The Triangular Struggle For Freedom In Oromia (Ethiopia)

30 mins read

Fayyis Oromia*
As far as my hitherto understanding of our history is concerned, Oromia (Ethiopia), as also depicted in the Holy Book, is Cushland, which is located south of Egypt and now stretches from Meroe to Mombasa. I know that there is a controversy regarding this assertion for some scholars do claim that the Biblical Cush was located somewhere in Arabia. But, let me here take as a fact (operationally define) that Cushland is the land of those nations speaking Cushitic languages, i.e. the land which stretches in Africa from northeastern Sudan to southeastern Kenya. Then, we can see that current geographical Oromia is only part of this Cushland. We heard and read that Cushitic nations existed in eastern part of Africa, all sharing a common cultural heritage, since 8000 years ago. As linguistic evidences testify, the ancient Cushitic languages had been divided into four branches starting from 5,000 B.C., thus now the branches having their different linguistic and national identities. Some common positive values of the Cushites included their monotheistic faith system, in which they did believe in only one Supreme Being known as Waaqa by the Oromo, the faith system with no concept for Satan and Hell in order to punish a human being after death; their egalitarian social norm and democratic values like the Gadaa administration of the Oromo; their tendency to cultivate harmony, love and peace as major social values; as well as their good tradition regarding peaceful transfer of power as practiced in the Gadaa democracy. But, as recorded in historical process of the region, Cush peoples in the northern part of Oromia(like the Agew) had already started to accept language, aristocratic rule, theocratic tradition and other values of the Middle East, including personal namings in both their aristocracy and theocracy. NB: Oromia = formerly Ethiopia, as defined here:, is a union in which the following five points (FADOB-score) will be implemented: F = Freedom from the system of domination; A = Afan Oromo as a primary language of the union; D = Democracy as the rule of the game in the union; O = Oromia instead of Ethiopia as the name of the union; and B = Black-red-white as the Cushitic flag of the union!
Before the beginning of the domination by the Axum empire (in today’s Tigrai and Eritrea), inhabitants of the area were believed to be mostly Cushites; that is why also the Axum civilization is said to be part of the Cush civilization. The so called Solomonic dynasty in the Axum empire is actually taken by some scholars as the dynasty of the Agew, who accepted values of aristocracy and theocracy, including the creation of Ge-ez language (a combination of Agew, original Hebrew and ancient Yemenite Hebrew languages). This dynasty was believed to have been later taken over by the explicit Cushitic dynasty of the Zagwe. The same trend seems to have had happened latter in Hankoo-bar of Dirree-Saawwaa (Shoa), where the Cushitic Oromo used to live. Also the Solomonic dynasties in Saawwaa and Gondar were considered by some writers as the dynasties of these native Oromos. The ruling class of this dynasty created its own language –“Lisane-Nigus” (Amharinya), around the year 1270 from the combination of Afan Oromo, Ge-ez/Tigrinya and Agewinya. The Chrisitian kingdom is said to have controlled only about 1000SqKm around Hankoo-bar in the 14th century, being surrounded by the Oromo, but it gradually expanded its territory to include all the present Amhara part of North Saawwaa and beyond that extended up to the Indian Ocean. In the 16th century, after the Oromo defense forces successfully protected their nation from attacks by both the Ottoman Turks and the Portuguese (time when all the foreigners were driven out and since when Oromia was considered to be isolated), this same Oromo dynasty continued to rule in Gondar till the rise of the warlord Atse Theodros, who started to defeat the Oromo dynasty for the first time, being supported by the Europeans. The negative impacts of the northern elites’ rule on the affected part of the Cush nations did include the forceful conversion of peoples to Judaism and Orthodox-Christianity; authoritarian tradition terrorizing the non-Abyssinian neighbors; autocracy and dictatorship replacing their democratic tradition; intrigues as well as inculcating of war as their motto for keeping power; and taking over of power from each other by using means of murder and violence. These negative impacts were to some extent checked by the Oromo till the rise of Atse Theodros in the mid-nineteenth century. The first victim of the Abyssinian domination was the Cushitic Agew nation; it was then followed by the victimization of the Oromo in the northern part of Oromo region. Some history writers think that Cush peoples were physically pushed from the north to the south, but I think they were rather more influenced, both culturally and linguistically, than only being pushed physically. The military and political moves of Theodros and Yohannes IV as well as that of Minilik and Haile-Sillasie were then the further attempts of subjugating the Oromo and the other nations in the southern part of Oromia. At last, Minilik and Gobanaa together succeeded in invading the Oromo and other Cushitic and Nilotic nations of the southern region.
When we look at the recent history of the Oromo, this nation can be regarded as part and parcel of both the dominating polity and the dominated public in history of the existing Oromia. The kings from Ye-Kunoo-Amlak to Haile-Sillasie Guddisa, most of them originating from Saawwaa Oromo, were the classical examples. The move of the Oromo in self-defense against both the Europeans and the Ottoman Turks during the sixteenth century war in the Horn, including the rule by Oromo kings in Gondar dynasty; the ruling Oromo federalists of Ejjuu Oromo from Ras Ali-I to Ras Ali-II during the so called “Zemene Mesafint” (Era of the Princes); the contribution of Tewabech (daughter of Ras Ali-II from Oromo origin), the wife of Atse Theodros, for the success of her husband; the contribution of Itege Taayitu Bitul (the Ejjuu Oromo lady) in coordinating the moves of both Minilik and Gobanaa during invasion of the Oromo region and during the Adwa war against Italian colonizers; the contribution of Oromo Generals in consolidating “Oromian unity” and the mysterious death of Gobanaa; the rejection of Lij Iyassu (a Muslim Oromo) by the European Christian Kings and his premature death being accused as a Muslim; the role of the Oromo Generals like Qusee Dinagde to consolidate Haile-Sillasie’s rule; the role of Oromo Generals like Jagamaa Keello in defending Haile-Sillasie from the coup attempt by the Neway brothers; the participation of the other Oromo Generals like Tsigee Dibuu in this same coup attempt; the role of Oromo patriots like Abune Phexros, Abebe Aregay and Belay Zeleqe in defending Oromia from the fascist Italy during the Second World War; the heroic deeds of Abdissa Aaga in Italy; the role of Oromo revolutionaries like Walellign Mekonen, Haile Fida, Baaroo Tumsa, Senay Likke, Dabalaa Dhinsaa, Mengistu Haile-Mariam and Teferi Bantii to topple the last monarchy; the coup attempt by the Oromo Generals like Merid Nugusee, Demise Bulto and Amha Desta against the brutal Derg; the “last minute” attempt of General Tesfaye Gebre-Kidan and Tesfaye Dinqaa (both being Oromo) to save Oromia from disintegration during the fall of Derg; the role of OLF in bringing down the Derg rule; the main opposition against Woyane since 1991, which is mainly from the Oromo nation; and even the fact that the prominent unitarist leaders in the present opposition camp, being from Oromo roots, etc – all these do show the involvement of Oromo elites in both the northern elites’ domination process and in the defense of the oppressed nations against this same process.
Today, the domination process is going on under the influence of the tyrant Woyane regime. We know that some of the oppressed nations in the present geographical area of Oromia have developed their own distinctive languages, identities and ways of life to deserve their own free nation-states. Their amalgamation within a unitary state by disregarding their right to national self-determination was not, is not and will not be, as such constructive. Just disregarding the possible unitary state advocated by the northern elites, it is interesting that we can now observe, for example, the Oromo people are the most tolerant in the region and allow “others” to live among them in comparison to nations in the north. Let’s look at the relatively very few presence of the Gurage, who tend to move to all corners of the country for the sake of making business, in the northern region, in comparison to what they do enjoy all over Oromo region and in southern regions. It is this tolerance of the Oromo, which invites these “others” to work with the Oromo people against all the injustices now taking place in the wholeOromia. The ongoing resistance against the current tyranny, which is perpetrated by the rulers of the northern elites from Tigrai, needs such an all-inclusive alliance in a form of both the liberation struggle and the democratization process. Here we need to see the importance of the “two against one” phenomenon, especially in the triangular struggle of Amhara elites, Tegaru elites and Oromo elites for either domination or liberation of their respective nation. To make this phenomenon of freedom practical, the Oromo liberation forces, in our policy, should consider to liberate, not only the Oromo people, but also all oppressed nations in the country – which are still the victims of the negative impacts of the northern domination process. Our move in the future should be liberation move from the status quo of tyranny — through a genuine federation (national autonomy for each nation) — and through national freedom (independence of each nation-state) — towards confederation (union of free nations) in the Horn. Surely again, it is the Oromo liberation movement which can be the main factor for the coming demise of the current Tigrean tyrannical regime, that is why the present regime is more brutal on the Oromo. The northern rulers should be compelled to move toward this concept of the confederation, and they should stop the ongoing subjugation of the oppressed peoples under their rule.
Thus, the self-determination of all oppressed nations in the country must be part of the Oromo liberation movement, which wants to foster a new Cushitic Oromia, even though there are some minor non-Cushitic nations also living in the area. Such renaissance of the Cush nations in the region must be the true Oromian renaissance in contrast to the further northern domination going on under the rule of the TPLF; Oromian renaissance is now wrongly described to be the same as a further northern domination like what is going on now. The genuine Oromian renaissance is the reversing of the negative northern domination. The liberation of oppressed nations from this negative impact should be accompanied by the necessary liberation movement. In this regard, especially during the last one and half century, there was the struggle between the elites of the two northern nations (the Amhara and Tegaru elites) and others, including the Oromo, either for domination or for liberation. Except the short break during the rule by the Tigrai warlord Atse Yohannes IV, the elites from the Amhara nation (including the Amharanized Oromo) dominated for more than a century. But the elites of all dominated nations, specially those of the Oromo and the Tegaru, fought together against this Amhara elites’ domination. The feasible approach in the liberation struggle was and still is the optimal use of this “triangular struggle” in Oromia. Here, the fact that at least three forces (Amhara, Tegaru and Oromo) are fighting against each other for either domination or liberation is unique. Such triangular struggle needs a wisdom in knowing and using the possible alliances of the “two against one.” Till 1991, there had been no confusion; the Oromo liberation forces and the Tigrean “liberation” forces had formal or informal alliances against the dominating and ruling Amhara elites. From 1991 till 2006, there was a confusion for the Amhara opposition forces and the Oromo liberation forces could not trust each other to foster an alliance against the now dominating Tigrean elites. The Tigrean ruling elites successfully divided and polarized the Amhara patriotic forces and the Oromo liberation fronts; these two couldn’t foster an alliance of the “two against one.” One of the methods applied by the ruling Tigrean elites is acknowledging Amharinya as the only federal language and denying Afan Oromo the same status. With this manipulation, the Tigrean elites could make the Oromo feel as if we are still dominated by the Amhara elites and manipulated the Amhara elites to sense as if they are still the privileged ones in Oromia.
This is a reason why the ultra-conservative Amhara elites still prefer being ruled by the Woyane to being liberated with the Oromo forces. The notorious Hailu-Meles handshake and the frivolous opposition against the opposition by some prominent Amhara elites before and during the past “elections” were classical examples. From 2006 (the first attempt of forming the AFD) till now, there is an approach-avoidance conflict between these two forces, which seem to be diametrically opposite (some Amhara elites still striving to materialize an unconditional unitary state, and some Oromo elites struggling for an unconditional independence of the Oromo region without a possibility for a union). Now these two currently oppressed big nations seem to be on a crossroad to choose between either forging an alliance against Woyane or suffering further under tyranny. I know that there are debates and discussions going on between the opponents and proponents of the alliance in both camps. Woyane cadres are, of course, pouring kerosene to the fire as usual by camouflaging as the opponents in both camps against the “unholy” alliance. In the Oromo camp, they preach that Amhara elites are still the primary enemy of the Oromo nation; and in the Amhara camp, they teach that the Oromo elites are not trusted for they are “anti-unity”; as if the Oromo elites are worse in this regard than the ruling Tigrean elites. They are successful with this polarization till now; time will tell us if the leaders of both the Amhara democratic bloc and the Oromo liberation camp are smart enough to deal with this divide-and-rule machine of the Woyane. I personally encourage them again and again to come together in order to get rid of this tyrant Tigrean elites’ regime and to pave a way forward for the future new Oromia – i.e. union of free nations. I hope they will break the advantage taken till now by this ruling tyrants and make the struggle to be the triangular struggle of the “two forces of oppressed nations (Amhara democratic forces and Oromo liberation fronts) against force of one oppressor group (Tegaru rulers)” – which must be a struggle for freedom, but not for domination of any kind.
As repeatedly quoted: “coming together is the beginning, keeping together is a progress and working together is a success.” By the way, not mentioning other nations here in the triangular struggle doesn’t mean they are insignificant, but the opinion here suggests that the other nations can be categorized in one of the three angles of the struggle. From the Oromo perspective, the best way to forge an effective alliance against the enemy is by empowering the Oromo or strengthening the Oromo liberation camp. When we do have a strong and efficient liberation force, all our neighboring nations, including the Amhara, who are now suffering under the Tigrean tyrants, will surely seek an alliance with us. That is why I tried to promote the formation of only one big and efficient OLF. It is good that some OLF fanctions had agreed to merge; we hope that the rest will join the unity in due time so that we will have only one stronger OLF with efficiently fighting OLA (Oromo Liberation Army). I am sure that there is no difference of objective/kaayyaoo between the different factions of the OLF, but they do move with different strategies to the same goal. This is not bad so long they be careful not to fight each other, but do target the enemy from different directions. For instance, let one OLF fanction move using the tactical alliance with the Habesha democratic forces towards the goal and let another faction move without such a tactical alliance until both of them decide to come together under one political structure.
Parallel to this liberation move, one important process we yet need is the revival of Waaqeffannaa as it is going on now: It is also interesting to observe the Cushitic version of both Christianity and Islam; it is important to keep moderate version of Islam (very liberal and tolerant one) as well as it is good to maintain the tolerant versions of Christianity, to promote both tolerant Orthodox and Evangelical movements in the Horn; all these being liberal interpretations of both Abraham religions by Cushitic Africans. Thanks to Waaqa, we seem to move forward in all aspects of living together in peace and tolerance. Waaqeffannaa is actually the core of the Cush culture, which lost its importance due to the northern cultural domination in the last 3000 years. This time-span, which the northern elites narrate as the “good” history of Oromia, is actually the time in which the Cush nations had to slowly give up their constructive norms and values just to accept the unproductive elements of the dominating culture. Now, it is time for the renaissance and revival of this lost Cush culture; reviving and modernizing Waaqeffannaa must be part and parcel of such renaissance. This monotheistic faith system of the Cush in particular, and that of Africa in general, needs to be developed further.
The Cush renaissance process should also include mechanisms to get rid of the unitaristic notions like “no to Oromia, but consider it as Ethiopia,” the approaches like “we know better for you,” the assertions like “our language is your language,” the ideas like “we don’t exist as a nationality, neither do you,” the absurdities like “we are not Africans/blacks,” and it should help get rid of the still existing domination mentality of the northern elites. Actually, the Oromo liberation struggle already persuaded such elites to think twice, and it will continue to do the same till the Amhara and Tegaru elites start to feel that their illegitimately dominating position is immoral. At the end of the day, they should and will be proud of being part of the confederation of free nations in the Horn. Certain concrete facts, which do support the necessity of our move towards such a union, are that we do, for example, see Lake Tana in northern Oromia and Tana River in Kenya as well as that we do have the Weyito people around Lake Tana and the Waata Oromo around Tana River. Both these facts reveal the reality that the common denominator for these two regions is the reality of being inhabited by the Cush people. Can this suggest that the Wayito at the source of Mormor (Abbay) river are the Waata Oromo?
Anyways, the way forward for all Cush nations in particular, and for all nations of the region in general, is first to achieve freedom from the destructive mentality and from the tyrannic rule of the northern elites and then to allow each nation to decide on its own destiny – for national freedom within a union or without a union. As long as there is a domination of any kind, there will always be a move for liberation. That is why the best way to get rid of the liberation fronts in the region is to deal with the domination forces. It is like fighting fire (the cause), which is an effective approach; but not struggling with only smoke (the symptom), which is a futile exercise. Here, domination forces are the fire (causes of the problem), whereas liberation fronts are the smoke (consequences of the problem). Thus, the concrete steps to be taken in promoting the Cush culture in Cushland should include, for instance, revival and development of both the Cushitic Agew culture and language in their living areas like in Gondar, Gojjam, Lasta, Tigrai and Eritrea; promotion of Oromo culture in the area of those who lost their identity like in Raayyaa, Wallo, North Saawwaa, Finfinne, and in the other big towns of the Oromo region; necessary freedom from the confusing and destructive Abyssinian elites’ way of doing business by a brute force; as well as the important activity in achieving the renaissance and the modernization of the lost Cush values like the Gadaa democracy and the Qalluu institution, which were used to be practiced even around Axum. Then, the main features of the future political community in the new Oromia with an acceptance and with a necessary respect for the Cushitic values will be the planned political union of free nations, the region with freedom of religion, the nation-states exercising democracy and enjoying their liberty, the region with economic prosperity, as well as the area of social harmony and peace between all the nations. Beside the effort that our democratic forces like the AG7 and the liberation fronts like the OLF must show to materialize this vision, may Waaqa help us all move in this beneficial direction of promoting a ‘union of free nations’ in the mainly CushiticOromia; of course also respecting the human and national rights of the minority non-Cushitic citizens and nations living in Oromia!
* Fayyis Oromia: