Paper presented at the Conference on New Directions in Critical Criminology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, May 6-7, 2016.
THE OROMO MOVEMENT: THE EFFECTS OF STATE TERRORISM AND GLOBALIZATION IN OROMIA AND ETHIOPIA
The Oromo movement is engaging in struggle to empower the Oromo people in order to restore their control on their economic resources such as land and cultural resources and to overcome the effects of Ethiopian state terrorism and globalization. The Oromo people were colonized and incorporated into Abyssinia, present Ethiopia, and the capitalist world system during the “Scramble for Africa” by the alliance of Ethiopian colonialism and European imperialism. This colonization involved terrorism and genocide in order to transfer Oromo economic resources, mainly land, through destroying Oromo leadership and the cultural foundation of the Oromo society. The Oromo resistance that started with the colonization of the Oromo was transformed into the anti-colonial movement in the 1960s and still continues in various forms. On their part, successive colonial Ethiopian governments have been using various forms of violence to destroy the Oromo struggle for national self-determination and democracy. Starting in 1992, the Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government has been imposing state terrorism, genocide, and political repression, with the assistance of big powers and international institutions on the Oromo, the largest ethno-national group, and other groups in order to destroy the Oromo national movement led by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and to dominate the political economy of Oromia (the Oromo country) and Ethiopia in order to transfer economic resources, particularly land, to Tigrayan state elites and their domestic and international supporters.
This paper first provides the historical background for these complex issues. Second, it outlines theoretical and methodological approaches of the paper. Third, the piece explains the role of big powers in supporting the Ethiopian state at the cost of democracy and human rights in order to promote “savage development” (Quan 2013) or “violent development” (Rajagopal 2003) in this age of globalization. This section also explores how the Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government and its international supporters are using the discourses of democracy, human rights, and economic development while terrorizing the Oromo and other indigenous peoples by dispossessing them of their rights and their ancestral land and natural resources. Fourth, it explains how the ongoing peaceful Oromo mass protest movement has emerged in Oromia, how and why the regime is violently cracking down on protestors, including Oromo school children and university students, farmers, and other sectors of the Oromo society, and why the West is facing a political dilemma regarding supporting a government that is openly massacring peaceful protestors and violently repressing dissent. Finally, the piece explores the larger political and economic consequences of the Oromo protest movement in bringing about a fundamental transformation to the political economy of Oromia and Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian colonial terrorism and genocide that started during the last decades of the nineteenth century with the assistance of England, France, and Italy still continue in the 21st century with the support of global powers (Jalata 2010). During Ethiopian (Amhara-Tigray) colonial expansion, Oromia, “the charming Oromo land, [would] be ploughed by the iron and the fire; flooded with blood and the orgy of pillage” (de Salviac 2005 : 349). Martial de Salviac (2005 : 349) called this event “the theatre of a great massacre.” The Oromo oral story also testifies that the Abyssinian armies destroyed and looted the resources of Oromia and committed genocide on the Oromo people and others through terrorism, slavery, depopulation, cutting hands or breasts, and creating a series of famines and diseases during and after the colonization of Oromia. According to Martial de Salviac 2005 (: 8), “With equal arms, the Abyssinia [would] never [conquer] an inch of [Oromo] land. With the power of firearms imported from Europe, Menelik [Abyssinian warlord] began a murderous revenge.”
The colonization of Oromia involved human tragedy and destruction: “The Abyssinian, in bloody raids, operated by surprise, mowed down without pity, in the country of the Oromo population, a mournful harvest of slaves for which the Muslims were thirsty and whom they bought at very high price. An Oromo child [boy] would cost up to 800 francs in Cairo; an Oromo girl would well be worth two thousand francs in Constantinople” (de Salviac 2005 : 28). The Abyssinian/Ethiopian government massacred half of the Oromo population (5 million out of 10 million) and their leadership during its colonial expansion (Bulatovich 2000: 68). The Amhara warlord, Menelik, terrorized and colonized the Oromo and others to obtain commodities such as gold, ivory, coffee, musk, hides and skins, slaves and lands. Menelik controlled slave trade (an estimated 25,000 slaves per year in the 1880s); with his wife he owned 70,000 enslaved Africans; he became one of the richest capitalists. He invested in American Railway Stock; “Today the Abyssinian ruler had extended the range of his financial operations to the United States, and is a heavy investor in American railroads . . . with his American securities and his French and Belgian mining investments, Menelik has a private fortune estimated at no less than twenty-five million dollars.” (New York Times, November 7, 1909).