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Oromia: Garoma B. Wakessa – Oromo Person of the Year 2011

Posted: Muddee/December 30, 2011 · Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.com | Comments (27)

For being the leading voice of the voiceless in the human rights movement in the Horn of Africa, for educating the public about human rights, and for being the unyielding advocate for justice and freedom.


Born in 1958 in the then Wollega Province in western Oromia, Mr. (Obbo) Garoma B. Wakessa’s life is a testament for the endurance of the human spirit in the face of atrocities and injustice.

He had been a high school teacher, and had later become a science professional after earning a Master’s degree in the U.S.S.R. in 1989. But, soon after his graduation, the rest of his life would change from that of a scientist to that of a newspaper editor-in-chief, and then a human rights advocate.

The Turning Point
In the early 1990’s, while living in the Horn, he witnessed the dignity, self-worth and lives of many community members diminished at the hands of government. Mr. Wakessa demanded change. And, change never came.

Public Educator and Human Rights Fighter
In 1993, determined to make a difference, Mr. Garoma Wakessa helped found a newspaper called URJII, which publicly exposed the government’s human rights violations and atrocities. URJII, the independent newspaper in Afan Oromo, quickly became the leading voice of the voiceless. At URJII, Mr. Garoma Wakessa was first the department head, then the assistant editor-in-chief, and finally, the General Manager of the publishing company. He also continued to write stories for the paper.

In 1996 Mr. Garoma Wakessa went a step farther in his human rights fight and formed an organization called the Human Rights League (HRL), where he was elected as the Secretary General, which furthered his campaign of public awareness and education about the elevating injustice in Ethiopia.

Photos: HRL Meeting in Mid-1990’s

Prisoner of Conscience
Unfortunately, his voice was silenced when he was arrested by the Ethiopian government security forces from the HRL office in October 1997 and jailed. As an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, he spent nearly four years in prison.

In 2001 Mr. Garoma Wakessa was released from prison, without a conviction or reason for imprisonment, under political pressure and pressure from human rights defenders around the world, such as Oromia Support Group, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch, on the Ethiopian government.


Shortly after his release, Mr. Garoma Wakessa fled to Kenya because security forces were going to jail him again. In 2002 he received asylum in Toronto, Canada, where he currently lives with his wife and two sons.

The Fight Continues
His determination and passion grew as human rights infringements in the Horn continued. He re-started HRL with the name ‘Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa’ (HRLHA) in Canada in 2007, and he currently leads the organization as the Executive Director.


Since its foundation, HRLHA has grown in membership and importance. Agencies, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations, rely on reports from HRLHA sources located in the Horn about the areas ailing human rights climate.

HRLHA defends freedom of thought and expression, due process and equal protection of the law as well as promoting the development of a vigorous civil society.


In August 2011, HRLHA was granted the Special Consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – which gave the organization a boost in its fight against human rights atrocities and violations in the Horn.

Mr. Garoma Wakessa continues to lobby governments, engage the community, report on human rights abuses, and produce critical research reports on the protection of human rights and discrimination taking place in the Horn of Africa. In Canada, having received a Master’s degree in International Human Rights Law, he is much more committed to defending human rights of the voiceless efficiently and effectively.

It is with great honor that Gadaa.com recognizes Mr. Garoma B. Wakessa as the OROMO PERSON OF THE YEAR 2011 for his selfless pursuit of truth and justice, and for being the unyielding voice of the voiceless. In Mr. Garoma Wakessa’s daily fight against human rights violations and atrocities, the human spirit lives, and because of his daily fight, justice will prevail.


Gadaa.com delivers information on Oromia and the Horn of African region: top news stories and analyses, politics, and culture, arts & entertainment, and more.



  1. Deenta

    Dec 30, 11 at 5:20 am

    I am proud of Obbo Garoma’s work. He has enabled Oromo activists publicized reports on issues concerning Oromo and other nationals in the horn of africa.

    Thank you Obbo Garoma!

  2. OLD Jabaa

    Dec 30, 11 at 6:11 am

    Excellent Obbo Garoma,

    Keep it up, You really decerve the recognition. JAbaadhuu siduuka jiraa.



  3. Falmata

    Dec 30, 11 at 6:44 am

    I am very proud of Mr. Garoma B. Wakessa for his endurance and selfless pursuit of truth and justice. I think from his life journey we the oromo Youngsters can learn a lot, I personally feel that.

  4. Wisdom

    Dec 30, 11 at 7:20 am

    It is so indispensable to have at least one person who stands for justice and equality for all human race, as justice will prevail one day however long the journey is. Mr. Garoma surly fulfills that. In the meantime, I would like to thank Gadaa.com for making this recognition.

  5. Robble

    Dec 30, 11 at 8:58 am

    Congratulations Mr Groma for honor a person of the year from one of leading Oromo website. Continue your hard work for those whom are faceting the taught challenge, in their life. By Wayne Mafia group, now you have your liberty, you can be voice for those voiceless people.

    Continue the long walk, but it is the right one. The Oromo and all peace loveing humans are behind you.

    My God bells your work.

  6. Geddada

    Dec 30, 11 at 10:05 am

    Our Oromos majority voice and majority status still dominated by amhara minority, it is time to democratize ethiopias by Majority sizing Ethiopias national language.

    Ethiopias national language should be changed from minority amhara language (Amhric) to Ethiopias Majority (Oromos language).

  7. Abbaa Biiftuu

    Dec 30, 11 at 11:10 am

    Thank you gadaa.com to for honoring Obbo.Gaaromaa Baqalaa

  8. Moti refugee

    Dec 30, 11 at 12:09 pm

    Realy i proud by your hounerabel work. Keep up for ever your well and tengable work. God bless your and your family.

  9. Naatolii

    Dec 30, 11 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you Gadaa, for recognizing this outstanding human being. We need more brave people like him to restore the dignity of all human being in the Horn of Africa and beyond.
    Thank you Mr. Garoma for fighting for voice less people in the Horn of Africa and for you outstanding unwavering character and principle under very difficult circumstances.
    You are one of my Heroes.
    Los Angeles

  10. Danaba

    Dec 30, 11 at 3:24 pm

    Obboo Gaaromaa baga gammadde , jabadhuu , Jaarraa 21ffaa keessa sabni guddaan gaafa baha Afrikaa oromoon garbummaa jala jiraachuun salphina . Sagalee ummatee dhageesisuu irraa duubatti hin deebi’iin !!!!!!!!

  11. birmadu

    Dec 30, 11 at 4:52 pm

    Akkas malee Obbo Gaaroma, Oromoon siin boonti. bara tana keeysa haqa ummata keenyaa dhaa guddoo falmaa turte. Jiraadhu amma illee.
    Wariin gadaa.com galatooma.

  12. Maattii

    Dec 31, 11 at 12:35 am

    Congratulations on Mr. Gaaromaa on winning Gadaa’s person of the year recognition.

    You would be hard pressed to find any one who is as dedicated as Obbo Gaaromaa to Oromo causes. I challenge everyone to help HRL by donating some money so that he can focus on exposing crimes that are being committed against our people.

    Be part of the solution and support this brave man and the organisation he leads.

  13. Hadha Biftuu

    Dec 31, 11 at 7:27 am

    I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to our hero, Obboo Gaaromaa. I know that it takes courage to change one’s field of study and former interest and start standing for the right thing. I can imagine how many times the situation in our country frustrated, discouraged and even pushed you to change your stand and go back to your previous profession. But you are a hero to stand where you were and paid all those prices. For us there is still a long way to go. You deserve the recognition and even more. Keep up. Thank you Gadaa.com for doing what you did.
    Hadha Biftuu from Minneapolis, MN

  14. BA

    Dec 31, 11 at 6:27 pm

    Obbo Groomaa! Congratulations! You deserve it. Keep it up your good work. Happy New Year

  15. Obsaa

    Jan 1, 12 at 2:56 pm

    Happy New Year, Warra Gadaa!!
    I appreciate your efforts of bringing recognizable achievements to the attention of your reader.
    But, in the case of “Person of the Year” of 2011, I see some sort of mistakings. I am not sure whether you were misguiding your readers, or you yourselves were misguided. But, an individual has been mistaken for an agency; or vice-versa. The fact of being a voice for the voiceless is the Agency’s – HRLHA’s achievement and it everytime commitment; not individual’s. And, beginning from day one of its inception, originally HRL, and currently HRLHA has never been an individual. It was formed by a group of people, not by an individual; and had scores of founding members. It has been operating by a group of individuals; though the size of the group has been up and down. So, if you were recongnizing the achievements of the Agency as a voice for the voicless and as a human rights defender, your person of the year should have been HRLHA itself.Or, if you were recognizing just the individual’s – Obbo Garoma’s role in the achievements of the Agency, you should have been specific. Remember: this hurts others who have been sacrificing in terms of skill, knowledge, time, money and energy.
    If you consider yourselves as a medium, don’t forget that you might be quoted or referred to. So, include accuracy in the check list of your editing.
    Thank you; and success in the New Year!

  16. qaroo

    Jan 1, 12 at 9:57 pm

    obboo Gaaromaa galatoomi wanta ati ummata oromootif gote galtoomi jechuun ni xiqqaata galanni kee hin jifannoo fi bi lisa nuuf haata,u

  17. Boruu Barraaqaa

    Jan 2, 12 at 12:49 am

    Yes, he deserves! Congrat Obbo Gaaromaa!

    Gadaa.com, thank you for cellecting him!

    Boruu Barraaqaa

  18. Senbato

    Jan 2, 12 at 1:29 pm

    He is a great man, I am very glad if we recognize people like this who relentelesly work.
    Good job Keep up HAPPY NEW YEAR to every body.

  19. siinqe

    Jan 2, 12 at 2:38 pm

    well done and happy new year to all the achievers of this years’ oromo of the year. thanks for supporting and representing our interest with all your might. thank you and live long, be blessed
    to Mr.Wakessa and Mr. Mohamed

  20. abdi unity

    Jan 3, 12 at 12:21 pm

    I also want to say congratulations to my hero Obbo Gaaromaa. this is the kind of people we need. we need selfless people. We need people who understand the meaning of their life. I hope you will be a living example for few selfish people. I pray that Waqqa gives you the power to do more and teach us! At the end, i want to thank Gadda.com for your wonderful job, RECOGNITION!!!

  21. Mohammed Abawaji

    Jan 4, 12 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you for a great job you have done and you are our hero and we need a leader like you to reach our goal free Oromia.

  22. Baayisa

    Jan 7, 12 at 9:41 pm

    To Obbo Garoma and all leaders of the HRLHA congratulations for the recogintion. I wish you all the best in your work to bringing awareness to the international community about the injustice, and human right violation perpatrated on the Oromo and other peoples in the Horn of Africa.

    Please try to reach-out to all of us so that we can help the organization in a way we can.

    Jabaadha qabsa’aa, gabromfatan ni kufa, sabni ni mo’aa!!

  23. KENNAA

    Jan 9, 12 at 9:51 pm

    First of all I would like to thank gadaa.com for their recognizing this person worked on human right restlessly!
    Obbo Gaaroma,baga gammadde! Hojii boonsaa saba keellee boonsitu hojjette sabni kees akka sitti gammade atimmoo firii hojii keetii argite ammas gammadin siin jedha.
    Dhummarratti kanin dhaamsa siif kaa’uu kun filatamuu kee isa jalaqabaati guutummaa addunyaatti dhaabbatoota beekamoo mirga dhala nama eegan bira waliin taatee hojjechaa jirtu sanaanillee akka badhasamtu/filatamtu shakkii hin qabu,kana dhaqqabuuf immoo kana caalaa dhaabbilee gurguddoo akka Aminesty international,human right watch kkf waliin jabinaan hojjechuu qabda!

    Ammas irra deebihee baga gammaade,itti fufi saba keellee beeksisaa jirta,beeksisi!

  24. BOKKUU!

    Jan 12, 12 at 8:03 am

    Ani duruu hojii keetti baay’een gammadaa ture hammas waan nama gammachiisurra jirtaa jabaadhu! Yeroo hundumaa akka ilma Oromoo dhugaa tti of yaadi nutii baay’ee sirraa eegannaa!!
    Jabaadhu Waaqayyoo si faana haata’u!!

  25. Baabich

    Jan 12, 12 at 8:10 am

    Dear Gadaa.com!
    Thank you so much for recognizing Obbo Gaaroma Wakessa as Oromo person of the year 2011.
    It is very rare to have such a person who pay incredible scarifies for the cause of suffering people for such long years. I knew obbo Garoma for the first time when he shared his view with me regarding how to create human rights organization back in nineteenth. I remember some of us were hesitant to follow him because of the harsh political situation in the country. At that time he had no doubt that his plan will succeed. He convinced many of us to join him to continue with his ambition and Human Rights League was formed. Of course he got very strong board members at that time. After nearly one year HRL started operation Meles”s regime imprisoned him and confiscated all HRL’s belongings. All members and workers were scattered.
    As soon as he was released from prison I heard that he left the country. I was shocked because I was thinking HRL office will reopen. That was not happened. I recently knew that he continued his commitments of defending human rights from abroad by creating Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa/HRLHA. It is incredible commitment and dedication. The strength of any organization is measured by its achievement. Behind strong organizations there are always strong driving forces. Of course all strong driving forces have strong leaders. We should appreciate and encourage obbo Garoma’s leadership ability and HRLHA must be supported in all means to achieve its goal.
    Thank you obbo Garoma for making HRLHA a strong organization.
    Keep up!!

  26. hundee lammii

    Jan 12, 12 at 12:38 pm

    kan akksii haadhalatuu kan dhalatees haa guddatu kan guddatees nuuf habulu jachaa Obbo Gaaromaan fakkeenya keenya hunda haatahuun jedha, namtokkeen kan dhunfaan hangana hojjate gareen humaa taruu dadhabnee sabni keenya gubaa gabrummaan waxalamaa bara braan booyaa jiraata,kun salphina keenyaa Ormoo of haayadannu!!!!!!!

    Obboo Gaaraomaan Umrii nuuf haadhratan Rabbiin waliin haajiraatu

  27. Justice4all

    Jan 31, 12 at 6:03 pm

    God bless Obbo Garoma for his selfless work .