By Fayyis Oromia*
When I write about bilisummaa/freedom in this essay, I do mean political freedom as a central concept in our political thought, and as one of the most important features of free nations and democratic societies. It has already been described in various literature as a relationship free of oppression or coercion; as the absence of disabling conditions and the fulfillment of enabling conditions for an individual as well as for collectives; or as the absence of lived conditions of compulsion, such as economic compulsion in a society. Although political freedom is often interpreted negatively as the freedom from unreasonable external constraints on action, it can also refer to the positive exercise of rights, capacities and possibilities for action, and the exercise of national or social rights. The concept can also include freedom from internal constraints on political action or speech like social conformity or inauthentic behavior. The concept of political freedom is closely connected with the concepts of civil liberties and human rights, which, in free nation-states and democratic societies, are usually afforded legal protection from the state.
Irreechaa is a day of national celebration in Oromia, especially in a sense of Thanksgiving to Waaqa or God. It is primarily originated among the Blue Nile-bound Cushitic people of the Oromo thousands of years ago. Nowadays, at national level, it is celebrated in the Bishoftu town of Oromia at Lake Arsadii (Hora Arsadi) on the last Sunday of September. During the festival, the Aba Gadaa (traditionally elected national leader), the other community leaders as well as the Oromo community at large give thanks to Waqaa for the blessed transition from the rainy season to the bright and colorful Birra (spring) season. Regarding this year’s fest, the following call is already made by the Qeerroo Bilisummaa (the Oromo youth struggling for freedom) to all individuals and groups, who are interested in celebrating the next Irreechaa festival:
“Welcome to the coming 2012 Ayyaana Irreechaa (Irreechaa festival)! According to the dhahaa Oromoo/Oromo calender, September 30, 2012 is the annual Thanksgiving day – Irreecha Birraa – of this year. An Irreecha Birraa is a celebration that repeats once in a year in birraa and involves special activities or amusements. It has a lot of importance in the Oromo people’s lives. We celebrate Irreechaa to thank Waaqa for the blessings and mercies we have received throughout the past year at the sacred grounds of Hora Arsadi. The Irreechaa festival is celebrated every year throughout Oromia and around the world, whereever diaspora Oromo live. We do celebrate Irreechaa, not only to thank Waaqa, but also to welcome the new season of plentiful harvests after the dark and rainy winter associated with nature and creature. On Irreechaa festival, a collective of friends, families, and relatives gather together and celebrate with joy and happiness. Irreechaa festival brings different peoples closer to each other and make social bonds. We, the Oromo people, celebrate Irreechaa festival in order to live our tradition as a society. You are all invited to be the partaker of our joy!”
Actually, Irreechaa festival is not only traditional, but it is also the day of celebrating and the time of living out bilisummaa/freedom amidst the phenomena of colonization, oppression and subjugation of the Oromo people. Irreechaa is a Bilisummaa-Fest, as a friend of Gadaa.com once coined it. It is the day, on which all Oromo in every walk of life do feel to have freedom from the year-round Woyane’s tyranny. The Oromo of every creed and region do celebrate Irrreechaa in unison – as a nation, despite the heavy siege of the Woyane invading army surrounding the Hora Arsadi sanctuary, where the celebration takes place at the national level. About 3 million Oromo come together every year to exercise this spirit of freedom and unity, which can help the move of our people towards achieving national sovereignty.
In America, Freedom-Fest is an annual festival where free minds meet to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers in an open-minded society. It is independent celebration, non-partisan, and not affiliated with any organization or think tank. Freedom-Fest invites the best and the brightest from around the world to talk, strategize, socialize, and celebrate liberty. It is open to all and is purely egalitarian, where speakers, attendees, and exhibitors are treated as equals. Since its inception, Freedom-Fest has met in Las Vegas, the world’s most libertarian city. It’s open to anyone who enjoys a wide interest in books, art, music, film, and drama in all topics, including science, philosophy, economics, health, sports, technology, business, religion, law, and politics. Freedom-Fest attracts people of all walks of life and across the political spectrum to learn, debate and honor great books, great ideas, and great thinkers. I think, we, the Oromo people, also can extend the Bilisummaa-Fest from its present only and purely cultural show to such more educative sessions in the whole week of the festivity in Bishoftu town.
Moreover, interestingly, there was not any disturbance or violence observed during the hitherto Irreechaa festivals, despite a huge mass celebration. It shows that the Oromo people do know our limitation as we also strive for our liberation. Even in a free society like U.S.A., the day of freedom is celebrated with caution. It is said that freedom only flourishes within limits. Humans were created, not only as volitional and moral beings – able to choose between right and wrong, but they were also created to be dependent creatures, meant to flourish within established limits. If they choose to live outside those limits, they would experience even to the extent of having the ultimate limitation: death. The hitherto fall of humanity was a rejection of limits and a bid for limitless self-rule disguised as freedom. The Oromo people, as the believers of Waaqa Tokkichaa (one God), know our limitation very well and do celebrate the Bilisummaa-Fest without going out of the sound limitation to affect the freedom of other nations and nationalities we do celebrate with and live with.
Because of such liberation move of the Oromo people with the very deep consciousness regarding our limitation towards perceiving, accepting and respecting the freedom of others, no invited African in particular, and no other nation in general, should feel insecure when going to Hora Arsadi to celebrate the Bilisummaa-Fest. Especially, Africans, who did already experience what a life without freedom means, can celebrate this day with the Oromo people, who are still living under colony of the Abyssinian elites. It is only on the day of Irreechaa that this great people feel a bit free to get together in mass, despite all sorts of intimidation from the tyrant regime. I think, particularly Africans should try to know this real Oromo issue, which is already clouded by the rhetoric of the Abyssinian elites, who are presenting Ethiopia as the “only non-colonized land of Africa.” They need to face the reality, in contrast to the Abyssinian elites’ legendary rhetoric, so they can look at the fact that the head office of the AU is in Finfinne, the occupied capital city of the still colonized Oromia.
The reality on the ground speaks against the legend or the myth that “Ethiopia (Abyssinia) is the paragon of freedom, as an exemplary to the other African nations.” The Abyssinian elites and their Western handlers try to present the Ethiopian empire as if it is the permanently free land in Africa, in contrast to the fact that it is a prison house for some African nations and nationalities, which were free until the time of the scramble for Africa, in which the Abyssinian king, Atse Minilik, was the partaker. Actually, Oromia, in which Oromummaa (healthy Oromo patriotism) is flourishing despite the subjugation, can be seen as a prototype of African nations with an egalitarian ideology struggling for national bilisummaa. In fact, Abyssinian elites are the anti-thesis of such bilisummaa, because of the fact that they have neither democratic culture nor an incentive or intention to develop it. They know that their economic and political interest on Oromia is better respected under an authoritarian or totalitarian regime serving their domination. They are conscious enough about the fact that any step to be taken towards democratization of the Ethiopian empire (if possible) is a measure leading to the decolonization of Oromia.
To hoodwink all the oppressed nations in the empire and the international community at large, the Abyssinian elites do try to sell their history as an anti-colonial, whereas their true move was in reality that of a black colonial rule. A classical example of their presentation is the current veneration given to their king, Atse Minilik, in the song by the Abyssinized Oromo singer, Tewodros Kasahun Garmaama (Teddy Afro): “xiqur-sew/the black person.” The king was celebrated as an anti-colonial fighter against the European colonizers, even though the other side of his history shows that he is also part and parcel of the colonizers, who subjugated some free African nations. However paradox it may sound, I do respect the victory, which Africans got over the European colonizers in the battle of Adwa, where also the Oromo generals and fighters took part. But this should not be taken as a cover or as an excuse for the crime, which the Abyssinian king, Atse Minilik, committed against the Oromo people and the other occupied nations of the empire.
In short, it seems that the Abyssinized Cushites like this King have been culturally degenerated to serve the Western colonizers in order to subjugate those African Cushites, who are proud of their true identity and preserved their culture, despite all sorts of pressure from the Middle East and from the Western World. The whole oppressive move was started as the Abyssinian proxy oppressors of the Axum empire got a chance to attack and destroy the Cushitic civilization in Meroe. Since this era, the gradual destruction of the Cushitic culture and identity took place in the whole northern and central part of the Cush territory, where mainly the Agaw people live. Such destructive influence later extended towards south and also affected Oromia to some extent. Now this destructive move, which started in Meroe by the Axum’s king, Ezana, and still perpetrated by the Adwa’s warlord, Meles Zenawi, need to be reversed.
The main force, which can be in a position to reverse this move is the Oromo national liberation movement as an anti-dote to the Abyssinization process. This Oromo struggle is a movement for bilisummaa of the Oromo people and even that of the neighboring brotherly nations from the de-autonomizing Abyssianism. The values of Oromummaa, such as bilisummaa, Gadaa and walabummaa/independence will surely prevail over the core characters of Abyssinianism like authoritarianism, subjugation and exploitation. That is why the predicted eventual and inevitable triumph of Oromummaa over Abyssinianism is regularly celebrated by the Oromo people during the yearly Bilisummaa-Fest at Hora Arsadi. Now the Qeerroo Bilisummaa invites especially all African nations, who know what colonization really means and who do value the need of freedom from such oppression, to be part of this year’s celebration.
The Bilisumma-Fest is considered as a symbol for an accommodative and integrative move of all Oromo from different regions and religions. Even though the festival is usually associated to Waaqeffanna, the African Traditional Religion (ATR); nowadays, it is almost recognized, accepted and honored as a national holiday of the whole Oromo people. Of course, it is true that this African Traditional Religion is one of the best instruments used in liberating the captive minds of alien ideology, especially that of the Abyssinized Cushites, who are the victims of the political and religious indoctrination from the Middle East and from the Western world. Notwithstanding such influence from the foreign world, Bilisummaa-Fest is based on purely African value of Cushitic origin, so that it may promote the tendency of some Abyssinized Cushites like the Agaw to resurrect and revive their priori identity.
That is the main reason to invite Africans in particular, so that they can have a yearly “pilgrimage” to Hora Arsadi in order to help the revival and survival of the African/Cushitic/Oromian value system of bilisummaa as well as strengthen their faith in Waaqa Tokkichaa without overtaking an alien culture, which is usually mixed in the political and religious ideologies we do usually import. Just to give the celebration more international dimension, I would like to recommend the Bilisummaa-Fest take place, at the same time, not only in Bishoftu, but also in Finfinne at Lake Gafarsaa. Of course, heartily invited for this festival are at the first place the Abyssinized Cushites, who already lost their tradition, which is more or less similar to that of the Oromo, including the Irreechaa celebration. In this way, the Bilisummaa-Fest, which is part and parcel of the Oromo national liberation movement, can also liberate even Abyssinians from their false identity.
But, not to confuse the Abyssinian colonizer elites, who are our classical foes, with the Abyssinian mass, which can be liberated as part of the solution being our friends in the struggle for bilisumma, let’s look at the following short formula, which can serve as a summary and help us to differentiate foes from friends in the Oromo national liberation process. Foes vs Friends: ADF < ===VS===> (EDF < -----&-----> ODF). Here the acronyms ADF = Abyssinian Domination Forces; EDF = Ethiopian Democratization Forces; and ODF = Oromian Decolonization forces. Obviously, ADF are the enemies of our national liberation struggle, whereas the two parts of Oromo national liberation movement (EDF and ODF) are the friends of our struggle, but they are rivals to each other for they are competing to realize alternative ways of coming to the same bilisummaa. Unfortunately, the conflict between the later two is wrongly considered as irreconcilable, and they are considered as enemies to each other, so that they fight one another instead of targeting the real enemy (ADF) in unison. Actually, it is a normal political competition between the liberation forces in the Oromo bloc, who do have different approaches in finding the solution for our national problem. This confusion regarding foes vs friends still exists in debates, discussions and disputes, which are going on in different Oromo media. In fact, Ethiopian democratization is a covert form of Oromian decolonization, for any attempt to democratize an empire is tantamount to decolonization of the subjugated nations as already seen, for instance, in the Soviet Union.
I hope this artificial conflict between the Oromo national liberation forces can be resolved gradually and the events like Bilisummaa-Fest can contribute a lot in bringing together such Oromo freedom fighters with different approaches. Thus, the Irreechaa festival can also be considered as a way to araara (reconciliation) for the different citizens and collectives of the Oromo nation. I would like here again to encourage the rival Oromo groups to celebrate the Bilisummaa-Fest with this mood of araara, and we do invite the other nations of the empire as well as that of the whole Africa and even the international community to be part of the day, which is symbolic for many things: for bilisummaa, araara, Oromummaa, and which can be used for revival as well as survival of the African indigenous culture and tradition. Above all, the Irreechaa festival is the day of tasting bilisummaa amidst the ocean of garbummaa (oppression). But, the bilisummaa we repeatedly taste on this day must be extended to the whole life of the nation through our bitter struggle. As already well put by Dr. Martin Luther King: “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” May Rabbi/Waaqa help us liberate ourselves as a citizen and as a nation, not only on the day of the Bilisummaa-Fest, but also permanently in the future. Anyways, we wish all Africans and the others, who are interested to celebrate the day together with the Oromo nation, a happy Bilisummaa-Fest!
* Fayyis Oromia can be reached at email@example.com.