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Oromo Social Resentment: Re-envisioning Resentment Theory, an African Perspective.

Introduction

The Oromo are the largest single ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia, Northeast Africa. Oromia is the most populous regional state in Ethiopia with a total population of about 35 million by the 2007 census. (1) Twelve of the twenty largest urban dwellings in Ethiopia are located in Oromia, with Finfinne (Addis Ababa), the capital being at the center. (2) Contrary to the people's acute demand for democratic rights, the Tigre-led coalition of the ruling party "has remained centralist authoritarian in a manner reminiscent of previous regimes" (3) and declared itself legitimate by wining 99% of the May 2015 national election for a fifth term in power since 1992, despite the promised reforms towards democratic elections and ethnic federalism secular at the federal and state levels. Thus, in Ethiopia to date, after nearly thirty years of evil days of the war, famine, and social crisis that ran through 1991/1992, another round of structured state violence followed and affected negatively the everyday lives of the people. (4) As the Oromo national movement for freedom and democracy led by Qeerroo, the angry young (unmarried) Oromo boys and girls intensified, the Tigray elites-led regime declared another state of emergency as a plan to crackdown on the movement. It is yet to be seen if the state of emergency is not a challenge for the new Prime Minister, who comes from Oromia, to fully exercise his authority to change the status quo, to unleash the Qeerroo-led nonviolent movement, and most importantly, to bring to an end the Tigrayan elites' firm grip on political and economic power.

The Oromo resentment has two faces: political and ethical. Politically, the resentment is the feeling of being denied legitimacy and recognition of re/actions against injustices and domination and to the lack of genuine representation; and ethically, it is to the failure of Oromo elites to unite, to take responsibility to fight injustices and show dynamism and commitment to the established binding moral and legal norms (safuu) of the society. Thus, this study has significance in filling the continuing gap on empirical research in resentment in Oromo oppositional culture for freedom and democratic rights as it has implications for the moral/ethical responsibility of Oromo political elites. Based on available data, I argue that the dominant ideas of Oromo oppositional culture have been seen largely as the product of resentment, as negative reactionary stances to domination and exploitation, not as positive legitimate actions and forms of resilience in Oromo resistance culture. It is seen by many as an irrational endeavor for the Oromo people to claim the ongoing protest and national liberation struggle for their democratic rights as a legitimate quest while there was no ethno-nation or nationality in Ethiopia who did not experience oppression.

This paper is organized into three sections. Beginning with a brief background orientation in the first section about the Oromo and their country, Oromia, this study is an attempt to cast light on the nature of Oromo social resentment from an Oromo perspective. The second section details methods used in the study and it discusses the conceptual framework. In this section, the paper opens venue toward the critical examination of collective resentment and what constitutes resentment theory based on local knowledge.

The third and the empirical section of the paper establish and illustrate the ethical and political implications of Oromo resentment texts from Ethiopia's past and present. (5) This section grounds the study within the poetics and political dimensions of Oromo resentment patterns arising from the disenchantment and grief of loss embedded in unequal historical relationships in Ethiopia. Toward this goal, using some examples from Oromo narratives in my collections and texts available in print, the third section analyzes resentment discourse and grounds "resentment theory" in an Oromo context. The paper concludes by indicating that Oromo resentment discourse describes the social condition underlying repressed resentment, and it also points to opportunities for action by linking human agency or practice with prospects and emotion through motivation against structured violence.

Methods & Some Conceptual Framework

This is an interpretive and interdisciplinary study of Oromo social life perceived from an Oromo perspective and their resentment to the dire social phenomenon in which they live in Ethiopia's past and present. The data in this study are meaning-making human practices obtained through interviews and direct observations in the field between 2009 and 2010 in Oromia, central Ethiopia, and some came from available sources in print. The data encompass lived-experiences seen as meaningful and historically contingent human actions and attitudes recorded in songs, stories, and personal narratives over the years. In this view, the data are located within a particular setting and analyzed from particular standpoints of resentment theory by focusing on the specificity of the socio-historical context they come from.

Resentment Theory

Although in some contexts the two terms, 'resentment" and "resentiment," are used interchangeably, the English term "resentment" does not always carry a sense of lingering emotion that the French term "resentiment" carries. (6) Resentment indicates a sense of offense and feeling of ill-will toward another, whereas, in "resentiment," there are added connotations of lasting bitterness, that is, "a sense of animosity and acrimony of temper, action, or words that resentment does not necessarily carry." (7) With these deep-rooted semantic nuances between "resentiment" (haaloo) and "resentment" (quuqqaa), both senses of loss and grievance are understood, in this study, to have social roots in oppressions and inequalities in any system in which those placed at the bottom of hierarchy and differentiation receive less attention, services, and goods. Some scholars of ressentiment draw on Nietzsche and Max Schiler to conclude that it is wholly negative repressed emotions, "slave morality," affects associated with unacceptable emotions that are repressed as taboo, "outlaw emotions" inhibited by the body politic as unacceptable but provide 'clues to suppressed social relations'. (8) However, both senses of the oppressed, ressentiment and resentment are forms of knowledge of the human practices and responses to injustice suppressed by the body politic as unacceptable.

In Max Scheler's view, ressentiment takes its root in an individual or collective impotencies or weaknesses which the subject constantly suffers. (9) According to this view, the feeling of resentment wells up from psychic, mental, social, or physical impotencies, disadvantages, weaknesses or deficiencies of various kinds, and it can permeate a whole culture, era, and an entire moral system. Scheler explores ressentiment from two angles: ethical and political. (10) Based on Nietzsche's phenomenological account of the "genealogy of morals," Scheler treats "ressentiment" as a profound source of value judgment. From this ethical notion, he proposes two accounts of ressentiment. First, "ressentiment" is a feeling of hurt once again, a repeated experiencing of some emotional response reaction against some evil, which is delayed and removed from the person's zone of action and expression because of fear of consequences; not a mere intellectual recollection of the emotion but a "re-experiencing of it". (11) Second, "ressentiment" is a negative and reactive morality, a suppressed wrath which takes shape through a systematic repression of certain emotions and affects such as revenge, malice, hatred, impulse to detract, spite, envy, jealousy, and competitive urge. (12)

On the political scale, speaking of social ressentiment, Scheler affirms the importance of two factors, namely, the spread of discrepancy between the political, constitutional, or traditional status of a group, and the limited spread of factual power. To Scheler, "a potent charge of ressentiment is here accumulated by the very structure of society." That is, in a democratic society, social ressentiment would be slim and "tends toward equality of property," but in a class-divided society, "social ressentiment must be strong," an important determinant factor that influences established morality. (13) In the case of the Oromo, contrary to the fact that Oromo nationalism evolved out of the precipitating historical factors and resentment to political exclusion, economic exploitation, and cultural domination, Oromummaa (Oromoness), the underlying principle of Oromo nationalism, has been misconstrued as an ethnocentric orientation of a resentful nationalism, not as a legitimate creed of national struggle for constitutional and democratic rights. (14) Thus, Oromumma underlies Oromo resentment to any form of injustices.

The School of Resentment

In resentment studies, it is important to learn not just to take wrongs seriously, but also to examine claims of wrongs carefully (who makes the wrongs, to whom they are addressed, and how they are made; their performance and context). (15) In Oromo tradition, where the technologies of literacy (especially writing and print) are unfamiliar to most of the population, thought and its verbal expression is transmitted through folklore, the creative process and act, hence, a medium by which cultural transmission has been made possible and social transformation has been critiqued. Therefore, social criticism is an ideological and cultural nonconformity to injustices.

Marlia Banning is right to note in her "The Politics of Resentment" that discourse, particularly, critical discourse "knows no national or institutional border" and it can "impact the language, literacy, and rhetoric that circulate in local institutions of work, faith, learning, and civic life." (16) Next, I present briefly the critique of canonizing Western literary culture and its bias toward the social responsibility of creative process/act of the oppressed, branded as the School of Resentment.

The notion of resentment came to be an ideological battle ground in literary criticism, as in academic arenas, giving way to what Harold Bloom calls the School of Resentment. (17) The School's view, according to Bloom, is a leftist ideology against the primary goal of reading cannon, namely, a solitary aesthetic pleasure and self-insight, rather than the "forces of resentment". (18) Bloom argues that "a writer's dialogue with his literary forebears is far more crucial than the 'social energies' of his own time;" whereas, to the School, the Western canon perpetuates social ills and dominant values and blinds individuals to the social pretension and oppression around, the contents which Bloom sees as "ephemeral as shadows in The Cave". From Bloom's standpoint, it seems, the School of Resentment is composed of the ideologically oriented literary criticisms: Feminists, Historicists, Deconstructionists, Marxists, Lacanians, and Afrocentrists, among others, and its adherents who consider the Western canon to include works of the oppressed: Black people, Hispanics, and women. Thus, Bloom eulogizes canon: "We are," he asserts, "destroying all intellectual and aesthetic standards in the humanities and social sciences in the name of social justice." (19) The goal of "improving" one's society through creative resistance, for Bloom, is an absurd aim. By this account, John Steinbeck's masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, which powerfully portrays the desperate plight of Depression-era migrant workers whom the author felt had been abandoned by society, is absurd. Furthermore, those literary cannons of the oppressed, such as Things Fall Apart, Beloved, and the poems of resentment and resistance to ecocolonialism in the Rivers State by the late Ogony poet, Ken Saro Wiwa in Nigeria, are "ephemeral".

The feeling of repressed emotion or resentment is well captured in Alex Haley's Roots, in Tony Morrison's Beloved, or in Chinua Achebe's world classic Things Fall Apart. Those and other literary canons of resentment, which are rooted in African spirituality, cosmology, folk-psychology, death lore, and African personality, are examples of many other vibrant voices of the oppressed. Morrison portrayed cautiously the theme of African Americans' resentment, which is repressed by the fear of remembering the past, or more precisely, by the challenge of an "unmade self" composed of "re-memories" of the unsettled historical grief, the haunting past, signified in the novel by the attacking ghost of Beloved. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart is another exemplary literary cannon oriented by African folklore, and in which the author carefully wove the resentment of his people (and of Africa in general) and resistance to foreign rule and culture. The ecological activist poet, Ken Saro Wiwa of Ogony, Nigeria, was executed for his political ideal and revolutionary writings embedded in his ecopoetic analysis of his people's resentment to the eco-colonialism commanded by Shell Oil Company for over 50 years.

Antithetical to his own position, Harold Bloom eulogizes Walt Whitman as "the American Shaman," whose work we can understand, according to Bloom, "when we see in him a throwback to ancient Scythia, to strange healers who were demonic, who knew themselves to possess or be possessed by a magical or occult self." (20) However, it is not clear why Bloom fails to consider Tony Morrison as "the African American Shaman" who invokes the ghost to depict African Americans' loss of self, which could only be remedied by the acceptance of the past and the memory of their original identities. Bloom is not ignorant of the role Beloved serves as a masterpiece which is both aesthetically and thematically appealing to remind African Americans of their repressed memories, eventually causing the reintegration of their selves. I should add that the fixity of cannon is problematic, as Andrea Paris notes: "if the community could no longer see themselves represented by the cannon, the danger was for it to be no longer widely read and interpreted..." (21)

By another example, Harold Bloom's polemics against "engaged literature" reminds us of the neo-conservative "academic bill of rights" like the Ohio Senate Bill (S.B.) 24 which focuses on the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts and prohibits "critique and dissent in the public sphere to higher education, and challenges the authority of faculty and their professions to determine the subject matter and practices in a classroom." (22) It is another form of the "academic politics" used to crash resentment stated in Charles Hale's "Introduction" to Engaging Contradictions, a counterpoint to the standard admonition to graduate students entering social science and humanities: "Welcome, come in, and please leave your politics at the door." (23) And, by the same token, this is what is expected in Ethiopia,
"professors told Human Rights Watch that they refrain from criticizing
government policies because.all professors can be fired for speaking
their minds even when they do so in their personal capacity. The
government has made repeated promises to grant the university autonomy
through a charter since 1991 but has yet to do so." (24)


Following the most troubling reality of the political crisis in Ethiopia, when the Oromo rose up for their cause and sacrificed their life, it is hard to imagine Western powers to turn their back on them or to shove aside the issue simply as the problem of/for the Oromo or as a resentful nationalism heavy with negative agenda. The Human Rights Watch report of academic rights violation in Ethiopia adds that "The U.S. is even less inclined to demand respect for human rights in Ethiopia because it is completely dependent on the cooperation of this strategically located country, which borders Sudan and Somalia in the horn of Africa, as an ally in the U.S. war on terrorism." (25)

Hence, academic rights violation provokes resentment. Social critique as an embodiment of literary project or as an activist scholarship is distracted by repressive academic politics.

African Perspective

Available data show that African resistance to European colonialism was precipitated by the deep-seated resentment brewed in secret societies that led to local revolts such as the Aba Women's revolt of 1929 in rural Igbo, Nigeria, and many more revolts prior to the wars of decolonization leading to independence. (26) In Africa, religious and ethnic conflicts are often interrelated sites of volatile fault-line marked by major strikes and bloodsheds (e.g. Nigeria, Egypt). (27) In one recent report on religious beliefs and practices in 19 Africa south of the Sahara countries, "many Africans are deeply committed to Islam or Christianity and yet continue to practice elements of traditional African religions." (28) According to the survey, "roughly a quarter or more of the population in 11 countries say they believe in the protective power of juju (charms or amulets), shrines and other sacred objects." (29) Thus, African values are "shaped by African problems, needs and aspirations, expressed using symbols derived from the immediate African environment." (30) It is imperative to add that African spirituality is not a static spirituality of the past incapable of adaptation to the new situation, but it is a culture to which each African is born to live, practice, influence and be influenced by.

African resentment to the influences of Western culture includes the cultural bias inherent in Western science and technology (e.g., the scientific racism about Saartjie Baartman, DDT put in EPA toxicity class II but still exported to Africa), and the Christian disapproval of sacred ecology as part of African spirituality. Another example of African resentment relates to the negative impacts of science which is, to repeat Leopold Sedar Senghor, "humanizing nature" or more exactly "domesticating nature," and to the Western anthropocentric (humanist) worldview, i.e., to its views of dualism between culture (humanity) and nature (31)

The Politics and Poetics of Oromo Resentment

In this study the focus is on the notion of unacknowledged social resentment, an explosive force in unequal social relations, and more precisely, resentment against inequality and not holding remorse but a search for justice. Here the "poetics" deals with the "cultural work," which is considered as a creative expression of unequal historical relationship and agency, and the "politics" is the "resentment," the opposition from "below" in reaction to the structural effects of a coercive power on individuals' agency to perceive their situation and to exercise their own responsibility. The poetics and politics of resentment (quuqqaa) endures the new on the old experience and in so doing, it is neither new nor old, but it continually takes on a common stem rooted in the existing tradition.

By the long-established academic bias of the Ethiopian and Ethiopianist chroniclers, the Oromo people and their history, culture, worldview, and perspective were defaced as rootless and, instead, an "outside origin theory" introduced and repeated as fact until the early 1970s Oromo nationalism was intensified, and the reconstruction of Oromo history and knowledge production took momentum. (32)

The Politics of Resentment

To date, African Studies face multiple institutional contradictions and occasionally methodological challenges around divergent attitudes of unfinished projects of (ethno-) nationalism and maintaining the unity of the nation-state. For example, the conflict of "Oromoness" and/or "Ethiopiannes," "Biafranness" and/or "Nigerianness," etc. has been a major challenge of disregard for African heads of state for years both in historical and ideological contexts. African Studies is one of those intellectual locations where the far less well-discussed issues of how collaborative praxis and interdisciplinarity are deliberated, contradictions and challenges can be debated, and alternative ways can be sought about what should be the social responsibility of an Africanist today, and what is or what should be the academic concern of an African scholar and how to synchronize divergent attitudes. When people hold the notion of popular sovereignty as a nation, and attempt to transform the identity of their people and demand the right to self-determination, and in return, the nation-state represses the democratic rights enshrined in the constitution, then the unacknowledged resentment combines into a revolutionary discourse. The word of a resented young Biafran is a case in point as he declares his identity indignantly next as reported in VOA Africa News:
'I am supporting it [Biafra] because that is who I am,' says a senior
university student Sofuru Afah. 'Nigeria is an artificial creation by
the British. I am not a Nigerian and I have never been and I never
will. Buhari hates our people.' (33)


And the following comment tells much about the level of the resentment:
'If Nigerians (hausa/fulani) wants us (Biafrans) to stay as one, then
let them treat us as part and pacle of this one nigeria. Don't you know
that it pains to see majority of the oil wells being owned by
northerners who can kill an Igbo without reason. Nothing is going how
it should be; if your are a fulani man, your are licensed to kill. No
federal character. Infact the fulanis treat us as slaves hence, the
reason for seccestion. I love BIAFRA and wants it's actualisation.
Instead to die a coward, i rather die a hero.' (34)


Similarly, even though the fall of the Derg military junta in 1991 created an opportunity for democratization and transformation toward a new Ethiopia in which all citizens cherish equal civil, economic and political rights and where freedom of expression and participation are guaranteed, and above all, a system in which the supremacy of the rule of law was to be established, however, the following twenty-six years of marginalization, exploitation, and massive human rights violations left the country in a general disarray, and the Oromo in a continued dismay and resentment. Ethiopia ended 10 months of a state of emergency declared on October 9, 2016, to subdue the persistent Oromo protest in Oromia through brutal forces and now followed by another state of emergency which put Oromia under a brutal military rule. The perceived democratization of Ethiopia and the much promised equality and stability, the right to self-determination inscribed in the Constitution and the rule of law seem to be postponed indefinitely; thus, to date, with the ever-growing resentment and disenchantment of its citizens, Ethiopia is stuck at the crossroads of decolonization and democratization or disintegration. (35)

The Poetics of Oromo Resentment

The Oromo are not typically characterized as resentful people; rather they are peace-loving (nagaa) and law-abiding (seera/heera) people. The Boorana Oromo notion of nagaa (peace), (36) the Salale Oromo waadaa (covenant), the Macca Oromo non-violence principle of araara (arbitration/appeasement), (37) the general guddifacha (adoption) institution are typical examples of the Oromo views of peace and solidarity. It has been generally agreed among the Oromo and non-Oromo scholars that there are diverse ways of being Oromo but among the unifying elements are the notions of nagaa (peace) and waadaa (covenant), (38) and araara (arbitration/appeasement), which are part of the Oromo generational knowledge (beekumsa/oguma), and traditional religion (waaqeffanna). (39) The guddicfacha institution is an individual (usually male) or group (ethnic/clan) adoption, which involves a symbolic ritual, "for the purpose of family continuity or social security." (40) The domestic communal rituals of greetings, blessings, and prayers, arbitration, and cooperatives are other aspects of the nagaa (peace), safuu (moral system) and waadaa (covenant) Oromo institutions and prosperity for all to which an Oromo individual is introduced from an early age. (41)

It is hard to think of the Oromo perspective in isolation from an African personality which generally refers to the manifestations of cultural uniqueness among African people as reflected in an individual's behavior and attitude, social norms, values, beliefs, religion, attitudes, worldviews or explanations of the cosmos and the supernatural, and the social and political systems of historical and contemporary society. This perspective determines the notion of "development," which, Walter Rodney writes, "in human society is a many-sided process. At the level of the individual, it implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility, and material well-being,"... depending on age, class (in absence of an egalitarian system) and "one's personal code of what is wrong... very much tied in with the state of the society as a whole." (42) Hence, the Oromo worldview: NUTU KANA, NATU AKKANA! meaning, WE ARE, THEREFORE, I AM!

Even though religion (Christianity/Islam) is one among many other tributaries to African resentment, it had played a number of roles in intensifying resistance, including inspiring action, creating community, and buttressing courage among movement participants. Studies make it clear that ideas expressed and promoted by intellectuals, especially those of Cheikh Anta Diop of Senegal, thus, Diopian thought as it is called, involve cultural unity, transnationality, and shared cultural continuity across African peoples, despite ethnic and linguistic differences. (43)

Folksongs and Contemporary Narratives

The themes of the songs are land and eviction from ancestral home, unlawful arrest, displacement, and mass killings, and liberation. This collective shared experience of disenchantment has been articulated in Oromo folksongs and contemporary narratives over the years at different levels of safuu (moral system). (44) In this Macca Oromo song of Masqala, the New Year seasonal festival in September, the maidens prompt the youth / qeerroo as morally responsible to break the silence, and to end atrocities, once and for all:
Boqqolloo qoti qoricha beelaa
Dargaggoon keenya lola kajeelaa
Korma sandaaboo gaafasaan beekuu
Garaa waa yaadu duubumaan beekuu
Qilleensa birraa daraaraa keelloo
Sirbaa qajeelaa maraataan qeerroo

Satisfy your hunger, produce corn
Our youth longs to fight, to bellow
One can tell a vying bull by its horn
As one can tell uneasy gut by its sorrow
Whirl wind whirl wind, oh daisy flower
Our youth longs to dance and to soar


Similarly, this next song is a symbolic representation of a strong relationship the Oromo have with their land:
Yaa Oromoo, ya saba guddaa garaa qulqullu
Qonnee nyaanna lafa hin gurgurru!

Oh, Oromo, the great nation on earth
Say no to land grab and yes to till it! (45)


A Song of Displacement (SD)

Today, Finfinne, renamed Addis Ababa, is expanding sideward uncontrollably by evicting the Oromo peasants surrounding the capital. The regional statistical data shows that about 91% of the population near Finfinne are engaged in agriculture and cattle rearing. (46) The city is overwhelmed by a growing population, and there is a consequent acute demand for land to implement the controversial Addis Ababa city integrated Master Plan. (47)

SD is a theme of significance, resentment, and historical grief, and the reclamation continued to this day. It is the theme of reclaiming a broken place, a place once revered as a sacred site now wrecked by pollution, eviction, displacement, marginalization, and desecrated by prostitution, (48) a place which the Oromo consider as their traditional and constitutional home of gadaa. (49) The historical song of displacement presented next is a contextualized experience of dislocation and eviction suffered by the Oromo around Finfinne over 100 years ago, and is believed to be a typical example of Gullale Oromo resentment songs that can be titled "Hafe!"/"No More!":
Inxooxxoo irra bahanii
Caffee ilaauun hafee
Finfinne loon geessanii
Hora obaasuun hafee
5 Oddoo Daalattiirratti
Yaa'iin Gullallee hafee
kooraa Dhakaa Araaraa
jaarsummaa taahuun hafee
Hurufa Boombiirratti
10 Jabbilee yaasuun hafee
Gafarsatti darbanii
Qoraan cabsachuun hafee

Bara jarri dhjufanii
loon keenyas in dhumanii
15 Eega Mashashaan dhufee
Birmadummaan in hafe
No more standing on the Inxooxxo hilltop,
to watch the meadow and wild grass below, no more
no more taking cattle to Finfinne,
to water at the mineral spring. no more

No more gathering on Oddo Daalattii,
where the Gullalle assembly used to meet, no more
no more elders' counsel,
at Dhakaa Araaraa, no more
No more taking calves,
to the meadow at Hurufa Boombii, no more
No more going to Gafarsa,
to collect firewood, our maiden, no more
the year the enemy came,
our cattle perished.
Since Mashasha came,
Freedom vanished. (50)


This SD is an evidence that historically, Finfinne and its surrounding was the home of the Gullalle (and Ekka, Galan, and Abbichu) Oromo who were evicted in the 19th century by the Shawan rulers, Sahle Selassie (reigned 1813-1847), and later by his grandson, Menilik II (r. 1889-1913) from each and every place named in the song. Traditionally, Finfinne served as a ritual site of sacred spring, grazing land, meeting ground and horse-riding (gugsii) for the Tulama Oromo living in close distance surrounding the city. Through a creative imagination and spatial representation of this significant place Finfinne, the heartland of Oromia, and through continuous resistance, the Oromo challenged evictions, land grabs, atrocities, and eco-colonial and crony capitalist injustices not only to reclaim Finfinne, but also to exercise fully their democratic rights, and the right to self-determination.

It is very evident in the SD that there are "'essential human needs and essential human powers' in order to survive and develop fully." (51) Those basic needs and self-actualizing powers that the "people who were colonized and dominated cannot adequately satisfy include: (a) biological needs, (b) sociability and rootedness, (c) clarity and integrity of self, (d) longevity and symbolic immortality, (e) self-reproduction in praxis, and (f) maximum self-determination," (52) the human attributes which one cannot assume without connectedness to the environment.

Social Commentary

As a social critique to condemn oblivion and indifference, and to appeal to the people's sense of justice, the following proverbial metaphors are evident:
Nami mana tokko ijaaru, citaa wal hin saamu.
Walii galan, alaa galan.
Illeensi marga ofirratti hin dheeddu
Risaan mannee ofiititti hin hagu

Those who build a common house use a common resource
(thatching grass) fairly and properly.
Only if they reach an agreement, so can they come home safely and
promptly
A rabbit does not eat & ruin the grass around its own den
An eagle does not poop in its own nest (53).


Using such rhetorical devices, the Oromo decry the awful conflicts and senseless divisions among Oromo political elites. The Oromo liberation struggle for democratic rights has been slowed down by various factors. First, the Ethiopian regime sought to assert and maintain its power indefinitely using lethal force. Second, while the ongoing #OromoProtest is intensified, instead of reorganizing themselves, cooperating and forming an organizational alliance, Oromo political elites are caught up in dilemma about crusading for "Ethiopianness" on one hand and "Oromoness" on the other. This conundrum has been overextended, and has hindered the long protracted struggle, and reduced it to clashes of interest over power. Consequently, the struggle suffered major setbacks such as the lack of ideological clarity, purpose, commitment, and organizational discipline, i.e., transparency and dynamism, among others. (54)

The following song is a typical example of such a social critique about interventions by local officials in the daily lives of the people:
Daanyaa har'a dabballeen kudhanii!
Maaltu hammaannaan shimala keenya gubanii?

Local officials, cadres, are multiple today!
Why they burn our sticks and swell our dismay?


I observed a group of angry young Salale Oromo who performed the above folksong and many more at Kurfa, near Shararo (Debra-Tsigie), in 2010. During the religious observance of Saint Mary's procession, boys and girls joined and performed songs of defiance when the police and local officials confiscated sticks from the boys and burnt them. Local officials, also known as Kebele councils, form the primary unit of administration, (55) and determine eligibility for food assistance, recommend referrals to health care and schools, and provide access to state-distributed resources like seeds, fertilizers, and other essential agricultural inputs based on loyalty to the government. And also run the community social courts, which deal with minor claims and disputes at the kebele level, local prisons, and local-level militia. (56) The song below is one of the typical examples of Oromo resentment songs composed and performed to invigorate resistance and challenge the unbearable human condition in which they found themselves. This particular song is about a helpless, passive milk cow representing Oromia, a bread-basket of Ethiopia, with adequate natural resources, but its people are kept in abject poverty:
Burre yaa gaaddidduu
booso maa si elmatti
dhiittee hin didduu?

Oh, Burre, the lactating cow,
how could strangers milk you,
how dare they, how? (57)


A Song of Love, Themes of Alienation & Resentment

Most recently a lyric song titled "Maalin Jira!" meaning, "Distracted!" (2015), by the young Oromo artist, Hacaaluu Hundeessaa has gone viral on social media as it taps into the Oromo people's feelings of alienation, deprivation and resentment. The song expresses precisely the resentment of an individual who has been harassed and removed from his/her ancestral home, and in effect, is broken by strong feelings of homesickness, melancholy, and his/her mind is troubled by nostalgia and grief of historical loss and woeful love.

For the Gullalle, Galan, and the Abbichu near Finfinne, the grief of the loss of their ancestral home, became rather discrete and challenging experience following the subjugation by Minilek in the second half of the 19th century. Those Oromo clans who were evicted from Finfinne continued a non-violent resistance and sang, narrated, and performed the bitterness of losing their ancestral home. The lines below reiterate the deep-rooted resentment:
Gullalleen kan Tufaa
Gaara Abbichuu turii
Galaan Finfinnee dha..see
Silaa akka jaalalaa
Walirraa hin fagaannuu
Jara t' nu fageessee!

Gullalle of Tufaa
Abbichu's hilly land
And Finfinne of Galan
Love contains all
We never chose to grow apart,
But they pushed us to fall!


The ethnonyms above, Gullalle, Galan, Abbichu are also toponyms, not names used just to indicate the topographic features of the lands, but also to represent lineages of the same name under the Tulama Oromo branch.

The bitterness was subdued by fear of repression and ostracism imposed by "Jara"/"Others," the oppressors (line 6) throughout Oromo history until the nation/region-wide Oromo Protest broke out in 2014 anew. Hence, the singer critiques the lack of unity and solidarity by alluding to his beloved whom he misses gravely:
Diiganii, gaara sana
Gaara diigamuu hin malle
Nu baasan adaan baane
Nu addaan bahuu hin malle

Level that hill
Not easy to bulldoze
They rendered us asunder
The division we never chose


The feelings represented as intimate sentiment are shared through expressive culture, i.e., songs, narratives, and performances. Thus, this lyric is typical of a resentment song in which a sense of having been treated unfairly provokes frustration and rebellion:
Maalan jira, maalan jira
Ya Galaane maalan jira
Caccabsee na nyaatee garaa

An hin jiru ya Galaane
An hin jiruu,
Kukkutee na nyaate tiruu!

Distracted, alienated,
Oh, beloved, am ruined
Gut broken, torn, unhinged.
Oh, Galaane, am in limbo
Broken heart
Mutilated and hurt.


One can see in this example the multiplicity of negative feelings of anger, hatred, and sense of injustice, disappointment, contempt, and disgust that inform the art, and the artist in a given historical context. Resentment takes a shape of reaction when it bursts out as a desire for revenge as showed in the above lines that indicate the ruined organs, and a broken system.

The issue of Oromo nationalism has been one of the preferred topics in both academic and popular discourse over the last few decades. However, its vagueness and significant emotional content often remains murky in the Ethiopianist discourses surrounding it. In this article, by taking one step back and looking at Oromo national struggle through the lens of songs, one can see the process by which folksongs and the popular culture merge to create a sense of resentment.

As in the works of Hacaaluu Hundeessaa (Tuulama Oromo) and Abbush (Boorana/Guji), to mention but a few, provide a source of identity and strategic traditionalism, the folkloric elements in Hacaaluu's song (korma didaa, harqoota, adda baasuu, gaara, garaa, an hin jiru). Those songs engage a listener heavily with the historical Oromo resentment to alienation, estrangement, exploitation, and, a divide-and-rule policy. Hacaaluu's later song, "Jirra!" (Survived/Thrived!"), is rather a more optimist verve in reaction to the ever resilient Qeerroo (Oromo Youth League) and their courage, commitment, and perseverance to uphold the nonviolent principle which forced the regime to fall apart, the Prime Minister to resign, and the thousands of prisoners of conscience to be released. The narrative voice may not embrace conformism, reform and collaboration, but confrontation and defiance.

What is more, through performing the narratives of historical losses, which is traditionally spread by word-of-mouth into pop culture the Oromo resentment and resistance to injustices is spread beyond its social base to inform both the song and the singer, as the beliefs and opinions about alienation become solidified in the resistance process in the same way as folklore evolves.

Shaping Resentment Discourses: A Coda

In this study, the primary goal has been to examine the collective agency and contemporary forms of cultural works or poetics of resentment at the local level. Toward this end, it presented some examples of folkloric criticism on the politics of resentment to show that the poetics of resentment is a creative reaction to injustices which, if left unacknowledged, combines to form a cultural politic to critique the deprivation, alienation, exploitation, and uneven distribution of resources the local people resent gravely. Drawing on Marlia Banning's notion of "cultural politic," I conclude by restating discourses of resentment via two works: cultural work and political work. They "do the cultural work of shaping the meaning and value given to issues, and they do the political work of deflecting public attention (and discussion) away from basic political questions such as who receives what goods in society." (58) The examples of Oromo cultural expressions showed that the body politic and its surrogates maneuver the political work of resentment discourse through its coercive measures or structured violence including media, police and cadres, to which the general public reacts creatively through the cultural work of songs, stories, and performing nationalism, which often ends awfully. (59) Using embodied practices of cultural works the body politic conditions public spaces for its own agenda. (60) There has been no single storyline so far about the end goal of Oromo national liberation struggle as two lines of Ethiopianness and Oromoness are still zigzagging about three major concerns: democratic rights, economic freedom, and peace. There is no doubt how crucial performing nationalism is for the sustenance of national spirit and to expressing resentment. What needs further study is how to set in "historically derived relationships of domination in which peasants were subsumed," to borrow from Allen Isacmann, (61) thus, the strategic logic of unstructured non-violent protest in the face of structured violence and lethal force in Africa today.

by

Assefa Tefera Dibaba, Ph.D.

atdibaba@umail.iu.edu

Indiana University, Bloomington (USA)

In its narcissistic monologue, the colonialist bourgeoisie, byway of its academics, had implanted in the minds of the colonized, that essential values--meaning Western values--remain eternal despite all errors attributable to man.

Franz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth, p.ll)

Notes

(1) Central Statistical Agency (2008), "Table 5: Population size of Regions by Nations/Nationalities (ethnic group) and Place of Residence: 2007," Census 2007 (PDF), Addis Ababa: Central Statistical Agency, p. 16, Table 2.2, archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2016.

(2) Oromia: Facts (Year Book). (Finfinne: Published by Office of the President, 2010); Central Statistical Agency (CSA) of Ethiopia, 2007.

(3) See Jon Abbink, "Discomfiture of Democracy? The 2005 Election Crisis in Ethiopia and Its Aftermath," African Affairs, 105/419, (2006), pp.173-199. See also John Markakis, in his historical profile of the country engaged in the endless process of contestable nation-state building, notes, "Waged against determined opposition, it [Ethiopia] has incited endless conflict and stained the pages of the country's history with the blood of generations. Today the struggle continues, and so does the bloodshed and the misery it brings" (p xvii). See John Markakis, Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers. Woodbridge, Suffolk: James Currey.

(4) "Evil Days: 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia." An African Watch Report, New York. September 1991.

(5) FAO May 2017, "Ethiopia Situation Report" Available on http://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-situation-report-may-2017?utm_medium=social& utm_campaign=shared& utm_source=facebook.com. Retrieved May 16, 2017. See also "Evil Days: 30 Years of War and Famine in Ethiopia." An African Watch Report, New York. September 1991.

(6) Marlia E. Banning, "The Politics of Resentment," JAC, Vol. 26, No. 1/2 (2006), pp. 67-101, p73.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid., p74.

(9) Max Scheler, Ressentiment (Marquette Studies in Philosophy) 1994, with a foreword of Manfred Frings.

(10) The word "resentiment" originates from French "ressentir," re-, intensive, prefix, and sentir "to feel," hence, "to feel again." The English word has become synonymous with anger and spite. See Manfred S Frings, 2nd ed., Max Scheler: A Concise Introduction into the World of a Great Thinker. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1996.

(11) Chielozona Eze, "Resentment and the African Condition: An Inquiry," Journal of African Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 2005. See also Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality. Maudemarie Clark & Alain J. Swensen, trans. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1988), xxix.

(12) Max Scheler, "Ressentiment" (1912-1915), trans by Louis A. Coser from the text of 1915, pp2, 9.

(13) Ibid., pp7-8.

(14) Speaking of the young Oromo protesters, preferably Qeerroo, Messay Kebede writes "...I want to remind that most of the young Oromo protesters have no idea of Ethiopia as a unitary nation: as the established political system forces them to do, they see Ethiopia as a collection of different nations." See Messay Kebede, "Then and Now: A Rejoinder to my Critics," Available on http://www.ayyaantuu.net/then-and-now-a-rejoinder-to-my-critics-messay-kebede/. This echoes the debate began 47 years ago in the then Haile Selassie I University among the students about "Ethiopianness" and "Oromoness" or Ethiopia being a prison house of ethno-nations and nationalities in the writings such as the controversial poem titled "Ethiopiawew Manew?" ("Who is an Ethiopian?") by Mr Ibsa Gutama.

(15) See Alice MacLachlan, "Unreasonable Resentments," Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 41 No. 4, Winter 2010, 422-441. p422.

(16) Marlia Banning, "The Politics of Resentment," Journal of Advanced Composition (JAC), 26. 1-2 (2006), p68. p69.

(17) French, R. W. "Bloom, Harold. The Western Canon [review]. Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 12 (Fall 1994), 117-120. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.13008/2153-3695.1442.

(18) Dan Geddes. Literature as Cultural Memory. "Bloom's Elegy for Western Literature--The Western Canon." A book review. February 2001. Available at http://www.thesatirist.com/books/western_canon.html.

(19) Ibid, p117

(20) Ibid., 119.

(21)Mihaela Irimia et al., eds., Literature and Culture. NV, Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke, Brill, 2017, p104

(22) Marlia Banning, "The Politics of Resentment," p69.

(23) Charles R. Hale, C. R. (Ed.). (2008). Engaging contradictions: Theory, politics, and methods of activist scholarship. Berkeley, CA: GAIA Books, Global, Area, and International Archive, U. of California Press, p1.

(24) Human Rights Watch, Ethiopia. Report, Vol. 15, No. 2 (A) - January 2003, p4.

(25) p4.

(26) The rural Igbo women resentment was to the British colonial administration which put an impending tax policy and control over culture by violating the women's rights to social and economic autonomy hitherto maintained by Igbo tradition. See "Aba Women's Riots (November-December 1929)," Online Encyclopedia Index, available on http://www.blackpast.org/gah/aba-womens-riots-november-december-1929. See also Allen Isaacman, "Peasants and Rural Social Protest in Africa," African Studies Review. Vol. 33, No. 2 (Sep., 1990), pp. 1-120.

(27) Tracy Miller, ed. "Tolerance & Tension: Islam & Christianity...," p38.

(28) Tracy Miller, ed. "Tolerance & Tension: Islam & Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa," Pew Forums on Religion and Public Life, 2010. Available on http://www.pewforum.org/files/2010/04/sub-saharan-africa-full-report.pdf. See also Pew Researcher Center http://www.pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=524, pp33-35.

(29) Ibid. p33.

(30) Sussy Gumo et al. "Communicating African Spirituality....," p523.

(31) Leopold Sedar Senghor. Prose and Poetry. John Reed and Clive Wake, trans. (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 32. See Krista Harper, "'Wild Capitalism' and 'Ecocolonialism': A Tale of Two Rivers" (2005). American Anthropologist. 72. http://scholarworks.umass.edu/anthro_faculty_pubs/72. See also Martha L. Henderson, "Revealing the origin of human-nature dualities in Christian political structures," Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers 74 (01), (2012), pp15-27. See also Vinay Srinivasan, "The Separation of Humans and Nature as it Relates to Environmental Degradation," (2014). 2014 Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award. http:// scholarship.claremont.edu/cclura_2014/4.

(32) Linda T. Smith reminds us of Albert Memmi's "series of negations" here: "The fact that indigenous societies had their own systems of order was dismissed through what Albert Memmi referred to as a series of negations: they were not fully human, they were not civilized enough to have systems, they were not literate, their languages and modes of thought were inadequate. As Fanon and later writers such as Nandy have claimed, imperialism and colonialism brought complete disorder to colonized peoples, disconnecting them from their histories, their landscapes, their languages." Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books. 1999, p28.

(33) See Chika Odua, "Biafran Secessionist Movement Grows Stronger in Nigeria," On VOA News.Com. Available at http://www.voanews.com/a/biafran-secessionist-movement-grows-nigeria/3873873.html. Updated May 28, 2017.

(34) Ibid.

(35) Leenco Lata. The Ethiopian State at the Crossroads: Decolonization and Democratization or Disintegration? Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press, INC.

(36) Mario I. Aguilar. "The Peace of the Boorana," New People, 27 (1993), pp10-11.

(37) Assefa Tefera Dibaba. "God speak to us": performing power and authority in Salale, Ethiopia," Journal of African Cultural Studies, 2014 Vol. 26, No. 3, 287-302.

(38) Ibid.

(39) Mario I. Aguilar, "Keeping the Peace of Waso Borana," Being and Becoming Oromo eds. Baxter, P.T.W, Jan Hultin and Alessandro Truilzi, Nordiska Afrika Institutet, Uppsala (1996) pp 190-201.

(40) Tesema Ta'a, The Political Economy of an African Society in Tranformation: the Case of the Macca Oromo (Ethiopia), Otto Harrassowitz GmbH & Co KG, Wiesbaden, 2006, p41.

(41) Mario I. Ahuilar, ibid. (1996), p198.

(42) Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Tanzania Publishing House and Bogle L'Ouverture Publications. 1973.

(43) Cheikh, Anta Diop, The Cultural Unity of Negro Africa (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1963), English translation: The Cultural Unity of Black Africa, (London: Karnak House: 1989), pp. 53-111. See also Molefi Kete Asante, "Cheikh Anta Diop: An Intellectual Portrait" (U of Sankore Press: December 30, 2007).

(44) Lambert Bartels,. Oromo Religion: Myth and Rites of the Western Oromo of Ethiopia- an Attempt to Understand, Berlin: Reimer, 1983, 89. See also Gemetchu Megerssa, "The Oromo Worldview", Interdisciplinary Seminar of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies 1 (June 6-7, 1998), 41.

(45) This is a widely chanted and repeated song on Oromo Protests led by Qeerroo, the Oromo youth league.

(46) Oromia Facts, (Year Book). (Finfinne: Published by Office of the President, 2010); Central Statistical Agency (CSA) of Ethiopia, 2007. See also Alain Gascon's "Shawa, Ethiopia's Prussia. Its Expansion, Disappearance and Partition," in Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, ed. by Svein Ege, et al. (2009, 85-98).

(47) The rightful claim to Finfinne was put succinctly in the 1995 Constitution: "The special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa, regarding the provision of social services or the utilization of natural resources and other similar matters, as well as joint administrative matters arising from the location of Addis Ababa within the State of Oromia, shall be respected. Particulars shall be determined by law," Article 49 (5) of the Constitution (1995). Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 1995, Article 49 (5).

(48) Bethlehem Tekola, "Urbanization and Prostitution in Ethiopia: A Historical Sketch" in Narratives of three Prostitutes in Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University, Center for Research Training and Information for Women in Development (CERTWID), 2002. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/245109004_Narratives_of_three_prostitutes_in_Addis_Ababa

(49) Gadaa is an egalitarian cultural and political system by which the Oromo administered themselves. Legal matters were discussed and the law laid down or reiterated at caffee (a meadow where assembly meet) to protect human and non-human, and to reenact the safuu social/moral order. See Asafa Jalata, "Gadaa (Oromo Democracy): An Example of Classical African Civilization," The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.1, (March 2012), pp.126-152, p126. See also Asmarom Legese, Gada. New York: The Free Press. (1973).

(50) Griefenow-Mewis, Catherine and Tamane Bitima, Oromo Poetry Seen from Within. Koln: Rudiger Koppe Verlag, 2004, pp42-43. Dajjach Mashasha is the son of Abeto Sayfu Sahla Selassie (Ras Darge's half-brother).

(51) "Gadaa (Oromo Democracy): An Example of Classical African Civilization," The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.1, March 2012, p128. See also Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression, (New York: Plenum Press), (1985), p262.

(52) Ibid.

(53) Informal communications with the Oromo in the Diaspora and back home, Oromia.

(54) Assefa Tefera Dibaba. in "Founding a National Council of Oromia: Sketching a Roadmap for the National Oromo Liberation Struggle." A Paper read at the 30th Aniversary of Oromo Studies Association, July, 2016. Washington, D.C.

(55) See Human Rights Watch Report, "One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom of Expression and Association in Ethiopia, (2010)"

(56) Getiye Gelaye, sub-topic "Local Officials," p9.

(57) Gammachu Dadhi, 2008, Finfinne.

(58) Marlia Banning, p71.

(59)The Irreecha Massacre, October 2, 2016, Bishoftu Incidents:

a)The youth decry the TPLF-led government: https://www.tesfanews.net/irreecha-massacre-hundreds-oromo-festival-dead-bishoftu/. b) Police use tear gas & open fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBwSh-kaCBM. c) The Government gives deceptive remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6cSzgiZdc8.

d) Public reaction to the PM's account from the Oromo side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0mCllVjld4.

(60) Kyle J. Anderson, "Performing Nationalism: Peasant Consciousness and the Dinshaway Incident in Rural Egyptian Popular Culture." submitted to the Department of Near EasternStudies, Cornell University, Working Paper.

(61) Allen Isaacman, ibid.

References

Abbink, Jon. "Discomfiture of Democracy? The 2005 Election Crisis in Ethiopia and Its Aftermath," African Affairs, 105/419, (2006), pp.173-199.

Aguilar, Mario I. "The Peace of the Boorana," New People, 27 (1993), pp10-11.

Aguilar, Mario I., "Keeping the Peace of Waso Borana," Being and Becoming Oromo eds.

Anderson, Kyle J., "Performing Nationalism: Peasant Consciousness and the Dinshaway Incident in Rural Egyptian Popular Culture." submitted for the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Cornell University, Working Paper.

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MacLachlan, Alice. "Unreasonable Resentments," Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 41 No. 4, Winter 2010, 422-441. p422.

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