By Hariro Bosoro*
In Oromo society, a generation is defined as one term of the Gadaa administration. Since a single Gadaa administration lasts eight years and has its own name, every child born in that period is called as the generation of that Gadaa. An Oromo child reaches the potential of leading their country exactly after the fifth rounds of Gadaa administrations. Ever since the subjugation of the Oromo people and the Oromo land, the Gadaa system fell under forceful restriction. Its values and philosophies remained relevant to the Oromo people though colonial rules and laws replaced it. Now, majority of Oromos consider the Gadaa system as part of the past history since they never participated in any of its grand events. In this article, I take every two-generations as one group starting from 1895 to 2011 – roughly as the total years of occupation and distraction. In this very long and dark century, the Oromo people endured different barbaric administrations and unheard injustices. In turn, the barbarism and hateful injustices created unique generations in Oromo society that, one way or another, resisted the colonial occupations. These are the conquered, covert, dynamic, freedom, and liberation generations.
The Conquered Generations (~1895 to ~1911)
These generations witnessed genocide, massive enslavement and endless wars by the mechanized army while fighting against it with primitive warfare equipment. Their heroic sacrifice to protect their fatherland could not be paralleled with any other generation. They fought until death. The last person from this group was roughly born around 1911, and this paralleled with the last military expedition of the colonial settlers’ army. The egalitarian social system, Gadaa, had disadvantages in fighting against occupying armies under powerful hierarchical leaderships. They were totally unaware of the power and philosophy behind Minilik, and his ego-driven army. Minilik’s battles were undertaken separately in order to weaken one tribe or region at a time to conquer them easily. At the end of the subjugation, the Oromo population was slashed in half. Those who survived the war, diseases, and starvation were degraded into second-class citizens by the colonial occupiers without mercy. Indeed, many of the members of this generational group had difficulties to live with the new rules and orders that striped away their natural rights. They had to work excessively long hours in the fields and around their houses to produce enough food for their families, and enough tax for the landlords. The taxation was imposed unfairly such that, most of the time, the colonial landlords went to the village to take away available livestock as one fell behind to pay the tax dues. All in all, these are the generations that gradually swallowed and integrated into colonial culture due to the total military defeat. During this period, the emergence of foreign first names, exclusively from Geez, Amharic, Jews and Arabic languages, had begun taking an adverse effect on Oromo identity.
The Covert Generations (~1912 to ~1947):
These are the generations that emerged after the conquered generations. They were considered second-class citizens or worse. They were effectively integrated, but never been given any true political involvement or decision-making power. They served the colonial rulers in all aspects of government, mainly in military due to their exceptional physical fitness. They could infiltrate the highest government posts because of their language fluency and acquiescence to colonial heritages. They never questioned the legitimacy of the rulers. They entirely accepted what they learnt from the colonial churches’ propaganda that the rulers came from god to rule the Oromo people. In this group, it was a very common practice to conceal one’s identity, if possible, due to the deep-rooted low self-esteem. They preferred getting married with colonial settlers’ women in pretext that the colonial women were advanced than Oromo women, and the same with Oromo women of this group. Although they knew the suffering of the Oromo people, they did not want to go public in condemning or supporting the colonialism. They were just common people without any visible ambition or dream for freedom; indeed, in many occasions, some of the members of this group were accused of being harsher enforcers of colonial laws than the colonial rulers on the Oromo people. However, the absolute denial of Oromo’s cultural, economical, and political freedom by the egocentric colonial settlers took its course to wake up these generations, albeit slowly, as the world around them started to enjoy liberation from European colonialist powers in the continent. The last person to this group was roughly born in 1947.
The Dynamic Generations (~1948 to ~1963):
The dynamic generations are one of the most potent generations that changed the course of our history for good. They were highly motivated and committed individuals from all walks of Oromo society. They were lawyers, engineers, political scientists, medical professionals, students, businessmen, farmers, and so on. This generational group shocked the colonial settlers’ secret world by defining how to become an Oromo nationalist and by distinctly mapping Oromia out of Ethiopia. For the first time in our history, they introduced an independent political organization that intended to liberate Oromia from colonial settlers’ grip and the latest military occupation. They were determined and committed to what they believed in; most of them faced severe prison punishments, persecutions and, above all – death. These generations were the first to take up arm for the sole purpose of liberating Oromia from colonial settlers’ cultural, economical, and political domination. These are the generations that bled and sweat to drag us out of deep sleep. They are the gold nuggets of Oromo society. Their achievements are the milestones in our future struggle. Today, we are only enjoying a relative freedom of mind because of the selflessness of these unique heroes and heroines. Although fake and shrewd, the establishment of the Oromia Regional Government, and the right to speak and write in Afaan Oromoo became possible as a result of their struggle.
At the beginning of their political emergence, these generations had more similarities than differences. They all liked and acted on the concept of the “Land to the Tillers,” and other slogans around it. In this group, as there were honest and genuine nationalists, there were so many counterfeit individuals, who never passed by personal opportunities for the sake of their country or fellow comrades. As much as I hate their existence, let alone writing about them, it is only to our future advantage exposing some of the trademarks they function under. Surprisingly, they look very innocent and concerned nationalists; most of us believed everything they said and followed them, without questioning their true identities, only to wake up after they had led us to dead end. They know how to talk the talk, and what to talk to freedom-starving audience. They have a chameleon nature – adapting to every political environment. With the socialist, they are socialists. With the democrat, they are democrats. With the unionist, they are unionists. With the liberationist, they are liberationists. They are very easy going to form and dissolve alliance as long as there is any hope of power and fame, including forming unity with their very colonizers – those who actively want to hinder the Oromo liberation. Because they do not have their own idea or cannot stick to one if they have ever had one, one can hear so many contradicting ideas in short time intervals. Most importantly, they are cowards who never believe in face-to-face discussions. They are backstabbers who go around and spread false accusations on true and genuine nationalists. Their common characteristic is that they form strong cliques only based on region and religion affiliates. They disgust any kind of critique, or never give a second thought for what others say. Their reason for rejecting and blocking others blindly is fear of losing control of their empty political fame. When a concerned Oromo speaks up about reform, progressiveness, and transparency, their answer is to go ahead and establish his or her own party. Frequently, they have tried to take hostage of the Oromo struggle to negotiate for power that does not have any relevance to our basic inquiry. Their sole dream is to get to power without any sacrifice. These, too, are members of the dynamic generations only because of the definition of a generation.
In general, these unique generations put us on the home stretch towards our final goal. While their heroic deeds and selflessness accelerated us in a speed never heard, their narcissistic generational members counteracted to drag our struggle to a possible hopelessness state. Moreover, as a whole group, they could not avoid the more advanced colonial occupiers’ trickery and treaty. That weakness severely limited their potential from registering more possible achievements. The last person born to this single group is roughly around 1963.
The Freedom Generations (~1964 to ~1979):
So far, these are the generations that enjoyed the benefits of their parents’ achievements. They have genuine pride about their ancestors and heritage. Freedom is their best choice of word. The short-lived, but phenomenal memories of the Oromo revolution hunt their souls wherever they go. Some of these always regret about the missed opportunities during their lifetimes by arguing that OLF should have remained in the Charter to safeguard the freedom struggle. Due to the withdrawal from TGE and the ensued power struggle within OLF, one can compare the freedom generations with foster children whose families deserted them due to divorce. They have faced difficulties in choosing between their splitting families since they love them equally. Their personal heroes, heroines and role models are alive. They easily make up friendship with any Oromo at the spot, regardless of background. They express their Oromo heritage and political causes in music, drama, range of cultural dresses, and by active political and cultural participation. Waving the OLF flag, sporadically confronting the armed enemy with stones, are their unique marks. They have fantasies of seeing a liberated Oromia. Although contained, they speak and write what they feel in every possible media outlet they get. They know their origin and their destination. Among them, no one has come as a distinct leader since the leaders from the dynamic generations are still on the way with the best résumés. They could not break through the constant political and economical ambushes by the military government, and the cultural barriers that hinder them from expressing their leadership abilities while their parents are actively involved in politics. Simply, they are awaiting for the right time. However, the freedom generations seem to be wasting their valuable time in awaiting for something that is not there. On the other hand, the dynamic generations should have given up power and fame for their revolutionary offspring as the Gadaa system officially retired them once they had reached forty-eight years of age, but most of the members of the dynamic generations are beyond that age-limit by now. Because an old man cannot be as energetic as the young one to accomplish physically-demanding tasks, such as being there in the middle of situations, it is time for the dynamic generations to take the consultative roles in the Oromo struggle for liberation. Tendency to cling to power and blocking leadership positions from the freedom generations will only drag our already slowed move towards liberation.
To summarize, the freedom generations are the ones that are building the absolute comfort zone for their kids to take over their land, once and for all, from colonial settlers and military occupiers. Some of their unique characteristics include the naming of their kids with Oromo names. Whatever their religions and political affiliations are, they exclusively give their kids only Afaan Oromoo names. Here, I would like to personally applaud millions of Muslim Oromos for giving their kids Oromo names. Moreover, these generations exceptionally prefer to get married with strong Oromo nationalist individuals.
These characteristics are truly the strong foundations to building a strong society that will adopt the same ideology and political alliance to destroy colonialism once and for all. The last person to this single group was roughly born around 1979.
The Liberation Generations (~1980 to ~2010):
Oh, Waqaa, let me be born today or ten or fifteen years back because I want to be in these generations. I call these generations the fulfillment of all true nationalists’ dream. They are the product of the collective non-stop struggle of more than a century. For their maturity, wisdom, and successes in restoring their borders, millions have been tortured, persecuted, starved and died. These generations are free of deep-rooted mental slavery. They have the privilege of learning exclusively in their mother tongue. Every office they go to, and every official they know, uses and speaks Afaan Oromoo. They have grown up building confidence and the purest identity that all generations before them lack. They have come from strong nationalist families that they have become even stronger nationalists. They do not have place for fear and inferiority; in fact, fear and inferiority never have place in their existence. There are no patience and negotiations in their DNA to stay in subjugation one more day. They are in a hurry for the cause that has awaited for more than a century, and they have got the answers on their very hands. Their favorite words are “why” and “when.” They say, ‘why are we being ruled by other people we don’t even share anything in common naturally or historically.’ They ask, ‘when are these military occupiers going away.’ They ask, ‘when are we going to have our independent nation.’ They efficiently act on these questions, and solve them with great commitment that has never seen before. They will succeed, and restore their fatherland. They will put a statue of liberty in every city square. Our Gadaa system will be back in place to guide the Oromo people in the fast growing world. The liberation generations are further divided into two sub-groups since they are in the making, and any Oromo child born between 1980 and 1996 is included in the first sub-group. The last child from the second sub-group was born in 2010. If these two sub-groups of the liberation generations make it to liberation, congratulations to all Oromo parents who begot babies in 2011 because your sons and daughters are the first from the future Gadaa generations of the liberated Oromia! Let Waqaa say as I say and put an end to our humiliation!
* Hariro Bosoro can be reached at email@example.com