By Leenjiso Horo | April 13, 2014
The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example
The 15th day of April/Ebla is the Memorial Day of the Oromo Martyrs. For this, on this day of April, we come together to commemorate the fallen Oromo heroes and heroines. This day has been designated as the Memorial Day of Oromo Martyrs at the meeting of the National Council (Gumii Sabaa) of Oromo Liberation Front held in 1984. Since then, the Oromo have been observing this Memorial Day and it has gained widespread acceptance and popular support among the Oromo people and the Oromo nationals in the Diaspora. This day is popularly known as Guyyaa Yaadannoo Gootoota Oromoo.
Every nation has a day set aside for the remembrance of those who gave their lives for the defense of their country; for freedom, liberty and dignity of their people. This is also true for the Oromo nation. For the Oromo, Guyyaa Gootoota Oromoo is especially important and significant for two reasons. One is for no other people have given so many martyrs in the defense of their country and nation for over a century consistently without giving up the struggle and without failing to sacrifice their precious lives. The struggle and sacrifice are still continuing. The second significance of this day, as noted above, is this: on this day of 15th of April 1980, the whole leadership of the OLF was murdered by a splinter group of Somalia Army while this leadership was on a diplomatic mission to Somalia. Such a massacre of a whole leadership of an organization is the first in history.
Throughout our long history of occupation, each time an Oromo man, woman, or child stood up against the colonialist, he or she is brutally murdered. Every Oromo man, woman, or child who refused to give up his/her name, religion, language, national identity has been ridiculed, humiliated, despised, castigated, and denied opportunities. So, it is these nationals as a whole that through their resistance to colonial occupation and through their fighting against it that pulled the Oromo nation one step back from the abyss of extinction. These nationals chose death over betrayal of the struggle for independence of Oromiyaa. Hence, these martyrs form the core of Oromo history. They are the ones who bravely and selflessly with determination defended and still defending our existence as a nation and as a people. It is these nationals who fought and still fighting for the independence of Oromiyaa even to the point of giving up their own lives so that we could continuously have before us example of self-sacrifice which would serve to encourage us to preserve ourselves today and our country for future generation.
The legacy of our martyrs is a sacred obligation for each and every one of us to fight for our country to liberate, defend and protect it. But the question to be raised is this: have we Oromo nationals at the present time lived up to this obligation? It is clear that some nationals do indeed lived up to this obligation, while others not. It is also true some Oromo have fulfilled or fulfilling this obligation more thoroughly than others. Today, as it always has been, is the call of the time that all Oromo nationals fulfill their obligation so as to expel the enemy from their country-Oromiyaa.
This Martyrs Day is meant to commemorate the Oromo heroes and heroines who had fallen in the defense of and in liberation struggle of Oromiyaa beginning with its colonization to the present and to commemorate those who had been massacred by the successive Abyssinian colonial regimes. Throughout the history of colonization of Oromiyaa, massacres and persecutions have been with the Oromo people. Today, under the Tigrayan occupation army the massacres and persecutions of the Oromo have surpassed that of its predecessors combined. The Oromo people have been targeted for a total annihilation. Along with this, the plunder, the stealing and the looting of Oromo resources and the environmental degradation in Oromiyaa and mutilation of Oromiyaa itself have been undertaken. These are unparalleled in the history of colonial occupation of Oromiyaa.
Here are the names of heroic leadership who were murdered on the 15th of April 1980:
1. Magarsaa Barii (nom de guerre Barisoo Waabi)-Secretary-General of the OLF;
2. Demise Tacaane (nom de guerre Gadaa Gammadaa);
3. Abboma Mitikku (non de guerre Abbaa Xiqii);
4. Yiggazu Banti(nom de guerre Doori Barii);
5. Falmataa Gadaa (aka. Umar, Caccabsaa);
6. Fafamaa Doyyoo;
7. Irrinaa Qacale(non de guerre Dhiba);
8. Dhaddachaa Mul’ataa;
9. Dhaddachaa Boruu and
10. Marii Galan.
One really needs to understand that 15th day of April is the commemoration of these martyrs as well as the past, the present, and the future martyrs. On this day, we think of martyrs; retell their stories and their heroic did and remember their names. It is also a day for the inheritance of their great examples. In the light of their sacrifices, we must make a firm commitment for which these patriotic nationalists gave their lives. This is the only fitting way to commemorate our martyrs. For this, we must be determined to preserve the very things for which they gave up their lives- the independence of Oromiyaa, the liberty, dignity and honour of their people.
In this struggle of ours, we must understand that in the condition we are in now, the international community will not note us. It no longer remembers what we say at forums, and meetings. Our letters to Presidents, Prime Ministers, the Secretary-General of UN, Senators, Congressmen and women, Governors, Mayors, and to the Editors of Newspapers and the Media outlets do not mean anything to them. We must learn lessons from Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia and etcetera. Genocides were committed in these countries while the international community was watching on. Despite these, some Oromo nationals are still foolishly penning their hopes on the international community particularly on western countries. These Oromo nationals miserably failed to understand that the Tigrayan regime is client of the western governments. For this, they do not pay attention to us, but international community can never avoid our direct action if we fight; if we build uncontested liberation military might and make the empire ungovernable, then and only then, everybody will pay attention to us. We are in a protracted national liberation struggle. We have to earn the name liberation by our action. We have to make sure that the Oromiyaa’s soil burn the enemy feet and the Oromiyaa’s air burn the enemy faces. The Oromo roads have to be hostile to the enemy. We must make Oromiyaa a graveyard of the enemy-the TPLF. For these, we must fight on the ground-in the valleys, plains and villages everywhere across Oromiyaa. No Oromiyaa land be left for the enemy to walk on. “Once we have a war,” remarked Ernest Hemingway, “there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For the defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.” We are the living example of the conquest. The success of Amhara at the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 was followed with Tigrayan success at the London Conference of 1991. Both Conferences facilitated the conditions for the Abyssinians for the conquest of Oromiyaa. With the Berlin Conference, over five million Oromo were exterminated; many sold into slavery; the land was taken away and the remaining Oromo population became landless-tenants and their institutions were destroyed.
A century later, in a political maneuver at the London Conference of 1991, the TPLF grabbed opportunity to occupy Oromiyaa and has become master over it. With this, the use of violence, disrespect for the Oromo nation, illegal method of acquiring Oromo properties, and killings of Oromo become the Tigrayan methods of rule. This is what the Tigrayan regime of TPLF is and has been. Long before arriving in Oromiyaa, the Tigrayan elites saw the control of Oromiyaa and the annihilation of Oromo as its only option to rule the Ethiopian empire. For this, as soon as it entered Oromiyaa, it disrespected our people, threatened and endangered their wellbeing and then it resorted to widespread wave of annihilation throughout Oromiyaa. Then, by the law of conquest, it began grabbing Oromo land, creating and securing settlement sights for Tigrayans and other non-Oromo from across the empire in Oromiyaa, while evicting the Oromo population from their lands to make way for the newly arriving settlers. This has been organized by the Tigrayan elites who stand to gain from the crimes against the Oromo people. These heinous crimes committed in Oromiyaa against the Oromo people are all perpetrated with planning, organization and access to the empire resources including weapons, budgetary, distention facilities and mass media.
In London Conference, the “Oromo delegates” lost in the battlefield of the game of politics, whereby rivals maneuver for control of the issues and outcomes, practicing a brutal form of politics in which loss often equals death. The Oromo loss is attributed to those who went to the London Conference on their own without securing authorization from the collective leadership of the Oromo Liberation Front, its members, supporters, and the Oromo people. Because of this failure, the Tigrayans grabbed the opportunity to win and enter Oromiyaa. This led to a renewed wave of Oromo genocide and mutilation of Oromiyaa by the Tigrayan regime of Meles Zenawi. This must be reversed sooner than later. The TPLF must be expelled from Oromiyaa and its leaders must be brought to justice for the genocide they committed on the Oromo people.
For over a century, the Oromo patriotic nationalists had been sacrificed their lives for independence fighting against Abyssinian colonial occupation of Oromiyaa and many are still sacrificing in the struggle. Therefore, it is for us the living, rather, to dedicate ourselves here and now to the unfinished cause for which our heroes and heroines those who had fought and fallen and those who are still fighting have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us the living to dedicate ourselves to the great task standing before us-that from those honored martyred we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here and now decisively resolve that those who martyred shall not have martyred in vain-that this great nation of ours shall have a birth of new Oromiyaa-an independent Democratic Republic of Oromiyaa-and that independent Oromiyaa shall establish an independent government of the people, by the people, for the people of Oromiyaa.
The lesson of Oromo martyrs is the love of Oromiyaa, identification with it; loyalty to the Oromo nation and determination to fight for independence if necessary unto death. This is what the brave sons and daughters of Oromiyaa had done in their fight against the occupier of their country. These patriotic nationalists brought Oromiyaa to light and put it on the map through their sacrifice and action. They embody great virtues; they stand for great principles; they illustrate noble qualities. It is for these, the colonialist guns and swords, its prisons, tortures, and the killings could not kill their spirit of fighting and their love for their people and country. Kidnappings, arrests, persecutions, concentration camps, secret cells, and the death squads did not deter them from their struggle for independence. All these, strengthened their attachment to the love of their country and people and so strengthened their resolve to fight for the independence of their country and for freedom, liberty, justice, and dignity of their people. History teaches us that no amount of arrests, persecutions, killings, rapes, tortures and plundering can stop a nation that is determined to struggles for their liberation and human dignity. And so nothing can stop the Oromo nation and their nationalists from the struggle for the independence of their country-Oromiyaa. These are the lessons to be learned from the Oromo martyrs and should indelibly be written upon minds of present generation and the new generations to come.
There is only one thing which can be dangerous to the liberation of Oromiyaa and to the Oromo national existence as a nation. That is the indifference of our own nationals to the cause of their people. Other than this, nothing an outsider can do will ever permanently harm us, but the collaboration with the colonialist against independence of Oromiyaa and the attitude of indifference and neglect on the part of some of our own fellow nationals to the Oromo national liberation struggle will surely be the dangerous ones. Such individuals are those whose spirits are broken, determination effaced and their courage fled. Such are individuals that lick the enemy hand that smite them. These individuals are the profiteers in the blood of their people. And they are dangerous to the national liberation struggle.
For a national liberation struggle to be successful first it needs strong organization; it needs nationalists with high spirit, determination, and courage to fight. Second, it needs unity of members and leaders on common objective; along with these there must be internal peace, political stability and a unified central leadership and command with common vision. To win a war without these is impossible.
“Culullee dhibbaa mannaa Risaa tokko wayya,” says the Oromo proverb. Metaphorically speaking it means, strong organization is better than hundred weak ones. Looking back at the Oromo history, we see this to be true. During the war of Oromiyaa conquest in the late nineteenth-century, there were many Oromo kingdoms and many regional Abbaa Duulaas/Defense Ministers. Each of them was not strong enough by themselves. On the other hand, they did not unite to stand against the enemy. Consequently, they were defeated one by one by the Army of king Menelik. Again, in 1991 there were five Oromo political organizations against one Tigrayan organization-the TPLF. All of them were unable to stop the TPLF from entering Oromiyaa. Again, after it entered Oromiyaa, they were unable to expel it from their country. The reason was simply there was no unity among Oromo political organizations.
The saddest of all is, most of the leadership of the Oromo political organizations are living in exile. Leadership in exile is a wrong model of leadership. Even during the dark days of Dergue regime, no Oromo political leadership ever left the country to live in exile. This is first time in the history of the Oromo national liberation struggle for the leadership to be in exile. History teaches us that no a Liberation Movement has ever liberated its country from colonial occupation without its leadership embedded within it. Moreover, never in history a leadership has ever liberated its country from foreign occupation from exile. Hence, it is vitally important for the Oromo political organizations to re-visit and re-examine the mistakes they made in the past so as to rectify them and unite the organizations into one-single whole with unified Central leadership and command. And the Politico-Military leadership should be in the country. Let this Memorial Day of the Oromo Martyrs guide us in this direction.
On this Memorial Day of Oromo Martyrs, let us dedicate ourselves to the struggle for independence of Oromiyaa in unity and harmony. Let us be worthy of the example of our martyrs. Let us honour their memory in this most suitable way by preserving the very ideas, values, principles and goal for which these Oromo nationalists martyred for-the independence of Oromiyaa.
Finally, I would like to say this, that it is also important to set the Oromo Genocide Memorial Day or Guyyaa Yaadannoo Sannyii Duguuggaa Oromoo aside for the remembrance of those millions of Oromos exterminated by the colonialist regime of King Menelik II during his war of colonial conquest of Oromiyaa. To establish such a Memorial Day for the victims of genocide is important. We do not have to wait until independence to set a day for observation. Such a Memorial Day will lead to greater unity among the nations and nationalities who were the victims of genocide of King Menelik II of Abyssinia. Let us do our part first.
Oromiyaa Shall Be Free!
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.
Tesfaye Gebreab: The man who created the first Oromo main character in the history of the vast Amharic literature.
By Hunde Dhugassa*
Asmarom Legesse is an anthropologist, Ph.D. Harvard, Emeritus Professor, formerly of Boston and North-western Universities and Swarthmore College. He has conducted many years of field research among the Oromo of Ethiopia and Kenya. He is the author of several books including, Oromo Democracy: An Indigenous African Political System. He also wrote Gadaa: Three Approaches to the Study of African Society (1973). He is one of the few non-Oromo Hero to the Oromo people. We have dozens of articles, high level speeches and even Songs to honour his outstanding contribution.
After three decades, a young enthusiastic writer Tesfaye Gebreab emerged with “Yeburqa Zimita” a semi-historical novel surrounding the reflection and reaction of the Oromo people on the century old marginalization, discrimination and suppression which dates back to the annexation of the Oromo land by King Minilik II in the late 1890’s with the advice and logistical support of the then European leaders.
The book in general has resulted in at least three opinion groups as far as Ethiopian audiences are concerned. The majority who think he did what he have to do as a responsible author. The second group who think the book is correct in all aspect but fear the detailed revelation of the facts might hinder future and continued coexistence. There is also a minority third group who think he is a destabilizing agent commissioned by these who don’t like the Ethiopian unity.