A Response to Dr Zelalem Atlee’s attack on the Oromo:
By Imiru Itana
I wrote this article in response to Dr. Zelalem Atlee's statement posted on AbayMedia on 28 September 2018 as linked above. It is appalling to read the jargon written by a person who is a Medical and Philosophy doctorate holder as posted on AbayMedia but who has exposed his ignorance. It is such types of pseudo-Ethiopianists who claim to have achieved the highest educational status in the society but never recognize the prevailing fundamental problems of the peoples of Ethiopia. Dr Zelalem and his likes want to carry forward the chronic problems that were created by their forefathers as if they are good heritage.
If such people who are assumed to be better educated than their forefathers, still think the same way as some of their forefathers used to think, then how would it be possible to resolve once for all the long-standing controversial issues among nations and nationalities of Ethiopia? They have inherited from their forefathers’ conflicts and war and not peace; they have learnt lies, deception and not truth. False propaganda, defamation and dishonesty, hate, crime, injustice, nepotism, hypocrisy and dictatorship characterize their behaviuor and way of life.
It is highly unlikely to openly build a new democratic country with these types of people who are archaic, static and lack dynamism to participate change. It is rather preferable to close ones' own ears than to listen to what they are talking about for it all lacks clarity and reality. It is interesting to simply watch them when they shout day and night illogically, none of them better than the other, over important issues that concern the nations and nationalities in Ethiopia. They cry like children over resources that do not belong to them. They think they would gain by shouting and campaigning negatively against the Oromo and others.
The Finfinnee case can be cited as an example. For that matter, it is not necessary to initiate a debate with them over the issue of Finfinnee for it is crystal clear as whom, it belongs to. ‘Hattuu jabduun abbaa karraa arihatti’ jedhama, which means, a smart thief derives away an owner of a stable full of cattle and claims ownership. They are never ashamed of talking nonsense and propagate that Finfinnee belongs only to them. They never recognize the Oromo core value of ‘safuu’, patience, love, peace, democracy, etc. that are inherited from Gadaa democracy. They are defaming the Oromo with all capacities they have. Let them know that the Oromo have strength and unity for one objective. Although the secession of Oromia is not the motive of the Oromo, no one can stop or threaten them from carrying out self-determination which means having full political power to govern Oromia with Finfinnee as its capital in a true Federalist Ethiopia.
There is no Oromia without Finfinnee and nobody brought an object called Addis Ababa from anywhere else and placed it in central Oromia. It existed there for centuries with the Oromo people living on it. The truth of the matter the opponents of the Oromo do not want to recognize is that Oromia including Finfinnee was occupied by Menelik II and that the Oromo people were evicted from their ancestral land thereafter. Hence, denying the past is denying the future, and peace and stability will continue to be in jeopardy in that part of Africa unless there is a turning point to change the situation.
When the farmers around Finfinnee were uprooted and their ancestral lands were offered for sale to any passersby and foreigners in the name of investment, the advocates of Menelik II did not even try to object the action. They did not oppose the action the TPLF government took against the Oromo youths by at least joining the protests in support of the Qeerroo and Qarree movement. It was only the true sons and daughters of Oromia who spilt their blood and sacrificed their precious lives to halt the so-called Integrated Master Planfromevicting Oromo farmers from their ancestral land in the pretext of investment.
Those who found it difficult to resist the TPLF government, unlike the Oromo youths, thought the Oromo struggle for the right of self-determination would not hold water and were rather commenting "The Oromos are wasting their time empty-handed. It is not possible to stop development", meaning the land should be sold because it was for development according to them. When they realized that the Qeerroo and Qarree movement was unflinching they started saying they would join the revolution, but it was too late. Nobody uttered a word until a 'Fano' member from Gonder chanted a slogan 'Oromo blood is our blood' in a demonstration. Fair! But this was when they were motivated to join the struggle from the other end and by Qeerroo and Qarree; but that doesn't necessarily mean those who call themselves ''Addis Abebes'' should claim Finfinnee because of that.
Further, if those ''Addis Abebes'' or the admirers of Menelik II really cared for Finfinnee or Addis Ababa, why didn't they demonstrate to fight for the right of the Oromo farmers around Addis Ababa when they were evicted from their ancestral land because they are the ones who were dependent on their supplies? All food, water, electric power, etc. are supplied to Addis Ababa by the surrounding Oromo farmers who were vulnerable for eviction. The ''Addis Abebes'' never came out to defend at least their daily bread by way of supporting the victimized farmers. It was amazing! What a fear! What a cowardly behaviour! And why did they protest when the supporters of the OLF entered Finfinnee? Why did they chant 'Oromos should go out of Addis Ababa'? Who are they to say so and where should the Oromos go from their ancestral land?
It seems the “Addis Abebes” may have been frightened to come out to protest not only of the TPLF but also of the Oromo people as the struggle for the Oromo right has reached its climax. When they reckoned the TPLF had gone, they thought it would be easy to challenge and subjugate the Oromo once again the same way as their forefathers had done in the past. It is just like crying over spilt milk now because they cannot find the type of Oromo they used to long time ago. They never tried to join the Oromo protest at least when it took place in Finfinnee in 2016. They never bothered about the Oromo youth who were being killed in the streets of all cities and towns in Oromiain broad daylight whilst the 'Fano' of Gonder sympathized with them from a distance of about 500 km from Addis Ababa.
It was clear Menelik II moved from Ankober to Entoto in pursuit of settlement for several reasons one of which was a shortage of firewood. Finally, Tayitu Bitul, Menelik's wife visited the hot springs (Filwoha), in Afaan Oromoo 'Finfinnee’ and saw flowers she had never come across before. She named it 'Addis Ababa' meaning new flower. Indeed it was a new flower to her! She was attracted by the hot spring whereby both Tayitu and Menelik II decided to build a house, settled there and called the new place Addis Ababa. Menelik's 'Mekuwanints' or chieftains, the clergy of the Orthodox Church, etc. followed him and settled in Finfinnee gradually and in this way the number of settlers increased from time to time. One has to, then understand the truth that the place gradually expanded to a capital city by uprooting the indigenous Oromo farmers. There is a lot to say about the history of Finfinnee which I would like to come back to at a later stage. Until then it should be noted that there was not any piece of ‘independent’ land called Addis Ababa, situated in the middle of Oromoland.
I sympathize with the inhabitants of Wolqayit and Raayyaa in their struggle for just cause of regaining their identities which they claim were forcibly taken away from them. It is their inalienable right to own and administer all their possessions. The struggle for their right must be observed. The same is true with the Oromo people over the Finfinnee situation. Demanding one’s right has no relationship with the so-called secession that Zelalem Atlee and his likes are worried about. Equally important, the Oromo people like all others in Ethiopia will not refrain from struggling to gain their right whatever blood tears Zelalem and his likes are shedding.
We have to understand that ‘a chick cannot hatch out of a snake's egg’. So we should not expect fairness from those who do not want our right to be observed but yearnday and night to simply grab the Ada'aa maanyaa xeef, the Harar sangaa, the Arsii innaa Baalee gebs, the Iluu Abbaabor-Jimmaa-Wallaggaa bunnaa, the Chaliya qibee, the Wallaggaa maar, the Shaakkisoo and Wallaggaa warq etc. If that is a cause forfear for Zelalem and his likes, it will still be possible for them to have access to all this in the future but obeying the law of the land is a prerequisite.
Ethiopia is a country that was formed by Abyssinians and all others incorporated by force into the empire towards the end of the 19th century. But have all lived together comfortably in Ethiopia since then? Did democracy prevail at any moment in time in that part of Africa in the way the protagonists of the Andinet or unity group have been trying to convince us? Not at all! If also previous times were golden times for all the peoples of Ethiopia as the Andinet group is claiming, why then did the freedom fighters such as the ones labelled by Zelalem as'Oromo extremists' go to the mountains carrying guns in the name of OLF? According to him and his likes the Haile Selassie I University students who chanted 'Land to the tiller'! 'Stop levying heavy taxation on the poor peoples of Ethiopia', 'Equality and self-determination for all nations, etc. in Ethiopia!’ in the 1960s and 70s were just having fun.
One of the leaders of the Haile Selassie I University student union, Walelign Mekonnen, in 1969, wrote about the need for equality of all nations of Ethiopia and self-determination for all. He was a man who had a bigger thought for the country beyond his age and time. Like many students from other nationalities, Oromo students who were at the university at that time shared Walelign’s views. It did not take them very long to organize to leave for the mountains of Oromia to struggle for Oromo freedom. It is the step they took then to fight for the Oromo rights that have advanced to the highest stage and developed to the current Qeerroo and Qarree movement. The OLF (‘extremist’ for Zelalem and his likes) and Qeerroo-Qarree’s bitter struggle made history, chased the TPLF leaders out of Finfinnee brought the Abiy-Lemma Team to power and even helped Zelalem and the likes to breathe fresh air and hope for democracy in the future. Zelalem enjoyed life in Hararghe and elsewhere in Oromia feeding on the Harar 'coomaa' and drinking tej made of honey produced in Oromia, whilst the '’extremists’' he named in his article were struggling for their people's right and freedom barefoot and without proper food.
Therefore, it is now a time to sit down and debate about the future of the different nations in Ethiopia if they are to live together. If they are happy with the outcome of the debate and agree to live together, it is alright. If not, why should they? Nobody wants to continue to live together in the country of prisons, violence, torture, genocides, nepotism, hypocrisy, corruption, inequality and dictatorship.
But how to continue to live with one another if things don't change? The stubborn Habesha elites are abusive and use derogatory language against others when they express their feelings of unhappiness to continue to live in the old Ethiopian system of governance. They call them "Narrow nationalists", "gotenyoch", "zerenyoch" or "racists" to silence their demands. They narrate the stories of Menelik II, Haile Selassie and the Derg to convince others for unity. It is shame on them when they come out and shout as if nothing had happened before instead of being apologetic. Atrocities were committed by Menelik II but are not admitted by them. Instead, they demand the removal of a memorial statue of his victims built in Arsi in Oromia.
Haile Selassie killed the prominent Oromo figures like Mamo Mezemir in public and Haile Mariam Gammadaa by false propaganda, whereas Mengistu Haile Mariam also jailed thousands of Oromos and killed thousands of others like Rev. Guddinaa Tumsaa and Haile Fida. Mengistu knew Dr Haile Fida closely. Haile Fida struggled for the democratization of Ethiopia with a principle of "democratic rights now" or 'Ye demokiraasii membtooch yaale gedeb be aschekuway". What evil did he do? If Mengistu was a nationalist, Marxist and also preferred democratic Ethiopia, as claimed, why then did he need to kill Dr Haile Fida, who had the same view as him and who was even once said to have been a Marxism-Leninism lecturer of Derg members including him? Many others were also killed in the name of EPRP.
Similar killings happened against the Oromo youths in the last twenty-seven years. Thousands of Oromo youngsters were killed. What is sad is that the children of the old regimes are again trying to follow the footsteps of their forefathers in the name of unity. As the saying goes, "What is allotted cannot be blotted". Evil heritage should not be carried forward as if it is a good skill, but has to stop somewhere, a turning point to be right now to make history in that part of Africa.
It should be discussed and agreement be reached among all others and sign a new contract or abide by at least the practicability of the existing federal constitution to live peacefully together if that is possible. Crying day and night to remove article 39 of the current constitution is not a remedy for living together peacefully and democratically. Why only one group is so persistent in demanding the removal of the article? What alternatives have they put in place before removing it that would guarantee unity? Equally important, while they reject article 39, many other nations in Ethiopia prefer it.
In the first place, what were the reasons for the creation of article 39? Was it created because the TPLF wanted it? Or that even the TPLF could not make it meaningful? To me, the fact of the matter is that the TPLF was unable to handle it for their egoistic character. Nations lived in Ethiopia under dictatorships. Ethiopia has never been a united country so far and crying and shedding crocodile tears now has no meaning. Multi-nationally and linguistically structured basis of federalism is realistic and logical as Will Kymlicka also underlines it. Some politically motivated social media without shame are also against the interests of the oppressed peoples in Ethiopia, stating, "Linguistic and ethnic-based federalism disintegrates Ethiopia". They prefer the federal Ethiopia whereby their language and culture get dominance over others once again. They have to understand that the old system never worked for over one hundred years. It simply brought about suppression, chaos and inequality which the majority of the peoples of Ethiopia have to do away with.
The panacea for the problems the Oromo people have with others against their interest is in their hands. I think they have to rally behind their compatriots who are working hard to keep peace, stability and build the country whilst still their unity of purpose should be stronger than ever. They have to work day and night to preserve what they have achieved so far. I think Oromo intellectuals also should participate in defending Oromia rather than keeping silent at this particular time. In my opinion, it is not necessary to go to the media and engage ourselves confronting those who all the time defame the Oromo people and Oromo individual political analysts. The opponents of the Oromo should understand that their endeavor to divide the Oromo along religion, regional and political lines etc. will never achieve its goal.
In conclusion, Dr. Zelalem Atlee is very anxious about the respected and prominent Oromo figures that spent most of their life in the struggle for the Oromo people's right labeling them, "extremists". He is in fear of Dr Tsegaye Araarsaa and Obbo Jewar Mohamed in the same manner. Zelalem is probably not happy with Dr Tsegaye Araarsaa for his political hammer that he and his likes find it difficult to challenge or withstand. He is particularly focused on Jewar Mohamed because he understood that Jawar, a potential energy today will also be a kinetic energy of the Oromo people's right tomorrow. I think also dreaming about ownership of Finfinnee for Zelalem and the likes is beyond their capability to bring about solution in the way they want to. There is a sign of losing hope for Zelalem, may be in his political career and I reckon his article is also written out of desperation. I wish he would seek advice and join others to work to bring about a better, peaceful and stable multinationally and linguistically federated democratic Ethiopia in the future or else he may face a real disintegration he fears as the oppressed nations in Ethiopia would never surrender again to the modes operandi of the old empire.