It is undeniable fact that the Oromo had their own land and governance for may-many centuries. They called this land Biyya Oromoo or Lafa Oromoo and their administration as Bulchinsa Gadaa (Gada Government). Whereas some Oromos who lived in low lands were pastoralists, the highlanders were farming for many centuries. The crops they adapted, rock carvings, artifacts and many other archaeological evidences confirm these facts today. In fact, there were more lands occupied by the Oromo in earlier days than today. Generally, the Oromo settled between Part of Gojam, Gonder and Tigray in the North, Afar and Somali in the East, Sudan in the west and northern Kenya in south. With all the push and pull factors, the central homeland of the Oromo has been the present heart land of Oromia.
During these times, they lived with other peoples as neighbours including the Abyssinians themselves. Although we don’t have many evidences regarding the cordial relations with Abyssinians, we have ample substantiations that the Oromo had wonderful neighbourhood relations with other Horn of African people, especially, with Konso, Sidama, Kambata, Belashangul, Somali, Afar, etc. With Somali, the Oromoo Share more than 40% of linguistic and cultural connections and they are probably the closest cousins. Of course, conflicts and communications were the order of the days so that fighting over the grassland and water wells were considered minor skirmish and amicably solved immediately.
Furthermore, a highly developed diplomatic affairs between these people were also develop during those days. The Aba Qoro in Western Oromia and the Abba Gari of eastern Oromia were the ambassadors for the Oromo people with their neighbours in point. During the Richard Burton’s visit of Harar city in mid nineteenth century, both the Amir (ruler/king) and his soldiers of Harar City were the Oromo. He also tells us how the Oromo and Somali were sharing water wells and rivers. The story at Laga Fafam, where the Oromo punished their own clan (Akkichu) only because they failed to respect the treaty between Somali and Oromo over the Fafam river is one of testimonial incident for a peaceful coexistence and the functions of the rule of law among the Oromo and their neighbours. The Oromo had never let their people, Mostly Butta Groups, to use excessive power against their peers during the initiation ceremonies. As the Butta war is famous with Oromo youths to occupy new no-man’s lands for settlement.
On the other hand, the Naga Oromo (Oromo Peace), the Guddifacha (adoption) and Mogafachaa (naturalization) do indicate how the Oromo always made peace with neighbours and treat human being with dignity and respect. The absence of capital punishment among the Oromo and the development of Guma (different from blood money as it deals not only with reconciliation and compensation but it goes further to heal the wound of affected parties) system which brings peace between the two disputing parties by performing a complex yet easily understandable step by step system of reconciliation.
As is known, some of the indications of peace and stabilities are prosperity and development of particular nation. Thus there are boundless evidences that the Oromo were prosperous and stable society during those days. All the explorers and foreign travelers admired the Oromo harvests in central Oromo during the Teklehaymanots ( Menilek’s father) expansion and after. The Oromo were healthy and wealthy society with huge physique (tall and well built). More than anything else they have developed a highly sophisticated and refined democratic system- the Gada. They developed one of the indigenous calendar- Ayana and astronomy-Raga Waaqa Laffaa. They were the only African people who differentiated and effectively used heera and addaa (Law and culture) accordingly before the colonial era in 19th century.
Of course, they were ferociously fighting their enemy when attacked and vigilantly defended their territorial integrity. James Bruce wrote volumes of books on the Oromo lives and social structures including waaqeffanna religious practices. The strong discipline they had among themselves both in war and peace times. The meticulous ways of keeping peace and order, as well as how they cordially regain a broken peace, whether it was among themselves or with their neighbours. The Oromo had never used a closed door policy against the foreigners like the Abyssinian counterparts used to do; as they always believed in open dialogue with friends and foes. The oral story of peaceful reconciliation with Afar ( the most hostile neighbours in the East) at Malka Warar is still narrated as the miraculous happening with knowledge and wisdom of the hayyuus on both sides. It is still referred and glorified by the Oromo People in Kamise and Dawwe area as one of the legal references to bring a lasting peace between the these two nations.
Sadly, however, all those peaceful coexistence and age old mutual interrelation and interdependence among those neighbours were completely devastated by the Abyssinian colonizers. They did not only destroy the bases of those centuries old system of peaceful coexistence but they wedged a culture of hatred, cynicisms and malevolent which eventually ate away the fabrics of trust and confidence between these once loving people. Whereas those who peacefully surrendered were effectively made to shoulder Abyssinian colonial yoke, those who resisted such as the Oromo, Somali and Affar, Sidama were categorized under the “barbaric”, “savage”, “uncivilized” and “unruly people” and continued to be the subject of ethnic cleansings. Sadly, while being killed by the Abyssinian on one hand, they also began to fight each other. The infighting mostly started with intention of clearing the gantus or collaborators from the communities. Then first the relatives of the collaborators joined the fighting in support of Gantuuswhich gradually elevated to the fighting between the collaborator’s clan and the rest. Not only neighbours betrayed and fought each other but the same people started to kill one another. Unfortunately, that trend continued up-to-date.
For instance, when the Afran Qallo could not make to support the Arsi and Itu Oromos against Menilek forces because they were fighting against Ra’uf Pasha of Turko Egyptian in the Eastern Oromia, the latter thought that they were betrayed by their brothers. Although they effectively knew that their land (Oromia) was under attacked from numerous directions, it took some time for Abba Gadas and Abba Dullas to understand the magnitude of the circumstances that was going to shake the foundations of their freedom for ever. They were forced to bitterly accept the grim truth that the peace and stability,
fraternity and mutual coexistence among themselves and with their neighbours that their forefathers had created and maintained for centuries have gone for good. They concluded by saying “waaqni Duuyda nutti galee”( God turned His back against us).
Those Hayyus who realized the inevitable truth started to send their shocking messages to their people louder and clearer. The messages that was going to echo for the generations to come only to spare the a dwindling bonds among the great nation. The Abba Dulaas in central Oromia specifically at Chaffe Donsadeclared that everybody must hang the saddle! (Kooraa Fannisaa) because they knew horse fighting (the cavalierly) was no more effective against European rifles. I don’t know if Dr. Ali Birra knew when and how the verse of his song “Silaa Shaggariin Bahaa, Shagaritti Koraa fannisanii” was first created and sung. It was this time that Abba Duulaa Lenjiso Diigaa of Arsi said “Anaa dullumti qabde gifir qubbaan na qabdee, biyyoon bilisummaa dhabdee” ( roughly to say- “While I am getting aged, I got smallpox; as a result the nation lost its freedom”). The message continued by one of the fighter at Calanqoo who said “amaraan goftaa jennee shakaraata lubbuu” (we called Amara our lord at the agony of death). One can enlist thousands of these messaged from Oromo heroes and heroines from Abbiche Garbaa down toObbo Adam Jilo Webo (not General Waqo Guutuu) who said “Dandayu Hiddaaniin Si Buqqisa Dadhabu Ilmaan Sitti Guddis” (I will uproot you if I can, if not I will bring up my son to do so).
All this agonies and anguish left uncontrollable anger in the Oromoo bloods and bones. Hence many controlling mechanisms that the Oromo tried to use against the collaborators (the Gobanas) like theHalaba (ostracising), wixii (exclusion), qoqobaa (sanctions) system unfortunately worked against them and became the source of hatred and divisions among the once united and loving people. My generation witnessed the infighting of the Oromo clans in different localities. Yet, thanks to Oromo martyrs, they cured that wound among the Oromo with their blood, and today we are united, more than any time after colonisation. Today, we having our beloved land internationally recognized as beautiful Oromia (though ill-designated regional state of Ethiopia); different strong communities and other civic organization flourishing in Diaspora using our own script Qubee Afaan Oromoo; etc. I can tell what is going on in Oromia.
As one of the Oromo proverbs goes that “Raroon galaa hagam ciccitullee harree hin hanqattuu” (literary to mean that however torn into pieces, the camel load balancer could be enough to make donkey load balancer). As children of once great nation the Oromo survived all those humiliations and sufferings in the hand of Abyssinian colonisers for over a century. The 1950s and 60s saw the emergence of selfless, brave and farsighted generation who created the Oromo liberation movements-the OLF which brought about the 1991 Oromo revolution which is still swaying.
Yes, the 1990s brought to the Oromo public two opposing principles. The OLF principles of Self Determination (creating Republic Oromia) which was overwhelmingly accepted and supported by the Oromo mass that rallied behind the Organization. And, the OPDO with a vague idea of united Ethiopia, which was rejected by the Oromo, but being part of well-organized and armed TPLF backed by the EPLF was to control the Oromo people with iron feast.
On the OLF side, although the idea of bilisumaa (freedom and liberty) and self-determination was very clear and straight forward for the Oromo mass and OLA- thousands of gallant Oromo sons and daughters sacrificed for this purpose; there were some sort of hidden problems (agendas) among the top leaders of OLF. The secreted mission by the top opportunist individuals that was only to come to light after so many charismatic and brave leaders was perished in the war front and that they thought they were done with ideology of freedom fighting.
During their leadership these guys were the main causes of numerous mistakes and tragedies that some of them are admitting later on; and worst of all they plotted so many conspiracies that reduced the front to a status of no life-no death for many decades. Few examples of these were that OLA Soldiers grew in number but collapsed soon. Strategies were set for success but ended up in failure. Argument started among leaders and ended up in separation. Finally, the sustained wrangling reduced the once huge organization to sheer fragmentation.
It is during these seemingly final days of OLF that a group from the OLF leadership came out with obsolete OPDO ideology of “independent Oromia is a threat to neighboring nations and nationality” with shameful proposal of uncherished marriage with Ethiopia. This group with utter confusion and dilemma has started its way by self-styled designations of first as mqanguddo araraa or qaama araraa and finally ended up an Oromo Democratic Front. However, it is very sad that some of the Oromo individuals seem not to learn from the historical cataclysms (if they are trying, at all, to fix historical clutters) and being observed repeating the same mistakes and catastrophes time and again.
Actually, my intention of writing this piece is not to talk about the group and their deeds or to scratch old scars. Yet it is to share my limited knowledge and experiences with reader as how the very ill-stated phrases of “independent Oromia is dangerous for neighbors” are clearly grave mistake. First of all this idea is created by the TPLF to brainwash the OPDO and then OPDO used it to confused Oromo people with it. Lastly it is being echoed by ex-OLF leaders only to show to the Oromo public that they have nothing original to come out with other than to line up behind OPDO and Dr. Merara Guddina’s Party.
Absolutely, Independent Oromia can’t and will not be a threat to its neighbours for the following reasons:
First of all this kind of proposition emanates from rubbish and ill-intentions of the enemy wish. The independent of one nation under any normal circumstance cannot be a menace to the existence of other.
The Oromoo people had been independent entity for many years and they were living with neighbors in peace and harmony during those days let alone today in an information age when people understand and know each other more than ever before.
The Oromo people have been the victim of unjust war and suffered a lot under the alien rule and know the tolls of being the victims of unjust war and they will never aspire that kind of providence for anyone
As the Oromo will never accept to be ruled under the empire of Ethiopia as before (as Abyssinians and some Oromo collaborators wish), the Oromia under Ethiopia is more dangerous for the region than the independent Oromia per se.
the Oromo and neighbouring nations and nationalities still have old a peace bonds and reconciliation mechanisms (though fragile) that will easily be utilized so that if everybody is freed from Abyssinian colonial yoke, I think, peace and tranquility will undoubtedly be rejuvenated in the region.
Most importantly, many representative or freedom fighter of these nations and nationalities has already developed strong socio-political ties with Oromo through OLF and other parties that will be a great asset for the future friendly relations with these people.
So the proposition that the independent Oromia will be threat to the neighbouring nations and nationalities is baseless and it will only serve a daydreaming Abyssinian colonizers. But the opposite will be true that the independent Oromia will lead to the peaceful, prosperous, and loving nations in the region as the free people always know what is better for themselves and for others.
The best solution is not forcefully keeping those nations together under Ethiopian banner though, but to let them free and those free people can choose what is best for them. After all no one can withstand the power of people once they have decided to fight for their rights. What we are witnessing in Oromia today is quit the same with what was happing in those countries that were liberated from oppressors.
Freedom and liberty for all must be the best maxim and the order of the day in the empire of Ethiopia than trying to democratise the disintegrating empire. Trying to democratize the colonized people before they got liberated is not only trying like making a cart pulling the horse but also wasting precious human lives and properties in the region. Contrary, however, if the miracle of democratizing Ethiopian empire before people get liberated worked at all, no one can be more effective and advantageous than the shrewd TPLF-EPRDF junta who had been accumulating ill-gotten wealth and experiences in this field
Therefore, anyone who wants to help the Oromo people in this regard should pull together, forge unshakable unity and materialized the long overdue promise of delivering freedom and liberty to the Oromo people by those precious Oromo martyrs like: Taddese Birru, Guutamaa Hawaas, Nadhii Gammadaa, Gammachiis Dhaabaa, Buruysoo Boru, Mullis Abbaa Gadaa, Leggesse Wagii and countless sons and daughters of Oromia.