Intorducing Oromia and the Oromo People
Country: Oromia (also phonetically spelled as Oromiyaa)
Area: 600,000 sq.km approx.
Capital: Finfinnee (also called Addis Ababa)
Population: 30 million (1995 estimate)
Language: Oromo, also called Afan Oromo or Oromiffa
Economy: Mainly agriculture (coffee, several crops, spices, vegetables) and Animal Husbandry; Mining industry; Tourism trade; Medium and small-scale industries (textiles, refineries, meat packaging, etc)
Religion: Waaqqefata (the traditional belief in Waaqa or God), Islam, and Christian (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant)
Oromia (The land of the oromo People)
The land of the Oromo Nation is known as OROMIA. It is located on the Horn of Africa within the Ethiopian empire. The geographical boundaries of Oromia are the two Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and other states in the Ethiopia empire. The capital city of Oromia is Finfinnee(Addis Ababa). Oromia has a land surface area of approximately 600,000 sq.km. The Great Rift Valley, that extends from Lebanon to Mozambique and passes through Oromia, bisects the land into eastern and western plateaus. The highest pick mountain ‘Mount Batu’, is located in the eastern plateau in the bale mountain national park. Though close to the equator, the climatic conditions of Oromia are mild and favorable. There are two main rainy seasons in Oromia. In most parts, the major rainy season extends from June to September, while the October to May period is considered as the dry season.
The oromo People
The Oromo constitute approximately 45% of the currently estimated 85 million human population of the Ethiopian empire. Moreover People of Oromo origin are also found in Kenya. With this figure, the Oromo rank as the single biggest nationality in East Africa. The Oromo language is known as Afaan Oromoo or Oromiffaa. It is one of the Cushitic languages such as Soomalii, Affaar, Issaa, Saahoo, Sidaammaa, Geedeo and Ancient Egypt (A History of Egypt – Part One, 1896, p. 126). Afaan Oromoo is spoken in the Ethiopian empire by well over 40 million people as well as in some parts of East Africa,
especially in Kenya. This figure makes Afaan Oromoo as the Lingua Franca of the Horn of Africa. Afaan Oromoo is also the second most widely spoken Language in Sub-SaharanAfrica.
The predominant economic sector of Oromia is based upon agriculture. This sector accounts for 51% of food production of the Ethiopian empire. Thus, Oromia is the single major source of food supplier of the empire. Oromia also produces 63% of Ethiopia’s empire
agricultural export. In addition, Oromia possess the largest livestock population of the Ethiopian empire. It is claimed that Coffee originated in the Oromo region of “Kaffaa”, and adopted its name from the same area. Currently, the Ethiopian empire is the second coffee producer in Africa and the fifth in the world. Oromia alone produces 53% of the total coffee production of the empire. It should be noted that coffee makes over 60% of the export products of the Ethiopian empire.
Oromia has a high potential of naturally existing forests, woodlands, bush lands as well as planted (Community and urban) forests. It is claimed that about 75% of the forestry resources of the Ethiopian empire is found in Oromia. Oromia has many rivers and lakes. The rivers flow westwards into the Somalia and Djibouti. And eastward to Blue Nile. Oromia is also endowed with numerous lakes. Many of the lakes are used for tourist attraction, as resort areas as well as for water sport and fishing. Creator Lakes around the Bushooftuu town of Oromia have a great social, cultural and traditional importance beside their economical importance. Oromia has also a high potential for all kinds of mineral resources mainly Gold, Platinum, tantalum, oil and petroleum, natural gas, rhodium, uranium and a lot other minerals which are found very limited in the world. Oromia is endowed with a lot of natural and manmade tourist attractive site including hot springs, creator lake, endemic wild animal, forest, caves, beautiful mountains, national parks and animal sanctuaries, endemic birds and beautiful culture and a very democratic social system.
The oromo people have a very rich culture. Ones highly developed self-sufficient system which has influenced every aspect of Oromo life is the Gadaa system. It is a system that organizes the Oromo society into groups or sets (about 7-11) that assume different responsibilities in the society every eight years. It has guided the religious, social,political and economic life of Oromo for many years, and also their philosophy,art, history and method of time-keeping. The activities and life of each and every member of the society are guided by Gadaa. It is the law of the society, a system by which Oromo administer, defend their territory and rights, maintain and guard their economy and through which all their aspirations are fulfilled.
The Gadaa system contains nine officials according to the “Tuullama Gadaa” practice: Abbaa Bokku(- President), Abbaa Bokku (FirstVice-President), Abbaa Bokku (Second Vice-President), Abbaa Chaffe (Chairman of the Assembly (Chaffe)), Abbaa Dubbi (Speaker who presents the decision of the presidium to the Assembly), Abbaa Seera (Memoriser of the laws and the results of the Assembly’s deliberations), Abbaa Alanga (Judge who executes the decision), Abbaa Duula ( In charge of the army), Abbaa Sa’a(In charge of the economy). The entire presidium consists of nine members, called “Salgan Yaa’ii Borana” (nine of the Borana assembly). The Abbaa Bokkus are the chief officials. (Bokku is a wooden or metal scepter, a sign of authority kept by the Abbaa Bokku, the president). The Abbaa Bokkus have counselors and assistants called Hayyus who are delegated from the lower assemblies. There are three level of assembly – inter-clan, clan and local chaffes, chaffe being the Oromo version of parliament. The chaffe assembly was held in the open air in a meadow under the odaa (sycamore) tree. The term of the entire assemble as well as the presidium is limited to eight years. Although it is not known with any degree of certainty where and when the Gadaa system started, it is known and documented that the Oromo have been practicing it for well over 500 years. However, according to oral Oromo historians, the Gadaa system has been in practice for several centuries. “Their (Borana Oromo) noted historian, Arero Rammata, was able to recount, in 1969, an oral history covering four thousand years”, (Prouty et al, 1981). Today Gadaa experts easily recall fifty-seven Abbaa Gadaas with important events.
Due to its strategic locale in relation to the Red Sea, via the Suez Canal, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean, at a geo-cultural juncture between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Horn of Africa has always been embroiled, by accident or design, in some world-historic religious, political and military events, since the times of Pax Romana down through the millennia to the era of the superpowers.
The modern Ethiopian empire state was created by the conquest of emperor Menelik II of the Shewa Amhara dynasty (1889-1913). At no time before the conquest by Menelik was the present day Ethiopia a single country. What existed were independent polities- kingdoms in Abyssinia to the north, various confederacies in Oromia and others under the Gada system, the southern kingdoms of Walayita, Kaficho, and Yem, and various communal systems in the Nilotic and Omotic regions. The official Ethiopian history that, echoed by some less critical scholars, presents Menelik’s era as “the unification of Ethiopia” is a fabrication, pure and simple. As in the rest of colonial Africa, the Oromo and other southern peoples were subjugated, their peace, their cultural identities and human dignity deprived. The critical role played by the European armament and technical assistance in the subjugation of the Oromo was recorded by Earl Lytton, a British diplomat then in Ethiopia, who wrote in his book The Stolen Desert-Firms: “Without massive European help, the Galla (Oromo) would not have been conquered at all.” During this conquer, millions of Oromos were exterminated by carnage of war, millions were taken away and sold into slavery, and hundreds of thousands perished by war-induced famine. By the end of it all, half of the Oromo population estimated at about 10 million during the late 19th century was exterminated. It was a genocide. This genocide and very repressive assimilation was continued by the coming emperor “emperor Haile Selassie’s”. A highly repressive centralism was engineered to design and carry out a policy of Amharization under the mask of Ethiopianization. This repressive social engineering has fostered more hatred, wrath and enmity, rather than its intent of creating one social unit.
In the case of the Oromo who were more brutalized, not one decade passed without uprisings against their oppressors. Their effort was repeatedly frustrated largely through decisive willed or unwitting intervention by foreign powers. Therefore, the unsuccessful assimilation has created a strong struggle between the regime dissent and the oppressed people. The successor regime, the Dergue, tried to stave off national liberation movements by introducing a radical land reform program and promising to address the “national question” through a Marxist-Leninist model. A program of “national democratic revolution” was introduced and the slogan of national self-determination was recognized. The program promised, in principle, the rights of each nation and nationality to develop its own language and culture. However, political power remained concentrated in the military clique that formed the Dergue. The clique gradually
transformed itself into a tightly-controlled, repressive totalitarian party dominated by Amhara elites. Any advocacy of national rights was labeled “narrow nationalism” and thousands of reform-minded intellectuals were eliminated as “bourgeois elements”. As an answer for the “national question”, a heinous scheme called “resettlement” was introduced whereby over a million settlers were forcibly transferred from the north to the south in an attempt to change the demographic composition of the oppressed South. Simultaneously, some ten million people of the rural south were moved into “strategic hamlets” under a policy of “villagization” with a double-pronged objective of resource control and surveillance of emerging liberation forces. The Dergue’s effort to perpetuate national domination using Marxism-Leninism as a cover was resisted by organized national liberation movements that ultimately achieved the fall of the regime. The major organizations that led such movements were the oromo liberation front (OLF), the
Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), and the Tigrean People’s Liberation
Front (TPLF). After the fall of the derge regime, the western power and the international community aligned with the TPLF even though the whole exercise of TPLF was to build a Tigrean hegemony and ignored a century long struggle of the oromo people for freedom, self-determination and justice for their geopolitical interest. TPLF has continued the policies of derge despite its opposition during the struggle, the only change was the change of the guard from Amhare elite to Tigrean elite.
The Oromos’ century long struggle against assimilation
and protecting their culture, identity and social unit resulted in the establishment of OLF in 1974. The OLF agenda is that, if the Oromo people cannot forge a voluntary union with others based on equality, respect for individual and collective rights, and promotion of mutual interest, then the people shall exercise their inalienable right to form their own independent state to promote peace and prosperity.