Another wintry day. …
Rain from the sky.
Tears from the eye.
Cloud all over.
It is indeed quiet today. It is beautiful. The quiet signals peace and harmony. It’s cold. Life (i.e., the zoe as well as the bios) seems to be listening to itself. Nature itself seems to be taking moments with itself. Through the rain, it looks as if the heavens and the earth are quietly conferring with each other, almost as if they are taking a moment of extraordinary intimacy.
To humans, it suggests cuddling up. It invites getting collected and getting composed. It engenders reflection and thinking. It offers those rare moments of fecundity. It presents moments of creative productivity.
In days such as this, moments for writing arrive, moments of harvest come.
In the midst of the quiet, comes a voice from within, asking: why do we write? Why do suffering bodies write? What do they have to say anyway? And why does it matter?
In response, fragments of thought come to us, as follows:
We write—and these suffering bodies write—to mourn the dead and the missing. (Yes, writing is a form of mourning, isn’t it?) We write to mourn the dead and to celebrate their lives. In other words, we write to remember: to remember the martyrs, and to re-present the murdered heroes and heroines. Yes, to bring them back to the temporal now, to the present. Only if we can.
We also write to capture the pains of loss in time. We write to memorialize history as it unfolds. We write to aid recollection. And recollection of the pains of the past informs the kind of joy we seek in the present and the future. In a way, our writing is an act of remembrance.
More importantly, we write to be a witness. After all, our human duty to assist can be expressed through witnessing. We observe, albeit from a distance. We will see and recognize the injustice the victims perish under. We note the hubris of the perpetrators. We reckon the barbarity of power or the barbaric manifestation of its excesses. We note violence as it works its way out into the bodies of victims and into us, and, ultimately, into our common humanity before it goes back to start haunting the perpetrators. (After all, brutality brutalizes the perpetrator the most.)
We write to witness because witnessing is a privilege and a burden, at a time, of the living. In a way, it is a tribute the living pay to the martyrs who put their lives on the line for the cause justice, justice for all of us. Witnessing is important as an act of resistance because nothing is more threatening to power than a watching bystander who witnesses excesses. That is why brutes tend to find bystanders intolerable. The presence of a bystander undermines power’s singular claim to knowledge of what is happening.
As witnesses, or as distant bystanders, to be exact, we take note. We note the resumption of full scale war against the Oromo. We note the killings of students and children in protest. We note the killings of Endale Desalegn, little Abushe Guta, and the myriad others that perished in the hands of the security forces in Ambo, Robe, Neqemte, Gimbi, Najjo, Haremaya, and similar other localities. We note the arbitrary arrest, detention and incarceration of thousands after this nation-wide resistance following the on-campus demonstrations of the university students. We note the arbitrary detention of tens of thousands of Oromos over the years. We note the disruption of life and the destruction of livelihoods of millions.
We note the more recent nameless state of ‘detention’ of Professor Baqala Garbaa and Obbo Lelissa Olbana. Professor Baqala’s ‘detention’ is nameless because we can’t even call it ‘illegal’ for it is way beyond the realm of the legal/illegal binary. We note the imprisonment of Wabe Haji, the lawyer that served the cause of justice who, in a bitter irony, suffers injustice in the same legal institution now.
We note the arrest, ‘trial’, incarceration, torture, and eventual killing of Engineer Tasfaahun Camadaa. We note the flight of his young friends (Engineeers Dhugaasaa G Fayisaa, Ebbaa A Jabana, Samuel D Heyi, Temesgen D Goshe, etc.) into exile because, for them as for many others, to want to do college teaching for life as an Oromo, is to demand too much. We note the forced flight of Falmata, Shimelis, and Abdi who had to pass from boats to boats across high seas and oceans in order to get to distant lands before they finally arrived on the shores of countries as far as Australia.
We write to note the fact that over 90 percent of the Ethiopian prisons (not to mention the detention centres, the police stations, and local security/administrative offices) are populated by Oromos. We note the trauma of their experience. We note the dysfunction that befalls their families, the single parents who struggle to raise children alone, and the children raised without a hope of reuniting with their other parents. We note these phenomena in lamentations.
We write to lament the displacement of over 150,000 Oromo farmers from the suburbs of Finfinne. We write to witness the projected displacement of over six million Oromos from the towns the Master Plan targets. We write to lament the wanton expropriation of the land of poor Oromo farmers. We write to lament the unconstitutional fudging of the boundaries of the state of Oromiya, extending the historic dislocation and displacement of the Oromo from Finfinne. We write to lament historical injustice and genocidal acts, and other egregious forms of physical atrocities perpetrated on Oromo communities such as those in Anoolee, Calanqoo, and various other places in Arsi, Baalee, Harargee, Adoola, Oddoo, and numerous other places. We lament the subsequent loss of land under the gabbar system of the Ethiopian empire. We write to remember and lament the loss of subjecthood as citizens and of sovereignty and self-governance as a people. We write to lament the inequity sustained over the years: the discrimination, exploitation, and repression. We write to lament the attempted destruction of the people, the culture, the language, and the identity of the Oromo. (We also write to celebrate the struggle that fostered the survival and resilience of all these and the subsequent partial recovery of all of them over time.) We write to lament subverted/undelivered promise of constitutional self-determination to ponder the unfinished work of reclaiming the rights of the Oromo person.
We also write to lament the refugee-ism that feeds from the massive flight of Oromos through the borders of all the countries of the Horn, to feed into camps in other parts of Africa and the Middle East and beyond. And we note the sufferings of those who languish in refugee camps indefinitely, in camps near and far (from Nairobi to Java, Bali, and Hong Kong; from Hargeissa or Mogadishu to Cape, Brazil, Merida and Mexico City).
We write to lament some of those Ethio-Tigriyan friends who suggest that the Oromos are displaced “for the sake of the development of the country.” We write to ‘talk back’ to those who told us that the displacement is necessary to ensure Ethiopia’s development, those who told us repeatedly that, after all, we don’t own the Oromo land unto ourselves, that Oromos didn’t make the land after all, that they didn’t create it. We write to tell the powers that be that the plan is illegal, illegitimate, and immoral. We write to show it is constitutionally-legally untenable, democratically-politically unacceptable, morally implausible, and ecologically unsustainable. At this point in time, we write to demand the immediate cessation of the implementation of the so called ‘integrated master plan’. We write, inter alia, to remind them that it is not only ill-designed in form and process but a bad policy through and through both in its content and in its consequence. We also write to demand the immediate cessation of all forms of violence being perpetrated on all Oromos of all walks of life. We say ‘Stop all violence, covert and overt!’ We write to resist. We write to negate the plan. We write to say ‘No!’ to injustice.
We write for self-recovery (recovery of names, identities, voices, histories, memories, cultures, and lands). We write for self-discovery (the rediscovery of who we were, who we are, and what we will become). We write for self-expression (the expression of our longings and aspirations). We write to express our longing for liberty and equality, for self-determination and non-discrimination. As we write these longings, we note that all writing is an expression of longing and/or prayer. (We recall that, after all, writing as such is an extended form of prayer.) As such, we write to appeal to the conscience of humanity, hoping to prick hearts and minds and to point them in the direction of justice, equality, and liberty.
Even in these wintry days, in these darker moments, we live with optimism and hope, the hope of arrival. We write with a longing, the longing to belong, the longing for a dwelling, the longing for home. We write with the longing for the home that is being (re-)expropriated from the Oromo, the longing for the home that is being taken away by forces of empire working in alliance with forces of transnational capital.
Yes, these are wintry days. … These are … dark and gloomy days. …
…and looooooong, silent, nights, … engendering…
Heavy hearts, …
Hearts pregnant with pain, and yet imbued with optimism. …
Hearts torn apart, full of piercing anguish and liminal hope. …
Hearts that live with nothing short of agonistic faith,
Hearts thoroughly agonized about the unjust past/present and yet firmly believing in a better future. …
And so, ….
So why do we write?
We write to remember. We write to witness. We write to express longings.
In short, we write to let our hearts speak. …
We write our hearts out. …
And as we do, we write not so much as to right wrongs as to express our way of being in the world.
In the final analysis, we write to … write. We write to tell our story, to inscribe our lives. For us, to write is not to have something to do. It is our way of being in the world. That is why we write. …
Scribo, ergo sum.