Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Role of Waldhaansso and Ejerssa Journals in Promoting and Propagating Oromo Struggle in North America

By Dumeesa Diimaa  | January 26, 2015
It was about 30 plus years ago that some of us arrived in United Stated to pursue higher education. As young and some what ambitious, we joined the student movements in our prospective universities. For those of us from the Ethiopian empire, the Ethiopian Student Union in North America was our initial home. During the ensuing years, the contradictions among the students from subject peoples of the Empire and those of the Abyssinian heritage could not transcend their revolutionary rhetoric and those of us from Oromo nation disengaged ourselves from the Ethiopian Student Union and in a considerable risk and challenge, in a country with a complex historical and social  milieus we hardly knew, much less understood the culture, politics, and other limitation that we might encounter, we organized our own student union.
We called our organization TOKUUMAA OROMO or United Oromo, but during the ensuing years the name has changed several times as we passed through several phases of our development. We were Oromo Students Union in North America and when most of us were no longer students, we just called our organization Oromo Union in North America (OUNA)
As is the case, that the task of any organization is to communicate its views or illustrate the objectives of its raison detȇr through some sort of mass media dissemination, the Oromo Union in North America started its first publication with a booklet called “Sagaalee” Oromo” in 1975, the entire issue was devoted to General Tadesse Birru’s self less- struggle for the rights of Oromo people. The second issue dealt with Obbo Mokonnin Wossanu’s life and times in the Oromo movements during the golden years of the Machaa and Tullama Civic Associations.
In August 1976, the first edition of the journal “Waldhaansso” or (struggle in English) was launched and it became the primary organ of the Oromo Students Union in North America. It became very popular among Oromos in the US and Canada and often sold out its first issues within weeks. Many people contributed articles both in Affan Oromo and in English dealing with the social and political legacies of Abyssinian colonialism and its oppressive nature as well as the long history of Oromo resistance and valiant sacrifices.
As the continued suffering of our nation intensified by the whole apparatus of the tyrannical Abyssinian state machinery, there were needs for more literature. We started new journals to augment the ever-popular Waldhasso. These new journals were called Oddaa and Hamttuu Burrussa. They primarily had both political and polemical positions as our Union was constantly evolving. They were finally discontinued and Waldhaasso remained as the sole and notable organ of our Union.
Waldhaansso became our collective and authoritative means of mass communication, an anthology of our stories and it transformed our discourse of the events of our youth with a sense of mission, purpose and power. The continuing struggle and suffering of the Oromo nation underlined our assessments by sifting through the past lies of ghost history of the Ethiopian empire. It exposed the complex, often violent struggle of the Oromo society against the Abyssinian colonialism as well as defined ourselves in the face of political, cultural and economic intrusion from the Abyssinian colonizers. It explained and enunciated our political lines and shaped our doctrine!
We were mindful of the oppressive realities of  Abyssinian colonizers, the profound and dreadful social and material basis of Oromo society and the abysmal political and individual rights of the subject peoples in the Empire, and Waldhaansso  was the vehicle to articulate our understanding of the issues and views of those years. It was noteworthy not only for exposing the defects of the Abyssinian system of governance; but it did also publish general political and ideological commentaries on the crucial issues with global themes. Waldhansso was our Pravda and the Federalist Paper combined. The authors of articles and commentaries used pen names for their safety and they documented the grossly cruel atrocities committed against the Oromo nation by successive Abyssinian rulers. The historical and sociological contexts of Abyssinian conquest were forceful and rigorously researched and argued as well as the dysfunctional political culture of the Empire. It exposed the craven canards written by the Empire’s elite about the Oromo society, history and culture.
After nearly three decades of unchallenged and unrestrained advocacy of issues and predicaments of the Oromo nation, the publication of Waldhaansso was suspended by mutual agreement of the concerned parties in 1991.
Ejerssa is another publication that the Oromo Union in North America founded in 1995 to promote Oromo struggle against the new and more insidious Abyssinian rulers, namely the Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF). It was the dismal defeat of the Oromo forces by the Woyannee army that precipitated a growing anger among Oromos at home and in the Diaspora and the Journal Ejerssa was instrumental in demonstrating and declaring our anger and resistance against the new colonial state that was superimposing its treacherous machinery on Oromo society. We used Ejerssa to illustrate the essential characteristics of the new rulers of the Empire and their diabolical schemes to restructure the country to fit their nefarious objectives of plundering of Oromia resources to the benefit of their desolate homeland and brutalizing Oromo citizens who resisted their evil agenda toward Oromo nation.
Ejerssa emerged as free for all medium of politics, culture, arts, news and views. It was very instrumental in reaching-out to wider audiences without the ideological and polemical convictions of that Waldhansso maintained. It was widely distributed and read by friends and foes for its contents, perspectives and analysis of the politics of the Empire and the Horn of Africa. Occasional editorial and essay segments were provocative, informative and often infuriated some Oromo Organizations and individuals who found the tone and contents were not to their liking. The disapproval of some individuals and organization notwithstanding, it continued to echo the voice of Oromo struggle until it was discontinued in 1999 due to organizational transformation of the Oromo Union in North America.
To this end, both publications were uncompromising, consistent and played a momentous role to promote and propagate Oromo Struggle to our true friends as well as our detractors.
There were also some difficulties of editorial and managerial concerns that hobbled us during these years. Just like any publications, both journals had ups and downs with editorial directions and organization objectives. But these issues were resolved within the framework of our established guidelines and contentious disputes were amicably ironed-out. Several members of our organization served as editors as well as editorial writers. It was an arduous job for some while others did it effortlessly. It was necessary and politically expedient to produce both journals quarterly and with a considerable challenge and venture we did it diligently for some thirty odd years.
In the perspective of our long struggle, we formed the most durable bonds that transcended regions, religion and variants of cultural differences in the pages of this two and other publication about our battle with forces opposed to our desire for freedom and dignity. It is the memories forged by years of friendship these generation of Oromos, mindful of the oppressive realties of Abyssinian colonizers, the immeasurably dreadful social and material basis of Oromo nation and as well as the abysmal political and individual rights in the Empire that sustained us to continue the task of exposing lies and, to use Obbo Sissai Ibissa’s and Qabbanee’s aptly coined term the “invention of Ethiopia”.
It was a glorious journey of struggle, we rose above our limitation to fit what is universal among us, Oromumma, We had confidence, we had a mission to realize free Oromia and the total essence of the past decades endowed us with reach experiences and convinced of the righteousness of our cause. We believed and continue to believe that these virtues were instilled in us by the essays and political analysis of these two journals.
We take great pride in the role of both journals for exposing the falsehood of Abyssinian colonizers and hopefully in the future a new generation of Oromos will pick up the torch and publish their own Waldhanssos and Ejerssas to combat the next challenges.
Finally, the quest for freedom and willingness to pay any price must continue to shape the political environment of the Empire. It is with historical inevitability that the struggle of Oromo nation will succeed. The courage, the vigilance and the commitment of our people will determine the distance. For sure, we need to go to any length to free our nation from the Abyssinia colonizing structure.
They say… memory is a selection of images. Some looser, others printed indelibly on the brain. Each image is like a thread, each thread woven together to make a tapestry of intricate texture and the tapestry tells the story –the tapestry of one’s past, both journals were the tapestry of our struggle past.
JULY 28-29, 2006
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