In the interest of sharing what African young writers and media entrepreneurs from other parts of Africa are doing in promoting under-represented African stories, this Oromo Press podcast presents an in-depth interview with Aminata Diop, a Senegalese published author based in New York City. Aminata Diop is a novelist and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Tamaji Magazine.
The Tamaji Magazine is "a collaborative bilingual webzine" that promotes communication between black cultures around the world and between new and old African Diasporas using multimedia and social media. Qeerransoo Biyyaa sat down for an interview with Aminata Diop to probe into her professional and creative journey and to share that unique experience with the audience of Oromo Press.
Aminata Diop's has one big vision: she thinks of achieving a digital revolution through her magazine--a kind of revolution that aims to rekindle pan-African cultural conversations among African youth and the youth in the African diasporas around the planet.
The magazine also showcases African stories to interested non-Africans as well in English and French--Aminata speaks and writes in both .
She authored a novel titled The Mirth of Collegeand is now working on her forthcoming novel project.
Listen to the podcast and compare this West African experience to your own Oromo, East African experience. Also,find out what kind of hip-hop music and Senegalese music Aminata Diop enjoys listening to toward the end of the interview.
Framing: What We Are Told Is Not What It Is Tigire ruling elites often misleadingly frame genocidal massacres against the Oromo people in various parts of Oromia as "inter-communal violence, ethnic conflict, border conflict or water conflict" in order to absolve themselves from responsibility and possible future indictment in local and international courts. For at least two decades, genocidal massacres against Oromo have been framed that way in order to cover-up the deliberate effort by TPLF elites to either reduce Oromo by attrition to a minority population or to destroy them fully so that Tigireans can take over Oromia and its resources. That is their long-term plan. Aslii Oromo, an exiled Oromo political prisoner and torture survivor, cited the late Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zanawi ( from Tigray) who said,"We [TPLF or Tigrean elites] will reduce the number of Oromos from 40 million to 4000 without the knowledge of the world." Yet, many, including some well-meaning Oromos, have hesitated calling widespread massacres against Oromo a "genocide", and comfortably stayed on the human rights violations side of a much protracted problem.
Ethnic Tigire elites declared their intent of destroying the Oromo partially or fully and have acted on their declarations. Where they did not declare these intents, they can be inferred from the actions of singling out and massacring and displacing Oromo en masse or selling their lands to land grabbers by the millions of hectares. Even an airhead would understand that no one group will massacre other groups just out of love or to do them some favor by killing them off of their land. Calling massacres against Oromo "genocide" has been avoided mainly because some people make false strategic calculations and believe that it is enough for the Oromo to claim human rights abuses instead of claiming genocide too. Human rights violations are indicators. There are some who see the talk of genocide as an inflation or overstatement. But, connecting evidence on the ground can show us that massacres in Oromia are indeed conspicuous acts of genocide. Let's just go beyond routine condemnation press releases, which echo the official framing of such massacres as "border conflicts or ethnic clashes etc", and come to grips with the reality--genocide. The methods are multi-pronged: direct massacre, displacement, landgrab, spread of lethal infectious diseases, starving, withholding services, destroying crops to just list a few. In the process, it becomes important to see these massacres as part of an ongoign genocide, "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic,racial, religious, or national group" With absolute military, economic and diplomatic powers, Tigirean elites have ever been emboldened to destroy the Oromo nationality and its material, cultural and intellectual properties. They are accountable to no one--not to their laws, not to international law and not to moral principles. TPLF elites' arrogance is becoming limitless, soaring. While they engage in genocidal activities in Oromia, the international community has afforded them the complete silence they so want. However, the human and material destruction caused by Tigire elites in Oromia is no short of the Syrian crisis or Darfur, but Western cameras are not focused on Ethiopia as its has been considered a regional counter-terrorism linchpin even now when Somalia is on the path of stability and reconstruction.
Reductionists may say, "oh yea, ethnic clashes have been going on between Oromo and others for decades, so what is the big deal about what is happening now?" As stressed earlier, these are not just ethnic clashes between equally armed or unarmed groups trying to settle their differences violently. To understand what is going on, we have to make the links between the different events of massacres in Oromia. Briefly comparing the recent genocide hotspots in eastern Oromia, southern Oromia and western Oromia will offer a much needed deep perspective.
Patterns of Genocide 1. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Eastern Oromia The mass atrocities against Oromo in Eastern Oromia (Qumbi county) started in 2011 when TPLF elites provided advice to armed bands of Ogaden militants to lay claim to six districts that traditionally belonged to Oromia region. Land claims are TPLF incentives to another group to get the group to indirectly commit genocide on their behalf. Who does the planning of the genocide--TPLF elites--are more important than the agents on the ground hired to do the depraved job of massacring and looting. This violence has been intensifying over the last six months. The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa describes the massacre and the displacement in the following terms: ....this government-backed violence that has been going on in the name of border dispute around the Anniya, Jarso and Miyesso districts between the Oromia and Ogaden regional states has already resulted in the death and/or disappearance of 37 Oromo nationals and the displacement of about 20,000 others. Around 700 different types of cattle and other valuable possessions are also reported to have been looted. The reports indicate that the violence has been backed by two types of armed forces (the Federal Liyou/Special Police and the Ogaden Militia) from the Ogadenis side, while on the side of the Oromos, even those who demonstrated the intentions of defending themselves in the same manner were disarmed, dispossessed and detained.
Another radio report estimates the number of internally displaced Oromos at 150,000 people. The displaced people continue to die through starvation and diseases.
Who are the attackers and how and why were they organized? Who supplies them? What types of weapons were they using? The above quote does provide answers to those questions. It is well known that the Federal Liyu/Special Police is a heavily armed group that carried out the killings and the displacements on behalf of the Tigrean elites who master-minded the creation of this Janjaweed-like group with UK tenders.
Just like the Sudanese government organized, armed and used Janjaweed militias to overrun villages in Darfur, the Ethiopian government has organized and supplied Liyu Police and has had them overrun several villages, towns and counties in eastern Hararghe, Oromia. In contrast, the Oromo were disarmed and discouraged from carrying out any acts of self-defense, according to the report quoted above. The Oromo have absorbed everything passively. When a group of government-backed heavily armed military group attacks villages, of course, the primary responsibility falls on the government who created it and mobilized it to commit mass atrocities. If the government did not plan this genocide, why were it watching it for six months until it gets to this?
The main reason TPLF uses groups such as Liyu Police from the neighboring Ogaden region or any other region is because it wants to acquit itself from being held accountable and brought to justice in a local or international court at some point in the future. It is also easier for TPLF elites to frame such massacres "border disputes" for the same purpose of absolving themselves, but they won't be quite as absolved as they think since evidence shows they have planned, funded and and executed these attacks. This is a pure case of a heavily armed group overrunning Oromo civilians in towns and villages. It is not a war between two armed groups. It is a massacre perpetrated by a state-run militia group. Locally, everyone knows this despite the misleading frames being tossed around. 2. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Borana, Moyale BBC reported in July 2012 that scores of unarmed Oromos were massacred and over 20,000 were displaced by the same force from the neighboring Ogaden region. Like the Eastern Hararge massacre, the Moyale massacre was a result of cross- border raid into Oromia from the neighboring Somali region. This group was also heavily armed with military convoys, trucks, AK47s, machine guns, and other kinds of heavy weapons that only a group armed by the Ethiopian government can afford to have. Tigrean leaders have provided Oromo lands as incentives upon a successful completion of massacre in this area as well. The Oromo got displaced and the land was occupied by the armed settlers from a neighboring region. The attackers fulfilled their short-term goals of sharing the spoils of genocide, while their TPLF elites master-minding this massacre have made progress toward their goal of destroying the Oromo nation. TPLF elites do not care because the violence against Oromo does not affect their co-ethnics in Tigray region who are far removed from the actions. We are talking about the distance between Mekele and Moyale here (951 miles or 1530kms). Tigreans are sheltered from the kind of genocidal violence their elites unleash on Oromos everyday.
3. The Case of Massacre and Displacement in Eastern Wallega The massacre in eastern Wallega (western Oromia) began in 2008 and went on for over 5 years. This also shares the features of the two other massacres and massive displacements. The only difference is the difference of another neighboring group from Benishangul Gumuz that Ethiopia trained and supplied to do the same job of perpetrating genocidal violence on behalf of Tigire elites. These elites are capable of extremely evil schemes that no rational person can contemplate. The same applies here---they don't care because the violence doesn't affect their Tigrean co-ethnics who live removed far from the actions--we are talking about a distance between Nekemete and Mekele (675.5 miles or 1087km). Oromia Support Group describes eastern Wallega massacre in the following way:
....the slaughter of defenceless Oromo by Benishangul Gumuz militia in the Didessa and Hanger valleys, Eastern Wallega, from 17-19 May.Well-trained and armed by the government with AK47s and heavier machine guns, Gumuz militias attacked unarmed Oromo villagers as they slept, slaughtering men, women, children and babies, cutting throats, dismembering bodies and casting body parts aside – limbs, breasts and genitals.
Overall Picture of Genocide in Oromia The cases above, among others, show us how the ruling Tigrean elites are aggressively hiring, training and supplying Oromo neighbors to perpetrate genocide on their behalf foolishly thinking that that would absolve them from responsibility. The arrogance of Tigrean power in Ethiopia is growing by the day. It's an unrestrained power of a hate-intoxicated minority elites who would stop at nothing short of wiping out Oromos slowly as their leaders have claimed or implied in the past. The misrepresentation of these massacres and displacements targeting the Oromo are promoted by both TPLF elites as well as the international media that relies on Tigirean sources for their news reporting and opinions. Since Ethiopia prohibits journalists and the press direct access to these sites of genocide, the act is often wrongly labelled inter-ethnic clashes over borders, pasture and water. They did not or could not see what it really was. Looking at the nature of the state-backed heavily armed militia groups makes the cases rise above ordinary clashes between civilians of equal power. The Desire for the World to Know An elderly survivor from east Oromia said:
"...As I speak to you now, my eyes are filled with tears, we don't have any mobile phones, we don't have a single camera in the village to take pictures of our people who have fallen and let the world know... Those of you in exile must know that our people are being hunted like wild animals, but nobody knows about this outside."
The elderly survivor was very smart to observe that recording/filming events of massacres can help publicize the ongoing genocide against the Oromo people. The lack of cameras and inexpensive mobile phones also reflects badly on Oromo leaders who have failed to listen and continue to only issue dry press releases from the convenience of their desktop computers using word processors. If we can't get cameras in and get pictures and videos of many state-backed massacres out of Oromia, at the minimum, what is the point of the Oromo national struggle?
RE: OSA’s Appeal Letter to US
Secretary of State John Kerry in Advance of his Trip to Ethiopia
Honorable Mr. Kerry,
I am writing this
letter on behalf of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), a scholarly
organization established by Oromo and non-Oromo scholars to promote studies on
and relevant to the Oromo people, the largest ethno-national group in the Horn
of Africa constituting about 40% of the Ethiopian population. We have learned
from the media outlets about your planned trip to Ethiopia to attend the AU
summit in Addis Ababa (Finfinnee) from May 19 to 27, 2013. While we welcome
your trip to Africa and appreciate the desire of the United States to actively
engage in the continent, we are gravely concerned that your trip to Ethiopia
and your contact with the Ethiopian authorities might be construed as your
government’s endorsement of the minority TPLF-led Ethiopian government’s crimes
against humanity and its continuous human rights violations against the Oromo
and other peoples of the country. These crimes have been consistently and
repeatedly well documented, among several other reliable sources, by the US State
Department annual reportson Ethiopia.
Your upcoming trip
to Ethiopia comes at a time when the Ethiopian government authorities continue
with their massive human rights violations under the cover of fighting
terrorism by branding dissenters as “terrorists”; religious freedom is
curtailed and thousands of Muslims are peacefully protesting every week
demanding freedom of religion despite the fact that the government unlawfully
prohibited any peaceful rally in the country; millions of Oromo farmers and
other indigenous peopleare unlawfully
and forcefully evicted from their ancestral villages and their fertile arable
and grazing lands which have been their livelihood for centuries are given to
transnational and Tigrayan investors; the freedom of speech and the freedom of the
press have been suppressed.
association has continuously appealed to the different offices of your
government, requesting that the United States stop supporting the Ethiopian
regime until it stops its human rights abuses. Some examples our appeals are:
January 25, 2013, we have written a joint letterto your predecessor, her Honourable Madam
Hillary Clinton, for her to use her influence with the Ethiopian government and
facilitate the release of all political prisoners and to take practical action
to promote real democratic changes in Ethiopia. Furthermore, on the same day,
we organized and held a protest rally of several hundreds of Oromo-Americans in
front of the US State Department asking your government to stop supporting the
minority ethnocratic regime in Ethiopia.
ØIn my position as the current OSA President, I have written four other
appeal letters on the human rights violations by the Ethiopian government and a
copy of each of these letters have been sent to your office or to the Office of
President Obama. These letters can be found on the publications page of OSA’s website. ØMy immediate past Presidents of OSA have also consistently written
appeal letters to your government and to other international organizations
(copied to your government) to bring to your attention the gross human rights
violations and the multidimensional sufferings of the Oromos and other
Ethiopians under the current ruling Tigrayan People Liberation Front (TPLF)
minority regime in Ethiopia. These letters can also be found on the same publications page of OSA’s website. The
Oromo Studies Association (OSA) once again kindly ask you to use your trip to
Ethiopia and to directly ask the Ethiopian authorities fulfill the following
Demand the Release of Political Prisoners in Ethiopia
1) Oromo opposition politicians,
Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa ,were arrested in
August 2011 after speaking with Amnesty International officials. They were sentenced with seven other Oromos in
November 2012 to long prison terms under fabricated charges.
the release of Oromo opposition leaders such as Mr. Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelissa, and seven other Oromo
nationals, Welbeka Lemi, Adem Busa, Hawa Wako, Mohamed Melu, Dereje Ketema,
Addisu Mikre and Gelgelo Gufa, who were convicted and later sentenced
to long term imprisonment under the charge of “working underground to secede
Oromia from the federal government” and other concocted charges after being kept in jail
for more than a year. The two opposition leaders were arrested in August 2011
after speaking withAmnestyInternational officials and convicted on November 1, 2012. 2) Demand the release of tens
of thousands of Oromo and other political prisoners, some of which have been
sentenced to death. To mention a few among the tens of thousands of Oromo nationals
languishing in jail for being Oromos include Mesfin Abebe (civil engineer, sentenced to death in March 2010), Tesfahun Chemeda (civil engineer,
sentenced to life in March 2010), Eshetu Kitil (Businessman and owner of the Hawi Hotel, sentenced
to 12 years without parole in March 2010),Aberash
Yadeta (female, sentenced to 12 years without parole in 2010), Wabe Haji (sentenced to 12 years
without parole in 2010), and many, many others. Furthermore, about 200 Oromo youth
were rounded up and arrested when they were peacefully celebrating the annualIrreechaafestival (Oromo thanksgiving)
at Lake Arsadi, Bushoftu, Oromia. The pictures of some of the youth arrested on
this festival pictures shown below.
3) Demand the unconditional release of 29 leaders of the
Ethiopian Muslim community who were arrested between July 19 and
July 21, 2012 and afterwards, including Chairman Abubakar Ahmed, Spokesperson Ahmedin
Jebel and committee members Kamil
Shemsu, Sultan Aman, Adem Kamil, Jemal Yasim and Meket Muhe,
andothers. You may not be aware that hundreds of Ethiopian
Muslims are protesting on a weekly basis, non-stop for over a year, asking the
government to stop interfering in their religious affairs and demanding the
release of their spiritual leaders who have been unlawfully thrown into jail.
inform the Ethiopian government authorities that US aid to Ethiopia will be
contingent on their respect of human rights of the Ethiopian citizens and on
the unconditional release of all political prisoners. Don’t let the Ethiopian authorities
try to fool you by telling you the usual lie that “there are no political
prisoners in Ethiopia.” Bekele Gerba, Olbana Lelisa, Mesfin Abebe, Eshetu
Kitil, Wabe Haji, and tens of thousands others are all political prisoners.
Demand that the Ethiopian Government Stop Forcefully
Evicting Oromo Farmers and Leasing their Land to Foreign and Tigrayan Investors.
of thousands of farmers mainly from the regions of Oromia, Gambela, Benishangul,
and the Southern Nations are forcefully evicted from their arable and grazing
lands and their lands are leased to foreign investors. During your stay in Ethiopia and contact with
the Ethiopian authorities, we kindly request you to:
ØDemand that the Ethiopian government
stop its land-grabbing and distribution policies with no delay;
ØRequest that the Ethiopian
government return those evicted farmers to their villages and compensate all
the victims of the land-grab;
ØDemand that the Ethiopian
government recognizes the indigenous people’s ownership of their ancestral lands;
Demand the Ethiopian Government to Respect the Freedom
of the Press, Speech, Assembly, and to stop Jamming Radios including the Voice
of America and Blocking Websites.
of expression is curtailed in Ethiopia: citizens are jailed if they attempted
to criticize the government in any shape or form; journalists are jailed or
forced to flee the country; free media have been suppressed and the Ethiopian
government controls all media outlets of the country; independent radio
stations broadcasting to the country from abroad are constantly jammed;
opposition websites are blocked. During your contact with the Ethiopian
authorities, we kindly request that you demand the government respect the basic
rights of its citizens and to:
and implement its own constitution,
which on paper guaranteesrespect
forhuman rights,promisesfreedom of religion, of expression, of peaceful protest and democratic
governance, which the Oromo and other peoples of Ethiopia have never enjoyed in
the past twenty-one years;
new laws that violate the fundamental freedom of citizens: particularly the so
called Anti-terrorism Law, Press Law, the current law that prevents charitable
organizations from freely moving in the country, and the most recent law that
criminalizes the usage of Skype and other media tools;
Østop harassing journalists and jamming VOA and other
free radio stations broadcasting to Ethiopia, and blocking opposition websites.
Thank you for promoting the rule of law, human rights, and social
justice for the Oromo and other oppressed peoples in Ethiopia.
Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Dagbladet: "Several protesters were handcuffed and taken care of by the police, but was released after a short time."
A historically pro-Oromo refugees Norway has been evolving into an unfavorable place for Oromo refugees and refugees from the Horn of Africa in recent years. Abandoning its own humanitarian streak, the Norwegian government has drifted too far in the direction of questionable tolerance and support for the regime in Finfinne (Addis Ababa), which stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in regions such as Oromia, Ogaden and Gambella, among other places. "Genocide Watch considers Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7 [of genocide], genocidal massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes." According to a news article by Johansen , of 150 Oromos who have showed up to stage protest in front of Radisson SAS hotel in Oslo, police arrested 11 under the pretext of causing a "public nuisance." They were allegedly protesting without permission, which justified the arrest. Unfortunately, for the Oromo who gathered to protest the meeting of Ethiopian officials, injustice in Oromia followed them in Oslo, Norway. Oslo police clearly demonstrated that it cared more about the proceeding of the meeting organized by Ethiopian officials more than it cared about burning human rights issues that were to be raised by the protesters: "It [Ethiopia meeting]does not go peacefully. We must try to keep them away from the hotel entrance, said operations manager of the Oslo police..." The arrest of the protesters against Ethiopian regime officials is not only unusual in highly developed nations like Norway, but it is also a worrisome situation as this might set off not only restrictions on freedom of speech, but also the potential for deporting refugees just like Yemen and other Horn of African regimes neighboring Ethiopia have been doing over the years in collaboration with Ethiopian authorities. It would have been fair if instead of arresting and handcuffing Oromo exiles with legitimate grievances, Oslo police arrested Tigrean People's Liberation Front officials who work for a regime known for committing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity in Oromia and Ogaden regions. To put it in perspective, not arresting Ethiopian officials was almost like not arresting Omar al-Bashir, but instead arresting Darfurian protesters in Oslo, hypothetically speaking. This arrest was not all too bad despite the dehumanizing aspect of holding down protesters on concrete sidewalks and handcuffing them in public. The protesters did manage to make their case of opposing the rampant human rights violations in Oromia. The good news was the Oslo protesters were released later in the day and got news coverage in a Norwegian media out of the unfortunate event. That is a good trade-off, but arrest targeting human rights activists should not have happened on a Norwegian soil of all places in the first place. Johansen wrote:
Oromia er en region i Etiopia, med anslagsvis 27 millioner innbyggere. Oromoene har sitt eget språk, og er den største av 80 forskjellige etniske grupperinger i Etiopia. Likevel er de stort sett satt på sidelinjen politisk.
Which can be Google-translated using a Chrome browser and means the following:
Oromia is a region in Ethiopia, with an estimated 27 [??] million people. Oromo have their own language [Afan Oromo], and [Oromo] is [are] the largest of the 80 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Yet they are largely sidelined politically.[emphasis added]
Well, "sidelined" is a gross understatement for a people going through stages of genocidal process. But, at least it suffices that the entrenched problems Oromos face in Ethiopia are acknowledged thanks to the courageous demonstrators who did something in order to highlight the plight of the Oromo people in the Ethiopian empire. A broader question: Is this an isolated incident against protesters who failed to seek permission or is this a part of the ever growing Euro-centrism that is increasingly becoming hostile toward immigrants from Africa? As you may recall, the Norwegian government backed the deportation of "Ethiopian" asylum-seekers sometime in 2012. Norway signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government in order to facilitate the deportation of around 400 allegedly undocumented refugees. Luckily, that also failed to materialize thanks to the wide criticisms it attracted from Horn of African activists.
We need to constructively engage the Norwegian government to revert to its earliest pro-refugees and pro-victims position. This can be done by emphasizing that the ones that deserve to be arrested are the ones that commit mass atrocities in Oromia, i.e. Ethiopian regime officials, not innocents who take to the streets to speak up against injustice. Leave Oromo exiles alone. For on-site coverage of the Oslo protest, watch this TVORO report in Afan Oromo.
---- Footnote: For the quoted material, translation from Norwegian to English was made using Google Translate. Since this was a software-based translation, the meanings in the translation may not accurately reflect the original.
Marathon Nation: Ultimate Breeder of Global Elite Athletes
Oromo elite athletes have won three marathons in just one week: The Rotterdam Marathon, The Boston Marathon and The London Marathon. Can we call them Oromo athletes, Ethiopian athletes or both? Does it diminish their success if we recognize who they are?
Other than obviously running representing Ethiopia officially, at least until Oromia's freedom, what do the winners of the Rotterdam, the Boston and the London elite men's marathons have in common? Tilahun Regassa, Lelisa Desisa and Tsegaye H/Wordofa all come from the Oromo nation, Oromia, the ultimate breeder of long-distance elite athletes both in men's and women's divisions. These athletes are the jewels of not only the Oromo whom they come from, but also of whoever is a fan of athletics locally and internationally speaking.
The attempt here is not to try to limit their ownership to the Oromo nation, but to create awareness to recognize their Oromo identity, which has implications on how they are treated as human beings when they are denied their basic right of, at least, freely speaking in their mother-tongue when they win. The current trend seems to be that the athletes fear to speak Afan Oromo because they fear losing their careers due to the racist attitude from "Ethiopians" who would only want them to identify as "Amharic-speaking Ethiopian champions." For some, Amharic is a second language that they don't understand.
Tilhaun Regassa won the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands on Sunday April 14, 2013, finishing at 2:05:38:11. Here is Tilahun Regassa's unique interview after winning the 2013 Rotterdam Marathon:
The following day, on April 15, shortly before the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings, Lelisa Desisa (Ambo, Central Oromia) won the Boston Marathon's men's elite race clocking 2:10:22. The Oromo nation sends its condolences to the victims and families of the victims of the Boston attack. Bringing yet the second pride to all the fans of marathon as well as to the Oromo, Lelisa Desisa finished beautifully.
Watch how Lelisa Desisa runs in this video:
Tsegaye Kebede Hordofa clenched his second title at the London Marathon, winning in a very competitive race with his Kenyan next of kin, Emanuel Muthai. Hordofa (Kebede) clocked 2:06:04. The London Marathon started with a moment of silence for victims of the Boston Marathon. Hordofa grew up poverty-stricken in central Oromia, Finfinne area, the capital city. Watch how Tsegaye Kebede Hordofa won the London Marathon here:
Oromo Authletes and the Dilemma of Nonrecognition in Ethiopia's Sports
Beyond being a powerful source of pride for Oromia, Ethiopia, Oromo athletes are the source of pride for Africa and the entire humanity that likes this sport. Every athlete runs representing an official country. So do Oromo athletes, at least for now, until Oromia is free or independent. Unlike other places where the ethnic origins of athletes are readily acknowledged, for instance, Kenya's Geoffrey Mutai and many others' origin from the Kalenjin ethnicity, Ethiopia fully suppresses the core ethno-national identity of Oromo athletes in order to prevent the Oromo people from being known worldwide. It is almost considered a taboo or a violation of Abyssinian colonial rules for these athletes to speak to journalists in their mother-tongue, Afan Oromo. Mind you, Amharic-speaking athletes are free to speak in their native because their blood kins rule Ethiopia. Even today, Oromos are forced to express themselves in a colonial language that they don't understand or did not learn in school.
Oromo athletes are often forced to speak through Amharic interpreters. They are also deprived of the opportunity to learn to speak in English. Communication challenges they face answering questions are enormous as they don't fully understand three languages that they find themselves circum-translating or getting circum-interpreted in. They face double alienation from Abyssinians who don't expressly support or recognize their merits because of the beautiful Oromo last names they bear such as Regassa, Desisa, and Hordofa. Pay attention to how they carefully expunged the last name "Hordofa" from "Kebede", the winner of the 2013 London Marathon because Habeshas did not like the fact that his name was not Amharic or Tigrigna--hegemonic ethnics' languages.
One wonders how each of the athletes who are caught up in this violent mutual nonrecognition feel each time their very right to speak in their native tongue is suppressed or denied, each time they don't have an Afan Oromo speaking interpreter who understands their culture and language and who can best help them speak to the media of host nations.
It is a miracle for these athletes to win three international marathons in just one week. Our nation and the world are proud of their achievements. We marvel at their becoming champions beating through hard work the economically and socially cruel and degrading environments they grew up in.
The 2013 OSA midyear conference was held and successfully completed as planned on Georgia State University campus on Saturday, March 16, 2013. The event started with the blessings of elders in accordance with the Oromo tradition.
The blessings of elders was followed by the keynote speech by
the Oromo heroine, Urji Dhaba, who sacrificed much of her adult life fighting
for freedom and justice for the Oromo people. The title of her speech was “Yaadannoo Hadhaa Qabsoo Hidhannoo, Dararaa
Mana Hidhaa, Jireenya Baqattummaafi Egeree Oromoofi Oromiyaa”, roughly
translated: “Memories of Tribulations of
Armed Struggle, Atrocities in Prison, Life in Exile and the Future of Oromo and
Oromia.” The audience broke into tears as Urji eloquently narrated the trials
and tribulations she has gone through in the bush, in the prison camp of the
TPLF-led Ethiopian regime, in various hospitals and people’s homes for
treatment from her illness, which was inflicted on her when she was gang-raped
and severely tortured while in captivity.
Keynote Speech Part I: Oromo Heroine Urji Dhaba
Keynote Speech Part II:Oromo Heroine Urji Dhaba
Keynote Speech Part III: Audience Questions and Comments
The keynote speech was followed by Panel 1: "Post-Meles Ethiopia and the Prospects for
the National Liberation Struggle."
The panel was intended to analyze scenarios, possible opportunities and challenges created by the passing away of
the Ethiopian dictator, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The panelists were
Professor Mohammed Hassen (Chair), Dr. Ibrahim Elemo, Obbo Kadir Elemo, and Dr.
Mosisa Aga. The presentations of the speakers were followed by a fierce debate
from the audience with questions, answers and comments on the future of the
Oromo and Oromia. One thing that all the presenters as well as speakers from the
audience stressed was that it is imperative that all Oromo political groups in the Diaspora coordinate
their forces and work in unison. Some speakers from the audience sharply
criticized Oromo scholars for not doing enough in trying to press the
leaders of the Oromo political groups to unite.
The second panel continued after an hour's lunch break. The
theme of Panel 2 was “Issues of Crises in Leadership and
Organizational Capacity Building in the Oromo National Movement”.The panelists were: Prof. Asafa Jalata
(chair), Dr. Harwood Schaffer and Prof. Ismail Abdullahi. The PowerPoint
presentations of the three professors were followed by heated discussions during the question and answer period.
The last panel was on miscellaneous topics: Oromo religion
and ecology, issues of land grab in Oromia, and the legacy of the late Oromo hero Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa as presented
by Prof. Mohammed Hassen and complemented by Prof. Ismail Abdullahi. The
panelists were Adde Bonnie Holcomb (Chair), Prof. Gobena Huluka, Prof. Daniel
Ayana, and Prof. Mohammed Hassen.
Again, their presentations were followed by heated
discussions, and the 2013 OSA midyear conference ended at 5:00 PM as planned.