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Program of the Oromo Studies Association’s (OSA’s) Upcoming 2013 Midyear Conference

2013 Midyear Conference Program

Conference Theme: Oromo in Transition: Prospects for National Liberation Under the New Conditions in the Horn of Africa

Date: Saturday, March 16, 2013

Time: 8:30AM – 4:30PM EST

Place: Student University Center (Capital Suite, 2nd Floor), Georgia State University, 44 Courtland St, Atlanta, GA 30303

Keynote Speaker: Adde Urji Dhaba, an Oromo heroine, who dedicated her life for freedom.

A Brief Biography of Urji Dhaba

 Urji Dhaba was born in Hararge, Eastern Oromia. She joined the Oromo Liberation Army at a young age in 1987 and fought for freedom against the Derg regime. In 1988 she was wounded in combat while fighting against the forces of the Derg at a place called Haro Adi in the Ogaden regional state. After she was treated and was cured from the wound, she went back to combat again. While fighting against the TPLF regime, Urji was wounded for the second time in 1991 in Habro district, Eastern Oromia and survived again. She still has a bullet left in her head which the doctors said is dangerous for her life if they attempt to take the bullet out by surgery. She says this bullet occasionally gives her an excruciating pain to this day. In 1992, when the OLF was forced out of the then Transitional Government of Ethiopia, she moved to Somalia with the army and started to struggle from there. In September of 1992 she was given a mission to go back to Hararge during which she was captured by the TPLF-led Ethiopian regime. Urji was detained in a military camp, where she was gang-raped by the troops of the regime and severely tortured for several weeks. She was imprisoned in the camp for months. During this time, her health condition deteriorated as a result of the rape and the torture. After about four months, the news of her rape, torture and sufferings finally reached to her comrades in arms, and, a unit of the Oromo Liberation Army managed to break the enemy camp and safely took her out of the prison.

After she had been taken out of the prison, Urji was hidden from the forces of the regime in private homes of Oromo nationals in Harar city. Later, her comrades and a few Oromo individuals managed to admit her to Harar Hospital by changing her identity. She stayed four months in the hospital under intensive care. Her main problem was that her urinary system was damaged as a direct result of the repeated rape. Since her condition was deteriorating, she was referred and taken to a hospital in Djibouti, but the hospital in Djibouti referred her back to Ethiopia, to another hospital in Finfinnee, where she was treated for five months. Finally, she was referred to the well-known Fistula Hospital in Finfinnee, where her health started getting better.

After her health had improved, Urji went back to the bush again and joined her comrades to continue fighting. She served in combat for six months, but then returned to Dirre Dhawa City as her health started deteriorating again. Urji was treated for two months in Dirre Dhawa and returned to the bush again and provided treatment for those who were wounded in combat. She stayed on her new duty for about three years, from 1994 to 1997.

In 1997 the forces of the regime captured Urji when she was going to the nearby town of Burqaa to get food for the wounded comrades under her care. Urji was jailed in the towns of Burqaa for one year, Baddannoo and Guraa for five years, Harar Misraq Ez prison for one and half years, Awuzin prison, Harar City, for one and a half years, for a total of over eight years. During all these years in prison she was routinely tortured although she was constantly ill.

One day in August of 2005, at a time when she was completely hopeless, she was taken to a hospital in Harar City. As she was with the hospital doctor who was a Tigrean, and who she said was subscribing to her the same liquid medication over and over, she created diversion by throwing the liquid medicine to the doctors eyes, and started running out of the hospital room. As the doctor was in a confused state, Urji hid herself among the hospital patients who were waiting for their turn, and was able to sneak out of the hospital, and safely entered the Harar City. In such a bold and swift action, Urji finally managed to escape from captivity and ultimately gained her freedom through her own bravery. Then, by the support of a few determined Oromo nationals she quickly moved from Harar to Dirre Dhawa, from Dirre Dhawa to Djibouti, from Djibouti to Kenya, and through Kenya, she managed to come to the USA in 2007 as a political refugee.

Urji’s story is a survivor’s story. Her life came close to an end on several occasions, but she survived. One of her former comrades, who also lives in USA, calls her “ambaa qabsoo” meaning “survivor of the struggle [for freedom]”. But she is not only survivor of the struggle. She is also one of the few survivors of her family and close relatives. Her father was brutally murdered by the regime’s forces, and it was after his death that she joined the Oromo Liberation Army. In fact, she says she was raised in the bushes under the care of the army. Three of her brothers were also killed while fighting for their freedom. Many of her other relatives and friends sacrificed their lives in the struggle, and were not fortunate enough to live and tell their stories. Urji says, “One day I buried fifteen of my comrades in one grave,” when she remembers about her comrades, who had gone through the agonizing pain of wound in combat and finally died under her care. Her story may seem extraordinary to many of us who have not been in the fire, but it is a typical story of many other Oromo freedom fighters who survived the atrocities of the TPLF-led Ethiopian regime. Many others simply did not make it to live and tell their stories. It is incumbent up on all of us, especially those of us who enjoy freedom in the Western world, to dig more of such survivors’ stories, and the stories of those who are not so fortunate to survive.

Come to the 2013 Midyear Conference of the Oromo Studies Association and listen to the extraordinary story of Urji Dhaba from her own mouth.

8:30AM – 9:00AM


9:00AM – 9:30AM

Oromo Blessings and Welcome Note

Gadaa.comBlessing of Elders:

1. Obbo Abdalla Sule

2. Obbo Ababa Mekonnen

Gadaa.comWelcome and opening Remark: OSA President: Dr. Mosisa Aga

9:30AM – 10:30AM

Keynote Speech

Adde Urji Dhaba

“Yaadannoo Hadhaa Qabsoo Hidhannoo, Dararaa mana Didhaa, Jireenya Baqattummaa fi Egeree Oromoo fi Oromia.”

(“Memories of Tribulations of Armed Struggle, Atrocities in Prison, Life in Exile and the Future of Oromo and Oromia.”)

By Obbo Abdalla Sule

10:30AM – 12:00PM

Panel 1: Post-Meles Ethiopia and Prospects for the Oromo National Liberation Struggle

1. Prof. Mohammed Hassen (Chair): “To seize the moment, Oromo political organizations must struggle together rather than perishing separately”

2. Dr. Ibrahim Elemo: “Reflections on Socio-political changes, and Issues Impacting the Oromo Struggle, and the Way Forward”

3. Obbo Kadir Elemo: “Diplomacy with Africa in the age of racism and imperialism: US foreign policy towards Ethiopia

4. Dr. Mosisa Aga: “Bilisummaa Oromiyaa fi Qooda Hawaasa Biyya Ambaa”

12:00PM – 1:00PM


1:00PM – 2:30PM

Panel 2: Issues of Crises in Leadership and Organizational Capacity Building in the Oromo National Movement

1. Prof. Asafa Jalata (Chair): “Organizational Capacity Building for Unifying and Empowering the Oromo Nation”

2. Dr. Harwood Schaffer: “The Psychology of Liberation in the Ethiopian Context”

3. Prof. Ismail Abdullahi: “Oromo Organizational Leadership”

4. Prof. Bichaka Feyisa

2:30PM – 4:00PM

Panel 3: Human Rights

1. Adde Bonnie Holcomb (Chair): “Violence against the Oromo: the case of forced resettlement and villagization of the mid-1980s”Discussants:
2. Obbo Garoma Bekele: “Bad Governance, Human Rights and the Quest for Democracy and Social Justice in the Horn of African – Ethiopian Perspective”

3. Prof. Mohammed Hassan: “Virginia Luling and Her Fight for Human Rights”

4. Prof. Gobena Huluka: “Land Grab and Violations of Human Rights in Oromia”


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