Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa the Nationalist: Lessons of Heroic Leadership
By Leenjiso Horo* | March 2013
My sadness runs very deep at the death of Obboo Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa. He was a great nationalist leader. We are faced with an irreplaceable loss. We have lost an uncompromising great freedom fighter, and one of the best articulator of the Oromo cause.
Obboo Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa is at the center of national attention. We learned a great deal of his struggle, his heroism, and his scarify. Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa is worthy of our serious attention for his reshaping of the Oromo national liberation struggle before his death at the age 77, and because of his many-sided development exhibits a rarely equaled array of nationalist leadership abilities. These abilities may need to be complemented, but can never be omitted in defining the leadership abilities required in the national liberation struggle. Now, the question we may ask ourselves is this: What can we learn here and now from the example of Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa as a nationalist and patriotic leader?
In the manner of many ancient biographical narratives, I will begin by recounting Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa’s revolutionary life and circumstances and against this background take up my thematic question. I want to invite you into a certain frame of mind as you read: to help you stand inside Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa’s revolutionary life, as if experiencing it, and then, without relinquishing it, to stand outside it, reflecting on it.
As with many stories that of Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa begins before he was born. The great stage on which Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa played out his nationalist life was on the heroic lessons of his grandfather (akaakayyuu) and great-grandfather (abaabayyuu). He learned from their resistance against foreign forces that came to occupy Oromiya and their heroic sacrifices. He learned from their sacrifices at those resistance struggles. And, the second lesson was from the elders and the living and life situation of community in which he grew up. The third important lesson was from the overall Oromo situation under the Ethiopian colonial occupation. He saw everywhere in Oromiya – the abused, humiliated, dehumanized and exploited Oromo people by the successive Ethiopian Empire colonial rulers. He experienced firsthand abusive and cruelty of the successive colonial regimes and the cruel system of colonial occupation. Hence, he understood early in life that life has no meaning without dignity, freedom, liberty and independence. Moreover, Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa also learned from Oromo history that Oromiya has been and is a colonized country since the last quarter of 19th century by Abyssinia. Abyssinian colonialists occupied Oromiya and besieged and took over Finfinnee, and during the war of conquest and occupation, the Abyssinian conquerors slaughtered everyone of military age in Oromiya, mutilated limbs of men and women, and sold the young women and children to the slave-markets. This history shocked young Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa as a grievous breach of the ethics and of humanity which traditionally governed the relations among human beings. He understood that something must be done to change the horrific and tragic situation of his people. So he decided to change it. He opted to do the right thing for his people regardless of the cost involved. And the option he chose was armed struggle.
As the armed struggle continued and sacrifices mounted, he saw some Oromo individuals taking neutrality, refusing to ally with nationalists and the cause of their people. Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa believed that neutrality is a violation of divine law and of the law of humanity at the time of one’s own country under colonial occupation. Not only this, he had also seen other Oromo nationals betraying their comrades, allying with the enemy against their people and their national liberation struggle. And still, he observed some other Oromo individuals only wanted “equal rights,” “liberties,” “citizenship,” and “democracy” in the Ethiopian colonial empire, and so they have been and are unwilling to totally break away from the Ethiopian colonial Empire and to establish a free and independent new Oromiya. In essence, such individuals believe that they are being denied basic rights and freedoms in the Ethiopian empire, but are not ready to take up armed, political, and diplomatic struggle to liberate their country. Such groups became neutrals, pacifists, silent observers, and reluctant to join the Oromo national liberation armed struggle. Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa was uncompromising fighter and had fought against all political ideas and compromises that were intended to weaken the struggle for the independence of Oromiya.
Furthermore, in temperament, he had a very strong competitiveness and a determined will. He was able to move others. He had an extraordinary wisdom, intuitive, acute, strategic and tactical intelligence, which allowed him to understand situations and frameworks under which he had to struggle and instantly read off their implications for action.
As a Danish philosopher, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard once observed, “The tyrant dies and his rule is over; the martyr dies and his rule begins,” and so is the latter case with Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa. His nationalist conviction to liberate Oromiya from colonial occupation will remain with us and with successive generations yet to be born. Indeed, I believe that as influential as Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa was in life, so his influence will remain and continues with all of us, and increases over others after he had gone. He would be up held by this generation and the generations yet to come as a model of fortitude, determination, and heroism, all of which were exemplified by the courage with which he started and unfailingly carried out the Oromo national liberation struggle for independence. He was indeed a true symbol of national armed struggle along many other great Oromo nationalists.
Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa was a great leader and hero for the Oromo people. He was a truly inspirational leader and a revolutionary patriot. In this war of independence, he fought against the Ethiopian colonial army with dignity, resolve and courage. He was a man of iron will, great strength, firmness of mind and determination in spirit and purpose to fight for the independence of Oromiya and its people. Throughout his life, his conviction to liberate Oromiya remained unshaken. And so he defended the sacred soil of Oromiya against colonial occupation with conviction to the very last day of his life. In history, no national struggle had ever been successfully fought without national heroes and heroines. National figures are needed in the national struggle.
As the saying goes, people make history and that history creates national heroes and heroines, not because one like to be one, but the necessity creates it. With this, we need to understand that because one puts on the mask of nationalist, drapes oneself in guise of revolutionaries, borrows the language of revolution and sings slogans of revolution do not make one a revolutionary nationalist leader and a national symbol of national struggle. The Oromo struggle needs truly revolutionary nationalists and patriots in the like of Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa, Galaasaa Dilboo and many others, those who fought and led the struggle in the mountains, hills, valleys, and plains of Oromiya. The Oromo people have such great national leaders. But today, the numbers of such great revolutionary nationalist leaders and symbols are thinning out. Some have already died in the military engagement, and others are dying natural death. In the long run, these conditions may deprive the Oromo nation, national symbols and figures of the struggle. This must be a concern for the Oromo nationalists. We often say the time-honored phrase, “Qabsaawaan ni kufa, qabsoon itti fuufa.” But, I am not so sure if this time-honored phrase holds to be true in the Oromo case as revisionists are united more than ever before and increasingly penetrating the Oromo nationalist organizations and Oromo mass organizations in order to reverse the struggle for independence. If the Oromo nationalists do not immediately united, put their house in order and take the struggle to Oromiya so as to defeat the coordinated efforts of the reactionaries from inside and outside, I am afraid that, as revolutionaries die, so will the revolution with them. Unity of the nationalists is the only way forward to avert this situation. So, unite, unite, unite and unite is the call to all.
In the end, the Oromo nationalists and the Oromo people have lost a great leader, Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa – as they had lost so many nationalists before him. They were the nationalists who ignited the flame of liberation/bilisummaa in the hills and valleys of Oromiya. And now, it is incumbent on the living nationalists to carry this torch forward, keeping the flame alight, burning until independence of Oromiya is realized for which Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa had fought to the last day of his life. This is the only way the nation and nationalists honor, remember, and celebrate the life, the struggle, and the sacrifice of Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa and those before him.
May his soul rest in peace. May God gives his family members, friends, and organization the strength and endurance to withstand this moment of grief and pain.
Oromiyaa Shall Be Free!
* Leenjiso Horo can be reached at email@example.com
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