Oromo people

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For the language, see Oromo language.
Oromo
Oromoo
Regions with significant populations
 Ethiopia 25,488,344 (2007 census)[1]
 Kenya 227,674 (2009 census)[2]
 Australia 2,030 [3]
Expatriates unknown
Languages
OromoAmharicTigrinya
Religion
Islam ~ 50%,[4] Ethiopian Orthodox ~ 33%,[4] Protestants and Traditional Religions
Related ethnic groups
AfarAgawAmharaBejaSahoSomaliTigrayTigre and other Cushitic peoples.

The Oromo people (Oromo: Oromoo; Ge'ez: ኦሮሞ; ’Oromo) are an ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia, who are also found in northern Kenya and Somalia.[5][6] They are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa, at approximately 34.5% of Ethiopia's population according to the 2007 census,[1][7] while later estimates place them at around 40%.[8][6] With an estimated total Ethiopian population of over 102 million, the number of Oromo people exceed 35 million in Ethiopia alone.[9]

Oromos speak the Oromo language as a mother tongue (also called Afaan Oromoo and Oromiffa), which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. The name was given as Ilm’ Orma ("Sons of Men" or an eponymous 'Orma') in the 19th century;[10] the present form is probably an obsolete plural of the same word orma ("person, stranger").[11]

Origins and nomenclature[edit]

Map of Ethiopia highlighting the Oromia Region

The origins and prehistory of the Oromo people is unclear, in part because Oromo people lacked a written script, relied on oral traditions and did not write their own history prior to the 16th-century.[6][12] Older and subsequent colonial era documents mention Oromo people as Galla, but it was written by members of ethnic groups or missionaries generally hostile and at war with them. Anthropologists and historians such as Herbert S. Lewis consider these indirect literature as "full of distortions, biases and misunderstandings".[6][12][13]

Historical linguistics and comparative ethnology studies suggest that the Oromo people likely originated around the lakes Shamo (Chamo) and Stephanie (Chew Bahir).[14][13] They are Cushitic people who have inhabited the East and Northeast Africa from at least the early 1st millennium. The traditional view, but one not universally accepted, is that the Oromo occupied most of the Horn of Africa and the coast of Gulf of Aden in the 10th century CE, until the Somali people arrived and pushed them out.[15][16]

The first verifiable record mentioning the Oromo people by a European cartographer is in the map of Italian Fra Mauro in 1460, which uses the term "Galla".[14] The map was likely drawn after consultations with Ethiopian monks who visited Italy in 1441. It is a term for a river and a forest, as well as for the pastoral people established in the highlands of southern Ethiopia.[17] This historical information, according to Mohammed Hassen, is consistent with the written and oral traditions of the Amhara people which too refer to the Oromo people as Galla. The historical evidence therefore suggests that the Oromo people were already established in southern highlands in or before the 15th century, and that at least some Oromo people were peacefully interacting or in conflict with other Ethiopian ethnic groups.[17]

After Fra Mauro's mention, there is a profusion of literature about the peoples of this region including the Oromo, particularly mentioning their wars and resistance to religious conversion, primarily by European sea explorers, Christian and Islamic missionaries as well as regional writers.[14] Fra Mauro's term Galla is the most used term, however, through early 20th century. The earliest primary account of Oromo ethnography, and often cited, is the 16th-century "History of Galla" by Christian monk Bahrey, written in Ge'ez language, who begins his treatise on the Oromo by introducing them with prejudicial terms.[14][18] The first known use of the word Oromo to refer to this ethnic group is traceable to 1893.[19] The historic term for them has been Galla. This term, stated Juxon Barton in 1924, was in use for these people by Abyssinians and Arabs.[20] The word Galla has been variously interpreted, such as it means "to go home", or it is a reference to a river named Galla. Another speculated origin, states Barton, for their historic name is from the Muslim tradition, which states that when Muhammad asked them to accept Islam, the chief of this ethnic group said "Gha la" or "no", thus their name "Galla".[20]

Scholarship that followed Barton, states that the label Galla for them, in historic documents, is a stereotype and has been translated by other ethnic groups as "pagan, savage, inferior, enemy",[21][22][23] and "heathen, that is non-Muslim".[24][25] According to Didier Morin 'Galla' appears to be a political term more than an ethnic one which is applied to non united groups including Afar People and which could also include other cushitic-speaking groups. In Afar language, states Morin, Galli (pl. Galla) means "crowd", "foreigners" and carries derogatory connotation "ordinary, commoner" as opposed to moddai or "high descent".[26] The term Galla was also used by Europeans before the 1974 revolution without any derogatory connotations.[27] The Oromo never called themselves Galla, and resist its use. They traditionally identified themselves by one of their clans (gosas), and in contemporary times have used the common umbrella term of Oromo which connotes "free born people".[28]

While Oromo people have lived in this region for a long time, the ethnic mixture of peoples who have lived here is unclear.[29] According to Alessandro Triulzi, the interactions and encounters between Oromo people and Nilo-Saharan groups likely began early. Different groups have attempted to reconstruct a speculative origin theories, wherein either Oromo are presumed "heathen and expansionists who displaced another ethnic group", or the Oromo are presumed to be original people who were "displaced by others". However, persuasive evidence to support various speculations has been missing.[29] The original Oromos increased their numbers through Oromization (Meedhicca, Mogasa and Gudifacha) of conquered people (Gabbaro) from other ethnic groups, and in turn others conquered people from them and converted them to their side.[29] The native ancient names of the territories were replaced by the name of the Oromo clans who conquered it while the people were made Gabbaros or (serfs).[29] This, in part, was a Oromo response to preserve their identity, as they as the third major group faced forced mass conversion by the conquering armies of Christian Abyssinians or Islamic Sultanates, often at war with each other.[30][31][32]

Oromo's are believed to have integrated over time with the people from different ethnic groups and religions of Kingdom of Damot, Kingdom of Ennarea, Sultanate of Showa, Sultanate of Bale, Gurage, Gafat, Ganz province, Maya, Hadiya Sultanate, Fatagar, Sultanate of Dawaro, Werjih, Gidim, Adal Sultanate, Sultanate of Ifat and other people of Abyssinian Empire after 16th century Oromo expansion.[33][34]

History[edit]

Main article: Kingdom of Jimma

Historically, Afaan Oromo-speaking people used their own Gadaa system of governance. Oromos also had a number of independent kingdoms, which they shared with the Sidama people. Among these were the Gibe region kingdoms of Gera, Gomma, Garo, Gumma, Jimma and Leeqa-Nekemte and Limmu-Ennarea, as well as the kingdom of Jiren.

Both peaceful integration and violent competition between Oromos and other neighboring ethnicities such as the Amhara, Sidama and the Somali affected politics within the Oromo community. The northern expansion of the Oromos such as the Yejju and, in particular the Arsi, to ethnic Somali and Sidama territories mirrored the southern expansion of Amharas, and helped influence contemporary ethnic politics in Ethiopia.[35] Also the great Somali expansion from the Ogaden plains west towards the Juba river led to conflicts with the Oromo.[36] In some areas, Oromos and Somalis were in competition for fertile territory and natural resources. Additionally, Eastern Oromos, who had adopted Islam, were along with Somalis and Afars part of the Muslim Adal Sultanate, which under Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi led a conquest of the Christian Abyssinian Empire.[36]

Historian Richard Pankhurst describes the complex regional socio-politics that existed before the coming of European powers and the creation of Greater Ethiopia, now Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, as follows:

Constituted a galaxy of states and polities, each moving in its own orbit, but significantly affecting, and affected by, the other entities in the constellation. Each ruler kept a watchful eye on his neighbors but would often exchange gifts and courtesies with them unless actually at war. Dynastic marriages were made whenever practicable, though these only occasionally crossed barriers of religion. Commerce, on the other hand, made little distinction between faith, and trade routes linked traditionalist, Christian and Muslim localities. Ethnic and linguistic communities remained largely distinct, but there was much cross-fertilization of cultures. This was true not only off the Ethiopian highlands and the Red Sea coastlands, but also further south along the Somali-Oromo frontier where later nineteenth century travelers reported the existence of bilingual trading communities.[36]

Photograph taken by 10th Field Company Royal Engineers during the Magdala Campaign of 1867–8. Queen of the "Gallas" and Son

In the first decades of the 19th century, three Oromo monarchies, Enarya, Goma and Guma, rose to prominence.[36] The collective area was known as Galla-land and comprised most of central and southern Ethiopia, including lands now held by other ethnic regions.[10] In the general view of Oromo people's role in Ethiopia, Ras Gobana Dacche is a famous Oromo figure who led the development of modern Ethiopia and the political and military incorporation of more territories into Ethiopian borders.[37][38] Gobana, under the authority of Menelik II, incorporated several Oromo territories into a centralized Ethiopian state. Some contemporary ethno-nationalist Oromo political groups refer to Gobana in a negative light. Before military integration, present day Ethiopia, Eritrea, and parts of Somalia were extensively linked commercially by local, long-distance and trans-frontier trade routes. These commercial routes connected Bonga, Jimma, Seqa, Assandabo, Gojjam, Begemder, Maramma, Massawa, Soddo, Shewa, Harar, Zeila and Berbera.[36] Some Oromo writers believe that the Oromo Ras Gobena and the Amhara Menelik II were the first two people in Ethiopia with the concept of a national boundary that would bring various different ethno-linguistic communities under a politically and militarily centralized rule.[39]

"The two most important historical figures who signify the introduction of the concepts of national boundary and sovereignty in Ethiopia are Emperor Menelik II and Ras Gobana Dachi, who used guns manufactured in Europe to bring a large swath of Biyas (regions/nations) under a centralized rule."

Ethnically mixed Ethiopians with Oromo background made up a small percentage of Ethiopian generals and leaders.[40] The Wollo Oromo (particularly the Raya Oromo and Yejju Oromo) were early Oromo holders of power among the increasingly mixed Ethiopian state. The later north-to-south movement of central power in Ethiopia led to Oromos in Shewa holding power in Ethiopia together with the Shewan Amhara.[41]

"In terms of descent, the group that became politically dominant in Shewa – and Subsequently in Ethiopia – was a mixture of Amhara and Oromo; in terms of language, religion and cultural practices, it was Amhara."[42]

Nonetheless, in many cases Oromo became part of the Ethiopian nobility without losing their identity.[43] Due to marginalization of the Oromos during Amhara rule, many changed their names to blend in with the Amhara population.[44] Oromo populations, who resisted Amhara occupation were subject to amputations and disfigurement.[45] Amharic sayings such as "Saw naw Galla? (is it human or Galla?)" highlighted Amhara's contempt towards the Oromo.[46] Both ethnically mixed Oromos and those with full Oromo descent held high leadership positions in Ethiopia. Notably Iyasu V was the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia (1913–1916), while Haile Selassie I was the crowned and generally acknowledged Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Both these Ethiopian Emperors are ethnically mixed, with Oromo parents and lineages.[47] Haile Selassie's mother was paternally of Oromo descent and maternally of Gurage heritage, while his father was paternally Oromo and maternally Amhara. He consequently would have been considered Oromo in a patrilineal society, and would have been viewed as Gurage in a matrilineal one. However, in the main, Haile Selassie was regarded as Amhara: his paternal grandmother's royal lineage, through which he was able to ascend to the Imperial throne.[48]

Before the rise of Emperor Tewodros member of the Yejju Oromo dynasty like Abba Seru Gwangul, Ras Ali I, Ras Aligaz, Ras Gugsa Mursa, Ras Yimam, Ras Marye, Ras Dori and Ras Ali II were the rulers of northern Ethiopia while the emperors with Solomonic dynasty were figureheads.[49][50] Tewodros's wife Empress Tewabech Ali was the daughter of Ali II of Yejju while Menelik’s wife Empress Taytu Betul, Ras Mengesha's wife Kefey Wale and Queen Zewditu's husband Ras Gugsa wolle as well as Ras Wube of Semien who also ruled Tigray and Bahr-Negash were all descendants of Ras Gugsa Mursa of Yejju. The last empress of the empire, Menen Asfaw, Haileselse's wife is from the Wollo Oromo ruling class and she is the granddaughter of Ras (Nigus) Mikael. While the Yejju Oromo nobles dominated Amhara, Tigray and Agaw provinces, Gondar’s court language was changed to Afan Oromo while maintaining Christianity as a state religion. Similar to the nobles and princes of Tigray and Agaw subgroups like Wag, Qwara and Awi these northern Christian Oromo nobles supported by the mainly Muslim Yejju, Wollo, Raya-Azebo Oromo armies ruled the empire while not losing their identity.[50][50][51][52]

The Yejjus have built churches, appointed bishops, gave military titles to the empire's army and appointed regional chiefs under the name of the powerless emperors whom themselves are also appointed by these nobles.[50][51] Ras Ali II, father-in-law of Atse Tewodros, did intervene in the Church when Abuna Salama excommunicated the Nigus of Shewa Sahle Selassie during the ongoing dispute over Christology that had split the Orthodox Church into a number of hostile factions. Despite the intervention of Imperial Regent, Ras Ali II, Abuna Salama refused to lift the interdict, and Ras Ali finally arrested the Abuna in 1846 and banished him from Gondar.[53] Among the Yejjus, the great Gugsa of Yejju was briefly the most powerful political figure in Ethiopia, and it retained this status until 1889, when Menelik II was crowned emperor.[54] After the death of Ras Gugsa Mursa many of his descendants continued to hold key positions in the north and one of them is Taytu Betul who served Emperor Yohanes as his first minister after she helped him broaden his power base in northern Ethiopia through her family connections in Yejju Oromo area, Semien and Begemider. After her marriage with Menelik she served as an adviser and with her own 5,000 troops she went to the battle of Adwa.[55][56] She also named the newly founded capital city as Addis Ababa.[57]

A 1908 map showing Galla-land. Galla is a historical term for Oromo people, but in contemporary times considered a pejorative.[58]

By the 1880s, Menelik, king of Shewa (the later Emperor Menelik II) allied with Ras Gobena's Shewan Oromo militia to expand his kingdom to the South and East, expanding into areas that hadn't been held together since the invasion of Ahmed Gragn.[59] Another famous leader of Ethiopia with Oromo descent was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, the governor of Harar who served as the top general in the First Italo–Ethiopian War, playing a key role at the Battle of Adwa. He is the father of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I.[60] Other Oromo chiefs who allied their native clan's army to Menelik's Shewan central government includes Ras (Nigus) Mikael Ali, Sultan Aba Jifar, Kumsa Mereda, Habtegyorgis Dinegde, Balcha Aba Nefso and Jote Tullu; as an ally to the central government they also campaigned to the south to incorporate more territories.[61][62][63][64][65]

Menelik preferred one of his two grandsons to takeover the leadership of the empire after him. Both of them were conceived from his daughter's political dynastic marriage with his top Oromo generals namely Ras Mikael Ali and Ras Gobana Dacche. Menelik saw his successor in W/Sagad Wadajo Gobena, his grandson from Ras Gobana's Son, and had him raised at the court as if heir to the throne. Wedajo Opposed the court education of his son and this dispute over child custody led to the divorce of his wife. This grandson of Menelik II was eliminated from the succession due to dwarfism.[66] Lij Iyasu, another grandson of Menelik conceived from his daughter Shoaarega and Ras Mikael Ali Aba Bula (also known as Mohamed Ali) became heir to the throne.[67] After Menelik's death he will appoint his father as king of north Ethiopia.[68] However, within a few years of his reign, Lij Eyasu would be overthrown by Shewan Mekuanents led by prime-minister and war minister Habte Giyorgis Dinagde, also an Oromo from Chebo clan; and they will make Zewditu Menelik as Queen and Teferi Mekonen (who also have Oromo decent through both his father and mother side) as heir and regent.[64][65][69][70] This decision angered Nigus Mikael and he mobilized about 120,000 soldiers, most of them armed with modern weapons, to invade Shewa and restore his son as emperor of Ethiopia, but his mainly Wollo army (composed mainly of Muslim Oromos) was defeated at the Battle of Segale in 1916.[61][71][72] Nigus Mikael Ali, father-in-law of Teferi Mekonen, was captured at the battle and sent to prison (Gizot) in Chebo area by the hand of Fitawrari Habte-Gyorgis; Lij Eyasu, on the other hand was captured after 5 years. When he was captured by Dejazmatch (later Ras) Gugsa Araya and his forces, it is significant that Dejazmatch Gugsa, the grandson of Emperor Yohannes IV, knelt on the ground and kissed Iyasu's feet before arresting him.[73][74]

Demographics[edit]

A rural Oromo dwelling.

The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, estimated to be over 35 million people in 2016.[9] Their population is dispersed over a large region. They speak 74 ethnically diverse language groups.[citation needed] About 95% are settled agriculturalists and nomadic pastoralists, practising archaic farming methods and living at subsistence level. A few live in the urban centres.

Oromos today are concentrated in the Oromia region in central Ethiopia, which is the largest region in the country in terms of both population and size. They are present in large numbers in other central, western and southern provinces of Ethiopia. Group members also have a notable presence in northern Kenya in the Marsabit County, and in the Welo and Tigre regions of Eritrea.[58]

Subgroups[edit]

The Oromo are divided into two major branches that break down into an assortment of clan families. From west to east. The Borana Oromo, also called the Boran, are a pastoralist group living in southern Ethiopia (Oromia) and northern Kenya.[75][76] The Boran inhabit the former provinces of Shewa, Welega, Illubabor, Kafa, Jimma, Sidamo, northern and northeastern Kenya, and a small refugee population in some parts of Somalia.

Barentu/Barentoo or (older) Baraytuma is the other moiety of the Oromo people. The Barentu Oromo inhabit the eastern parts of the Oromia Region in the Zones of Mirab Hararghe or West Hararghe, Arsi Zone, Bale Zone, Debub Mirab Shewa Zone or South West Shewa, Dire Dawa region, the Jijiga Zone of the Somali Region, Administrative Zone 3 of the Afar Region, Oromia Zone of the Amhara Region, and are also found in the Raya Azebo woreda in the Tigray Region.

Language[edit]

The Oromo speak the Oromo language as a mother tongue (also known as Afaan Oromoo and Oromiffa). It belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

According to Ethnologue, there are around 17,465,900 Oromo speakers worldwide.[77]

The Oromo language is divided into four main linguistic varieties: Borana-Arsi-Guji Oromo, Eastern Oromo, Orma and West Central Oromo.[77]

Modern writing systems used to transcribe Oromo include the Latin script. The Ethiopic script had previously been used by Oromo communities in west-central Ethiopia up until the 1990s.[78] Additionally, the Sapalo script was historically used to write Oromo. It was invented by the Oromo scholar Sheikh Bakri Sapalo (also known by his birth name, Abubaker Usman Odaa) during the 1950s.[79][80]

Religion[edit]

Christianity was adopted in Ethiopia early in 340 CE by the Kingdom of Axum. Abyssinia was an early Christian kingdom that remained in power through the modern era. Islam arrived from the coastal region during the medieval era, across the Gulf of Aden, and led to the creation of warring Islamic sultanates such as Hadiya, Bali, Fatagar, Dawaro and Adal. These kingdoms and sultanates ruled or influenced the history of Oromo people.[31][32] The influential 30-year war from 1529 to 1559 between the three parties – the Oromo, the Christians and the Muslims – dissipated the political strengths of all three. The religious beliefs of the Oromo people evolved in this socio-political environment.[31] In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, neither the Muslim controlled areas nor the Ethiopian Orthodox Church dominant areas would allow Protestant or Catholic missionaries to proselytize among them, and these missions focussed their efforts in the southern provinces of Greater Ethiopia where Oromo people following the traditional religions lived.[81]

In the 2007 Ethiopian census for Oromia region, which included both Oromo and non-Oromo residents, 48.7% of its population were Christians, 47.5% were Muslims, 3.3% Traditional.[82] Among the Christians, Orthodox Ethiopian was dominant (30.5% of total regional population), followed by Protestants (17.7%) and Catholics (0.5%).[82]

According to James Minahan, about half of the Oromo people are Sunni Muslim, a third are Ethiopian Orthodox, and rest are mostly Protestants or follow their traditional religious beliefs.[4] The traditional religion is more common in southern Oromo populations, Christianity more common in and near the urban centers, while Muslims are more common near the Somalia border and the north.[58]

Adherence to traditional practices and rituals is still common among many Oromo people regardless of religious background.[citation needed] Waaq (also Waq or Waaqa) is the name of God in the traditional Oromo religion, which only about 3% of the population of Oromia follows today; those who do usually living in the Borena Zone.

Society and culture[edit]

Gadda[edit]

Oromo people were traditionally a culturally homogeneous society with genealogical ties.[83] They governed themselves in accordance with Gadaa (literally "era"), a limited democratic socio-political system long before the 16th century, when major three party wars commenced between them and the Christian kingdom to their north and Islamic sultanates to their east and south. The Gadda system elected males from five Oromo miseensa (groups), for a period of eight years, for various judicial, political, ritual and religious roles. Retirement was compulsory after the eight year term, and each major clan followed the same Gadaa system.[83] Women and people belonging to the lower Oromo castes were excluded.[84] Male born in the upper Oromo society went through five stages of eight years, where his life established his role and status for consideration to a Gadaa office.[83]

Under Gadaa, every eight years, the Oromo would choose by consensus an Abbaa Bokkuu responsible for justice, peace, judicial and ritual processes, an Abbaa Duulaa responsible as the war leader, an Abbaa Sa'aa responsible as the leader for cows, and other positions.[85]

Social stratification[edit]

Like other ethnic groups in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, Oromo people regionally developed social stratification consisting of four hierarchical strata. The highest strata were the nobles called the Borana, below them were the Gabbaro (some 17th to 19th century Ethiopian texts refer them as the dhalatta). Below these two upper castes were the despised castes of artisans, and at the lowest level were the slaves.[86][87]

In the Islamic Kingdom of Jimma, the Oromo society's caste strata predominantly consisted of endogamous, inherited artisanal occupations.[88][89][90] Each caste group has specialized in a particular occupation such as iron working, carpentry, weapon making, pottery, weaving, leather working and hunting.[91][89]

The castes in the Oromo society have had a designated name, such as Tumtu were smiths, Fuga were potters, Faqi were tanners and leatherworkers, Semmano for weavers, Gagurtu were bee keepers and honey makers, Watta were hunters and foragers.[88][92][93] While slaves were a strata within the Oromo society, they themselves were also victims of slavery. By the 19th century, Oromo slaves were sought after and a major part of slaves sold in Gondar and Gallabat slave markets at Ethiopia-Sudan border, as well as the Massawa and Tajura markets on the Red Sea.[94][95]

Calendar[edit]

Further information: Borana calendar

The Oromo people developed a luni-solar calendar, which likely dates from a pre-16th century period and before the great migration because different geographically and religiously distinct Oromo communities use the same calendar. This calendar is sophisticated and similar to ones found among the Chinese, the Hindus and the Mayans. It was tied to the traditional religion of the Oromos, and used to schedule the Gadda system of elections and power transfer.[96]

The Borana Oromo calendar system was once thought to be based upon an earlier Cushitic calendar developed around 300 BC found at Namoratunga. Reconsideration of the Namoratunga site led astronomer and archaeologist Clive Ruggles to conclude that there is no relationship.[97] The new year of the Oromo people, according to this calendar, falls in the month of October.[98] The calendar has no weeks but a name for each day of the month. It is a lunar-stellar calendar system.[99][100]

Contemporary era[edit]

Ethiopian Civil War[edit]

The flag of the Oromo Liberation Front, founded in 1973

In 1973, Oromo discontent with their position led to the formation of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which began political agitation in the Oromo areas. Also in 1973 there was a catastrophic famine in which over one quarter of a million people died from starvation before the government recognised the disaster and permitted relief measures. The majority who died were Oromos and Amharas from Wollo, Afars and Tigrayans. There were strikes and demonstrations in Addis Ababa in 1974; and in February of that year, Haile Selassie’s government was replaced by the Derg, a military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam (a mixed Ethiopian with ethnic Konso heritage); but the Council was still Amhara-dominated, with only 25 non-Amhara members out of 125. In 1975 the government declared all rural land State-owned, and announced the end of the tenancy system. However, much of the benefit of this reform was counteracted by compulsive collectivization, State farms and forced resettlement programmes.

In 1991, the Derg was replaced by the EPRDF. Initially, Oromo intellectuals and the OLF joined the transitional government alongside EPRDF. However, the TPLF branch of EPRDF created an Oromo party (OPDO) to marginalized the OLF and eventually expel it from the country. Despite increased harassment on Oromos, the OPDO presided over the advancement of Oromo language and culture over the last two decades. The TPLF is widely known to use this progress in Oromo cultural and linguistic empowerment as an achievement and a mandate for EPRDF rule the nation. However, most Oromos still do not believe they have political rights and many of them support the OLF and other opposition parties including the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).

Human rights issues[edit]

In December 2009, a 96-page report titled Human Rights in Ethiopia: Through the Eyes of the Oromo Diaspora, compiled by the Advocates for Human Rights, documented human rights violations against the Oromo in Ethiopia under three successive regimes: the Abyssinian Empire under Haile Selassie, the Marxist Derg and the current Ethiopian government of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), dominated by members of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and which was accused to have arrested approximately 20,000 suspected OLF members, to have driven most OLF leadership into exile, and to have effectively neutralized the OLF as a political force in Ethiopia.[101]

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Oromia Support Group (OSG) recorded 594 extra-judicial killings of Oromos by Ethiopian government security forces and 43 disappearances in custody between 2005 and August 2008.[102]

Starting in November 2015, during a wave of mass protests, mainly by Oromos, over the expansion of the municipal boundary of the capital, Addis Ababa, into Oromia, over 500 people have been killed and many more have been injured, according to human-rights advocates and independent monitors.[103][104] The protests have since spread to other ethnic groups and encompass wider social grievances.[104]

Political organizations[edit]

Most Oromos do not have political unity today due to their historical roles in the Ethiopian state and the region, the spread out movement of different Oromo clans, and the differing religions inside the Oromo nation.[105] Accordingly, Oromos played major roles in all three main political movements in Ethiopia (centralist, federalist and secessionist) during the 19th and 20th century. In addition to holding high powers during the centralist government and the monarchy, the Raya Oromos in Tigray played a major role in the revolt inside the Tigray regional state, known as "Weyane" revolt, challenging Emperor Haile Selassie I's rule in the 1940s.[106] Simultaneously, both federalist and secessionist political forces developed inside the Oromo community.

Presently, a number of ethnic based political organizations have been formed to promote the interests of the Oromo. The first was the Mecha and Tulama Self-Help Association founded in January 1963, but was disbanded by the government after several increasingly tense confrontations in November, 1966.[107] Later groups include the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), the United Liberation Forces of Oromia (ULFO), the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO), the Oromia Liberation Council (OLC), the Oromo National Congress (ONC, recently changed to OPC) and others. Another group, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO), is one of the four parties that form the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. However, these Oromo groups do not act in unity: the ONC, for example, was part of the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces coalition that challenged the EPRDF in the Ethiopian general elections of 2005.

A number of these groups seek to create an independent Oromo nation, some using armed force. Meanwhile, the ruling OPDO and several opposition political parties in the Ethiopian parliament believe in the unity of the country which has 80 different ethnicities. But most Oromo opposition parties in Ethiopia condemn the economic and political inequalities in the country. Progress has been very slow with the Oromia International Bank just recently established in 2008 though Oromo owned Awash International Bank started early in the 1990s and with the first private Afaan Oromoo newspaper in Ethiopia, Jimma Times, also known as Yeroo, recently established. Though the Jimma Times – Yeroo newspaper has faced a lot of harassment and persecution from the Ethiopian government since its beginning.[108][109][110][111][112] Abuse of Oromo media is widespread in Ethiopia and reflective of the general oppression Oromos face in the country.[113] University departments in Ethiopia did not establish curriculum in Afaan Oromo until the late 1990s.

Various human rights organizations have publicized the government persecution of Oromos in Ethiopia for decades. In 2008, OFDM opposition party condemned the government's indirect role in the death of hundreds of Oromos in western Ethiopia.[114] According to Amnesty International, "between 2011 and 2014, at least 5000 Oromos have been arrested based on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government. These include thousands of peaceful protestors and hundreds of opposition political party members. The government anticipates a high level of opposition in Oromia, and signs of dissent are sought out and regularly, sometimes pre-emptively, suppressed. In numerous cases, actual or suspected dissenters have been detained without charge or trial, killed by security services during protests, arrests and in detention."[115]

According to Amnesty international, there is a sweeping repression in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.[116] On December 12, 2015, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported violent protests in the Oromo region of Ethiopia in which more than 20 students were killed. According to the report, the students were protesting against the government's re-zoning plan named 'Addis Ababa Master5 Plan'.

On October 2 2016, nearly 700 festival goers were massacred at the most sacred and largest event among the Oromo, the Irreecha cultural thanksgiving festival. In just 1 day, hundreds were killed and many more injured in what will go down in history as one of the darkest days for the Oromo people. Every year, millions of Oromo’s, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, gather in Bishotfu for this annual celebration. However this year, the festive mood quickly turned chaotic after Ethiopian security forces responded to peaceful protests by firing teargas and live bullets at over 2 million people surrounded by a lake and cliffs.

Notable people[edit]

Oromo distance running champion Kenenisa Bekele.
Oromo track and field athlete Maryam Yusuf Jamal.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Tsega Etefa, Integration and Peace in East Africa: A History of the Oromo Nation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ISBN 978-0-230-11774-7
  • Mohammed Hassan, The Oromo of Ethiopia, A History 1570–1860. Trenton: Red Sea Press, 1994. ISBN 0-932415-94-6
  • Herbert S. Lewis. A Galla Monarchy: Jimma Abba Jifar, Ethiopia 1830–1932. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1965.
  • "RIC Query – Ethiopia". INS Resource Information Center. Retrieved 8 October 2005. 
  • Temesgen M. Erena, Oromia: 'Civilisation, Colonisation And Underdevelopment, Oromia Quarterly, No.1, July 2002, ISSN 1460-1346.