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HomeOpinionThe Oromummaa Politics is Weaponized with Lies and Soaked in Blood 

The Oromummaa Politics is Weaponized with Lies and Soaked in Blood 

Yonas Biru, PhD 

This article is inspired by a recent op-ed on Addis Standard online titled “Critiquing the anti-Oromo  nascent narrative of disgruntled Amhara elite in the diaspora: A rejoinder to the wrong manifesto.”  The  Manifesto  in  reference  is  my  proposal  titled “Averting  Civil War  in  Ethiopia: An  Emergency Manifesto.” 

Speaking of my manifesto, the authors of the op-ed, Professor Mirgissa Kaba and Girma Gutema (MK  & GG), started with an eyebrow raising statement. “In our view, the Oromo as well as all nations and  nationalities that have suffered under the subjugation of the Amhara political elites in Ethiopia often  do not give much attention to such hostile rhetoric as well as intentionally corrupted writings.”  

Evidently, every general statement allows an exception or two. Hence their attempt at rebutting my Manifesto, fearing that if left unchecked the “nascent narrative” can become “a reference to the future  history.” They added: “Individuals and their narrow groupings like that of Dr Yonas Biru still appear  to  influence  the  process  through  their  writing,  advocacy  and  twisting  their  alike  in  foreign  government system.” 

My Manifesto aimed at four broad areas: (1) bringing to light the worsening political and economic  crises under the Oromo-led government; (2) uncovering the underlying causes of the crises, namely  recycled Gedaa  and emboldened Oromummaa; (3) exploring  a win-win  nexus for  an all-inclusive  dialogue,  and (4)  promoting  domestic  and  international  campaigns to  pressure  the  government  towards a peaceful resolution. The rejoinder is  focused on defending Gedaa and Oromummaa. No  effort was made to address items 3 and 4 at all. 

I need to flag three caveats from the outset in the interest of clarity. First, the term Oromummaa has  two dimensions:  social and  political.  The  social meaning  of  the  term is “being Oromo.” It  reflects  Oromo’s humane traditions and ethos of welcoming outsiders with a sense of community value and welfare. As a political doctrine, Oromummaa imposes the Oromo language, culture, and identity on  other tribal communities through coercion – political, economic, and military.  

Second, when critics of  the Oromummaa political aggression pen legitimate exposés, the common  Oromummaa  scholars’ response  is  intentionally  muddling  the  political  and  social  aspects  of  Oromummaa and accusing their critics of tarnishing the Oromo social standing. This is what MK & GG did in their deceptively crafted and lie-ridden rejoinder. 

Third, as noted in my manifesto, since its  formation, the Oromo Prosperity Party (Oromo-PP) has  gone through subtle but intense infighting between Ethiopianist and Oromummaa factions. Over the 

last year-and-half, the Oromummaa doctrine has increasingly controlled the levers of power and the  PM has progressively become a part of it. 

As noted in my Manifesto, Oromummaa is in equal measure part cult and part political dogma. Its  adherents uphold it above religion and family. Oromo leaders, including the President of the Oromo  land  have  publicly  accused  Oromos  with  Biblical  and  Islamic  names  of  undermining  their Oromummaa roots. We have witnessed one of the most prominent Oromo political leaders, Bekele  Gerba, attributing  the decline of  the Oromo language  to interethnic marriage. We have also heard  Oromo activists calling for a mass divorce to free Oromos from their Amhara wives and husbands,  leaving behind their half-cast children.  

The purpose of  this article is  to show  the extent that Oromummaa scholars go  to weaponize false  claims and outright lies as a strategic defense of the Oromummaa cult. A rudimentary fact checking  would have led to the rejection of the rejoinder. Its publication shows not only of the saddening lack  of intellectual ethics on the part of the authors, but also the absence of journalistic integrity on the  part of the editors of Addis Standard. 

My manifesto was clear in its disposition and objectives in all four broad areas noted above. Let us  briefly revisit the key issues. 

Crisis Under the Oromo-Led Government 

The economic and political crises highlighted in my manifesto were data driven and well documented with 17 references from credible international agencies. They include the IMF, the World Bank, the  UN, Transparency International (the most authoritative institution on corruption indexes), Heritage Foundation (known  for its economic  freedom index), the Hong Kong based Fitch Rating (globally  recognized for rating a nation’s ability to meet its financial obligations), VOA, and NPR, among others.  

Referring to me, the response in the rejoinder is: “His manifesto, in our view, is essentially an opinion  of individuals or at best people in the same circle who may have their own dream which has nothing  to do with what the general public believes it should rather be.” The reference to “people in the same  circle” represents “disgruntled Amhara elite in the diaspora”.  Diaspora, I may be. But the Amhara designation needs further clarification. I am part Oromo and part  Amhara. Besides, the current political, economic, and geopolitical crises are flagged by all Ethiopians,  including Oromos. In a 67-page document, Jawar Mohammed, arguably the most prominent Oromo  politician, did not hesitate to speak candidly.

The Causes of the Crises: Recycled Gedaa and Emboldened Oromummaa 

In the noted manifesto, I highlighted two causes for the crises. First is the effort to resurrect Gedaa  from the tomb  and  rinse and  recycle  it for  current  use.  The  second  is  the  Oromummaa political  doctrine. These are the two issues that MK & GG focused on because they saw them as daggers at the heart of the Gedaa inspired Oromummaa political doctrine. 

Gedaa was a 16th century Oromo tradition practiced in limited areas of the current day Oromo tribal  land,  governing  the  community’s  economic,  political,  social, and  religious  traditions. It  was  an  effective governance system when people lived in small clans in the same area for generations. The  system became outdated and unfit for purpose after the advent of population growth. Its demise was  further exacerbated by migration, following the Oromo conquest of new tribal lands. As a governance  system it started its decline in the 16th century. After the dawn of the 19th century, “it was reduced  to a ritual system.”  

The reason for the transformation of Gedaa into a ritual system was articulated by none other than  Asafa Jalata (the intellectual Godfather of the Oromummaa political doctrine). In his view, the culprits  were: “The nonfederal nature of the Gadaa System, lack of Strong Central government, lack of regular  meeting of Gadaa official and long distance of Gumii (assembly)  from political center made Gadaa  system less Competent”. 

Other Oromo scholars such Endalkachew Lelisa Duressa attribute the transformation of Gedaa from  a governance system to a traditional to the “spread of Islam and Christianity [that] undermined the  political and military roles of  the Gadaa system.” Jawar Mohammed, in his 76-page recent report, argued the Gedaa system was weakened by “population expansion and the advent of migration.”  

With total disregard for the truth, MK & GG wrote: “Gadaa is governance system of the Oromo that  has survived the subjugation and annihilation for  600  years  despite  brutal  crackdown  under  the  different state of this country.” This was unmitigated and uncircumcised lie. Allow me to summon  Jawar Mohammed as my primary witness. 

In his above-noted 76-page document, Jawar asserts: “የኦሮሞ ትግልን ብንመለከት፤ ከምኒልክ ወረራ በፊት ያለው ዘመን የነፃነት እና የብልጽግና ተደርጎ ይወሰዳል።” [Before  Menilik’s  invasion,  Oromo  was  free  and  prosperous and  Gedaa was the emblem of our pride.] Menelik’s reign was between the end of 19th century and the  beginning of 20th century.   

I will let MK & GG settle their fictional narrative of 600 years of subjugation and annihilation of the  Oromo by the Ethiopian state with Jawar’s narrative of a free and prosperous Oromo before Menelik’s reign. 

How Gedaa was reduced to a state of ritual practice is not the most important question. The most  important question is: If Gedaa lost its competence in the 19th century as Asafa  Jalala noted, what  purpose will Gedaa serve in a globalized world in the 21st century? Using Gedaa at the national and  regional level in the 21st century is akin to forcing grown up ass man or women to wear the ጥብቆ he  or she used as a toddler.  

Japan and China had far more developed and sophisticated traditional institutions and governance  infrastructures  than the Oromo Gedaa. However,  Japan under  the Meiji Restoration Period (in  the  19th century) and China under Deng Xiaoping (in the 20th century) figured out one cannot go forward  in a reverse gear. They enacted policies to ban old traditions and adopted western practices, just like  the founding fathers of the US in the 18th century modeled their democracy after Greece’s system of  self-government. It is sad to see Oromo tribalists are tickling their fancy to resurrect and recycle an  expired ritual when modern societies are exploring best practices from around the world. 

In all fairness, clinging to the past is not only an Oromo elite problem. Amhara and Tigray elites are  inflicted with the same social illness. The Amhara spent their waking hours regurgitating the global  significance of Adwa and Lalibela. Tigrayans still believe the sun and its galaxy revolve around the  Axumite civilization whose heyday was somewhere between the 4th and 5th century.  

The hermitized and tribalized Amhara, Oromo and Tigray scholars never get tired of fighting about  who has the best tradition, who stole from whom in centuries past, who killed whose old traditions is the staple of their political life. 

This is nowhere clearer than in MK & GG’s pregnant statement: “Ethiopia unfortunately do not have  anything of its own that it could proudly claim to have as relevant to the world, except the monuments  in the rocky lands of the habasha Old Testament Biblical belt. The good ones coming from the South  including Oromia are shunned down as indigenous etc.” 

Anyone with access to Google can see what are the most important Ethiopian iconic legacies that have their hand and  footprint  on the world stage. A Google search  for Adwa fetches 4,150,000 results,  followed  by Axum  (3,880,000), and  Lalibela (3,850,000). Gedaa fetches 58,800 entries. Alas,  at  a  closer examination, MK & GG’s pregnant statement was stillborn. 

The Mogassa Legacy: Military Subjugation followed by Mass Adoption Under Duress 

One issue that got the attention of MK & GG is my narrative of the Oromo Mogassa tradition. Sadly,  they tried to launder the blood soaked Mogassa using the Oromo Guddifachaa tradition (voluntary  and humane adoption) as a detergent. In the Oromo Guddifachaa tradition, an adopted child is treated  like a biological child. The process is voluntary, and the practice is common to this day.  

Mogassa is different in form and substance. Unlike Guddifachaa that involves individual adoptions by  a family, Mogassa was the practice of the mass adoption of conquered tribes. It is a forced assimilation  of other tribes into the Oromummaa galaxy. 

Mogassa had a three-step process. First, in the quest to take lands inhabited by other tribes, Oromo  warriors  decimated other  tribal  lands.  Second,  once  they  took  over  new territories,  the  Oromo  conquerors adopted women, elders, children and surrendered fighters of the conquered tribe. Third, the conquered tribes were assimilated into Oromummaa under duress. The adopted communities  were forced to abandon, their names, languages, and traditions, and were politically and militarily  baptized to become Oromo in every facet of their existence.  

The adoption is undertaken under “political, military and economic considerations” as documented  by one of the most prominent Oromo historians (Mohammed Hassan) in a book published by Oxford  University. Mohammed  notes:  Historically,  the  Oromo  has  “assimilated  more  than  they  were  assimilated by others.” This included absorbing defeated tribes “as clients or serfs (gabbaro) into the [Oromo] tribal structure.” 

To top it off, Mohammed’s book reveals that new fictitious Oromo genealogies were created for the  forcefully  assimilated  tribes  so  they  can  count  “their  ancestors  several  generations  back” to  a  “hypothetical” Oromo lineage.  It was a  complete  dissolution  of  culture,  tradition,  name, and even  genealogy.  

Mohammed  further  informs  us  that  the  assimilation  process  culminated with  an  oath  taking  ceremony led by an Oromo Aba Gadaa, repeating: “I hate what you hate, I like what you like, I fight  whom you fight, I go where you go, I chase whom you chase.” Those who refused to Oromize their  body,  spirit,  soul,  and  genealogy  were  wiped  out  of  existence  in  a  bloodshed.  The  punishment  included amputation of penis. Yet, MK & GG falsely present Mogassa as a noble and human practice  of adoption, narrating it under the rubric of Guddifachaa.  

Mogassa 2.0 in the 21st Century 

The  President of  the Oromo  region, Shimelis Abdisa, did  not mince words when announcing that  Oromo-PP’s plan for “the Future of Ethiopia” is Gedaa. In another speech he revealed that as part of  this grand strategy the “Prosperity Party is built in such a way to advance the interest of Oromo. The 

head of the Party will always be an Oromo or an Oromo plant.” This was upped in a different speech.  To  rejuvenate  and  spread  the  Gadaa  system,  the  Oromo  government  is  “spending  billions  and  erecting Oromummaa markers in Addis Ababa.” 

A detailed strategic plan is provided in a report titled “We Need Modern Version of the OLF With High Confidence Politics of Haile Fida!” 

“It is time to foster a modern version of the OLF with high confidence politics of Haile  Fida. Dr Haile was the one, who envisioned that Ethiopia using primarly Afaan Oromo  as the working language can slowly, but surely, be transformed to Gadaa democratic  Ethiopia, i.e.  de  facto  Great Oromia… The  aim  of  an independent  Gadaa Oromia is  Oromo politics of the past, the goal of an ethnic federation is that of present status  quo and the objective of an integrated Gadaa Ethiopia (de facto Great Oromia)… we  surely will move to the level of high confidence in order to own the whole Ethiopia…” 

This is not a wishful plan. The plan is already under implementation. During the Regular Session of  the Parliament on March 28, 2023, the Honorable Hassan Sheikh, the representative of a small tribe  bordering  the  Oromo tribal land  expressed  fear  that  the  survival  of  his  ethnic  group  (አማሮ) is in  danger.  

[The people of Amaro are encircled by Oromo on three directions. We are  
denied access to other regions. It is hard to explain our suffering in words.  
We are invaded and butchered, and our existence as an ethnic group is in peril.] 

Non-Oromo  residents  of Addis  Ababa, accounting  for  81  percent  of  the  population  including  the  Amhara representing 47 percent of Addis Ababans feel the same threat. The President of Oromo did  not hesitate to validate their fear. In a speech to the Oromo-PP youth squad, he explained why he was  building  a  new  city  completely  encircling  Addis  Ababa,  stating: “Some  naive  Oromos  may  not  understand  the  strategy  behind  building  Sheger  City  encircling  [Addis  Ababa].  Our  enemies  understand our intentions.” Having seen this in my Manifesto including the links for the quotes, MK  & GG wrote:  

“We understand  that  there are units who are working with  the divisive  
mentality  of  the Amhara elites in  every  part  of  the  country. Such  units  
orchestrate  events  that  bring  people  who  live  together  peacefully  into 
conflict. Now, what are presented by  the author in our view are simple  
allegation of dramatized act by themselves.” 

They  were  not  satisfied  with  their  brazen  obfuscation.  They  needed to  lie  blatantly,  stating “The  Oromo  lived  peacefully  and  has  never  enticed  any  wrong  to any  peoples  whom  they  live  with  as  neighbors.” Let us see just a few samples of what international human rights organizations and the  international media says. 

Human  Rights  Watch, August  2022: “An  armed  group  killed  several  hundred  Amhara  civilians  in  western  Oromia  in  June  2022  while the  Ethiopian security  forces  did  little  to  protect  them.” The  Oromo-PP led government and the armed Oromo fighter blame each other for  the mass murder. It  may  be  obvious, but it warrants reminding MK & GG that either way it is an Oromo group  that is  engaged in mass killings of innocent and defenseless people.  

The Lemkin  Institute  for Genocide Prevention, February 2023: “[We are] alarmed by  the ongoing  massacres of ethnic Amhara men, women, and children in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.” 

UNICIEF 2018: “Severe ethnic conflict broke out in July and August in the border zones of Oromia  and SNNP regions, leading to large scale displacement of nearly one million people.” 

Reuters, June 2022: “On June 18 gunmen killed at least 200 people in the Gimbi district of Western  Wollega Zone… “Per data I have received from the Oromiya region yesterday, the number of victims  identified so far rests at 338,” the prime minister’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum told reporters. 

Amnesty International July 2022 – “These horrific killings in Tole, allegedly at the hands of the Oromo  Liberation Army, reveal its perpetrators’ utter disregard for human life.” 

What we are witnessing is a Mogassa tradition not a Guddifachaa one. The PM’s repeated threats “to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people over night” (2021) and “unleashing violence that will be  many times bloodier than the red terror”(2023) reflect the inherent tendency of Oromummaa politics  using terror as a tool of subjugation.  

At  the  practical  level,  the  Oromummaa  political  culture  is  bloodletting.  At  an  intellectual  level,  Oromummaa is a lie-fomenting doctrine. MK &GG’s rejoinder proved this far more than my manifesto  achieved. 

Editor’s note : The article was first shared on P2P Ethiopian Forum

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8 COMMENTS

  1. It saddens me to watch these well read intellectuals recklessly playing with fire. I hate to see both erring on the history of the old country. I can say a thing or two about their misgivings but that is not what I believe are the priorities. For someone like me who is always on a lookout for something new to learn about the history of that gem of the colored I did not get any valuable material from both writers to educate myself except to sit hear and read diatribes. But it left me confused by the claim that my Oromos were subjugated for more than 600 years. Where did that come from? All this time beginning the early 1970’s I have been deafened with statements by my own Oromo ‘should-know-betters’ that I have been oppressed since the 1880’s. 1880’s is not 600 years old. I tried it on every calculator in my library at home all I came up with is 153 years. Is our current 1 year is equivalent to 4 years in some other calendars we never knew? This is the fallacy we readers have been bombarded with for more than 5 decades now. The writer of this article should revisit his assertion that the current regime is led by Oromos only. His assumptions justify my conclusion that the next prime minister should not come from Amhara, Tigray or Oromo ethnic groups. These three have too much in the baggage they will bring all the way to the palace. I say bring in an Afar, Somali, Sidama, Gambella, Beni Shangul or any ethnic groups except those three. Wataitas had their shot at the position aready. So you are out, in my book that is! I also want to remind the author that no other ethnic groups played more critical roles as those Oromo leaders since the 17th century. I suggest he reads my most favorite history book penned by our over qualified historian Obbo Bahru Zewde. Do the names Ali, Dinagde, Gobena, Jagama, Aligaz, Gugsaa, Taytu and King Tekle of Gojjam, Gudissaa in Shewa ring bell? All I know about Gudissaa has been he was not a Puerto Rican but he was the great grandfather of Emperor Haile Selassie. And I have a question for both intellectuals. Why did the young Menelik sought refuge at two seats of governments where both ruled by Oromos? Why the very powerful Oromo chief Gobena decided to stand by the young man called Menelik? Menelik was a fugitive with the blood thirst Tewodros hot on his heels. Why did Gobena with his 30,000-strong army decide to work with the besieged Menelik? Why? He could have cut off his head and present it to Emperor Tewodros which could gain him appreciation and more territory. Think about it and think about it twice before you respond. I have my own opinion and I would like to hear yours. Thank you in advance.
    By the way every Arabic word is not an exclusively Muslim word including the Word Allah, as every Arab is not a Muslim only and all Muslims are not Arabs.

  2. Putting all this reckless wrangling aside, I would like to say Happy Victory Day to my dear countrymen/women in celebration of the 82nd anniversary of the triumph of our patriots over the fascist forces in 1941. Happy Anniversary y’all!!!!

    Meanwhile, my question is how come any of the websites in our Diaspora don’t mention about this anniversary. Very sad indeed!!!

  3. I want to thank Dr. Henok for your fact-based rejoinder. It is as an example for other scholars who cares for humanity.

  4. I want to thank Dr. Yonas for your fact-based rejoinder. It is as an example for other scholars who cares for humanity.

  5. This is well constricted article laden with facts to counter the never ending fabrication of the Orommuma adherents. Orommuma as an ideology is very dangerous that have the potential to engulf the entire horn of Africa with bloody civil war. The scramble by the Oromo elites to install an Oromo hegemony could backfire and become the source of ills for the Oromo people. The current PM and his Oromo led Gov’t need to learn from the TPLF example and circle back to democratic governance than running amok with their geda rituals.

  6. Is it not better to take the good of the mogassa or geda or gudefecha and acknowledge the contribution of the tribe for the betterment of governing and togetherness? ሁሉም ተራው ሲደርስ አጥፍትዋልም አልምትዋልም some practices might be irrelevant for the 21st century and some are still valuable . No need to copy what the West has done …. we take what is good from the past and learn from the bad . This way we can give value to everyone involved and avoid extimisim and bloodshed.

  7. Thank you Dr Yonas. OLF was formed based on lies and never changed for over 50 years. Splinter organisations fabricate more lies than correcting the old one. People like you should expose them for the entire world. Oromummaa is a danger for the Horn of Africa.

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