Liberating The Land and Resources for The Development of Oromia
By: Itana Gammada April 18, 2019
A nation cannot survive, let alone develop and prosper, without having full control over its land, resources and the capacity to direct those resources towards economic development.
An effective development plan requires: 1) free mobility of available national resources; 2) a people-oriented and firmly secured national organization; 3) popular and responsible leadership; 4) fundamental institutional changes; 5) collective action, meaning participation and sacrifices by all Nationals, to be able to utilize national resources including human skills.
The objective of this paper is not to deﬁne the course of economic development plans or to suggest any model of development but to examine what land and resources mean to the Oromo society, and state the need to liberate them from alien control for their own socioeconomic and cultural development and social progress.
Oromia has considerable natural resources that have yet to be tapped: numerous rivers for irrigation and power generation; various precious metal deposits such as gold, silver, marble, ores and other mineral deposits. The existence of these resources shows a high degree of development potential. Just like the people of any nation, there is nothing the Oromo desire more thane to organize their lives and develop their own land. But this will not occur until they take control of their own resources and make them benefit themselves.
Building an independent socioeconomic structure that can generate a healthy and productive life requires effective human organization. In turn, this will provide a means for a harmonious interaction within the society. To combat external economic control, the native leadership must empower the people. They should be educated in history, civics, government, sociology, and politics not only to understand the current state of affairs but also exercise and enforce their rights as indigenous people. It is clear that this lack of knowledge leaves one susceptible to foreign influence and abandonment of responsibilities on the journey of national self-propagation.
When indigenous people take ownership of the production of their national resources, they are empowered, and that power is re-infused back into their society. However, for the process of ownership and control to be practical, a strong resilient leadership with a vision and conviction to educate, mobilize, and liberate the society from dependency must be present.
Why Liberation of Land and Resources is Important
Since the late 19th century, Oromos have been locked in a continuous and bitter fight against the Abyssinian colonial aggressors intending to occupy the Oromo land in order to brutally mistreat, suppress, exploit and dispose of its people indefinitely. However, the Abyssinian colonialists, in an effort to stifle the Oromo national freedom struggle, have never succeeded to fulfill their diabolical ambitions. They have not taken full control of the Oromo nation and their pursuit of the destruction of its culture, history, and Gadaa democratic system must not be successful. The fight for self-preservation has continued throughout generations of Oromo people determined to sacrifice for freedom, peace, social progress, and the dignity of their nation.
Ever since the barbaric occupation of Oromo land by Emperor Menelik II, our people have been fighting invaders, armed with their history of bravery and dignity. The ongoing genocide wars in Oromia were designed to erase the Oromo nation from existence and to deny the Oromo people their survival, both as a people and a nation, setting them up for the eventual elimination from existence.
Resources are the only source of human survival and the basis of social and material development is based upon them. When a nation begins to engage in a development process, it requires the knowledge about the resources it needs to achieve longstanding economic development. It is also common to all nations, rich or poor, to try to forecast their economic future in relation to world-wide economic trends. However, to design a development plan and execute it for a viable future in which a constructive socioeconomic transformation can be realized, requires an assessment of the available resources of ones own nation. The political and economic relationship that has existed and continues to exist between Abyssinian (Ethiopian) minority regimes and the vast majority of Oromos (about half of Ethiopia’s total population) is that of the oppressor and the oppressed. As history reveals, this relationship does not only hamper Oromo social progress and economic development, but also threatens to destroy their social fabric and culture.
Beginning with the invasion and occupation of Oromia in the late 19th century by the Abyssinian ruler, Emperor Menelik II, to the present, the wealth of the Oromo nation has been subjected to alien control- plundered and pillaged while depriving the Oromo society the beneﬁt of their own natural resources and labor. A statistical survey shows over sixty-eight percent of Ethiopia‘s GNP comes from agricultural production and other raw materials in Oromia1. The great risks and sacriﬁces our young men and women are taking today to liberate their land from foreign occupation and domination are a living testament to the steadfastness of the march towards national self-actualization.
The task of bringing resources under indigenous and legitimate peoples’ control and direction requires raising political consciousness and broadening the economic power bases of members of the indigenous society. This includes arming them with their own culture and conducting effective agitation as a means to challenge external aggression and domination. It is always important to bear in mind that the control of national resources is not merely an economic development strategy, but the ultimate chance of survival and future security.
Primary Steps for Land and Resource Liberation and Protection
Economic development is not attainable without liberating the land. Emerging nations or societies must examine all aspects of resource management before embarking upon development. The primary step is to ensure that all the available resources (human capital, raw materials, skills and information) are channeled into a proper framework. In the case of Oromia, some of the basis for land and resource liberation rests on the ability to: a) mobilize and organize the people on the bases of their history and cultural identity with an emphasis on liberation of the Oromo nation from colonial domination; b) establish harmonious relationships in the society, free of deception, hypocrisy and divisiveness, and to allow its members to fully participate in the entire process of resource control and allocation; c) educate the masses about the causes of existing problems, in order to invigorate a sense of unity, nation-building and development; d) educate and empower the people to produce and control the national wealth and to take on the task of ensuring the protection of their resources; e) take necessary steps to halt the extraction and transfer of various Oromian resources by the occupying Abyssinian forces; e) organize an Oromia-wide “Public & Resource Defense & Conservation Council.” Abyssinians have occupied Oromo land and plundered the wealth of the Oromo nation for so long, and have enjoyed privileges without limitations, while suppressing the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Oromo society. It is now time for this colonial relationship to come to an end.
The Ongoing Genocidal Occupation and Eradication Policy of TPLF
The collapse of Mengistu’s regime in 1991 did not bring any solution to the suffering nations and their compatriots in the empire due to the continuation of Abyssinian colonialism. The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), a tiny minority from the Northern core of the empire began to strategize on how to occupy the vast territory it inherited. The primary strategy was to: occupy Oromo land along with the entire empire; organize with internal collaborators to be used as tools for foreign governments; gain support of foreign governments; incite animosity among the Oromo and other ethnic groups; and finally, invite multi-national corporations to back-up the occupation process.
Under the guise of democracy and a coalition charter, the TPLF is determined to brutally suppress and dispossess the Oromo people via political maneuvers, military muscle and outright murder, eviction, massacres, and mass incarcerations. In “Ethiopia, the Roof of Africa,” Jane Curtz observes: “The Tigre is the smallest of the major groups, making up about 8 percent of the population. Tigre and Amhara people share a Semitic cultural heritage and together shaped Ethiopian culture and politics. The Tigre upheld Ethiopian Christianity in its purest form.”2To fulﬁll this colonial dream, the TPLF had to craft a scheme: in order to transform itself into a vanguard of the Ethiopia empire, it had to create a suitable name, “Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front” (EPRDF), while simultaneously organizing a “peoples democratic organization” of different nationalities and prisoners of war, who are both under their captivity and the EPLF. This scheme provided the initial groundwork to help facilitate TPLF’s grand assault on Oromia, the Amhara, Afar, Hadiya, Sidama, Walayta, Kambata, Konsso and the Ogaden. As noted by the US Federal Research Division in Ethiopia, A Country Study(1993): “In time, the EPRDF also included the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization and Ethiopian Democratic Ofﬁcers Movement, both of which had been created by the TPLF in May 1990. Tigrean strategists hoped the uniﬁcation of these groups eventually would enable the TPLF to widen its base of support beyond Tigray. Elements in support of the government, however, denounced the EPRDF as nothing more than a TPLF organization in Amhara clothing.”3
Contrary to the TPLF/EPRDF attempts to solely claim victory over the Ethiopian army, the forces that brought about the downfall of Mengistu’s regime came mainly from the masses of the people struggling from all fronts. Jane Curtz notes this fact, “The communist regime started peasants’ association to help improve farming methods, but the peasants rejected them seeing them as an enemy who tells what to do rather than organization that would help them leading to the destruction of their policy, the state farms and the whole villages broke apart and the people quickly went back to the way they wanted.” 4
After the power grab in May 1991, the TPLF formed a transitional coalition government for the purpose of buying time to consolidate power and to create the TPLF government. Their campaign has been intensiﬁed with the help of billions of dollars from international ﬁnancial institutions and governments. Thus, from the onset, it was apparent that the TPLF was installed to destabilize and dominate the Horn of Africa. In the past, it was common for the Abyssinian minority regimes to rely on foreign powers for assistance to quell Oromo freedom movements. Consistent with that pattern, the EPRDF is still receiving substantial support from western governments in spite of its gross human rights violations and atrocities against the against peoples in the southern part of the empire. Right after the formation of the Transitional Government in Ethiopia, The World Bank and the United States government pledged financial support to Meles Zenawi’s regime. On October 6, 1992, The Washington Post reported that, “The United States recently agreed to spread $161 million over three years to develop competitive market…in line with a $750 million World Bank led initiative to jump-start, the economy.” In addition, western international ﬁnancial institutions have announced $1.2 billion in economic aid to the EPRDF, which is led by Meles Zenawi. The Washington Post of October 6, 1992 reported that, “The Western lenders also have taken a small gamble on Meles’ promises of democracy and free market, agreeing in November to lend Ethiopia $1.2 billion to cover its budget short fall. While the amount was not great by the international standards Western ofﬁcials said it represented a break from past refusal of aid to Ethiopia.” 5
As part of a wider plan to strengthen the position of the EPRDF in Ethiopia and to oppress Oromos and other colonized peoples in the South, political backing and the ﬂow of ﬁnancial help continue to increase. From the start, the TPLF knew that it was impossible to occupy the Oromia, let alone control its immense and rich resources without outside support and local collaborators.
The TPLF colonial occupation plan is similar to the 19thcentury colonial undertaking by King Leopold of Belgium and Cecil Rhodes of Britain in Africa in search of land resources and raw materials which were very much needed for European colonial powers. Similarly, the Tigrayan colonial elites are now extending invitations to foreign governments (so-called investors), and local parasite business markets who have no regard for humanity, lives, and the well-being of the people in the empire other than maximizing the exploitation and sharing in the spoils of domination. Once it grabbed the state machinery, the TPLF declared rural and urban lands as state property and stated that it can use them as it pleases. The ongoing frenzy of policies of land lease, land concession, company sales, permissions to ownership and mining rights to local and international companies are similar to the colonial economic, political, and military tactics executed in early 19th century.6
Just as other colonial vanguards managed to bring many nations in Africa under European rule by diverting their land and resources to their own beneﬁt and the citizens of their home countries in Europe, the TPLF is now using an identical colonial policy in Oromia. Just as King Leopold ll of Belgium occupied and subjected the Congo (now Zaire), to wanton devastation, Meles Zenawi of Tigray has set out to occupy the Oromo nation- waging genocidal war that is destroying Oromo economy and institutions. Obviously there is no difference between the siphoning-off of Oromia’s gold, coffee, marble, food grain, wood products, etc., to Tigrai (the home of Abyssinians) and the actions of Europeans in their former colonies in Asia, South America and Africa. For the past 27 years, the activities of the TPLF (EPRDF) and its allies have sped up the pace of extracting resources from Oromia. Some of these resources are irreplaceable.
Hundreds of millions of Abyssinian settlers are pouring southward, to takeover Oromo land in the name of resettlement programs. From the outset it was a systematic occupation through settler-colonialism that is still intensifying in Oromia cities and urban areas. The Tigran elites are behaving identical to the White South Africans (Bauers) that were spearheading the apartheid system, an extreme hatred race-oriented and mass removal policy where the minority dispossesses the majority and rules at will.
The TPLF colonial design is not only to systematically dispossess the Oromos of their legitimate resources, but to also liquidate their social fabric and economic base of the society in order to turn Oromia into a permanent Abyssinian domain. The orchestrated invitation of international corporations and “investors” to operate in Oromia are clear indications of the TPLF’s master plan to appropriate the resources of nations and nationalities in the Empire.
The Tragedy of Forced Expulsion in Oromia
The genocidal policy of forced removal of Oromo populations from their ancestral lands is an integral part of the extermination process that involved the physical, economic, and cultural uprooting of millions of people from both urban and rural lands in Oromia. For the last 27 years, the TPLF, in its political, economic, and cultural war against Oromo people and supported by its colonial partners and internal collaborators, have used all available means of destruction against our people in the empire. For more than a century, the Abyssinians have been pushing hard to change Oromia’s landscape by eradicating the Oromo population and thereby claiming ownership of Oromo land through forced removal, systematic re-settlements, and forced assimilation processes both in cities and rural communities throughout Oromia. In the past, the TPLF has forced removal of tens of millions of Oromos from their ancient land in order to open space for Abyssinian settlers with the aim to change Oromia into a settler’s domain. The Abyssinian genocidal project in the 21stcentury is considered to be the biggest act of genocide and ethnic cleansing the world has ever seen. These unprecedented large scale mass removals resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people, as the sole purpose for Abyssinians was to repopulate vacated Oromo land with their own. In Finfinne and the areas surrounding, over two million people were forcibly removed from their ancestral land and homes which had been passed on to them from past generations, in which, millions of farming communities have been uprooted.
The so-called “ye charraqa beetoch” (the moon houses) is another new form of invasion to dispossess the Oromo people of their land and property in order to expand their landholdings in Oromia as quickly as possible. The frenzied land grabbing in Oromia – building houses in the moonlight is putting the Oromo people in a catastrophic situation. Today, the Oromo farmers who are living near and surrounding the city of Finfinnee are facing total extermination from their ancestral land, while the ownership of the land is openly shifted to the hands of occupying forces.
The real motive behind the Master Plan in the name of expanding Finfinne (Addis Ababa) is nothing but another calculated wave of extermination that was framed to forcibly remove Oromos from their historic and cradle land (Odaa Gulalee) in order to fill it in with Abyssinians (settlers) for the complete takeover of the city and its surrounding farming lands. Similar genocidal programs are taking place in and around the cities of Diree Dawaa, Gobba in Baale, Shashamanne, Asoossa, Adamma, and other growing cities. This grand scheme of population removal was designed to systematically eclipse the Oromo nation by uprooting the people then to establish their state in the heart of Oromia. The perpetrators are responsible for innumerable atrocities, state terrorism, brutal repression, and for committing ethnic cleansing throughout Oromia and other nations and nationalities across the Empire.
The Way Forward
The principal thing over which the Abyssinians and Oromo are fight, was and continues to be, the land, its byproducts, and raw materials that exist on Oromo land. Given this fact, the only solution available to the Oromos is to: a) make an exerted effort to recover every inch of Oromo land that has been stolen by the enemy by any means necessary; b) re-appropriate all looted wealth and resources of the nation ; c) strategically restore vital national resources and raw material products such as coffee, xaafii, soy beans and other important food rains to the control, protection, and proper management of the Oromo for future economic development and social progress. Coffee and gold, which are the wealth of the Oromo nation, are not only the backbone of the Ethiopian empire but are the only source of foreign currency earning commodities. The Oromo people should not forget that the Abyssinian colonialism was introduced and built in Oromia by military means combined with planting settlers. But, the Oromo people remained defenseless and exposed to carnage, massacres, torture, displacement, and invader attacks deep into Oromia that devastated the nation. The Oromo people as a whole, and the youth in particular, must think seriously about how long this will be allowed to continue.
Without political and economic freedom, the management and the total control of national resources, it is unthinkable to plan a reconstruction of an effective national economy, as desired. It requires having a unity of purpose to rise up and use every means necessary to liberate themselves and the land before embarking on national and economic development and growth. The fight to retrieve the stolen land and the wealth of the nation also requires the unity of the people and determination to intensify the ongoing revolution (civil disobedience) in order to liberate the land and return all that was taken by the occupying regimes.
At this time, silence, talks about to be “added up”, indifference, and political wrangling has no place in the solution equation, especially when Qeerroo or Oromo youth (Darggoota) rose up and demanded their national rights, are fallen martyrs for the sake of freedom and determined to make an end to TPLF’s genocidal occupation, land robbery, and resource plunder. The Oromo youth, who ignited the flame of freedom throughout the empire, are an inspirational force for the people who are suffering under the most brutal regime of the TPLF/EPRDF in Ethiopia.
Though it is not yet completed, the victories which we see today undoubtedly came from those brave and determined Oromo youth and patriotic nationalists who have made and continue to make heavy sacrifices for the Oromo cause. They were able to show the world that the Oromo people’s national struggle is a just cause, seeking their inalienable right to self-determination. For the last 27 years, the TPLF’s genocidal regime with the help of their collaborators, has used all available means of destruction, mass uprootings, wanton massacres, and atrocities against our people. The TPLF genocidal wars in Oromia are clearly a reminder of the Nazi period in Europe during the second World War which devastated the whole Europe as it clearly reflects in today’s Ethiopia.
Unity is power! Victory to the oppressed people!
- Statistical Abstract, Ethiopia, A Survey of Yield and Production of Major Crops, 1988
- Jane Curtz, Ethiopia: The Roof of Africa. 199, pp. 6—27
- US Federal Research Division, Ethiopia, A Country Study, 1993 pp. 308-309
- Curtz, op.cit., p. 22
- The Washington Post,October 6, 1992
- See for example Robin Mckown, The Colonial Conquest of Africa, 1971