By Wake Jio Garbi*
This essay presents my critical analysis and gives theological reflection on the current human rights violation in Oromia. Also, it will briefly discuss issues that are related to the entire Oromo people and make a genuine call to spiritual leaders and their followers in order to rise up against humiliation of Oromo people and halt the ongoing injustice in Oromia. It is a call to vie for God given human dignity, and stand in unison and support Oromo students who are demonstrating peacefully in opposition against the new master plan which is aimed to destroy Oromo identity.
Since 1890s, that is, after Oromia was annexed by the Abyssinian colonizers and became part of the Ethiopian Empire, Oromo heroes and heroines have been sacrificing their unreplaceable and precious life to free Oromia. All the Habasha (Tigrayan and Amhara) colonial regimes, including the current brutal handed Tigray People Liberation Front/TPLF government, have been conducting successive physical and psychological genocide, intolerable discrimination, violation of human rights, exploitation of human resources, natural resources, and political and economic deprivation of the indigenous Oromo people.
TPLF, under the covert name of Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front/EPRDF, has been torturing, killing, grabbing land, imprisoning thousands of Oromo farmers, businessmen and women, students, intellectuals, and politicians to silence Oromo people. This brutal government continued evicting thousands of Oromo farmers from their farmlands and immersed them in a continuously perpetuating poverty cycle. Large number of Oromo farmers has been displaced more often and forced to move to places where there are no means of supporting their lives, families, and livestock. Though some non-governmental organizations and many human rights activists have been exposing this human rights violation to the international community where this brutal government gave deaf ears and closed eyes to this. The regime continued to suppress peoples’ peaceful resistance and eradicate Oromo nationalists from the state of Oromia so that they would not be surfaced their concern against the successive strategy of exploiting Oromia.
TPLF and their collaborative classes (what I mean by collaborative class is some Oromo and other ethnic groups who cooperate with this cruel government) are grabbing land in Oromia, especially around the capital city of Oromia, Finfinnee (with the colonial name of Addis Ababa) in order to fill their insatiable pocket and enjoy fetish life while the original owners (farmers) of the land pushed into deep poverty and became daily laborers where their children are stricken by hunger. Additionally, thousands of hectares of Oromian land are sold to foreign investors with very cheap prices. This land grabbing activity forced poor Oromo farmers and damaged their historical heritage, prime farm land, areas for growing, grazing, and agricultural products such as fruits, herbs, and other foods.
To call this century lasting injustice in Oromia to an end, Oromo people have been struggling as an individual, as a social group, and as a political organization. For example, Oromo Liberation Front/OLF, the Oromo political Messiah, is the unforgettable Oromo political party who has been facing challenges and paying sacrifice to ensure the liberty of Oromo people since it came to existence in 1973. Interestingly, the devouring fire of freedom and justice which is ignited by OLF is still burning and turning the seed of Habasha supremacy in Oromia into ash.
The current TPLF led Ethiopian government systematic colonial expansion plan, under disguised new master plan, is designed by the ruling party itself without giving due consideration for the existing condition and reality on the ground. The so called master plan has nothing to do with the public need and didn’t solicit for willingness of the indigenous people. This plan is aimed to destroy Oromo culture, economy, politics, religion, and belief.
1. Theological perspective
The bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, indicates that the scandal of land accommodation is in the hands of those who tyrannize the voiceless. The accommodation of resources is held in the hands of the cruel government, while the oppressed are crying and dying for lack of basic necessities of life is in contradiction with the purpose of creation. Waaqayyo/Allah/God created Oromo people and authorized them to use their own human and natural resource and to enjoy His gifts.
The word of Waaqayyo directly criticizes the TPLF’s impertinence of Oromo dignity as the whole and its human rights violation of evicting Oromo people from their heritages is against God’s will. The bible says, “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land” (Isiah 5:8). This holey script primarily directed against those who piled up huge properties at the cost of the poor and the powerless. Also, the bible goes on saying “They covert fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance” (Mic 2:2). During the Old Testament time land in Israel could only be leased, never sold, because parcels had been permanently associated to individuals (1king 21: 1-3, Nu 27: 7-11).
Jesus vividly warned in his parable about the rich man and Lazarus against those who covetously collect huge properties while the poor dies of hunger. He said “But woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep” (Luke 6:24-25).
The TPLF policy of expanding Finfinnee breaks the theological, social and ethical principles. For instance, this government’s colonial rule failed to provide due considerations to the universal purpose of goods and excluded Oromo people from the enjoyment of goods created by Waaqayyo in their own ancestral land. This threatened peace of innocent Oromos and costing life of dozens of Oromo students who protested barehanded and indiscriminately shot dead by security forces of the colonial regime. In doing so, the regime proved that the plan is to destroy the identity of Oromo people and all living things in Oromia swiftly. Obviously, it causes loss of the prime land of the indigenous people. It never ensures cultural, economic and ecological sustainability for the coming generations.
Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights indicates that land is linked to the right to food. Additionally, article 11 of International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights clearly urges the respective states to guarantee this right. TPLF officials are infringing their own constitution which allow people to express themselves, and Universal declaration of Human rights by wrongly responding to the legitimate question of Oromo people at gunpoint and by hunting down peaceful Oromo student protesters as if they have no rights and rule over their own resources in their own country, Oromia. The TPLF regime degraded human dignity and rebelled against Waaqayyo who created Oromo people in his own image. The violent actions of the security forces in different part of Oromia are unacceptable and killing of innocent children proves their heinous cruelty.
The present government of Ethiopia is primarily responsible for the psychological, physical, social, economic, and political annihilations they caused against the Oromo who are created in the image of Waaqayyo and have equal dignity with perpetrators. The regime and its supporters will hold responsibility for the suffering of the living and nonliving things in Oromia. Also, they are responsible for the shaded blood of innocent people (Rev. 21:8).
Oromo people have Waaqayyo given capacity to decide on their fate and destiny. Why do the TPLF policy makers give deaf ears and closed eyes to this reality and attempt to present themselves as if they can represent Oromo people? If they really represent these people, they would have made the plan based on the need and full consensus of the indigenous people to ensure public participation and sustainability. Waaqayyo bestowed his endless wisdom on Oromo to make the best decisions on such pivotal issues as authorities, how and why to use their land. Of course, because of its superiority complex and ‘I know what is better for you more than you’ ideology, the ruling brutal government did not want to consult to obtain the free and prior consent of the owner of the Oromia. In all issues that are pertinent to major national development and in any relevant decision making processes this government purposely excluded Oromo people.
2. Urgent Call for Oromo Spiritual Leaders and their Followers to Support the Current Oromo People’s Peaceful struggle to end injustice in Oromia
I would like to call the entire Oromo Christians: ordinary church attendees, singers, preachers, pastors and all Christian community. This is a critical time that we need to come out and stand in unison with our much loved people, Oromo. Therefore, the Oromo Church all over the world should educate, shape and enable Oromo Christians so that they would be able to stand with their own legs to denounce this unacceptable injustice: the new master plan which is going to destroy our collective Oromummaa (Oromo culture, language and identity, Jalata, 2010). As Christ’s ambassadors, the church should press this dictatorial TPLF regime to immediately stop killing barehanded Oromo students who are fighting for true democracy in Oromia. Decorating and entombing those who killed by security forces is godly deed but not enough. Something more should be done. Many Oromo Muslims, Waaqeffata and Christians are experiencing arbitrary detention, persecution, and extra judicial killings by this colonial regime. The church in Oromia should show to this brutal government that the church has deep concern for human dignity, especially for those who were inhumanly killed by security forces and denounce it. In addition, the Church can give spiritual comfort for the families of the victim, teach the members not to accept slavery, injustice, human rights violation, and to defend their Waaqayyo given rights. Who gave the rights to the TPLF security forces to persecute and intimidate my Muslim, Waaqaffataa and Christian brothers and sisters? Oromo people should stand together to punish such evilness for Waaqayyo is on the side of the oppressed.
Long sighted and courageous Oromo students were convinced that such a new master plan is aimed for just a land occupation which is intolerable and unethical state of affairs. They aired their concern by protesting peacefully. Nevertheless, as TPLF’s mission is to eradicate anybody who firmly speaks out for the rights of Oromo and to continue to lead the people at gunpoint, the regime’s security forces inhumanly hunted down dozens of Oromo nationalists, especially students in various cities in Oromia such as Ambo and others. There is nothing more than this that gives urgent call to every able bodied Oromo to implement effective and equitable resolutions on Oromo people’s struggle to decide their own fate on how and why to use their land. As Oromo theologian, of course, I believe that land is for everybody. It is a common good given by Waaqayyoo/God/Allah for the needs of all mankind. This is true for Oromia. However, there are some inclusive conditions that allow non-Oromos to enjoy such rights: either to live in Oromia harmoniously or to use human resource and natural resource in accordance with the rule of the land.
Oromo people have been fighting the inhuman treatment of the colonizers who encumbered on the shoulders of Oromo people since they colonized the country. They have been fighting to free Oromia in which all mankind including the colonizers (if they need) and all Waaqayyo’s creation enjoy freedom and share Waaqayyo’s blessing in the country. As Oromo are people of safuu-respect, nagaa-peace, and dhiifama- forgiveness everybody should know that in freed Oromia all ethnic groups who have been crashed by Abyssinian colonizers will have equal rights and share responsibilities in Oromia. Because they have natural and primeval rights to live in Oromia and to enjoy God’s blessing in it. However, neither of them have theological ground to colonize and to exploit Oromia.
Subsequently, social, cultural, political and economic devastation in Oromia is approached very dispassionately and haphazardly in an attempt to eradicate the Oromo people from Oromia and cost effective structures of colonization at gunpoint. This system should be uprooted, tread down, overthrown, from Oromia and democratic system should be replanted and reign over Oromia. In the book of Jeremiah 1:7-10 God says, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord. Today I appoint you over nations, and kingdoms to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant”. This holey script has clear message, God can use His servants to correct or to rebuke powerful despotic leaders.
If there is no possibility of ignoring the present trauma in Oromia, or any point in trying to evade it, the only valid way open to us must be to deal with this trauma in outmost genuineness, yet without allowing ourselves to surrender or capitulation to it. Crisis in Oromia is the resultant point where colonization and freedom converge. Many Oromo seemed aware of the actual situation in Oromia and must become so furious by it that they back off. Nevertheless, we can only do justice to our extraordinary calling of recognizing the presence of both colonization and freedom and implement our politics within the arena of tension created by both.
Oromo must not forget what they went through because it is difficult to know where to go without considering past experiences. And simulated breathing will not bolster a sustainable life. Neither does the fake solution could embrace the values of Oromo society and attempting to respond or to individually or collectively engage Oromo politics. Reasonably, Oromo people require fresh mind and meticulously functioning strategy that can induce long lasting political solutions for present and generations to come.
Therefore, Oromo religious and political leaders should be sustained from any kind of divisive characters that can negatively affect and prolong the birth of our freedom. Then, the leaders can take step to accomplish one prominent and exclusively imperative mission: to sharpen, mould, and reshape the mindset of the people to accommodate each other’s political perspectives as one people of one Waaqayyo. We need to create confidentiality and concern in the soul and soil of Oromo people so that the leaders can come forward and say ‘Here I am to serve my people and my country, Oromia with what I have’. Now Oromo people are on the crossroad together with our struggle for liberation. We have to ask ourselves to what extent this crisis which rained over us causes division, hostility, powerlessness, lack of self-motivation, and lack of self-confidence. And then after this step, solutions to this crisis should be hunted. Just as Oromo political crisis has many phases, shapes, and forms also the solutions must be multifaceted. The Political crisis in Oromia is caused by successive Abyssinian colonial ruling system and spiritual schizophrenia cannot be solved by rhetoric, pedagogy, spirituality or prayer, and theology alone. Hence, supplementary spiritual embedment in a structure of social movement is called for.
Conceivably, looking at socio-political, economic, and identity crisis in Oromia theologically is to let people decide by themselves on the issues. It is vital to avoid conflicting interests between some religious dogmas and to invite all Oromo people from different religions to eat from the same “Gabate (dish) and to drink from the same Finjaala (cup). It is helpful to build Orommumaa that surpasses all the boundaries the enemies built among us and narrows down the unnecessary social divide among us. On the occasion a traditional festive was cooked separately for muslins and Christians in Arsi at the place commonly called Dheeraa, General Taddassa Birruu being adherent of Coptic Christian belief beseeched all Oromo to eat together and said “The animals slaughtered are our own and they died to save us and no reason for “laguu” “abstinence”. All participants were all Oromos; he saw no reason for separate table. His suggestion was accepted with acclamation and all participants of Muslims and Christians ate the cooked food together without discrimination. It is the only viable solution that Oromo consolidate this heritage and strive for higher achievement. Once Ibsa Gutama asserted that to go back on what our elders transcended is retrogression.
When Oromos are on this same Gabatee, our cultural Safuu will govern them since it has an ample place in all dominant three religions of Oromo. In this context eating from one Gabatee-dish means not only unity but also it is all about sharing each others’ suffering. Indeed, there is no major conflict among Oromo people, yet there are minor misunderstandings that are caused by misarticulated and misinterpreted communication. We need to acknowledge the fact that religion and politics have common basis on matters of values and perceptions where people should be left alone to decide what type of politics and religious dogma they want to practice. Many of us have been looking for different alternatives on how we can emancipate our people from this agony of exploitation in such a critical time. When colonizers are more united against us we must narrow down our political and religious fragmentation.
I totally agree that we are all different, yet our unity in diversity is more important than our dissimilarity. Accept it or not! Oromia own three big religions as common properties: namely, Christianity, Islam and Waaqeffanna. And any of these religions should not isolate itself from current Oromo people’s struggle in order to practice fundamental human rights and self-determination.
In order to achieve the fruit of our struggle, I would say, there is one important way to do it! We have to knock on the doors of each Oromo individuals, Oromo civic and political organizations, all Oromo regions and religions. We have to put aside our political and ideological differences which kept many Oromo activists to be trapped for almost a decade. What we need from Oromo political and religious leaders in this critical time is the action of courage and bravery, a critically analyzed and contextually interpreted discussion on how to bring our knowledge together, resources, power, and time to dismantle the TPLF regime and to free Oromia in which Oromo people, fellow mankind and all Waaqayyo’s creations live peacefully.
The parameters of our responsibility for supporting the Oromo national movement lie within the concept of human nature. This means that we human being are not driftwood on the sea of life, but we are images of Waaqayyo with a responsible role to play and a radiant future. Theologically, it is this potential gifted from Waaqayyo that gives guidance, purpose, and optimism to us in order to serve others by practicing inclusive politics with people in a joint setting. In other way round, Christianity, Waaqeffannaa and Islam are not only religious convictions of isolated individualism or inaccessible retroversion, yet they are religions that belong to all Oromo people with their adherents and virtues of social implications. This is all about commitment to Uumaa – Waaqayyo and commitment to Uumamaa- His creation and to feel responsibility for the welfare of others.
To strengthen our struggle for justice, let us recognize those who are doing their best as individuals, groups, leaders at any level; let them live forever! Our difference is our quality; our unity is a secret of our sovereignty, our failure is the place where we learn from past mistakes and get prepared for the next challenge to achieve our goal for no lifelong success without challenges.
The Bible teaches Christians to get involved in societal activity for the sake of themselves, for others, and for God’s glory at the appointed time. For example, Jude 23 says, “Snatch others from the fire and save them…” Yes, we are called to snatch others from the fire, and to beam flame of fire of truth in the hearts of others so that they can fight injustice! Therefore, I would like to urge Oromo people in Oromia and around the world to stand together in harmony and to continue non-violent opposition against the TPLF regime until we free the state we demand, Oromia in which all mankind and Waaqayyo’s creations enjoy peace and freedom.
Finally, no nation will preserve the right to colonize another nation, and there is no nation who doesn’t own the right to defend its land from aggression and invaders. So, Habashas have no right to colonize Oromia while as the same time the Oromo people deserve and have the legitimate right to defend their land from aggressor. Theologically, Satan had no right to rule over and lead human being to death since God the Father has satisfied his justice by the death and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord saved the world from the consequence of sin that led all mankind to eternal death. The century lasting political justice of Oromo people should be satisfied by proper and continual sacrifice paid for freedom from colonial yoke by and for Oromo themselves. Oromo people will ensure the inviolable and inalienable human rights and freedoms that are given by Waaqayyo to all mankind. The reader may or may not agree with the claim I made. I anticipate that one might think it is confidently worth discussing and doing further research.
Waaqayyo bless Oromia!
* The author is currently studying a dual masters degree program in Theology (MA) and in Society and Global Issues at the Norwegian School of Theology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org