#Argaw Dinka: The Pan Oromianist
By Tullu liban
Argaw Dinka was born in 1923 in a rural area near Ambo town, in central Oromia. He was born to his father Obb Dinka Yadessa and his mother Adde Dunge. His name at birth was Negera. He lost his mom when he was a teenager and was forced to leave his village for Ambo to make a living. In Ambo, besides performing different activities he attended a traditional school of those days through personal effort.
As an active young man, he was able to be employed as a records officer at Ambo district court. He was naturally gifted and so fast in grasping the way things worked out and demonstrated extra ordinary performance.
After a while he was appointed to Jeldu District as governor’s assistant. After few years of service in Jeldu, Obb Argaw came to Ambo and got a new position as Province Administration Assistant.
The new position earned him huge popularity. At the same time, his acquaintance with government structures both in the administrative and judicial spheres helped him to observe the outrageous exploitation, abuses, and discrimination against the Oromo people.
The exposure also helped him to establish relations with local governors in Jibata and Mecha Province and many people building fame for himself. After some time, he abandoned government post took attorney examination to work as a provincial public prosecutor. He opened his own law office in Ambo and became an independent lawyer.
#A Community Advocate
While running his law firm in Ambo, Obb Argaw became a prominent man and an outspoken advocate regarding issues pertaining to public affairs. He was also one of the forerunner members of the Mecha and Tulema Welfare Association in Ambo area.
With his day to day activities as public attorney at Provincial level he was able to know the extent of Oromo people’s suffering under servitude and exploitation of landlords. Particularly, the eviction of hundreds of peasants from Guder area by Ras Mesfin Seleshi, governor of Shewa Region, for grapes plantation extremely infuriated Obb Argaw. Hence, he developed much hatred for the system. Obb Argaw represented most of the evicted farmers for free when they brought the case to the court to reclaim their lands, though in vain.
In all fronts, he was always in the front line to defend public interests. At one point in time, the Ambo spring water which was part of Ambo Ethiopia Hotel and a picnic place for nobilities and the rich people affected public health. The swimming pool, a natural hot water, released sewages to Huluka River and the surrounding spring waters. The excrement contaminated those water sources. Lots of locals got sick as a result. Ambo high school students took to the street protesting the violence of the hotel administration and the then province governor. Obb Argaw was Ambo High school Board Chairperson known as committee of parents, which has a strong voice.
In fact, Obb Argaw and his likes were behind the strikes. Troops of the Imperial Bodyguard arrested many students. Obb Argaw used his eminence and popularity to deal with authorities. Besides, he told them that he would represent the students in the court of law if the authorities attempt to charge the students and he would sue the hotel. The Imperial authorities felt it was better to solve the matter via arbitration. Thus, the students were freed.
In return, the provincial governor awarded Obb Argaw a Belgian made a rifle for his effort in conflict resolution. There was a secret behind the award.
The Province governor, by the name Dejazmach Zenahbizu Mesay was limping because he had a mobility problem on the leg. Obb Argaw commented in public, why the Amhara rulers send to them a disabled person while there were lots of capable Oromo natives to govern their areas. That comment was highly politicized and his woes accused him that he had serious contempt for the Imperial administration. They said he should be disciplined by capital punishment for the blunder.
However, local governors and Obb Argaw’s friends in the parliament like Obb Zewuga Bojia warned the authorities of the consequences of a measure against Obb Argaw (possible public revolt). Thus, they proposed arbitration. During the settlement of student issues, the case of the Dejazmach and Obb Argaw was also tabled. Dejazmach Zenahbezu was happy that he came to terms with Obb Argaw and for his excitement awarded his rival a rifle.
In another account, the Imperial government decided to settle some 300 leprosy infected people around
Ambo area and the news came to the attention of community leaders. Obb Argaw mobilized the local people against the settlement and the plan was canceled. During the emperor’s time protestant phase followers in Ambo tried to establish their own church. The Orthodox Church was furious to hear that and it was backed by local authorities. However, Obb Argaw supported the establishment of the protestant church and denoted his own plot defying threats of authorities and Orthodox priests.
In 1974 just few months before the demise of the monarchy several students were arrested in Ambo for involving in the movement against the system. Obb Argaw and his friend Obb Zewga Bojia, who was also a three-time member of parliament went to the Ministry of Education in Addis Ababa to facilitate the release of the students and they succeeded in their effort.