Beekan G Erena

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People: Oromo

Country: Oromia (also phonetically spelled as Oromiyaa)

Area: 600,000 approx.

Capital: Finfinnee (also called Addis Ababa)

Population: 50 million (Current estimate)

Language: Oromo, also called Afaan Oromoo

Economy: Mainly agriculture (coffee, several crops, spices, vegetables) and animal husbandry; mining industry; tourism trade; medium and small-scale industries (textiles, refineries, meat packaging, etc)

Religions: Waaqqefata (the traditional belief in Waaqa or God), Islam, and Christian (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant)

The Oromo are the largest nation in the horn of Africa and Afaan Oromoo, a highly developed language, spoken my many people in Africa. It is classified as one of the Cushitic languages spoken in the Ethiopian Empire, Somalia, the Sudan, Tanzania, and Kenya (Tilahun,1993:36). It is the fourth largest language in Africa next to Hausa, Arabic and Kiswahili. Though it has a large number of speakers, Afan Oromo has not gotten the chance to develop to its fullest stage because of destructive ruling systems targeted towards Oromo by almost all past tyrannical rulers of the empire, Ethiopia (Asafa Jalata, 2010, Appiah & Gates, 1999; Hassen, 1990, 1996; Legesse, 1973). Oromo constitutes at least 45% of the Ethiopian population (Baxter, 1994; Burckhardt, 2000; Tareke, 1991). Oromo is a working language in the National Regional State of Oromiya. Oromiya is the largest state in Ethiopia both in terms of population and land size. Tigrinya people are the people who belong to the Semitic linguistic family and rule Ethiopia today

Oromia is the largest land mass in the empire of Ethiopia inhabited by over fifty million (45%) population among 87 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Currently, the minority Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government has violently cracked down on peaceful protests, killing dozens of ethnic Oromo students and Oromo people. For the last 25 years TPLF (Ethiopia dictator government) have been condemning all Oromo identity, Social and Political. The Oromo have vast and rich oral tradition. Before the introduction of Christianity and Islam, the people had their own traditional religion which is known as Waaqefataa (which means worshiping one God).

The Oromo people form culturally, linguistically, and historically distinct ethno-national group representing almost half of the population of Ethiopia; yet they have endured more than a century of persecution, domination, and marginalization by the Habashas (Amhara-Tigrayan) ethno national groups. From the 16th century to the mid-19th century, the Oromo fought against the Habashas over resources, power and religion. The Habashas were unable to gain dominance over the Oromo until the nid-19th century, when the Habashas allied themselves with the European colonial powers such as Great Britain, France, and Italy and with their help, colonized the Oromo and other groups in in the Horn of Africa. Efforts to occupy Oromia (the homeland of the Oromo people) by force lasted from the 1860s to the 1900s. Colonial reducing it by half, from 10 to 5 million.

Those Oromos who survived from these tragedies became colonial subjects of the Habashas. Some became outright slaves, while others were semi slaves under a system called Nafxanya-gabbar. The Nafxanya Gabbar system was a means by which Habasha colonial settlers forced the subjugated Oromo peasants and pastoralists to provide them with commodities and labor. Failure to do so resulted in slavery. This system remained in place until Italy occupied Ethiopia in the 1930s. It was in the 1960s that the Oromo people began to develop Oromo nationalism. However, the Oromo have remained second class citizens, dominated by the successive Ahmara-Tigiryan governments.

Ecologically and agriculturally, Oromia (Oromo country) is the richest region in the Horn of Africa. Livestock products, coffee, oil seeds, spices, mineral resources and wild life are all diverse and abundant. In spite of all these advantages, a century of colonization by Abyssinia (Ethiopia), a backward nation itself, has meant that the Oromo people have endured a stagnant existence where ignorance and famine have been coupled with ruthless oppression, subjugation, exploitation and above all, extermination. Thus, for the last one hundred years under the Ethiopian rule, the Oromo have gained very little, if anything, in the way of political, social and economic progress.

The Oromo were colonized during the last quarter of the nineteenth century by a black African nation – Abyssinia – with the help of the European colonial powers of the day. During the same period, of course, the Somalis, Kenyans, Sudanese and others were colonized by European powers. The fact that the Oromo were colonized by another black African nation makes their case quite special.

During the process of colonization, between 1870 and 1900, the Oromo population was reduced from ten to five millions. This period coincides with the occupation of Oromo land by the Abyssinian emperors Yohannes and Menilek. After colonization, these emperors and their successors continued to treat Oromo with utmost cruelty. Many Oromo were killed by the colonial army and settlers, others died of famine and epidemics of various diseases or were sold off as slaves. Those who remained on the land were reduced to the status of gabbar (a peasant from whom labor and produce were exacted, and the gabbar system is a crude form of serfdom).

Haile Selassie consolidated Yohannes and Menilek’s gains, and with the use of violence, Haile Selassie obstructed the process of natural and historical development of the Oromo society – political, economic and social. In all spheres of life, discrimination, subjugation, repression and exploitation of all forms were applied. Everything possible was done to destroy Oromo identity – culture, language, custom, tradition, name and origin. In short, Haile Selassie maintained the general policy of genocide against the Oromo.

The 1974 revolution was brought about by the relentless struggle over several years by, among others, the Oromo peasants. The military junta headed by Mengistu Haile-Mariam, usurped power and took over the revolution. This regime continued on the path of emperors Yohannes, Menilek and Haile Selassie in the oppression, subjugation and exploitation of Oromo, the settlement of Abyssinians on Oromo land and the policy of genocide.

Forced to fight against Eritreans, the Somalis and others, many Oromo have fallen in battles. Many others died on the streets of cities and towns during the so-called “Red Terror” period, and in a similar program that expanded in the countryside thereafter. Massacres in towns and villages coupled with bombing and search-and-destroy programs have caused the destruction of human lives, crops, animals and property, have driven Oromo from their land, and have forced them to seek refuge in neighboring countries. Not surprisingly, this ruthless oppression and persecution of peoples has resulted in the largest flight of refugees in Africa. A very large proportion of the refugees in the Horn of Africa are Oromo.

In its attempt to oppress and eliminate the essential elements of Oromo culture, the present regime has used cover-up words such as ‘development, relief, settlement, villagization and literacy campaign’ to mislead the world. In fact, most of these programs and projects have been aimed at displacing Oromo people and denying them freedom, justice, human dignity and peace, thereby hastening the process of de-Oromization.

The struggle of the Oromo people, then, is nothing more than an attempt to affirm their own place in history. It seeks equality, human dignity, democracy, freedom and peace. It is not directed against the masses of a particular nation or nationality, nor against individuals, but rather against Ethiopian colonialism led by the Abyssinian ruling class. Thus, it is the Ethiopian colonial system, and not the Amhara/Tigrean masses or individuals, which is under critical consideration.

Today when nearly all of the African peoples have won independence, the Oromo continue to suffer under the most backward and savage Ethiopian settler colonialism. All genuinely democratic and progressive individuals and groups, believing in peace, human dignity and liberty should support the Oromo struggle for liberation.

Although the Oromo nation is one of the largest in Africa, it is forgotten by or still unknown to the majority of the world today. Unfortunately, even the name Oromo is unknown to many, and this should not be allowed to continue.

Today Oromo’s are struggling for bringing about a fundamental political transformation in Ethiopia and beyond in order to establish sustainable peace, justice, development, security, self-determination and an egalitarian multinational democracy. The main reason for these assertions is that the Oromo are the largest national group in Ethiopia and the region; Finfinnee, which is also called Addis Ababa, is the heart of Oromiya and is the seat of the Ethiopian state, the African Union and many other international organizations. In addition, Oromia is located in the heart of Ethiopia, and the Oromo people have already created a cultural corridor with different peoples in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Currently, many Oromo’s are killed because they are requesting the government to stop robbing and grabbing Oromo farmers land in the name of investment and development; they also request the discarding of the Addis Ababa Master Plan that doesn’t include the economic and National interests of the Oromo people. They also want to make Afaan Oromo language the Federal working language of the Ethiopia Government.