A Historic Mass Uprising in Oromia
By: Itana Gammada
The only viable choice for nations or peoples under colonial occupation is to set forth their goals, become organized and united in their stated objectives, and fight for their freedom, independence, justice, and dignity. Because of infringements of colonialism and imperialism on the way of life of indigenous peoples, never in human history has colonialism or imperialism gained acceptance by any society aspiring to freedom, independence, peace, and progress. In the past, wars and other struggles for national liberation throughout the world—in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Indian sub-continent, and the Middle East—have managed to dismantle colonial empires and establish democratic, free, and independent nations from the ruins of such. As a result, they have enjoyed peace, freedom, democracy, stability, and social progress.
Unfortunately, the Oromo nation and other nations and nationalities in the Horn of Africa have remained colonial subjects of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), suffering genocidal occupation, physical destruction, barbaric repression, and wars of ethnic cleansing for the past hundred-plus years. Since the late 19th century, the Oromo have been locked up in fighting Abyssinian colonialism, whose main objectives are to dispossess and brutally suppress them, take over their lands, and plunder their resources at will. It is a historical fact that despite the barbarous Abyssinian method of occupation, Oromos have never stopped fighting back against the colonial onslaught; rather, they have continued to put up stiff resistance, all the way up until the present day. So far, however, they have not succeeded in ending Abyssinian colonial rule, because successive colonial regimes have managed to acquire high-tech war machinery and military training from western global powers and have been the recipients of military intelligence from them.
From the very first colonial incursion into Oromo territory to the present time, the Oromo have defended the fatherland with bravery, upholding their cultural heritage and national pride in order to achieve the desired national objective. The battles against Abyssinian colonial aggression at Aannole, Abichuu, Ambaalage, Baalee, Calanqoo, Horroo-Guduruu (Korkor), Hambaaboo, and Qobbo, to mention just a few, are all reminders of the Oromo people’s love of freedom and patriotism, as demonstrated in the anti-colonial wars in which thousands—nay millions—of martyrs have laid down their lives for the sake of freedom, independence, justice, and human dignity.
Following the demise of the Derg dictatorial regime and with the support of the United States and other western countries, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a tiny minority, took over the reins of power in the Abyssinian empire. Their primary goal has been to eradicate the Oromo people by systematically waging a genocidal war against them. The TPLF has carried out its most barbarous program of genocide in Oromia, by employing tactics of a Nazi-style campaign of terror, including incarceration, torture, mass uprooting, land takeovers, plunder of resources, and mass murder. For the past 25 years, the tyrannical TPLF/Abyssinian regime, which has always had an insatiable thirst for Oromo blood, land, and resources and the labor of the Oromo people, has set out not only to dispossess the Oromo of everything they own but also to systematically liquidate their physical, social, economic, and cultural bases, with the aim of turning the Oromo nation into a permanent Abyssinian neo-colonial territory. To carry out this program, in 2003 the TPLF fascist leader Males Zenawi of Tigre issued an official order to eradicate the Oromo people; this edict was proclaimed in the TPLF’s party journal, Hizbawi Adara (“public custodian”).
The following practices are being used by the TPLF to speed up the process of eliminating the Oromo people and culture: 1) fabrication of reasons to wantonly arrest, imprison, torture, kidnap, assassinate, and murder people, especially educated youths and others who are perceived as potential future leaders; 2) removal of Oromo communities from their ancestral lands and subsequent repopulation of the vacated lands with Abyssinians (Tigrians) from the north; 3) appropriation of Oromo lands, water, and other natural resources, and then making them available in global markets for sale, lease, and other commercial ventures to foreign countries, companies, and domestic “investors,” as well as for free distribution among Tigrian beneficiaries and their comrades in arms; 4) federalization of major cities in Oromia, not only to deny Oromos the right to ownership of their land but also to administer those lands and lend legitimacy to the acquisition of urban property by the powers-that-be.
The intent of the aforementioned practices is to systematically deprive Oromos of their ancient lands, which is the highest form of fascist colonial order and exhibits the most flagrant form of physical, social, and cultural genocide that the world has ever seen. The so-called master plan (in actuality, master genocide) is a useful tool in the uprooting of the Oromo in the name of expanding Finfinnee (the original Omoro name for the city that later came to be called Addis Ababa), which is simply the continuation of the Abyssinian style of colonial expansion that was initiated by Menelik II in the late nineteenth century. Now the TPLF is using this tool for the purpose of total eradication of the indigenous population.
What makes this modern-day form of the previous Abyssinian colonial expansion so sinister—indeed criminal—is that this time the plan was to start from the core of the Oromo nation, Finfinnee, and expand outwards in all directions, in order to fulfill the wildest dreams of the TPLF to eventually swallow up all the nations and nationalities in the Abyssinian empire and beyond. This deadly attempt at occupying the heart of the Oromo nation was pivotal in igniting the nationwide peaceful demonstration of Oromo students in 2014, which called for abrogation of the plan. The regime’s response was a brutal crackdown that took the form of unleashing a murder squad (the Agazi special force that engaged in mass incarceration) and included indiscriminate killing, maiming, injuring, and torture of unarmed students and their parents for simply demanding their legitimate national rights. Despite the brutal crackdown, the protests continued in a more organized manner, leading to the ongoing all-out war in Oromia.
The already simmering situation in Oromia, mainly due to the removal of Oromo people and takeovers of their land, was the cause of the ongoing war that triggered the historic Oromo mass uprising which began on November 12, 2015 in the town of Gincii, 30 miles north of Ambbo. In response to this revolutionary uprising, the TPLF sent in its security forces with an order to evict the community and to clear the Cillemo forests, which had existed for millennia. These forests were then sold to foreign “investors,” who were invited to divide up the Oromo land among themselves. For the Oromo community in Gincii, the land—especially the forests—has always been a symbol of pride, a sacred treasure, and an integral part of their life. It was unthinkable that the land would be sold, or even exchanged for something else. As local students began demonstrating, the community decided to join them in confronting the TPLF’s invading land-bandit forces; as a result, the Oromo were able to effectively stop those forces.
In no time, however, the scene turned into a war zone. The desperate regime resorted to the use of its own military forces and also ordered in reinforcements from Ambbo—its notorious murder squad, the Agazi army—to silence the full-fledged mass uprising. As the news of Gincii carnage echoed throughout Oromia via social media and other communication networks, simultaneous mass protests led by students at all levels—from universities, high schools, and even elementary schools—flared up in all corners of Oromia within less than three days of the Gincii incident. This Oromo mass uprising and resistance came as a shock a surprise, and a source of bewilderment, to the enemy and friends alike, but not to the Oromo children who had been suffering for so long under the TPLF’s brutal repression, victimization, intimidation, and humiliation; not to the uprooted Oromo farmers who had been evicted from their lands and left homeless, thrown out on the street like a piece of cheap meat; and not to the millions of educated people who were left jobless, with no way to support themselves. The uprising clearly reveals the depth of the popular resentment to the colonial occupation, the level of Oromo political consciousness, and the existence of a solid sense of unity in Oromo society, including a determination to fight for freedom and independence.
Unable to stop the surging Oromo revolution, the panicked genocidal regime declared all-out war on the Oromo people, putting the Oromo nation under martial law and ordering the use of lethal force to silence the popular uprising. The gruesome mass killings of schoolchildren, pregnant women, and unarmed civilians by fascist forces—the army, the federal police, and the notorious murder squad, the Agazi army—infuriated fathers, mothers, and grandmothers, who joined the protesting crowd to shield and save their children from the fascist tanks, guns, and bullets, risking their own lives in the process. Within just a few days, news and pictures of the carnage spread throughout central Oromia and sent a shock wave throughout Oromo communities all over the world, who promptly responded with simultaneous protests in cities in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Middle East, Europe, other parts of Africa, and elsewhere.
The Oromo protests and stiff resistance continued, as did the TPLF’s brutal crackdown. Death, injury, imprisonment, and disappearances were increasing daily in Oromia, and the uprising became a political and social force that could not be ignored, garnering worldwide attention to and recognition of this just national struggle. Reports of it not only exposed the TPLF’s genocidal regime but also led to condemnation of it by a number of countries, as well as by Amnesty International and many other human rights organizations. During the past six months, the carnage and atrocities have continued in Oromia, and there has been an alarming increase in the number of student and civilian deaths.
Courageous and determined Oromo youth, who constitute the most powerful force in this mass uprising, have poured into the front, which now engulfs all the cities and towns—and even the remote rural areas—of Oromia. They have managed to effectively close all the major roads, virtually paralyzing troop movements and blocking transportation lines countrywide. Despite the enormous extent of the injury and loss of life sustained by the Oromo people, they have never backed down from their goal, which continues to shine with the torch of freedom in their hands. Theirs has proved to be a formidable force, leading to an irreversible people’s revolution, born out of cumulative outrage at the unbearable repression imposed on the Oromo people by the Abyssinian colonial regime.
The Oromo students and youth who have a desire for freedom and independence have been united from east to west and from north to south, and they have stood up with one voice and one goal: liberation of the Oromo nation. Our youth and patriotic nationalists set out to energize the national liberation struggle and to allow it to continue at any cost, including bodily injury, broken bones, maiming, torture, and loss of life. They have unequivocally articulated what it takes to liberate Oromia from colonial occupation. With slogans such as “Oromia is for Oromos… our land is our bones” and “Oromia is not for sale,” they have made it crystal clear that they are willing to defend their country regardless of the cost. The mass uprising in Oromia has elicited a new and unprecedented assertiveness on the part of the Qubee generation that many have found deeply inspiring and that paves the way for future Oromo struggles.
The TPLF’s main objective is not merely to keep the Oromo people in a permanent state of submission, but rather to wipe Oromia and its people off the face of the Earth. The removal of Oromos from their ancient land, combined with the land takeovers and repopulation of them with Abyssinians (Tigrayans) from the northern part of Abyssinia, makes their goal plain and clear.
The removal of a people from their ancestral land and attendant repopulation of it with aliens is the most lethal weapon a fascist regime can use to exterminate a society. Land is the source and sustenance of life. Without land, there is no production, no consumption, no extension of family, and no development or progress. A land and its people are inseparable. By any definition, removal of a people from the land of their birth is an act of genocide.
As part of its territorial expansion and eradication of the Oromo people and of people from the southern part of Ethiopia, the TPLF has a plan to resettle millions of Tigre families in Oromia and on the southern people’s fertile lands—this on top of other atrocities that have already been perpetrated against them. Other silent but effective weapons of this mass eradication program include famine, sterilization of women, castration of men, denial of health care, and poisoning of the food supply and the soil by use of toxic materials.
With the whole world watching, the TPLF is now gearing up to carry out the mass eradication program which was declared by Meles Zenawi 13 years ago. When Zenawi was asked about the empire’s population ratio, his answer was a simple one, “yepopulation gudai qalal naw; yistakakalal,” meaning that the population issue is no big deal; it can be adjusted. Clearly, the enemy wasn’t joking then, because we see it happening now. Today, forced sterilization of Oromo women with the help of the South Korean government is proceeding at a rapid pace in Adama, Central Oromia, without the consent and knowledge of the Oromo people. Destroying the fertility of Oromo women is tantamount to destroying the future of the Oromo people and the Oromo nation. All Oromos, in Oromia and elsewhere, must be made aware of the danger of our people being annihilated.
The hunger, starvation, and famine in Ethiopia that has been in the news is not new at all. It has been going on for some time, and it will continue as long as Ethiopia continues to be a colonial empire. Famine, hunger, and starvation are an integral part of the occupation. There are 12–15 million hunger-stricken people in the empire, and millions of Oromos are facing severe food shortages even though Oromia is known as the breadbasket of the Horn of Africa. This is just another means of accelerating the killing of people that the regime does not want. Ethiopia is the largest exporter of meat, grain and other staple food products, and raw materials in all of Africa. In spite of this, the number of deaths due to hunger and misery in the empire is increasing with every passing year, while the tyrannical TPLF regime is busy stockpiling grain and other resources, and is intensifying economic development in Tigre using resources that are being looted from the nations of Oromia, Hadiyya, Sidama, Konso, Anuak, Kambaatta, Waliyta, and the Ogaden, as well as from people in the Omo Valley.
The sale and lease of land and natural resources to foreign countries and “investors” from the Arab world, Asia, Africa, and Europe, or even to the Abyssinians, is not only a license to plunder and pillage the land and its resources but part and parcel of the genocidal program to do away with the Oromo people and nation of Oromia. The nature of the human, material, and environmental mass murder and physical destruction taking place in Oromia today is very similar to the Nazis’ wanton destruction of the Jewish people in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, and other European nations during World War II. Although the Oromos are not the only people in Abyssinia to be removed from their ancestral land, towns, and cities, millions of Oromos have been targeted for eradication and have deliberately been exterminated for no reason other than being Oromos and demanding their legitimate national rights.
After cunningly crafting a fake federalism (the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia), the TPLF claimed that the lands in the empire are the private property of the TPLF itself, and that it has the right to sell or lease land, remove or exterminate the indigenous people, repopulate the land with Tigrayans, and take total ownership of the empire. In referring to colonial land occupation, John Menrick Clark once wrote: “Belgians acquired all of the Congo, which for a number of years was ruled as the private property of King Leopold of Belgium. Belgian rule and misrule in Congo was a disaster transcending the status of the Holocaust. The wholesale murder and mutilation of Africans in the Congo caused an international investigation in which colonists expressed condemnation and shame for the crimes of another colonialist.” Undoubtedly, Males Zenawi of Abyssinia was the Leopold of Oromia, Sidama, Hadiya, Ogaden, and Anuaks, as well as of other nations in the southern part of the empire. There exists stark evidence of the systematic takeover of Oromia and other nations in the empire, such as assigning names to historic and strategic places in Oromia which had never before been used there: “ Males Zenawi Park”, the Azeb Mesfin farm, the Hagos building, the Tekeste skyline, the Samora building, the Mohammed el-Amoudi farming industry, the Mohammed el-Amoudi Shakiso gold mine, etc.
According to a popular Oromo saying, “Lafaaf haadha manaa namaaf hin kenanii,” meaning that land and a wife can’t be a gift to anyone. When a person surrenders the land he inherited from his forefathers without a fight, it constitutes not only self-destruction but also disintegration of the entire family. This is true for a nation as well. It is for these reasons that our legendary leaders, patriotic nationalists, compatriots, heroes, heroines, and gallant Oromo liberation fighters have shed their blood, broken their bones, and sacrificed their precious lives instead of surrendering the fatherland to the enemy. The TPLF has no legitimacy to come out of Tigrai and rule over other nations; it has only the economic and high-tech military aid it is receiving from its colonial partners. This is a crucial life-and-death situation for the people of Oromia, Sidama, Hadiyya, Anuak, and the Ogaden, as well as the Konso people and others who have been the targets of systematic uprooting, land takeovers, land sales, mass incarceration, mass murder, and plunder of resources.
To avert this fascist genocidal disaster, what is needed now is unity of the people of the entire affected region in a war against the occupiers. Such a struggle against the common enemy would help to create a basis for the strengthening of trust, confidence, cooperation, and solidarity among these nations and nationalities. There is no other solution that would put a stop to the continuing genocide, carnage, and other atrocities the TPLF is perpetrating against our people. As history tells us, colonial forces cannot occupy any nation, regardless of its economic power or military might, without the collusion of internal traitors. In order to bring about the occupation of Oromia, the Abyssinian colonialists from Menelik II to the current fascist TPLF have utilized the most suitable tools of genocidal occupation: traitorous Oromos and collaborators. Despite the military might it inherited from the Derg and the economic backing it is getting now, the TPLF could not have managed to occupy Oromia without the help of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO). The members of this group of collaborators, which was founded in Tigre by Tigrayans to serve the interests of the TPLF, were willing to be used—as subservient facilitators of occupation, resource plunderers, incarcerators, torturers, and mass uprooters—by the occupying forces to help achieve the Abyssinian colonialist objective. They were and are the conduits through which the genocidal regime reaches out with its tentacles and gets a stranglehold on the veins of the Oromo nation, sucking dry the blood and life of the Oromo people.
The members of the OPDO are servile, faithful lackeys who compete among themselves for high positions in the government. These super traitors, serve implement various genocidal programs, and transfer money (billions of dollars thus far!), and other resources to the Tigre regional state.
In such circumstances, it can be difficult to separate the external enemy from the internal one. Those who serve the occupying forces and are antagonistic to the Oromo national interests are enemies and must be dealt with accordingly. Freedom and independence cannot be achieved without restraining the enemy’s internal collaborators. Oromos who continue to serve the tyrannical TPLF regime must cease to act as agents of the occupying forces. Our people must understand that the enemy within is worse than the enemy itself. Because the colonialists are socially remote, hampered by the language barrier and a difference of culture, it is difficult for them to gain access to the society at large. Instead, they rely on the efforts of the collaborators, who are steeped in the Oromo language and culture, and as such make ideal puppets of the colonialists. The OPDO’s commitment to serve the regime that occupies our nation and is bent on eradicating our people is the most shameful act of treachery.
The Oromo people have not had total control over their national resources in the last one hundred plus years. In order to achieve the desired national objective, the national resources must be liberated from the colonial occupation forces that are impeding freedom and national self-determination.
Beginning with the barbaric invasion and occupation of Oromia in the late 19th century by Abyssinian ruler Emperor Menelik II, and continuing to the present day under the fascist TPLF, the wealth of the Oromo nation has been subjected to alien control and to being looted and drained of everything, depriving the Oromo people of the benefits of their land and other resources. The intention of the deadly Abyssinian style of occupation is to destroy the indigenous peoples and nations. As history tells us, any economy built on a colonial structure will never be beneficial to the needs of the indigenous people; in fact, it will strangle them. As the author of How Europe Under Developed Africa, Walter Rodney summarizes the situation as follows: “When citizens of Europe own land and mines in Africa, this is the most direct way of sucking the African continent… so long as foreigners own land, mines, factories, banks, insurance companies, means of transportation, then so long will the wealth flow outward into the hands of those elements.” At the same time, we should not lose sight that the rights and freedom of the people in the Abyssinian empire have been compromised by global powers who are using the TPLF regime in the Horn of Africa to fight their own proxy wars and advance their own economic interests.
The wealth of the Oromo people has been looted without limitation for far too long a time by Abyssinians, enabling the perpetuation of colonial rule in Oromia. The whole purpose of the sale and lease of land and commercial ventures in which the TPLF is engaging with multinational corporations and foreign governments is to help the regime in its war of eradication and occupation. These multinational corporations and governments are not really “investors”; instead, they are partners to the illegal occupation of lands that the TPLF uses as support bases in its war of occupation in Oromia, Ogaden, and the southern regional states. Today, the TPLF is financing its killing campaign with Oromo resources. Unless these resources are liberated and returned to the legitimate owners, the occupation will continue forever. Therefore, it is the duty and obligation of all Oromos to help bring Oromo lands, national treasures, and resources under the control of the Oromo people.
Today, our nation Oromia is under siege. The torture chambers and concentration camps in Mekele, Ziwai, Qalitii, Xoola, Dhidheessa, and Qilinxoo, and the hidden Gestapo-style jails in various places, are filled with Oromos who are facing stepped-up brutalization, dehumanizing torture, and murder, which occurs by the thousands every day. The TPLF is now speeding up its systematic targeted assassinations and mass murdering of Oromos, the overwhelming majority of whom are young people that, it was hoped, would have become the future leaders in the struggle for the liberation of our suffering people. Regardless of the crimes the enemy may commit to stifle that struggle, victory over the colonialist occupiers depends solely on our people’s determination to liberate themselves.Through the blood and sacrifices of our youth in recent times and the atrocities suffered by our people in past liberation struggles, the Oromo struggle for freedom has garnered global recognition and respect for the Oromo people and exposed the fascistic nature of the TPLF regime. Thus this is an ideal time for the people who believe that they are living under the Abyssinian occupation to unite and struggle for their national rights, justice, and dignity. It is a disservice to the Oromo people’s struggle to wait for the inept diaspora leaders or leaderships. There is an urgent need to organize a collective force that will protect the Oromo nation and rights and work hard to develop a capable and dedicated visionary leadership that will do whatever it takes to liberate Oromia.
In this dire situation, the collective readiness and determination of all the occupied peoples in the empire is needed to put a stop to the TPLF’s genocidal programs. Unity is the greatest weapon on this planet in efforts to achieve human survival, national defense, and social progress. Nothing is more encouraging and powerful than the unity and determination that Oromo people exhibited in the recent uprising, which is still causing the regime to shake. The Oromo mass uprising greatly inspired all oppressed nations and nationalities in the empire by setting a brilliant and heroic example of resolutely standing against the genocidal regime.
In the state of war that the Oromo people are in now, unity and determination are the only decisive weapons available to them to stop the genocidal programs and other atrocities of the Tigre regime and its internal collaborators. Oromo needs a unity of purpose which is based on a common cause and objective, and a common dignity that must be protected and defended—at all times and at any cost. The Oromo cause is much larger than the sum of the interests of the current citizens, because it will never die or disappear from the hearts and minds of the Oromo people. It is eternal. Since the goal of the Oromo national liberation struggle is to bring about the end of the colonial occupation, decolonization is a priority.
What is needed is for all Oromo who believe in the liberation of Oromia to unite in a common effort to determine their own future—one that is based on objective reality—and to commit to making the sacrifices that are necessary to guarantee the freedom of the people. The Oromo have every right to use every means necessary to defend and protect their national interests against the occupying forces. Freedom and independence can be achieved only when the occupied people decide to overcome opportunism and ego-driven personal agendas and work together under a common principle: the struggle for national liberation. This is an essential task, especially given that Oromo youth rose up and demanded their national rights and many of them became fallen martyrs for the sake of freedom. This is not the time to be on the sidelines waiting for the total annihilation of Oromia; rather, this is the time to pay the price and liberate the nation. The Oromo people’s just struggle against Abyssinian colonial occupation is emblematic of the struggle of all the nations and nationalities that are suffering under Abyssinian colonial occupation.
Expecting to gain freedom without sacrificing for the cause would be a delusion. To liberate the nation, we need to increase the level of political consciousness and determination, and to develop and maintain a strong organization that will stick with the struggle until success is achieved.
Unity is power! Victory to the oppressed people!