Meroe, Oromo and Old Nubian: Solving the Mystery of Meroitic Language

  O
Meroe, Oromo and Old Nubian: Solving the Mystery of Meroitic Language
By Dereje Tadesse Birbirso (PhD),  College of Social Science and HumanitiesHaramaya University, Ethiopia
Abstract
 
 Meroitic language is one of the most controversial ancient languages but one of the few having advanced writing systems. Some classify it Asian, European, non-African, Semitic,or ‘unclassified’. This paper contends Meroe, similar to their Cushitic friends, are left victims of preconceived ideas based on an entirely argument from silence, an hegemonic epistemology that elevates a single perspective and silences other(s). This paper, thus,comparatively analyzes Meroitic and Old Nubian lexical and grammatical items with corresponding Oromo, a Cushitic family which, 
a Cushitic family which,vocabulary possibly the Ancientlanguage of the Nile Valley and/or Horn of Africa. Meroitic and Old Nubian lexical, grammatical and epigraphic data were collected from secondary sources by Meroitic researchers. Oromo corpora are obtained both from classical and modern descriptions and native-speakers. Results indicate Oromo lexemes show significant level of cognates with not only Meroitic and Old Nubian, but also with the Ancient Egyptian to their northern part.
Keywords:  Oromo, Meroe, Nubian, Ancient Egyptian, Cushitic, Chiekh Anta Diop

Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe

Ateetee:The divinity for motherhood and fecundity in Oromo mythology


O

Yaa Maaraam furootu gahee

Waliin nu Gahee

Emmoo yaa obbolee emmoo

 

 

 

Ateetee:The divinity for motherhood and fecundity in Oromo mythology

 

 

Maaram is believed to be the divinity of women. Maaram was created by Waaqa and 
addressed as haadha boor (the mother of ocean). I think this is to indicate that Maaram 
came to the Oromo from outside. The Oromo believe that Mooram is the mother of a 
child. The Oromo women perform traditional ceremonies in respect of Maaram. It is 
believed that Maaram will help barren women to beget a child, and help pregnant 
women to give birth to a child. When a woman gives birth to a child Oromo women will 
gather and ululate (say ilili ilili). They also prepare porridge, and splash butter. It is 
normal for the Oromo to sacrifice an animal during this ceremony. Moreover, Maaram 
is worshipped for the health of the environment, animals, human beings and crops. 
The Oromo Qoolluu leaders pray to Maaram every two weeks for the continuation of 
offspring of humans. Maaram has her own ritual house. Ritual goods include Jaaloo
(earthen caldron), and Qoloo (traditional shirt). It has also madabii (raised platform of 
Earth). The dancing ceremony is performed on Tuesdays, Thursdays,. and Saturdays.

Some writers have explained the nature of Ateetee and Maaram. Knutsson states that the  names Ateetee and Maaram are used interchangeably for the same kind of being (Kmitsson 1967,55). Daniel states that  the various songs of Ateetee imply that “[a]teete is a ceremony prepared for Ayyolee, Maaram and Waaqa as thanksgiving by those who have children and a lamentation by the barren women” (Daniel 1984, 111). Bartels, however, questioned this assertion. To the Oromo of Western Matcha, Ateetee is the name of the ritual in which Maaram is invoked (Bartels 1983). Baxter (1979) had similar observation concerning the belief of the Arsi Oromo. For Cerulli, Ateetee is conceived as the goddess of fecundity (Cerulli 1922,127; Harris 1968,50).

– http://www.ossrea.net/publications/images/stories/ossrea/ssrr-19-p-3.pdf

In the traditional Oromo society, women played distinct roles through an institution called the Siiqqee (a symbolic decorated stick given to all women by their mothers upon marriage). This is an exclusively women’s solidarity institution sanctioned by tradition and respected by society. It is a sort of sorority that provides women with channels to participate in village councils, and a cultural vehicle to mobilize en masse against violence and abuse. Infringement of certain rights that women enjoy is regarded as an attack on human rights. In the event of violation of their rights, women take out the Siiqqee and mobilize to fight for the respect of rights, and for any perpetrator of abuse to be tried by society. The use of Siiqqee draws an enormous religious, ritual and moral authority and in the pursuit of peace and social tranquility. According to tradition peace is not merely the absence of war, but a constant state of unity and cooperation among the people as well as harmony with God and nature, with the power to bless or curse. Historically, women as a sector of society were designated as strangers and excluded from the Gadaa structures and rituals, but, they stuck together through the Siiqqee counting on one another within this common sorority. –http://oromowomensinternationalconferenceonline.com/general-information.html

http://portal.svt.ntnu.no/sites/ices16/Proceedings/Volume%203/Marit%20Tolo%20%C3%98steb%C3%B8%20-%20Wayyuu%20%E2%80%93%20Women%E2%80%99s%20Respect%20and%20Rights.pdf

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gCxLwdmLNMIC&pg=PA177&lpg=PA177&dq=siiqqee+Oromo+institution&source=bl&ots=TFj2Y7vo_G&sig=IrqVfrNe8PKIgo2ZCTkL0DtVtJE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TxSwU8DwBYiK1AWaoYH4BQ&ved=0CCYQ6AEwATgK#v=onepage&q=siiqqee%20Oromo%20institution&f=false

http://www.academia.edu/4604793/Qaallu_Institution_A_theme_in_the_ancient_rock-paintings_of_Hararqee-implications_for_social_semiosis_and_history_of_Ethiopia

http://www.slideshare.net/chalihundu/oromo-peoplehood-historical-and-cultural-overview

http://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1080&context=utk_socopubs

http://zelalemkibret.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/jos-volume-4-numbers-12-1997.pdf

Weedduu Maaram / Weedduu Ateetee

(Translation: Zelelaem Aberra Tesfa)

http://www.zelealemaberra.com/?page_id=388

 

In Oromo mythology, the divinity for motherhood and fecundity is Ateetee or Maaram. Maaram or Ateetee is invoked and praised on birth-rituals. In addition, women prepare a feast and invoke Her, praise Her kindness so that they could be fertile, healthy, prosperous, and happy (Bartles, 1990,124; Cerulli 1917, 127, Tilahun Gamta, 2004,101)

Atoomaa hardhoo Maarami!
Maa mukoofna yee!

Yaa Maaram yaa Maaramii,
Wallaalaaf araarami.
Yaa Maaram, yaa kuullee koo,
Kottu taa’i fuullee koo.

Ciniinsuu afaa butuu
Miixuu dagalee butuu
Da’anii mucaa butuu
Iddoo ciniinsuu kee tii
Guddeen kun kan kee ti.

Yaa deessuu waalluu kobe,
Maaramtu boroo gonfe,
Dhirsatu balbalaa kolfe.
Yaa dhabduu waalluu moojoo
Dhirsatu aaree guungume,
Maaramtu boroo sokkee.

Utuun Balasiin ta’e,
Balas Boongaa ta’e,
Dhabaadhaaf mirgan kenna;
ittiin haa doorsifatu.
Utuun Maaramiin ta’e,
Maaram giiftii ta’e,
Dhabduudhaaf ilman kenna,
Dhirsa haadoorsifattu.

Yaa Maaram, yaa Maaramee
Dhabduudhaaf araarami mee.
Yaa Maaram godeettii koo
Yaa dhiiga toleettii koo
Yaa Maaram marmaartuu koo
Yaa hiika gargaartuu koo.
Aayyoleen walii lama
Tokkoo ishee carii gamaa
Tokko ishee asii kana.

Akka abbaa fardaa beeka
Irraangadee kaachisa
Akka abbaa warraa beeka
Niiti deessuu caalchisa
Gaangoo jedhee na cabsee
Gindoo saa nabaachisa
Yaa maaram hundaaf giiftii
Rakkoo kiyya naaf hiiki
Yookaan ilmaa naa kennii,
Beekaattan moggaafadha
Yookaan durba naa kennii
Beektuuttin moggaafadha
Yookaan dua naa kennii
Waayeekoon obbaafadhaa.

Get-together, for today is Maaram
Let us rejoice, throw away the boredom!

O Maaram, O dear Maaram,
Reconcile, with us who lack wisdom.
Maaram with beautiful eyes, O Maaram,
Have a sit, in front of me, please come!

When in pain, the mattress one clutches
When in labour, the wall one clutches
After delivery, a baby one snatches!
In return for your labour pain
Here, the little one is your gain.

O prolific woman, your clothes smell bad,
But Maaram has adorned your backyard,
The husband laughs from the front yard.
O sterile woman, with beautiful dress
Your husband furiously grumbles,
For your backyard, Maaram avoids.

If I were Balas,
That Balas of Boongaa,
To a bad-shooter his trophies I give;
So he could boast about it with relief.
If I were Maaram,
Our great lady Maaram,
A son I would give to the sterile woman,
So she could intimidate her man.

O Maaram, my dear Maaram
Be merciful to the childless.
O Maaram, with beauty and grace
You have revered blood in your face
O Maaram, you are my commuter [between me and God]
My parturifacient mother.
Two kinds of mothers are there
One is far across the river [The biological one]
The other one is the one here. [Maaram]

I know a rider’s thought and will
He gallops down the hill
I know a husband’s thought
He loves the prolific wife the most;
He equates me to a mule, dry and bare
and makes me carry his ploughshare.
O Maaram every women’s’ queen
Resolve this problem for me
Either grant me a baby boy
I call him “he the wise”
Either grant me a baby girl
I call her “she the wise”
Or either give me death
So I could get done with my worries.

 

The following stanza is taken from a birth song:

Odoshaa gofaa ka’u
Sareen agartee laata?
Agartee nyaattee laata?
Dhabduu ishee mucaaf boossu,
Yeelalaa fayyaaf boowu,
Adeemsa mirgaa boowuu
Maareen agartee laata?
Agartee laattee laata?

Ililleen Waaqa akka
Ililcheen Waaqiin kadha;
Gabaa shaqaxxuu faaqi
Anoo sagadduu Waaqi!

Loome qoraan karaa
Yomiree wal agarraa?
Bor guyyaa afaan waaree
Loonee wal agarra.

Garbuu kaballaa tokko
Manteessuun akaawwatte
Kan maseente ittiin horte
Kan deesse lakkaawwatte.

Deessuun akka naan jette
Mucaa koo hinargin jette
Diinqa koo hindarbin jette.
Maali yoon diinqa shee darbee?
Maali yoon mucaa shees argee?
Mucaa sheef argaan laadha
Garaa koof marqaan nyaadha
Jabbisheetu gola miti
Mucasaheen dhora miti.

Yaa dhabduu anaa nyaatu
Ulfooftee gumaa hin nyaannee
Deesse gumaata hindhugne.
Dhagaa kakatta guutuu
Rarra’etu wal baachise
Dhabduun dawuu hinjibbine
Maaramtu wal caalchise

Yaa deessuu waalluu qobe
Ayyaanni boroo gonfe.
Yaa dhabduu waalluu moojoo
Ayyaanni boroo sokke.

Yaa dhabduu masoo dhirsa
Dhirsatu dhaanu hawwee.
Yaa saree eegee dabbasaa
Kan quufee Waaqiin darbata
Kan Maaram namaa gootu
Haati ofii namaa hingootu.
Sibiila mutaa gootee
Kan djiiga mucaa gootee.

Baddaan qullubbii hinqabu
Muree laga dhaabbata
Kan kee dhukkubbii hinqabu
Turtee nama yaadattaa.
Araarfanne yaa maaram
Sirraa deenyee.
Gadi jedheen xaafii haamaa
Ol jedheen Waaqiin waama

An old horse’s rise from the stable,
I wonder if dogs have seen it and been able?
To have eaten it, and then did settle?
Cry of a baby-longing childles
Lament of a health-longing patient
A trophy-longing hunter’s plight
I wonder if Maaree have seen?
If She has seen and granted!

Ululation for Waaqa is a must
I ululate and beseech Waaqa;
Market of the taxing tanner
I am Waaqa’s earnest prayer!

The Loomee firewood of the street
When do you think we could meet?
Tomorrow, around mid-day
We will meet slipping away.

A handful of barley
That a widow parched and eat
the sterile prospered with it
the prolific counted it. [To equally divide.]

You know what the prolific said?
“Do not see my baby.” she said
“Do not enter my inner-room” she said.
What if I enter her inner-room?
What if I see her baby?
To her baby, I give a gift
To my stomach, porridge I eat.
No calf is kept in her inner-room,
She thinks I pine her child, I presume.

What a pity for the sterile lady
She could not get pregnant and eat a hunk of meat
She could not deliver and have showers of gift.
Abundance of rock and escarpment
Is hanging and piling up
The sterile did not hate giving birth
It is Maaram that un equalizes.

The prolific with smelly skirt
Her backyard is full of spirit.
But, the childless in a pretty skirt
Her backyard is devoid of spirit.

The sterile, the husband’s name-sake
The husband wishes to punish her.
O dog with a hairy tail
The over-fed hurls at Waaqa
The favour Maaram does for one
One’s own mother would not do.
She turned iron to needles
She turned blood to a baby that toddles.

The high land does not have onion
They cut and plant in the valley;
Your delay is not offensive
for you compensate gradually.
Reconciliation with you, O Maaram
You gave us deliverance.
I bow down and harvest xaafi [food plant]
I rise up and invoke Waaqi

Iyya Siiqqee

Hoga iyya Siiqqee

Ilmaan hidda Horoo,

Guchuma baattee siida Ateetee
Siiqqeen iyyite seenaaf godaante

Safuuf nagaa waaqa tokkichaan dursa
Na ofkolchaa iyya Siiqqeefan tumsaa
Godaana siiqqeefan imimman robsa!

Safuu! Hoga iyya Siiqqeef
kan mandiisu akka bakakkaa
Safuu! Godaana faana Siiqqeef
Seenaa hin duune, kan hin qabne fakkii fi akka!

Uggum! Hoga iyya Siiqqeef
Iyya eenyummaa – diroon fufe gumaaf birmatu
Uggum! Godaana faana Siiqqeef
Adeemsa seenaa – qaraan-qara hin dhaabbatu

Hoo dhommoqxes Siiqqeen hin cabdu
Harooressa hin haanxoftu – gogdee hin baddu

Ni latti akka coqorsaa – jilbeeffattee dhukaan riqxee
Ni lalisti akka saardoo – margee leensa diroon cobxee
Ni daraarti akka keelloo – kuusaa aadaan booka naqxee

Sarara ulumaa Siiqqeen hareeroo
Hormata eenyummaa seenaa iyya Horoo
Duudhaa ganamaa irkoo fi utubaa boroo
Jandoo baaxii galma suuqa sororoo
Siiqqeen hin baddu dagaleen Gadaa
Kanaaf iyyatti – qabattee guchuuma aadaa!

Kan Waaqni mildhate Ayyaantuun eebbaa
Eenyummaaf birmadhu jamaan kaabaa fi kibbaa
Hoga dabarsaa, bahaa fi lixaa seenaa utubaa
Seenaa iyya Siiqqeef goonni dhiiga roobaa!

Kuusaa Oromummaa fi Hooda Ayyaantuu
Bir’uu eenyummaaf Siiqqeef birmatu!
Gadaan quufaa fi gabbina
Gabbisi ya Waaq, keenniif humna!

Humna Siiqqee kan hin cabne
Humna Gadaa kan hin dabne
Humna Oromummaa kan hin banne
Dilbii- Kuusaa kan hin dhumne
Seenaa boonsaa eenyummaa abdanne!

Gadaan gabbina Siiqqeen hareeroo
Gabbisi yaa waaq nurraa cabsi roorroo!

http://waaqeffannaa.org/iyya-siiqqee/

 

Oromo and Greek based Democracies

By Ibsaa Guutama

This article is for those who did not have the opportunity to know how democracy evolved in human society. Democracy is only one type of government supposedly based on the will of the masses. There had been other types of government like monarchy or aristocracy, dictatorship or autocracy and totalitarian. One can find overlapping characters in all these. So what ever form we may talk about we have to expect element of one in the other. For much, democracy is an ideal type of government but not all proclaimed democracies are fully pro-people. Here the writer is trying to introduce the essence of both Western and Oromo democracy in an easy way.  For those who are well versed in theory and practice of democracy this is an opportunity to enrich this work for the benefit of the youth. In particular the young generation that is showing pride in its historic past from oral tradition if armed with the facts may show more interest and start to inquire about it. To prepare the following information in addition to oral tradition and experience this writer was exposed to, the books: Gadaa and Oromo Demokrasii by Asmirom Laggasaa, The Oromo by De Salviac as translated by  Qannoon, Folk Litrature by Ceruuli, Aadaa Booranaa by Ton Leus, Ethiopia through Russian Eyes by Bulatovich and Wikiipedia from internet  were refered to.

Short note on Western Democracy 
Democracy is a term frequently heard from lips of everyone to express equality, justice and liberty in one word. There are no governments that do not claim to follow democratic principles in their governance. Even totalitarian states call themselves “democratic republics” (probably with exception of fascism) in spite of flagrant violation of their subjects’ rights. Just like true democrats they talk about the inviolability of people’s and human rights and respect for the rule of law and fair and free election.  They claim that it is to protect these rights on behalf of the masses when they take what are inhuman actions for others. Their founding documents are full of borrowed phrases from ideal democracies. Democratic governmental structures are adopted minus their functions from different countries.

Democratic models many emulate are American governmental structure with its system of separation of powers. The functions of legislature, executive and judiciary are separated into three branches in such a way that one can check on excesses of the other to maintain the balance of power. The executive or President and the legislative or members of Congress are elected directly by the people. Members of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and endorsed by the legislature for life. The other models are Parliamentary Democracy where the executive is elected by the legislature. Those can be its members or non elected persons that are answerable to it. Britain and European governments fall under this. They have mainly different styles of organization. Still others are traditional rulers blended with modern jargons.

All these claim their objective to be safeguarding peoples’ democratic interests. The term democracy is a legacy of ancient Greek city state, Athens. It is derived from Greek demokratia which means government of the people (“demos”, people, and “kratos”, power).  In this aspect “people” for Athens includes only male citizens above 20 years of age. That does not include women, children under 20, those not born in the city state and slaves.

In the city state all those qualified had the right to be present at meetings and participate in deliberations directly. That is why it is now referred to as direct democracy. After many modifications it has reached the present level of modern Western democracy. Here people elect representatives that participate in deliberations on its behalf. The two methods of electing representatives are plurality and proportional voting systems. In the first one with the highest vote is elected even if one represents minority of voters. The second shares votes in proportion of the votes parties got in overall election. Those are the features of modern indirect democracy. In both not all electorates are represented.

Now in most cases men and women above certain age have the right to vote depending on the law of each democratic country. The right to vote for women was achieved, for example, for Switzerland in 1971 on federal level and 1990 at Canton levels. It took a long time and a relentless struggle to attain universal suffrage. Though all accept these basics of democracy the structure and function of elected offices are not yet standardized and methods of elections fall short of including every voter’s voices. For example if hundred people vote for three persons and two of them got thirty votes each and the third one gets forty he/she wins the whole thing. That leaves 60 persons unrepresented. Proportional representation may improve this but cannot totally correct it. Here seats are divided in proportion to votes parties got overall.

For African countries democracy was imposed on them by departing colonial masters that keep on insisting to this day not to abandon it even if it was a fake one. Africans did not participate to construct a government relevant to their culture and tradition. Even those who later wanted to introduce amendments tried to mix the various world systems instead of looking into their own history and tradition and make it reflect national personality or psyche.  As copy and eclectic as it is, it is understood only by elites who themselves are copies of colonial culture.

They rule the way they wanted, constitutions are only window dressings. On the other hand the West had modified the concept of democracy in such a way that it fits their particular national needs not as it was practiced by Athenians or any other pioneer democracies. Therefore there is no one common blueprint for it.

Had it not excluded a segment of the population Athenian democracy could have been an ideal one where the concern of every member is taken care of. Much has been tried to approximate that but the world did not yet achieve flawless democracy. Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address “Government of the people, by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.” reflects that aspiration. The question to be answered is who are the people that influence decisions, are they really the people or oligarchs?  Though the ideal is not yet achieved there are those that had come nearer and worth emulating. Had Oromo democracy been able to answer that question?

Be as it may there are certain basics that underlie every governance of those that claim to be democratic. Principles like equality, freedom, fair and free election; rule of law and respect for people’s and individual rights run through all of them. Even dictators and totalitarian government claim to apply these principles in their own way.   Thus these are universally accepted principles of governance though malpractice is rampant in so many countries. Ethiopian rulers had tried to adopt constitutionalism under pressure against their established tradition.  The emperor had instituted a semblance of Westminster parliament without political parties. His successor (Darg) had one party state. The next (Wayyaanee) is a pseudo multiparty system but only its party is destined to win.

Be him the last emperor or the two dictators after him used democratic phraseology to cover up their core authoritarian values. Their inherited autocratic practices could not go away. The Habashaa in most part of their own history were ruled by forces that come through coup d’états violently or outlaws overthrowing the preceding government. That was so before they formed the empire and remained so even after it.  All the three came to power overthrowing their predecessors. The first two staged coup d’états the third was an outlaw.

It was not consensus but brut force that kept that highland kingdom together under one crown. Democracy assumes one man one vote in a fair and free election that should be carried out periodically. Democracy is the rule of majority. Who ever gets most of the votes comes to power. In numbers they are the minority in the empire and are scared of others outnumbering them at the ballot box. They have no confidence of winning an election by strength of their platform and performance. Therefore they believe that many opportunities would be at stake if they really change from the old ways bowing down for democratic principles. The situation makes the rulers greedy, self centered, chauvinistic and paranoid that they believe only in their own ways and wisdom and are not permeable to new possibilities.  They do not believe that even their own people would elect them in a democratic election.  That is why human right abuse became their trade mark.

Brief note on Gadaa Democracy 
When one discusses Gadaa it would be preposterous to claim understanding its depth and breadth. It was a highly complicated and sophisticated societal system to be attributed only to few generations. That it has a background of ancient civilizations can be deduced from organization of society, its legal system and patterns of knowledge it emanates. For this reason what this article presents is only a simplistic superficial aspect of it, which yet could give a clue to its democratic legacy. Leaving aside procedures, rituals and the regalia what interests us here is the legal and democratic principles enshrined in it. To discover the truth of it much effort is needed from nationals that so far considered it to be just one among the age grade initiation systems found in so many societies. They have to erase all they learned about the Oromo in colonial schools and start unraveling the truth about this so far neglected great African nation.

Gadaa was an all encompassing national system where by every male of all ages had roles to play in groups based on peerage.  Accordinglly all institutions in society were managed by elected bodies that decide in counsel. Though all activities in general fall under the Gadaa system, it was more visible in its political aspect.  Major divisions to be considered are the temporal and the spiritual institutions and within the temporal one the social and the political functions.  Gadaa is temporal while Qaalluu is spiritual. It is said that the Qaalluu office used to assist in Gadaa operations like elections. But sovereignty is vested in Gadaa Assembly. Therefore Qaalluu as an institution does not interfere in running political affairs of the country.  That means Gadaa was secular. Here we are more interested in Gadaa secular democracy. The social and political aspect of the spiritual institution may worth following for its historical and academic significance.  There are several Oromoo that follow traditional religion to this day.

Gadaa was practiced by the Oromo people from time immemorial. In social aspect male members of society are grouped into age grade “hiriyaa” (peer) system. To simplify, these were Dabbalee from 1-8 years, Foollee or Gaammee 9-24 and Qondaala or Kuusaa 25-33, Raaba didiqqaa 30-38, Raaba Doorii, 38-46 Luba 46-54 and Yuba 55-78 and gadamoojjii or jaarsa above 78 (taken from different regions practice for convenience). Each member of a society had rites to pass through. At each grade there were roles to be played and training to go through.

Activity of a hiriyaa group starts from cradle to calf herding, to different hurdles of fitness that include military training to ruling and counseling the country. It is from these hiriyaa groups that members of national leadership evolve and gradually become Luba, members of the Gadaa ruling group. These leaders in most cases had been leaders of hiriyaa group from the beginning. Women, non naturalized aliens (kan luba hin bahin) and artisans were not included in Gadaa power sharing process.

One Gadaa period is eight years. At the end of that period there used to be great feast. That ceremonial feast was called “Buttaa”. Buttaa also served as measurement of time. To know someone’s age one asks “how many Buttaa did you eat?”  All those who were born during the eight years tell the same age, one, two, three etc.  Buttaa. From that a wise man could tell to which hiriyaa group or Gadaa party one belonged. Five buttaa are slain in one Gadaa cycle of forty years. Those born into each Gadaa are hiriyaa (peers) irrespective of up to eight years possible differences. A boy born at the beginning of the eight years and one born on Buttaa day after eight years are considered to have eaten one Buttaa.

On the political side society is divided into Gadaa of five parties. Members in each Gadaa party were recruited from their own generational age grades. Each Gadaa has a role to play in the political life of the nation depending on the time and level in the Gadaa tier. The oldest group is the Yuba. It is composed of person whose members were in power in previous times. Next is Luba, the ruling party. Below that is the Itmakoo or Raba Doorii (these may have other names with different tribes) juniors that lead in defense and nation building. The next group follows the foot steps of their seniors and engages in different aspects of society appropriate for their ages. Each hiriyaa group maintains close relationship and prepare themselves for the next stage of partisan responsibility. They all elect their leaders. Those at the bottom of the ladder are the dabbalee to whose raising society gives much attention. It is there that the basis of Oromummaa is laid down and hunting for generational leaders start.

At any one period there are three Gadaa levels that engage is serious party work and has conventions or yaa’a. The bottom one is Raabaa Doorii a group that is preparing to take power after eight years (from), the middle one is the Gadaa in power Luba and the last one is the one that leaves office, Yuba. Each Gadaa comes to power after a cycle of forty years. Since there is a party in waiting to replace the other no party can stay in power for more than eight years. No crisis can be obstacle to transfer Baallii for there is a ready made leadership. To transfer Baallii means to transfer authority. As symbol of authority the old Abbaa Gada hands over to the incoming ostrich feather that was in his custody. Each Gadaa proclaims its own constitution and laws. Therefore there is no stagnation in waiting for cumbersome methods of amendments. Even if there is no article to be changed the past law is formally made null and void and proclaimed again as new. The five Gadaa had set names or are called after their leaders.

The highest Assembly of the nation is Caffee or Gumii. The Caffee sits under shade of an Odaa tree. The General Assembly includes all members of the ruling party and any such persons that want to attend it. In this way it is a representative indirect democracy with some elements of direct democracy. Living Abbaa Gadaas and the Yuba can also participate in the assembly. Abbaa Gadaa or Abbaa Bokkuu is the head of the Caffee and the chief executive as well. There is a case where their were two heads of Caffee, one ritual head called Abbaa Bokkuu and another elected head, Abbaa Gadaa. The Luba usually consults “raagaa” wise man or philosopher on the future or consequences of certain decisions. But the raagaa has no power to avert a decision.

In addition to mentioned institutions there are several others that should not escape our attention. For example the institution of clan elders which are hereditary have no place in the Gadaa structure but has important role in organizing and guiding the tribe. Members of Gadaa were recruited (nominated) from tribes they lead. They have ritual symbols and roles to play in cursing and blessing. When Gadaa is the national leadership these ones are tribal ones. It was from among these ones that the colonizers embraced and recruited as agents for all their grassroots activities. In tribal protocol the eldest of the clans is called or seated first. Since tribal structures have already been rendered obsolete it has no nationwide political relevance in modern setting. There is also the Siiqqee institution that gives women social and political authority to some degree. In principle this can be integrated into any modern adaptations.

For the Oromo rights like equality, freedom, fair and free election; rule of law and respect for people’s and individual rights, respect and protection for environment and wild life are inbuilt qualities of Gadaa democracy. All human beings are equal; no one is above the law; discrimination because of origin, color or economic status etc is unjust. Respect for human rights, freedom of expression that are not safuu or morally repulsive, freedom of movement and association are protected by law. Elected officials are loved and respected as long as they serve the people whole heartedly and with the highest morale standard.  An incompetent and corrupt official can be removed from office by the assembly before the expiry of his term of office. In meetings it was preferred if decisions were reached by consensus. Each member of a meeting or assembly has the right of veto to halt a discussion. Once decisions were reached all are required to acclaim and the law becomes sacred.
Gadaa Assembly combines executive, legislative and judiciary powers. Gadaa here is to mean the ruling class as well as the eight years of their rule. Leaders of current Gadaa are called Luba. The outgoing Gadaa which participates as advisors and judges are called Yuba. The Yuba group includes two previous Yuba. Though all powers and responsibility lie with the Luba, Yuba and all living Abbaa Gadaas had also roles to play in matters of law and checking on excesses of Luba and had great influence on all political matters. Full retirement comes three Gadaa after they leave office. From thence they are called gadamoojjii or jarsaa. Another hiriyaa group that is active during a Gadaa period is the Itmakoo or Raaba Doorii with defense as their major activity with their eye on the bokkuu when the time comes.

In Oromo society there was a tendency of the weak to form alliance against the strong. For example grandparents and grandchildren ally against parents. In the same way it is logical for Raabaa Doorii to ally against the strongest institution of the land, Luba. In that way power of Luba can be checked before it gets corrupted and become abusive.

The chief Luba is the Abbaa Bokkuu or Abbaa Gadaa (Hayyuu Fiixee). In places he has two deputies one having greater power than the other. The executive power is held by Salgee, the top nine Luba or six in some places. Those were elites elected by the people for eight years with Abbaa Gadaa as their leader. Committees were usually formed at different levels for different functions. Prerogatives of decision making at each level is known. There will always be consultation before decisions are taken. They were it is believed, those frequent meetings to make seera (law, legislation) that gave rise to Amaara legal term “seeraa” to mean conspiracy.

Abbaa Bokkuu implements what is decided by Salgee. Abbaa Bokkuu’s role as a chief is defined by law. Thus he has internal constraint imposed on him by peers and external ones by Yuba and Raaba Doorii and Caffee periodic assembly that is chaired by Abbaa Seera who is a well respected past Abbaa Gadaa.  The limitation of office term of only eight years for a party is by it self a reason not to get corrupted lest face humiliation with no chance of reelection. Thus Gadaa democratic system was a well balanced system with inbuilt checks and balance mechanism. The Abbaa Gadaa and Luba had assistances called makala (Makkala). Makala kan be compulsory service to Gadaa offices.

Military functions are assigned to Raaba Doorii by law and tradition. But Abbaa Gadaa was commander in chief and only Caffee can declare war. Commanders are appointed by Abbaa Gadaa for each engagement. After a campaign is over the person went back to his normal duties.

But lack of efficient communication and contingent law enforcement mechanism had given rise for Abbaa Duulaas to defy tradition starting in the course of the 16th century.

Some cardinal points of Gadaa system

  1. Gadaa is equal: There should be no one to be denied passing through Gadaa process, elect and be elected when ones turn comes. There should not be partiality or discrimination in services and protections Gadaa provides. Every member has the right to directly or through elected representative be heard in all affairs that affect people’s life; to be equally treated in matters of administration of justice. No one is above the law. No one may be prohibited to attend Gadaa deliberations.
  2. Odaa is equal: Odaa is a national symbol for people’s government, demokratia. It represents freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly, equality of all participants that meet there, freedom of worship, peace and araaraa (reconciliation) and liberty to rest for persons and animals under its shade without worry of being disturbed.
  3. Malkaa is equal: Ford or river crossing (confluence) is open to all for crossing; perform rituals; using water for drinking, washing etc for humans and animals. No one for any one reason can bar any one from using it. Malkaa is a symbol of transiting from status quo to something new.
  4. Market is equal: every one has equal rights to take ones produce to the market and exchange with goods and services that it provides. Every one is free to participate in such exchanges and any trade of ones liking that the market provides
  5. Road is equal: every one is entitled to the right of way; no one can be denied an access from his home to outer world or restricted from using of existing roads like all others; there will not be restriction to the right of travel; no one has the right to close an existing road for own use.

Is there any point that modern society discard from these? So far we have tried simplistic approach to uncover old Gadaa practice. Gadaa was more inclusive in its membership than Greek City state democracy. It involves every member of society to equally participate in all activity of the nation according to generations. All male nationals are grouped into generational hiriyaa and play roles society assigned for them. For this reason the Gadaa system involves all in the process of managing a society. Each division stays in the age grade for eight years before it is initiated into the next level. Probably except kids under nine all elect their leaders through electoral process. Gadaa was a representative democracy with some elements of direct democracy. Anyone that can travel to Caffee Assembly can participate in its deliberations and express ones opinion. That gives it semblance of direct democracy. Gadaa was practiced when Qaalluu institution had significant role in Oromo society and the nation was at a different level of economic and technological development than the present. Taking these variations into account let us see if there are principles that we could salvage for new democratic Oromiyaa.

  1. Societal development takes place on two lines. One is the social age grade system and the other is the party system. One follows the gradual mental and physical development of a child, while the other handles its political development. At stage of adult hood both overlap. In the political aspect society is grouped into five hiriyaa category and a party name is attached to them. Each party takes turn in governing every eight years. A party has to wait for forty years to reign again. All five parties exist at the same time with different roles to play.
  2. In Gadaa executive and legislative functions are combined. Bokkuu and Caffee (Gumii) are the highest authority of the land. Sovereignty lies with the people but expressed through Caffee and Bokkuu.
  3. Decisions are reached by consensus how ever long it may take. That means minority opinion is never neglected.
  4. Abbaa Bokkuu is the commander in chief of the fighting force. Caffee is the only power that can declare war. People love and respect the leaders because of their valor and uprightness not out of fear and threat.
  5. Yuba is the highest advisory body and also heads the supreme court of the land. Its head is the most respected among the living retired Abbaa Gadaas and usually taken as the Supreme Judge (Chief Justice).
  6. Itmakoo/Raaba Doorii is a power in waiting to replace the incumbent Luba. It is responsible for recruiting, training military personnel and conducting war.
  7. Qaalluu is the spiritual leader with some functions concerning elections but never interferes in secular affairs of the Gadaa. Gadaa was a temporal institution.
  8. Women were recognized as subjects of rights through Siiqqee institution. There were also rituals that cannot be performed without them. But full equality was not guaranteed.
  9. The top Gadaa counselors were nine ( Salgee) or Six
  10. The Luba are assisted by unelected official called makala (Aide de camp)
  11. Each Gadaa general assembly convenes at the beginning of its term to declare laws. Then it will assemble in its mid term to make progress report. Then members can be criticized, condemned or uprooted for wrong doings if any. That means electors had the right to recall their representatives for corruptions and abuses. Caffee meetings are open for citizens that can attend.
  12. Raagaa is a wise usually old man or philosopher that can advise on the future
  13. Hayyuu were notables (elites) that can give decisions and counseling on several issues. They were knowledgeable members of the society without any flaw in character.

To summarize, the people are sovereign; representative system mixed with direct democracy were practiced; rulers were elected for a limited term of only eight years; citizens had the right to elect and be elected according to their ages; no one was above the law; people can recall their representative; humans, animals and nature are protected by law; the welfare of children was concern of all members of society; their was majority rule but by making decision by consensus minority views were protected; all human being were equal, ill treatment was abhorred; right to assemble and freedom of expression were protected; right to engage in any trade was protected; right to travel were granted; right to worship was recognized and discrimination based on race, age, gender and economic status are forbidden. There was inbuilt check and balance system in the political process but not so spelled out.

Now, that we have seen a brief introduction to western and ancient Oromo Gadaa democracy, let us try if we can come out with a fitting system for reorganizing modern Oromiya. The system of dividing and managing society into generations is not different from modern world school systems. Children learn what is assigned them according to peerage, “preschool, kindergarten, primary, secondary, college”. This is not far from what they call “dabbalee, Foollee, Gaammee, Raaba etc.” Existing political parties recruit members from this school system. But the Oromo as different as they are, had something to add and their own outlook. Oromo see the system in interrelation with all other societal activities. To pass from one stage to the other are rights of all citizens not of particular classes.

Probably it would be essential to revise certain things and see how they may serve modern society better.  Instead of collectively saying Oromo youth association if one says association of Foollee, Gaammee, Raaba etc it will help to mobilize in unison generation that under stand each other better. It may also give better opportunity to develop future leadership for society. In the past stages in the Gadaa were seen from fathers’ point. For this reason the age at which one has to produce a child was determined. If one is born before that it was bad omen. Now all children should be treated equally and age has to be considered from childrens point. So, age should not be calculated by butta and father’s Gadaa grade, but the exact date of a child’s birth. All those excluded to participate in gadaa activities and elections must now be included to make true that all humanbeing are eqal. This is only the skeleton otherwise social functions require deeper research. During the period of Abbaa Gadaa there was only one Qaalluu, now they are numerous (in addition to those of other religions). In the past we go for pilgrimage only to Abbaa Muudaa now we crossed the sea and added Mecca and Jerusalem etc. After all, what do you think?  This is a big challenge for Oromoo intellectuals. It may require liberating ones mind from the shackles of foreign influences to appreciate what we had. Gadaa is never obsolete but may need refurbishing. Go and make research before responding.

Let us get prepared to be ourselves and show the world that Gadaa still dwells in our minds and body.  This will not be difficult for one who has pride in Oromummaa.

Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!
Ibsaa Guutama
July  2011

http://gubirmans.com/Oromo%20and%20Greek%20based%20Democracies.html

…The presence of the aged, both men and women who attired in traditional costumes, and carrying ritual sticks—bokkuu and siiqqee—the symbols of power and justice of the gadaa system decorated the march which reflected the authentic Oromo tradition. This authenticity is articulated not only in the words spoken by the elders and sung by the artists but also expressed in the peacefulness of the gathering of millions of people. Oromo nationalism is reviving and thriving in the fertile soil of rich symbolic cultural resources that have come to the open since the 1990s. The array of national symbols such as the odaa tree which decorate the costumes worn by men, women and children, the siiqqee, the bokkuu and other pre-colonial pan-Oromo symbols carried by men and women at the festival represent and reinforce the pride of the nation and unite the multitude gathered for the festival through a common imagery of shared memories, myths and values—in other words the shared structures of feeling.

http://maddawalaabuupress.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/oromo-freedom-from-what-and-for-what.html

 

Related Article:

Safuu, the Oromo moral value and doctrine

by Rundaasaa Asheetee Hundee 

is the principle of deep moral honor and accountability that was fostered by Waaqayyo fearing people of Oromia. “Yoon maqe, Waaqni na arga” is the principle rooted in each Oromo proven to be worthy of wholesomeness, to have virtue, and love other. These type of people have a desire to understand and live by traditional values.

Young Oromo children often spoke about the fundamental principle that telling the truth, respecting nature, being trustworthy, and standing for the right thing is natural to human beings. As an Oromo, we were taught these values and it made us women and men of such noble character.

Not only our characters were shaped by Safuu Oromo, even the process of Seera tumu (law making) was inspired by this principle and the Gadaa system was framed on the basis of Safuu. Basically then, Safuu is the principle of restoration of human dignity in a significant way. Because of Safuu, Birmadummaa and honesty is expected from each Oromo so that we all can live virtuous life of divine purposes.

When the Oromo people lived according to the Gadaa system, they dominated the horn of Africa and established their republic, and the Oromoo Foollee turned into statesmen and defended the norm of Gadaa governance. Because they believed in being honest, true, benevolent and virtuous in doing good to humanity, they demanded no money for their work and time. They worked on their farms but served their country as abbaa Seeraa, abbaa Alangaa, abbaa Caffee, abbaa Bokku and as Hadha sinqee etc..

Because of Safuu, the Oromos are inspired to respect nature and committed to deal justly with humankind! That’s why we are indebted to freedom-loving individuals everywhere who had the integrity necessary to build the foundations of human societies upon safuu’s fundamental moral values. Only in an atmosphere of freedom and trust could values like honesty and integrity truly flourish.

Safuu Oromo therefore is an expectation that people must rise above self-interest and act in the public interest with wisdom and courage both on the national and the local political scene.

One reason for the decline of Safuu in Oromia to day is that people invented new standards that constantly changes and undependable moral conduct. As a result, individuals define good and evil as being adjustable according to each situation but doing so is in direct contrast to the Safuu standard.

The vast majority of so called educated Oromos speak or think based on this mindset where right and wrong are calculated to either remain neutral or to be liked by others at the expenses of own value, the Safuu. In the process, our people lost their ancestral knowledge of what is right and what is wrong and went astray by longings for luxury and leisure that they think will be found in the western world style of living and thinking.

The devastation that comes from such fraudulent life style and self misrepresentation is immeasurable. It leads to a false belief that they can worship anything they want following the rules they set for themselves.

However, the continued survival of a free and open society is dependent upon a high degree of divinely inspired values and moral conduct (safuu), as stated by the Oromo Ayaantus. People must have trust in their institutions and in their leaders. Hence, a great need today is for leadership that exemplifies truth, honesty, and decency in both public and private life.

Honesty is not only the best policy, it is the only policy according to Safuu Oromo.
There are several things we can do to develop SAFUU.

Desire It (Fedhii Safuu horadhu)

Live honest life (hin Maqin)

Be Humble (Fayaalessa ta’i)

Study (Qu’adhu)

Search and ponder on ideas (Yaada xiinxali)
Love nature ( Umaa jaaladhu)

 

Read @ http://advocacy4oromia.org/home/safuu-the-oromo-moral-value-and-doctrine/

http://ayyaantuu.com/horn-of-africa-news/oromia/safuu-the-oromo-moral-value-and-doctrine/

 

Decolonizing Development:The Political and Cultural Locations of Nationalism and National Self-determination (the Case of Oromia)

 

 

 

Decolonizing Development:The Political and Cultural Locations of Nationalism and National Self-determination (the Case of Oromia)

Several scholars have argued that national self-determination is a claim for cultural independence and that nationalism in general is based on the right to cultural autonomy, right to a culture. In the Oromo context, national self-determination is about the representation of collective identity and dignity. It is the demand of the Oromo people to govern themselves. Practically, this can be interpreted as let us be governed by people who are like us, people of our nationality or people who accept and respect our value system. For the last hundred years and so, the Oromo nation has suffered from Abyssinian expansionism, social, ecological and economic destruction and continuous and intensive cultural and physical genocide. The Abyssinians and Oromians connections have been the coloniser (refers to the former) and the colonised (refers to the latter) relationships. Contrary to the Ethiopianist discourse, they have not developed a common unifying identity, social and political system. While the Abyssinians feel a sense of glory of their kings, warlords and dictators, the Oromians feel victimisation to these rulers, so they have not emerged a common ancestry, culture and collective memory, which can result in common ‘Ethiopian’ identity. From the perspective of Oromo social construction, the present Ethiopian domination over Oromia is a continuation of what pervious generations of Oromo nation had experienced. Thus, the Oromo people, sees the present political arrangement as illegitimate because it is a rule by the people who have engaged in destroying them. So, they claim not only cultural but also political independence. Oromo nationalism is also very democratic. It follows the UN principles of self-determination for the citizens of Oromia, claiming independence from the tyranny of Ethiopian Empire. The latter has been constructed based on Amhara-Tigre nationalism. The Oromo nationalism also offers democratic solutions to the ethnic minorities in the Ethiopian Empire. Scholars of Oromo studies claim that there is fundamental behavioural, linguistic, ethnic and cultural differences between the Abyssinians (northern) and their subjects (Southern). The Oromo, Sidama, Afar and the Ogaden (Ogaden Somalians) nations, beyond their common Cushitic progeny, they have common experiences of victimisation and illegitimately absorbed by Abyssinian southward expansion. Their collective memory of past experiences and present victimisation are making common identity. This identity is a key to understand politics there and to work together for self-determination, to recover their lost humanity.

Man knows himself only insofar as he knows the world, and becomes aware of the world only in himself, and of himself only in it. Every new object, well observed, opens a new organ in ourselves.

Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen, VI Build therefore your own world. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Introduction

The passions of national freedom and national interest are probably the strongest in the whole political spectrum that characterises the present world. Kellas (1998) holds that it is stronger than the passions aroused by religion, class, individual or group interest. This passion is not all futile, either. In Gellener’s (1983) understanding, nationalism has been considered as essential to the establishment of a modern industrial society. According to Smith (1991), it is ‘the sole vision and rationale of political solidarity.’ For Kellas (1998), it provides legitimacy to the state, and inspires its citizens to feel an emotional attachment towards it. It can be a source of creativity in the arts, and enterprise in the economy. Its power to mobilise political engagement is unrivalled, particularly in the vital activity of nation building. It is intimately linked with the operation of popular democracy. Indeed, the global pattern is a mosaic of political drives, economic interests, linguistic pride, cultural imperatives, psychological needs and nations seeking identity. These factors are manifesting as a powerful staying power in a modern Africa, either. As European colonialism and socialism melted away, the perpetual existence of the backlash against ‘neo-colonial’ colony colonialism and the reviving of national selfdom become more and more significant in social and political dynamics of contemporary multi-ethno-nation African societies. The African experience is motivated by the same aspirations as that of elsewhere. At its root is a need for freedom, dignity, for the right of people of distinct social communities to function freely and independently. In this regard, Oromia represents the case of rejuvenating claim for national freedom and the struggle against more than a century old Abyssinian Empire colonialism in Africa. Oromia is a homeland for an Oromo nation, a group of people with a common culture and value system (seera fi aadaa), language ( Afaan Oromo), political institutions (Gadaa), and historical memories and experiences. Oromia is the single largest, homogeneous and endogenous nation in Africa with a population of 40 to 45 million. Both in terms of territorial and population size, more than two-third’s today’s sovereign states that are making members of UN (United Nations) are smaller than Oromia. The Cushite (see Demie, 1998) Oromo people have inhibited their homeland, Oromia, since pre-history and in antiquity were the agents of humanity’s documented Cushitic civilisation in terms of science, technology, art, political and moral philosophy. The links between the Oromo and the ancient civilisations of Babylon, Cush and Egypt has been discussed in Asfaw Beyene (1992) and John Sorenson (1998) scholarly works. Utilising prodigious evidence from history, philosophy, archaeology and linguistics, Diop (1974 and 1991) confirms that the Cushite Egyptian civilisation was emerged from the Cushite civilisations of North East Africa, particularly, the present day Western Sudan and upper Nile Oromia (also known as Cush or Punt). Indeed, except the name of places, saints and prophets, many of the Old Testament and the Holy Koran moral texts are copies of the Oromo moral codes. The formers are written documents while the latter are orally transmitted. Since the late 1880s the Oromo people have disowned their sovereignty. They disowned their autonomous institutions of governance, culture, education, creativity, business, commerce, etc. Thus, they have been claiming for national self-determination, national-self government and the right to their own state and resist the Abyssinian Empire saver (supremacist’s) nationalism. The Oromians are not only against the quality of Ethiopian Empire governance but also against the philosophy on which it is based: domination, dehumanisation, inequality, double standard, hypocrisy, deceit, exclusion, chauvinism, war institution, rent-seeking, extractive state, conservatism, feudalism, Aste fundamentalism (Aste Tewodros, Aste Yohannis, Aste Menelik, Aste Haile Sellasie), etc. The political goal of national self-determination (national self-government) is asserted in the outlook and attitudes of the Oromo political and social organisations. Of course, the Oromo nationalism, which supports the interests and identity of the Oromo people, is a more subtle, complex and widespread phenomenon than common understanding and observation. It is within this context that we are going to discuss the Oromos’ politics of national self-determination and the search for the national homeland, the demand for reinventing a state of their own in the following sections.

Defining Nation, Nationalism and Self- determination

To define nation and nationalism is as Benjamin Akzin (1964, pp. 7-10) discussed five decades ago, to enter into a terminological jungle in which one easily gets lost. Different scholarly disciplines have their own more or less established and more or less peculiar ways of dealing with nation and nationalism. Ideally, our definition of nation and nationalism should be induced of elements of nationalist ideology. Getting at such a definition has confirmed phenomenally strenuous. Hugh Seton-Watson, an authority in this domain, has deduced that ‘no scientific definition’ of a nation can be concocted. All that we can find to say is that a nation exists when significant number of people in a community consider themselves to form a nation, or behave as if they formed one (Seton-Watson, 1982, p.5).Van den Berghe (1981) defines a nation as a politically conscious ethnic group. Several attempts have been made at making a cardinalist definition of the term, pointing out one or more key cultural variables as defining variables. Among those tried are language, religion, common history/descent, ethnicity/race, statehood and common territory (homeland). For a group of people to be termed a nation, its members typically have to share several of these characteristics, although historically, one criterion may have been predominant (for example, language in Germany, or culture and history in France). In the case of Oromo, common language (Afaan Oromo), common territory (Biyya Oromo, dangaa Oromiyaa or Oromia), common historical experiences (victimisation to Ethiopian Empire rules or Abyssinocracy) are particularly very significant. Stalin made his undertaking in 1913. His definition includes four criteria: the members of a nation live under the same economic conditions, on the same territory, speak the same language, and have similar culture and national character (Seton-Watson, 1982, p.14). Neither Ernest Gellner nor Eric Hobsbawn, two influencials, gave definite definitions of the nation in their major achievements. Indeed, they are very hostile towards what they define as nationalism. ‘…For ever single nationalism which has so far raised its ugly head…’ (Gellner, 1983, p.45), this is a Gellner’s conception and sees the world as naturally divided into nations, each with its own individuality. This implies an acceptance of the nationalist self-perception. There are also other conceptualisations. A social anthropologist, Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1992, p. 220) says ‘a nation is an ethnic group whose leaders have either achieved, or aspire to achieve, a state where its cultural group is hegemonic’, Anthony H. Birch (1989, p.6) considers that a nation is best defined as ‘a society which either governs itself today, or has done so in the past, or has a credible claim to do so in the not-too- distant future. Kellas (1998) defines the nation as a group of people who feel themselves to be a community bound together by ties of history, culture and common ancestry. Nations have ‘objective’ characteristics, which may include a territory, a language, a religion, or common descent, and ‘subjective’ characteristics, essentially a people’s awareness of its nationality and affection for it. In the last resort it is ‘the supreme loyalty’ for people who are prepared to die for their nation. The definition of ‘nation’ which we will make use of in the following is one suggested by Anthony D. Smith (1983,pp. 27-109, 1991, p. 14; 1995); a definition mastering well the ‘sounding board’ dimension. Smith here defines a nation as ‘a named human population sharing a historic territory, common myths and historical memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and common legal rights and duties for all members. A recent definition of Smith holds nationalism, one manifestation of national-self-determination, as ‘an ideological movement for attaining and maintaining autonomy, unity and identity on behalf of a population deemed by some of its members to constitute an actual or potential ‘nation’ (Smith, 1991, p. 73; 1995). For Smith nationalism has a deep ethnic roots and rejuvenates itself in response to global and domestic impulses. While the phenomenon of globalisation and technocratic culture are there, nationalism is an eternal nature and nourishes and propels itself on technocratic innovations. In this context, national self-determination may be defined as many part aspirations of a nation: To be free to freely determine one’s own national identity, culture, including language, education, religion, and form of government, to be free of rule by another ‘nation’, that is to overcome social and political systems of domination and exclusion in which nations other than one’s own wield predominant power. To be free to select its own form of government; and those governed within it have the right of unflagging consent.

Culture and the Politics of Self-determination

Nation, nationalism and national self-determination are commanding attentions. One of the perennial issues within nationalism is whether national self-determination can stand alone, or whether it requires a ‘qualifier’ from within cultural or political ideas or both to clarify its precise cultural and political location. Several scholars have argued that national self-determination is a claim for cultural independence and that nationalism in general is based on the right to cultural independence and that nationalism is based on the right to a culture. Nielson, for example, peers a nation as groups of people whom ‘perceive themselves as having a distinct culture and traditions’, and Tamir presents that a nation is a community in which individuals develop their culture, and they therefore regard their place within a nation as membership in a cultural group. Indeed, she argues that ‘the right to national-self determination stakes a cultural rather than a political claim, namely, it is the right to preserve the existence of a nation as a distinct cultural entity.’ Will the people who demand national self-determination be satisfied with such an arrangement? Tamir gives credence to that the idea of basing the right to self-determination on the right to a culture is the one that has best conformity with a liberal internationalist viewpoint. That is thinkable, but international liberalism is incompetent on this particular matter. A nationalism, which is based on culture and cultural distinctions, was not very long a go. It is a concept that characteristic the thesis of right wing, or romantic theorists such as Herder. Indeed, Herder’s nationalism was not political, and it distrusted a state as something external, mechanical, not emerging spontaneously from the life of the people. Nevertheless, in the Oromo context the claim for national self-determination is a political rather than a cultural one. If we look at the distinction between the two, it would seem that the claim for national self-determination involves more than a demand to be tolerated while the cultural question is. For example, the Catalan’s and Quebecois’ culture and identity have been tolerated and respected to some extent, and yet many of them thought that this did not reflect a situation of self-determination. Indeed, meeting their claim would involve legislation and redefinition of institutions within the state, and perhaps even a new state. In the Oromo case the demand is actually the claim to have control over their lives. This does not mean over every individual’s private life, but over the public aspect of one’s existence, i.e. the system of mutual relationships, which reflect and sustain one’s membership of a certain collective. Here the self is conceptualised within the context of community, but one that has to be real, actual, and functioning and performing. Otherwise these communal ties are too abstract, which makes it impossible for the self to be defined by them. The statement of Cohen has to be recalled: ‘A person does not only need to develop and enjoy his powers. He needs to know who he is, and how his identity connects him with particular others. He must… find something outside himself which he did not create… He must be able to identify himself with some part of objective social reality’ (Cohen, 1988). Moreover, self-realisation, however, cannot be merely a mental situation; thus this community cannot be only cultural. It must be a political situation at least so that, in order for the Oromo people to realise themselves, they must not be dependent on the goodwill of a second party. They then must be certain that their self-realisation in all spheres of life will not be prevented by the Abyssinian government, the TPLF, the Orthodox Church, and so forth. They should therefore be politically active and watch such institutions carefully. In addition, they must participate in politics in order to decide collectively upon public matters, which influence their self-realisation. So the Oromos claim for national-self determination is about the realisation of their potential status, ability and collective character, which may be achieved only through participation in autonomous political institutions. But for more than a century Oromos have been denied access to these institutions, either officially or in practice. In other words, if Oromos as a nation achieve self-determination they will better able to participate, better represented, better able to deliberate, gain much more control over their life than formerly and more autonomous. The Oromos demand for national self-determination thus, aims at establishing those institutions, which are needed for the realisation of the self-determination. When an Oromo demands national self-determination, he/she is not asserting that he/she would like to control his/her private life, e.g. his/her job, his/her shopping activities, his/her love affairs. Many Oromos do not control these aspects of their lives and yet nevertheless demand national self-determination. But the same principle also applies to cultural life. The Oromos may be allowed more-or-less to use their language, have their own newspapers and theatre, and the freedom of worship, etc. which are making cultural freedom. Actually, these rights are hardly exist at present. But when they claim national self-determination they are not only referring to these aspects of life, as political community: they want to be able to form and choose among and vote for the Oromo political parties, to observe the Oromo constitutional laws, to pay taxes to an Oromo authority, and to have a history (and indeed, myth) of independent Oromo state, from which their identity and self-determination can derive. Thus, the Oromo’s Declaration for Independence will emphasise parliamentary participation and the need to form a constitution, rather than cultural activities. In general the Oromos demand for national self-determination entails that the individuals in this nation should be citizens, engaged in politics as members of a community committed to the realisation of certain (their own) common goods, rather than participating as individuals who seek their self-interests, as it is implied by the right- to- culture school of thought and Liberal Internationalists. Perhaps for this reason Margalit and Halbertal revise the right-to- culture argument, arguing that the right is to a certain culture rather than to culture. A certain culture, then, becomes a common good. And yet, this is not enough, because they still regard the common good in cultural rather than political terms: ‘shared values and symbols… are meant to serve as the focus for citizens’ identification with the state, as well as the sources of their willingness to defend it even at the risk of their lives (Margalit and Halbertal, 1994). Why, then, do theories adhere to the culture discourse? Of course, for most of the Western theorists, the term national self-determination is affiliated to the strive to become part of humanity, to regain the human condition of autonomy; it is adjoined to the struggle to be part of the free world, of the more progressive forces; it is seen as decolonisation, as civilisation, as an attempt made to become part of the world of liberty, rights, and justice. But, it is seen as part of centrifugal forces, from the centre to the global, universalism or what Lane (1974) calls as ‘total situation’ or citizenship based on individual freedom and social justice. These theorists, therefore, universalise the notion of national self-determination: they make it part of liberalism. The liberals’ universal approach tends to be uniformist. This makes a society rootless and a citizen far removed from those who control his/her destiny. On the other hand, the notion as it is put forward and used by the Oromos that the demand for national self-determination is also centripetal, from the global and the greater units to the smaller ones. These groups demand the disengagement from the ‘other’, the global, the colonist, even from other humanity, by asserting that ‘we are not merely the essential equal and part of humanity, but rather we are also different and distinct: we have our own political identity, which we want to preserve, sustain, and establish institutionally, like the Scottish vision in multi-nation state Europe. This is the language of liberation from colonisation. It is also the language of particularisation within the universal or the global, and it seems that the uniformist approach is not sensitive enough to the real Oromos problems. Thus, the Oromos quest for self-determination involves the ultimate goal of particularism (its own unique space), reinventing the Oromia State, owning the national homeland. Of course, in a heterogeneous society of the Ethiopian Empire, though uniformity may simplify system of control, social justice will not be attained in one vast monolithic block of oppressed by colonial legislation, bureaucrats and its armies. An important work of Professor Asafa Jalata, an authority in the study of Oromo nationalism kindly quoted as’ The Oromo question involves both colonialism and ethno nationalism. Ethiopian colonialism has been imposed by global capitalism on the Oromo nation. Ethiopians, both Amharas and Tigrayans, through establishing settler colonialism in Oromia, have systematically killed millions of Oromo and expropriated their lands and other resources from the last decades of the nineteenth century until today. Ethiopian colonialists already destroyed the people called Agaw by taking their lands, systematically killing them, and assimilating the survivors. They attempt to do the same thing to the Oromo by destroying the Oromo national movement, confiscating Oromo lands, and forcing the remaining Oromo into ‘settlement villages’ or (reservations). Many times, some Oromo organisations attempted to democratize Ethiopia so that the Oromo would achieve equal citizenship rights and maintain their ethno cultural identity. Determined to maintain their colonial domination and to destroy the Oromo cultural personality through ethnocide or assimilation, Ethiopian colonialists destroyed or suppressed those Oromo political forces that attempted to transform Ethiopia into a multinational democratic society. Therefore, most Oromos are convinced that their rights and freedom cannot be obtained and respected without creating their own state, or state that they can create as equal partners with other ethno national groups interested in forming a multinational democratic society to promote ethno cultural diversity and human freedom. Hence, Oromo nationalism is an ideology of the subjugated Oromo who seek human rights, freedom, justice, and democracy’ (Jalata, 1997). In fact social justice can be attained when and only when the oppressed majority able to rule its homeland. The Oromos work for national self-determination is the great humanist and historical task in terms of Freire (1993) argument ‘To liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both. Any ‘attempt to soften the power of the oppressor in difference to the weakness of the oppressed almost always manifest itself in the form of false generosity; indeed, the attempt never goes beyond this.’ In this context, for Oromos in order to have the continued opportunity to express their ‘generosity,’ the Habasha colonist must perpetuate injustice, too. Tyranny is the permanent fount of this ‘generosity,’ that sustains at the price of death, dehumanisation, despair and poverty. ‘True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity.’ (Freire, 1993). For further discussions on Oromo nationalism, universalism, globalism, Ethiopianist discourses and Oromo Nationalism, see Sorenson (1998) and Sisai Ibssa (1998).

Concluding Thoughts

Man as a social animal always seeks his own territory and belongings to a social group in which his identity and sense of community is observed and respected. In the defence of the cause for social justice and social ecology, these are basic tenets to backlash against the danger of the rhetoric of universalism, polyarchy and false perspectives of social uniformity, which appear to appreciate the social problems from a single privileged point. Georg Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind ( New York, 1967 edition), in his famous philosophical discussion of the relationship between ‘lordship and bondage’ maintained that a single consciousness could know itself only through another, even in a condition of totally unequal power relationship. According to this philosophical model, the lord (the oppressor) is lord only through the relationship with a bondservant (the oppressed, the one whose humanity is stolen). In the relationship, however, the other is annulled. The self of the mastery, the lord, derives from the conquest and negation of the servant, the bond. Only recognition of the selfhood of the other permits for its annulations. Thus, lordship covertly recognises the separate identity of the dominated. They are normally equal selves locked into unequal hierarchy. Metaphorically, Hegel’s dialectics of lordship and bondage is very important to understand the Ethiopian domination over Oromia. However, in the Ethiopianist discourse, the essential equality of the selves has been escaped totally. Rather, the persisting hierarchy has taken for granted. According to Sorenson (1998), Ethiopianist scholars like Clapham, Sven Rubenson and Levine because of their attachment to one version of the Ethiopian past and present make them either or unwilling to engage with the full complexity of the problem. From this point of view, to accept the unchanging polarity of Ethiopia and Oromia in the lordship-bondage relationship is to succumb to a structure of Ethiopian aggression and colonialism. The Oromians demand for national self-determination is, however, the civilised step out of the polarity upon which the coercive hierarchy relies, it is the collective political demand, as its main purpose is to achieve the good of the social whole, humanisation, the essential liberation of the Oromo national identity, dignity and the reinvention of Oromia as a sovereign state. The Abyssinian occupation of Oromia, the existence of the Abyssinian Rule, war-lordism and their armies in Oromia and the making of Finfinnee their garrison station, the centre of their crowds is not only an act of conquest, aggression and colonialism but also, from Oromo perspective, such elements are symbols of bondage and slavery that negate the Oromo selfhood as equal essential. For the last over hundred years, the Oromo nation has disowned selfhood, its own state or administration, and lived as a bondage of Abyssinia. The Abyssinian administration which has undermined the Oromo national traditions, exploited it economically, and maintained order through mechanical and repressive means- such a nation actually must seek national self-determination to foster within its politics, to bring dignity, justice, freedom and democracy and to survival as essential equal, as a nation and as part of humanity and its civilisation. It is necessary for Oromians to build the world of their own, a world which make them capable to sustain as a group of human people. They must able to liberate themselves and the violent, the oppressor too. In this context, the Oromo issue is a test case to the deceptive ‘democracy world-wide’ which is being advocated in the USA foreign policy and manipulated by the neo-nafxanyas (see Ibssa, 1998). It is a challenge to contemporary theories of democracy and polyarchy (Robinson, 1997) and actors of post cold war Ethiopian politics who simply take for granted that the boundaries and powers of political community in the ‘Horn’ have already been settled. Thanks to the dedicated works of human rights activists, particularly the OSG (the Oromia Support Group) and its UK based publication, Sagalee Haaraa, we have been well informed on plights of human population and their environment in the entire region. We are interested to recommend this publication to all actors of the region. In this context, we are confident to say that Ethiopian democracy rhetoric or federalism sham politics is nothing more than a fig leaf, covering up the continuation of an extraction of the ‘politics of the belly’, in terms of Bayart (1993) from ‘prudish eye of the West.’ Its democratic rhetoric is a new type of rent seeking (extracting economic rent). By making believe, it enables the collection of international aid that includes diplomatic, military and humanitarian. It enables the seizure of the resources of the modern economy for the benefit of the Tigrayan elites. The situation is not in democracy’s favour, rather it is a situation that the Tyranny is retaining control over the security forces, economic rents and the support of the West. Such manipulation is not new for Africa. Menilik, Haile sellassie, Mengistu, Mobutu, Biya, Senghor and Diouf did the same thing either in Ethiopia or elsewhere in the continent at one time or another. The Quote from Bayart’s (1993) African analyis comes to our mind ‘…The support of western powers and multilateral institutions of Bretton Woods and the Vatcan, who despite having waved the flag of democratic conditionality and respect for human rights, have not dared to pursue such sentiments to their logical conclusion and have continued to think in terms of ‘Mobutu or Chaos’ where Gorbachev given up saying ‘Ceaucescu or chaos’…’. Indeed, very recently, we have read the deceptive descriptions to neo-Mobutu, neo-Mengistu, etc.: democratic, new generation, confident and pragmatic, etc. Sadly, everything changes so that everything stays the same. Nevertheless, the oppressed Oromos are not passive objects, either. They have not allowed themselves to be ‘captured’, as in the past they have demonstrated their historical ability to resist dehumanisation, despair and poverty, and predictably will continue to resist until the justice will come to them. An everyday Oromo coins the following: ‘Victory to the Oromo people! Oromia shall be free!’ We feel moral and social responsibility to support the just cause of fellow humanity.
http://ayyaantuu.com/horn-of-africa-news/oromia/oromo-freedom-from-what-and-for-what-part-1/

http://gadaa.com/oduu/4613/2010/06/27/on-the-question-of-nationalities-in-ethiopia/

 

‘External self-determination, in particular, seems to carry dual meaning. On the one hand it is taken to mean full independent statehood, while on the other hand it is taken to mean external recognition by other states within the
international community.’

http://bemis.org.uk/docs/redefining-self-determination.pdf

 

‘Every individual/group possesses a moral right to secede. The burden of proof rests with the opponents of secession.’ 

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