious diversities-it is political and lack of nationalism. But I want to argue that our religious play a part and contribute to such weaknesses.


First of all, we misuse our religious diversity to work against Oromos' unity and building Oromo nationalism. And the cream of our message is not for all Oromos, irrespective of their religious beliefs either. As I stated earlier, mine is mainly meant for the likes of Oromos who open a paltalk and spend months arguing with Abyssinians on religions.

 

Look what Abyssinians are doing. They polish their religions with politics. Ethiopian Orthodox church wears the green-yellow-Red flag. Abyssinian Muslims do same. In literally everything they do, they never forget their politics. Their priests also preach politics, be that indirect as it may be. But tell me, which Oromo Sheik or Priest talks about the need to liberate Oromiyaa and God given right to fight for the freedom of Oromo nation and mass?  Almost none at the moment except very few religious people who died for Oromos' cause . We saw what religious people have been doing in Southern Sudan, South Africa...etc mass revolutions. And compare that with what our religious people are doing at this very moment, and then honestly reflect if they are in any way positively contributing to Oromos' cause. Hardly is the most generous answer.

 

You are not alone. I am also fascinated by the nationalist revolution of Algeria. I read a couple of books and watched half a dozen documentaries and movies on it. Simply put, it was one of the most amazing nationalist movements in the world. But please don't compare what the Algerian Muslim Sheiks, Christian Priests and Jewish Rabbia's did to what the Oromo counter-parts are doing now. Algerian Sheiks and Priests raised and built Algerian nationalism in their followers. Algerian religious leaders not only played key part in raising Algerian nationalism but also acted as a shield to safe-guard and protect Algerian nationalist revolutionaries. Majority of Oromo sheiks and priests preach only submission to foreign values, being totally pacifist, passiveness, some even preach direct or indirect submission to Malas' brutal rule. 

 

Therefore, unlike Algerian religious leaders, our religous leaders have a tendency to kill Oromo nationalism than build it. They have a tendency to demoralize-make them passive- people not to fight the enemy than motivate or energize Oromos' for a nationalist revolution. Therefore, we cannot compare the case of Algeria with that of Oromiyaa. The premises of having diverse religions is right but the conclusion of religious diversities role in nationalist revolution between Algeria and Oromiyaa cannot be compared. Looking for parallels in religious leaders of Algeria and Oromiyaa is not fair to history, and it is not fair to our honest and informed conscience.

 

Furthermore, it is not a sin to also claim that beyond countering building and fostering Oromo nationalism, some of our religious leaders have become a means of dividing Oromos and an obstacle to building national unity.

 

And it is high we search for heroes and heroines among Oromos, not just ancient Arabs and Jews. Abyssinians, including religious people never forget their Tewodros, Minelik, Yohannes...We need to teach our children on our own heroes and heroines, who stood tall in the most testing of times. But sadly, once Oromos become very religious, irrespective of whatever religion it may be, they totally withdraw from Oromo-self, care less about Oromos' cause. Some even degrade and trash what makes up an Oromo nation.

 

Yes, what we talk here may be just very small part of the puzzle/problem we have, but it is still one of the problems. Small problems ignored may build to be a huge one over time.

 

Barii




Searching for a pretext -revisited?


Let me admit at the outset that most of your writing in these 24 pages essay bellow is  inspiring, honest and refreshing though I strongly disagree with you on  some points that I am going to elaborate next.


To begin with, those of us who have argued for the return of the Oromo identity, which Waaqeffanna is a part of, never said the Oromians should practice only Waqefata.   The main focus of our discussion and arguments were and still are “not so much about what should happen but what happened and how they happened.

Here, the important thing we’ve focused upon are to understand how a catastrophe against Oromummaa happened and how we the victims can recover, and how can we prevent it from happening again.   This means is that the ultimate objective is, as the economists say, to develop the theory of the case,  one had to figure out how to think about this catastrophe. 

As you very well know, there are no equation or no inscrutable diagram and no impenetrable jargon that we all can use to show Christianity is the only ideology that led nations around the world to success as opposed to the communist theory that led the former soviet union to surpass the old Europe within 70 years period. 

Your argument about Pentecostals ability to help our people to prevent our nation from acquiring HIV-AIDS by curtailing their temptation of having sex here and there might be a plus but who really knows where HIV came to our land to begin with.  This is to say that, yes, you may see things from global prospective and say, we all are humans and thus it is okay to borrow foreign religion at the expenses of the destruction of our own identity, but it is another thing to ignore the DARK SIDE of the borrowed identity.

As you rightly noted, our people don’t know how to separate spirituality from culture and thus they failed victim to the confusion they have inherited from these borrowed cultures where blackness is perceived to be a shame and being a women and having a ministration cycle is a crime that led them to be disallowed to enter churches and mosques.  These phenomena is what forced about the majority Oromians to borrow Amharic as you did in your writing here, and names such as Xilahuun Gesese as opposed to Dandana his original name. 

In short, our sense of rejection to any borrowed identity or strange thoughts is not developed by our sense of opposition to other nations spirituality or the right to believe, but by our desire to reject a transplanted fake identity with which some confused people fakely proud of. Unfortunately, there are millions of those who make noises around these matters because their immune system that ought to resist a fake identity has been destroyed by the cancer of fake religion that have eaten away all their nerve systems.

The Oromo liberation matter that you have mentioned in your writing,  to some us is so grave because it is dignified not by our desire to rule other nations of empire Ethiopia, but by our wishes and dreams to be ourselves, the Oromians.   

You and I know that the identity crisis drama that took place in Oromia is not a peculiar event that only happen to us but it is the reason for the disintegration of the soviet union and the reunion of Germany and it should be a necessary context about what we want as Oromians and why we want it as human beings.  

Because the Oromo question is the question of the resurrection of the Oromo identity, we all spent most of our time thinking and talking about the Oromo issue so obsessively following the unfolding drama of the decolonization of our land and our identity by the Tigreans.  As a result, our liberation issue became  the matter of life and death for many, like our brother whom you’ve mention,  had to take his life because he felt so depressed by our failure to get what we wanted. 

Too often, pundits imagine that because the subject is so serious, it must be approached solemnly; that it is a big issue it must be addressed in secrecy but the truth is, to make sense of a strange phenomena such as religion, one must be prepared to play with ideas and playing with ideas requires to speak about it so openly without a whimsical streak.

What is very interesting thing that I have noticed ever since I arrived in USA back in 1995, the so called Oromo intellectuals think in a senses of unbelievable rigidity about every thing because they think the problem is  too big to talk about.  However, when I watch some American comedians on Television, they  illustrate nations problem with an entertaining tale of the ups and downs with no fear of any body or any fundamentalist fanatics.   Yes, it may sound so silly but they educate their nation even if they may offend  some sensitive men who fear such an  exposure because, if they are exposed, they lose that huge income that they collect via their preaching stages around the world.   So, I would say, hiding our problem and accepting Faranjiis identity, religion and governance system is not necessarily a dignified way nor it is the best idea that jolts our minds.   This is how we started our conversation about religion and it’s dark side. 

On the other hand, studies suggests that a transplantation of system does not work, especially for developing countries and thus well known economists are suggesting that an existing indigenous cultures must be used to bring good governance responsible for stability and economic development.  Please see any website or even UN good governance index and take a note from it.   What this means is that we the Oromians must utilize our indigenous systems not only for conflict resolution but for better governance and to implement ethical norms that has been destroyed by the western cultures responsible for the growth of prostitution and beggary. 

What you, as a UN employee should know is that the wreckage of our identity caused by the Abyssinian invasion resulted in an identity crisis is launched by main stream Christianity who funded the war of Anole and Calanqoo and what the Pentecostals are doing to day is the extension of same reality. 

All these are done by western whose ideologies is focused on the construction of their identity on the destruction of other’s identity,  not without good reason: the sharp increase in personal economic gains, plus the reduction of any opposition from other cultures.  That is why loyal men from developing countries are working in places such as Afghanistan being paid by the dollar funded by USA. 

In my opinion, your debate seems particularly hampered by confusion over economic opportunity for an exchange of the destruction of useful indigenous systems described in Gadaa Malba, the Oromo Democracy and by other documents written by Dr. Lamuu Bayisaa, Asmaroome Lagasaa, and other foreigners who have studied the Oromo civilization.   For you and many others like you, disarming the Oromo Liberation Army is the best way to do politics but that disregards the death of tens of thousands Oromians who have perished at every corner of Oromia while fighting for our freedom.

At any event, your idea focuses on how food is provided and how those who have provided the food to the poor can get paid and live a happy life but not this analogy works for all of us.   For me and for many million Oromians, our Gadaa system is our civilization and a symbol that distinguishes us from others such us the savages like Malsaa, the Oromo killer.   For you and the like, the best social insurance is not each of Oromians ability-to perform based on how he/she knows best but to disarm the Oromian Army letting them bow down to the sons of Abyssinians military power that brought them to the rank of rulers in our land for 150 years. 

So, lets agree that those of you who would like to be an Arab, the Faranj, the Habasha and an Oromo at the same time come forward and join up the camp you wish to live with but live us alone so that we can take our cause step by step further until the confusion brought upon us by the borrowed identities is over.

What is sad is that the risks brought upon us by those who are willing to condemn own civilization is shared across a pool of Oromians even though few who worked with the colonizing forces are protected against unlikely events.  Take the fate of great men such as Dr. Tadasaa Ebbaa, Galsaa Dilbo, Gutama Hawas, Jarraa aba Gadaa and compare it to the fate of men like Junadi, Minase,Bacaa, Nagasoo etc. 

Men who want to join the Nagaasoo camp think things are quite bleak in the Oromo liberation camp but not so.  Even though I can't foresee what the solution will be in a short times, because the liberation struggle might take hundreds of years, I know our problem is not about becoming a spoon fed  babies of the Faranjiis and the Tigre Shiftaas but it is fundamentally an identity problem. 

Further more, the basic presumption that the Gadaa system is too old and thus must put to sleep and Waaqeffannaa too is to old to use is,  an idea of those who may have been benefited from the status quo yet, our lose will exceed the losses of Calanqo and Anole if we go back to our Gallaa identity as you so recommended.   Well, we were foolish. And now the plague is upon us.

Rundaasaa Ashete Hunde ti



Searching for a pretext -revisited?

by: Saaqqataa Shuumii



There is only one thing dumber in politics than picking up a fight when you don’t have to; it is picking one when you can’t win.

 

Few weeks ago, and after a long absence from a radar screen of ONA netters, I got connected to the forum and managed to catch up with some of the issues which have been widely discussed. As usual, I started by deleting the unwanted messages and began concentrating on the ones which caught my attention. For some reasons, the exchange of views on the issue of religion and Oromummaa attracted me the most and I read them all. Not necessarily because they contained something noveau but rather because they revisited issues which just three decades ago caught our attention then as high school students. The enlightened leftist group of our nation of those days dwelled upon the role of religion in a society but in vain. Then the argument and the whole attempt by the two leftist groups i.e. EPRP and MEISONE were to prove that God did not exist and that the creation theory was useless. Dialectical materialism was said to be the order of the day as a source of an answer to every single question in life. As curious high school students who were impressed by the knowledge of these peers, most of us bought the theory and tried to implement it in our day-to-day life. I don’t think we succeeded but no wonder. We did not have adequate knowledge of what the two enlightened group tried to inculcate in our minds. We were too young and too naive. That was then but now, we aged, matured, acquired more knowledge, exposed ourselves to different cultures, beliefs and ways of life and subsequently we hold different opinion about faith and ideology in a very objective and balanced way. And that is very natural.

 

Among the different issues discussed on ONA page, the one surrounding the “disadvantage” of “borrowed” religions i.e. Islam and Christianity and that our “indigenous waaqeffannaa” should be the faith of all Oromos is the one which attracted me the most. Why only Christianity and Islam (and especially the Pentecost’s) are picked upon, I don’t have a clue but judging from the insinuations of the authors of some of these articles, these two major religions practiced by Oromos are presumed to be the culprit for our failure in our attempt to liberate Oromiya. The proponents of waaqeffannaa were making every effort to prove that unlike Pentecost and Islam, waaqeffannaa is an indigenous one hence had we adhered to our indigenous, home-brewed waaqeffannaa and refrained from borrowing religions from abroad, we could have reached our goal, claimed the authors.

 

For the sake of fairness and to make it simpler for the readers, I want to clarify my position from the outset: I don’t practice any of the two religions under discussion i.e. Islam and Christianity although I was born to a Christian family. My illiterate parents were devoted Orthodox believers and I was brought up in that atmosphere of due respect and fear of Waaqayyoo. As a high school student, I was once attracted to one of the sects of born-again Christians which actually contributed to influencing my thoughts even today, in a very positive way. As I grew up and for unexplainable to me reasons, I left that sect and joined the choir of the then “revolutionaries”. In those days only the opportunist could afford to be neutral, hence I joined one of the wings of the then student movement. Today, I don’t belong to any church denomination or sects of Islam but I profoundly believe in Waaqayyoo (in Oromiffaa) God (in English), Allah (in Arabic), Mungu (in Swahili)l, Bog (in Russian), Igziabher (in Amharic), Jah/Jehovah (in Hebrew), Dios (in Spanish) Dieu (in French) and so on. Although they are written and said differently, they are all names of one supernatural force which I can’t and don’t even dare to explain to anybody (because it is impossible) but I believe it exists. That is my personal conviction which I always keep to myself. I don’t impose this belief of mine on someone else and I also don’t want others to impose their beliefs on me either. Study of Human Society proves that, our ancestors failed to identify this supernatural force and decided to worship its reflections in forms of big tree, big mountain or big waterfall etc. 

 

I am not an authority in Bible or Quran, but because of my academic background and day-to-day exposure in my professional life as I am dealing with people claiming to belong to these faith groups, I do have some knowledge of both Holy Scripts. And despite their inconsistencies, in my opinion, both Holy Scripts are good sources of knowledge and excellent sources for spiritual satisfaction especially when one is in a desperate mood and situation of hopelessness. They are Code of Conducts or regulators of Social norms. At a time when society could not develop its civil or penal codes, the Ten Commandments were designed to ensure that private property is respected (don’t steal), that people have the right to life (Don’t kill); respect family values (don’t commit adultery) etc. These common to all Human being moral values are well reflected in one way or another in Contemporary International Human Rights norms to which we all make references when accusing authoritarian regimes, for example, Meles, for violations of human rights of the Oromos. 

 

In this rather extended writing, I wanted to focus on and subsequently argue that: a) waaqeffannaa is a religion, b) you cannot and should not impose rules to forbid religious practices, c) we should not confuse religion with culture, d) the fault is not in the Scripts but in their implementations, e) Oromos are converted en masse to born-again sects because of lack of success at political front; f) we should stop looking for a pre-text and rather focus on the real problem; and, d) negotiation with the regime and the different Oromo organizations in Ethiopia should be top on the agenda of the day. Please note that, this is not a scientific writing (hence no foot notes or references) but rather a reflection of my personal view on the subject at hand. I am just exercising my fundamental human right to freely express my view. In doing so, my intention is not to support one group and condemn the others but rather to highlight the need for freedom of expression and the right not to be discriminated even when one upholds different from the mainstream views (or religion).

 

A) Waaqeffannaa is a religion   

 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines religion as “the belief in the existence of a god or gods, and the activities that are connected with the worship of them…one of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods,….a particular interest of influence that is very important in your life…”  And the latest version of Oromo Dictionary by obbo Ibsaa defines “waaq or waaqayyoo” as Oromo God and “waaqeffachuu” as worship. Subsequently, “waaqeffachuu” has no other meaning than worshiping God, like in Islam or Christianity. 

 

Religion is not only about believing in a Supernatural force. Believing in oneself is a religion in itself if and when one considers him/herself the most rationale being who can decide on his own fate. That is all fine. But there is no way one can proof to others that their faith in God, Buddha or Devil is wrong or inferior to one’s religion beliefs. Believing is a state of mind and every believer believes in something which is too subjective and difficult to qualify. Waaqa never appeared in person to any Oromo but our ancestors believed in Him and we too continue to believing in Him in the form of Allah or Waaqa, because we are told He exists somewhere. It is impossible to prove or disproof that Allah (Waaqa) really exists. But one does not need a scientific laboratory to proof that. You either believe in Him or you don’t!

 

Although the Pentecost assert that the alleged prevalence of the Holy spirit all over the world today, is the proof that God indeed exists, that very existence of Waaqa in my opinion, cannot be verified scientifically. Every time I pass by the big compound of the world’s leading particle physics laboratory called CERN, I always wonder if their research may one day yield a fruit. (CERN is a multi-billion Euro laboratory located at the border between Switzerland and France, where leading world scientists in Physics are engaged in creating life). So far they failed but every year they inform the world that they were very close to achieve their goal. But who knows they may succeed and prove to the world one day that the Big Bang actually was the source of life and not the Creation.  But for those who believe in Creation theory, Allah (Waaqa) exists and He really created the Universe. Hence in the absence of any empirical study or other scientific proof that Waaqa (Allah) does or does not exist, I don’t think it is necessary for us to dwell upon this issue. No one can convince anyone on this.  It is a no-win argument. In any case, we the Oromos have many more common – unifying factors (that we are human beings, we are Oromos, we all aspire to attain our freedom and equality etc) than what divides us for example, religion and region. We have a rather burning issue and that is where we should have focused on. Just for our basic understanding and the danger such an argument about religion may entail if not handled properly, please be informed that, according to the Iranian Quran News Agency (IQNA) of August 2005, Ethiopia is home to 18.3 million Muslims and ranks number sixth in Africa and twelfth in the world among countries with Muslim population. Hence, discussions about religion in the Ethiopian context should be handled with extreme care especially at this particular time in history of growing fundamentalism of all beliefs.

 

B) You cannot and should not impose rules to forbid religious practices,

 

Abyssinia, along with Georgia and Armenia, was one of the first three countries in modern history to “borrow” Christianity from the Middle East and of course the first one as a State to de facto accept Islam by granting asylum to Arab refugees when the Prophet was still alive. Europeans and Americans “borrowed” these religions from the Middle East centuries later. However, Ethiopian Orthodox church, bluffing to be indigenous, opposes the activities of the born-again sects libeling them as “foreign religion” – mette haimanot! It profoundly believes that Orthodox Church is native, home grown Ethiopian religion whereas everything else is considered as “borrowed” from bahir mado, hiding a fact that the Coptic Orthodox itself is a borrowed religion from bahir mado as well. Until very recently, even the Patriarchs were “borrowed” from Egypt.

 

By the way, the right to have a religion which is stipulated in the major International Human Rights Covenants (for example Article 18 of International Convention on Civil and Political Rights from 1966 - ICCPR) is equally interpreted as the right not to having any religion at all. Now if we insist that all Oromos should believe in Waaqa (God) and practice ONLY Waaqeffannaa (worshiping God), how can we reconcile this with the expectation of the international community and universal humankind in general which is expecting everyone to adhere to these internationally accepted norms of Human Rights to having or not having a religion? Are we perceiving the liberated Oromiya to be a land of Waaqa (Waaqeffannaa) where only one Waaqa and of course Waaqeffannaa is going to be practiced? Or, are we planning to create a religious free Oromiya similar to what was applied in the former Communist counties or we are intending to build a society which allows only one religion group i.e. waaqeffannaa? If the later is the case, how are we going to convince the non-Waaqeffannaa people to give up their faith and adhere only to waaqeffannaa? What if they resist and demand their right to uphold their own faith? Are we going to disown them, declare them non-Oromos and therefore deny them the right to enjoy the same fundamental human rights with other Oromos who uphold waaqeffannaa? How can we tell the new generation Oromos for example, who is more pragmatist than we do, not to believe in anything but waaqeffannaa? What if they want to be atheist? Will they cease to be Oromos and subsequently lose all the right to live in Oromiya as equal citizens with other fellow Oromos who uphold Waaqeffannaa or we declare them second class citizens with lesser rights? Or are we borrowing the practices in Afghanistan where the authorities do not allow citizens to be anything but only Muslims. Anyone converted to another religion or decided not to believe in Allah is doomed to be sentenced to death. Any other faith except Islam is forbidden by law and discussion on or carrying a Bible by an Afghan for example, is a capital offence.

 

We all speak loud about democracy. Far from being a perfect one, democracy is considered to be the best system of governance so far where the rights of the minority are fully respected. The standard of measurement (or benchmark) for qualitative democracy is the prevalence of full respect of the rights of the minority in a given society. So if we are promoting democracy or aspiring for it, how are we going to reconcile this assertion to promote only waaqeffannaa with the dissenting views of the minority be it religious or political?

 

Attempts by the authorities to impose restrictions on religious practices or to forbid citizens from practicing one, proved to be unsuccessful. In the former USSR for example, the atheists (communists) tried to “eradicate” religion from the minds of their respective communities. Religious practices were outlawed and were replaced by the teachings of Marxism and religion was equated to opium thus declared to be enemy of the people. Huge state repressive machineries were instituted and anti-religion doctrines were put in all academic institutions to inculcate in the minds of the people the evilness of religion. Doses of dialectical and historical materialism were injected into the brains of the citizens to create necessary antibody against religion. For more than seven decades, while communism was said to be successfully building in the USSR and despite the strict State control, people were practicing their respective religions clandestinely while in public pretending to be members of the Communist Youth League or the Communist party itself. Contrary to the assumption that the Soviet Union was at the final stage of building a classless communist (atheist) society, the big bang came in 1991 and dismantled not only the prevailing atheist ideology but the territorial integrity of that huge empire itself. Following the fall of Communism, we witnessed how former big Communist party bosses were lining up for baptism at Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. In those former Soviet Republics in the East and South East, leaders of the newly independent States embarked on building mosques in every Cartier of every town and village. In most of these non-Slavic Central Asian states of ex-Soviet Union, former Communist party bosses became presidents of the newly independent Islamic States and declared Islam as the state religion.


Not withstanding the above fact, that imposing religious norms on citizens is always counter-productive, we continue witnessing that few self-anointed “spiritual leaders” declare that they know better what is good for the people they claim to represent. Without proper assessment and opinion gathering, they declare and impose on the people, norms and rules which are not well discussed or endorsed by the population. But human history has proven that such an imposition from the top always results in secret practices by the citizens of something different from what their leaders impose on them. That was the case in the former Soviet Union and now in many fundamentalist Islamic countries.


C)  We should not mix religion, politics and culture

 

What seem to annoy my fellow Oromos in Diaspora is NOT necessarily the Scripts of the said religions per se but rather the interpretation and practice by the followers of these religions. Here we have the unfortunate mix of religion and culture. Covering faces of a woman, for example, is what Middle Eastern men designed to “protect” their wives and daughters from the “evil eyes” of a neighbor and that was a centuries old practice in the Middle East way before the birth of Jesus or Mohammed. The same is true with Christianity. If one adheres to the Old Testament (which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does) women are equally mistreated in all the countries where Coptic Church is operating. Women are not allowed to enter a church during their monthly biological cycle, and they should not mix with men during church services although in the Bible it is written all over, that Madeline and Virgin Mary could always sit with Jesus and listen to His teachings in the same room with other men. Jamila, the wife of Prophet Mohamed was not only sitting with men but was commanding troupes of men during her business trips through Arabian deserts. These dress codes and community values related to woman as practiced today by Muslim and fundamentalist Christian women beyond the Middle East has nothing to do with the letters and spirits of these Holy Scripts but rather the importation of cultural values of Jews and Arabs at their face value and their forcible incorporation in the application of the norms of the Scripts. And look at the language of ceremony at Mosques and Coptic churches.  Yes until very recently, Quran could only be read in Arabic and all other translated versions of it were declared not to be authentic, to say the least. The same is true with the Orthodox Church. Until very recently, Church services in Ethiopia could be observed only in Geez and non-habashas like my devoted but illiterate father were doomed to stand in the compound of St. George for hours without understanding a word of what has been said. Keep in mind, in those days (I still believe that is the case) Oromos were not allowed to be Coptic Orthodox priests. Any deviation from this was considered to be incorrect as if God had spoken only in Arabic or Geez. The matter gets even worse with Catholic Church where not only the Sunday masses were conducted in Latin (it is changing gradually nowadays), but in principle Black people cannot even be elevated to Sainthood. I don’t think this is what these Holy Books meant to be but rather what few clergies and Mullahs imposed on their respective constituencies. In my view, one can still be a devoted Muslim or Christian by adhering to Oromo cultural values and without acquiring Arab or Jewish codes of dresses or names.


It is common knowledge that followers of all different religions in the State of Ethiopia seem to love taking everything to the extreme. The Ethiopian Orthodox church is practicing a sixty six days lent every year when the whole Orthodox Christian world do fast only for forty days as Jesus did. The Ethiopians have an extra 16 days claiming that it was for “the King and the Patriarch ( 8 days each)”. The monarchy is abolished more than three decades ago but people still fast the additional 16 days, presumably for Mengistu and Patriarch Merkorewos and now for Meles and Abba Paulos. Die-hard Orthodox Christians in Russia, Syria or Romania however do fast only for forty days. Along the same line, it is very common for the born-again denominations of Christianity, that they have to go to the extreme and quit alcohol consumption, stop practicing traditional dances and songs (they are  called alemawi zefenoch) and so on and so on. In most of Eastern African and Western European countries I happened to know however, born –again Christians do consume alcohol albeit moderately and dance beautifully and practice their traditional ancestral dances. And unlike in Ethiopia where it is very common to borrow Arab or Jewish names to proof that one is a Muslim or a Christian respectively, many of the countries I mentioned above do prefer to give their children traditional names without any reference to Arab or Jewish. Arab names have nothing to do with Islam and so are the Jewish names. Prophet Mohamed was not a Muslim when he was born (he became a Muslim only when Allah, through His messenger Djibril (Gabriel) revealed Himself to Him in the cave of Hira in 610 AD, at the age of 40, and gave him the first segment of Quran). Evangelists Peter, Paul and as a matter of fact all 12 disciples of Jesus Christ were not Christians before they we recruited by Jesus at later age. I do have a couple friends, Jamal and Fatuma, both die-hard Orthodox Christian Arabs from Syria who are God-parents of my son. As Arabs they do bear Arabic names which has nothing to do with their faith. This is where I am very critical to most of us including myself who are attaching Jewish or Arab names to our children when we could have given them any of the Oromo names we have in abundance in our names library. That was exactly what Reverend Gudina was doing when he was serving at Mekane Yesus church, I was told. When parents brought their infants for baptism with Jewish names, (names which the parents couldn’t even pronounce properly like Sololon, Dailen, Hosef, Dayit, Abran, Amaulen etc), the Reverend used to always advising them to give the child an Oromo name, which he said they could pronounce it better!


In to days Ethiopia there is a danger of rising fundamentalism from all corners. The failure to achieve their respective political objectives by all opposition parties and groups including the OLF in the country resulted in a nation-wide frustration and massive conversion of people of all age-group to religion sects and denominations. The once upon a time dominant Coptic Orthodox Church suddenly woke up and realized that the protestant world is attracting more and more souls leaving this dinosaur institution with less or no followers. As a result and in order to beat the market of attracting more customers and win the battle against the mete haimanot, the Orthodox Church introduced such a developed outreach program and lured almost every highlander to its domain. The fasika tsom which used to be the ritual for adults nowadays became a must-be-done for every member of an Abyssinian family. To put it otherwise, fasting in Ethiopia today became such a crucial cultural norm that one simply cannot afford not to perform it. The same is true for Islam. In a battle to win more souls, Mosques are erected in every corner of the country, whether there are converted people or not in the area. This very combination of factors and confusion because of the mix-up of religion with culture is causing such damage to the nation’s stability and possible peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths. To be honest, this rivalry between Christianity and Islam in Ethiopia is posing much more danger for peaceful coexistence of nations and nationalities than the fight between the EPRDF regime and the Ethiopian people.  


Hence, I fully agree with those who blow the whistle to warn us about the danger of this blind rivalry among Christians and between Christianity and Islam. Not only that it may blow out of proportion and grow into major conflicts but in the meantime this fanaticism of the born-agains also kills Oromo traditions and cultures. Therefore, it is very appropriate for us to declare an all-round “peaceful war” on the imposed Middle Eastern culture on our people because it is very abusive towards our people. Culture is a social norm, a by-product of the social development stage in any given society whereas; religion is an individual state of mind regardless of the status of a person in a society. In our case and unfortunately so, culture and religion got mixed up. Religion is a peaceful institution but when some shrewd individuals start using it for their personal gains, it can turn to become abusive and offensive to the extent that it can violate the fundamental human rights of others.  Look at the never ending suicide bombings in the Middle East. These possessed young boys and girls, video recorded themselves citing Quran while carrying Kalashnikov in the other hand, before they go out blow themselves and kill dozens of innocent human beings all in the name of Allah.  


It is equally dangerous to advocate for the supremacy of this or that religion and in our case when people are so loud about waaqeffannaa and declare it as the sole faith for all Oromos. There is no reason whatsoever why waaqeffannaa should be “the state religion” of “independent Oromiya” at the expense of all other faiths. Today, it is even becoming detesting hearing prefixes like “Islamic Republic of...” “Holy Dominion of…the Orders of…this or that State”. Modern free and democratic society can’t afford to have the “waaqeffannaa Republic of Oromiya”. What we tend to forget is that whenever we mix religion with politics that is the end of freedom and democracy because religious scripts are very precise and don’t allow any deviation form the standard. The religious based regimes in Iran, Afghanistan and other rigid Islamic countries are good examples for this. Or take the case of fundamental catholic countries where for example women are not allowed to divorce or to abort an un-wanted pregnancy. Religion does not allow dissenting views in a congregation, and there is no reason why waaqeffannaa will be different. 


Politics and religion are two separate things and they should always be kept separately. Unlike in politics where different methodologies can be applied to achieve a desired goal (one can be a democrat but can form an alliance with a center-left party to gain majority in parliament, etc), in religion, there is always one and only one way to heaven i.e.. to believe in Jesus Christ and that cannot be compromised. The same is true for Muslims – one has to accept Prophet Mohamed as the last prophet and Allah as the one and ONLY. Such rigidity does not leave a room for discussion and compromises. In politics, one can have plan A and plan B. In case one fails to achieve the goal using Plan A, then you always have a fall-back position i.e. an alternative plan B. In religion you don’t have alternatives. One way or NO way! That is why it is dangerous to have a non-secular, religious based State because such a State always fail to accommodate dissenting views.


D)  The fault is NOT in the Scripts but in their implementations,

 

By definition, Islam is a religion of peace, equality and freedom. Islamic scholars were attesting that the Prophet never wanted to fight fellow Arabs who, considering him as an enemy of the then mainstream religion (paganism) of the community, waged an outright war against Him. Instead, the scholars confirm, He constantly fled the region to avoid bloodbath. The great Bilal Habash (the first ever black Muslim who in the beginning was sold as a slave to Arabs) who accepted Islam before even meeting the Prophet, was freed from slavery by the later who because of His beliefs in equality of human beings and opposition to slavery, not only freed Bilal but made him the second person in command in the clerical hierarchy way above Karim and Ali. If interpreted correctly, in both the Bible and Quran, human beings are all equal and therefore no one is allowed to subjugate the other human being be it on individual or collective basis. To free a slave and make him not only an equal fellow Muslim but more equal than others by appointing him to a very senior post, was the true spirit and interpretation of Quran.

 

As far as I know, none of the known to human beings religions teach hatred or endorses subjugation of a human being by another human being. They all teach peace and love.. In my opinion, and if only human beings properly implemented the letters and spirits of the Holy Scripts of all religions, there would have been no colonization and slavery in the first place. These all human ills, in my opinion, are the results of (mis) interpretation of the Scripts. And none of the two religions under discussion advocate killings. Both of them and without exception promote peace and co-existence. The only ideology known to human society to be violent is proletarian dictatorship which, under the guise of class struggle, actually encouraged the liquidation of the bourgeoisie.. For the rest, it is the followers of this or that ideology or religion that are (mis)interpreting and abusing the letters and spirits of the Holy Scripts. Both AlQaeda and moderate Muslims refer to the same Holy Quran but there is nowhere in Quran where it endorses suicide bombing. Although Bible is only one (save the Mormons), we witness fierce fighting between members of different sects of Christianity, each of them claiming that the teachings of their respective sects are the ONLY way to haven. 

 

Despite this true spirit of Islam and Christianity as mentioned above, the Europeans, after borrowing Christianity from the Middle East, (mis)interpreted it and used it to colonize Africa and yet remain proud of what they call the European Christian value. The habashas, following the same path used the borrowed Christianity to oppress the Oromos and continue considering it the sign of being civilized. But my main point of disagreement with my fellow Oromos who portray the “borrowed religions” as the main culprit for our failure in achieving our political goal is that, if the borrowed religions worked to the advantage of Europeans, Americans and the Abyssinians, i.e. that it helped them to be developed and become powerful to the extent that they used the borrowed religions to colonize others, why is this presumption that our liberation movement is retarded because of these borrowed religions and names? The entire Christian Europe, North and South America as well as Australia, all borrowed these religions and names from Middle East but it perfectly worked for them. Hence the problem may not be in the Scripts themselves rather in their application.

 

What worries most of us today is the fact that Christians and other fundamentalists from Orthodox Church and sects of Islam are aggressively competing to impose their misinterpreted version of Christianity on those of us who are outside of their domain. Since each one of them want to proof to the non-converted that their respective beliefs are the best, they devote their time and energy only for that purpose. In doing so they went too far to the extent that and unlike the good old days when we were traveling home for winter or summer holidays by Wollo feres or Mamo katcha enjoying the beautiful melodies of Tilahun Gesese or Abebe Tessema, today these fundamentalists insist to only listen to farfannaa or Islamic citations and narrations during the entire trip. One can easily be ridiculed if s/he listens to the so called “alemawi zefenoch”. To avoid fasting during lent seasons or Ramadan is becoming “a shameful act”. In my opinion, this is a clear violation of one’s human rights especially when one considers the negative impact it may have on the Oromo tradition and cultural values. At the same time, it is only fair to note that there are individual die-hard born-again activists and Muslim brothers who are deadly devoted to the Oromo cause. Just to appreciate what I am trying to say, listen to one of the songs of Pentecost singer Addisu (titled “enyuudharee gootinii?) and tell me if he is less patriotic when it comes to our aspiration for freedom and equality. I know it is difficult to comprehend the compatibility of gospel with a fight for freedom but that is actually what the Holy Bible (especially the Old Testament) is all about. Waaqayyoo always encouraged and supported his “chosen people” to fight and free themselves from the yoke of foreign domination. Hence, Christianity and Islam are not preaching subjugation but rather equality of human beings and the will of God to be on the side of the oppressed when it comes to fight for justice, freedom and equality. 

 

In any case most religions are practiced and their norms are strictly adhered to by the most disadvantaged and less affluent in any given society. The rich and the educated could always find ways to (mis)interpret the letters and spirits of the Holy Scripts to their advantage. It is appalling to see all the rich Middle Eastern Arabs invading the capitals of Europe during Ramadan simply to avoid fasting, invoking stipulations of Quran that one is exempted from fasting while traveling (masafir). The Holy Scripts exempt one (for possible compensation later on) from fasting while traveling and these rich Arabs are presumed to be traveling while in realty they are having beautiful holidays in the luxurious suites of Hilton or Sheratons in Geneva or Monaco. The same is true with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition. My die-hard Copt Orthodox father survived on dried beans and water during the entire lent season whereas people of the same  denomination in Finfinee were enjoying all the varieties of ‘ye tsom megib’ which by all accounts are as fancy as doro wot or kitfo. I don’t know if my dad is given priority seat in heaven but what I am trying to say is that religion is always adhered to by the less affluent and the less exposed. Or take another example from the main Shiite (mis)interpretation of Quran, according to which a man can always enter in to a short term marriage contract while traveling to “avoid” adultery or extra-marital relationship. What they call “muta” is so famous in Iran among the “traveling affluent Muslim men” according to which one can “marry” a woman for very short period of time (usually not exceeding two weeks) and then “divorce” her so that she cannot claim and share from the wealth of the “traveling” rich Muslim. The “masafirs - travelers” are given the blessing by the clergies as if it is in accord with the Holy Quran. 

 

For me, it is equally disturbing to presume that every Oromo should uphold waaqeffannaa. In my opinion, this is where we got it all wrong.  We love to talk aloud about our ancestors, and about the perfect Gada system and waaqeffannaa as if the Almighty God designed them only for Oromos, but we are never close to apply a slice of their stipulations in our daily lives when dealing with fellow Oromos who are upholding dissenting views. We all somehow but wrongly assume that our forefathers were all like-minded people and that they never had dissenting views in their community. I don’t believe that was the case. Like in any other community of that era, they had their differences but what made the Gada system a successful social regulatory norm of those days is that it accommodated all dissenting views in that society.  Our ancestors were strong not because they had the same views on everything affecting that society but because the Gada system allowed different views to be entertained equally.

 

Society develops and we have no control over that process. It is very naïve to assume that the once upon a time famous democratic Gada system may still be applicable as it once was. Sure we can pick certain values of the system and adjust it to the contemporary democratic system of governance.  Otherwise like all other social norms of those days, the Gada system was not perfect at all. A society at any given point can only accommodate an ideology (religion), social norms, beliefs and customs which are commensurate to the social development of that society at that given time. Today we are enlightened, we travel to areas beyond that of our groups and observe traditions and values of others. Naturally when we return to our respective villages and constituencies, we carry back with us some portions of what we saw. That is why today, unless it is in very remote and isolated territories, it is very hard to talk about indigenous (not borrowed) religion, pure and uncorrupted tradition and values. And Oromos are not immune to this.

 

There is always another side of a coin therefore one has to look at that side of the above assertion if fairness is claimed for any reached conclusion. By design or coincidence, the European missionaries, contributed greatly to the enlightment of many Oromos. There is one big plus we all have to be honest about. In the context of Oromiya, especially Western Oromiya where I come from, I can only say that it is only because of these missionaries that we managed to go to school and be what we are today. This is an undeniable fact which should be appreciated! Whether or not we made effective use of the education opportunity we were provided with, that is totally a different matter. And for sure, that failure to effectively use the outcome of that opportunity should not be attributed to the missionaries. In addition, had it not been for the macaafa qulqulluu, the only officially allowed book in afaan Oromo in those days, I am of the opinion that the quality of our language especially in areas where the habasha settlers were concentrating could have been much worse today. Macaafa Qulqulluu, regardless of what people may think about it, contributed greatly to the preservation of an un-corrupted afaan Oromo in a country where production of any script in afaan Oromo used to be forbidden by law. As for the Oromo protestant clergies of those days, I still give them credit to some of their works, because they were the sources of knowledge and providers of guidance for the youth. And to dare to do what they used to do at that difficult time is something which we all should appreciate and accord due credit. As spiritual leaders and pacifist by definition, one of course should not expect them to go to the bush and fight. 

 

Again, for the sake of fairness, one has to acknowledge that the ongoing expansion of Pentecost church in Oromiya has one major positive contribution: as devoted born-agains are totally refraining from consuming alcohol, chewing chat and reducing/avoiding extra-marital affairs which is one of the major causes of the spread of HIV/AIDS in our area, the number of people affected by the HIV virus has been reduced at least by 60% according to a recent report of WHO. Regional Health centers in Oromiya confirm that today the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has been reduced significantly of course not necessarily because of the government policy on health care but because of the faith based approach by the population to address the problem. 

 

Like Oromos, most indigenous people in the world somehow lost their core values, tradition and culture because of external factors. It is very unfortunate but at the same time this is a fact which we have to live with. We cannot undo history at this stage. It is difficult to reverse and more so as the world is becoming a very small village. In our days, I remember when our neighbor giifti Sartunne, a respectful illiterate housewife went to Finfinee to visit her siblings who were civil servants. We all envied her and she was the main topic of discussion and gossip during morning time coffee ceremonies in our village. Finfinee was too far away from our village and for someone like giftii Sartuune to have a relative in Finfinee was like having God by your side. Going and returning from Finfinee was such a breaking news in my village to the extent that every household was sort of obliged to bring one agelgil of faffatoo to welcome her. It was enlightening to listen to her stories about “seshentos” (she told everybody that it was such a funny machine because one never knew which direction it moves because it can go both direction), about the big traffic lights which, like human being she said, was coordinating the movements of vehicles and about something called “telebishini” where you could see life in a glass box a person singing and dancing etc.  Today it is totally a different story. It is a very unlikely to find a village in Oromiya where one of its residents son or daughter is not in North America or Europe. Nowadays, it is very common to see our elderly and illiterate parents voyaging from time to time to visit their children in the USA or Europe. These are the very people who during my youth never dared to travel to Finfinee because it was beyond their reach. Now the complain of the likes of giifti Sartuune is not how to reach DC, Dallas or Minneapolis but if one could secure a window seat while flying Ethiopian or Lufthansa. Is is becoming a routine and very common to hear from our elderly relatives in America words like “barking lot” (when one talks about a lucrative business) “dantani” (tall buildings), thanku (thank you) and congra etc. 

 

That being as it is, what we can do now is to revisit our tradition and culture and try to match it with the acquired culture we collected from abroad and get the best out of both worlds. It is very unrealistic to re-introduce Gada system in this 21st century simply because it was the best in those days. It served the purpose when needed and now it should rest in peace. It is simply incompatible with contemporary systems of governance. By the way, the assertion that Gada system is typically an Oromo system of governance is somehow misleading. Other nations at that level of socio-economic development used to practice similar system. The Loya Jirga of Afghans, although now found in its corrupted version, is a living example of a system which was very much like Gada system. You could see how the preparation for war between two rival leaders is organized. Surprise attacks and fighting against an enemy which has less number of horses or manpower is not allowed. One is expected to fight only against someone who is equal in all aspects. It is only then when you fight and win an equally strong enemy, that you truly consider yourself a winner. Decisions on every aspect of communal life were reached at the village assembly level. Similar systems of governance could be found in most African countries for example in Tororo or Karamojan districts of Uganda. They still do practice exactly most of the traditional Oromo cultural practices we have heard from our grandparents. 

 

E)  Oromos are converted en massive to born-again sects because of lack of success in political front 

 

It is true that the born-again Christians are gaining more and more grounds in Ethiopia in general and in Oromiya in particular. But why? What led to this massive conversion of Oromos? I can think of few reasons - a) the Pentecost followers do have a very aggressive and effective outreach program, a well- organized plan and target. Unlike Coptic Orthodox, which first and foremost aims at those who are at the top of the hierarchy of human society, the Pentecost goes for the poor, destitute and the disadvantaged – and today’s Oromiya is the right place for people of this category, b) members of the Pentecost Church are extremely devoted to the cause.  They wholeheartedly support their institution and have to resist pressure from others because that very persecution is considered to be the standard of measurement and confirmation of their faithfulness to Jesus, c) in the last decade, the political situation in Ethiopia is such that too many Oromos are becoming frustrated by the lack of success at the political front against Woyane. Along the same line, literally every single Oromo in the country is presumed to be supporter of the OLF and therefore, prone to harassment and arrest by the authorities at any given time. This perpetual state of fear and uncertainty combined with lack of political level success by Oromos placed so many Oromos in frustration and depression.  It naturally persuades them to turn to something comforting and enjoy the spiritual safe haven. While looking for sanctuary and refuge, some Oromos became insane, or alcoholic, drug addict or left in perpetual depression leading to suicide. Some joined the born-again sects and at least got mental satisfaction. A very good friend of mine, a former air force officer who joined OLF in Western Oromiya and marched with them to Finfinee in 1991, recently committed suicide in Geneva after suffering from a depression for a long time simply because he could not cope with the never-ending lack of success by Oromos in a battle front. He used to tell me that he was unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel until, few days before his demise, when he shared with me his frustration that he even doubted if the light was there in the first place. I wish he became a Pentecost believer and survived the depression. 

 

Some of us and for a very good reason continue showing frustration at what we see and hear regarding our nation’s state of affairs. First it was the unexpected exit of the OLF from the legal forum, then came the officially declared intra-OLF war and as if all this is not disastrous enough, now the defected General declared war on everyone else and claimed that only he represents the true OLF. The good thing is that all three functions of the OLF believe that the name OLF itself is a brand which is deep in the minds and hearts of Oromos hence to be kept no matter what.  Yes indeed in politics and war of liberation, this is a very normal phenomenon. Human beings no matter what, do like to see changes, success and more filling substances to quench their spiritual thirst. When the Orthodox Church reached a climax of its natural growth and ceased to meet the spiritual demands of members of its congregation, proponents of Catholicism emerged and took the charge. And when Catholicism began showing no-produce, Martin Luther had to go public with his protest and thus the emergence of Protestant denomination. And now, you see the born-again Christians who are not happy with the way the previous denominations acted and declared themselves that they are the true Christians. The same is true in politics. Now that OLF is becoming inactive at the battle front, we have been seeing more and more dissatisfaction and going to see more and more fragmentation and the emergence of new Oromo Organizations. That is an undesired reality we have to live with.

 

F)  We should stop looking for a pre-text rather focus on the real problem.

 

When OLF was victorian in 1991-1992, we the children of Oromiya were all gathering in Gulellee and danced like crazy gypsies, hugging each other to the tunes of Nuho, Qamar,, Dawite, Elfnesh, Zarihun or Tsegaye and none of us ever questioned what was the religion of these singers or from which region of Oromiya did they come because we were all possessed by the lyrics and melodies of their songs. No one ever questioned from where the then gallant OLF leaders came from because we were at the top of the ladder of political power. But once the honey-moon was over and OLF left the Coalition, we became so angry at everything under the sky (and that was understandable) and started designing conspiracy theories about our failure. And the failure by the OLF leadership to explain in a timely manner, as to what has happened and how and why it happened, created a fertile ground for the emergence of different conspiracy theories based on which we developed series of  pretexts like the ones we are dealing with now. Unlike victory which normally has so many biological fathers, defeat has only stepfathers goes the saying. And for us the Oromos, the more we fail to register victory at political level and the longer the road to freedom is, the more we are going to witness the prevalence of all sorts of pretexts attributed to our failure. Believe me this pretext never ends unless we succeed in our struggle.

 

What we lack most in Ethiopia in general and among the Oromos in particular is a civility and a political culture. Unfortunately, what we have in abundance is a very feudalistic and outdated way of dealing with societal issues. This is what in afaan Oromo we call “dubbi”. In a civilized world, politics is an art which is taken up as a profession by individuals who decided to be engaged in politics as their life-time profession. It is exactly like choosing a medical or engineering profession. In Ethiopia (the same among the Oromos) however, people become “politicians” after finishing their academic studies and after working for years as professionals in their field of academic interest. They join politics at later age when they woke up and realize that the country is run by non-democratic elites. Politics by definition is a profession to be studied academically and to be a politician is something which requires years of experience. It requires such an extensive experience because, as Dereje said, unlike religion which is the art of keeping the homogenous together, politics is the art of keeping together the heterogeneous. Imagine how difficult the task of a politician is to bring people of different views together under one umbrella when compared to religious leaders who are still having difficulties to maintain the cohesiveness of people of the same faith.


Politics is one the most difficult discipline in human society. Unlike in natural sciences where two plus two is always four, or the combination of Carbon and Oxygen at certain temperature always produces carbon dioxide or monoxide, in politics, the combination of different views can result in different outcomes depending on where it is applied, who is testing it and under what circumstances. To create formulas, in principle one deals with “dead items” whereas in politics one deals with human beings. And because there are no duplicate human beings on this planet and each and every human being has a unique, one-only mind set-up, it is very difficult to produce an exact formula of combination of views and ideas in different countries by different actors to produce the same results. Hence, it requires knowledge, experience and wisdom to create a platform where all the different views are entertained to clear the ground for the common good. That is where a good politician become handy but we seem to have few or none!


In my opinion, it is shameful to talk about the validity or adverse nature of religion in 21st century. To the contrary, we were supposed to only highlight the shortcomings of religion practices and suggest ways to separate religion from politics. Unfortunately we are only adding fuel to the fire. In my view, the greatest impending catastrophe in Ethiopia in general and in Oromiya in particular is the growing fundamentalism of both religions. We have hundreds of “evangelists” of both religious groups who by design or coincidence are busy sawing discord among people. Hence we were supposed to play the role of peace makers. For example, in Addis Ababa today, the way religious establishments practice (pray) is simply appalling. From one angle you are bombarded with the too noisy megaphone “prayer” from Ourael or Gabriel Church whereas few miles away you can’t escape but listen to the same noisy megaphone “prayer” from the Mosque. And few miles down to the Old Airport, you are tormented with the noise from the Mulu Wongel Church (Pentecost). This practice for me is real violation of the human rights of those Ethiopians who either do not belong to any of these denominations or do prefer to worship their respective Gods secretly and quietly. It is such a competition between the faith groups to be louder than the other group to attract the attention of God that usually leads to religious conflicts, if not addressed properly and timely. And here is where we should advocate for a peaceful coexistence and fight the fundamentalists pedagogically.


The prevailing socio-economic and political situation in Ethiopia in general and Oromiya in particular are very alarming, to say the least. Not only that Oromos are imprisoned, tortured or disappeared by the Tigray elite but our motherland Oromiya is literally raped and abused beyond recognition by the same elite. The most fertile part of our motherland is sold to the so called investors (as a matter of fact, ruthless exploiters and beneficiaries of blood money) who are not only uprooting the Oromo farmers but also causing ecological damage to our land beyond reparation. That for sure adds up to our frustration. Our standard of measurement for political successes of 1991 where we were at the top of the power ladder has withered away long ago. Now our people are in deeper problem and we especially the Diaspora are desperate to see positive changes.  But our disappointment and frustration should not oblige us to look for a pretext but rather to try to help us identify and focus on the root cause(s) of this wrath wretched upon the Oromos. No matter what, we cannot afford to create another layer of enemy this time. We already have handful of them and so far we could not declare victory on any of them. Then what is the point of soliciting for another enemy by declaring war on fellow Oromos simply because they are upholding different beliefs? 

 

 None of the previous or current leaders of the different OLF have the monopoly over OLF or do they possess a registered copy right and patent to liberate the Oromo people. They are self-appointed but highly devoted individual Oromos who in my view and in their own way, wanted to contribute to the liberation of the Oromo people. In those days, when most of us were enjoying dolce vita in our respective abode in Ethiopia, this exemplary group of people decided to leave their luxury lifestyle behind and went to the mountains of Oromiya to initiate the war for freedom and liberation. They took unilateral decision and never asked for endorsement from any one of us. As for me, they never solicited my endorsement nor did I vote for them and subsequently and as matter of principle, sometimes I even wonder if I have the moral or legal authority to demand any explanation from them either. Despite their dedication and sacrifices, so far they failed to achieve their goal. But they are not the first in liberation history to fail and they will not be the last one either. In my opinion, we should leave them alone and continue with the fight for freedom and equality. As I said above, the only thing what bothers me so far is the fact that these once top leaders of OLF never dared to tell us in black and white and convince us beyond reasonable doubt as to what went wrong and why it went wrong. That would have helped us in our future struggle so that we do not repeat the same mistake they did. In my opinion, OLF lost the race not necessarily because its opponents were stronger than them but rather there seem to be a disconnect between the participants of the relay team. Something went wrong somewhere but we are not that fortunate to know that particular mal-function in the system. After waiting for a decade and not receiving proper explanations regarding the failure, more and more Oromo organizations are flourishing using the same or similar names. The tragedy is that there is a possibility of committing the same mistake OLF has made in the past. That is exactly where transparency and accountability could have become handy. Yes their failure resulted in the fragmentation of the Organization which is very unfortunate. Imagine how difficult it is going to be to achieve our goal in a divided format – the goal which we failed to achieve when we were in a whole format. As obbo Ibsaa rightly said, we are now having qiraaciis which cannot perform the job the whole is supposed to perform.

 

It is very natural for human beings to commit mistakes and fail to achieve the desired goals. We all did just that in our private lives. What is very un-natural and wrong is when we repeat the same mistakes we have made in the past. But human nature is such that we are not also tolerant enough to admit failures. We only admire winners and trash the losers. During the latest World Cross Country Championship in Mombassa, I was watching the event on TV with friends in one the coffee shops in Finfinne. It was such a jubilant atmosphere in the room when Qananissa was leading the Eritrean born contender Zersenay for almost up to few minutes before the final mark. Suddenly we could see Qananissa slowing down, hardly moving his feet from the ground and watching the Eritrean passing by and wining the gold medal. One spectator walked out of the room, mumbling in Amharic “diros Qananissa bilo ruatch!” Had Qananissa won the gold medal that very person  would have said loudly “Qananissa yegna ambessa”. What the unhappy spectator did not know was that Qananissa was very prone to heat and running in Mombassa that day was like running in Assab. Qananissa in a very clear language said this to the media, and continued winning more gold medals around the world because he knows where his weakness are and he works intensively on these weaknesses to avoid a repetition of past mistakes.

 

Yes self-hate of the religious fanatics of both religions under discussion should be fought at all cost, but pedagogically. Any religion which advocates against Oromo tradition and cultural values should be fought resolutely but peacefully. In my opinion, the root cause for such an extreme position of self-hate by our fellow Oromos (true for all other ethnic groups in Ethiopia) emanates from ignorance. Hence, the solution is not to hate or condemn them but to enlighten them through engagement. I saw Pentecost followers from neighboring countries respecting their tradition and culture, singing and dancing to their traditional music fully appreciating their tradition. In my opinion, and apart from the self-hate, our fellow Pentecost believers did not declare a war on us – the non-born-agains. So I simply don’t understand why are we declaring one on them? They only used their talent, commitment, dedication and outreach program to attract many people. They did not carry guns and threaten the Oromo people but carried the Bible, went to the streets and searched for weaker souls. They found some and for sure they are going to attract more and more Oromos if the current geo-political situation prevails for sometime in the future.  If one compares this outreach program of the born-agains to the way we do politics, no wonder we are losing grounds in the battle against religion fanaticism. Apart from the annual pilgrimage to Minneapolis or Atlanta, how many of us really go out every week-end to distribute pamphlets and enlighten people on what is going on against our people in Oromiya? How many of us are committed to contribute 10% of our income on a monthly basis to help our respective Oromo political Organizations or the Oromo people? How many of us actually support our talented writers and artists, the likes of Zalalam Aberra or Nuho Gobana and encourage them to produce more works to enrich our literature and art?  Ideology/religion is like a commodity. It follows the same rule of demand and supply. Wherever the demand is so is the supply. As I said above, the lack of success by Oromo political organizations served as a demand for soul enrichment and here are the born-agains out there ready to quench that thirst. To reverse the process, we have to only register more success at political field and believe me more souls will find happiness in that success and subsequently will be attracted back to the struggle for freedom and equality.


What we are actually dealing with now is the symptom of a disease. One has to deal with the root cause of this problem rather than its reflections. In my opinion, the mushrooming of Pentecost churches and the conversion by hundreds of thousands of Oromo youth and the elderly alike to Pentecost is not the cause for our failure but rather it is a consequence of a major causes i.e. our failure itself. Naturally failure forces people to look for alternatives to appease their mind and soul. And there is noting better than a religion that can fill this gap in times of desperation and hopelessness.

 

Most of us presume that in politics one can achieve his/her objectives by having so many friends or securing a unity among Oromos. But the sciences of politics teach us that a good politician is not necessarily someone with to many friends but rather one with the least possible number of enemies. That is where for example Meles went wrong. He opted to defy accommodating dissenting views of opposing groups who might have closer to his views. Had he been a good politician he would have accommodated the views of the like minded-liberation fronts for example, the OLF, especially him being from a minority group. That is the art of politics which most Ethiopian elites lack. And just because we are Oromos don’t expect us to be united under the umbrella of one homogeneous organization. We are a diverse nation both geographically and faith wise. As much as we have too many things to unite us, there are many issues which may divide us especially with the help of those late comers who are trying to divide us rather invoking religion or regional factors. Let us stick to the unifying factors and stop highlighting issues of religion and region. After all, we all have one common adversary against whom we should fight to regain our freedom and equality. The lessons from the Balkans where the same ethnic group speaking exactly the same language and sharing the same cultural values slit each others throat with the religious pretext (Serbs being Coptic and Croats being Catholics), causing such a human suffering never witnessed in Europe since the WW II should ring the bell. Look at our neighbors the Somalis. This is a nation which is said to be the only homogenous nation in Africa (the entire nation share the same faith – Islam and are of the same ethnic group – although clan values were capitalized when pretexts for fighting were needed). Because of their inability to form a coalition or to entertain diversity, Somalia ceased to exist as a state and become a paradise for terrorists and pirates. Then, what makes us the Oromos, different from other breed of mankind to ease the process of unity among the Oromos?


Negotiation:

 

The election is just one year away. Facts on the ground suggest that this time TPLF will be so strong to disallow any attempt by the Opposition to gain grounds beyond certain level. And for us, where OLF is still not part of the equation, we are going to count another ten years of misery under the yoke of Woyane if we decide not to be part of the game. What makes it different for OLF to go back to the legal forum where WAFIDO and ONC have already failed, people may wonder? Here, I am not and cannot suggest a mathematical formula and of course no one can. It is a very hypothetical issue. However, I see a clear advantage of going back to the legal forum although I fully understand that it is like making a choice between a rock and hard place. Yes one can argue that joining the peaceful avenue did not produce the desired goal, but for me Obbo Bulcha has more audience both at domestic and international level and for sure he is passing the message across more efficiently than those who are in illegal status.

 

We have to get rid of this tradition of settling political disputes with the help of guns because never in history democracy came from barrels of guns. The only thing which for sure comes out of guns is the assumption of power and the establishment of undemocratic regimes. Yes with the help of guns, territorial independence may be gained but that does not necessarily mean human freedom and independence. Although history has exceptionally proved that former militants could as well turn democrats once assumed power (Emmanuel Ortega is  a name which usually emerges), predominantly, victors of armed struggle hardly turn democrat.  And regimes which came to power with the help of guns always resort to guns when they face challengers and contenders to power because that was the only means at their disposal to deal with opponents. To the contrary, governments which came to power with the support and free will of the citizens do turn to the very people who voted for them in the first place whenever they are challenged.  

 

We are in a situation where we have to do something NOW and without any delay to save our motherland. We are like a woman who has never been married but whose biological clock is ticking. She is desperate to have a child and she run in to one of her colleagues at work and said “I don’t love you enough to marry you but I need you to be pregnant”. Yes indeed we hate Meles for all what his regime has done to our people but we have no much choice left today except negotiating with him especially when he himself seem to be in need of it.  Yes, the EPRDF regime will definitely collapse soon or later like any other regime we have witnessed in history but we have no strong organization and opposition alternatives to replace it, as and when that happens. From what we observe, the Abyssinians are the most likely to succeed but that success hardly quenches our thirst for freedom and equality. After all, these are the very people who in the first place created all the prevailing mess by subjugating the Oromos among other things.

 

The best conflict resolution tool human society ever developed is negotiation.  Yes it is very rare in negotiation that all parties to the negotiation return to their bases with 100% satisfaction or success. The essence of negotiation is NOT to gain everything one would like to have but to take something useful for a time being. If one is in a position to gain 100% at the negotiation table, then there is no need to negotiate. It means the party is strong enough to dictate its terms in which case it is actually not a negotiation but rather an ultimatum. My suggestion that we have to negotiate with Meles emanates from observing real events happening globally in the past few years. Look at what is going around us in the world today. Global politics is changing in an unprecedented speed. Suffice to mention the latest UN Security Council Resolution (May, 2009) which for the first time in more than quarter of a century, declared LTTE a terrorist organization and surprised the entire world with the possible exception of the government of Sri Lanka. The international community is simply fed up with armed struggle regardless of the objectives of the fighters. Whether we like it or not, armed struggle by itself ceased to yield much result unless it is combined with diplomacy. IRA and the Tamil Tigers were among the most organized liberation armies ever existed but at one point in history they lost grounds not necessarily because they lost domestic or Diaspora support rather because the global geopolitical situation was not in their favor. While the IRA agreed to sit and negotiate with the very British government it fought for years and managed to secure relative peace in Ireland, the Tamils (LTTE) refused to continue negotiation with the government and faced the severe consequence of not only political but physical death as well. It is true the struggle for the liberation of the Tamils did start long before LTTE and for sure will continue after LTTE, but a negotiation with the Sri Lankan government could have saved not only the lives of the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians but the lives of the very fighters and leaders of LTTE as well. 

 

The MDC is very powerful and Tsvangirai knows that he enjoyed the full support of the Western countries although the people of Zimbabwe were not 100% with him. And Mugabe knows very well that at least for now he has the full backing of people of his generation, especially the military who fought and brought independence. But he also knows that his generation is naturally a dying one and in few years time they will all disappear from the political arena. Since one cannot always feed the younger generation the songs of freedom of the past, this post-independence generation does demand something more than just independence like, economic empowerment and a normally functioning society where they could have access to schools, health care and above all to participate in a nation’s affair without discrimination which Mugabe could not deliver.  Although they appreciated the sacrifices the older generation made to free Zimbabwe, the younger generation needs remain much beyond that. The same is true for Meles. For now he looks strong because he does enjoy the support of his own loyal fighters but few years down the road, when the generation that brought the “freedom” disappears from the political arena, the younger generation will definitely step in to reverse what has been done so far. Meles is already having problems with the younger generation of the OPDO for example. Because they were not part of the “liberation struggle” like “the Tekeze Boys” i.e. the Abaduula and Kumma group, from the beginning and because they are not beneficiaries of the system in whatsoever form, they actually stopped listening to the “freedom songs” of EPRDF long ago. And because of the severe economic situation in the country and abject poverty, Meles cannot distribute the meager nation’s wealth equally between the old and new generation of OPDO. Fully aware of the fact that his power base is slowly diminishing and there is a looming danger of losing power, Meles deep inside wishes to start negotiation with Opposition groups in general and OLF in particular.  Therefore, we have to take advantage of the situation and enter into negotiation using that very weakness of Meles as leverage. The other option of course, is to wait –and see- until Meles disappears naturally. My fear is, by then there will be little or no more Oromo to live in the would-be liberated Oromiya.

 

Oromiya is seriously hurt by EPRDF than by any other previous Abyssinian regime in history. We have to save her NOW by negotiating with the devil if need be. We are light years away from a success through armed struggle. As my friend said, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We have been in the armed struggle business for more than three decades without liberating an inch of Oromiya and there is no reason why the coming decade especially under the current global security situation will be different. Not only a brighter Oromiya tomorrow but a better Oromiya today for our children is what we should fight for. Today, we don’t have an inch of liberated Oromiya from where we can wage a protracted warfare and pose a threat to Meles. At the same time, the land of Oromiya is being sold to outsiders, causing massive ecological disaster for generations to come, hundreds of thousands of Oromo peasants are uprooted in massive scale like never before in our history. So should we wait for a situation to ripe for armed struggle i.e. wait for OLF to become stronger and lead us to freedom or should we look for an alternative, unwanted but necessary actions.  This is not an either or option. In my opinion, there is only one thing we can do now. Global political situation does not seem to provide us with many options. And judging from what is transpiring from around the globe, the option of armed struggle is not even on the menu. A recent interview with Isayas Afeworqi is simply a wake-up call for OLF. And keep in mind, so far, Eritrea is the only State which offered safe heaven for OLF fighters and its leaders.

 

For those fellow Oromos who profoundly believe that there is no other way but to settle the conflict with the help of gun, I can only say, bon voyage! Who knows, the current situation in Oromiya may be addressed both ways i.e. through a negotiation NOW or through armed struggle, - GRADUALLY. Let us take a simple and practical analogy of catching common cold. You have a choice of letting the flu virus to finish its life cycle (fully grow and die naturally), which may take a week or so but you may as well take anti-flu medication and recover within a day. In the first scenario, the fact that you refused to take medicine may help you to develop your own immunity for the future but you may as well be confined to bed for a week, which in modern market oriented society means simply you don’t go to work for a week which in turn implies that you may not have an income. If the paycheck is not in your mail box by the end of the month, you will definitely be kicked out of your apartment and become homeless. In the second scenario, if you take the medicine, you will definitely recover quickly and go to work. You save money and guarantee your place at work. It is true that you may not die in both cases but the time factor is very important. Today we may enter in to negotiation with Meles and go back to work immediately or wait for the virus to fully grow and die naturally years from now. Natural death of EPRDF will definitely happen (as it did to Haile Selassie and Mengistu) but until that becomes a reality Oromos and Oromiya will continue to be abused to a scale never witnessed in our past history. In short we may “liberate” a well exploited and barren Oromiya without a healthy Oromo soul dwelling in her.

 

Conclusion:

 

Yes we failed and the suffering of our people continued. But we can’t afford to continue lamenting over what has happened in 1992. It is true that the tragic event of 1992 left a black spot in our history of struggle for freedom. We still demand from the self-appointed OLF leaders of those days a proper explanation as to what and how it happened so that we can draw lessons from these mistakes. No one is immune from making mistakes but to deny or to hide mistakes is double a mistake. We all strive to go ahead with our fight for freedom and equality but we should know exactly the wrong paths so that we do not follow it. The quality of political leaders, whether elected or self-appointed, is that, they remain transparent and systematically share with their constituencies not only the successes, if any, but all their failures as well. 

 

A road to freedom and fight for it is like track and field relay event at World Championship or Olympic Games. All athletes go through at least four years of intensive training with one objective – to win the Gold medal and to stand on the podium as the best team among the best. Unfortunately not all of them achieve that goal since the rule of the game is such that only one of the teams can be a winner. But what is remarkable about this event is that, most of the time, and despite the intensive training, practice and rehearsal, some of the top athletes fail to handover the baton properly to the next athlete thus lose the race.  Reasons for the failure to hand over the baton may vary from time to time and from person to person but the end result is that because of that disconnect between the two athletes for fraction of a second, the entire four years of preparation go down the drain and the athletes return home with a very sad face. But because they walked into the stadium on the opening day carrying the national flag, it is widely presumed and accepted as such, that these athletes were representing the nation and subsequently carry a nation-wide mandate to win. However, upon return to their country and regardless of their failure, the nation is expected to welcome them back as its genuine fighters for the nation’s pride, but who failed for whatsoever reason. Unlike in Ethiopia (our athletes are expected always to be number one) they don’t condemn the athletes for their failure as long as the coach or the team leader address the nation through whatever possible means explaining what had happened and how it happened and what is necessary to avoid the repeat of such a mistake. Based on the lessons learned from the past mistakes, the following team will design new strategy to avoid similar mistake which led to the failure of the previous team.. It is up to the coach to use the same team for the next event or to bring new blood and train them and the failed athletes have the choice: either to exit in a dignified manner or to remain and work on their weakest links of the past experience and achieve the desired goal at the following event.

 

If we take the same analogy in the struggle for freedom and equality of the Oromo nation, the founders of OLF, although self-appointed, entered the race with one goal – to win and stand on the podium as winners i..e. bringing freedom and equality for Oromo people. In doing so, they carried the flag of the nation they represent de facto implying that they are carrying the mandate to represent that people. As they entered the race and came to the stadium, for whatever reason, the relay team failed to win the race. That was in 1992. But unlike in the track-and-field scenario I mentioned above, the Oromo people in the beginning welcomed these self-less and hero sons and daughters of Oromiya hoping that once they settle down, they would come forward using whatever possible means to tell the people they voluntarily represented, the reasons of their failure and how they plan for the next round to achieve the desired goals. And the waiting continues!!

 

Fellow Oromos! let us not put all our eggs in one basket. Let us imagine of Oromiya as if it is a burning house. Let us all run to the site and save the house from burning to ashes and salvage whatever is savable. To do so, we should all carry whatever is at our disposal i.e. buckets, hoes, jerry cans, soil, sand or branches of trees etc etc. I profoundly believe that we the children of Oromiya are all equipped with something (what we call natural or acquired talent or wealth – diplomacy, military training, spiritual leadership, medical training etc). Let us do different things from different corners but all at the same time and to achieve the same objective. Some of us can go to the mountains of Oromiya and fight if that is the wish. Those who are with diplomatic skills at their disposal let them be engaged in lobbying and negotiations. Those with good financial resources let them go back to their respective villages and build schools and health care. Let the elders and spiritual leaders go out and pray for our success etc. In short let us all do what we are good at. While doing so, and because the objective is to save our mother Oromiya from burning to ashes, we should stop looking for pretexts to accuse each other but rather compliment each others effort no matter how little the effort of the other participant may appear.

 

One thing we cannot afford for sure is that we can not remain neutral at this particular time in history. Our people are dying literally and our land is used and abused by the so called “investors”. EPRDF is only interested in sucking the revenue generated from flower sales whereas the once fertile land of Oromiya is diminished to be barren and for centuries to come. Ecologists and environmentalist repeatedly forecasted this impending catastrophe. Let us be active in all fronts. Those who are “brave enough” to carry Kalashnikovs let them go to the mountains of Oromiya. Those who have diplomatic skills let them go out and lobby at least to gain audience of the global powers. Those of you, who are affluent, please go back to your respective villages and build schools, libraries and health cares. Let the intellectuals and academics produce scientific papers and enlighten our people. Those who believe in divine power let them pray to Waaqayyoo, Allah or God for Him to have mercy on us. The bottom line is, let us not sit idle because, if I may use the words of Voltaire, the hottest place in hell is reserved for those of us who opted to remain silent at times of great moral crisis (emphasis mine). Or to complement it with the words of Albert Einstein, “the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing”.

 

For sure we need ONE strong organization but we should not make that a precondition for success. Diversity by itself is an asset and we can always form a coalition of all Oromos for the same goal. Let alone in politics, even church members are having difficulties to maintain cohesion and subsequently are divided in many denominations. Hence, holding different views is very natural and we should not insist on having one homogenous Organization or one mainstream view - as an either-or option. As long as we aspire to achieve democracy and equality, all sons and daughters of Oromiya can go hand in hand and reach the goal post. We are all equal share-holders in Oromiya i.e. no one child owns her more than the other. Her being our biological mother, she loves us equally regardless of our views, political opinion, beliefs and social status. Now, this dear mother of us is very sick and she needs our help to recover from the illness. In the fulfillment of our duty as her children, let us all reach for her and help her with whatever means we can so that she could recover quickly and become a healthy mother caring for her children, the way she used to do for us before she fall sick. But beware! She has all the right to disown us if we fail to fulfill our duty of providing her a care she deserves at this particular time when she is in a desperate need of her children’s and friends helping hands.

 

In all this, please keep in mind that all of us being custom-tailored individual human beings, there is no way we can all think alike and have same view on everything affecting our mother. But we can have common denominators on issues that unifies us for example, on our desire to be free and live in a democratic society, where our God given human rights are fully respected, a society where people are not thrown in to jail because they have dissenting views, a society where not a gun and might, but civilized discussion is a tool to solve disputes. 

 

******

 Saqata Shumii

 

 

June 2009


























OLF is awaking its Enemies

From experience there are external counter movements whenever OLF internally shows a tendency towards salvation. All possible contra movements are released to sabotage any positive outcome from Oromo actions. Recently much was talked about groups in the OLF coming together to heal past organizational wounds and strengthen it in unison. No sooner was it heard that there is a mutiny in OLA of Southern zone. They demanded for unity of OLF and declared that they will not obey any individual group. When it seemed things are not going as planned a segment from the mutineers defected to the Tigrian army. The core individuals involved were persons who exited the scene before their entrance made any impression on the struggle. On the other hand, they became propaganda chips for the enemy. The TPLF suspects that all Oromo including some conscientious in the Ethiopianist Oromo camps are OLF deep inside. That is why thousand innocent Oromo are in prison. Thousands were killed and thousands are in forced exile.  Unknown numbers are dislocated internally. Even Oromo members of the OPDO are subjected to constant reevaluation and are discarded if their loyalty is found not to be absolute. From statements the defectors gave to enemy media one can notice that those people neither know this truth nor understand the essence of Oromo liberation struggle. Oromo liberation movement is not concerned with individual success or failures, be them leaders or followers, but with the sprit and aspirations of the people, with its kaayyoo. Individuals come and go but the task of liberating the nation requires the determination of the brave descendents of the Abbaa Gadaas. Cowards with shallow intellect fail to understand this. They don’t think with their brains but their bellies that is why they have no honor to protect but the urge to fill their bellies. Those that are neck deep into alien values and those that do not take what it means to lose independence as a people into consideration in their methods of system analysis also cannot understand. For all problems they come out with their globalization yardsticks to intimidate liberation fighters.

There is always a flow and retreat in a liberation movement. When conditions are ripe it moves foreword. When things are not convenient it lies low or pulls back. The OLF is experiencing some difficulties for past few years. It was a period that put many to test. Confusion reigned. Some even wanted to make peace with the colonizer unconditionally to save the movement which they assumed was in a perilous situation. Others saw nothing to worry about; they believed that it is all in the nature of the struggle and clang to their fundamental position. That kept the movement in a balance and when the time came all started to show interest to mend relations and strengthen the movement together. It was the manifestation of such interest that accelerated the defection and anti independence propaganda. With one OLF enemy mole is going to have no more fertile ground to spread its wings. Therefore the agents had to try to further split the organization. For the time being they got only those dastardly souls.

With this in mind it is hoped all Oromo activists will close up ranks and cleanse the movement from infiltrators and reactionaries.  It is only revolutionaries determined to advance the cause and committed to the Kaayyoo for which thousands were sacrificed that can save the situation. It is in the nature of all public or private entities to have bad blood as a result of infestation by foreign body. The present incidents in OLA should not be seen as unprecedented and as isolated as they seem. They could be a part of larger conspiratorial machination that had been lingering for a long period. It should wary all involved. There will be no area left unaffected when a system fails. One remedy is reevaluating the whole system to discard unwanted elements. It will also be a time when saboteurs will be unleashed. They will come out giving themselves different brands but vowing with the national kaayyoo. These could include hate mongers, clannish politicians, reactionaries and enemy moles. They must be identified and exposed for what they are.

Many organizations reevaluate their members periodically to cleanse it from impurities if any. Rewards and punishments depend on them. In business and public administration they call this performance evaluation. No one needs this more than organizations whose system reform is overdue. Such cleansing rituals are indispensible if the struggle has to continue. This is a political organization with specific mission not a “daboo”, traditional self help venture. Roles, rights and duties of members, supporters and sympathizers must be clearly redefined. The genuine and implants must be distinguished. Traitors (apostates) are a curse in all histories and all faiths. And they have never survived to see a happy ending of their deeds.  Their nature must be understood to identify them early and preempt their move. By trying to come together OLF is awakening the enemy. Therefore it is expected to strengthen its defense line before it is overwhelmed. 

Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the nation and the Ayyaanaa of our forefathers!

Ibsaa Guutama
January 2010  
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.

OLF is awaking its Enemies

From experience there are external counter movements whenever OLF internally shows a tendency towards salvation. All possible contra movements are released to sabotage any positive outcome from Oromo actions. Recently much was talked about groups in the OLF coming together to heal past organizational wounds and strengthen it in unison. No sooner was it heard that there is a mutiny in OLA of Southern zone. They demanded for unity of OLF and declared that they will not obey any individual group. When it seemed things are not going as planned a segment from the mutineers defected to the Tigrian army. The core individuals involved were persons who exited the scene before their entrance made any impression on the struggle. On the other hand, they became propaganda chips for the enemy. The TPLF suspects that all Oromo including some conscientious in the Ethiopianist Oromo camps are OLF deep inside. That is why thousand innocent Oromo are in prison. Thousands were killed and thousands are in forced exile.  Unknown numbers are dislocated internally. Even Oromo members of the OPDO are subjected to constant reevaluation and are discarded if their loyalty is found not to be absolute. From statements the defectors gave to enemy media one can notice that those people neither know this truth nor understand the essence of Oromo liberation struggle. Oromo liberation movement is not concerned with individual success or failures, be them leaders or followers, but with the sprit and aspirations of the people, with its kaayyoo. Individuals come and go but the task of liberating the nation requires the determination of the brave descendents of the Abbaa Gadaas. Cowards with shallow intellect fail to understand this. They don’t think with their brains but their bellies that is why they have no honor to protect but the urge to fill their bellies. Those that are neck deep into alien values and those that do not take what it means to lose independence as a people into consideration in their methods of system analysis also cannot understand. For all problems they come out with their globalization yardsticks to intimidate liberation fighters.

There is always a flow and retreat in a liberation movement. When conditions are ripe it moves foreword. When things are not convenient it lies low or pulls back. The OLF is experiencing some difficulties for past few years. It was a period that put many to test. Confusion reigned. Some even wanted to make peace with the colonizer unconditionally to save the movement which they assumed was in a perilous situation. Others saw nothing to worry about; they believed that it is all in the nature of the struggle and clang to their fundamental position. That kept the movement in a balance and when the time came all started to show interest to mend relations and strengthen the movement together. It was the manifestation of such interest that accelerated the defection and anti independence propaganda. With one OLF enemy mole is going to have no more fertile ground to spread its wings. Therefore the agents had to try to further split the organization. For the time being they got only those dastardly souls.

With this in mind it is hoped all Oromo activists will close up ranks and cleanse the movement from infiltrators and reactionaries.  It is only revolutionaries determined to advance the cause and committed to the Kaayyoo for which thousands were sacrificed that can save the situation. It is in the nature of all public or private entities to have bad blood as a result of infestation by foreign body. The present incidents in OLA should not be seen as unprecedented and as isolated as they seem. They could be a part of larger conspiratorial machination that had been lingering for a long period. It should wary all involved. There will be no area left unaffected when a system fails. One remedy is reevaluating the whole system to discard unwanted elements. It will also be a time when saboteurs will be unleashed. They will come out giving themselves different brands but vowing with the national kaayyoo. These could include hate mongers, clannish politicians, reactionaries and enemy moles. They must be identified and exposed for what they are.

Many organizations reevaluate their members periodically to cleanse it from impurities if any. Rewards and punishments depend on them. In business and public administration they call this performance evaluation. No one needs this more than organizations whose system reform is overdue. Such cleansing rituals are indispensible if the struggle has to continue. This is a political organization with specific mission not a “daboo”, traditional self help venture. Roles, rights and duties of members, supporters and sympathizers must be clearly redefined. The genuine and implants must be distinguished. Traitors (apostates) are a curse in all histories and all faiths. And they have never survived to see a happy ending of their deeds.  Their nature must be understood to identify them early and preempt their move. By trying to come together OLF is awakening the enemy. Therefore it is expected to strengthen its defense line before it is overwhelmed.