OROMUMMAA AS OROMO CULTURE, IDENTITY AND IDEOLOGY
Explaining Oromummaa intelligently and clearly requires at least five levels of conceptualization: at the first level, having a basic form of Oromummaa means to manifest Oromoness by practicing some aspects of Oromo culture, language, belief systems, values, norms, customs, and traditions. An Oromo automatically develops this form of Oromummaa because of the influence of Oromo extended families and community institutions. Hence, every Oromo, if not totally assimilated to another culture, has the basic form of Oromummaa. On the basic level, most Oromo, except the totally assimilated ones, speak the same language called Afaan Oromoo, claim a common historical and cultural background, and face similar challenges of Ethiopian colonial terrorism, repression, cultural domination, exploitation, and humiliation. Most Oromo manifest basic Oromummaa in their cultural values, norms, and belief systems that have been encoded in and expressed by Afaan Oromoo, which unites all Oromo branches as one people/one nation. Therefore, the Oromo language is the main carrier of the essence and features of Oromo culture, tradition, history, and peoplehood.
Since the Ethiopian colonizers have failed to destroy Afaan Oromoo and replace it by their own language, Amharic or Tigre they have been unable to successfully suppress this most basic form of Oromummaa. As a result, Oromummaa has survived in scattered forms for more than a century since the conquest of Menelik. Oromummaa as the total expression of Oromo peoplehood has developed from the historical, cultural, religious, and philosophical experiences of the Oromo society. As a self- and collective schema, Oromummaa encapsulates a set of fundamental beliefs, values, moral codes, and guiding principles that shape the Oromo national identity and make the Oromo society different from other societies. Consequently, basic Oromummaa is built on personal, interpersonal, and collective connections. Currently, the Tigrayan-led Ethiopian colonial government that claims that it has allowed cultural autonomy for the Oromo and others actually opposes the manifestation of basic and other forms of Oromummaa. According to the November 2014 report of Amnesty International entitled “Because I am Oromo,” “Expression of Oromo culture and heritage have been interpreted as manifestations of dissent, and the government has also shown signs of fearing cultural expression as a potential catalyst for opposition to the government. Oromo singers, writers and poets have been arrested for allegedly criticizing the government and/or inciting people through their work. People wearing traditional Oromo clothing has been arrested at Oromo traditional festivals.”
One of the reasons why the regime’s security forces massacred more than seven hundred Oromo, who colorfully dressed in Oromo clothing, at the 2016 Irreecha festival at Hora Arsadi, Bishoftu was the fear of Oromo culture, identity and nationalism. The Ethiopian colonialists have been attacking the individual psyche and biography of the Oromo, as well as their collective culture and history. These attacks have been carried out through various forms of violence, including colonial terrorism. In order to make the Oromo people submissive and control and exploit their labor and economic resources, successive Ethiopian colonial governments have used different forms of violence that have resulted in genocidal massacres and societal and cultural destruction in the Oromo society. Until national Oromummaa (the second level) emerged, basic Oromummaa primarily remained at the personal and interpersonal levels because the Oromo were denied the opportunity to form and maintain national institutions. They have been also denied a formal education and free institutional spaces by successive Ethiopian governments, which have not tolerated the existence of independent Oromo leadership, institutions and organizations.