By | December 22, 2018


To be or not to be, Hamlet’s dilemma but to speak or not speak, Seenaa’s dilemma trying to say my two pieces in a society that seems to shy away from the truth

By Seenaa Jimjimo, December 20, 2018

From FILE: Seenaa Jimjimo, President of Coalition of Oromo Advocates for Human Rights and Democracy, testifies at the US House Subcommittee on Africa, Global health, Global Human Rights and Intentional Organization, March 9, 2017

Many times, I get conflicted in speaking the bare truth vs. the truth my people want to hear. I feel like we get a big round of applause when we say something that appeases a certain segment of our society or on certain topics, but I am afraid if we dare to go to the other side, we will get hammered for being traitor or even regionalist. Anyway, below I will cover three important topics: the western view of Abyi (Oromo) leadership, unspoken truth within us and ODP. Read until the end before you go bananas on what I wrote. 😊

So, one of the most frequent questions I get from interested Americans is that Oromo are displacing other Ethiopians, especially since two months ago after the return of ABO. This question often comes out of concern. One, the US government and friends want to be certain they will not repeat the same mistake they made in 1991-92. Two, they want to help transform Ethiopia into a democratic nation. Third and more importantly, their colleagues or friends are painting a dark picture of Abiy’s leadership. This fresh concern is, Oromo are displacing others from Oromia (when I say Ethiopians, I am mainly referring to a particular group). Fourth and finally, the west just like the east or any other country has their own agenda and interest.

Ethiopia

For some, I think basic history is necessary to clarify how, when and where the word Ethiopia came. Establishing basic facts will help us understand the context between Ethiopians and nations within her current border. The name Ethiopia came about in the 1930s. The word Ethiopia is derived from the Greek word of aithiopia (from the two words aitho, “I burn”, and ops, “face”), and it means a burned face. Currently, the Ethiopian government is structured in a federal parliamentary system and divided into nine regional states based on ethnic lines. Since there is no deep historical tie to this name (Ethiopia), it should be okay not to praise this name or replace if needed (my secret inner circle speaking).

The current state of Ethiopia is home to over 80 ethnics. If one travels to Amhara region, one will see at least 90 plus % ethnic Amharas. If one travels to Somali, Sidama, Tigray or any other region, it is the same. However, if one goes to Oromia, one will see predominately Oromo but mostly in the rural side and a minimum of 2.5-3 million ethnic Amhara alone resides in Oromia. This is roughly 7-8% of the entire population. In every corner of Oromia city, one will find Amhara and other nationalities. Is it because Oromia and Oromo so attractive and safe havens? Yet, time and again certain group feel unsafe and say they are being displaced. What about the absence of Oromo in other parts of Ethiopia? Perhaps is Ethiopia too unsafe for Oromo? I will let you answer it.

Displaced (IDP)

Let’s take another example, when conflict arose between Oromo and Somalis in the east, millions of Oromo were displaced. Today those displaced are scattered throughout Oromia. They are called internally displaced people (IDP) or a fancy word for a refugee. Oromo in Oromia are refugees in millions who are forgotten by everyone. On the contrary, let’s take another incident, in September 2018 about 3,000 groups of people got displaced over a conflict instigated by groups (non-Oromo) for purely political gain. Significant vocal groups of people arose to protest for political purpose. They arranged camera crews and magnified the suffering of those affected and demanded the removal of Abiy’s administration. Yet, immediately the government provided shelters and protection.

One should ask themselves is it fair? Oromo have no protection anywhere in Ethiopia except in Oromia. Oromo in any other regions can be killed and displaced in millions any moment, and the solution is to bring them back to Oromia and give in to territorial demand. However, when other ethnic groups are displaced, they too are brought back to Oromia, in some cases land is given by removing Oromo farmers. Is Oromia an empty space common or fair ground to all nationality but not Somali or Tigray region? As Oromo what should the response be? I will leave this for each of us to answer.

Amhara

It is easy to conclude Amhara, and other ethnic groups are safer in Oromia than Oromo in Oromia living in the border area. These are not just merely an opinion but backed by facts. When Oromo in east, south, and west were being displaced in millions and killed in hundreds, other ethnic groups including those doing the displacing were living in peace in Oromia. In fact, in many cases with government assurance for their protection. So, how can one with right mind draw a reasonable conclusion Oromo are displacing others. If Oromo did not retaliate when their kind was at harm, when would Oromo retaliate? The answer is never. Oromo are peace-loving and God-fearing people in their tradition. Sanctity of human life and protection for the weakest in the society is the backbone of their Gadaa tradition.

To my fellow Americans who are worried about Oromo displacing another ethnic group, all you have to do is look at the facts. Rather than take my words to ask who got displaced from where and why. As the embassies in Ethiopia. Also, I ask Ethiopians to ask yourselves where your parents or grandparents come from and what happened to those indigenous, landowners who were there before they arrived?  Ask yourself how many Oromo prosper in your region? Forget history look in your soul and ask yourself where were you, what did you say when millions of Oromo displaced recently? How would you feel if that happened in your region to your people? Would you like to see your fellow Amhara, Tigre being called IDP and placed in refugee camps?

To speak or not to speak, the challenge within some of us. The silence of the Oromo elite, the partial/unspoken truth

Our biggest problem lies within us. We (Oromo) are our worst enemy. For the most part, we are here because of what we did to ourselves. It is a fact that certain major events, and western interference did play a decisive role for the 19th-century colonial quest, but I believe we are the source of our hole. We are the traitors that sold our kind. So, there should be no surprise or concern where we should look for our problem or solution. Look no further than within ourselves. The answer lies not in our neighbors or beneath or above us but within all of us. I think I said it is enough so allow me to tell you how I draw this conclusion.

In recent years, I have been lucky to interact with many intellectuals and heroes including some of the very people who were part of an early movement in OLF struggle. Many of them told me what they knew and what went wrong for the prolonged OLF struggle. I asked all of them why don’t you speak out in public or write about it. Almost all would say it is not worth it and it will create more problem than a solution. My question for them and others is, how can we learn from the past if we are unable or unwilling to be open about what went wrong and why? If we cannot visit the past (mistakes) and converse about it, how can we prevent from repeating it? I don’t think we can. As the old saying goes, those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. I know the most important conversation we can have is about the future, but if we are unable to be candid with each other, the past is certain to hunt us.

The value of truth

The unwillingness, to be honest, is not only something I heard from others but something I will attest too as well. Years ago when I published my book, I faced numerous attacks because I dare to speak the truth. Even though this is a learned behavior but such a culture needs a serious discussion. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had once said that our lives began to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. Honesty and history matter to all of us and it should. For the sake of Oromumma and for a society that abides by Saafuu, we must end the code of silence. Remember our silence makes us complacent. Dishonesty and the normalization of lies are like cancer that will slowly eat the host.

Organization code of silence

On the other hand, some of our organization has become a haven for individuals to attack group, certain in Oromia region. Time and again, we see these members and leaders go after group with total impunity setting standard for bigotry. We must remember when an organization fails to condom bad behavior, the attacked group wonder if the whole team feel the same way. The unwillingness and inability of taking action against bad actors show two major problems within the organization. One, there is an inferiority complex; therefore, the scapegoat is by dehumanizing the others. Two, it creates profound hatred between groups. Tolerance of such culture will eventually produce deeper hostility, mistrust and lasting impact on a generation to come.

Therefore, it is important organization hold individuals accountable for their bad deeds just as much as praise them for good work. An organization must be the first to condemn and take actions against bad actors. Meaning, that individuals must be held accountable for his action so others will learn from it. It is only through serious and tangible action we can stop and possibly deter others from using the public platform to create lasting resentment between and/or within our society. Let’s us remember organization has a moral duty to hold leaders to a higher standard.

The culture of worshiping individuals

While on organization and code of silence topic, I think we must stop a culture of worshiping individuals. We must also stop a culture of despising someone because he or she made a mistake. We must be humane and civilized when we go after each other for a bad deed. As the Oromo saying goes, sa’a abbaan gaafa cabse ormi ija jaamsa, jedhu. How we treat each other will have a significant impact on how others treat us. Let us be kind and respectful to each other. Let us not cry and praise someone after they depart this earth. We should celebrate their work and effort for making our struggle that much better.

Remember, the enemy that doesn’t know you cause you no harm. It is the lover that you sleep with; you live with, that knows your secret, that knows your weakness will hurt you the most. So, rather than looking outward for our problem and solution elsewhere let us take a deeper look in our soul. It is where the truth lies.

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