Can any Normal Oromo Get Addicted to Ethiopia? Part IV
By Tulluu Madan, June 29, 2018
Some Reflections about the Blame Games and Irrational Fears
Totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorship put you in a very difficult state of mind and you very often fail to comprehend their motives. While searching for meaning and trying to get the intentions of the perpetrators, I have come across a very astonishing book, What Orwell Didn’t Know. According to the editors, that was jointly written as a public project by four top American Universities, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkley, the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University which was made possible with the generous support of the Open Society Institute and Public Affairs.
I remember that four Ethiopian Airlines employees who were members of the Jehovah Witnesses were fired for refusing to participate on the tenth anniversary of the totalitarian Marxist-Leninist military dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile-mariam. As a young man, I didn’t care to participate on the training for the parade because we were just having fun since we were getting paid for the times we were spending on training for the parade.
The editor of the book, Andras Szanto also put his own experience about May Day parade as follows: “Around the year 1978, my schoolmates and I were sent to the annual May Day parade. As a special honor, we were asked to be part of a living tableau, a form of Communist pageantry that is nowadays practiced mainly in North Korea. It consists of hundreds of children holding up flags, like human Benday dots, to spell out slogans like “The friendship between socialist brother nations is everlasting.” On the big day, we showed up in our uniforms, flags at the ready. We prepared to march in front of a marble tribune lined with waving Party dignitaries. Just as we embraced on our procession, heavy rainfall exploded from the sky. And we quickly discovered that the organizers had neglected to prepare for this meteorological intervention. The fabric dye in our flags was bleeding profusely. Green, blue, and crimson ink stained our hands and faces. Our human poster was dissolving.”
“Only a decade would pass before the Iron Curtain fell, taking down a vast internally consistent apparatus of ideological control. But there is a deeper lesson to this story. The flaw in our May Day tableau lay not in its execution, but in its guiding premise. Even if it hadn’t been raining, our slogans could only have been read by the politicians standing above our heads. The people parading in front of them – the putative targets of state propaganda – couldn’t see a thing.”~ Editor’s Note to What Orwell Didn’t Know, xiii-xiv.
Follies of Orthodoxy
Orville Shell also perfectly explained in the introduction part of this astonishing book what I was looking for too long – about the state of mind we were subjected to due to acts of totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorship and their illicit propaganda. I was trying to understand the motives of the fake liberators when they put me in a military camp called Mahandis and treating me as if I were their Guinea pig. Schell puts it in a way that gives me great meaning like this: “In the example of Raskolnikov, the hero of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Kundera explained that as readers, we are met with “the well-known situation where the offense seeks punishment.” But Kundera observed that in The Trial, perhaps Frank Kafka’s greatest work, “the logic is reversed. The punished person does not know the reason for the punishment. The absurdity of the punishment is so unbearable that to find peace, the accused needs to find justification for his penalty; the punishment seeks the offense. [In fact,] in this pseudo-psychological world, the punished beg for recognition of their guilt.”
When I was detained at that military camp in the so called Transitional Government of Ethiopia during 1991-92, I was unable to justify my guilt for either reading books or newspapers and I was exactly put in that state of mind. Perhaps they were either forcing me to blame either God for creating me or the Devil for misguiding me in reading them but none of them were at fault since the devils were right there in front of me in that military camp.
We were also discussing the irrational fears by citing our own life experiences while we were celebrating TASSS’s 20th year anniversary. Sister Diana, the founding member of TASSC, talked about the irrational fear of Police Officers. I have also been explaining about my own real experiences when it comes to irrational fears of Police Officers as a result of past experiences of abuses in the hands of lawless totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. I was recently given a ticket by the District of Columbia Police Officer for the alleged violation of a red traffic light. I had to go to court to justify that I was not guilty because the Officer was driving very close to me with a blinding blue light and I had to cross the light, pull to the right and give him the right of way as an emergency vehicle. He failed to explain his position to the Judge and I won the case at the court.
After the court hearing was over, I talked to the Police Officer about the possibilities of irrational fears as a result of past persecutions by the lawless Ethiopian Empire’s occupation armies where we have been persecuted from childhood to adulthood by the so called Rapid Response Forces of the Imperial Monarchy of Emperor Haile-sellasie or the death and torture squads of the TPLF’s Agazi paramilitary forces. “Namni guyyaa bofa arge alkan wadaroo dheessa” jedha Oromoon. It is like saying, “A person who has seen a snake during the day gets scared of a rope and runs away during the night.” The very friendly Police Officer was laughing and he helped me get out of a complex building by showing me directions because there was nothing personal here. He was just trying to do his job, enforcing the law, because laws are obviously made for a reason. That is why we need law enforcers for our own good in a democratic country.
It was a recent memory and we were watching on television when the TPLF regime was showing us mass graves of the Red Terror. It is a customary practice of the Abyssinian regimes to demonize and dehumanize their predecessors to get acceptance from the people they want to rule with an iron fist until they descend to same autocratic culture.
I also know a public health professional who said he has seen mass executions of the Oromo people of Odaa Bultum, Harerghe Region of Oromia, by the Dergue regime, once at Gurawwaa and the second time in the city of Harar. He said, “The Kebele administrators were forcing the residents of the city to come out and watch the mass executions so that the rest would be intimidated and refrain from fighting the regime.”
I was just trying to understand the motives the two Marxisi-Leninist Ethiopian regimes and Orville Schell wonderfully explains as follows: ‘How could victims, who have themselves been so wronged, become so complicit in their own incrimination, punishment, and downfall? Through the expectation that “criticism and self-criticism, ‘gimgamaa,’ would right the balance, the Chinese Communist Party managed to initiate a process that finally drew victims into psychological persecution of themselves.”
‘With incredible lucidity, Kundera described how this process worked on well-meaning people, especially those who aspired to be good, i.e., loyal revolutionaries and Party stalwarts:
“All their lives they had entirely identified themselves with the Party,
“he wrote. “When suddenly it became their persecutor, they agreed like Joseph K. [the anti-hero in Kafka’s The Trial,]’to examine their whole lives, their entire pasts, down to the last details’ to find the hidden offense, and, in the end, to confess to imaginary crimes.”~ Introduction to What Orwell Didn’t Know.
I Said “Oromo First” in 1988
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”~ President Barack Obama. It is good to forget about his politically motivated remarks about Ethiopia’s “democratically elected government.” Ijoollee Abbaa Gadaa have already said, Prezidaant Obaamaan Polotikaa isaatti immoo ka’e!”
Those who had the chance to have access to college education were mostly from the Macha Tulama region of Oromia due to the deliberate and intentional political and structural marginalization of the Oromo people in general and the Muslim Oromo Communities in particular.
Due to such deliberate and discriminatory educational policies, we didn’t have people who had the intellectual capacity of Jamal Ibrahim, Aliye Geleto, Jawar Mohammad, Babsa Tula, Hamza Wario, Awol Alo, Mohammad Adamo, Nagessa Oddo Dube and the rest from Eastern, Southern and South Western Oromia while we were in college.
There were only about 2-3% of girls while I was in the elementary school and we didn’t have the likes of Kulani Jalata, Dehabe Abdella, Tigist Gamme, Boontuu Ittaanaa, Aisha Ali, Toltu Tufa, Gifti Paulos, Amane Badhaso, Seenaa Jimjimoo, Nijaat Hamza, Jalanne Gammada, Dammitu Argo and the likes while we were in college. That discriminatory educational policy was responsible for creating gender inequality and the human development gap is still very visible in our community even today.
Due to the assimilation policies of the Abyssinian regimes, we didn’t have the likes of Tsegaye Ararsa, Tadiyos Abdisa, Eyob Bay’issa and the rest who fluently speak Amharic and even use it effectively to advocate for the Oromo people. The rest who had a three syllabus names such as Abbabaa, Ayyaalaa, Baqqalaa, Bayyanaa, Kabbadaa, Zannabaa, Dabbabaa, etc…were only speaking Amharic and they seldom reveal their middle or last name to conceal themselves and avoid the dehumanization and humiliation psychological violence and ethnocide against the Oromo people. As a result, it was difficult to differentiate them from Abyssinians except those who had accents. It was really very hard to know that they were even Oromos.
If the assimilation campaigns were not stopped by the courageous actions and sacrifices of the brave daughters and sons of Oromia, Afan Oromo, the Oromo language and the rich cultural heritages in the Gadaa System and the Siiqqee Institutions could have been destroyed and vanished into thin air as in most parts of Wallo and Finfinne regions of Oromia.
I had abundant options either to flee the country and live in exile or shut up my mouth and live my own life or succumb to servitude like many others. Some gullible Oromos do not even realize that Ethiopian Airlines has always been an Abyssinian flag carrier that had discriminatory policies against the Oromo people and other marginalized nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire.
If you didn’t ever hear about the story of a ground technician who was working at the Motor Pool Department of Ethiopian Airlines who was an Oromo and a member of the Jehovah Witnesses, who are known as, “One of the most peaceful people on Earth,” but who was denied a permit identity card that could give him access to Bole International Airport terminal simply because of his ethnicity, you might not have known how discriminatory that flag carrier is. Although he might have thought that no getting into politics would be much safer, as a result of a standing policy of discrimination against his ethnicity, he was forced to inadvertently leave his career and flee his country against his will to escape persecution like everyone of us who were involved in political advocacy to change the status quo. I was told about that story by other Ethiopian Airlines employees and I had the chance to meet him in person when he came to the United States of America and sought help on his asylum application.
Another Oromo who was also one of the former employees of Ethiopian Airlines and who is a member of the Jehovah Witnesses and who asked to be anonymous wrote, “Thank you for sharing the experience. It is a known fact that same was true that there has been suppression of human rights and violations at all level of the so called management, which well can be described as mismanagement, as you well know from your own experiences. As one college Professor was referring to the art of management that he is not sure whether it is an art managing or damaging. The Bible, God’s word, refers to it as man dominated man to his disadvantage.” They used to tease at our Oromo names and his name was also in that list.
It was such magnitude of human rights violations and discrimination against us that have forced our youth, Qarree and Qerroo, to unite against our oppressors and make a massive protest against tyranny and authoritarian dictatorship where Tewelde Gebremariam, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ethiopian Airlines, who was our junior, is more favored as a first class citizen with a special “management access gate” to the carrier’s head quarters simply because he is from Adwa Region of Tigray and an Oromo from Chancho, who is only few miles away from Bole International Airport was denied access to the terminal and was forced to live in exile,
Tulluu Madan is an editor and contributor to Ayyaantuu News Online and one of the Founding Members of Madda Walaabuu Media Foundation.