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Naming a Borana

Published in 1998, Dahl, Gudrun, KVHAA Konferenser - Archived on March 17th, 2015

Title: Naming a Borana
Author: Gudrun Dahl (Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology)
Published: KVHAA Konferenser, No. 42 (1998), pp. 331-336 – Stockholm: Published contributions to the symposium on Personhood and Social Identity in Stora Brännbo, Sigtuna
Language: English
Keywords: Borana, Social Anthropology

The present article is an attempt to tentatively discuss certain aspects relating Boran ideas about names to their conceptions of human ontology, especially of how time influences human life. Their basic idea seems to be that, since human personality reflects such influences, the name given to a person should reflect the conditions of his or her birth. As I will try to illustrate, this idea is elaborated to different degrees depending on whether we are talking about everyday naming practice or the name of children destined to become ritually central personalities. Furthermore, I will indicate the ideological importance of naming, name-giving and linguistic acts as male acts of social creativity within Boran society.

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The politics of language and representative bureaucracy in Ethiopia: the case of Federal Government

Published in 2015, Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research, Midega, Milkessa - Archived on February 20th, 2015

Title: The politics of language and representative bureaucracy in Ethiopia: the case of Federal Government
Author: Milkessa Midega (Dire Dawa University, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia)
Published: Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2015), pp. 15-23.
Language: English
Keywords: Federal bureaucracy, official working language, representation

Building an inclusively representative and equitable bureaucracies in a multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural polity is a challenging phenomenon. Being on of such polities, Ethiopia embarked upon multinational federal nation-building policy exactly two decades ago through a constitutional reform. Accordingly, nine regional states’ and two chartered cities’ bureaucracies were established besides the federal bureaucracy. It is obvious that, in addition to professionalism, civil service jobs generally require knowledge of certain official working language. Regions have chosen their own official working languages for their respective civil service institutions which have been reiterated as the major opportunity brought by the multinational federal policy of the country. This paper emphasizes on the bureaucracies of the Federal Government where Amharic is retained as the sole working language. From the outset, we ask questions: How could it be possible to build representative civil service institutions in multilingual polities? What are the roles of federal restructuring and official working language? What are the challenges that Ethiopia is facing at the federal level in terms of building a representative bureaucracy? This piece uses governmental reports of five years (2003-2008) and other theoretical literature to lay out Ethiopia’s (re)quest for building equitable federal bureaucracies. Overall, the finding show that, even though it may be different for political positions: the Amharic monolingual language policy of the federal government has ensured inequitable access to the federal civil service institutions, thereby posing challenges to the constitutional vision of building equitable and multicultural bureaucracy.

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The Politicization of My Oromo-English Dictionary: The Writer’s Reflections

Published in 2000, Gamta, Tilahun, Journal of Oromo Studies - Archived on November 7th, 2014

Title: The Politicization of My Oromo-English Dictionary: The Writer’s Reflections
Author: Tilahun Gamta (Xiilaahun Gamtaa) (Formerly, Addis Ababa University)
Published: Journal of Oromo Studies, Vol. 7, No.’s 1&2 (2000), pp. 1-17.
Language: English
Keywords: Literature, Mass Media and the Press, Afan Oromo, syllabary, Qubee, alphabet

Many Oromos wonder how I was able to write and publish The Oromo-English Dictionary (OED) in Ethiopia under Mengistu’s regime, a regime that had been openly hostile to the Oromo nation. Here, I offer my reflections on the writing of the work and some of the difficulties encountered in publishing it.

Before I began writing the OED on May 1, 1980, I had leaked out news that I was in the process of writing an Amharic-Oromo-English trilingual dictionary. Some of my Abyssinian colleagues at Addis Ababa University (AAU) were more excited about the idea than I was. The appearance of “Amharic,” though ostensible, at the beginning of the trilingual dictionary probably explains why they showered good wishes upon me. Very soon, my name and the title of the elusive project appeared in one of Addis Ababa University’s research news bulletins. To complete this ‘ingenious’ project without any difficulty, I was advised to submit a research proposal so that I could be entitled to a grant and a reduced teaching load. I thanked my enthusiastic Abyssinian friends and tacitly ignored the suggestion because I did not want to commit myself, in writing, to undertake the so-called ingenious project.

I believe that the regime’s ubiquitous security members took my story on trust because, after the news release, I could move about freely and mingle with Oromos with whom I had parted company at my village (Bure) when I was about thirteen years old. Thus, I was able to refresh my memory of how our people in the rural areas still speak Afaan Oromo, the Oromo language, in spite of one hundred years of the flagrant policy of suppression by the Abyssinian colonizers of Oromiyaa.

I visited Arsi, Baale, Gamu Goofaa, Goojjam, Harar, Kafaa, Shaggar, Sidaamo, Wallaggaa, and Wallo. I did not have to visit Ilu Abbaa Booraa, my birthplace. Due to my own reasons, I could not go to Tigray to interview Raayyaa, Azabo, and Waajiraat Oromos, either. However, I stayed in Waldiyaa, Wallo, overnight, where I had an opportunity to chat with an elderly Raayyaa Oromo. Despite a minor difference in our pronunciation, kaleesha/kaleessa (yesterday), for instance, we could understand each other very easily. After he told me, with a clear expression of concern on his handsome face, that the younger generation must be taught Afaan Oromo and be urged to use it, he said nagaatti (good bye) and left. In addition, when I was attending a conference in Nairobi in 1972, I had the opportunity to gauge the situation in Kenya where about half a million Oromos live. After these visits, I concluded that the pronunciation used by Oromos in both Oromiyaa and Kenya is almost identical at the lexical level. The then rampant and alarming rumor that there were wide regional variations in Afaan Oromo, I became convinced, was baseless.

As already stated, I began writing the OED on May 1, 1980, three years after I had witnessed the Red Terror which wreaked havoc on those suspected of having any affiliation with a party whose views were out of favor. 1 saw corpses lying about in the streets of Finfinne (the city renamed “Addis Ababa” after the colonization of Oromo country). I saw corpses being shoveled out of dump trucks and strewn on the sidewalks for all to see and presumably with the message that they should behave themselves! I saw boys, girls, young/old men and women thrown out of speeding military jeeps and shot dead.

There were two primary reasons for attempting to write this one-man, bilingual dictionary. First, confident that almost everybody in the Empire had cowered in the aftermath of the brutal Red Terror, Mengistu’s dictatorial regime sped up its literacy campaign in the name of socialism and communism. The tacit policy of the campaign was not only to discourage the spread of English but also to thrust the Amharic language down the throats of every nation/nationality in the Ethiopian Empire. The unsuspecting victims of this tacit policy were beguiled into believing that fifteen languages (of the total 80 or so languages in the Empire) were selected and were being used to promote literacy. In my view as a linguist, this position amounted to propaganda. To give credence to its propaganda, the regime allowed the distribution of literature written in the Amharic script in areas where the fifteen languages (representing over 90% of the population) are spoken. The Amharic syllabary, which cannot be adapted to writing the Kushitic languages, was a fiasco. Kushitic people could not crack what appeared as a strange-looking code in which their respective languages were written. In other words, they simply could not understand the reading matter the regime sent to their respective regions. Neither could they cope with learning about 280 Amharic characters as compared to about 35 Latin symbols required to write, if adapted carefully, most Kushitic languages.

The Full Article

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The Conflict between the Ethiopian State and the Oromo People

Published in 2013, European Conference on African Studies, Kumsa, Alemayehu - Archived on August 13th, 2014

Title: The Conflict between the Ethiopian State and the Oromo People
Author: Alemayehu Kumsa, PhD
Published: Centro de Estudos Internacionais do Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL) (5th European Conference on African Studies/ECAS – June 27-29, 2013)
Language: English
Keywords: Colonialism, Abyssinia, Oromo, Ethiopia, Liberation Movement

Colonialism is a practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another. The etymology of the term from Latin word colonus, meaning farmer. This root reminds us that the practice of colonialism usually involves the transfer of population to new territory, where the arrivals lived as permanent settlers while maintaining political allegiance to the country of origin. Colonialism is a characteristic of all known civilizations. Books on African history teaches us that Ethiopia and Liberia are the only countries, which were not colonized by West European states, but the paper argues that Ethiopia was created by Abyssinian state colonizing its neighbouring nations during the scramble for Africa. Using comparative colonial history of Africa, the paper tries to show that Abyssinian colonialism is the worst of conquest and colonial rule of all territories in Africa, according to the number of people killed during the conquest war, brutal colonial rule, political oppression, poverty, lack of education, diseases, and contemporary land grabbing only in the colonial territories. In its arguments, the paper discusses why the Oromo were defeated at the end of 19th century whereas we do have full historical documents starting from 13th century in which the Oromo defended their own territory against Abyssinian expansion. Finally the paper will elucidate the development of Oromo national struggle for regaining their lost independence.

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Harvard University’s African Studies Workshop Featuring Kay Kaufman Shelemay: “Listening to Ethiopia’s South: Music, Musicians, and the Performance of Oromo Nationalism”

Published in 2014, Seminar Presentation, Shelemay, Kay Kaufman - Archived on July 20th, 2014

Title: Listening to Ethiopia’s South: Music, Musicians, and the Performance of Oromo Nationalism
Author: Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Professor of Music and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University)
Published: Seminar Presentation, African Studies Workshop at Harvard University
Language: English
Keywords: Ethnography, Ethnomusicology, Music, Oromo Nationalism

On March 3, 2014, Kay Kaufman Shelemay, G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, presented, “Listening to Ethiopia’s South: Music, Musicians, and the Performance of Oromo Nationalism.” Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African American Music at Harvard University, was the discussant.

– Source: African Studies at Harvard University

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