By Fayyis Oromia*
The current discussion among the different political groups in the Ethiopian empire, which was ignited by the open letter written by Dr. Fikre Tolassa and directed to Dr. Bayan Asoba containing a different, but relatively new, version of the Amhara-Oromo “history” motivated us to think about the possible win-win solution for the hitherto conflict between the elites of the two big nations (the Amhara and the Oromo), so that they can find a common ground to cooperate against the currently ruling fascist and racist regime. Because of the short opinion I forwarded as a response to Dr. Fikre’s open letter, I was asked from many readers per e-mail to elaborate a bit more about what I mean by “Great Oromia;” thus, I do try in this piece of essay. First of all, to make clear to my readers, I am not a historian, a geologist, a politician, an anthropologist or an ethnologist to falsify or verify this version of history. I am a simple Oromo individual, who is interested in the Oromo cause and who tries to dig about the Oromo in books and websites. Let me then try to describe the two interesting Oromo perspectives regarding our history as well as our destiny and look at the variety regarding their implication.
As I have read and understood till now, there is one perspective, which tries to show us how the Oromo is related to Egypt, to the origin of the Cushitic civilization, to the city of Meroe, and it tries to figure out how the Oromo destiny should include a possible Oromo (Cush) renaissance. It teaches us how the Oromo-proper is a “stalk” for all the Cushitic nations in the North-East Africa. I think Dr. Fikre’s view belongs here. The other perspective seems to be a view of the genuine Oromo nationalists striving to achieve freedom of the Oromo, including liberation of Oromia from the current Abyssinian subjugation, whatever the history of the Oromo could be, even though it concentrates on the colonial narrative, including the very different origins of the Abyssinians (the “Semetic”) and the Oromians (the Cushitic). The other area of difference between the two perspectives seems to be that the first one is more history-oriented whereas the second one is highly destiny-oriented. The first one is digging into the history of the Oromo from different perspectives whereas the second one is doing its best to promote the liberation of Oromia at any cost.
To me, very interesting is the implication of the two positions: the implication of the first perspective is to forge our final goal as the desired RENAISSANCE of Oromia, defining the Oromo as the people to include the Oromo-proper (who now identify itself as the Oromo nation) and the Oromo-progeny (all the nations which seem to have emerged from the Oromo-proper). That means the Oromo is inclusive of all the Cushitic nations, including the Semitized Cush nations in the region, i.e. inclusive of most nations in the Ethiopian empire and some in the neighboring countries. The implication of the second position is that it concentrates on the importance of the imperative LIBERATION of the Oromo-proper or an independence of the presently demarcated Oromia by any means from the subjugation and suppression it is suffering since the last 3000 years. This time span, which is usually adored by the Ethiopianists as the time of Ethiopian freedom, is actually the time of Oromia’s gradual shrinkage and Oromo’s continuous assimilation so that a lot of its parts lost their original Oromo identity (Oromummaa) and became Semitized and Arabized.
I personally can look at the move of the first perspective also as a support for the ongoing liberation movement, and I would like to call its move and its supporters as the part of the ODF (Oromo Democratic Front), a movement which seems now to fight for Oromo liberation within a union of nations, and which then may try to influence the other progeny nations to look at their Oromo roots. Even though this movement strives for Ethiopian union (true federation), it only needs a simple change of the name Ethiopia to Oromia in order to see the suggested Great Oromia within the United Nations (UN). Very clear is that the political stand of the second perspective seems to be the position of the OLF, i.e self-determination per referendum of the Oromo public on the issue of an independent Little Oromia (the map now demarcated by the OLF). If the ODF will push further for such Great Oromia and this will be accepted by the Amhara and other nations, then seeking to see a Little Oromia within the UN is just unnecessary. Surely, the Oromo nationals will be satisfied with the Great Oromia in the UN, and the Amhara and other patriots just need to swallow the change of the name as a compromise, if they are really interested in the territorial integrity of the country they seem to love.
Just accepting the Oromo modern history, at face value, which suggests that Oromo is an indigenous nation in the region and it is the origin for most other nations, I can say that the Oromo till now used to exercise self-destruction under the influence of different forces from the Middle-East and from the West. Just as an example, the Axumite Oromos (Semitized and Christianized ones) destroyed the traditional Oromo of Meroe, and the Amharanized Oromos like Emperors Theodros, Minilik, H/Sillasie and the dictator Mengistu as well as the Tigranized Oromo individuals like Emperor Yohannes and tyrant Melles Zenawi destroyed the well preserved cultural identity and attacked the heroic resistance and resilience of the Oromo-proper. Here, it is important to mention that the Oromo-proper is the most dissent which resisted the influence from the outside world and kept its indigenous religion and language. Some scholars even tend to say that this is the reason why the name “Gaallaa” is given to this NAY-sayer nation. The word seems to have been driven from the Arab word “Qallaa,” which means simply “said NO.” I can say that Arabs gave the Oromo people this name for they resisted accepting Islam at the cost of Waaqeffaannaa (traditional Oromo religion). Of course, then the Habesha elites (the Semitized Oromo-progeny) further gave it more negative connotations.
The question to be raised and to be answered now is: how can we, the Oromo-proper, who are now fighting for our liberation from the domination by the “ignorantly arrogant” Oromo-progeny (by the Woyane elites), achieve this goal? What is the implication of having these two positions (the pro-ODF perspective and pro-OLF perspective) in the Oromo society? Are the two positions irreconcilable? Is the position of the ODF the prerequisite to promote the position of the OLF or the vice versa? I just write this opinion and ask these question to provoke thinking and to stimulate an action in the Oromo community. My political stand here is not necessarily the last well thought and not the most important.
As far as I am concerned, the two perspectives and positions are complementary, not contradictory, to each other. Fact on the ground is that now the Oromo nation (Oromo-proper) is suffering under slavery by the Woyane, and it needs to be liberated unconditionally. To be successful in this struggle, we need both the ODF and the OLF with theirs noble positions on the human and national rights of the Oromo-proper to self-determination. This ensures our national liberation at any cost without any compromise. As long as there is Habesha domination (mind you Habesha are the Oromo progenies) over the Oromo-proper, there will be Oromo liberation movement, and surely, there will be a viable front to fight for freedom/bilisummaa. After dismantling the existing Abyssinian empire and achieving the transitional goal of both the ODF and the OLF (Ethiopian Union, i.e true federation), we can opt further for either Great Oromia (if the Amhara and the other nations agree) or Little Oromia (if the Amhara and the other nations refuse to live under the name Oromia, but insist on the name Ethiopia).
I think Ethiopian union as a transitional solution to independent Oromia is the reason for the fact that also the OLF wrote in its programme not only the necessity of independence, but also the possibility of a union. So shortly put, the Oromo do have yet three optional goals to achieve based on the objective realities in the future. The next stop of our liberation journey, which started in Djibouti (colony/slavery), passing through Ayisha (status quo of a limited cultural autonomy), will be Diredhawa (true federation); that is why we need to support the ODF with all our power. Then, the true federation can lead us to either the goal of the OLF, i.e. Adama (an independence of Little Oromia) or to the common goal of both fronts – Finfinne (a union of independent nations called Great Oromia), which is a necessary step to achieve the required Oromian (Cush) renaissance.
Sure is that if there will be a true freedom and democracy in the future, at last we will achieve the final common goal (the Oromo renaissance), in which both the Oromo-proper and the different Oromo progenies, including the other nations in the Horn (which might not have emerged from the Oromo) will grow together. Here again, without the imperative liberation of the Oromo-proper, it is fact on the ground that the whole region will continue to suffer under the present poverty and tyranny. So, the key to prosperity in that cursed region is the liberation of the Oromo-proper, be it within or without the desired union called Great Oromia. In short, let’s all Oromo nations (the proper one and the progenies) move now from our hitherto self-destruction to the future self-determination. Let’s continue to be NAY-sayers to slavery, injustice and tyranny.
To emphasize again, it seems there were always, and there are still today, the above mentioned two views and two perspectives among Oromo nationalists. The cause of these two perspectives seems to be the version of Oromo history we do have in mind and the variety of our own individual biography. According to the discussion I had with many fellow Oromo individuals, there are even some who do just swim and paddle between the two blocks of ideas. What are these blocks and how can we accommodate them in our liberation journey? We can classify our fellow Oromo individuals into two in respect to their view about our history and their wish regarding our destiny:
– Oromo individuals who seem to accept the history version that we are the original Cush nation and even that we are the “stalk” for the other Cush nations. The implication of such history is that this group tends to believe and accept that we, the Oromo people, should stay together with the Abyssinians, who are also “our siblings” from the same origin. So. it is clear that this group tends to advocate for liberated Oromo people within a Great Oromia and, if possible, struggle for the Oromo renaissance (here Oromo being both the Oromo-proper, who now identify themselves as Oromo, and the Oromo-progenies, who “lost their Oromummaa gradually in the last 3000 years history”). This is the reason why some Oromo politicians started to speak about a necessity of a change of philosophy in the Oromo liberation movement, which up to now concentrated only on liberating the Little Oromia.
– Oromo individuals who seem to accept that there can be historical relations between Habesha and Oromo, but believe that the most important is the colonial relation, which started to develop after Habesha rulers invaded and subjugated Oromia at the end of the nineteenth century in connection with the European colonizers’ movement of the Scramble for Africa. No question, this group thinks that the only destiny of the Oromo is a complete liberation of Little Oromia from the colonization or domination of our neighboring Abyssinia. Of course, this group also sees a possibility of a union of nations in the region after independence of Oromia for the possible common benefit of all peoples in the region.
Some Oromo nationalists wrote to me about the concern they had because of the position like that of Dr. Fikre, which try to tell us that the Oromo are the origin for most of the Ethiopian nations and, as a consequence, the Oromo must take the responsibility, not only to liberate the Oromo-proper, but also the other nations, including the Habeshas. This position, of course, seems to be detrimental to the Oromo liberation movement, unless otherwise the Habeshas are ready to accept the renaming of Ethiopia as Great Oromia. That is why also some ODF supporters, who nowadays started to say “we are Ethiopians” need to correct their rhetoric and boldly assert that they do belong to the Great Oromia, so that even the Habeshas can start to say “we are Oromians.” Simply put, the concern is that if we believe that Abyssinians are Oromos who lost their Oromummaa in the last 3000 years, it will be difficult to make a radical liberation struggle against our “own.” But this concern is only legitimate if we are ready to be enslaved by “our own” and if we further call the future union of free nations as Ethiopia; otherwise, if we agree to rename the union as Great Oromia and if Afaan Oromo will be the primary working language of the union, no need to have such concern.
I do personally share this concern only if we accept to live under colony now and as liberated Ethiopians in the future, disregarding our identity as Oromo and giving up the name of our land – giving up Oromia. The reasons for this concern are firstly, the so called “modern Oromo history” is not yet verified exactly; secondly, Habesha elites, as crooked they always are, try to use this “modern Oromo history” as an instrument against the Oromo liberation movement. That is actually what we could observe in the cyberworld in the past many years and in the current move of Dr. Fikre. Habesha elites always try to dilute Oromo’s radical step towards freedom and independence by telling us that we, the Oromo people, are part of them as “Ethiopians,” and they actually used such history to try to convince us. They untiredly told us that both the Amhara and the Tigreans are from the Oromo origin, so the liberation of Oromia from the Habesha subjugators, who “are Oromo” themselves, is as such “not logical.”
But, let’s leave history for historians. We don’t need either to believe it or deny it. We just start from the status quo. No question that at the moment the Oromo are already enslaved by the Woyane elites; so we need to be liberated from this domination unconditionally. Just in front of our eyes, a lot of Oromo nationalists have been killed just for they are Oromo nationalists and still a lot are languishing in jails. During this time of tribulations, the Habesha elites (“our progeny”) did not look at the Oromo as their own. Why should then the Oromo look at this barbaric tyrants as our own? Let alone the Oromo, even the oppressed Habeshas and other nations should fight against them. To decide our destiny, we need our own public verdict; that is why our goal is self-determination. Whatever our history is, we have to stick to this goal.
Disregarding the different versions of our history and our biological origin, we can agree that our nationalism (Oromummaa) depends on the view we do have on our national (Oromo) interest. Those of us, who do support and serve this national interest, are the ones with genuine Oromummaa. So, Oromummaa is not only about biological origin, but more about psychological make-up. To that matter, we have seen a lot of biological Oromo individuals who do identify themselves with our foes. I personally think that beyond our origin and beyond the language we do speak, an Oromo with sound mind of Oromummaa is the one who identifies himself (or herself) with being Oromo, with Afaan Oromo, with our liberation cause and with the Oromo way of life, including Oromo culture. Do the so called Oromo-progeny have such mentality to be part and parcel of the Oromo? Do they and even Dr. Fikre accept and respect Great Oromia as suggested here?
In short, I must say that, whatever our history might be or our status quo is, we should push together for our final destiny of freedom and independence, be it in the form of Great Oromia or Little Oromia. What matters is the Oromo nation we want to build in the future, i.e. an independent and a prosperous Oromo land, and an emancipated Oromo people (including both the Oromo-proper and the Oromo-progeny); that means bilisummaa saba Oromo (freedom of Oromo people) and walabummaa biya Oromo (sovereignty of Oromo land, be it Great or Little). Are the Amhara and the other nations ready to accept the Great Oromia as a means to achieve their highly desired UNITY? If they are really concerned about unity, the better way is to accept and respect our INDEPENDENCE in this form of Great Oromia; if they fail to do so, an independent Little Oromia is inevitable. After all, just as the city they called Addisaba is our Finfinne, the country they named Ethiopia is our Oromia. Now, it is up to them to choose either to live in the Great Oromia or to be the future good neighbours of the Little Oromia. May Rabbi/Waaqa give them a wisdom to choose the better one!
* Fayyis Oromia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.