By Oumar Hussein*
Ato Getachew Reda, I read your article in defense of Dr. Fikre Tolassa about the Oromo people with curiosity. The article is full of lies and is not substantiated with evidences. According to you, the word Galla is not a derogatory, and the Oromo people should call themselves as such. And you said you were unable to find any evidence or anyone to disproove your argument. You are like “some men go through a forest and see no firewood.” You have failed to mention evidences in your article, except hearsay; you need to back up your arguments with evidences.
Ato Getachew, let me list some of the Amharagna sayings: Gallana sagara iyyader yigemal; Galla kemiweldegn berie barragegn; Galla siseletin begabi lay kis yisefal. These sayings clearly depict the derogatory nature of the word Galla. Ato Getachew, can you find any Oromo in today’s Ethiopia from east to west or north to south who calls himself/herself Galla? You cannot come across one. So, why do you want us to carry the name we do not want? We call ourselves Oromo. As the late Chinua Achebe once remarked, “nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am – and what I need – is something I have to find out myself.” It is just like telling the African Americans to call themselves ‘Nigger.’ This is a typical nature of Amhara elites. This is not new. The Amhara elites always want us to abandon Afaan Oromoo, and speak and write in Amharic. This reminds me what Europeans used to tell Africans to write their literature in English, French and Portuguese. And, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, a Kenyan writer, responded like this: “There is something very wrong in saying to a human being, ‘Let me cut off your legs and I will give you artificial ones, which will be perfect.’ I’m saying let us walk on our own two feet.”
According to Ato Getachew, Oromo is not a pure ethnic group. He even said the percentage of the Oromo people is below 1-5%. This is totally denying the existence of the Oromo people in the Empire – which is over forty million. He said the Oromo people living in different parts in Ethiopia are different in their pigmentation, and they are only similar in their languages. We speak one language, that is, Afaan Oromoo, not similar languages as Ato Getachew is lying. That is disingenuous on his part. There are dialects among our people, and this is one of the universal characteristics of a language. Even in developed countries, there are dialects. For instance, in the United States, the north and the south have different dialects. Imagine, in the United States, where there are well developed airlines, railways, ground transportation, TV, and social media, but there are still dialects. Gojjam and Gondar are like head and tail. And yet, they have different dialects. The Gojjamme for instance, says ‘albeltom’ whereas the Gondere says ‘albelahum.’ People also dress differently depending where they live. What is, then, a big deal about dialect variations of the Oromo people? The Amharas and the Tigrians have so much in common according to him. Imagine, these two peoples are different ethnic groups, and yet they have too much in common. As Daniel Nayeri said “I think the biggest lie the devil ever told was that beauty and goodness are the same.” He is trying to tell us they are pure. The Oromo, however, are different from one region to another. The truth is there are Amharas and Tigrians with brown and dark colors just like the Oromo people. Some of them are tall while others are short like any human being. It seems he is clueless about his own people, let alone about the Oromo. He is just like Mendzi, the main character, in ‘Mission to Kala.’ The character goes to a French school. He learns at school about European geography and history – which are irrelevant to the people of Cameroon. When he returns to his village, he finds himself strange to the local way of life. He is double alienated. Ato Getachew Reda, too, seems suffering from double alienation.
Ato Getachew believes the Oromo people have outnumbered other ethnic groups because they subdued them through warfare. According to him, the Oromo people are not pure and as heterogeneous as American people: Greeks, Italians, Jews, Brits, African Americans, Germans, etc. This is another lie fabricated by him. If you go to Walloo, you find names of places, such as Hara, Garaadoo, Dagaagaa, Marsaa, Kombolsha, Xiixaa, Kamisee, Caffaa, Roqaa, Luucco, Siida, Wajiiree, Roggicha, etc. The names declare loud and clear that the Oromo are everywhere like oxygen in the Empire. The same way in Arsii, Baale, Wallagga, Shawaa, Iluu Abba Boora, Borana and Hararghe – the names of rivers, places, mountains, valleys, fields and lakes are named in Afaan Oromo. Could you, Ato Getachew, list the names of these places before the Oromo people assimilated other indigenous people as you allegedly call us immigrants?
The second reason, according to Ato Getachew Reda, that increased the number of Oromo people was through concubine. As far as I know, concubine is unknown in the Oromo culture. It has been part of the Amhara culture. If you do not believe me read ‘Feker Iskemekabir’ by Haddis Alemayehu. Fitewrari Meshesha, one of the feudal characters in the novel, has so many concubines apart from his wife. Why did the number of Amharas fail to increase, Ato Getachew? Were they receiving Depo Provera contraceptives? What went wrong with your men’s mewgia, thing? The third reason the Oromo people outnumbered other ethnic group, in Ato Getachew’s view, was through gudifacha. When the Amharas captured someone at the battlefield or subdued a village they would turn them into baryas (slaves.) How did that fail to increase the number of Amharas? In the Oromo culture, gudifachas have equal rights like anybody in the society, but the Amharas have different shelf for them. They keep having babies secretly from slaves and call them yesew lij, child of man, and yebet lij, child of house. They do not carry their fathers’ names. They call them yetabatu/ yetabatua (where is his/her father)? Ato Getachew, you can read more on this: Seifu Metaferia’s ‘Yabarya Sem Bamaraaw Bahel’ and Teshale Tibebu’s ‘The Making of Modern Ethiopia: 1896 – 1974.’ Teshale’s Chapter-Three is wholly about slaves and occupational minorities.
Who are the Amharas, by the way Ato Getachew? The Walloyyes (Warra Baabboo, Warra Iluu, Warra Bachoo, Qaalluus, Raayyas, Yejjuus), Gojjammes? Gonderes? Menzes? The majority of the people in Walloo are Oromo. There are people in Gojjam, too, who are Oromo. Even in Gondar, there are people who trace their root to the Oromo. There are people who have been assimilated in Gojjam and Gondar – who are Qimant, Agew and Beja, but call themselves Amhara. I don’t know the exact number of Amharas with certainty, but their number is much lower than what is being aired on media. Ato Getachew , instead of meddling into Oromo affairs, look after your own first. The adoption of Latin script for Afaan Oromoo has also been a bone in the throat for him. He is trying to tell us to use the Ge’ez alphabet. It is equally as alien as the Latin script to the Oromo. We have chosen the Latin script over the Sabean alphabet because it would fit the phonology of Afaan Oromoo. All European countries have been using it. And, they are doing fine. What is wrong if we use it? The employment rate is on the rise among the Amharas, and their language is shrinking too since the introduction of Gubee. Our path is irreversible no matter what he says: “the Oromo people are aping the white man even though they are blacks.” Our oromo elders say, “waywaanni du’a nam hinoolchu.” When loosely translated, “apprehension never saves one from death.”
In conclusion, Ato Getachew Reda’s argument regarding the number and existence of the Oromo people in the Empire does not hold water. He failed to back up his argument with evidences. The Oromo people are as old as the rivers, lakes, mountains, fields, valleys and wild animals of Biyya Oromoo.
* The writer, Oumar Hussein, can be reached: Oumar20171@yahoo.com