Monthly Archives: September 2014
By Jitu Dhabessa
(A4O, 20 September 2014) Irreechaa is a national Thanksgiving Day celebration that repeats once or twice in a year and involves special activities or amusements.
For Oromo, Irreechaa is a good way to pass on cultural knowledge and it helps to build pride in young people and helps them to have confidence when talking with others about their culture and identity. Hence, celebrating Irreechaa means having the confidence that comes from knowing the Oromos have something unique and vital values in their long journey.
The 2014 Irreechaa Birraa festival is one of the main celebration in every year at the beginning of Birraa (the sunny new season after the dark, rainy winter season) throughout Oromia and around the world where Diaspora Oromos live on the theme of “Moving Forward: Sacrificing Time for Oromo Identity”.
The Oromo celebrates Irreechaa to thank Waaqaa for the blessings and mercies they have received throughout the past year at the sacred grounds of Hora Harsadi (Lake Harsadi), Bishoftu, Oromia. They celebrate Irreechaa not only to thank Waaqaa (God) also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter season associated with nature and creature.
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 by following their tradition and religion. For almost 6400 years, Oromo families have gathered to take part in the largest Thanks-giving ceremony of the ‘Gadaa’ calendar. Friends, old and new, parents and children join together in a celebration on the goal of ‘Walooma Uumaa-Uumamaa’ (Creator-creatures Harmony).
Hawi Chala | September 19, 2014
Since a couple of weeks ago, I have been reading some articles and posts on social media arguing the Scotland referendum which can be a good lesson and role model for the Oromo struggle for independence. Contrary, I object this argument and rather argue that the Scottish referendum cannot be a lesson and role model to Oromo struggle for independence. There is no common historical experience that resembles our struggle to the Scottish. Neither social nor political nor economic resemblance prevails, at all, that makes it a role model for Oromo quest for independence. Here are my major points.
- Scotland and Britain married each other in 1707 in Act of union voluntarily, by mutual agreement for mutual intest of both nations. It was neither invasion nor colonialism. While case of Oromia and Ethiopia is a forced one, without the will of the Oromo people. It is a real invasion and colonialism.
- The Scotland and Britain have lived together for over 300 years peacefully, as a mother and a daughter, depending on one another. The Scots have never complained of the oppression, persecution, imprisonment or brutal rule of Britain. Simply speaking, no one was either imprisoned or inflicted or killed for just advocating for the independent of Scotland.
The Ethiopians and Oromo have lived together as an oppressor and oppressed, as an exploiter and the exploited or as master and slave. The Oromo have been complaining about the brutal rule of the Abysinians’ dictators and violation of basic human rights. You will hardly find a single Oromo individual whose family has not been either persecuted or imprisoned or exiled or killed for just voicing for the legitimate right of Oromo people.
Through all these years, Scotland could retain its major institutions like legal system, education,…etc.
- The main driving force behind the Scottish independence is the presence of natural oil resource in Scotland. To access a better social welfare for the 5 million of Scots from the high revenue of oil is a must NOT miss opportunity for them to seek for secession from England. Free health service, free tuition, fee from rather skyrocketing tuition fee of England and some others social benefits are some of the driving forces for independence.
I don’t think that the Scottish would even think of secession from UK if there happened to be no natural oil resource in Scotland.
Being endowed by natural resources, economic advantages have never been the primary driving force of Oromos’ struggle for independence. Rather, the main driving force behind the Oromo struggle is the real need to get free from oppression, persecution, brutal rule, imprisonment, basic human right violations and similar legitimate political rights. In Oromo’s struggle for independence, the economic reasons followed the political reasons, unlike the Scotland.
- As long as I understand, Scots are moving from economic dependence to independence, rather than to political independence as the oppressed Oromos and other oppressed nations of the world strive for. The recent voting polls shows very close percentage (between 52 % to 48 % ). This figure simply shows that their vote of yes or No, is not the vote that an oppressed nations votes for.
If Oromo people get the same chance of vote for referendum, the YES vote percentage will double the above number.
- While living under the umbrella of UK, Scots have not lost their national pride and national feeling of being Scottish. They have been Scotland first, and for being so they didn’t challenged or refused. Through multiple cultural and social genocides, Oromos were forced to loss the feeling of Oromuma, and made us ashamed for being Oromo. The recent challenges, resistances and insults for saying ” I am Oromo first ” is a recent example.
- Geographic advantage.
Scotland is located in the northern periphery of UK. And this by itself adds an opportunity for scots to easily apart themselves from the center. Oromia is located as the heart of the Ethiopia and share boundaries with almost all of other sister nations. There are some Oromo tribes residing within other ethnic groups. This diversified and complicated geographical location will not ease ways for secession as same as the Scots. This doesn’t mean that geographical location will hinder the quest for independence but might not be as easy as the one located at the periphery.
I want to quote two comments given by the Scottish boy and an Oromo boy for the question: why do you need independence?
The Scottish boy answered: “It is because I don’t want to be 40% or 20 % of something (UK), I just want to see Scotland. And I don’t want to be part of the extremely socially unequal part of England.”
The Oromo boy answered: “It is because I want to be free of oppression, persecution, and killing. I don’t want to be treated inhumanely. I want to live in a country where my basic human rights get respected.”
The difference is visible.
There are some positive experiences we can gather from the Scottish independence, but taking their lesson as role model for the Oromo struggle will make us illusionary. Their struggle and our struggle have a very different paths, aspirations and goal. In order for us as oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. Our struggle for independence needs a huge sacrifice than that of Scottish. Independence to Oromo and Oromia will not be attained only through campaign and debates like that of Scots, it might rather require a life sacrifice.
Therefore, Scotland referendum can be a better role model for Catalonians of Spain than Oromos. The struggle and independence of South Sudan can rather be taken as a better role model for Oromo struggle for independence. Oppressed nation will not remain oppressed.
(A4O, 18 September 2014) — Many African countries have secessionist movements, partly because their borders were drawn up by colonial powers in the 19th Century. Will the Scottish referendum lead to a greater push for independence on the continent?
In one of the few referendums on sovereignty to be held in Africa, in 1961, the people of the British colony of Southern Cameroon voted to join the French territory of Cameroun, while the separate territory of Northern Cameroon opted to join Nigeria.
More than half a century later, some English-speaking Cameroonians want independence, saying they face discrimination by the French-speaking majority.
“The conspiracy between the UK and France denied us the option of independence. Now, the British are being haunted here,” independence campaigner Ebenezer Akwanga told the BBC.
‘Enemy of your enemy’
“They are all Anglo-Saxon, but the Scottish are having their own referendum with an in/out option. Why can’t we?”
But analysts say there is unlikely to be a “domino effect” of independence referendums across Africa.
“The international community has no appetite to rearrange boundaries. It will be an endless process,” says Paulo Gorjao, director of the Portuguese Institute for International Relations and Security.
Mr Gorjao argues that Africa’s myriad secessionist movements are weaker now then during the Cold War, when they relied heavily on the support of either Western powers or the former Soviet bloc.
“Now, none of the major players support a faction against the government,” Mr Gorjao told the BBC.
Expressing a similar view, Berny Sebe, a lecturer in colonial and post-colonial studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK, says the Polisario Front (PF) is a good example of a movement which has suffered as a result of the new international dynamics.
(A4O, 16 September 2014) On July 1, 2014, the International Oromo Youth Association and the Advocates for Human Rights submitted a detailed report to the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The report identified numerous human rights violations of the rights of children under the age of 18 in Ethiopia. The report concluded that ethnic identity is a major risk factor—children belonging to certain ethnic groups such as the Oromo face severe discrimination and rights violations. The report specifically focuses on human rights violations that followed the recent peaceful protests that occurred across schools in the Oromia region. Other issues pertaining to liberty, security, privacy, freedom of expression and association, family, basic health and welfare, education, and leisure and cultural activities were also included in the report.
On July 17, 2014, IOYA received a letter of invitation to present the report at the closed session for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, part of the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday, September 26, 2014. IOYA will be sending two representatives from the executive board. Human Rights attorney Amy Berquist of the Advocates for Human Rights and IOYA president Amane Badhasso will present the report at the closed session and answer questions posed by the committee. In addition to the report, representatives of both organizations will have weeklong opportunity to meet with UN organizations and other NGO’s while in Geneva.
This is indeed a huge step for Oromos and other groups across the globe who have tirelessly worked to expose human rights violations in Ethiopia, particularly those against Oromo students. None of this would be possible without the financial contribution of Oromo Communities and individual donors. We are very grateful for the generous support and assistance provided to IOYA throughout the planning process.
We believe in the rule of law and implementation of human rights, as well as protection of all groups against violations of freedoms granted to all persons.
IOYA Press Release PR-Geneva
(A4O, 16 September 2014) The Canadian Oromo held a big rally against the Ethiopian govt at the Canada-Africa Business Summit in Toronto on Sept. 15, 2014.
According to our sources, more than 500 participate on the demonstration.
This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
Yehun and Miriam have little hope for the future.
“We didn’t do anything and they destroyed our house,” Miriam told me. “We are appealing to the mayor, but there have been no answers. The government does not know where we live now, so it is not possible for them to compensate us even if they wanted.”
Like the other residents of Legetafo—a small, rural town about twenty kilometers from Addis Ababa—Yehun and Miriam are subsistence farmers. Or rather, they were, before government bulldozers demolished their home and the authorities confiscated their land. The government demolished fifteen houses in Legetafo in July.
The farmers in the community stood in the streets, attempting to prevent the demolitions, but the protests were met with swift and harsh government repression. Many other Oromo families on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s bustling capital are now wondering whether their communities could be next.
These homes were demolished in order to implement what’s being called Ethiopia’s “Integrated Master Plan.” The IMP has been heralded by its advocates as a bold modernization plan for the “Capital of Africa.”
The plan intends to integrate Addis Ababa with the surrounding towns in Oromia, one of the largest states in Ethiopia and home to the Oromo ethnic group—which, with about a third of the country’s population, is its largest single ethnic community. While the plan’s proponents consider the territorial expansion of the capital to be another example of what US Secretary of State John Kerry has called the country’s “terrific efforts” toward development, others argue that the plan favors a narrow group of ethnic elites while repressing the citizens of Oromia.
“At least two people were shot and injured,” according to Miriam, a 28-year-old Legetafo farmer whose home was demolished that day. “The situation is very upsetting. We asked to get our property before the demolition, but they refused. Some people were shot. Many were beaten and arrested. My husband was beaten repeatedly with a stick by the police while in jail.”
Yehun, a 20-year-old farmer from the town, said the community was given no warning about the demolitions. “I didn’t even have time to change my clothes,” he said sheepishly. Yehun and his family walked twenty kilometers barefoot to Sendafa, where his extended family could take them in.
The Price of Resistance
Opponents of the plan have been met with fierce repression.
“The Integrated Master Plan is a threat to Oromia as a nation and as a people,” Fasil stated, leaning forward in a scuffed hotel armchair. Reading from notes scribbled on a sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper, the hardened student activist continued: “The plan would take away territory from Oromia,” depriving the region of tax revenue and political representation, “and is a cultural threat to the Oromo people living there.”
A small scar above his eye, deafness in one ear and a lingering gastrointestinal disease picked up in prison testify to Fasil’s commitment to the cause. His injuries come courtesy of the police brutality he encountered during the four-year prison sentence he served after he was arrested for protesting for Oromo rights in high school and, more recently, against the IMP at Addis Ababa University.
Fasil is just one of the estimated thousands of students who were detained during university protests against the IMP. Though Fasil was beaten, electrocuted and harassed while he was imprisoned last May, he considers himself lucky. “We know that sixty-two students were killed and 125 are still missing,” he confided in a low voice.
The students ground their protests in Ethiopia’s federal Constitution. “We are merely asking that the government abide by the Constitution,” Fasil explained, arguing that the plan violates at least eight constitutional provisions. In particular, the students claim that the plan violates Article 49(5), which protects “the special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa” and gives the district the right to resist federal incursions into “administrative matters.”
Moreover, the plan presents a tangible threat to the people living in Oromia. Fasil and other student protesters claimed that the IMP “would allow the city to expand to a size that would completely cut off West Oromia from East Oromia.” When the plan is fully implemented, an estimated 2 million farmers will be displaced. “These farmers will have no other opportunities,” Fasil told me. “We have seen this before when the city grew. When they lose their land, the farmers will become day laborers or beggars.”
Winners and Losers
The controversy highlights the disruptive and often violent processes that can accompany economic growth. “What is development, after all?” Fasil asked me.
Ethiopia’s growth statistics are some of the most impressive in the region. Backed by aid from the US government, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the country’s ruling coalition, is committed to modernizing agricultural production and upgrading the country’s economy. Yet there is a lack of consensus about which processes should be considered developmental.
Oromo activists allege that their community has borne a disproportionate share of the costs of development. Advocates like Fasil argue that the “development” programs of the EPRDF are simply a means of marginalizing the Oromo people to consolidate political power within the ruling coalition.
“Ethiopia has a federalism based on identity and language,” explained an Ethiopian political science professor who works on human rights. Nine distinct regions are divided along ethnic lines and are theoretically granted significant autonomy from the central government under the 1994 Constitution. In practice, however, the regions are highly dependent on the central government for revenue transfers and food security, development and health programs. Since the inception of Ethiopia’s ethno-regional federalism, the Oromo have been resistant to incorporation in the broader Ethiopian state and suspicious of the intentions of the Tigray ethnic group, which dominates the EPRDF.
As the 2015 elections approach, the Integrated Master Plan may provide a significant source of political mobilization. “The IMP is part of a broader conflict in Ethiopia over identity, power and political freedoms,” said the professor, who requested anonymity.
Standing in Gullele Botanic Park in May, Secretary of State Kerry was effusive about the partnership between the United States and Ethiopia, praising the Ethiopian government’s “terrific support in efforts not just with our development challenges and the challenges of Ethiopia itself, but also…the challenges of leadership on the continent and beyond.”
Kerry’s rhetoric is matched by a significant amount of US financial support. In 2013, Washington allocated more than $619 million in foreign assistance to Ethiopia, making it one of the largest recipients of US aid on the continent. According to USAID, Ethiopia is “the linchpin to stability in the Horn of Africa and the Global War on Terrorism.”
Kerry asserted that “the United States could be a vital catalyst in this continent’s continued transformation.” Yet if “transformation” entails land seizures, home demolitions and political repression, then it’s worth questioning just what kind of development American taxpayers are subsidizing.
The American people must wrestle with the implications of “development assistance” programs and the thin line between modernization and marginalization in countries like Ethiopia. Though the US government has occasionally expressed concern about the oppressive tendencies of the Ethiopian regime, few demands for reform have accompanied aid.
For the EPRDF, the process of expanding Addis Ababa is integral to the modernization of Ethiopia and the opportunities inherent to development. For the Oromo people, the Integrated Master Plan is a political and cultural threat. For the residents of Legetafo, the demolition of their homes demonstrates the uncertainty of life in a rapidly changing country.