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Oromo nationalism on the rise in Ethiopia
By William Davison
Source: Al Jazeera
Protests and online activism in recent months have brought a resurgence of ethnic Oromo nationalism in Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Aslan Hasan, a student belonging to the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia, was called either a guilt-ridden terrorist who committed suicide or an innocent victim of brutal state repression, depending on who you listen to.
His death came following a bout of violence in May, when Oromo students in several towns protested against a government plan for the capital Addis Ababa to expand into Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia's largest and most populous federal region with around one-third of the nation's over 90 million people.
Security services said Hasan hanged himself in his cell after being arrested for a grenade attack that occurred at Haramaya University in the east of the country. Online Oromo activists such as Jawar Mohammed say Aslan, 24, had his throat slit by police on June 1 while in custody after being snatched four days before. A witness said it appeared his neck had been cut and his eyes gouged out.
Ethiopia's government is frequently accused of trampling on constitutionally protected ethnic rights as it prioritises security, political stability, and public infrastructure investments to drive growth. While technocrats have devised a rational scheme to manage a bulging city, the red-hot political issue of Oromo rights was barely considered, according to an Addis Ababa University academic who wishes to remain anonymous. "They think something is good, they go for it," he said about the ruling coalition's top-down methods. "It's a done deal, it's not consultative at all."
Jawar and other Oromos - including normally acquiescent Oromo members of the ruling political group - say the "integrated master plan" is an annexation of their territory that will weaken the ethnicity politically and also lead to the eviction of Oromo farmers from their land on the periphery of Addis Ababa. Oromos claim the capital city, which they call Finfinne, as their own, and in 2004 protested against the government's attempt to change their capital to Adama.
The most serious unrest in May took place in the western town of Ambo and involved a student protest-turned-riot, with buildings damaged, cars torched, and civilians shot dead by security forces. At Haramaya, a grenade was chucked at students watching a televised football match. Officials blamed Oromo separatists; activists pointed a finger at agent provocateurs from the regime. In the southeast of Oromia, grainy video purports to show security forces firing on students around Madawalabu University at Robe. An independent assessment estimated as many as 50 people died.
The lack of clarity epitomises the propaganda battle raging inside Ethiopia - and online - amid fear of retribution and a paucity of reliable information. Few if any independent journalists or bloggers operate in the hotspots, and Ambo, for example, was placed on lockdown by security services when violence broke out. Two Peace Corps volunteers who blogged about the unrest - saying police killed two of their unarmed neighbours away from the protests - fled the country soon after.
While debate continues about exactly what happened, the protests indicate a growing and potentially important trend: a resurgence of Oromo nationalism that's increasingly driven by online activists.
During the demonstrations, US-based Jawar, a graduate student at Columbia University, acted as a central hub to distribute information from Ethiopia via Facebook and Twitter: posting photos of dead students and sharing news of protests under way. Cooperation between disaffected Oromo students and savvy mobilisers in the diaspora presents a fresh and substantial challenge to a government that still has work to do in resolving the centuries old issue of unmet Oromo demands for fair treatment and representation.
"The recent Oromo protests and the new online activism is significant, mostly because it represents a fresh, much younger generation of Oromo nationalists, and signals that Oromo nationalism is durable politically," said Michael Woldemariam, an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Boston University.
Since moving into Ethiopia's highlands in the 1600s, the Oromos have been discriminated against by the ruling Tigray and Amhara classes, who often saw them as "uncivilised", according to historian John Markakis. The Oromos were largely excluded from national political power until 1991, when the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which was allied with other rebels, helped overthrow a military junta.
But the OLF soon left the transitional government after falling out with the dominant Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The OLF has been in rebellion ever since and was classified as a terrorist group by lawmakers in 2011.
For the past two decades, the Oromo People's Democratic Organisation (OPDO) has represented Ethiopia's Oromo in the country's ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. But the Oromo opposition claim the OPDO has been subservient to the country's Tigrayan political elite, and too weak to promote the community's interests.
'Fractious political debates'
Jawar's political profile soared a year ago when he said on Al Jazeera's current affairs show The Stream that he considered himself an "Oromo first" before he considered himself an Ethiopian. This put him at odds with many in the opposition, who think the current federal system that promotes ethnic rights undermines national progress and unity. Advocates of a unitary state promote a proud history of Ethiopia's ancient highland civilisation and resistance to European colonialism led by Amharas.
Ethiopia's 1994 constitution promotes ethnic rights by organising the country into federal states partly on the basis of "language and identity"; recognising all Ethiopian languages equally; respecting ethnic identities and non-harmful cultures; ensuring representation of ethnic minorities in both chambers of legislature; and, controversially, by providing mechanisms for all groups to try and become federal states and for states to secede from the federation.
In recent decades, Oromos have been weakened by fractious political debates about the nature of the self-determination pushed for by the OLF. Jawar said a new breed of educated, technocratic Oromo activists is revitalising the cause by moving beyond this factionalism. They have set up the Oromo Media Network and held "Oromo First" speaking events in the US. Jawar said they have begun to bring OPDO and OLF members closer together, and plan to work with the rest of the domestic Oromo opposition, who will be trying to break the EPRDF's stranglehold on parliament in elections next year.
The old days of single language, single community dominance, will not come back.
- Jawar, US-based Oromo activist
Recent government arrests of opposition politicians and bloggers suggest that will be difficult, said Woldemariam. "The existence of armed Oromo opposition makes the task of the non-violent opposition who participate in the electoral process a lot more difficult," he said.
At the end of last year, the activists cut their teeth by taking on and beating multinational giant Heineken by pushing drinkers to #BoycottBedele - a local beer owned by the Dutch brewer that planned to sponsor concerts by Ethiopian pop star Teddy Afro. The reason was that the Amhara singer allegedly praised as a "holy war" the late 19th-century military expansions by Emperor Menelik II, who was also an Amhara, that resulted in the incorporation of the Oromo and other southern groups into what became the modern Ethiopian state.
The Oromo movement now faces two comparable political challenges, according to Jawar: convincing the Amhara that "the old days of single language, single community dominance, will not come back", and targeting the Tigrayan elite's control over the country's government, security services, and economy.
"We have to make sure they cannot have free rein on our resources and there's a number of tactics in place to make sure that succeeds," Jawar added.
Jawar preaches peaceful civil resistance, yet admits this may not be sustainable. He said he told top security officials that law-abiding protests would be confined to campuses and that they only spread and became unruly after police attacked the demonstrators.
"It might be a challenge for the Oromo who believe in non-violence to maintain control over the population, given the kind of killing the government undertook," Jawar said. "Armed struggle might become the permanent form of response."
Mr. Davil-Son so you think you got a crack to spew venom in Ethiopian politics, keep dreaming evil man!!!
I came from an Oromo parents born and grown up in Addis and I am an Ethiopian first before even I am a christian let alone an Ethnic identity, my parents also have the same opinion about themselves, I personally don’t mind shooting an idiot separatist in between his eyes.
The Oromo agenda is more of Islamic fundamentalism than Ethnicity.
Wow! Now we know William Davison is a hired mouthpiece of the doom and gloom wishing diaspora dogs.
How in the world he mentions Jawar, a well known and self confessed top alqaida and alshebab sympathizer?
“Jawar preaches peaceful civil resistance, yet admits this may not be sustainable.”
Your claim that Jawar preaches peaceful civil resistance is typically naive and extremely uninformed for a man who claims to be an expert. Jawar has declared that his Oromo should cut the throats of non-Oromos with ‘mencha’–a machete-like weapon that the Oromos carry with them in the region of Hararghe. Indeed, the ‘mencha’ has been used to slit the throats of innocent men and women in 1991 while the Oromo were ethnically cleansing the area. That Jawar is your peaceful agitator will diminish your rapidly vanishing reputation even more. Like all others, Jawar will also be pushed aside in due course! There is no Oromo without Ethiopia.
Hi Teddy & sodo I apologize for my last comment it was an appropriate.
Mr.Jawar; you are not totally representing our (Ethiopian yous of oromo) political feeling that is simply because you are not Oromo people activist rather you are fundamental Islamic activist so do`t assume that you get our heart.
God will save our Ethiopia for ever. We believe that we are native Ethiopian than any ethnic in nation because we are the majority.
Awekesh awekesh bilwat metshafun atebech ale amara.
It is true “The old days of single language, single community dominance, will not come back.” as the so called activist Janwar said.
I’m surprised he knows some facts. Probably this is the only relevant fact Janwar knows. Other than this, it is nauseating watching him talking.
Being one of the largest ethnic group in the country, Oromo should be the most beneficiary of the new inclusive system.
This is a process trying to rectify the wrongs of thousands of years of mal-administration caused by a feudal system run mainly by the Amhara.
It is not possible to undone what has been done in those cruel years. And a decade or two are not enough to repair the psychological, economic and social damage those dark years caused. It is a long, painstaking and hard process.
If some Oromos believe pushing away other ethnic groups will bring prosperity to them, that is stupid. If they think that their population size will make them superior to other nationalities in the country, that is more stupid.
Now situations are in the right direction. We can prosper together. I’m Oromo too. But I love my other Ethiopians and want to struggle, fight, win and live with them, not against them. So, stop the stupid narrow nationalism. And do not get patronized by some west propaganda.
The Fourth Plot.
The economy strength and the social fabric of the west that was forged in colonial treaties in previous centuries on the back of the nonbeing but considered as colonized humans and their vast resources, that is still enriching the western masters is slowly diminishing and falling apart. Other but historical and cultural rich nations are rising up , squashing mainly the arrogant, greedy western interests.
The west is not as easy economic target as it seems or makes as to believe the west is actually want to help in the progress. However to do that, the west has to implement urgently
The Davos “The Fourth Plot.”
1st. Restructure Europe and Weaken the un co operative Europe mainly the balkans and eastern Europe. —–
2nd. Implement the policy of overthrowing governments by exporting chaos democracy in all untrusted oil producing nations to curtail the progress of emerging economy nations.–
3rd. Twist United Nations laws and declare a war with or without the UN security council approval to bomb and destroy any energy producing north African, Mid-east and central asian nations and also use terrorist elements like Boko haram in Nigeria or use the so called opposition but sleeping agents in Venezuela to destabilize the economic harmony its citizens achieved.——–
4th. Introduce the poisonous marshal plan of re-colonizing Africa, by dismembering the African countries into “Ethnic Based” but completely weak, enslaved regions and caliphates . Like encouraging EPRDF in its tribal division endeavour in Ethiopia, to say Zip and not to raise “Port Assab” issue. Hosting and supporting ONLF,OLF,Ginbot 7 and many other anti-Ethiopian unity entities.
To build a Greater and peaceful world and incases like Ethiopia All the dirty negative elements in their own credits, ONLF,OLF,Ginbot 7(Gim 7) must work together and with the unconditional agreement of the current Ethiopian government, EPRDF,
for the sake of your people to save them from the coming Vampire Governors of your home land and economies.
JUST THINK! What you are going to do after splitting up your country.
:UN and western Mediation if not agreed,
eal with Economic sanction
:New Passport, New currency, New president, new border guard etc
;Negotiate economic tie with you once compatriot but now “New neighbouring nation”
eal with internal power struggle and Coup attempt that will lead to a never ending another conflict fuelled by arms cachet supplied by western intelligence via untrusted neighbouring nation, so on and so on and so on problems, conflicts and engage in dirty proxy wars.
Take Ethiopia and Eritrea.
What country we would have been if and
what is if we are one as we were before but with no war?
JUST THINK! IF THEIR IS ANY BETTER OPTION ?
Please be advised to yourself not to bleach ur AZZ like Micheal Jackson in order to become an Oromo and leave yourself with brighter over eyebrow parallel stripes. Ur obsession to be an Oromo is astonishing. Ur words are cheap and penny a dozen. Do u think all this boo-huu is support ur decit and cause? Who can be persuaded by bags of air like that? we know that ur action and demonstration is obvious and clear,they are there, before our eyes, for us to see. “Stay alive and be a proud TEGRE-WONBEDE” ::As would Done by GOD"::: other wise u will get frustrated Wizero AIDS-ZEMEN for selling ur SHIFTA identity and learning Emye-Menellik history. She already mad for not selling the rotten banana Makak cartoon she worships @ EBAY.COM
The baboons in power & their cousins in Eritrea must be happy everytime they hear such comments made by Jawar. Their design from the start is to keep Ethiopians fighting between ethnicities so that they stay safe while the rest of the country stay weak. Even educated people like Jawar fail in the baboons’ trap not understanding that they are pushing Shabia’s & the baboons’ agenda without knowing it. Within a few decades students in the country went from “land to the peasants regardless of ethnicity” to “land to peasants from my ethnicity". These baboons lit a fire which is burning the country & people likes Jawar are pouring gas on it instead of water.
I am Oromo first, but I do not believe there was one single language and one ethnic dominance in Ethiopia. If you are talking about Amhara people they are victims of the system as we Oromos are.
Who give a sh!t about your ethnic background? We all you & Adiss_kizen are canines, who bark, sit & fetch when your masters tell them to. If you want to shoot a separatist, have you considered shooting members of TPLF & EPLF? Remember they separated the country from its ports. Or your definition of separation is different? I don’t understand why idiots like you follow these baboons blindly like a dog in a leash. When they said Shabia is the best you guys bend over & let Shabia stick it your a$$ with out questioning. When they said shabia is the enemy, you guys start cursing at shabia. Everything your masters did is okay but when others try to do the same it is a big crime. Your masters went to the deserts of Tigray in the name of Tigre nationalism, but when Oromos try to do the same they are fundamentalists. The thing above your neck is called head, use it for thinking, don’t let other do the thinking for you like a dog.
Weyanne, driven by it’s intense hatred of Amharas, especially the Shoans created these bantustans, ceding half of the country to Solamli nomads and these so-called Oromo nomadic tribes. The result is what you see now. The journalist reported things as he “saw", not as the achebchabi AZ boringly accuses him and the diaspora of inciting the uprising. Watch out guys, this is just the begining and within a short time the Weyanne planted poison will certainly spread to other groups too. Anybody with a sence in his head would now call for the abolition of these poisonous kilils and the restoration of the old provinces where different groups have lived in peace. This is my message.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
Bad news for Amara people. We will pay back for what your ancestor, Minilik, did to our Oromo people did. Allah weakbor
One of the reasons why Ethiopia does not reach its goals is because of people like you who already judged a person and labeled a terrorist just because of his faith without giving any consideration to his grievances.
The following statement by Jawar Mohamed is true because you still want to subjugate and dominate other communities.
The old days of single language, single community dominance, will not come back.
- Jawar, US-based Oromo activist
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