Said Abdosh | October 27, 2014On October 11, 2014, the Oromo-Canadian community of Ottawa held its first annual commemoration event of Harmaa fi Harka Muraa Aanolee and Cali Calanqoo Remembrance Day. Those attending the memorial stood together, as a symbol of unity, and observed a minute of silence in remembering the sheer scale of genocide committed against the Oromo people during the time of colonization, in which millions of the Oromo population was massacred.
In his opening remarks, Bakkalcha Abdosh, Chairman of the community, reiterated that it’s a solemn duty of every Oromo to commemorate Harmaa fi Harka Muraa Aanolee, Cali Calanqoo and other massacres to ensure that the sufferings of our people and their memories are never lost.
Bakkalcha called upon all diaspora Oromo Communities to memorialize or commemorate these events, each year, in order to pay tribute to the courage of the Oromo people in that time of gravest peril. Moreover, he emphasized the need to provide vivid accounts of Harmaaf Harka Muraa Aanolee, Cali Calanqoo and other genocides perpetrated against our people in order to teach current and generations to come so that the memories of those innocent Oromo men, women and children massacred at the hands of the Abyssinians as well as the brutality, cruelty, savagery and inhumanness of Menelik and his successors are never forgotten.
Finally, Bakkalcha passionately argued that Oromos use such commemoration events as a source of passion, unity, solidarity and creative fire to light the Oromumma flame in each and every Oromo soul in order to rededicate and re-strengthen our resolve to free ourselves from the colonial yoke, once and for all.
The Ottawa community was blessed to have the calibre of Professor Abbas Hajii Gnamo as the keynote speaker for the commemoration. Professor Abbas started his presentation with a quote from Ernest Renan, 1882, who associates nationhood with collective memory of the sacrifices of the past, the solidary of the present generation and common aspiration of the future:
“A nation is a soul, a spiritual principle… A nation is a great solidarity, created by the sentiment of the sacrifices which have been made and of those which one is disposed to make in the future. It presupposes a past; but it resumes itself in the present by a tangible fact: the consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue life in common.”
Professor Abbas provided a well articulated historical context of Menelik’s war of conquest including the proximate and immediate economic, political and strategic factors. He gave accounts of a series of confrontations and major battlefields which culminated in genocidal massacres and mutilations: “Harmaafi Harka Mura Aanolee and Cali Calanqoo” in 1886-1887. He eloquently furnished thorough narratives of genocidal campaign launched by Menelik and provided comprehensive accounts of the battles of Azule, Aanolee and Cali Calanqoo. Professor Abbas persuasively argued that Oromos must remember and never forget the millions of Oromo lives that were attacked, tortured, mutilated, enslaved and destroyed by Menelik and his army generals during the most heinous chapter in Oromo history. In addition to the physical and psychological impact of the colonization on the Oromo society, he briefly mentioned the long term consequences including the end of sovereign existence and total exclusion from the political power, the destruction of Gadaa, Oromo democratic socio-political system, an embodiment of civilizational model and identity, the ban of Muudaa and Caffee Institutions, the alienation of land and the consequent serfdom.
As well, Professor Abbas paid a moving tribute to the courage of the Oromo gallant warriors in general, and the leaders of this long and protracted resistance in particular. He singled out Leenjiso Diigaa, the emblematic commander of the Arsi coalitions, and who defeated Menelik’s army many times over, as well as other reputed heroes such as Jaatanee Bultum and his two sons (Nagawo and Seera), Qal’ie Tongo and Ereeso Tongo and Godaana Garicho, etc. He also gave accounts of Albaso and Chilalo women warriors fighting along with men at the height of this war, 1886.
Furthermore, Professor Abbas echoed the famous words: “without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.”
Additionally, Professor Abbas observed the following two important lessons for current and future Oromo nationalists:
The lesson from Aanolee and Calanqoo is that freedom has no price – they took a risk of standing their ground instead of trading their dignity, land and freedom to have imperial peace. They preferred death and mutilation instead of peaceful surrender to be imperial slaves and gabbars. They lost their freedom but not without a fight and their legacy and sacrifices continue to inspire their descendants and generations of freedom fighters.
The second important lesson is unity. The Arsi resisted for so long, won many rounds of battles and even inflicted heavy causalities on the invaders because they were united and cohesive. When and where the Oromo were divided they became easy prey for their enemies. The activists and nationalists of today may not expect any positive result if they fail to unite this vast and proud nation to see the end of oppression and alienation.
As well, Professor Abbas commended the Aanolee and Calanqoo Remembrance Day was an important stage in the long process of struggling with genocide phenomenon and a significant one for creating social awareness on the issue. In this regard, he echoed Bakkalcha’s solemn call for annual commemoration of Aanolee, Calanqoo and others in order to ensure that the genocides and the lessons are never forgotten.
Finally, Professor Abbas concluded his presentation by thanking the Oromo community of Ottawa for their efforts in ensuring that the Aanoole, Calanqoo, Wallo, Gullellle, Galan and other genocides continue to have permanent place in our nations’ collective consciousness.
Oromia Shall Be Free!
Oromo-Canadian Community of Ottawa