Monthly Archives: September 2014

Moving Forward: Meti’s Message on Irreechaa (Oromo Thanksgiving)


Moving Forward: Bonsen’s Message to Oromo Thanksgiving

Moving Forward: Sacrificing Time for Oromo Identity

By Jitu Dhabessa

Moving Forward: Sacrificing Time for Oromo Identity

(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).


Scotland vs Oromos : When the uncomparable is compared

Hawi Chala | September 19, 2014

UK_EthiopiaSince 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Will Scottish referendum encourage Africa’s separatists?

(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 Polisario Front's demand for independence is rejected by Morocco

“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.

Africans make up a paltry 0.6% of Scotland’s 5.3 million-strong population. But as the referendum is a tight race, their vote – along with that of other minorities – could influence the outcome.

Demands for the creation of Biafra state are still heard in south-east Nigeria

Many Africans are as passionate about the referendum as the native Scottish. On Monday, a pro-independence rally was held in Glasgow’s Calabash restaurant, a popular hang-out among Africans.

My impression is that many Africans will vote for independence. They believe Scotland has more favourable policies towards immigrants – for instance, a student can stay here longer than in England after graduating. They also draw parallels with Africa, arguing that just as British rule ended there in the 1960s, it has to end in Scotland.

But others disagree, saying that “petty nationalism” lies at the heart of the campaign for Scottish independence. They believe it will set a dangerous precedent, and encourage separatist groups in Africa to step up their campaigns for independence.

They also argue that being part of the UK benefits them economically as they can go to England to look for jobs – something that may become difficult if Scotland splits from the rest of the country.

The PF received strong Algerian and Soviet support in its campaign to press Morocco to give the Saharawi people their own homeland, while Morocco was backed by the US and France as it resisted their demands.

“Geo-politics in the region has changed. With the end of the Cold War, it is no longer critical to support the enemy of your enemy,” Mr Sebe told the BBC.

‘Pandora’s box’While in Angola, the end of the civil war between the MPLA government and the Unita rebel group led to a decline in support for the Flec movement, which has been fighting for three decades for the independence of the oil-rich Cabinda strip, which is physically separate from the rest Angola, Mr Gorjao says.

“People realise it’s a lost cause. Everyone is benefiting from the stability of the last 10 years. People are living better, despite the corruption,” he adds.

As African countries emerged from colonial empires, the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now the African Union (AU), agreed in 1963 to accept the existing boundaries in order to avoid border wars between newly independent states.

“This has been mostly respected and even when there were territorial disputes, they often stemmed from conflicting arrangements between rival colonial powers, like the conflict between Libya and Chad in the 1970s and 1980s,” Mr Sebe says.

Mr Gorjao says referendums to change colonial boundaries have been the exception rather than the rule in Africa, and he does not expect any to be held in the foreseeable future.

“It doesn’t make sense to hold referendums. It will open a Pandora’s box,” he says.

‘Messy divorces’

The border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea killed some 70,000 people

Only two internationally-recognised states have emerged in post-independent Africa – Eritrea, which voted to break away from Ethiopia in 1993 and South Sudan, which split from Sudan in 2011 after a referendum backed by the United Nations (UN) and AU.

In both instances, the splits were messy – Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war between 1998 and 2000, which left some 70,000 people dead.

Similarly, South Sudan’s boundary with Sudan has not yet been clearly demarcated, and both sides have accused the other of cross-border incursions.

South Sudan has also faced internal conflicts – the most serious one the battle between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar.

The fighting, which broke out in December, has forced more than two million people to flee their homes.

Martin Ewi, an analyst with the South African Institute for Security Studies, says the crisis facing South Sudan may have harmed the cause of independence movements elsewhere on the continent.

“I don’t think people will want to see new states emerging and heading in that direction,” he says.

Citing the case of Cameroon, he argues that its secessionist movement is “dying every day”.

This is because ethnic affiliations cut across internal boundaries and are stronger than “Anglophone or Francophone nationalism”, says Mr Ewi, who is a Cameroonian.


Furthermore, President Paul Biya’s government has made efforts to address the grievances of English-speaking Cameroonians, Mr Ewi argues.

“Having travelled around the country, I don’t see a fundamental difference in development [between former British and French-controlled areas],” Mr Ewi told the BBC.

“When it comes to education, there were only French-speaking universities in the past but that argument no longer holds. Today, we have English-speaking universities,” he adds.

However, Mr Akwanga, who seeks independence for English-speaking Cameroon, disagrees.

He argues that as many African governments are repressive, only international pressure will force them to hold referendums.

“In Paul Biya’s Cameroon, no party similar to the SNP will be allowed to win an election,” Mr Akwanga says.

On the other side of the continent, some residents of the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar are following the Scottish referendum, hoping for something similar to determine its relationship with mainland Tanzania, says the BBC Aboubakar Famau, who is on the island.

Once a British protectorate, Zanzibar became part of Tanganyika in 1964, forming the United Republic of Tanzania.

Although it is already a semi-autonomous territory with its own parliament and president, many people in Zanzibar believe it gets a raw deal and are pushing for more powers or outright independence.

The Tanzanian government has agreed to review the constitution in an attempt to address their grievances.


Scotland: Road to referendum

  • Kingdom of Scotland emerges as sovereign independent state in early Middle Ages
  • Its monarch James VI becomes king of England and Ireland in 1603
  • Forms political union with England in 1707 to create Kingdom of Great Britain
  • Powers devolved to Scottish parliament after 1997 referendum
  • Pro-independence Scottish National Party wins overall majority in 2011 election
  • Opens way for 18 September referendum

Critics accuse the Cameroonian military of cracking down on dissent

In Nigeria, the military brutally crushed efforts to create the breakaway state of Biafra in the south-east in 1967, seven years after Nigeria won its independence from Britain.

Some 50 years later, “secessionist demands are never too far from the surface” in Africa’s most populous state, which is heavily divided along ethnic and religious lines, says Mannir Dan Ali, editor of Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper.

“Currently, all the regions are suspicious of the real intention of the other,” he told the BBC.

‘Artificial country’

“However, at sober moments, most people agree that Nigerians need each other and it is only in one Nigeria that you will have the numbers and the variety of resources to become an important country that could satisfy the yearnings of more if its citizens.”

A Libyan flag flutters as cars wait under a bridge on 9 September 2014 at a police checkpoint erected on a main road near a former army camp  where clashes took place between rival militias at the western entrance of the capital Tripoli Libya has been anarchic since the 2011 revolution

Mr Sebe argues that the emergence of militant Islamist groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram reduces the chances of foreign powers supporting the creation of potentially failed or shaky states where jihadis could operate freely.

“Nigeria is an artificial country formed as a result of British imperial activity. There is a distinct possibility of more devolution, but I don’t see its unity under threat in the current circumstances,” he told the BBC.

He says in Africa, Libya faces the biggest threat of disintegrating as rival militias battle for power following the overthrow of long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

“Unfortunately, it is quite similar to Somalia in the 1990s, where the world witnessed the gradual decomposition of the state,” Mr Sebe says.

Since long-server ruler Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, several self-governing territories have emerged from Somalia, but none are internationally recognised.

No effective central government exists in Libya either, with militias, split along ideological, regional and ethnic lines, fighting for territorial control.

In the east, regional leaders declared autonomy, calling the area Cyrenaica – a name which harks back to the 1950s when Libya’s regions enjoyed federal power.

Mr Sebe says the resolution of the conflict in Libya will require the concerted effort of Western and Arab states, but their attention is currently focused on Iraq and Syria, raising the risk that its disintegration will continue.

But overall, most African states are more stable and democratic now – and there are stronger links between different ethnic groups – than in the period immediately after independence, analysts say.

This is another reason why we are unlikely to see more African countries breaking apart in the near future.


The International Oromo Youth Association’s Press Release

(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.

Doc11The 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 Board

IOYA  Press Release PR-Geneva

Canadian Oromo Rally Against the Terrorist Ethiopian Govt

(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.


Oromo Activists Fight US-Backed Land Seizures

Oromo ethnic group

Ethiopians of the Oromo ethnic group stage a protest against the ruling government. (Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi)

This article is a joint publication of 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.

American Support

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.