Irreechaa Celebration to be Held in Melbourne, Australia

By Maatii Sabaa

(Melbourne, Irreechaa, September 20, 2019)-The Oromia Irreechaa Organising Committee in Victoria is preparing to celebrate Irreechaa in Melbourne on 29th September.

Head of the Committee, Ob Abdeta Homa said the celebration is to strengthen and promote and Oromo culture, particularly the Irreechaa celebration in Melbourne.

Irreechaa is the annual Oromo people Thanksgiving Day that is celebrated every year in Birraa near the river bank or water and tree.

Irreechaa is celebrated every year in the end of September or beginning of October in various part of the globe where the Oromo community resides.

The celebration in Melbourne will be held in the context of the country while cultural values of the Irreechaa celebration are maintained.

The Irreechaa would be celebrated by all Oromos regardless of difference in religion, region and gender to celebrate and promote the identity of the Oromo people.

Irreechaa is the celebration of peace, unity and cooperation where the celebrants carrying bunch of straw and daisies in their hands praising, blessing and praying Waaqa in their songs.

The Irreechaa festival is celebrated every year at the beginning of Birraa (Spring), new season after the dark and rainy winter season.

The Oromo people celebrate Irreechaa not only to thank Waaqaa (God) but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature.

Irreechaa in Exile

Irreechaa is not only practiced among the Oromo in Oromia. As hundreds of the Oromo are in exile for different reasons, their culture, religion, language and identity also exiled with them. Thus, Irreecha is celebrated in Oromia and around the world where diaspora Oromos live especially, Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, Australia, South Africa, Europe and North America.

“Because Irreechaa has a cultural ambiance in connecting the people to Oromo land and the creator, Waaqa, it still remained as strong element of connection between the Oromo in diaspora and home – Oromia,” Ob Abdeta said.

In the past ten years or so, the Oromo across different parts of the world (from Toronto to Melborne and Bergen to Johannesburg) have come together and celebrated Irreechaa as a common icon of their identity.

If anything could be mentioned in bridging the differences (political and religious) within Oromo in the diaspora, Irreechaa has become the major binding force not as a mere cultural or religious practice but for its conjoint constitution of culture and identity.

Currently, Irreechaa has got publicity among the non-Oromos (Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike) to the extent that city administrations in different countries recognized the celebration and granted the Oromo with the spaces for the ritual.

Irreechaa brings people closer

On Irreechaa festivals, friends, family, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreechaa festivals bring people closer to each other and make social bonds.

Moreover, the Oromo people celebrate this auspicious event to mark the end of rainy season, known as Ganna, was established by Oromo forefathers, in the time of Gadaa Melbaa in Mormor, Oromia.

The auspicious day on which this last Mormor Day of Gadaa Belbaa – the Dark Time of starvation and hunger- was established on the 1st Sunday of last week of September or the 1st Sunday of the 1st week of October according to the Gadaa lunar calendar has been designated as National Thanksgiving Day by modern-day Oromo people.

Irreechaa celebrations as a means of promoting Oromummaa

According to the Irreechaa Organising Committee, all Oromos in Victoria are expected to take part in the celebration.

“What a wonderful time we had on a cooler than typical spring day in 2019 enjoying all that the Irreechaa Festival presented, Ob Abdeta Homa added.

After many years’ unseen events, the first national Irreechaa Festival was held in 1991 in Oromia, East Africa and later became an annual event, which now runs for five weeks, and is one of the most pleasant reminders in Oromia that spring has definitely sprung!

“Here in Australia, Melbourne, we continue this fabulous event every year since 2009.

“The celebrations are unique in that the Melbourne celebration has come again and that contributes to the development of Oromummaa in the Diaspora,” Ob Abdeta said.

In the traditional religion of the Oromos, the spirit is the power through which Waaqaa  (The Almighty God) governs all over the world. Thus, Oromos believe that every creation of Waaqaa has its own spirit.

Thanks to God for all the blessing

This festival is a spectacular show of cultural, historical and natural beautification in their full glory at the height of the season. It has spawned somewhat of a science of knowing just when the blooms will peak at blooms and decline, depending on the wind, rain, and sunshine they get.

Now it is the beginning of 2019 Irreechaa celebrations, the premier holiday of the Oromo people marks the end of the dark-rainy season and the beginning of a blossom harvest season.

It is in Oromo tradition to gather at the river banks and lakes shores to give thanks to the almighty Waaqaa for all the blessings throughout past years and ask for Araaraa (Reconciliation), Nagaa (Peace), Walooma (Harmony) and Finnaa (Holistic Development) for the past, the present and the future.

“The event is very important for our community as it brings the community together and helps to connect and share experiences in their day to day life.”

“Together, we can make our destiny better everywhere.”

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Irreecha Celebrations to be Held in Finfinne, First in Over 150 Years

By Staff Reporter   

September 19, 2019 (Ezega.com) — The Oromia cultural and tourism bureau is preparing to celebrate Irrecha in Finfinne early next October.

Head of the bureau Girma Hailu said the exercise is to restart the Irrecha celebration in Finfinne currently known as Addis Ababa city after about 150 years.

Irreecha-CelebrationSome politicians, however, claim that the move has to do with pushing the claim by the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP) on the ownership of Addis Ababa city, which almost all other ethnic groups living in the city oppose.

Irreechaa is the annual Oromo people Thanksgiving Day that is celebrated every year in Birraa near the river bank or water and tree. Irreechaa is celebrated every year in September in Bishoftu Hora Harsadii and other Oromia major cities.

The place of the celebration has not yet been located but will take place either near one of the rivers in Addis Ababa or artificial pond. “The celebration will be held while cultural values of the Irrecha celebration are maintained, Girma said while briefing journalists on Wednesday.

Unlike in the past, the Irreecha would be celebrated by all ethnic groups in Addis Ababa regardless of difference in language, religion, culture and ethnic background, the bureau head said.

According to the Oromia Cultural and Tourism Bureau, about three million people from all corners of Addis Ababa and surrounding towns are expected to take part in the celebration.

“Irrecha celebration has to do with the identity of the Oromo people. The celebrations are unique in that the Finifine Hora celebration has come again and that contributes to tourism development in the country, Girma said

In the traditional religion of the Oromos, the spirit is the power through which Waaqaa (The Almighty God) governs all over the world. Thus, Oromos believe that every creation of Waaqaa has its own spirit.

The resumption of the celebration signifies that the people of Oromo and other ethnic groups have begun exercising their democratic rights and building trust among them and image of the country, the bureau head added.

Meanwhile, the Oromia Cultural and Tourism Bureau will hold what is called “Irrech Peace Run” in Addis Ababa ahead of the Irrecha celebration. About 50 thousand runners including famous athletes are expected to participate in the run.

“The run is to show Irrecha is the celebration of peace, unity and cooperation and to add color to forthcoming celebration in Addis Ababa,” Nega Tujuba, head of the Oromia Athletics Federation told Ezega News. Similar runs were staged in Adama city, the capital of Oromia regional state since 2016, but the federation wanted it moved to Addis Ababa to avoid security problems, he added.

The 10-kilometer road race will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2019, along the route of Ethiopian Great Run. The running route goes from Meskel Adebabay to Legehar to Mexico to Sarbet to Kera to Gotera, and then back to Meskel Square.

First winners from both sexes will be awarded each 50 thousand Ethiopian Birr and second and third winners will enjoy 30 and 20 thousand Ethiopian birr, respectively.

The Oromo of Eastern Africa: Ali Mazrui’s Perspective

Exactly 10 years ago at the annual meeting of the Oromo Studies Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the late Kenyan philosopher Ali Mazrui (1933-2014) gave the keynote address in which he spoke, with his characteristic flamboyance, about what he called the largest ethnic nation in Eastern Africa, the Oromo. His perspective was originally comparative and international.

The Oromos are in the news lately in connection with their growing demand for self-determination. When he gave the keynote speech Mazrui was regarded as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world. So, what did Mazrui, the public intellectual, have to say about the Oromo? What are the implications of the Oromo question for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa? I believe this is the right time to understand some of the relevant issues more fully from a historical perspective. In this vein, I am presenting below an adaptation of Mazrui’s keynote speech—mostly in his own words.

One of the exceptional things about Eastern Africa is the historic cultural symbiosis between the Oromo and the Amhara across the centuries. If the Amhara are like the English in the United Kingdom, are the Oromo as historically abused by the Amhara as the Irish were by the English, or are the Oromo as historically respected by the Amhara as the Scots were by the English?

Two processes have fluctuated in relations between the Oromo and the Amhara across the centuries. The two processes are homogenization (trend towards becoming homogeneous) and hegemonization (trend towards becoming dominant or hegemonic). This has created the special exceptionalism of the Oromo people.

With regard to cultural homogenization between the Oromo and the Amhara, earlier centuries left the rivalry unsettled. From the 17th century sedentary Oromo started integrating with their Amharic-speaking neighbors. Some Oromo chiefs acquired some political power in the wider Ethiopian monarchy. Emperor Iyasu II (1730-55) was half Oromo and promoted a network of Oromo allies. Indeed, this was the period when the Oromo language became the language of the court at Gonder. Homogenization in this era favored the spread of Oromo culture.

In late 18th century the central government of Ethiopia weakened considerably. Local princes and governors carved out greater power and asserted autonomy for themselves. This period was known as the Zemene Mesafint, and was characterized by dis-homogenization, in the sense of decentralization of power. The Oromo dynasty of Yejju Chiefs produced a string of warlords who exercised disproportionate influence on the weakened titular emperors of Ethiopia. Some Oromo Chieftains became virtual Regents of the Empire.

Power transfer through marriage was another method of hegemonization. Ras Ali of Yejju ascended to pre-eminence in 1779. As the Emperor of Ethiopia lost hegemony during Zemene Mesafint, the Yejju Oromo became de facto custodians of the Empire.

In 1855 Ras Ali II of Yejju was defeated by Kassa Hailu. Almost out of the blue Kassa Hailu became Emperor Tewoderos II. From then on the Oromo not only declined politically; they also became gradually marginalized culturally. The Oromo language was even banned from official institutions very much like the Kurdish language was later discouraged in the Republic of Turkey under the legacy of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk. The Amharaization of the urban Oromo elites accelerated the process of cultural homogenization from the nineteenth century onwards. The treatment of the Oromo by the Amhara was almost a dress rehearsal of the treatment of the Kurds by the Turks a century later.

Ali Mazrui in 2007. (Ryan Brown)

The major subprocesses of the Amharaization of the Oromo were linguistic (the spread of Amharic among the Oromo), religious (the Christianization of the Oromo, especially via Orthodox Christianity), bureaucratization (the cooptation of the Oromo into the civil service and the armed forces of the Empire), and intermarriage (cross-ethnic matrimony and raising children of mixed ethnicity).

Lady Menen of Wollo became Empress in the nineteenth century; Ras Muhammad of Wollo became Ras Mikael and subsequently Negus of Siyon. He fathered Emperor Iyasu V. In the twentieth century Lady Menen of Ambassel became Empress Consort of Haile Selassie I. These were forms of homogenization in more than one sense. They were the mixing of biological genes, as well as the erosion of cultural differences (heterogeneity).

Was there counterpenetration of Amhara culture by the Oromo? In reality Oromo counterpenetration into Amhara society did not include language. The Amharic language was bound to absorb some words and phrases from the Oromo linguistic heritage, but very few Ethiopians of Amhara descent embraced the Oromo language instead of Amharic. A lot more Oromo adopted Amharic instead of the Oromo tongue [Oromiffa or Afaan Oromoo].

In the transmission of religion there was some exchange. Millions of Oromo were Christianized as a result of contact with the Amhara. Emperor Yohannes IV even forced Christianity upon large numbers of the Oromo in the late 1800s on pain of the Oromo losing their properties. These were trends towards religious homogenization.

While the indigenous Gadaa system of governance of the Oromos did not influence the imperial monarchical system, the indigenous warrior tradition of the Oromo did result in a disproportionate military role for the Oromo within the Empire. Menelik II allied with Ras Gobena’s militia to expand Menelik’s empire eastward and southward. Haile Selassie’s father, Governor of Harar, was a top-general in the Battle of Adwa when Melelik’s forces defeated the Italians. Emperor Haile Selassie I was in part of Oromo descent, as well as of Amhara ancestry. Haile Selassie symbolized Oromo counter-penetration of the Amhara at the highest political level. But he was in denial about his Oromo genes. Haile Selassie was the de jure Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Iyasu V, another Oromo-Amhara, had been the de facto but uncrowned ruler of the Empire in the nineteenth century.

The exceptionalism of the role of the Oromo in Ethiopia has continued to be this symbiotic interplay between hegemonization (as the Oromo have ascended to ultimate power-sharing) and homogenization (as the Oromo have shared culture and mixed blood with the Amhara).

Ali Mazrui. (Seifudein Adem)

Have the Oromo been an internalized colony of the Amhara? Yes, but there are degrees of colonial status. A closer look at another imperial power would clarify these degrees of subordination. Before Great Britain became a global empire, it consisted of internal colonization. The English people were the equivalent of the Amhara.

Linguistically the whole of the United Kingdom was homogenized and became English-speaking. But the status of the component parts varied. The most deeply colonized and dominated was Ireland. Indeed, for centuries, the Irish were treated by the English as an inferior “race” right into the earlier years of the twentieth century. Next in status within the United Kingdom was Wales, which was also treated as an inferior partner to the English for centuries, but was not as humiliated as the Irish.

The most respected partner in the United Kingdom to the English was Scotland. Its union with England under the Scottish Stuart Kings in the seventeenth century (James I and Charles I and their post-Cromwellian successors) was voluntary. The union put a Scottish King in the throne of England. Scotland developed its own Church of Scotland (partially distinct from the Church of England) and retained its own parallel currency into the twenty-first century. In spite of the rise of the Scottish nationalist movement in the second half of the twentieth century, the Scots were essentially almost the equals of the English for most of the time since the formal union of England and Scotland under the Stuarts in the 1600s.

The big comparative question is whether the Oromo in the history of Ethiopia were more like the Irish in the history of the United Kingdom – totally dominated and despised by the English for centuries? Or were the Oromo more like the Scots – not quite the equals of the English, but often sharing power, and at times even occupying the English throne?

There were times in Ethiopian history when the Oromo elite and the Amhara elite were more like the English aristocracy alongside the Scottish aristocracy – not quite equal, but retaining substantial mutual respect. There have been other periods of Ethiopian history when the Amhara treated the Oromo in the way the English once treated the Irish – as a lower breed of people, and an internalized colony.

But what about the Oromia of the future? Will it be more like Scotland – autonomous and dignified but not totally equal to England politically? Or will it be more like Ireland before the first half of the twentieth century – a de facto colony in subjection to the English? Or is there a chance that Oromia would one day become the equivalent of the Irish Republic – sovereign, free and increasingly prosperous? If the whole of Ethiopia had been governed in terms of so-called “one man, one vote,” the Oromo would have had an edge. Out of the total population of 105 million, most independent estimates place the Oromo at about 34% of the population, while the Amhara may be just about 27%, with Tigrayans coming third, with about 6%.

Systems of governance in Eastern Africa have included monarchies which endured for centuries among the Amhara and simpler pastoralist traditions among the Somali. Governance among the Oromo was intermediate between the monarchical centrism of the Amharas and the statelessness of the Somali. The Oromo transitional principle of eight years as a generational unit of allegiance (Gadaa), has been increasingly adopted as a term limit for two terms of presidential incumbency in the United States. More and more countries in the world, influenced by the American example, have opted for two maximum terms of presidential incumbency, adding up to eight years (or an outer limit of ten years).

The reasons which made the Oromo choose the unit of eight years as a guiding ancestral principle of democracy were entirely distinct from what made the United States after World War II opt for a maximum of eight years for all future presidents after Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Nevertheless, the term limit of eight years for presidential power is gaining ascendancy in modern democracies centuries after the ancient Oromo founding fathers were guided by the mystique of eight years as a generational unit.

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