Gooticha Oromoo Badhaadha Dilgaasaa (Miidheee)
Badhaadha Dilgaasa (Midhe)
In this section, the bandit lore of Badhaadha Dilgaasa, also called Midhe, is presented. Badhaadha, hereafter Midhe, was born in Guuyamaa, Yaaya Gullalle, during the late 1960s and lived many lives—herd-boy, farmer, hunter, soldier, bandit, and ethnic hero of the poor and the marginalized. He grew up partaking actively in the youth subculture of horse-riding, stick-fighting, wrestling, hunting, singing songs of war and peace, and dancing to them. As he grew up observing the poor and intolerable living conditions around him in a rural village, and singing songs of the bandits who lived before him, especially Hagari Tullu and Mulu Asanu, Midhe understood that he needed some military training to become a bandit. At his young age, Midhe joined the Derg military force and got the training he needed for his future career as a bandit.84 Next, the Salale bandit lore recounts Midhe’s heroic life, conflict, and death, and, thus myth-making about the contemporary banditry in Salale was revived.
Throughout history societies have constructed cultural heroes and well-known figures such as the mythical Sherwood Forest figure, Robin Hood, or Gregorio Cortez, or Billy the Kid or Nat Turner. Legend and facts are deeply intertwined by storytellers and folksingers, writers and historians, around those historical figures in both literate and non-literate cultures.
Close examination of those songs, stories and historical narratives constructed over time by different societies across cultures or the same society through different times, reveals traits common to all social bandits. First, one such common feature is the role of secret societies and solemn oaths, waadaa (covenants) to keep secret. In order for a social institution to sustain itself, it is necessary that all members of the society and beneficiaries of the institution are cognizant of its rules and expected behaviors in order to execute certain acceptable roles. Second, equally important, members of the community and supporters of the institution are cognizant that, in spite of its shortcomings, ultimately, the institution is just and separate from what officials consider as criminality. The bandit activities are perceived to be legitimate because there are social grievances about land appropriation, displacement, heavy taxes and injustices which social banditry can redress as an alternative political agency. Third, in spite of the secret societies and supporters to protect him and sustain the institution, but of his invisible nature, supra-moral temperament, the bandit must die by treason, treachery. Kent Steckmesser rightly argues that examples from the Western bandit tradition shows the common theme of betrayal: Robin Hood died betrayed by his trusted cousin, Jesse James was betrayed by Robert Ford, Billy the Kid was betrayed and killed by a one-time friend, Pat Garret,85 and Gregorio Cortez made it all the way to the Mexican border where he was betrayed by a Mexican to the Anglos. Steckmesser adds that, “If a betrayer did not exist, folklore would invent….For the outlaw hero to die by any means other than treachery is unimaginable.”86 The motive of the betrayer may vary but, based on the data, I posit, the common ones may include intra- and inter-band rivalry, economic benefit, and jealousy.
InSalale Oromo banditlore banditry is understood as an alternative type of political agency.Banditry is a violent practice, which not onlytransgresses conventional symbolic norms andofficial discourse; it also reconfigures the people’s understandings of the social phenomenon, namely, social banditry, as legitimate political behavior.Following the tragic death of Midhe,Tarashe, the folk artist, challenges the status quo:
YaaBadho kiyyaOh, Badho,
maal Katamaa maashoon boba’u?what is up in the town, lamp is lit?
YaaBadho kiyya,Your dream thatI knit:
ajjeeftanii nurra hin deeminaa,Let them step never overour dead,
damiin carqii miti hin moofa’uu!it is not worn out; it clots—our blood
that they shed!87In this song, the individual bandit is understood not as an “outlaw,” “criminal,” or “brigand,”which has a negativeconnotation of lawlessness and anarchy, but asa freedom fighter who represents political resistance.Historically, the contemporary widespread Oromo liberationmovement evolved out of the various forms of resistance culture including banditry, rebellion, social protest, and full-scale armed struggle, which eventually transformed into the cultural andpolitical ideology of seeking the right to self-determination led by the Oromo Liberation Front(OLF) since 1974.
Although the bandit is glorified and his courage is taken for granted in the present, the underlying principle in banditryand warrior-like sentiment is handed down from generations and traced to the exploits of other ethnic heroes in the past. Bandits are subjects of folk songs, which constitute the bandit-hero phenomena. Thoroughfare the Salale present the bandits a folk hero, glorified romanticizes an astounding figure:
YaaBadho kiyyaOh, Badho,
kotyaa Badho hamma shumburaa!-come, you little seed like chickpea,
Oli See You Salale