Monthly Archives: May 2016

Menelik II is the Least of my Worries: A Note to the Apologists of Empire

Tsegaye R Ararssa 26/05/16 ==================================

menelik2This is a short memo to the Ethiopian extreme right activists who charge us that we trivialize Menelik II’s persona and his deeds. While we note trivializing of such figures as a mode of critical engagement is legitimate and so doing is long overdue, I like to say that Oromos are not interested in doing so. I like to say that Menelik II is the least and the last of our Oromo worries. Here is why:

Menelik II is the last and least of my worries now.

If you worry about his image, that is fine. Do worry about it.

If you think he put you to shame because he said he is not black, that is your problem.

If he falsified your chants about TIKUR SEW, or if he destabilized the false narrative regarding him as the messiah of the black race, that too is your headache, not mine.

Source: Menelik II is the Least of my Worries: A Note to the Apologists of Empire


THE PEOPLES’ ADWA: The Imperative of Embracing Plural Interpretation

Tsegaye R. Ararssa  (1 March 2016)

ras-nasibu-850x500Every year, when March is around the corner, Ethiopian social media activists start to be noisy. The defenders of Adwa as a phenomenal black history moment and the revisionists battle it out, often in a vulgar mode of exchange. Over the last two years, I have been observing this discussion between those who seek to promote the old narrative of state orthodoxy as the only and the universal meaning of Adwa and those who take a more sceptical stance seeking to show the darker sides that the Adwa moment signifies. The following paragraphs were written in response to those who seek to impose on the Oromo this exhausted old narrative of the ideologically motivated imperial State Orthodoxy.
1. There are right reasons to celebrate the battle of Adwa. But to say Adwa is a black man’s war fought for securing the freedom of the people of the black race is celebrating the event for the wrong reason.

  1. Truth be told, it was a colonial war fought among colonial empires, framed by rules of colonial international law, with a colonizing consequence for Africa.
  2. It was a war fought between two maiden empires competing over the fate of black peoples in Ethiopia and beyond. This was clearly stated by the emperor himself several times, the emperor who also clearly denied that he is black, the emperor who rather mysteriously claimed to be Caucasian, the emperor who refused to identify with Afro-Americans and Haitians who saw him as one of their own and sought to salute him for his achievements at Adwa, the emperor who brutally murdered millions of black people, the emperor who personally owned over 70, 000 black slaves, the emperor who negotiated with white colonial powers on the fate of other black peoples (Eritreans, Djiboutians, Somalis, and the Sudanese) under white colonial rule.
  3. To say Adwa is a pride of black people, therefore, is a distortion of historical truth and a gross misrepresentation of the man and the event.
  4. To say that our people sacrificed, especially those of them who were in chains, to preserve a semblance of an African sovereignty; to commemorate the lives lost in that war and to honor the sacrifices thereof is the right reason to celebrate it. As someone whose forefathers have paid dearly for this and for the subsequent fascist war, I feel the pain, I share the loss, and I honor their sacrifice.
  5. As I honor their sacrifice and commemorate and celebrate the lives of the many black bodies lost there, I speak the truth, the whole truth, and stick only to the truth.
  6. To my compatriots who insist that we should celebrate it for the wrong reason, I insist in telling you the truth, the raw truth, especially on the issues we disagree strongly. Doing this is paying a proper tribute to the agony and anguish of those who lived and died in chains to defend a state that left them outside of the polity. To do this is a sacred duty, a civic duty, an act of loyalty–even to the state that is formed on my forefathers’ graves.

Source: THE PEOPLES’ ADWA: The Imperative of Embracing Plural Interpretation

Jimma University hosts the First International Conference on Oromo Studies

(A4O, Jimma, Oromia) Jimma University organized the first international conference on Oromo studies under the grand theme ‘Oromo Knowledge Systems and Practices.’ The conference was held from 21st – 22nd May, 2016 at Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Conference Hall. It was attended by dignitaries, representatives from several government institutions, university presidents, scholars extensively engaged in Oromo studies and Aba Gedas’ from different parts of Oromia National Regional State.

The conference is aimed at bringing together scholars from various disciplines and institutions that are engaged in Oromo studies and also creating the opportunity to identify core thematic research areas, generating scholarly views to identify core activities to be undertaken in the future and indicating directions to policy makers. It is also aimed to serve as an initiative for collaboration among universities in the country and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The conference was started by the blessing of all Aba Gedas present at the conference who colorfully expressed their good wishes and blessings as per the Oromo culture. Professor Fikre Lemessa, President of Jimma University, while welcoming all the guest and participants of the conference underscored that initiating a scientific discourse on Oromo studies was pretty well unimaginable a century back while the Oromo people had unfathomable oral traditions and were also farsighted and endowed with hospitality.

He also underlined that the knowledge systems and practices exercised by the Oromo people has not been recognized at national and international level, despite the language is spoken by many other ethnic groups in Ethiopia and the Oromo people practiced a democratic system of governance during the time when democracy was a luxury for significant portion of the world population and western ideals of democracy has not be as ubiquitous as today. It is in line with recognizing these historical facts that JU launched the Institute of Oromo Studies. The community is in the ambit of JU’s philosophy and it fully affirms the very important benefit of taking indigenous knowledge of the community in to account as an engine of scientific exploration. Therefore, according to him, the institute will serve as an interdisciplinary, extra- departmental and interuniversity collaborative institute with the primarily focus on research and outreach making the community as orbit of attention. He has also firmly stated that, the conference will be a landmark in Oromo Studies to open the doors for well-organized and high quality research in the area.

Present on the occasion and guest of honor of the event was Dr. Kaba Urgessa, Minister of the F.D.R.E ministry of Education. He stated that the Ethiopian government has been relentlessly endeavoring and investing huge sum of capital on building facilities and building human resource capacity to ensure access to quality education. Education is the key for the aspired for national development and the government is investing to its highest possible capacity to improve access and quality of education in the country. He further underlined that, Universities are fully mandated in their three major functional areas of teaching, research and community services and as a result should give sufficient attention to reflect the culture, values and practices of their surrounding community. He further stated that, the existing constitution and federal state arrangement has created a fertile political ground and a level field for the representation, refection and practice of the values and cultures of the diverse ethnic groups in the country.

In this regard, according to him, JU has been on the right path and can be exemplary to all other higher education institutions in the country, as it took the initiative to open the department of Afan Oromo in 2002 and yet again pioneered the launching of the Institute of Oromo Studies currently. The institute will definitely play a crucial role in promoting the culture of the Oromo people on the basis of scientific evidences and will also contribute in initiating network of scholars and institutions to expand the efforts with hands joined from all relevant stakeholders. He finally affirmed that the Ministry will fully support JU to strengthen the institute and solicit efforts from other similar institutions.

At the subsequent stages of the conference, thirty one papers were presented by different prominent scholars in the plenary and four parallel sessions. Among the scholars presented lead paper at the conference were Professor Ephraim Issac, Professor Tessema Ta’a, Dr. Taddesse Berisso, Dr. Chikage Oba-Smidt and others.

At the final stage of the conference, Mr. Kora Tushune, V/P for Business and Development of JU chaired the session that discussed on the way forward to glean out outstanding issues which have to be emphasized for the successful accomplishment that aspired for targets of the institute at institutional, national and international level. Mr. Kora presented a comprehensive list of proposals that needs due attention to enrich the institute, sustain its efforts and take it further steps to meet its set forth goals. The points he raised were instrumental in shaping the discussions and later on substantiated by the panelists of the session and the participants. Finally, it was agreed that, the institute should target the production of high quality research outputs and dissemination, ensure scientific and evidence based promotion of the Oromo cultural values and practices, gather all research outputs and books at national and international level to organized an archive of Oromo studies and support future young researchers, form robust network of institutions and scholars to extend the efforts initiated by JU and institutionalize the efforts to a broader level of collaboration to bring international actors on board.

The Conference was wrapped up after certificates were awarded to paper presenters and institutions sponsored the workshop and with a closing speech by Dr. Taye Tolemariam, V/P for Academic Affairs of JU who extended his gratitude for participants from abroad and within Ethiopia and organizers of the workshop. He has also underlined the importance of giving special emphasis on the outstanding issues suggested by participants and panelists to register sustained success by the institute in the country and beyond.


%d bloggers like this: