The first annual Oromo Awareness Day took place at the Great Hall of the Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota (UMN) on April 3rd, 2009. The Oromia Student Union (OSU) at UMN worked very hard to make the Oromo Day successful. The event showcased the Oromo culture, history and three main religions (Waqeffanna, Christianity and Islam), and it highlighted the Oromo struggle and the human rights abuses being committed in Oromia by the TPLF regime.
The Oromo people belong to one of the most culturally diverse nations in Africa; the Oromia Student Union has worked tirelessly to incorporate major cultural heritages of this great nation at the first annual Oromo Awareness Day celebration. The culture-themed posters displayed samples of the Oromo culture from Northern to Southern, Eastern to Western, and Central Oromia, the homeland of Oromo in the Horn of Africa. A number of attendees, who did not know the Oromo culture, were very astonished about the beauty of the cultural clothes and the cultural artifacts displayed on the posters, such as the moqaa ykn faldhana, qorii, sabaree and killa. Different kinds of cultural foods, including Micciirraa, shuummoo, marqaa, qixxaa, cacabsaa, qorsoo, and many more were showcased with the name of each food written in Afan Oromo, the language of the Oromo people. The Oromo language alphabet, Qubee Afan Oromo, was also displayed at the event; the Oromo people were prohibited to use their language in schools, courts and other places out of the homestead during previous regimes in Ethiopia.
History of Oromia
The History of Oromia and its citizens was one of the themes of the day. Slide shows were presented at the beginning of the event and during lunchtime. Booklets, published by OSU, were distributed at the event; the booklet summarizes historical facts about Oromia; OSU will donate some of the booklets to the Oromo Community of Minnesota in the near future. The booklet has very useful historical references and facts with dates and particular events. At the Oromo Awareness Day, Oromo students, who grew up in the Unites States and did not have enough knowledge about their people’s history and culture, appreciated what OSU had to offer, and they were encouraged to join the Student Union and work towards their people’s freedom. Former members of OSU as well as former leaders of OSU and Oromia Youth Association were also very appreciative of the day’s events.
At present, Oromo people identify themselves under three main religions, Waqeffanna (the indigenous Oromo religion), Christianity and Islam. On the Oromo Awareness Day, all three major religions were presented in posters and writings. The posters illustrated the religions with pictures while the handouts explained the origins/history of these religions and their practices in Oromia. For intsance, the posters introduced some of the notable Oromo religious leaders, such as Onismoos Nesib (Hika) and Luba Gudina Tumsa, and their contributions to the Oromo nation were clearly stated.
The Oromo Struggle and Human Right Abuses
Even though history, culture and religions of Oromia were parts of the day’s theme, increasing awareness about the Oromo struggle and human right abuses in Oromia was the main focus of the day. Despite having such rich history, culture and religious beliefs and values, Oromo’s human rights get constantly violated by Ethiopian governments, past and current. To that end, the Oromia Student Union collected facts about the Oromo struggle for freedom and against human right abuses, and presented them to the audience.
The audio of the tragedy of “Gaara Suufii” was played at the event; it was a quiet and somber moment. Most of the people listening to the audio recognized Ayisha Ali, who was the victim of Gaara suufii and whose picture was displayed at the event. Posters also displayed fallen Oromo heroes and current leaders of the Oromo movement. The unforgettable stories of Oromo artists, Ebisa Adunya and Usmayo Musa, were told through postcards and a PowerPoint presentation.
Apee, the Director and Editor of “Gambela Today,” was the Speaker of the day on the human right abuses and the struggle of different groups in the Horn of Africa. He explained the strategies that the current regime of Ethiopia used to subjugate civilians. Some of these methods include: Collective Punishment is a method used to punish members of the entire community by burning down their villages, by forcing them to live in designated sites, such as reservation camps, by killing their livestock, and by burning down sources of food as a way of starving the community as whole. Another method: Bribing individuals in the community and using local government officials to spy on their own community. Third method: the government trains local militia to internalize conflicts within the community or with neighboring communities.
The Oromia Student Union will hold this event annually in the future and would like to thank all who contributed to the success of the first Oromo Awareness Day at UMN.
* The report was compiled by a member of the Oromia Student Union at UMN.