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OSA 2013 Conference Forum: Oromo Self-Introspection

Panelist Tesfa Guma* | August 5, 2013

I hope that you are all aware of the Oromo political dilemma, the subject which I would like to address today.  This is only an attempt to put our innate problems in perspective as I see them.  It is a national concern which is critical to all of us and therefore when I say, they, I am pointing fingers at all of us starting with myself because we are all in it together.

Oromo nation is in a political predicament with no apparent end in sight. The leaderships appear to have lost their way and no one seems to know what to do or which way to turn. The fundamental question is, “what is wrong with Oromo”? The search for why and how and the solution for the problem is the subject of this talk. It involves national self- examination. Instead of the usual finger pointing at someone else it is time for OROMO SELF-INTROSPECTION , which is the title of my presentation. In the course of addressing this Oromo national consciousness we will make a brief mention of the nation and the country before the invasion by Menelik. We will then analyze why and how the invasion took place. Next we shall talk about the colonial period and its effects during the domination. We will conclude by suggesting the way out of the plight. Our main focus will hence be on Oromo short comings.

A: Oromo Before Menelik

As the largest member of Nagada Kush, Oromos enjoyed freedom until they fell mostly by their own devise. Added to that, the relation with the neighbor has never been one of peaceful coexistence. For centuries before the recapture of Biyya Oromo by Boran and Barentu, the neighbors invaded and caused havoc on Oromo. They sold out thousands of Oromos as slaves and killed many more, leaving large spaces of land unoccupied.  On one hand, the return of Borana and Barentumma followed by the expansion period, was the most glorious period   in the nation’s history. On the other hand, the fragmentation of Odaas caused by the expansion  started  the  destruction of Oromo Tokummaa.

B: The Conditions which helped the Invasion

The abundant resources of Oromia and the hard life of the neighbors in the mountains were the two natural conditions which made the invasion seem necessary. Added to this is the Oromo self-imposed weakness which farther whetted the neighbor’s appetite and made colonization a viable venture. In preparation for invasion the colonizers took advantage of our shortcomings enumerated as follow:

1.                       Odaa fragmentation caused by expansion which renderedcommunities too far spread out therefore too weak for self-defense hence ready for exploitation.

2.                       Ofittumma by the Gadaa leaders which resulted in  Motii/ dictatorial system destroying Gadaa and Oromo unity.

3.                       Competition and fighting between Odaa leaders/ Mootiis which weakened Oromo fighting forces.

4.                       The Gadaa rule of holding Caffee / National Gummii Gaayyo  every eight years which made it all the more difficult for Odaa Communities to convene  timely gatherings  for  consultation especially when war came.

5.                       Religious differences which created dislike between the followers of the three religions further aggravated the problems of misunderstanding between the communities.

6.                       Isolation of Oromo from neighboring countries which impeded acquisition of war materials.

7.                         Lack of political and diplomatic skills which subjected Oromos to succumb to Habasha political duping. No nation would come to help Oromo.

With Oromo in these situations Menelik found a weak nation ready for invasion.  He decided to use the opportunity to attack each Oromo community one by one to fulfill his grand ambition which was to colonize Biyya Oromo, subjugate and if possible totally decimate the nation and instill Gabrumma in the people.

C.   Weaknesses Which helped Subjugation

To hold fast on to his new colony Menelik decided to exploit more of the following Oromo weaknesses which are extension of the previous enumerated short comings.

1.                       Ofittummaa , Gullibility and lack of confidence which trapped and pegged  down the leadership. Farther more fear, tactlessness, stubbornness and inability to keep followers united , inaction, lack of vision for Oromo as a nation, lack of political and diplomatic skills, and dishonesty with the people they claim to lead all but left the leadership irrelevant. Some examples for the gullibility characteristics  are that of Susnios fooling leaders of Innarya Oromos; Menelik in a woman’s dress to appease the well known Oromo General, and Ras Teferi humbly bowing to the unsuspecting great Oromo political genius. These were graphic examples of Habasha politics. There were even more military Rases and generals under Haile Selassie who were in perfect position to take power. But they never had the confidence to do so.  Even today Examples of the recent ones include the deployment of priests in the name of religion to entice and arrest, imprison, and murder the leaders of Maccaa and Tulamaa. The Oromo elites who taught the ways of Communism to the Derg but later were eliminated.  The duping of the leadership of OLF in 1991 as well as the imposed Oromo political party since then, is an on-going damage from which Oromo is yet to recover.

2.                       The colonizers all needed the support of the gullible Oromo leaders whom they later methodically eliminated. Those who survived elimination were made puppets by those who duped them. These leaders could have assumed power only if they could listen to advices from their own people, did away with ofittumma and gullibility, committed themselves to Oromo cause and acted with confidence. Instead their decisions were to help the colonizer.

3.                       Oromos in general, following the examples of the leadership Ofittummaa, have adapted some destructive behaviors which starts with Wal-daguu. They turn against each other and become gantu, untrustworthy, traitors, defectors, deserters, enemy informants, betrayers and mercenaries to help the colonizers to subjugate none other than their own people. Today we find these behaviors in every Oromo village. Of all our weaknesses this act of people working against each other is playing havoc on Oromo’s quest for equality.

4.                       The continuing Regionalism and religious differences which have farther caused deterioration of Oromo Tokkumma. Again, this was all to the advantage of the colonizer.

5.                       5.     Oromo introvert nature resulting in disinterest between communities and other peoples which has left us friendless. This has benefitted none but the invaders.

These weaknesses have played the decisive role in the demise of Oromo.

1.                       Colonial Rule of Subjugation  

Once Oromo totally surrendered, the next policy was to destroy Oromo Tokkummaa in order to render the society powerless, without the chance of recovery. The strategies to subjugate the colony were to :

1.                       Eliminate indigenous leadership by outlawing Gadaa system.

2.                       Deprive Education to the Gallas : (Re. Gen. Taddese  Birru vis P. M. Aklilu

3.                       Intensify Oromo Isolation from the neighbors:

4.                       De-Oromize the people by changing the name to Galla , marry into them, give them Habasha names, render them extinct and unknown to the world.

5.                       Aggravate religious differences, pit them against each other and weaken their unity.

6.                       Regionalize Oromia into Xeqlay Gizat, Awrajas, Woredaas and Kebelees and minimize contacts between these communities.

7.                       Denigrate, intimidate and terrorize the people to total submission.

Oromo Life as a Colony

The present day Oromo, having been born under colonial rule, really never had the taste of true freedom. We have become a nation without a country or government of our own. We are citizens of another nation, and tenants/share croppers on our own farms. We have become a submissive nation to do as told, live as ordered, behave as instructed, and vote as dictated. Under the guise of another name, Galla, our Oromo name we had known for thousands of years became unrecognized by the world. Only we Oromos brought all these upon ourselves. Our own weaknesses made us to give it all away. I hope at the end of this Self-introspection we will all agree to quote a French general who once said, “we have met the enemy, it is us”.  Without question, only Oromos must find a way to put an end to this self-destruction.


I believe that there is a way out; and it can be done. We can achieve it by doing away with our weaknesses. If we don’t, we are contributing to the demise of Oromo. We should start with Oromo Civic Education and teach the people to embrace Oromummaa. This should create a sense of belonging to Oromo society and instigate national action with determination. The main objective of Oromo Civic Education program should be to inculcate the love of Oromoness which should evolve into Tokkummaa.  This is a challenge for Oromo Studies Association on whom we can rely to analyze each shortcoming, and formulate strategies focusing on the teachings of Oromo  short comings, all geared to awaken the nation. I suggest, OSA can use the helps of a team of Oromo experts, especially Oromo Historians, Sociologists, Socio economists, Anthropologists, political scientists and those with diplomatic skills. Once the teachings are embraced by the people and once the leaders gain confidence in themselves and take action with commitment, the other related problems will take care of themselves.  If we do this we can revive the nation and save it from its own self destruction. This, I believe, ladies and gentlemen, will be the beginning of the end for Oromo demise and   in deed save the nation from total decimation.

*Tesfa Guma is a retired Oromo scholar and private inventor. His most recent invention is security underware device fro sexual organs. Tesfa holds a number of patents, click here to see his works


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