December 8, 2013
Mandela was a prisoner of conscience, but he was a free man at last. Today, there are tens of thousands of Oromo prisoners of conscience in Ethiopian prisons. Mandela was once considered a terrorist. Today, the Ethiopian government often labels one who advocates for the rights of the Oromo people as a terrorist. It is against this background that Mandela’s universal message of justice has a strong resonance in the Oromo nation, a nation trying to overcome a century of discrimination, oppression, marginalization, exploitation, and occupation.
The Oromo nation had a historical connection to a man who changed the world through his words and actions. He inspired General Taddasa Birru, a man who ignited the struggle of the Oromo people for freedom and equality. The Oromo nation takes pride in teaching a military science and training Mandela needed to spark the struggle of the people of South Africa. Mandela cut his teeth under General Taddsa Birru and Fikadu Wakane. The Oromo nation also foiled an assassination attempt against the life of Nelson Mandela. Captain Dinka Guta is still a living witness for that. We are also happy that Dr. Neville Alexander, a son of an Oromo slave, fought for the independence of the people of South Africa, and imprisoned with Mandela at the same prison cell.
Mandela has left the world for good; yet he has changed the world for good. Today, the world is a better place for humanity because of a meaningful life he lived and a remarkable legacy he left behind. We are grieving his death, but humanity is better off because of his universal message of love, peace, harmony, understanding, human rights, and democracy. Mandela’s struggle against discrimination and oppression will inspire the struggle of the Oromo people and other oppressed peoples around the world. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and the people of South Africa during this difficult time.
Ibrahim Elemo, M.D, M.P.H
President, the Oromo Studies Association/Waldaa Qorannoo Oromoo
December 7, 2013