#Argaw Dinka: The Pan Oromianist

Tullu Liban

Part II
In the article I posted yesterday about Obb Argaw Dinka, I tried to highlight his young hood life and few of his struggle anecdotes with the Hailesillasie regime. Today, we are going to discuss his fights for the Oromo cause that led to his elimination by the Dergue regime.

1. #Detention related to G.Tadesse Birru et al revolt

Image may contain: 1 person, suit and closeupThe Dergue regime was not comfortable with people who were promoting Oromo cause through Mecha and Tulema Welfare Association during the monarchy time. Thus, it targeted prominent Mecha and Tulema leaders who survived the 1966/67 Imperial crackdown. In response to the attack figures such as General Tadesse Biru, Dejazmach Kebede Bizunesh, and Colonel Hailu Regassa revolted against the regime. They started guerilla struggle in 1975. The regime was disturbed by the revolt of those figures. It believed that many people would follow footsteps from the Ambo area, Mecha-Tuema association’s stronghold. Thus, it arrested Obb Argaw Dinka, Obb Fufa Galesso, Obb Asfaw Edessa, Obb Degefu Teferi, Obb Alemaw Diro, Obb Tesfaye Woldaregay and some others.

The Derguests interrogated, harassed and tortured these prominent people. However, it released them after a while except Obb Argaw Dinka. They transferred Obb Argaw Dinka to Finfinnee and detained him at 4th Infantry Camp.

While Obb Argaw was in detention at the Camp, the so-called Ethiopianist businesspersons (the Neftegnas) in Ambo and Guder towns contributed money and built cases against Obb Argaw Dinka. They said he was dangerous to Ethiopia’s unity; unless he was executed. They concluded he would instigate the public against the government and Ambo and its surroundings would be in chaos unless he was eliminated.

Fortunately, there were Oromo native officials in the Dergue structures who understood the allegation of settlers against Obb Argaw was baseless. One of such people was Obb Kebede Deriba, the then Shewa Region Provisional Mass Organization Office head. Another person was Lieutenant Kebede Dilgasu, a native of Ambo, who was instrumental to release Oromo nationalists meticulously from Central Police Investigation Office (Maekelawi). Thus, Lieutenant Kebede Dilgasu rescued Obb Argaw. Sources also have it that Colonel Alemu Kitessa, the giant Mecha and Tulema leader also tried his best in lobbying some of the people he knew in the Dergue.

Because of such interventions Obb Argaw Dinka escaped the planned extermination and he was released from 4th Infantry Camp after close to two years detention.

While Obb Argaw was in jail, the Dergue regime eliminated General Taddese Biru and Colonel Hailu Regassa, brutally killed Obb Zewga Bojia a close friend of Obb Argaw with his son and two other family members.

Obb Zewga, Obb Argaws best friend was a respected person and one of the founders of Mecha and Tulema Welfare Association whose wife donated 5000 hectares of land for school construction by Mecha and Tuema Welfare Association.

2. #Obb Argaw’s Role in Pan Oromian Cultural Movement

Year 1977 was a historic moment to boost Oromo nationalism. It was a time when grand Oromo Cultural Festival was staged for two days in Finfinnee, at the National Theatre. It was the first of its kind to happen in that manner after the formation of the Ethiopian empire. Reverend Gudina Tumsssa was key in organizing the festival, notwithstanding the role of multiple players. This was the time when Obb Argaw was released from jail.

The Oromo Cultural Show brought together troupes from Arsi, Bale, Harargie, Illubbabor, Shawa, and Wallagga. The Show was organized on the pretext of raising funds for Barrisaa, the first Oromo newspaper, whose editor-in-chief was Mahadi Mudie, known as Abba Bariisaa. The result was an emotional reunion of the Oromo nation.

Motivated by this spirit, Obb Argaw started organizing cultural shows in Ambo and its vicinity immediately after his release. He approached Reverend Gudina Tumssa through a person he knew to arrange Aduu Barii Band of Eastern Oromia, in which people like Ali Birra were members and another band from Western Oromia named Burqaa Bojjii.

Obb Argaw’s dream came true as the Eastern troupe arrived in Ambo led with Adde Kuleni Gudina and the Western one with Obb Tesemma Negeri. The two bands performed together in Ambo in the spirit of cementing Oromo unity. People burst to tears and praised Oromummaa. Obb Argaw invited both art groups at his home, killed a ram, and prepared an oath-taking ceremony as per the Oromo culture to stand together for Oromummaa.

The man was not satisfied only by bringing cultural troupes. He wanted something more. Then he made possible the launch of the Butta ceremony, one of the Geda tradition rituals. He recruited some nationalist youths who could coordinate the ceremony, and it was performed in Ambo and Ejere. These celebrations paved the way for the establishment of Jibat and Mecha Province Cultural Committee. Obb Argaw was elected chairman of the cultural committee. As a result, Jibat and Mecha Art Troupe was formed. The newly established band was so enthusiastic to travel to different places led by Obb Argaw.

The first trip was made to Asella where it was welcomed by nationalists like Obb Kinfemichael Hindhessa, Obb Eshetu Letu and Obb Nedhi Gemmeda, all who were OLF operatives in the structure of the then official organizations. In Asella, the band performed with Arsi Region art group, which was so popular then.

One of the Oromo mantras sung at the event was this:
Fagoo galaa fagoo galaa
Fagoo galaa fagaadhaa jalaa
Fagoo jennaan fagoo seetanii
Cunqursaa jalatti hedduu leettanii

The next trip was to Wolisso, where Obb Argaw traces his ancestral origin (Amayya on his father and Wolisso/ Dulleelee on his mother side). Obb Megerssa Bari, the first OLF Chairman also traveled to Wolisso to grace the event. Obb Megerssa and Obb Argaw had the chance to know each other well, and discuss Oromo issues in detail.

Next Wolisso was Nekemte. (By the way Gennet Gurmessa Selgen and Ajjamee Argaw Dinka were the young stars among the girl members of the Jibat and Mecha Art Troupe. Hopefully, Genet will write a full account of that art group one day).

The journey to Nekemte created an opportunity for Obb Aboma Mitiku and Obb Argaw Dinka to know each other well and share ideas and on way forward regarding Oromo movement.
The Jibat and Mecha group traveled further west to Ginbi, Inango and Mendi to stage its performance. One of the significant issues Obb Argaw and Obb Aboma Mitiku discussed in secret during Nekemte stay was the revival of Geda. They agreed to conduct Oromo rituals in different Oromia areas. One of such performances was the famous Bokku Tule in Jibat and Macha province. A team led by Obb Argaw organized a cultural festival where several guests were invited from different parts of Oromia.

3. #Armed Struggle (OLF Operation)

After the Bokku Tule Assembly, the Dergue peril on Oromo nationalists became so harsh and armed resistance became unavoidable. The first Argaw-Aboma agreement was to recruit able-bodied nationalists from Ambo area and send them to Eastern Oromia to join Soressa Aba Gada, who has already had foreign-trained combatants. But that plan did not work due to different security and logistic problems. When the initial plan failed to work, Aboma and Argaw agreed to smuggle few combatants from East Oromia with rifles to conduct military training in the Ambo area.

Accordingly, in 1978 some combatants from Eastern Oromia were brought to Ambo by Aboma Mitiku with a number of modern rifles to join Obb Argaw’s group. The plan was to establish a clandestine base in central Oromia and challenge the new form of Abyssinian regime, aka the Dergue. The idea was, once the fighters were trained in all parts of Oromia, the armed struggle would start simultaneously in all fronts-east, central, west, and south.

The Central front was to base itself around Jeldu-Gindebret and to connect all the way with Wollega.

With this plan in mind, combatants that arrived from the east and those from the center went to the bush for armed struggle and to mobilize also more followers. The Dergue regime was disturbed once again and opened a propaganda war on freedom fighters. It also declared a campaign for hunt down. Many people suspect that the Dergue operatives infiltrated to buy one member from the freedom fighters to track Obb Argaw’s team. On September 29, 1978, Obb Argaw and his followers were besieged by a huge army of the government combined with local militias. Obb Argaw’s colleague Lieutenant Yegezu Wake was injured on the leg and Obb Argaw and other comrades were also captured.

Lieutenant Yegezu Wake was executed in 1988 after 8 years of torture at the Dergue office (aka Menelik Palace) with comrades Muhe Abdo, Gezahegn Kasahun and Demissie Kebede) After the capture of Obb Argaw and his comrades, the Dergue officials summoned residents of Ambo and the surrounding people at the Abiyot Square and tried to humiliate their hostages before the public. One of the cadres bragged that the revolution was on the move eliminating all its woes. He tried to mock the rebels saying “Look this is Agaw Dinka the bandit chief (Ye Shifta meri).

Can you imagine whom he claims to liberate? He claims to liberate the Oromo people. But he brought Somali insurgents under the name of Oromo Liberation Front to Ambo. From whom do they liberate the Oromo people? You, the Ambo folks, please listen to this shifta, let him tell you whom he is going to liberate?”
The gathering shouted at the cadre in reaction and said “allow him to talk”

Obb Argaw shortly responded “My fellows, my people you may unknowingly insult me now or demonize me. Time will tell you why I am struggling, One day you will regret and need people like me. What we have started now will never stop until the Oromo people achieve their ultimate goal”. Ambo people still remember the historic message of Obb Argaw.

The captured comrades were taken to Maekelawi and harshly tortured. After two years of suffering, Obb Argaw died in jail and his body was sent home because of younger brother Tesfaye Dinka, who was the last prime minister of the Dergue regime. Obb Argaw was buried in Ambo on 2nd June 1980.

Sadly enough, the Orthodox priests who opposed the establishment of the Protestant Church in Ambo during the Monarchy time tried to revenge by denying Obb Argaw’s body space in their cemetery.

#Note: In the last part of this writing, Obb Argaw’s family members’ sacrifices will be briefly discussed.

%d bloggers like this: