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The emergence of Oromo nationalism and Ethiopian reaction.

The Oromo national movement has evolved from scattered, localized, and cultural resistances of Oromos to Ethiopian colonial domination and its supporters.(1) The emergence of a few nationalist and revolutionary Oromo intellectual and professional groups played a decisive role in transforming the Oromo struggle and providing it with an organized and centralized leadership. Oromo nationalist discourse has challenged both academic and Ethiopian nationalist discourses that have reduced Oromos to an object of history by portraying them as a people with neither a history nor civilization. Focusing on the main features of Oromo democratic traditions and culture, Oromo nationalists have celebrated an Oromo identity and mobilized their cultural resources as an ideological tool. Ethiopians have been very resistant to the emergence of Oromo nationalism because Oromos are the numerical majority, and Ethiopia mainly depends on Oromo economic and labor resources. Therefore, rather than deal democratically with the Oromo national movement, Ethiopians have tried their best to totally destroy it. After finding the destruction of this movement to be impossible, various Ethiopian organizations and the Ethiopian state have recently struggled to shape it according to their respective interests via the creation of puppet organizations. Despite these obstacles, the Oromo national movement has blossomed and become a formidable political force that Ethiopians must deal with, either militarily or democratically. This essay discusses the origin and essence of Oromo nationalism and the possible consequences of the military approach; it also suggests the prospects for peaceful, democratic conflict resolution between Oromos and Ethiopians.

The emergence of Oromo nationalism has raised fears and partisan battles in different political corners in Ethiopia. The Ethiopians or Habashas fear that once the Oromo gain access to political power, they could play a decisive role due to their numerical strength and abundant economic resources. Currently, Oromo nationalism is blossoming. The existence of different religions, lifestyles, and large territories could not prevent the development of Oromo nationalism; this reality shattered many assumptions about the Oromo held by most Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars. Recognizing that they cannot stop the Oromo struggle for national self-determination, the Ethiopian colonial ruling class and its state are now more concerned with the idea of shaping the Oromo national movement according to their interests. The emergence of a few nationalist intellectual and professional groups in Oromo society has played a decisive role in fundamentally transforming the scattered, localized, and culturally based Oromo resistance into an Oromo national movement. This movement has emerged as a cultural and political movement to challenge and transform the Ethiopian colonial system.

The Oromo issue is paradoxical. They represent a political minority, but a numerical majority in the Ethiopian Empire.(2) With the assistance of the European imperialist powers, Ethiopia incorporated the Oromo during the second half of the last century.(3) Since then, the Ethiopian colonial state has dominated the Oromo with the help of the imperial interstate system, exploited their resources, repressed their culture, and negated their history (Jalata, 1993). Cabral (1973:41) demonstrates that colonial domination "is the negation of the historical process of the dominated people by means of violently usurping the free operation of the process of development of the productive forces." Under the Ethiopian colonial system, the Oromo have lost their autonomous historical and cultural development and they have been denied institutional power. Therefore, the Oromo national movement aims to re-create an Oromo political power that will enable the Oromo to have institutional power in the cultural, educational, and economic arenas.

Colonization and Cultural Repression

Oromos and Ethiopians fought one another between the 16th century and the last decades of 19th century, with neither able to impose colonial establishments over the other (Jalata, 1993: 36-37). For that reason, Levine (1974: 128) considers these two peoples to be "great historical antagonists." In localized and scattered ways during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the Oromo resisted Ethiopian colonial expansion and domination militarily and culturally (Hassen, 1981; Marcus, 1969; Triulzi, 1977; Jalata, 1993). Lewis (1993: 11), who has studied some Oromo communities for nearly three decades, asserts that "in the case of the Oromo...the basis for an ethnic movement, for ethnic awareness, is already there among `the masses' who live in the countryside." Yet some Ethiopianists, such as Perham (1969: 377) and Clapham (1969: 81), confidently declared the absence of an Oromo consciousness that would unite the Oromo for political action against Ethiopian domination. Levine (1974) denied the existence of a unified Oromo identity. Such scholars never seriously studied Oromo society; as we shall see shortly, they were unwilling even to use the term Oromo, by which these people always referred to themselves. Their basic assumptions were that the Oromo would gradually disappear through assimilation or Ethiopianization.

Smith (1981: 2) asserts that:

Liberals have generally taken the view that, as mankind moved from a

primitive, tribal stage of social organization towards large-scale

industrial practices, the various primordial ties of religion, language,


and race which divided it would gradually but inexorably lose their hold

and disappear.

Most Marxists also hold similar views. The assertion of many modernization and Marxist theorists that the colonized populations, such as the Oromo, would disappear through assimilating to the colonizing nation is groundless. There have been fundamental conflicts between the dominant and the dominated ethnonational groups because of unequal access to power, wealth, and cultural resources. Historical evidence demonstrates that racism and ethnocentrism have been used in maintaining such racial and ethnic stratification.

Oromo culture, history, and language have been despised and repressed by Ethiopians, who considered them primitive, backward, and inferior. Cabral (1973: 39) writes that "whatever may be the material aspects of...domination, it can be maintained only by the permanent organized repression of the cultural life of the people concerned." The Oromo cultural foundations were based on confederations of lineages, branches, and regions that the Ethiopian colonialists dismantled and partitioned into eleven colonial regions in order to create cultural and perceptual differences among the Oromo.(4) The Ethiopian rulers denied educational opportunity to most Oromo to keep them illiterate and to make them submissive. This facilitated exploiting their human and economic resources. Of course, a few Oromos were recruited, educated, and Ethiopianized for use as intermediaries (Tuso, 1982; Markakis, 1974). The few Oromo children who joined Ethiopian schools and colleges were never allowed to learn the history, culture, language, and civilization of their own people.

The process of Ethiopianization had very limited success in producing educated Oromos whose culture was stripped away (Sagale Waldhaansso, 1988). A few members of the Oromo middle class did attempt to adopt Ethiopian ways by speaking the Amharic language and practicing Ethiopian culture. However, these assimilated members were never happy since Ethiopians considered them to be inferior and never accepted them as equals (Lewis, 1993: 13). Since maintaining an Oromo identity blocked access to goods, services, and self-improvement, the Oromo intermediate class sacrificed their culture and identity and allowed themselves to be Ethiopianized and humiliated. As Fanon (1967: 18) explains, "every colonized people...every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality finds itself face to face with the language" and culture of the colonizing nation. Bulcha (1993: 10) notes that Ethiopianization or:

Amharization of the Oromo and other groups was attempted "without

integrating them as equals or allowing them to share power in any

meaningful way." As the "Amhara mask" they wore was often too

transparent, assimilated Oromos rarely reached decision-making positions

within the Ethiopian bureaucracy.

For Oromo farmers and laborers, however, assimilation for privilege was limited beause their connections to the Ethiopians were very limited or nonexistent.

Origins of Oromo Nationalism

The migration of a few Oromos to urban areas laid the initial foundation for the emergence of Oromo nationalism. As more Oromos flowed from rural areas into towns to seek educational and employment opportunities, Oromo consciousness began to flourish. Although a few were successful and became students, intellectuals, bureaucrats, or petty traders, most became laborers, semilaborers, or employed. The coming together of Oromos from all regions in urban areas helped them to understand the plight of their people and the potential of their nation. They came to realize that the Oromo made up the majority and that their resources had been used and abused by the minority Ethiopians. These groups brought the Oromo language and culture to urban areas, where the Ethiopian colonialists were concentrated. In the mid-1960s, the population in 15 towns in Oromia was 77% Ethiopian (47% Amhara, 3% Tigrayan, 27% others) and 23% Oromo (Markakis, 1974: 10).

As urban-based Oromo gradually overcame their limited perception about their people and began to develop Oromo nationalism, they formed Oromo cultural groups and self-help associations. With the emergence of Oromo nationalism, the need to be assimilated into colonial culture was challenged. The use of Oromiffa (the Oromo language) by Oromo urbanites became the first spontaneous expression of Oromo nationalism. The emergence of an Oromo nationalist intelligentsia and professional groups in the mid-20th century facilitated the transformation of localized and scattered struggles and cultural resistance to Ethiopian colonialism into the Oromo national movement. Bulcha (1993b: 1) comments that as the:

election to the Ethiopian parliament and recruitment into...the armed forces

and educational institutions gradually brought many Oromos together from

the different corners of their country during the post-Second World War

period, they were able to see more clearly the similarity of their


and commonality of their aspirations. Consequently, Oromo

nationalism...began to strongly manifest itself in the middle of the 1960s.

The 1960s was a decade of the fermentation process of Oromo national awakening that was followed by the emergence of the Oromo national struggle. Alter (1989: 22) explains that "the emergence of a national movement indicates that a population or a social group has reached a new stage on the road to nationhood: the transition to political action." The emerging Oromo nationalist groups realized that the Ethiopian colonial state had been controlled by the Ethiopian ruling class, which had exploited and oppressed the Oromo by denying them access to state power and economic and cultural opportunities. The Ethiopian colonial state created a leadership vacuum in Oromo society by destroying a cultural and political leadership during its colonial expansion. It also delayed the development of an Oromo national leadership by denying the Oromo opportunities essential for developing an educated and organized leadership. The division of labor has been ethnicized and almost all Oromos and other colonized peoples were limited to agricultural activities. Educational opportunities have been mainly provided for children of the Ethiopian rulers in order to perpetuate Amhara-Tigrayan dominance. While Amhara and Tigrayan students made up more than 80% of the student body at Haile Selassie I University in the late 1960s, other students, including the Oromo, Sidama, and Somali, represented less than 10% (Markakis, 1974).

Clapham (1969: 77), who once denied the existence of Oromo consciousness, stated that "there seems every possibility at this date that a development [of Oromo nationalism] that would be so disastrous to Ethiopia may be avoided" through the assimilation of the Oromo. Assimilation of the Oromo was needed to benefit the Ethiopians. According to Cabral (1973: 42-43), colonialism "by denying the historical development of the dominated people, necessarily also denies their cultural development." Brutal cultural repression and the assimilation of a few Oromos did delay the development of Oromo nationalism. However, the development of colonial capitalism in Oromia during the post-World War II period created new social forces that intensified the development of Oromo nationalism and began to challenge Ethiopian colonial domination in the 1960s (Jalata, 1993: 99-108). These new social forces began to develop Oromo nationalism by creating associations and musical groups.

Associations and Cultural Groups

The monarchical and colonial nature of the Ethiopian state did not allow the Oromo to form a political organization that would allow them political expression. Legally, it was only possible to form self-help associations. The formation of Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association in Finfinne (Addis Ababa) and the Arffan Qallo and Biftu Ganamo musical groups in Dire Dawa in the 1960s marked the public rise of Oromo nationalism. At the beginning of the 1960s, there were three Oromo self-help associations in Finfinne, namely the Jibat-Macha, Meta-Robbi, and Tulama Shawa Self-Help Associations. These three associations merged in 1963-1964 and formed the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association. Only then, after a long period of colonization, did the Oromo begin to produce a centralized leadership. According to Bulcha (1993b: 10), this association was:

the first Oromo organization with roots in both urban and rural areas. Mass

meetings were held in many parts of the Oromo country and taboo topics

such as the exploitation of the Oromo peasantry and suppression of Oromo

language and culture were raised and discussed.... [T]he continued

expansion of the association worried the Ethiopian security, who had always

doggedly followed its leaders to every mass meeting. "What was especially

worrisome was the fact that they [the leaders] addressed meetings in the

language of the Oromo, which had been proscribed in public...."

By forming the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association, which attracted conscious Oromos from all regions and religions, the Oromo nationalists began to show a sense of solidarity "which in time of stress and danger can over-ride class, factional, and regional divisions within the community" (Smith, 1986: 30). The Association had two major objectives: first, the establishment of schools and health clinics and the construction of roads wherever they were needed in Oromo regions; second, the construction of churches and mosques for Christian and Muslim believers who did not have them (Macha-Tulama Association, 1963). The first set of objectives was designed to improve the welfare of the Oromo people; the second was designed to mobilize the Oromo toward a common goal by challenging the Ethiopian colonial policy of divide and rule on the bases of region and religion. This association tried to organize and mobilize the Oromo for political activism, development, and education. As Smith (1986: 157) notes, the question of survival requires each ethnonational group to "take on some of the attributes of nationhood, adopt a civic model... [and] rational political centralization mass literacy, and social mobilization."

On the cultural front, Oromo workers, students, traders, and musicians created the Arffan Qallo and Biftu Ganamo musical groups in Dire Dawa. In particular, the Arffan Qallo Musical troupe gained national fame in Oromia and traveled to different cities to perform dramas and cultural shows. The troupe was frequently invited to Finfinne during the meetings of the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association. This registered a new chapter in the development of Oromo cultural nationalism. The Oromo resistance to Ethiopian colonial domination was not limited to urban areas in the 1960s. The Bale Oromo farmers transformed their scattered resistances into loosely organized guerrilla struggle between 1963 and 1970. This movement had connections with the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association. It obtained firearms from the Somali government and fought gallantly for seven years; it shook the Ethiopian colonial foundation in southern Oromia, leading the British and U.S. governments to intervene and assist the Ethiopian government (Gilkes, 1975: 217-218). Bulcha (1993a: 1-2) considers this farmer movement and the self-help association as the "two important landmarks in the history of the Oromo."

Since the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association raised serious political issues and increased its popularity and membership within a very short period, the Ethiopian government intensely disliked its emergence and decided to destroy it. It imprisoned

Asafa Jalata is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies at the University of Tennessee, 901 McClung Tower, Knoxville, TN 37996-0490. Jalata teaches and researches in the areas of political economy, race and ethnicity, national and social movements, African and African American studies, developments studies, the world-system, and political sociology. He is the author of Oromia and Ethiopia: State Formation and Ethnonational Conflict, 1868-1992, and has published several articles in The Journal of Oromo Studies, Horn of Africa, Dialectical Anthropology, and The Journal of Political and Military Sociology. He has also published book chapters on Afrocentricity, poverty, and development. some of the leaders and hanged the others. Since die association "began to articulate the dissatisfaction of the Oromo with the government and particularly with their position in society" (Wood, 1983: 516), the government dissolved it in 1967. The government also dissolved the two musical groups and imprisoned their leaders and members. The banning of the association and musical groups, as well as the suppression of the Bale uprising, forced a few Oromo revolutionaries to continue the national struggle clandestinely.

Transformation of Oromo Nationalism

After die Ethiopian government totally denied the Oromo any channel through which to express their ethnonational interests, Oromo revolutionaries established an underground political movement. The circulation of underground political papers in the late 1960s and the early 1970s indicated the existence of such a political group in Oromo society.(5) For the first time, this underground political circle began to use the name "Oromo" instead of "Galla" in writing, which defied Ethiopian and Ethiopianist historiography. Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars had distorted Oromo history by referring to the Oromo people as the Galla and degraded them as slaves, pagans, savages, etc. Galla was a derogatory and contemptuous name. Explaining Ethiopian racism and cultural arrogance, Sorenson (1993: 60) argues that "the Oromo were known as the Galla, a term they do not apply to themselves and one that carries 'overtones of race and slavery,' as well as the imputation of a lack of civilization." This attach on the Oromo name was designed to destroy an Oromo collective identity.

Discussing the sociological importance of such a collective name, Smith (1986: 23) notes that an ethnonational "name 'evokes' an atmosphere and drama that has power and meaning for those whom it includes." While the name Galla characterized defeat,inferiority, and subordination because it was bestowed by the Ethiopian colonizers, Oromo nationalists perceive the name Oromo as symbolizing a glorious past, democracy, egalitarianism, bravery, pride, and victory. Isaacs (1989: 73) explains that:

Names keep turning up in one way or another in all the ongoing rediscoveries,

revisions, remakings, and reassertions of group identities. The name of a

country, of an individual, of a group, carries in it all the cargo of the past.

With the emergence of Oromo nationalism, their century-long defeat was cast as a temporary phenomenon. Oromo nationalists reconnected themselves to their past victories. Historically speaking, this people called themselves Oromo, meaning "brave men" (Hambly, 1930: 176). Historical evidence demonstrates that before their partition by Abyssinia/Ethiopia and Britain, the Oromo dominated the areas from Abyssinia proper to Mombasa, and from Somalia to the Sudan, although there were no well-demarcated boundaries (Hambly, 1930). Luling (1965: 191) asserts that "from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, the Galla [Oromo] were dominant on their own territories; no people of other cultures were in a position to exercise compulsion over diem."

As their collective name was changed from Oromo to Galla, the Oromo were denied a specific geographical territory or homeland. Ignoring linguistic, historical, and anthropological data, some Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars tried to depict the Oromo as "invaders" of "Ethiopia" and foreigners to the Horn of Africa.(6) As they struggled to rediscover their collective name, Oromo nationalists also demonstrated that during their known history, their people have lived in the Horn of Africa, as did other related Cushitic peoples, before Arab elements emigrated into the Horn of Africa and became Habasha by breeding with Africans (Jalata, 1993; Massen, 1990; Megerssa, 1993). Explaining the importance of history and origin, Isaacs (1989: 118) expounds that "the shared past, of his own history and origins is deeply imbedded in every individual's personal identity with which each personal identity is inseparably molded." In addition to denying the Oromo historical space and changing their collective name, some Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars have argued that the Oromo are a people without history and civilization.(7) Such scholars have produced such unsubstantiated arguments to justify Ethiopian colonial domination and cultural repression. Through an institution of higher learning, Oromo students were introduced to such intellectual and political madness.

Through its writings, the Oromo underground movement exposed the distortion of Oromo history. Its members began to study and reconstruct Oromo history according to the Oromo perspective. "For the peoples and nations in struggle for their effective liberation," Wondji (1986:269) writes, "history provides a valuable understanding of earlier patterns of development in these societies; it thus clarifies the problems of development in the present as well as analyzes those of the past." The Oromo nationalist nucleus found its active audience mainly among Oromo university students.(8) These students joined the Haile Selassie I University from the different regions of Oromia; they were already exposed to the brutality of Ethiopian colonialism through the experiences of their families and the educational institutions that glorified Ethiopian culture, civilization, history, and language and denigrated that of the Oromo.(9)

In the schools and colleges, Ethiopian teachers, professors, and their international counterparts taught die superiority of Ethiopian culture and civilization while stressing the inferiority of the Oromo.(10) Because of such institutional abuses, it was very easy to clandestinely recruit Oromo university students into secret study circles and to educate them about the plight of the Oromo people; these students also studied philosophy, Marxism-Leninism, political economy, social history, revolution, nationalism, etc.(11) As a result, they gained a critical understanding of the Oromo condition. Since Oromo children learn about their people, culture, language, history, and civilization from their parents and communities through oral discourse, Ethiopian teachers and professors were unsuccessful in convincing Oromo students about the superiority of Ethiopian civilization and culture. The one-sidedness of these teachers and professors and their ignorance of Oromo civilization and culture increased the commitment of some Oromo students to learn more about their people. University education allowed some Oromo students to understand and articulate the accumulated grievances of the Oromos, their oppression, humiliation, and status in the Ethiopian Empire. Through their study circles, the highly committed students and other revolutionary Oromos learned why Oromo culture, language, history, and civilization were not taught in schools and colleges; they also understood why Oromo students were underrepresented in schools and colleges, and why the majority of Oromos were poor and landless.(12)

More papers and documents were clandestinely produced and widely circulated among the Oromo in the early 1970s by emerging Oromo political movements.(13) Oromo students at Haile Selassie I University participated in building independent Oromo organizations and also participated in the Ethiopian student movement. The Ethiopian student movement opposed the independent Oromo movement, labeling it "narrow nationalist."(14) Of course, there were also a few Oromo students and intellectuals who accepted the Ethiopian position and joined their political movements.(15) Higher education played a very important role in enabling Oromo revolutionaries to transform Oromo resistance into an organized revolutionary movement; it helped the revolutionary Oromo intellectuals and students learn about modern organization, methods of organizing people, and ways of engaging in protracted guerrilla warfare against a formidable enemy.(16)

In the process of transforming study circles into underground political movements, the revolutionary Oromo leaders produced political pamphlets and organized different circles among high school students, professionals, workers, farmers, and soldiers. The Oromos who had fled to foreign countries and received military training returned to Oromia to initiate armed struggle. A committee to organize a liberation front was formed and the guerrilla armed struggle began in 1973 under the leadership of Elemo Qilxu.(17) As Cabral (1973: 39-40) noted,

with a strong indigenous cultural life, foreign domination cannot be sure of

its perpetuation. At any moment, depending on internal and external factors

determining the evolution of society in question, cultural resistance

(indestructible) may take on new forms (political, economic, armed) in order

fully to contest foreign domination.

With the birth of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in 1974, the Oromo nation slowly but profoundly began to challenge Ethiopian colonial domination intellectually, culturally, politically, and militarily.

The OLF: An Organized Expression of Oromo Nationalism

The birth of die Oromo Liberation Front brought new hope to the Oromo; it was as if a dream had come true for the Oromos who had discussed such an organization before its birth.(18) Without attempting to impose its political will on the Oromo or others, the OLF struggles to create an Oromo national power that will allow the Oromo nation to democratically decide its political future through a referendum; accordingly, only the Oromo nation can decide whether to create "an independent republic of Oromia," or to build a multicultural democracy by joining "other peoples in a federal or confederal arrangement."(19) The OLF leadership argues that:

the right of self-determination is an inalienable right of our people to the

fulfillment of which our front is committed as a matter of priority and it

holds that it is the Oromo people and only the Oromo people who should

determine its own political future.(20)

Both theoretically and practically, this liberation organization is totally against ethnic stratification and colonial domination; as it struggles to liberate Oromia from the subordination to Tigray and Amhara, it endorses the same right for other colonized nations without any reservation.

In 1973, the OLF began its military operation in Hararghe, which is located in eastern Oromia. However, it had already penetrated this region militarily and politically in the mid- 1970s; it gradually extended its operations to the Bale and Arssi regions (Abdi, 1985). Further, in 1981, the OLF launched its Wallaga operation in eastern Oromia. The OLF built up its military resources through a series of surprise attacks on Ethiopian forces, whose weapons and other materials they captured (Grilz, 1987). It depended primarily on these resources and the local population for food, intelligence, and supplies (Grilz, 1987). To gain acceptance from the Oromo farmers, it was therefore very necessary for the front to practice an Oromo democratic tradition known as Gada.(21) Embracing this tradition helped OLF fighters persuade the people, establish military, security, economic, and political networks in some rural areas, and form revolutionary village committees.(22) Since the OLF did not receive foreign assistance, it would have been financially impossible to engage in a guerrilla struggle without convincing the local population.

The OLF did not originally base its ideology on Gada principles. Through trial and error, OLF fighters found that they could effectively mobilize the Oromo by using Gada values and symbols. One farmer from Hararghe expressed in 1986 that "when the OLF showed up saying to us the same things that our fathers had told us, we accepted them" (Holcomb, 1993: 3). The obscure working-class ideology adopted by the front when it was initially organized was gradually replaced by Gada principles, which reflect democracy, social justice, and equality. OLF cadres provided technical and educational services to the local population they contacted. One OLF leader states that:

in our liberated areas the politicization and organization of the masses have

reached such a stage as to allow us to enable the people to elect village and

district committees. The literacy campaign is progressing well in spite of

shortage of material. With our meager resources we try to cater to our

people's medical needs and try to prevent illness by teaching proper

hygienic and dietary practices. We are accumulating experience in creating

a healthy, literate, and politically conscious society.(23)

The OLF disseminated its political and cultural practices to Oromos through the voice of the Oromo liberation and underground political networks. With the demise of the Ethiopian military regime in may 1991 and the emergence of the new Tigrayan government, the OLF shifted its tactics in struggle and became both a coalition partner and an opposition force for almost a year. OLF participation in the abortive U.s.-sponsored London Conference (that attempted to bring together the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front [EPLF], the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front [TPLF], and the OLF) and in the Addis Ababa Peace Conference of July 1-5, 1991, gave the Oromo people and its front media recognition throughout the world.

Change and Continuity

OLF participation in the Tigrayan-led trasitional government for nearly a year enabled the Oromo leadership to realize its political potential and the complexity of its mission. The majority of the Oromo have accepted die OLF program, which declared three important issues: the unity of the Oromo, the OLF leadership, and the creation of Oromo national power.(24) The OLF achieved this victory not because of its military muscle, but because of its political principles that embrace Gada democracy, respect the Oromo, make the Oromo decision-makers in terms of their lives, and refuse to subordinate the interests of Oromia to another nation. When the majority of the Oromo saw die picture of an odaa tree (sycamore), the symbol of Oromo democracy, on the flag of the OLF, they became OLF forces by expressing kun dhaba keenya -- literally embracing the OLF as their own organization. According to Ibssa (1992: 3),

the odaa is more than a generalized symbol of democratic discussion.... The

odaa has long been a sacred meeting ground for the enactment of many

Oromo ceremonies that reinforce the political philosophy of Gada. By

honoring the flag that bears an odaa, the Oromo are honoring the principles

that were ritually upheld [in the Gada system].

After attending one Oromo public ceremony in Finfinne, Hiltzik (1992) commented that "any unwitting observers who happened upon a public ceremony recently could be forgiven for thinking they had strayed across the border into another country. Speaker after speaker evoked the name of the 'nation of Oromia."'

Other Oromo political organizations, such as the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO), the United Oromo People's Liberation Front (UOPLF), the Oromo "Abbo" Liberation Front (OALF), and the TPLF-affiliated Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) also participated in the transitional government. However, because of their political principles and backgrounds, these organizations did not enjoy the popularity that the OLF has enjoyed among the Oromo people.(25) Currently, the OLF has invited all independent Oromo organizations to form an Oromo national council;(26) the assumption is that since all Oromo organizations, except for the OPDO, oppose the occupation of Oromia by the TPLF/EPRDF forces, the creation of the Oromo national council will help to consolidate a unified Oromo political bloc.

One of the major contradictions between the TPLF and the OLF was the creation and use of the OPDO to undermine die Oromo question.(27) The OPDO was created in 1990 from Ethiopian war prisoners captured in Eritrea and Tigray (Tareke, 1991). The OLF believes that the TPLF's creation and use -- with the assistance of the EPLF, Sudan, Libya, and the U.S. -- of TPLF-led puppet organizations such as the OPDO and others in the guise of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to seize and dominate Ethiopian state power absolutely undermined the principles of democracy and national self-determination.(28) There have been major contradictions between the OLF and the TPLF, although they fought together against the Ethiopian military regime. The TPLF sees "Ethiopian history" only from the perspective of the Amhara-Tigrayan ruling class, which denies the colonization and incorporation of Oromia into Ethiopia. The Tigrayan colonial ruling class, like that of the Amhara, has opposed the unity and independence of the Oromo national movement.(29) The Oromo intermediate class, which served the interests of the Amhara rulers, lost its position when Amhara ethnonational power was dismantled. The TPLF created the OPDO so as to use it in creating new Oromo intermediaries who would serve its interests. Understanding the powerlessness of the Oromo intermediaries in the Ethiopian colonial system, almost all the Oromo have rejected the OPDO and call it maxanee, which means an organization that lacks its own independent existence and hence is attached to the TPLF to serve Habasha interests.

The Tigrayans are mainly interested in taking power from the Amhara rulers and keeping the Ethiopian Empire under their control by introducing cosmetic changes. In contrast, the Oromo have struggled for the total destruction of the Ethiopian colonial system. According to Cabral (1969: 103), "if we accept that national liberation demands a profound mutation in the process of the development of productive forces, we see that this phenomenon of national liberation necessarily corresponds to a revolution." The OLF struggle goes beyond cosmetic changes since it combines the processes of decolonization, democratization, and transformation in Oromian self-determination. Despite recognizing the TPLF position, the OLF participated in the Tigrayan-led transitional government to give a democratic transition a chance(30) and to further mobilize the Oromo nation politically.(31) The OLF prefers democratic conflict resolution to war;(32) it engages in armed struggle only when it is sure that democracy is not working. Supporting the idea of a peaceful democratic transition, the OLF participated in the process of creating and a charter that would guarantee basic human rights, freedom of association and expression, the rights of ethno-nations to national self-determination, and the formation of a federal democratic state within two years.

Had these guaranteed charter rights been implemented, as the OLF states, Oromia would have joined "other peoples in a federal...arrangement." Implicitly to avoid war and give peace and democracy a chance, the OLF de-emphasized its objective of creating "an independent republic of Oromia." However, the essence of the struggle remained the same since the OLF maintained its position of creating an Oromo national power. Whether the Oromo join a multicultural democracy within a federal arrangement or create an independent republic of Oromia, the OLF believes the creation of Oromo national power is absolutely necessary for defending Oromo national interests. Oromo national power is necessary to challenge Amhara or Tigrayan ethnonational power and to achieve decolonization, democratization, and transformation of the Ethiopian Empire. Since the TPLF/EPRDF sought to subordinate Oromia to Tigray, it did not favor the idea of creating an Oromo national power. Hence, it began to violate the charter by passing decrees. To suppress the emergence of Oromo national power, the TPLF-dominated transitional government declared the EPRDF army to be a "national army"; one of its strategies was to prevent the OLF from building its own army and to house the existing OLF army in barracks so that it would be easy to destroy them when necessary.(33) The EPRDF army tried to do exactly that when the OLF withdrew from the regional elections in June 1992 because of the blockage of democracy by the Tigrayan-dominated regime.(34)

The hope of a democratic transition was dashed. The new regime found the OLF operating "above the ground for the first time" and its competition with the TPLF/EPRDF for political power to be annoying.(35) To establish itself in Oromia, the new regime used TPLF/EPRDF forces to attack the Oromo and the OLF. These forces were unleashed against the Oromo after they had gained dominance in the new government "by filling all key government posts with EPRDF men."(36) When the TPLF/EPRDF forces realized that there was no reason for the Oromo majority to put the Tigrayan leaders and their supporters in power democratically, they opted for the continuation of Ethiopian colonial domination through brutal force. The new regime's attempt to consolidate Ethiopian colonialism and the emergence of the OLF as a popular front intensified the blossoming of Oromo nationalism. The OLF thus extended its politics from the periphery to the center; the new conditions temporarily allowed Oromos to send their representatives to Habro, Arssi, Finfinne, Naqamte, Ambo, and other regions to discuss and develop a strategy for the Oromo national struggle.(37)

OLF leaders, cadres, and community elders and leaders thoroughly discussed what all Oromos should do to determine the future of Oromia.(38) OLF cultural and musical troupes articulated the nature of Ethiopian colonialism and the necessity of liberation through traditional and modem music, poems, and speeches.(39) After coming to the realization that the OLF is an independent and mature organization, Oromo elders and community leaders called on four Oromo organizations, including the OPDO, to join the Oromo national movement.(40) During its tenure in the transitional government, the OLF struggled to guarantee the Oromo nation the right to develop its culture, language, and education, to decentralize state power so that it could not be concentrated under a central government, to guarantee Oromia the right to build its own army for the defense of its national interests, and to enable the Oromo nation to achieve the right of national self-determination under an Oromian national assembly (Galata, 1992: 15).

The emergence of Tigrayan dominance and the blossoming of Oromo nationalism have brought about two conflicting social processes. The first is the process through which the Tigrayan-dominated regime has attempted to rule over Oromia through its surrogate organization, the OPDO; the second is the process through which the OLF has struggled to enable the Oromo to freely and democratically decide their political destiny. These contradictory processes have resulted in a series of political and military confrontations in Oromia. Various Oromo representatives charge that, in violation of Oromo national and individual rights, TPLF/EPRDF forces have looted the economic resources of the Oromo nation; divided Oromia and incorporated its territory into the regions of other peoples; organized minority nationalities against the Oromo; been involved in the internal affairs of Oromia through its army and surrogate organization; the OPDO; conducted a series of wars of aggression against the Oromo people; and violated the transitional charter by intimidating, killing, imprisoning, and torturing Oromos for supporting the OLF.(41)

These reasons and the blockage of regional elections in June 1992 forced the OLF to withdraw from the coalition government and to resume its low-intensity guerrilla armed struggle. To discourage the populace from supporting this liberation front, the new regime murdered thousands of Oromos and created three concentration camps at Hurso (Hararge), Didesa (Wallaga), and Bilate (Sidamo), where it practices "ethnic cleansing."(42) Since these centers were recognized by several international humanitarian organizations, the regime created hundreds of concentration camps for similar purposes. These camps contain pregnant women, children, elders, and sick people; some of them perished because of the miserable conditions.(43) Despite these human and national rights violations, Western governments, spearheaded by the U.S., have supported the regime and turned a blind eye to the blocking of democracy. The new regime, with the support of the West, is gradually building an authoritarian regime and heading the empire to further crises and disasters. Mutua (1993: 31) comments that:

Rather than pursue a policy of reconciliation with its opponents, the TGE

is dominated by the TPLF godfathers who do not believe in political

competition. They appear determined to create an EPRDF party-state.

They, and the Western powers that support them, must realize that such a

course is foolhardy. Given the country's history of capturing power and

keeping it by force, such a development will only lead Ethiopia down the

path of another cruel and mindless civil war.

The OLF is pursuing both military and peaceful, democratic solutions to the conflict.(43) If Western governments and their NGOs are truly interested in resolving the contradictions that existing this empire, they must withdraw their support from this regime, recognize the rights of the peoples excluded from the political process, and encourage the active exercise of democracy and human rights.

Since the Oromo nation has numerical strength and abundant economic resources, Habasha organizations and the Ethiopian state do not wish to see the emergence of genuine democracy, which could bring an Oromo organization to political power. The Ethiopians do not wish to believe that they can live without controlling the Oromo and their resources. Therefore, if they genuinely accept democracy, they face a serious political dilemma on the Oromo question; if they genuinely accept democracy, the Oromo will gain access to political power because of their numerical strength. Yet if they continue to oppose a democratic transition, the OLF and other Oromo organizations win intensify their protracted armed struggle until the liberation of Oromia. The Ethiopian government under the control of the Amhara or Tigray has opposed both democracy and Oromian self-determination. This kind of zero-sum politics has led to political and military confrontation. To avoid human and resource sacrifices, peaceful and democratic conflict resolution is beneficial for both the Oromo and the Ethiopians; it builds a spirit of understanding for mutual coexistence. Rather than wasting their human and material resources on war, both the Oromo and the Ethiopians can build their productive forces. The Tigrayan rulers must have learned from their predecessors; the Amhara lost their freedom and Eritrea while struggling to maintain the Ethiopian Empire. Can the fate of the Tigrayans be different from that of the Amhara?

Oromo Political Culture and Prospects for Democracy

Recorded history and Oromo oral traditions demonstrate that the Oromo practiced Gada, or Oromo democracy, for more than five centuries. During the 16th century, when different peoples were competing for land, water, and power in the Horn of Africa, all Oromos were under one Gada government (Legesse, 1973; Jalata, 1993; Lemmu, 1993). The Oromos used this institution to defend themselves from the Christian and Muslim empire-builders (Bates, 1979: 7) and to expand their territories. According to Holcomb (1991: 4), "Gada organized the Oromo people in an all-encompassing democratic republic even before the few European pilgrims arrived from England on the shores of North America and only later built a democracy." When discussing the political sophistication of Oromo democracy, with its principles of checks and balances (such as periodic succession every eight years), balanced opposition among parties, and power sharing between higher and lower political organs, Legesse (1987: 2) argues that:

What is astonishing about this cultural tradition is how far Oromo have gone

to ensure that power does not fall in the hands of war chiefs and despots.

They achieve this goal by creating a system of checks and balances that is

at least as complex as the systems we find in Western democracies.

Although for our purpose we focus on its political structure, Gada was also an economic, social, and religious institution; hence it was the pillar of Oromo culture and civilization. For many centuries, it consolidated this people culturally, militarily, and organizationally. Internal and external factors brought about the demise of this preclass democratic institution. The development of agriculture and trade, class and state formations, and fundamental changes in the landholding system underlined the system in the first half of the 19th century in northern and western Oromia (Jalata, 1993: 22). In the areas presently called Sidamo, Arssi, Bale, Illubabor, Gamu Gofa, and in some parts of Shawa, the system was destroyed by Ethiopian colonialism. Similarly, Turko-Egyptian-Adare colonialism destroyed the Gada system between 1875 and 1885 in the Hararghe region (Trimingham, 1965: 121; Braukamper, 1983). However, close observation shows that the Oromo people still practice some Gada values in their daily lives. Furthermore, the Boran and Guji Oromos still use their Gada traditional customary laws (Shongollo, 1990; Kassam and Megerssa, 1989; Van de Loo, 1991). According to Van de Loo (1991: 25),

Gada has been, and in Guji land still is, the most powerful means to

cyclically renew peaceful interregional contacts and the exchange of

knowledge, blessing, and sacred power across both clan and regional

boundaries within the vast Oromo cultural area.

Since the Boran and Guji Oromos, like other Oromos, are under Ethiopian occupation, they cannot practice their original Gada government. Various scholars, such as Asmarom Legesse (1973, 1987), Bonnie K. Holcomb (1991, 1993), Baissa Lemmu (1971, 1991, 1993), Sisai Ibssa (1992, 1993), and others have studied Oromo democracy and tried to identify its major features and its relevance to Oromo nationalism. These scholars have focused on the main features of leadership and the rights and obligations of citizens under the Gada system. Leaders were democratically elected by general assemblies on local, regional, and "national" levels for eight years; whenever leaders could not fulfill their duties, they were recalled before their terms. The Abba Boku (father of the scepter) was an elected "chairman" who presided over the assembly; he was supported by other officials, such as Abba Dula (the minister of defense), vice presidents, and advisors. The main criteria for office were knowledge, honesty, bravery, demonstrated skills, such as oratory, etc. The officials implemented laws that were promulgated by the representative general assembly. No one was above the law; that is why Oromo say seeri ilmoo'ra marara -- literally that the Oromo love their laws more than their children (Abdou, 1992: 51).

The main principles of Oromo democratic traditions included balanced representation of all clans, lineages, regions, and confederacies; democratic self-rule at local, regional, and central levels; the rights and obligations of all citizens to democratically participate in self-administration; the acceptance of the people as the source of authority and the ultimate source of power; respect for basic rights and liberties; democratic and peaceful change of leadership; accountability of leaders; respect for consensual law and the right to make, change, or amend laws and rules every eight years; the settlement of disputes through reconciliation; and the practice of pluralism through balanced opposition of five miseensas (parties). Lemmu (1993: 11) argues that:

The Gada system as a whole provided...the machinery for democratic rule

and enjoyment of maximum liberty for the people. It was the suppression

of the system...that dehumanized the Oromo for the past hundred years.

Oromo liberation, therefore, necessarily, has to draw on its rich cultural

heritage to be successful.

Ethiopian colonialism and despotic rulers could not totally destroy Oromo democratic traditions since "Gada symbols and some practices went underground and survived until the present time" (Lemmu, 1993:3). Lewis (1993:14-20) recently discovered that in western Tulama (western Shawa) and Jimma, where the Gada system was suppressed many years ago, the Oromo still practice some elements of Oromo democratic traditions. In his words,

The "equality" and "democracy" that the educated and politically aware

elite speak of may actually be apart of their people's background....Respect

for law, for peacemaking elders, for assemblies, and the recourse to

voluntary organizations with elected officials who should serve the

community that elected them, and be responsible to them, is basic to the life


the Oromo country person.

Since it is an emblem of an Oromo cultural totality, with its democratic traditions, Gada has also become an ideological expression of the Oromo national movement. Holcomb (1993: 4) notes that:

Gada represented an ideological basis for the expression of Oromo

nationalism. This expression empowered the Oromo to resist oppression, become

self-conscious as a nation in the twentieth century in the face of intense

subjugation.... Gada represents a repository, a storehouse of concepts,

values, beliefs, and practices that are accessible to all Oromo. The challenge

the Oromo face now is the serious one of fashioning elements of the heritage

into an ideology which empowers the nation to achieve the

self-determination that the people aspire to.

Gada political and military tactics and strategies can be used for Oromian self-determination. Because the Oromo are now conscious of their objectives, it is possible to mobilize them form military training and service to build an Oromo national defense force. The Oromo national movement can remind the people that no enemy defeated the Oromo when they were unified under their Gada system and when all young Oromos participated in military training and service to defend their people. It is also possible to reactivate the Oromo intelligence network, simbirtu, to collect accurate information on the enemy and possible friends in order to isolate the enemy and build an alliance with all Oromo and non-Oromo political forces that struggle for a democratic transition. Above all, the Oromo leadership can utilize Oromo democratic traditions and mobilize the citizens by reintroducing their rights and obligations for self-liberation and self-rule without appealing to "Marxism" or "Western democracies." The Oromo have already learned that "Ethiopian socialism" under the Amhara military regime and "Ethiopian democracy" under the Tigray regime have been variants of Ethiopian colonial ideologies. Since the Soviet Union supported Ethiopian socialism in the name of Marxism and Western countries are supporting Ethiopian colonial democracy in the name of democracy, for the Oromo both Marxism and Western democracy have become the instruments of oppression.

Both academic and Ethiopian nationalist discourses consider Oromo culture and the Gada system to be primitive and useless, which serves to justify Ethiopian colonialism. For example, Ullendorf (1960:73) argues that the Oromo "possessed no significant material or intellectual culture.... They helped to prolong a situation from which even a physically and spiritually exhausted Ethiopia might otherwise have been able to recover far more quickly." It is surprising that Ullendorf does not recognize that a society cannot survive without producing significant material and nonmaterial culture. His argument is tantamount to accusing the Oromo of "underdeveloping Ethiopia" by providing material wealth, free and cheap labor, and abundant economic resources. Tareke (1991: 151) argues that the Oromo cannot liberate themselves and construct an independent Oromo state since they do not have a culture substance on which to construct their nationalism. Similarly, Abbay (1992: 35) comments that:

the Oromos do not have an Axumite history to glorify: they do not have

`heroes' like Yohannes and Alula to look up to; nor do they have a major

insurrectionary history like the Weyane in their memory pool.

What Abbay and Tareke fail to understand is that the Oromo view culture and history in a different way than do the Tigrayans or Amharas. The Oromo do not pay attention to useless Axumite old buildings because they did not save the Tigrayans from hunger and poverty; they do not worship individual despots like the Habashas. Their democratic traditions have been against despots and hierarchical social organizations. For the Oromo, their heroes are those who have defended Oromo democracy and fought against the Ethiopian colonial settlers. For the Oromo, Tewodros, Yohannes, Menelik, Haile Selassie, Mengistu, and Meles have been colonizers and oppressors.The heroes of the Oromo are TufaMuna, AisheGarba, Wacho Dabalo, Sheik Tola, Seera, Taddasa Biru, Mamo Mezamir, Elemo Qilxu, Haile Mariam Gamada, Abdulayi Gannaimo, Baro Tumsa, Magarsa Bari, and all Oromo liberation forces. Ethiopian nationalist discourse and Oromo nationalism contradict each other. Until an understanding is reached on these historical and cultural interpretations, the Oromo and the Ethiopians will not achieve a peaceful and democratic resolution to the conflict. The attempt on the part of the Habashas to ignore Oromo culture, civilization, history, and nationalism may lead to a disastrous consequence.

The more Ethiopia faces crises because of its misguided policies, the more Oromo nationalism blossoms. Successive Amhara-dominated governments misused and abused Oromo economic and cultural resources and unsuccessfully attempted to destroy Oromo identity and nationalism. For instance, the Derg, the military regime that replaced the Haile Selassie government in 1974, initially appealed to Oromo grievances (Lefort, 1981) by introducing certain radical measures, such as land reform, to gain the support of Oromos and to consolidate itself. Believing that such measures were important to Oromos, some Oromo intellectuals who were members of the All Ethiopian Socialist Movement (MEISON) and of Ethiopian Oppressed Revolutionary Struggle (Itchat) participated in the Derg government and influenced some of its policies. The did so until the regime turned against them, destroyed these organizations, and murdered some members. Most Oromos assumed that the unsuccessful revolution of 1974 would lead to decolonization and equality for all peoples in Ethiopia (Ibid.: 110); however, they later discovered the true nature of this regime through its practices. The did so until the regime practically demonstrated that it was not interested in fundamentally changing the fate of the colonized nations and the Ethiopian masses. Rather, it intensified the reorganization of colonial institutions to maintain the disintegrating empire through political pacification, economic concentration by expropriating all Oromo properties, de-Oromization of Oromia by settling armed ethnic Ethiopians there, and by setting up villages, settlements, and cooperative and state farm programs in Oromia (Jalata, 1993). No channel was left to Oromo revolutionaries other than to join the Oromo liberation movement and the guerrilla armed struggle that contributed to the downfall of the military regime in 1991. The removal of the monarchy in the early 1970s and later of its army in the 1990s has destroyed the Amhara political base. During these decades, the Oromo liberation movement was transformed from a peaceful struggle to an armed struggle.

In the Ethiopian ethnic-class hierarchy, the Tigrayans were located next to the Amhara. With the demise of the military regime, the Tigrayan elite inherited Ethiopian colonial domination. During this period, the Oromo liberation movement has blossomed and gained recognition in Oromia and around the world. How long will the minority Tigrayans, with the support of the EPLF, the U.S., and the Sudan, be able to maintain the Ethiopian Empire and block a transition to democracy? It is difficult to determine when the Ethiopian crisis will explode and come to the attention of the world media. A series of armed conflicts is currently under way between the Oromo liberation army and TPLF forces.(44) Since the TPLF-dominated transitional government will not tolerate a legitimate political force that is capable of competing with it, the new colonial oligarchy has emerged under the guise of a democratic transition (Mutua, 1993a; 1993b). However, in accordance with the traditions of their political culture, the Oromo leadership stands ready to resolve the political crises confronting this empire through a democratic alternative. Unfortunately, continued failure of this option will only exacerbate the horror of war and economic crises. This is a costly road to freedom, but it is one the majority of Oromos, the OLF, and other independent Oromo organizations have chosen because the principles of democracy and human rights go unrecognized in the Ethiopian colonial system and the imperial interstate system.


(1.) Information for this article was mainly collected during the summers of l988 and l993.During these summers, I interviewed over 100 Oromo activists, leaders, politicians, and sympathizers who have been actively engaged in the Oromo national movement. On the Macha-Tulama Self-Help Association, I intensively interviewed Lube Biru and Addisu Tolesa in 1988 in Washington, D.C. Both of them were members of this association. In 1988, Mengasha Abdissa interviewed Ali Birra, a well-known Oromo musician, for me in Los Angeles, California; Ali was a founder of the Arffan Qallo and Biftu Ganamo musical groups. The summer 1993 research was conducted in Nairobi, Kenya, Washington, D.C., and London, England, where I interviewed some prominent OLF leaders and members. I wish to thank the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Sociology of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for providing me with financial support for the 1993 research project. I also thank Deressa Kitte for helping me on the 1993 summer research project.

(2.) It is a political taboo to discuss the size of the Oromo population in Ethiopia. Precise estimates of the size of this population are difficult to make, but several scholars agree that the Oromo make up the largest nation in the Holcomb of Africa. The Oromo are estimated to constitute over half of Ethiopia's 52 million people. For example, Holcomb and Ibssa (1991) state that the Oromo " account for over 60 percent of the population of the present-day Ethiopia."

(3.) Many Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars ignore this argument in their writings. However, scholars who have studied die relationship between the Oromo and the Ethiopians conclude that the Ethiopians could not have colonized the Oromo without the assistance of European imperialism. See, for example, Holcomb and Ibssa (1990) and Jalata (1993).

(4). After colonizing the Oromo, the Ethiopian state subdivided them into different administrative regions. Some Oromo branches were incorporated into other ethnonational regions to give them minority status and to facilitate their assimilation. For instance, some Oromo branches where incorporated into Manz, Tigray, Gojam, etc. Some Oromo place names were replaced with Amhara ones. For example, Finfinne was changed to Addis Ababa, Adama to Nazireth, Bishoftu to Debra Zeit, etc. Oromo historical and cultural centers were intentionally destroyed and the Oromo were prevented from celebrating their main cultural features.

(5.) In the late l960s, the Oromo student magazine entitled Kana Bekta? was created. The Oromos: Voice Against Tyranny appeared in May 1971. These documents were produced secretly.

(6.) Several scholars agree that the original homeland of the Oromo was located in the Horn of Africa before their expansion. Gemetchu Megerssa (1993: 154) argues that "Oromo oral tradition strongly suggests that the central highland of the present Empire state of Ethiopia is where Waaqa [the Oromo God] placed them at creation and granted them all the land they occupy today and no one scholar has produced a more convincing idea for us to believe otherwise."

(7.) See, for example, Ullendorf (1960); Hassen (1990:2) comments that "in such writings the Oromo were never credited as creators of an original culture, or as having religious and democratic political institutions which flowered in patterns of their own making and nourished their spiritual and material well-being."

(8.) Interview with Galasa Dilbo, the OLF general secretary, OLF office, Washington, D.C. (August 27, 1993). I knew him in high school in Wallaga and Haile Selassie I University in the early 1970s. Galasa has lived in Oromian forests for over 17 years as fighter and leader of the Oromo liberation army and the OLF. Interview with Dima Noggo, member of the central committee of the OLF, Nairobi, Kenya (July 12, 1993). He was also a guerrilla fighter and a leader for many years. I also knew him at Haile Selassie I University. He was die Minister of Information when the OLF was in the transitional government. Interview with Deressa Kitte, OLF member (June 8, 1993), Nairobi, Kenya. I knew him at Haile Selassie I University. He was jailed by the military regime for about a decade. He has been a very active grass-roots organizer and was the director of a high school in Sidamo.

(9.) Interview with Galasa Dilbo, Dima Noggo, and Deressa Kitte (Ibid.).

(10.) Ibid.; interview with Zegaye Asfaw, OLF member (July l4, 1993), Nairobi, Kenya. He was the Minister of Agriculture during the military regime and the transitional government and was imprisoned by the military regime for several years.

(11.) Interview with Galasa Dilbo, Dima Noggo, and Deressa Kitte (Ibid.).

(12.) Ibid.

(13.) These papers included Bakalcha Oromo, Warraqa, Oromia, and Gucha Dargago.

(14.) Interview with Galasa Dilbo, Dima Noggo, and Deressa Kitte (Ibid.).

(15.) Ibid.

(16.) Ibid.

(17.) Interview with Galasa Dilbo (Ibid.).

(18.) I heard this story in 1972 when I was a freshman at Haile Selassie I University. Rumors of the existence of the OLF spread among Oromos even before it was created in 1974.

(19.) See, for example, OLF, "democratic resolution of the Oromo National Liberation Struggle and of Other Conflicts in die Ethiopian Empire" (April 18, 1990).

(20.) See "OLF Statement about the TPLF-Sponsored OPDO" (July 5, 1990:3).

(21.) Gada, or Oromo democracy, was the foundation of Oromo culture. Under this system, Oromos enjoyed maximum religious, economic, political, and social liberties. Oromo nationalists attempt to draw their liberation ideology from this democratic tradition.

(22.) Bonnie K. Holcomb, collection of personal interviews (1986).

(23.) See "Ethiopia's Hidden War: The Oromo Liberation Struggle," Horn of Africa 5, 1 (1983:63).

(24.) See the videocassette on Naqamte (n.d.); two videocassettes on "Ayyaana Odda Bultum," Habroo, Oromiya (Hidar 3,1984, Ethiopian Calendar); videocassette, "Aadanno Annole," Arssi (n.d.); videocassette, "Jibatfi Macha," Ambo (n.d.); videocassette on Finfinne (Yekatit 29, 1984); videocassette on Dadar (n.d.); videocassette on Gara Mulata (July 9, 1991).

(25.) The IFLO has religious and regional tendencies; the UOPLF and OALF were once allied with the Somali government and fought against the Oromo people. The OPDO was created by the TPLF and the EPLF. For the majority of the Oromo, it serves the interests of these Habasha organizations. Currently, the UOFLO, UOPLF, and OALF tendencies may form an alliance with the OLF against the Tigrayan occupation force.

(26.) See Adda Bilisummaa Oromoo Koree Giddu, "Qindoomina Sochii Bilisummaa Oromoo Sirneesuuf Yaamicha Adda Bilisumma Oromoo" (n.d.).

(27.) See "OLF Statement About the TPLF-sponsored OPDO" (June 5, 1990).

(28.) See, for example, Lisa Beyer, "Ethiopia: Rebes Take Charge," Time (June 10, 1991); see also AFP, Ethiopia-Politics, Nairobi (June 24, 1992). According to Agency France Press, The United States backed the Tigre People's Liberation Front (TPLF) for several years in their struggle against Lieutenant-Colonel Mengistu's regime and it was on American advice that the TPLF became the EPRDF, though former Tigrean guerrillas are still dominant in the movement.

(29.) See "TPLF: Call to struggle," Amharic 10 (May-June l987).

(30.) Galasa Dilbo's speech at Emory University, Atlanta, November 1, 1993. (31.) See, for example, Oromo Liberation Front Central Committee, "Statement of the Secretary General on the State of the Oromo People's Struggle" (March 1, 1993).

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) See Keesing's Records of World Events, "Ethiopia: Decrees on Regions and Armed Forces," News Digest for December 1991.

(34.) See, for example, "Key Party Boycotts Landmark Ethiopian Vote," The Washington Post (June 22, 1992); "Statement of die African-American Institute on the District and Regional Elections in Ethiopia, 1992."

(35.) Andrew Lycett, "Federalism Flourishes," New Africa (May 1992).

(36.) Getachew Ghebre, "Ethiopia: Honeymoon Over," New African (December 1991: 19).

(37.) See videocassettes mentioned in note 24 above.

(38.) Ibid.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) See Robert M. Press, "In New Ethiopia, Main Tribe Takes Peaceful Route to Reclaim Rights," The Christian Science Monitor (July 15, 1991).

(41.) See various resolutions by Oromo organizations and associations. A few of these resolutions follow: "To the President of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa," signed by 18 elders of thearssi and Bale Oromos (November 16,1991); "Resolutions of Representatives of Oromos Drawn from Eleven Regions -- Professional Associations and Mass Organizations," the Oromo Assembly at Odaa Bultum, Haraghe (December 4, 1991); "Yee Ethiopia Yee Shigigir Tawakayochi," Baa Walaga Yee Sidist Awurja Hizib Twakayochi, Hidar 1, 1984 (Ethiopian Calendar); "To the Council of Representatives of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa," the representatives of the Oromo nation from all over Oromia and Oromos working in Finfinne (February 1992); "The Transitional Government of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa," The Coordinating Committee for Peace in Eastern Oromia, Dadar (March 21, 1992); Resolutions on the Current Situation in Ethiopia by Representative of the Union of Oromo in North America" (n.d.); "Report on the Emergency Conference of Oromo Scholars and Professionals on the Current Situation in Oromia," convened by the Oromo Studies Association (March 13-15, 1992), Washington, D.C.

(42.) For example, see Qunnamtii Oromia (Summer-fall 1992: 2-3).

(43.) Interview with Abdiisaa Baay'isaa. He graduated as an auto technician of Addis Ababa Tagibar Id. An OLF member, he was imprisoned in Didesa prison camp for over a year. Interview with Bakalcha Hussein, a 16-year-old boy. He was imprisoned at Blate concentration camp for nine months. The new regime has imprisoned boys, children, women, and elders just because they are Oromos. I interviewed them in the summer of 1993 in Nairobi, Kenya.

(44.) See, for example, "Declaration of the Paris Conference on Peace in Ethiopia" (March 13, 1993).

(45.) See OLF Military Communiques of 1991, 1992, 1993.


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Author:Jalata, Asafa
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Date:Sep 22, 1995
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