Author Archives: advocacy4oromia

Oromo Musicians Charged With Terrorism for Resistance Song Lyrics

Screenshot from one of Seena’s viral Afan Oromo ‘resistance songs’ from the group’s YouTube channel.

Seven producers and performers of a popular YouTube music video were charged in Ethiopia in late June with terrorism for producing ‘inciting’ audio-visual materials and ‘uploading them on YouTube’.

The group members were arrested in December 2016 and were held in detention without charges until last month.

Among those facing charges is Seenaa Solomon, a young female singer who critics say is a rising music talent to watch. The other detainees include the well-known songwriter, singer and music entrepreneur Elias Kiflu, two vocalists Gemechis Abera and Oliyad Bekele, and three dancers, Ifa Gemechu, Tamiru Keneni and Moebol Misganu.

This marked the second arrest for dancer Moebol Misganu, who in 2014 was arrested in connection with the students protest in Ethiopia’s largest region, Oromia. He was released in 2016.

Since December 2016, Seenaa and her colleagues have been held in Maekelawi— a prison notorious for its torture practices, recounted by past prisoners. Shortly after their arrest, online activist and diaspora satellite television director Jawar Mohamed wrote:

The regime has intensified its war on Oromo artists. Almost all singers are either in jail, forced to flee or had gone underground. Studios have been closed and their properties confiscated. Seena Solomon and Elias Kiflu, the duo known for their powerfully dramatized resistance songs are the latest victims.

The contentious political environment in which these arrests have occurred has grown out of the Ethiopian government’s plan to expand Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. In 2014, the ruling EPRDF party announced plans to expand the capital into adjacent farm lands of Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region that is primarily home to the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo.

When the plan led to wide-scale protests and a violent government crackdown, Afan Oromo (the region’s language) musicians began to rise as a visible — and audible — source of inspiration for the opposition movement. Seenaa Solomon’s group produced music videos in Afan Oromo during student protests that rocked the country from 2014-2016, creating something akin to a soundtrack for the movement.

In their coverage of the group members’ arrests, state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporation reported that Seenaa and her colleagues were producing music videos, poems and interviews with government critics in collaboration with a diaspora political organization based in Australia.

According to their charge sheet, their audiovisual materials were “inciting” and “complimentary” of the student protesters and others who demonstrated between 2014 and 2016.

They are not the first musicians to face such repression. In January 2016, Hawi Tezera, another Oromo singer who comforted and inspired protesters through her songs, was imprisoned. In February 2017, Teferi Mekonen, an Oromo singer who asserted Oromo cultural identity and challenge the legitimacy of Ethiopia’s ruling party in his songs, was arrested. Hawi was later released, but Teferi’s fate remains unknown.

As the visibility of political singers has risen, Ethiopian authorities have intensified their crack down on musicians whom they perceive sympathize with opposition. But this has not necessarily made the musicians less visible or less popular. Resistance music continues to flourish on YouTube. Despite the fact that its performers are in jail, the YouTube channel for Seenaa Solomon’s group maintains an impressive tally of more than 3,525,996 views.

Source: https://globalvoices.org/2017/07/14/ethiopian-musicians-charged-with-terrorism-for-inciting-song-lyrics/

From Cab Driver to CEO: An Ethiopian Immigrant’s Drive for School Bus Success

The transition from Ethiopian culture to that of the U.S. may have been drastic, but for Metropolitan Transportation Network (MTN) Inc. President and CEO Tashitaa Tufaa, an Ethiopian of the Oromo ethnic group who immigrated here in 1992, adjusting to baseball-consumed television and the occasional unrelenting Minnesota snowstorm was a small price to pay for a life of security.

“Let me put it this way: Whatever I did not have back in Ethiopia, I have it now through my freedom,” Tufaa says. “If you are free, then your mind is free, and you can use your talent wherever you want to go.”

While Tufaa’s talent eventually brought him to own and operate MTN —  a school bus company based in Fridley, Minnesota, that provides student transportation for dozens of local public, private, and charter schools and owns more than 300 vehicles — the road to success was windy and unpaved. Although he majored in political science and diplomacy, he couldn’t legally work for the U.S. State Department because he wasn’t yet a U.S. citizen, so he started working a civil service job with the Minnesota government.

Tufaa’s drive to drive
Tufaa wasn’t earning enough to pay his mortgage, so he started working nights and weekends as a driver for Metro Mobility, a Minneapolis-area transportation provider for people with physical and mental disabilities. There, he discovered an unexpected passion.

“I fell in love with driving, really,” he says. “It’s very flexible and there’s fresh air, and instead of being in the office, you go to the parks and drive around with open windows. There are so many different things to love about it.”

Desiring more flexibility and hoping for higher pay, Tufaa left Metro Mobility and started driving a cab, where, he says, “I would drive drunk people from the bar, people coming from work, and everyone else.”

Despite his formal education and his urge to succeed, Tufaa struggled to hold these jobs. Unsatisfied with unsteady employment and energized with his newfound craving to get behind the wheel, Tufaa was determined to dive into the city of Osseo’s school transportation scene.

“In the summer of 2003, I started actually writing letters and delivering them to the school districts, offering them services that weren’t around,” Tufaa says. “Many of them made fun of me, but there was one transportation director who was willing to give me a chance because I had been bothering him so much.”

“We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and we listen to the feedback we receive. As a result, people want to do business with us, and we don’t turn our backs.”
Tashitaa Tufaa, president and CEO, Metropolitan Transportation Network

Expanding the business
Because of his persistent effort, Tufaa was awarded a single opportunity to transport three homeless children to school with the van he owned, a task that he says he succeeded at, receiving no complaints. From there, the director started offering him more consistent work, and this one-time errand steadily matured into a full-blown company that he now conservatively estimates to be worth $35 million. Today, Tufaa employs over 400 people who transport more than 15,000 K-12 students to school every day across the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Fleet Facts
Headquarters: Fridley, Minnesota
Vehicles in fleet: Over 300
Fleet mix: IC Bus, Thomas Built Buses
Fueling mix: Diesel, CNG
Service area:Metropolitan Twin Cities area
Routes serviced daily:Over 400
Drivers: 275 and 125 contracted
Staff members: 30
Students transported daily: Over 15,000

“I did see a need here in the school bus industry for a contractor that was dedicated, that was doing business wholeheartedly,” he says.

Tufaa capitalized on this recognized need and founded MTN in 2004. More recently, MTN’s expanding customer base inevitably resulted in the need for a space about 30% larger than the existing one. The new facility is expected to be ready in July. The redevelopment will cost about $2.7 million and is being handled by Thor Companies, a real estate development and construction company that is also based in Fridley.

“It will have corporate offices, a break room where drivers can enjoy themselves, a fleet maintenance shop, and parking storage inside for the buses,” Tufaa says. “It’s a much better and newer space — a good image for both our customers and those who work here.”

The majority of updates will focus on the exterior site improvements, such as landscaping, a complete resurfacing of the asphalt parking lot, and enhancements to the security systems.

Top-notch equipment
Because the agency is responsible for the well-being of thousands of students, Tufaa says he ensures that each bus is equipped with top-notch technology, from two-way radios to GPS to surveillance camera systems.

“We want the maximum safety possible in all of our buses in order to protect the families and children that we service,” he says. “Safety is number one.”

He recounts an instance where a driver’s bus had broken down and hisradio had stopped working. Fortunately, the team realized it had broken down because of its lack of movement on the GPS system. Sure enough, upon physically locating the bus through the ground tracking system, Tufaa and his team found it immobile and were able to service it.

Because Metropolitan Transportation Network transports more than 15,000 students daily, Tufaa says he ensures each bus has quality safety equipment, such as two-way radios, GPS, and surveillance cameras.
Because Metropolitan Transportation Network transports more than 15,000 students daily, Tufaa says he ensures each bus has quality safety equipment, such as two-way radios, GPS, and surveillance cameras.

Leadership style
Tufaa calls himself a “field guy,” meaning he does not like to remain in the office. In fact, despite MTN’s recent expansion, Tufaa decided not to build himself a personal office. Instead, he works in available desk spaces when necessary and still drives buses every day.

“I don’t want to be a guy who just stays inside. I want to be out there in the field,” he says. “I sit with the drivers and I listen to them. I listen to their stories in the morning and the afternoon, and then I drive the bus to see what the issue is. This way, instead of someone reporting to me, I see it firsthand.”

Tufaa attributes his leadership style to his perilous upbringing in Ethiopia. Because he spent many years of his life in danger, he’s able to more easily adapt to everyday business challenges.

“We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes, and we listen to the feedback we receive. As a result, people want to do business with us, and we don’t turn our backs,” he says. “In Ethiopia, I was raised in harm, and so it’s easier for me to understand where people come from, whether it’s with our customers or our employees.”

MTN is undergoing a $2.7 million expansion, which includes renovated corporate offices, a fleet maintenance shop, a break room, and parking inside for the buses.
MTN is undergoing a $2.7 million expansion, which includes renovated corporate offices, a fleet maintenance shop, a break room, and parking inside for the buses.

Employee appreciation
Appreciation for MTN employees stands tall on Tufaa’s priorities as a business owner. Every year, the company holds an employee appreciation banquet where everyone, from the human resources team to the workshop mechanics, is invited to mingle with their peers, along with their plus-one.

“We want to show our employees that we value them,” Tufaa says. “We are a family, and the MTN family gets together once a year, every year, to enjoy this classy corporate-style dinner.”

Other MTN-planned gatherings that aim to boost company morale include a monthly bulletin that informs the team about company happenings and employee birthdays, as well as weekly prepared breakfast for drivers, blood drives, summer barbecues, and day trips to support the local pro baseball team at the Minnesota Twins stadium.

Sometimes the recognition goes beyond simple social events, like when Tufaa expressed his gratitude by naming a newly built site the Iverson Terminal, after the last name of a driver who had suddenly passed away.

“We named it after her because our drivers have an ownership in our company,” he says. “We don’t want to be just another corporation.”

Challenges, rewards
Tufaa’s triumph does not come without its challenges. As with school bus contractors and districts across the U.S., he has been affected by the widespread driver shortage, and he worries about Minnesota’s slippery roads in the winter. He’s also had to forgo significant family events in order to keep his business afloat, especially while it was just getting started.

“There are some things I’ve had to compromise to get where we are as a business, but as long as my wife and family understood me, that was all that mattered,” Tufaa recalls. “I had to work extremely long hours in the beginning, and sometimes it came down to paying the people who were working for me before being able to pay myself.”

Eventually, the achievements overcame the hardships, and now Tufaa and the whole MTN team work fervently to transport the community’s youth to their daily education.

“As a contractor, it’s important to love what you do,” he says. “I still drive, and I love taking those children to school.”

Source: http://www.schoolbusfleet.com/article/724061/from-cab-driver-to-ceo-an-ethiopian-immigrant-s-drive-for-school-bus-success

New Prison Complex Nears Completion

The prison cost an estimated 900m Br and can accommodate 6,000 prisoners

Mana Hidhaa Haaraa Finfinnee

The Federal Prisons Administration Commission (FPAC) is in the final stage to complete the construction of a new prison complex with an estimated project cost of 900 million Br from the government coffers.

Located at Aba Samuel River, Aqaqi Qaliti District, the new jail is planned to replace the current Qilinto prison that is more than a decade old. It can house 6,000 inmates.

The new complex has better facilities than the previous one, according to a source close to the case.

Lying on 5,000sqm of land, the construction of the complex began in June 2014, after awarding the project to 13 local contractors.

The then Ministry of Urban Development & Housing (MoUDH) selected the contractors depending on their previous track record in different construction projects.

The Ministry awarded the companies based on a fixed rate system based on the market prices, according to the same source.

The Construction Design Enterprise designed the complex and conducted the preliminary and feasibility study of the project.

The prison site has five blocks of two-storey buildings, with the capacity of accommodating 1,200 prisoners each.

It also has a two-storey building as an isolation room. Each cell can enclose ten detainees in the 54sqm area. A single room can accommodate five double beds.

Work on the prison has reached 95pc of completion rate, expected to be accomplished in the next three months, according to sources.

Currently, security devices including CCTV cameras are installed by the Information Network Security Agency (INSA).

The project encompasses different facilities including a library, game rooms, workshops (metal, wood, and handicraft), administrative buildings, family mansions, video conference rooms, two storey TVET and high school buildings, babysitting rooms and kitchens.

This year, similar prison constructions have been completed at Shoa Robit, Ziway and Dire Dawa. The two prisons in Shoa Robit and Dire Dawa have four blocks each with the capacity of holding 4,800 prisoners whereas the five block buildings of Ziway and Addis Abeba prisons accommodate 6,000 prisoners.

Reta Abebe (Com.), the superintendent to FPAC, refrains from disclosing when the prison will be relocated to the new complex by citing the earliness of the issue.

Currently, FPAC administers three prisons outside Addis Abeba, in Shewa Robit, Amhara Regional State, 225km north of the capital, in Zeway, 163km south of the capital in Oromia Regional State and Dire Dawa city, 515km east of the capital.

Currently, Qilinto prison is found in the vicinity of Addis Ababa Science & Technology University (AASTU).

Qilinto is a remand prison, where people can be held for three years or more as they await trial. The prison is divided into several zones made up of brick walls and corrugated sheet roofed cells.

The prison hosts 3,000 inmates at a time who are held in cells. Each cell holds between 90 and 130 inmates.

Source: Addis Fortune

OSG in collaboration with other Oromo organisations is holding a two-day conference in London

 

Oromia Support Group

Oromia Support Group (OSG) in collaboration with other Oromo organisations is holding a two-day conference on the burning issue of the state of human rights and on strategies for advocacy and campaigning for the rights of the millions of people held as victims. In spite of the creation of the state of Oromia in 1991, under a false pretext of new political arrangement, the Oromo people are subjected to unprecedented socio-cultural, economic and political repression.

Constitutional guarantees that were declared to ensure the respect of people’s rights were silenced and very often conversely used and mobilised to justify repression. Over years thousands have been killed in their purist of seeking justice, such killing continues and happens everyday in broad daylight.  There is no sign of improvement of the state of human rights in Ethiopia.

The Oromia Support Group (OSG) has documented gross human rights violations for more than 20 years. The world seems to have noticed the stark reality during the recent Oromo protests. The memory of the world is short. It can’t remain focused on this single issue. This is primarily an Oromo concern, that has to be dealt with by Oromo people.

OSG believes, now is the time to devise a more robust and effective method of dealing with such endless tragedy, a human rights calamity. Actions include but not limited to advocacy and campaigning for respect for the rights of Oromo people and their neighbours.

This conference offers a platform for discussion on how to make this possible. Researchers and experts from human rights organisations, Oromo intellectuals and activists are among those invited to provide some perspectives on the current state of affairs and on the way forward. Particular focus will be given to:

  1. Sustainable/strategic campaigning and advocacy on human rights by the diaspora community and beyond.
  2. The role of civic society organisations and the media in advancing human rights norms and values and reporting incidences of violations of human rights.
  3. Strategic litigation on human rights and the possibilities of legal action will be assessed.

Individuals who want to present papers or speak on the above topic are most welcome. Interested persons shall email a short biography of their background and abstract of their presentation to.  oromiasg@gmail.com 

When: 8-9 July 2017 (10 AM to 17PM)

Where: Resource for London

356 Holloway Road,
London, N7 6PA
Contact us:  oromiasg@gmail.com

Oromian community rallies around one of their own

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Teresa Fekensa got support from the local Oromian community during the Manitoba Marathon. </p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSTeresa Fekensa got support from the local Oromian community during the Manitoba Marathon.

Although Teresa Fekensa has never been to Winnipeg before this weekend, he felt right at home at the Manitoba Marathon.

The 35-year old, who immigrated to Toronto two years ago, won the men’s full marathon with an impressive time of 2:38:03.2. Despite travelling from out of town for the event, Fekensa may have had the biggest cheering section. Members of the Oromo Association of Manitoba came out to support him, as nearly 20 local Oromians proudly waved their flags as Fekensa crossed the finish line. Oromia is a region in Ethiopia, where Fekensa is originally from.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba Marathon winner Teresa Fekensa with the flag of Oromia. </p>
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSManitoba Marathon winner Teresa Fekensa with the flag of Oromia.

None of them had any relation to Fekensa or really knew him before he made the trip for the marathon, but when they heard one of their own were coming in to compete, they wanted to show their support and make him feel comfortable.

“Today is a win for everyone in our community,” says Aliya Balo, president of the Oromo Association of Manitoba.

Fekensa immigrated to Toronto because he felt he wasn’t getting the right training, but more importantly, because he was protesting against the government. Thousands of protesters in the Oromia region have been killed, so for his safety and passion for running, he had to leave.

“I came to Canada to run,” says Fekensa, who trains at the Toronto Olympic Club. “Because of the situation in my country, I protested and didn’t want to stay there.”

Members of the Oromo Association of Manitoba say their people back home have no freedom and are under military control. To show their support for the protests, they cross their arms above their heads, which is exactly what Fekensa did when he crossed the finish line at the Manitoba Marathon.

“If people do that (in Oromia), the (government) will shoot you,” says Yoseph Gobena, an Oromo Association of Manitoba board member who immigrated to Winnipeg in 2006. “We’re not allowed to freely share our interests and express our freedom.”

Fekensa’s achievement shows that Oromian’s can not only participate in the Canadian community, but also succeed, Gobena says. He hopes Fekensa can open the door for more Oromian runners to come to Canada and is thankful to the Canadian government for giving his people freedom.

Fekensa, who was happy to have the support of local Oromians, says he plans to return to Winnipeg next year to defend his title. But that’s not his only goal for the future.

“My goal is to run for Canada and win for Canada, in any marathon,” he says.

Emily Ratzlaff, a local physiotherapist, was the first woman to cross the finish line in the women’s full marathon. It was her second time competing at the Manitoba Marathon and her first time running the full marathon.

“I’m surprised that I won,” says the 31-year old who finished the race in 3:14:38.8.

When she was four miles away from the finish line, she was told she was the leader and she couldn’t believe it, she says.

“I was excited, but I was also in pain so I just needed to keep running and finish,” says Ratzlaff who has competed in the Boston Marathon twice.

In the half marathon races, it was a pair of Bisons that stole the show.

University of Manitoba Bisons’ track athlete Daniel Heschuk, 20, finished first in the men’s half marathon and 26-year-old former Bisons’ track athlete Jaclyn Adamson was the winner in the women’s half marathon.

Adamson came into the Manitoba Marathon with some extra confidence from winning a marathon in Fargo last month.

“I thought Fargo was a fluke, so I was happy with how today went,” she says. “I went into it with no expectations and didn’t know any ladies running.”

Adamson was surprised she ran this quick at the Manitoba Marathon because of the weather conditions. It was hard to get traction with the roads being slippery and that her clothes quickly felt heavy from all the rain, she says.

It was a difficult race for Heschuk, who is originally from Neepawa. Heschuk was unable to make it to the medal ceremony as he needed medical attention after the race.

“Honestly there was a couple times during the race where I thought I couldn’t do this anymore,” he says.

Heschuk says what got him through those tough stretches was thinking of his uncle Mark Cameron, who died last year at the age of 40 from complications in a surgery. His uncle went through a lot, as he lived with a learning disability and survived a leukemia diagnosis at the age of five. He says his uncle was a huge fan of Terry Fox and participating in the Terry Fox run, so he wanted to dedicate this year’s race to him.

“If he can go through all this pain growing up, I can go through one hour of pain in this marathon,” Heschuk says.

Source: Winnipeg free Press  

OMN holds live discussion on Oromia Support Group activities its coming London Conference

(Advocacy for Oromia, 12 June 2017) Mr Girma Gutema of OMN holds a wonderful discussion with the leading scholars and human right activists, Dr Trevor Truman and Dr Mohamed Hassen  where the history of Oromia Support Group, its activities and Oromia Human Rights abuses by the current and previous governments were discussed in details.

Irreechaa Arfaasaa held under the theme of “Our Forest Matters: Restoring the Spirit of Nature by Plant a Tree”

(Advocacy4oromia, Melbourne, 14 May 2017) — The Oromo Irreecha Arfaasaa festival held on 14 May 2017 for the third time in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia at Mount Dandenong.

The ceremony was celebrated at Mount Dandenong to promote the Oromo Good Spirit tradition and practice of caring for nature.

It was celebrated under the theme of “Our Forest Matters: Restoring the Spirit of Nature by Plant a Tree” in which it aimed to celebrate Irreechaa festivals to follow our tradition and religion in society, to create public awareness where Oromo cultural and religious practice advocates for harmonious ecosystem.

According to the organisers the festival was designed to provide a better understanding of Oromo culture, history and humanity, to pave the way for promotion of the Oromo culture, history, lifestyle and practice.

The Celebration of Irreechaa Arfaasaa, a national Spirit Day, is held yearly both to thank Waaqaa for the blessings and mercies received throughout the past dry season and to welcome the new rainy season associated with hard working and challenging negative impacts of climate.

The ceremony honoured the Oromo elders’ blessings and wisdom, and eventually helped to preserve the heritage and strengthen the progress of humanity. It is also committed to provide care and respect for mother earth.

And part of that providing care for nature element is engaging Oromo people in promoting and cultivating Oromo cultural practice that contribute for mother earth care.

 

So what’s the next step?

It’s easy to say get engaged but how?
And there are certain conditions required to promote Oromoi culture.

First, how to get engaged – two ideas:

One – empower yourself – learn and understand what Irreechaa, nature, land in Oromo perspective means. Knowledge is power.

Two- Practice your culture in your daily life!!

This Irreechaa festival is a good evidence that Oromo people have a deep relationship with the land and nature. As discussed on the ceremony, what is needed now is deep engagement with the rapidly evolving climate change because of their unique connection with land and nature will be affected in a profound and special way by climate change.

The theme of this year celebration is simple: plant a tree!! No matter where you live, you can plant a tree.

Oromo athlete to protest at London Marathon

Ethiopia elite runner Feyisa Lilesa poses during a photocall for the men"s marathon elite athletes outside Tower Bridge in central London on April 20, 2017 ahead of the upcoming London Marathon

AFP: The athlete says he could be killed if he goes back home

Exiled Ethiopian runner Feyisa Lilesa has vowed to protest against the government at Sunday’s London Marathon, saying “blood is flowing” in his home country.

Feyisa caught the world’s attention when made a protest gesture in solidarity with the Oromo people while crossing the line in the marathon race at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

In an interview with the BBC’s Sport Today, the silver medalist said he did not regret making the gesture.

How can I regret [it]? I come from the people. My people are dying, still. The blood is flowing.”

He added that would not return to Ethiopia while the current government was in power as he would be “automatically” killed, jailed or barred from leaving the country.

Feyisa refused to go back to Ethiopia after the Olympics, despite the government saying he would be welcomed as a hero.

He is currently living in the US with his wife and children on a temporary visa.

In Rio, Feyisa became the first Ethiopian to finish in the top two of a men’s Olympic marathon since 2000, claiming silver behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge.

As he crossed the line, he lifted his arms to form an X above his head, the same gesture used in protests by the Oromo people, the country’s largest ethnic group, which has suffered a crackdown at the hands of the Ethiopian government.

The ‘X’ sign is used as a symbol of protest in Oromia, East Africa

The state-backed Ethiopia Human Rights Commission  said earlier this week that 669 people were killed in protests since November 2015.

The government has blamed the violence on “terrorists”.

A state of emergency has been in force since last October to curb the unrest.

Read more: Endurance test for Feyisa Lilesa

Guyyaa Yaadannoo Gootota Oromoof maal goonu?

The Spirit of April: Oromo Martrys’ Day

April 15th is the Oromo Martyrs’ Day, also known as Guyyaa Gootota Oromoo. This commemorative day was first started by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) after the executions of its prominent leaders on a diplomatic mission en routed to Somalia on April 15, 1980. Since then, this day has been observed as the Oromo Martyrs’ Day by Oromo nationals around the world to honor those who have sacrificed their lives to free Oromia, and to renew a commitment to the cause for which they had died.

Why April 15th?
Mid 1978-1979 is remembered as the period when the survival of the Oromo national liberation struggle, led by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), was under a severe threat of extinction. It was feared that OLA units in Arsi, Bale and Hararghe would disintegrate, and their channel of connection and supplies would be cut off by the Dergue army that just recuperated from the Ethio-Somali war. Upon defeating the Siad Barre army, the Dergue turned its face on OLA. The OLA, in the fronts of Arsi, Bale and Hararghe, fought steadfastly and scored victory over the Dergue army and regrouped once again on January 1st 1980. In the wake of their military victory, OLF intensified its political struggle inside the country and abroad. The initial political victory included the persuasion of the Siad Barre government to allow the opening of OLF office in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1980, to serve as a center of consultation and deliberation between OLF political and military leaders.

In the same year, a ten-member high-ranking military and political delegates (see list below) were on their way to Somalia to meet with political leaders there when they were captured by Somali bandits in Shinniga desert (in Ogaden). These bandits were members of a splinter group from the Siad Barre army that harbored bitter hatred towards Oromo and the OLF. These bandits abused and severely tortured their Oromo captives. The bandits finally ordered the Muslims and Christians to segregate before their executions. The Oromo comrades chose to stay together and face any eventualities than identifying themselves as nothing else, but Oromo. On the day of April 15, 1980, all the ten were executed and their bodies thrown into a single grave.

Reasons for Celebrating the Oromo Martyrs’ Day
There are four major reasons why we commemorate this day.

First, this day allows us to remember those Oromo heroines and heroes who sacrificed their lives to restore Oromo culture, identity, and human dignity that were wounded by Ethiopian colonialism. In other words, this commemoration assists us to recognize the dialectical connection between martyrdom, bravery, patriotism and Oromummaa. Until Oromo heroes and heroines created the OLF and maintained its survival by paying ultimate sacrifices, Oromo peoplehood, culture, language, and history were dumped into the trashcan of Ethiopian history. These heroes and heroines had clearly understood the significance of Oromo culture, history, language, and identity in building Oromummaa, and victorious consciousness to consolidate the Oromo national struggle for achieving Oromian statehood, sovereignty, and democracy.

Second, this commemoration day reminds us that Oromo liberation requires heavy sacrifices, and those who have given their lives for our freedom, are our revolutionary models. Such patriots created dignified history for our nation.

Third, this day reminds us that we have historical obligations to continue the struggle that Oromo martyrs started until victory.

Fourth, this celebration helps us recognize that Oromo heroes and heroines are still fighting in Oromia today. Overall, those Oromo patriots, who by luck have survived and continued the difficult and complex struggle, deserve recognition and respect for what they have done for their people. We must protect them from lies and propaganda of the internal and external enemies. Without the persistent efforts of our patriots, the multiple enemies of the Oromo nation would have destroyed the OLF a long time ago. This does not mean that we do not criticize them when they make mistakes. It is the responsibility of Oromo nationalists to develop constructive criticisms to strengthen our national movement.

The Oromo leaders and members of the OLF, who ignited the fire of Oromummaa or Oromo nationalism, whether dead or alive, have been the foundation and pillar of the Oromo national movement. They left their families, wives, husbands, houses, professions, and children by choosing Oromo human dignity and freedom. By making these kinds of difficult choices, they confronted suffering and death. Consequently, they opened a new historical chapter in our history, and showed to us new possibilities by taking risky and courageous actions. Today, Oromo heroes and heroines are engaged in the Oromo struggle; members of the OLA, Oromo activist students and other activists are our contemporary heroes and heroines, who are intensifying the struggle. All Oromos all over the world who demonstrate their support and sympathy for the Oromo national struggle by contributing whatever they can for these brave men and women are also engaged in patriotic and brave activities.

We, Oromos in exile/Diaspora, should follow the footsteps of the fallen and surviving Oromo heroes and heroes by contributing anything we can to support the Oromo national struggle. If the fallen Oromos had paid with their lives to liberate us, how can we fail to contribute our time, money and expertise to liberate our beloved country, Oromia? How can we sleep when our mothers, daughters and sisters are raped in Oromia? How can we be at peace when genocide is committed on our people? Since our people live under Ethiopian political slavery, and since no country supports the Oromo struggle, we must fulfill our historical obligations by supporting the Oromo national struggle.

April 15th is then chosen to be a day of remembrance for these and all other martyrs, who died in any month and season of the past 120 years of the Oromo anti-colonial struggle.

The following Oromo leaders were martyred on April 15, 1980
1. Bariso Waabii (Magarsaa Barii)
2. Gadaa Gammadaa (Demise Tacaane)
3. Abbaa Xiq (Abboma Mitikku)
4. Doori Barii (Yiggazu Banti)
5. Falmataa (Umar, Caccabsaa)
6. Fafamaa Doyyoo
7. Irrinaa Qacale (Dhibaa)
8. Dhadhachaa Mul’ataa
9. Dhadhachaa Boruu
10. Marii Galaan

Our martyrs lost their lives while dreaming and fighting for freedom, justice, democracy, and development of their people and their country. They recognized that agitating, educating, organizing, and mobilizing a colonized and dehumanized nation for liberation requires courage, determination, bravery and self-sacrifice without fear of suffering and death in the hands of the enemy and their collaborators. We have moral and national responsibilities to achieve the objectives for which our heroines and heroes sacrificed their lives. The Oromo national movement is a very dangerous project. Tens of thousands of our people have been imprisoned, tortured, raped, and received all forms of abuse from successive Ethiopian governments in general, and that of the Meles Zenawi in particular. The Tigrayan-led government has been systematically targeting and killing all Oromo leaders and those who have potentials of leadership while promoting the most despicable elements of Oromo society and the children of colonial settlers as leaders of the Oromo nation.

While commemorating our fallen heroes and heroines, we must also remember our current ones who are engaging in the bitter struggle and those who are suffering in Ethiopian prisons. We must double our support for the OLA that is engaging in implementing the missions of the fallen Oromo heroines and heroes in Oromian forests, valleys, mountains, and Ethiopian garrison cities. We should sustain the spirits of our fallen heroes and heroines by taking concrete actions every day. It is our national responsibility to educate, mobilize and recruit passive or unconscious Oromo individuals to join the Oromo national movement. Such actions must start in families by educating and training children; husbands and wives must teach one another and their children the essence of Oromoummaa. The spirits of our heroes and heroines require that all of us must be grass-root leaders who engage in a systematic struggle to fight those agents of the enemy or those misled individuals who undermine the Oromo national struggle intentionally or unintentionally.

All Oromo nationalists must be cadres, teachers, students, leaders, followers, fighters, financiers, ideologues, organizers, defenders and promoters of the Oromo cause. We should not keep quiet when certain individuals attack our organizations, leaders, communities and Oromo peoplehood to satisfy their troubled egos or their masters. If we do some of these activities in our daily lives, the spirits of our fallen heroes and heroines will survive through our actions.

May the spirit of April inspire in all of us a profound, genuine and transcendent sense of unity, commitment, and overall renewal that the time demands – for that is what it takes to advance the Oromo freedom struggle in this most critical times.