Oromos seek justice in Ethiopia Why is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia also one of the most persecuted?



“Ali Birra first sang this song in 1976, as a tribute to the introduction of the Afaan Oromo alphabet (qubee). This song been reproduced with a new video in commemoration of his upcoming Golden Jubilee. The children you see in the video are from his Birra Foundation. Any proceed from the golden Jubilee will go to this foundation as well.

Great job ie Records and Cush Media Group for this wonderful production.

A B jennee kaanaa
Kanumaan jalqabnaa
Afaanuma keenyaan katabne dubbifnaa” Jawar Mohammed

Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, Egypt – For months, Gutama Gallatobati, a proud farmer and mechanic of Oromo descent languished in an Ethiopian prison over accusations he burned an Ethiopian flag. While inside, guards physically abused him.

Sada Ahmed, a mother of five children and wife of a wealthy husband lived a good life in Ethiopia until she was accused of financially supporting the rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Her husband disappeared in Sudan and she was forced to flee to Egypt.

The Oromo make up 40 percent of the Ethiopian population. However, the minority Tigray government has persecuted the Oromo people, jailing more than 20,000 suspected OLF members. As a result, many have been forced to flee, leaving behind family, friends and jobs.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Thursday, the Oromo who have fled to Egypt are again endangered.

“Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don’t want legal protection, we want physical protection.”

– Mohamed Zein, Ethiopian journalist

Over the last few weeks, there has been an emergence of xenophobic attacks against Ethiopians on the streets of Cairo, motivated by Ethiopia’s goal to build the “Grand Renaissance Dam”.

The Ethiopian government is planning to dam the Blue Nile for hydroelectric power, a move Egypt worries will affect its water supply.

In response to the project, Egypt’s government has reached a new level of bellicose rhetoric. In a televised meeting of key government officials recently, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour suggested Egypt launch air strikes to stop construction of the dam. Others proposed destabilising the Ethiopian government by funding rebel groups.

The Oromo in Egypt are now caught in the middle here and say they’re facing increased hostility from Egyptians.

In response, hundreds of Oromo refugees have staged a sit-in outside the Cairo office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) demanding safety. They’ve refused to leave, sleeping on the grass outside the building, near leaking sewage from a surrounding apartment complex.

Jeylan Kassim, head of the Oromo Sons/ Daughters Refugee Association, has played a leading role in organising the protests. “We will not leave until the UNHCR will protect us,” he told Al Jazeera.

A heavy silence blankets the Oromo as they sit on scraps of cardboard listening to members of the community discuss in frustration fruitless meetings with UNHCR representatives.

The UN says it cannot provide temporary shelter or food outside the UNHCR building because they do not have authority over the land, nor the resources to supply those camping out for the nearly two weeks.

The UN has offered a phone hotline for refugees to call with their problems, as well as legal assistance.

But the Oromo say this is not enough. “Our case cannot be resolved with lawyers and judges and courts … We don’t want legal protection, we want physical protection,” says Mohamed Zein, a journalist from Ethiopia.

He fled to Egypt after he was falsely accused of providing secret government information to NGO Human Rights Watch and the Eritrean government.

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The UNHCR acknowledges the situation is a difficult one but says its options are limited. “The outcome is not in your hands. As the United Nations, you don’t get involved in [internal] politics,” says UN press officer Ahmed Aboughazala.

The Oromo in Egypt are united not only by their heritage, but also by a collective sense of uncertainty.

When 33-year-old Gutama Gallatobati arrived in Cairo a month ago, he thought his biggest troubles had been left behind. A week ago, however, his landlord evicted him from his apartment and his belongings were taken. When asked what reason he’d been given, he sighed: “The Nile.”

“They said if you take our water, we will take your blood,” recounted Abdi Harboury, a lanky youth shy to make eye contact.

According to the Oromo community, Abdi was the first person to have been attacked over the dam issue. He was beaten by three Egyptian youth, they say.

Hussein Ahmed, an asylum seeker who has been in Cairo almost two years, admitted he lies when asked about his origins. “I was at the barber and he asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ I said Nigeria. I am scared to say I am from Ethiopia.”

Even outside the UNHCR office, the refugees say it is not safe. Ahmed said he was beaten recently, and a woman was groped on her way to find a toilet. They claim the police did nothing to stop the attacks.

Some police officers have told locals passing by that the refugees are not suffering, and are being paid by the American government to protest, the Oromo say. “They protest in the day and then at night they’re paid and many of them leave,” said a young officer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorised to talk to the press.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, meanwhile, arrived last Sunday in Addis Ababa to meet with his Ethiopian counterpart in an attempt to find a political and economic solution over the dam issue.

Ethiopia and Egypt agreed to hold further talks on the impact of a huge Ethiopian dam project to quell tensions between the two countries over water-sharing.

Until it gets resolved, however, the Oromo who fled persecution in Ethiopia say they will continue to face threats to their safety in Egypt.

Oromo Refugees 4th Day of Demonstration in Cairo, Egypt

4th Day of demonstration of Oromo refugees in Cairo (June 12, 2013)

4th Day of Demonstration in front of UNHCR Cairo: 12th June 2013 at about 11.pm at night: We received information that one Oromo member was attacked in front of UNHCR while camping there by a group of Egyptian youth. They were agitated by Ethiopian name and it will take time to teach Egyptian who we are, we still say, police was involved in finding out….more Coming soon….

Guyyaa hardhaa 12/6/2013 hiiriraa nagayaa baqaattonnii ilmaan Oromo biyyaa Masrii jalqaban guyyaa 4ffaf ittii fufaa jira. Baqattonnii ilmaan Oromo biyyaa Masrii hangaa mirgii kenyaa nuuf egaamuttii akkasumaas nageenyii nuuf godhamuttii itti fufuu akka qaban murta’ee jiraa. Kayyoon hiiriiraa kana wan bayyee of keessaa qabaatuus innii guddaan mootummaa Itoophiyaatin biyyaa kenyaa irraa mirgaa sarbamnee biiyaa kana keessaa baqattumman jirraa. umaannii Masrii sababiii hidhamiinsaa bishanitin nu miidhinaa akasumas miidhaan nurraa gaha jiruu nurraa akka dhaabbatuu fi dhaabonnii mirgaa dhalaa nama akka nuuf dirmatuudhaa. Galatomaa nu hordafaa.
Oromia shall be free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3rd Day of demonstration of Oromo refugees in Cairo (June 11, 2013)

Updates !!!

UNHCR regional representative visited Police stations where Oromo people are populated, the towns named Maadi, Darusalam, and Basaatin regions. after visiting these areas they found that it is true and have recognized the problems after visiting all stations, its was an emotional meeting with UNHCR regional representative today, they promise to follow this issue and solve our problems amicably. we really thank UNHCR regional director and his deputy Elizabeth tan for giving us attention in this critical time.

There is also an opposite demonstration by Ethiopian amhara community who will demonstrate later this week, UNHCR asked United Oromos to be peaceful as ussual, we promised to be peaceful and avoid any confrontation with ethiopian community who we consider them as extention of Ethiopian embassy.

Oromumaa vs. Islamumaa: Mr. Jawar Mohammed’s Controversial Speech

By Iddoosaa Ejjetaa | June 15, 2013

The Oromoo people have unfinished businesses yet. In June 2013, a conference was organized for Ethiopian Muslims in Minneapolis, Minnesota where Mr. Jawar Mohammed made a speech and broadcasted by Oromoo TV has created tremendous waves of reactions from different Oromoo corners including myself. I have watched and listened to the video on YouTube and read responses. I found that I was not alone who disappointed by the speech. Many Oromoo had expressed their disappointment, frustration and feeling that they have been cheated once again. The proponents of the speech expressed their complacencies in different ways. After reading the opinions from both sides about the speech, I have decided to put opinions together from the perspective of Oromumaa vs. Islamummaa for critical analysis, genuine and civil discussions.

I hope that this paper initiate honest, genuine and knowledge-based discussion by diverse social, political and religious groups of the Oromoo people and scholars so as to forge unity of purpose that is based on authentic Oromummaa. It is my hope that all reader of this paper would be thoughtful and genuine broker to close the rift that created as consequence Mr. Jawar Mohmmad’s controversial speech, June 2013.

Duran durseen nahoofkalchaa isnin jedha, let me start from the commentator who has lost trust and suspicious about the speech made by Mr. Jawar Mohammed and provide some analysis to it and will use similar pattern of analysis throughout this paper.

… Islaamni tooko mucaa isaa otoo Oromoomaa hinabrssidin Quraana barsiisa. Maqaa isaalle Oromoo dhiisee maqaa arabaa basaaf. Fkf, jawar Mohamad manna otoo Fayissa Angassaa otoo jedhanii oromuummaa ni jabeessa ture. … Christannummaanis akkasuma. Namni maqaan isaa Petros Yohaanis jedhamu ofiin Oromoo ofiin haajedhu malee ani kuni oroodh, waa nagargaara jedhee amanee itti siquun hedduu nadhiba. Walitii dhuffuu baaannan moo waliraa fagaachuu, wal sodaachuu, wal iraanfachuu, wal jibuu fi wal loluufii wal irrati duulanii wal ajeesuun lee nijira!!Kanaaf Islaaamummafi Christaanummaan orommummaaa nii tokkumma Oromoo laafissan malee bua’ tokko Oromoof hinfinne. [Wajiraa]

Wajiraa has a feeling of worry that he/she suspicious of what is gonging on in that conference where Mr. Jawar Mommmed was a speaker. Both religions, Christian and Islam about equally shared in role of sending Oromoo people into slavery. Christian never sold or bought Christian. In the same, Islam didn’t sell and/or buy Islam. The victims of slave trade were those Oromoos who used to practice their own indigenous Oromoo religion, Waaqeffannaa. There accounts on this matter in written form by many social scientists or scholars including Oromoo scholar Professor Merkura Bulcha. Person’s name is his/her identity. Ilmaan Gadaa Oromoo is brothers and sisters for being an Oromoo, but not because of following specific religion or cult. As Wajiraa said, it is self-evident that Islamummaa and Khristaanummaa were/are wreaking Oromummaa.

As Mula’ata put it, “Rejecting Oromoo religion means rejecting your culture and identity. That is why you go with foreign name which not only weakened but Rejecting Oromoo religion means rejecting your culture and identity. That is why you go with foreign name which not only weakened but almost destroyed your Orommumaa. There is nothing left you can pass to your children other than afaan Oromoo. I am not suggesting you give up your religion, but you can never reconcile foreign religions with Oromumaa!”

Guta has brought also a philosophical perspective to Oromoo nationalism and liberation struggle. He wrote, “Both Islam and Christian have diluted oromumma and confused it. However, realistically I accept the idea of tolerance, even though any foreign culture or language is contradictory to nationalism, similarly religion theoretically cannot accept any nationalism. Religion has no boundary, thus Jawar is confusing.” This has been reflected in the speech of Haji Najiib (Adaree) on the conference when he said “we all are Islam, and let he/she come from the Mars, we all are brothers as long as he/she is Muslim.” He had also reminded his audience what had been tolled: Tribalism stink and do not get close to it”. Haji Najiib was teaching the Musilm Oromoos to distance themselves from Oromummaa or Oromoo identity. Instead, he has persuaded them to make Islamummaa to replace Oromoo identity. In other words, Haji Najiib launched a minimum level of war against Oromoo nationalism and identity on the forum that a group of agitated Oromoo set up for him.

I have read very interesting and long comment made by Duula. I took some of his/her statements as it was with few words edition. Duula recognizes the right to self-expression and so do I. He wrote that he [Jawar Mohammed] has a right to do whatever he deems right to him, but as Oromoo nationalist we do not have the luxury of appeasing every one when we could not even appease ourselves. We do not have time to make media round, and talk about world peace when we have been denied peace on our own land Oromiyaa (biyyaa Oromoo). The world community will never rescue us it’s our responsibility to rescue ourselves. World community will never fight for us it’s our obligation to fight for ourselves, and the fight of media round alone will never liberate a nation either especially when you validate the superiority of your enemy.

Duulaa’s second point: I do understand this forum was organized by Muslim religious group, and he [Jawar] was invited as a guest speaker. However, one must be very diligent when attempting to associate religion and political affairs. The issues of religion and political affair are very sensitive issues. One has to be very clear in terms of what exactly they are saying, and explain it well so that it will not be murky and confusing to the audience. But, let’s make one thing very clear here, we will never be Islamic Republic of oromiya, we will never be christian Republic of Oromiyaa, and we will never be Waaqeffannaa Republic of Oromiyaa, we will only be INDEPENDENT DEMOCRATIC GADAA REPUBLIC OF OROMIYAA. We must always separate religion and state, so that we are not creating any confusion for our nation. We want a nation that respects every religion, but the interest of a nation always comes first. Everyone will have a right to practice their religion without the interference of the State, and at the same time religion should never interfere in the State affairs either. Thus, when taking stage and speaking about State and religion, one must make sure that people understand what exactly we are talking about, and we also have to make sure we are not confusing people. I think Jawar has failed to do that in this speech. I am sure his intention might be to make his audience in the auditorium feel comfortable, and tentative, but in tern he has raised many eye brows outside the auditorium. Also, we must not carry away/bogged down by this religion issues/agenda that TPLF has crafted/created for us simply to keep us busy. It’s one thing to creating our own agenda, but it’s totally different thing and very dangerous proposal to get mixed up in what Abyssinian has set up for us. Our primary goal is to be free from Abyssinian colonialism, so that we can do whatever we want within Independent Democratic Gadaa Republic of Oromiyaa. Once we free our nation from this brutal occupation, then everyone will be free to practice any religion they desire. But, right now, religion is not our top priority, but liberation of Oromiya is our top priority. I am not saying we should not talk about religion here, all I am saying is Independence comes first, and everything else comes next. [Duulaa]

Danygaaraa has written extensively in afaan Oromoo to sooth the tensions and concerns of Oromoos on the other side by trying to explain what Mr. Jawar Mohammed intended to say. He wrote: Muslima, Kristiyaana,Waaqeeffataa hundinuu nuuf walqixa. Ammoo yoo rakkoon Muslimarra gayaa jiruu kan ulfaatuufii hammaatu ta’a san olkaasanii irrati dubbachuun Oromoomummaa diiguu nati hinfakkaatu. Akkuma beeynuti Oromoon Muslima waan Oromoo Kristiyaanaatirra adda godhu nijria; kuniis Oromoon Muslimaa gabrummaa gruguddoo gara lamaatiitu irra ture ammallee irra jira: Tunis: gabrummaa sabummaa akka Oromooti (ta Oromoon hundi jala jirtu) akksumaas gabrummaafii cunqurfama amantii Islaamaa. Kun kan nama agarsiisu Oromoon Muslima curqursaa lamaan tana jalaa bahuuf qbasoo bilisummaa Oromoo cinati qabsoo amanti isaa kabachiisuutiis iti fufuu qaba. Yaadni kabajamaa Oromooticha ilma Oromoo obboo Jawar Mohamadiis kanuma ibsuu barbaade. [ Danygaaraa].

Danygaaraa, has taken a positive approach toward the speech and did his best to explain the intention of Jawar’s speech, which is commendable. From the opponents of the Jawar’s speech, however view differently with deep concern. They have genuine concerns and believe that Oromummaa and Islamummaa are not the same. The philosophical differences are very huge: Waaqeeffannaa, for example, is one of the components of authentic Oromummaa and world view while Christian and Islam are originally the world view of Middle Eastern Society. Christianity and Islam became the world major religions by taking advantage of power balance during slave trade and colonial era. Significant number of Oromoo had converted to Islam and Christian because of the power abuse, brutality and barbaric act against them by Abyssinian Kings such Menilk II and Yohannis II who were the follower of Christianity and guardian of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

It has well documented in the work of Jon Abbink (1998) those first followers of prophet Muhammadas were immigrated to Axum of Abyssinia, present northern part of Ethiopia to seek protection from the persecution of Quraysh trib in Mecca. The Christian king of Axum granted them safe heaven though the Quaryashy pursued to capture and take them back to Mecca. This historical fact has either implicit or explicit impacts on Muslims in Ethiopia including Oromoo when we address the issue of Abyssinian/Ethiopian colonization of Oromiyaa. The Oromoo Muslims have been marginalized and experienced double layer, if not more, oppressions. For example, Muslim Oromoo women have not double, but triple layer of oppressions: as an Oromoo , as Muslim and being women.

One must recognize, however, there was time in history when the Oromoo men and women had enjoyed freedom in their homeland known as independent Oromoo Gadaa Republic, Biyyaa Gadaa Oromoo. Before Christianity and Islamic influences the Oromoo Gadaa Society had had well-organized belief system, Waaqeffannaa, and well structure self-governance, the Oromoo Gadaa Government.

Gadaa Deebisaa has argued strongly that Oromummaa and Islamummaa are not complementary. Instead, both are inherently conflicting. According to his interpretation, Oromummaa is an indigenous identity while Islamumaa and Khristanummaa are exogenous identities that were imposed involuntarily referring to perhaps the era of slave trade when the Oromoo people accept both Islam and Christian to escape from slavery. I think Oromummaa has seen or understood as a unifying factor for contemporary diverse Oromoo nation in terms of religion, political ideology and social status. Most people understood the politics of Oromummaa in the context of being Oromoo, speaking Oromoo language (afaan Oromoo) and/ or supporting ongoing liberation struggle for Bilisummaa or Independence of Oromia. For these Oromoos it does not matter if they are practicing Christian, or Islam, or continually having foreign names for themselves and their children, dismembering themselves and families from the Oromoo Gadaa Institutional practices and age classes. To foster an authentic Oromummaa, all Oromoo social groups must be loyal to the authentic Oromoo Gadaa institutions, cultural traditions and religious practices. In this context, we need to rethink the true meaning of Oromummaa and identify culturally relevant variables and redefine it in meaningful ways so as to foster Oromummaa as shared value by all or majority Oromoo population.

I am convinced that being an Oromoo and speaking Afaan Oromoo simply do not foster the true meaning of Oromummaa and the integration of the Oromoo people. Language is a vehicle that transports values of the native speaker. For example, a written Bible or Quran in afaan Oromoo helps the Oromoo literature to advance. However, this does not necessary means it advances the Oromoo values. Many young Oromoo men and women go to the Pentecostal Church (widely known as Penxxee) because they mistakenly believed the evangelists in Oromiyaa foreign agents speaking afaan Oromoo and using it as a vehicle to transport the European values and life style within the Oromoo Gadaa Society at the expense of Oromoo Gadaa culture, tradition and beliefs.

Evangelists teach Oromoo children erroneously as if Oromoo Arts and Music are objects of sin and they have to distance themselves from it. The same is true for Oromoo who are the followers of Islam, except for their relative appreciation and enduring the Oromoo arts and music. Nevertheless, they also mistakenly believed that preaching Islam in afaan Oromoo would advance Oromummaa.

In practice, however it advances Isilamummaa just like Khirstanummaa. It seems to me offensive to the Oromoo tradition to hear that when a Muslim Oromoo elders invited to open or close Oromoo Community meetings or conferences in diaspora or in Oromiyaa set a tone by saying “Allahu Akbar” , which was once Arabs military marching song in 1950s; meaning “God is Great”, in English. This is not the way Oromoo Gadaa forefathers (Abbootti Gadaa Oromoo) had executed blessing traditionally. Thy start and end with Afaan Oromoo starting with Hayyee and ending with Hayyee!

I believe that we have to get out of such complacency. This is about honest debate. If we want have God given freedom, self-governance, we must strive for everything that is ours particularly the one that has inherent conflict with Oromummaa. We cannot mix chemicals that cannot be mixed together because it might cause life threat agent. I think Mr. Jawar Mohammad has mixed unfriendly elements, politics and religion, and he should not mix them. The reason why the Western world afraid of Iranian regime is the politics and religion in Iran are highly mixed and seen as one and the same by rulers. As the Oromoo cause, it seems self-contradictory and Hippocratic to say “all Muslims are brothers” when we have been the victims in the hand of neighboring Muslim countries. Let’s accept the fact that Oromoo are majority in Ethiopia as ethnic group and as Muslim. This does not mean that Oromiyaa is seeking for the membership of the Arab league. Oromiyaa shall seek to become the member of United Nations raising Black-Red-White [Gurraacha-Dimmaa-Adii (GaDAa)]. If being Muslim pays off why on earth the Somalis’ armed forces who are overwhelmingly Muslim have killed and evicted hundreds of thousand Oromoo communities from their forefathers’ homeland, Eastern Oromiyaa in May 2013? Why the Oromoo Liberation forces denied shelter and support from neighboring Muslim country if being Muslim makes us brothers by default?

In conclusion, Oromummaa and Islamummaa are two different animals. One must reframe from mixing religion with politics that undermine authentic Oromummaa. As Duula put it clearly that we must always separate religion and state, so that we are not creating any confusion for our nation. Thus, when taking stage and speaking about State politics and religion, one must make sure that people understand what exactly we are talking about, and we also have to make sure we are not confusing people. Oromoo identify is manifested in authentic Oromummaa which includes everyday activities of life such as bearing authentic Oromoo name that earned through Hammachiisaa, practicing genuine Oromoo Gadaa culture and traditions. We all are Oromoo not Muslim or Christian. Instead, we all are just the children Ilmaan Gadaa Oromoo. To revitalize the elements of authentic Oromummaa, we Ilmaan Gadaa Oromoo must come together under a pragmatic and genuine organizational leadership. We must make very clear our stands about authentic Oromummaa to our friends and foes that the Oromoo cause are not a leisure that one tries to capitalize on to pursue political and/or professional ambitions. The Oromoo struggle for liberation must be destined for Independent Gadaa Republic of Oromia/Oromiyaa from Abyssinian political colonization and foreign religious and cultural dominations. We ilmaan Gadaa Oromoo have a sacred duty to achieve these goals and restore the Oromoo people’s dignity and respect once again at whatever price. For now all we can do is hope for peace and united forces and resources of the ilmaan Gadaa Oromoo.

The Gadaa Republic of Oromiyaa shall be Free! Gadaan Oromoo Gabbina!