Finfinnee and the Truth that the anti-Oromo Extremists Need to Know
ፍንፍኔና ፀረ-ኦሮሞ ፅንፈኞች ሊያውቁዋቸው የሚገቡ ሀቆች
By Tulluu Ayira (PhD), March 3, 2019
The Amhara, under the leadership of Emperor Menilek II, conquered the Oromo in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. They took Oromo lands and turned the people into serfs, belittled their culture and language, and imposed a system of rule that was unfair and unbearable. Their abusive rule provoked protracted resistance, sometimes active and sometimes underground, that eventually contributed to the downfall of the imperial regime in a military coup in 1974. In spite of initial hopes, the military junta became even more brutal in its treatment of the Oromo people provoking another round of armed resistance under the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). In 1991, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) with the support of Western powers and the more organized and stronger Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) entered Finfinnee and assumed the imperial authority. Initially, the TPLF came up with progressive ideas that addressed the political problems and injustices that ravaged the country for over a century. The TPLF came from a peripheral minority group who because of deep crises in the imperial system (including the military regime) succeeded in propelling itself into the center. Like any minority group with a besieged mentality, the TPLF felt insecure and soon turned into a dictatorship with a brutality of untold proportion in the history of the empire and, for that matter, unparalleled anywhere in the twenty-first century. TPLF’s viciousness provoked widespread protests among the Oromo who became its main target. Oromo protests precipitated to the TPLF’s downfall in March 2018.
Following the toppling of the TPLF, the Anti-Oromo extremist Amhara in the diaspora and their mouthpiece, the Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio (Ethsat), opened a barrage of propaganda campaigns against the Oromo people and everything Oromo. The duo supports the returnee Amhara political groups who campaign to take away every gain made by the Oromo since 1991. In the name of Ethiopianism, they have staged relentless campaigns calling for the dissolution of the federal system and with it the right of the Oromo to use their language and develop their culture. Ethsat and the groups it stands for display a fascist-like behavior with an implication that the Oromo should not be allowed to exist and that everything in Oromiya belongs to the Amhara. God knows under what terms they will allow the Oromo to exist should they succeed in controlling the state of Oromiya. My assumption is that they would not even allow the Oromo to exist under any terms. My fear is that they would follow Hitler’s solution for some of the groups in his racial classifications. Having classified humanity into racial hierarchies, Hitler concluded that some groups are “unfit to live on any terms.” Among these were the Jews, Gypsies (Roma), people with disability, Jehovah’s Witnesses and several minorities. Moreover, the whole world knows what happened to them.
When they conquered Oromiya, the ancestors of these groups changed the names of the towns and place names. Their descendants (current anti-Oromo extremists) have never abandoned that mentality and carried the practice to different parts of the world where they settled as the Ethiopian diaspora. Today, we see “little Ethiopia” signs in places frequented by Ethiopians in many US cities. In Washington, D.C., the “9th and U Street was the unofficially designated ‘Little Ethiopia’ because of the many Ethiopian businesses and presence of a large number of the Ethiopian diaspora.” But their demand to officially name the whole neighborhood “Little Ethiopia” in 2005 nearly brought them into a major collision with African Americans. This time their tactic of taking away someone’s land and renaming it faced a fierce opposition from African Americans who like the Oromo of Finfinnee have lived there for many centuries. Unlike the Oromo of Finfinnee, however, the African Americans of U-Street prevailed against displacement by the Amhara. Dominic Charles has succinctly summarized the story as follows. The area was “traditionally African American neighborhood in Northwest. Not all were pleased with the proposal, however. Strong objections came from the African–American community, which had a historic connection to the U Street corridor and Shaw neighborhood. For decades before the  riots, the area had been a cultural center for African Americans, as U Street earned the moniker ‘Black Broadway.’ Many, like retired postal worker Clyde Howard, felt that the Ethiopian newcomers had not yet paid their dues. As he explained to the Washington Post, ‘Where were they during the riots? They’re Johnny-come-lately. What gives them the right? Just because you opened a store?” They have never uttered a word about changing the neighborhood into “Little Ethiopia” or about this misadventure since then. But their attack on the Oromo continued unabated.
An even more bizarre story is their invasion of the twin cities right after Prime Minister Abiy’s visit. In July 2018, many Amhara Ethiopians flocked to Minneapolis to see Dr. Abiy during which they noticed the existence of a large number of the Oromo and Somali. To their disappointment, extremist elements among these Amhara Ethiopians saw streets named for the Oromo and the Somali in Saint Paul (one of the twin cities). In the extremists’ judgement, the Oromo and the Somali do not represent Ethiopia and thus do not deserve streets in their names. They organized what they called “Ethiopia Day Fest” in Minnesota on September 2, 2018, and celebrated with festivities to prove that they are the true Ethiopians. They even requested a street to be named after Ethiopia (who knows by changing Oromo and Somali streets into an Ethiopian Street.) I do not know how much they have succeeded in this venture, but it followed their forefathers’ pattern of grabbing land from owners and giving them Amharic names.
The same ancestors these anti-Oromo extremists signed treaties with the Italians and when they turned against one another, they called upon the Oromo to fight for them. Oromo role decided the outcome of the war at Adwa and Adwa guaranteed the creation of Ethiopia we know today. Under adverse circumstances, the Oromo made significant contributions to the empire that conquered them. Yet, today’s extremists and their mouthpiece unashamedly deny the Oromo their very fundamental rights, existence and ownership of their resources. Moreover, the abuse and provocation have never ceased. In the last four years, the Oromo made a determined resistance to end a close-to 150 years of oppression. At the beginning of 2018, it has become clear that the Oromo were close to bringing the empire to its knees by force, but only halted their march on Finfinnee in March 2018 to give a breathing space for the new premier, Abiy Ahmed. The extremists, however, are exploiting the premier’s slow move to introduce and implement radical policies in an effort to reconcile differences and avert further conflicts. Still, the extremists are losing patience and trying to cleanse the Oromo from Finfinnee. On the eve of the return of leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front on September 5, 2018, they incited a violence in Finfinnee and the adjacent Oromo township of Burayu that targeted the Oromo and their property in Finfinnee. When the mayors of Laga Tafo and Laga Dadi, two other towns adjacent townships, took legal administrate measures against squatters in February 2018, Ethsat and its extremist surrogates turned it into an anti-Oromo propaganda. Meanwhile, they targeted the Oromo Qeerro (youngsters) who died in thousands to remove the TPLF. As if they had not praised them as heroes and liberators from TPLF tyranny, Ethsat and anti-Oromo extremists made the Qeerro their ideal targets labelling them terrorists and unruly hooligans.
In the last six months, these groups have intensified their attacks on the Oromo over the ownership of Finfinnee. As the first step to destroy Oromiya in the post-TPLF period, the groups blatantly argued that Finfinnee is not an Oromo city. Unlike these groups, the Oromo never questioned that Mekele belongs to the Tigre, Gondar and Bahr Dar to the Amhara, Hawasa to the Sidama and Dincha to the Gamo. As if Finfinnee is not enough, the extremists have also laid claim on Jimmaa, Adama, Bushoftu, Naqamte, Ghimbi, Shashamanne and all other towns of Oromiya simply because there are individual Amharas living in them. The excuse is to protect the Amhara but the objective is to take over the towns and dismember the state of Oromiya.
What Ethsat and the anti-extremists need to know is that as the African Americans have historic right to U Street, so do the Oromo to Finfinnee and their other towns. In this matter, the Oromo take note of President John F. Kennedy’s warning to the Soviet Union in his famous speech in Berlin on July 25, 1961 that “We cannot negotiate with people who say ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.’” Everything in Oromiya belongs to the Oromo and they will not negotiate on anything any longer. What would you say if an Oromo fishing squad from Bale comes to Lake Tana to fish?
Let it be crystal-clear that the Oromo will never negotiate on the question of Finfinnee (for that matter on anything that rightfully belongs to them) under any circumstances. First, there has never been any problem between the Oromo and the population of Finfinnee (who come from different ethnic backgrounds). They lived amicably with one another in a mutually respectful and interdependent manner. By the way, most of these anti-Oromo extremists and their Ethsat hatemongers are foreign nationals-coming from the US, UK and several countries-and have no right to determine the fate of Finfinnee or Oromiya. The second, and most important, the extremists and Ethsat people should know is that their home states have not contributed (and are not contributing, as we speak) anything to the livelihood of Finfinnee residents. They have not brought to Finfinnee a grain of teff, a seed of barely, wheat or oat, a bushel of corn, a bean of coffee, no single count of mango, banana, orange, papaya, sugar cane (or any fruit that we see in groceries or Atikilt Tera), a drop of water, milk or honey, a teaspoon of butter and the many spices people use to make their popular stew. You have never carried a piece firewood to the city for cooking or building. Finfinnee has never obtained power supply that could light up a single bulb from Ethsat country. No single milligram of gold for the jewelry shops in Finfinnee, no single piece of marble or granite or bar of iron to build houses in the city originated in Ethsat country. Everything for Finfinnee comes from Oromiya and the south to some degree. You are not helping the people of Finfinnee who have been living amicably with the Oromo people. There has not been any problem between the two peoples in the last 130 years’ of Finfinnee’s existence. You Ethsat and you anti-Oromo extremists, you are the problem. Your extremism pushes the Oromo closer and closer to what you hate to hear, ultimate independence.
 Findley and Rothney, Twentieth Century World History, 7th ed., 223.
 See for instance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ethiopia,_Los_Angeles. I have no problem with people naming their niches after their ethnic group. It is a problem when you take a place by force from its rightful owners and give it your ethnic name.
 Misty Showalter, Inside Washington D.C.’s ‘Little Ethiopia’ http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/10/22/little.ethiopia.washington/index.html
 Dominic Charles, “Claiming a Neighborhood: Shaw and Little Ethiopia”, https://blogs.weta.org/boundarystones/2018/08/14/claiming-neighborhood-shaw-and-little-ethiopia, accessed 3/1/2019
 “Ethiopian Day Fest, September 2, 2018”, https://www.globaltwincities.com/event/ethiopian-day-fest/ (accessed 3/1/2019). I have no objection to their act, they can go anywhere and do whatever they like. But the intention was clearly anti-Oromo.
 John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Address: The Berlin Crisis”, http://www.networker.www3.50megs.com/jfk10.html