The Territories Surrounding Finfine and Evil Master Plan
By Worku Gadissa, this article was first published on July 16, 2017
This paper was first presented at OSA Annual Conference in DC. 2015. In current Ethiopian politics as in the past there is a great deal of disinformation propaganda about lands on periphery of Finfine. The hottest current issue is the new draft legislation to determine Oromo’s special interest on Finfine and surrounding Oromia Regions. In the first place TPLF has no legitimacy to give or deny any land to Oromo. I ask you not to be distracted from your struggle by the gimmick malicious and misleading Woyane propaganda. We are not dying for good will justice, gursha or frifari laws created to calm down the Qeerro Revolution. “Freedom is taken, never given”. “Bilisummaan dhiigaa malee hindhuftu”. Although the main theme is about the land surrounding Sheger the paper provides a brief information about land ownership during Menelik’s rule. It also tells the life and suffering of those people forced to abandon their ancestral lands. I want all Oromo to know that past and latest TPLF plan is nothing other than a Trojan horse hidden battle with full conspiracy and racially based plan.
A lot has been said and written about the territories surrounding Sheger/Finfine and the evil Master Plan. I want to add to the story in brief from different prospective to the tragedy and suffering of farmers dispossessed of their ancestral lands. This article tells in brief the history of land ownership by successive Ethiopian rulers from Menelik to the present day regime. The Oromo farmers on the periphery of Finfine have no land right as citizen of the country, justice, dignity and human right.
I was born and lived from the front line of the battle ground against the New Master Plan where people living in those regions are under constant danger of eviction, arrest and killing.
I am going to use Sheger or Finfine interchangeably.
The City of Finfine/Sheger is the integral part of Oromia and is the actual place where present day “Fl-whoha” is situated. Menelik transferred his residence from Ankober [Kara Akoo near Debre Berhan] to Entoto [Tulluu Xiixa] and then moved down to present day Menelik Palace [Tulluu Diimtuu]. Before the conquest of Menelik the surrounding farmers used to bring their cattle once a year and make them drink and soak into hot spring water. The geothermal hot spring water has many health benefits that it prevents and treats several types of cattle diseases. Also the mineral water has healing property for human being in bathing.
The New Master Plan has two faces:-
Face A – includes vast regions of up to 50 km radius from Sheger/Finfine and according to the plan some 30 towns and 17 regions [woredas] are going to be amputated from Shoa Oromia and annexed to Sheger/Finfine.
The main towns and counties “Woredas” included in the plan:-
North: Sululta, Chancho, Muloo
North-East: Sandaffaa, Lega-Xafo, Aleltu, Shano
South: Akakii, Dukem, Bishoftu, Mojo
South-West: Laftoo, Furri, Sebeta, Alemgana
North-West: Gefersa, Burayuu, Holeta, Ejere [Addis Alem]
I was born and grow up in Chancho, 40 km. from Sheger and my parents lived in serfdom under feudalism. I also lived in Holeta and completed my high school in Bishoftu. I came from the front line of the battle ground against the New Master Plan. Today people living in those regions are under constant danger of eviction and arrest.
Face B – Plan B are towns and regions for future expansions. The grand strategic ambition is to annex an enormous land that stretches from Finfine to Fiche – Shanoo – Adama – Woliso – Ambo. Many people including the Oromo themselves do not understand really the agenda behind the expedition. The plan is that whole Showa Oromia is swallowed up and becoming one Federal State under Addis Abeba.
The plan is not new at all, as successive Ethiopian rulers from Menelik to present day regime has been pursuing a systematic program of land grabbing and making the Oromos poor and landless. There was an attempt by Eng. Haile Georgis Mayor of Finfine during Haile Silase’s rule to annex and expand Addis Abeba up to Assela.
Since, EPRDF. came to power, displacement of Oromo framers from their ancestral land have increased rapidly. Each year thousands of Oromo farmers from surrounding Finfine are evicted and displaced by force from their farmlands with little or without compensation. Huge tracts of lands are distributed to private individuals, local and international investors. Today land in Oromia belongs to TPLF and Oromos are aliens and TPLF tenants.
Menelik Land Proclamation Act of 1909 in brief:-
Siso lemengist [a third of land to government]
Siso lekedash [a third to church]. Church was one of the symbols of exploitation and suppression.
Siso legebar [a third to serfdom]. Feudal tenant
There was also three governorship and taxation systems of land depending on the submission to the conquest of Menelik:-
Yerist Hager = Full ownership of land, mainly the northern Amhara/ Tigray regions and land in the south given to Neftegnas
Yegebar Hager = Land where the Oromo rulers make no resistance and surrendered and who had special status to land ownership.
Yebariya Hager = [Slave Land] Those fought against Menelik but defeated and becomes slaves. They were given native status and maximum punishment with taxation.
The Shoa Oromia regions surrounding Sheger/Finfine was under siege for more than 120 years and the real and first “Neftegna” serfdom started there. It was customary and status symbol for the princes and feudal lords and high officials to have at least one or more gashas of land as close as possible to Sheger. Of all Oromia regions Shoa was 90% “gebar maret” and under the feudal control. People living in those regions were economically exploited, administratively oppressed, socially marginalized and culturally stigmatized. All provincial governors of the states [teklay gizat, awraja and woreda and other governmental administrative positions were held by non- Oromo.
Haile Silasse followed the footsteps of Menelik and there was hardly any difference between them in land ownership.
Prior the 1974 Derg Revolution as said above more than 90 percent of the lands surrounding Sheger was owned by Neftegnas.
The 1974 Land Proclamation Act by Derg ended old “gebar” system and introduced the new Villagization project.
After Haile Silasse over thrown and comrade Mengistu took power the expectancy and the aspiration of the most citizens, particularly the Oromo were sky-high, but things gradually began to reverse to the old system of king period. Derg regime used the false development “Villagization program” to reverse the land act. Villagization was a vicious plan just like EPRDF. Master Plan, and mainly targeted Oromia. Tens of millions of rural inhabitants forcefully evicted from their homes together with their cattle and resettled into concentration camps or so called villages. Most of the people and the media are ignorant about the enormous crime Derg caused to the Oromo people by Villagization program. (OSA. Presentation 2009)
Every time new Ethiopian ruler, comes to power the first thing it wants is to control Oromo land. There is popular old saying “atintachinen keskisen demachinen afesen yakenanwen hager”
The present TPLF regime has similar slogan “Demachinen afesen yagengewn siltan manabatu yiteykenal” meaning, “who can dare to question the authority that we acquired through our struggle?”
On the contrary, the truth of the matter is the biggest majority of those who fought in major wars, Adwa and Matchew and empire building wars were the Oromo.
In the guerrilla resistance war against Italy the majority were Oromo. Furthermore, during Haile Sellasse and Derg rules, out of ten men in uniform six or more were Oromo. Someone said that in Sahle Desert Eritrea, 70% of the dry bones lying on the ground are majority Oromo. And yet, the Ethiopian ruling class in their shameless pride and ignorance, portrayed themselves as the legitimate land owners in Oromia. They cry and boast for assimilation, homogenization and centralization of the empire building.
Believe it or not and to set the history record straight, what this means is that more Oromo have died than all Amharas and Tigrians added together. During wars the Oromos are on battle front while Amharas sat on their mules (bequlo) stay at the back line giving command and singing patriotic songs “akaki zeraf”. There is a true saying in Amharic,” Ethiopia, mongnesh telala, yemotelish kerto yegedelesh bela”. Which roughly translated as: [You fool Ethiopia! you reward your killers, rather than those who die for you!”
Throughout history the Abysinian ruling class has the automatic right to take away lands from the Oromo, because of false and vain glory they claim. As soon as they have taken away our land they have taken away our identity of Oromumma! All these raises interesting questions. What have we done wrong?
Since the EPRDF regime took the helm of power, displacement of Oromo farmers from their ancestral land have increased rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of Oromo farmers surrounding Finfine were evicted by force from their ancestral lands, without compensation or with only token amount of payment. Their homes are destroyed, farmlands are taken, property are confiscated, trees, backyard vegetables and fruits abandoned. Every year thousands of poor farmers evicted and pushed away until they do not have where to go. They were denied any land right, even a substitute land to build their new homes. They say history repeats itself and what happened to our ancestors during Menelik is happening today in different style but same substance. It is a 180 degree turnaround to old feudal system of land ownership.
Land expropriated from local Oromo population is given freely to victorious Woyane fighters as did Menelik to Naftegnas. Land is leased to investors or distributed to ruling class groups, high ranking army officials, party supporters and business oligarchy. Even loyal Diaspora supporters enjoyed the privilege in Oromo land looting.
The eviction of the innocent farmers and land looting is carried under duress, corruption, bribery and with crimes and felony. Land sale is “cash-cow” to the government officials, party members, party supporters, high ranking army officers, business oligarchy. Furthermore, land is used to attract or buy party supporters and members and many getting rich and mega millionaires at the expense of Oromo farmers.
What are the primary goal of the Master Plan?
There are five main prone strategies for the grand design of this plan:-
Although the primary goal of the master plan is land, the annexation and separation from the rest of Shoa Oromo region have something far beyond land alone. Finfine has changed significantly and to cope with rapid changing conditions, and population explosion and development program, the city needs more lands for the growth. But, in order to expand the city, hundreds of thousands of inner city dwellers were purposely removed and resettled on the periphery of Sheger. There are now vast areas of empty lands in the inner city circle of Addis Abeba waiting for sale.
One of the elements of defining the existence of a nation is by its language. Due to forced assimilation and racial intimidation Afan Oromo is dying in big cities and towns of Oromia. Once those regions annexed to Finfine, Amharic is going to be administrative language and the schools are going to be thought in Geez-alphabet instead of Qubee. Oromo experiences have long been ignored and even actively suppressed and as a result, there is rapid decline of Afan-Oromo speakers across regions bordering Finfine. The anti-Oromo preachers always give lies to the number of Oromo [20%] residents in Finfine. There is misinformation propaganda, an attempt trying to keep the Oromo ethnic composition as low as possible. It is true that most young generation do not speak Afan Oromo but that does not mean that they are not Oromo. Believe it or not more than 40% of Finfine residents are Oromo. It is also a known fact that almost all indigenous original Oromo names were baptized and christened and given Amhara names. It is amazing that Italian names are still in use while Oromo names were changed. [For the names change see end notes from Tabor Wame book “yewogena dirsetochina ye tarik ewnetawoch” Italian names still in use:- Merkato, Piyassa, Kezanches, Popolare. All the Oromo names were replaced except: – Gulele, Kolfe, Bole, Yekaa, Qebenaa, etc. Due to marginalization, discrimination in administration and to fit into the political structure and lessen the racial stigma and taboo the majority of the Oromo living in Finfine and surroundings have changed their personal names. The end game is destroying the language and social bond structure and institutional fabric of the Oromo people.
- CULTURAL HERITAGE
Cultural practices form the backbone of the healthy society. The injustices of land and resource dispossession are so disruptive and can affect, communities to uphold their traditional life. When people are evicted by force and abandoned their ancestral land, they are deprived of their memory, way of life and culture. The “adbar / shrine” will be destroyed and forgotten. The result is their entire perspective on life changes. It is simply a cultural genocide.
Perhaps the broadest and the deepest goal for the separation and annexation of these regions from the rest of Shoa Oromia to Finfine is for the greater economy. The territories surrounding Shger/Finfne is where most of Ethiopia heavy and small industries are located. These factories provide the financial and economic foundation for the Woyane dictatorial regime. Four cement factories, two hydro electric powers, several tanneries, food processing plants large scale military industrial complexes, chemical plants, textile factories, two water supply dams, etc. Eighty percent (80%) flower growing agriculture for export are also situated on the periphery of Shger. Yes, there is huge development and transformation going on, roads are built, new villas and condominium coming up on the new stolen lands, but development by who and for whom? The government does not want to share or give the huge tax revenue coming from these regions to Oromia. The so called Joint development with Federal Government is typical Habesha deception and hoax.
- POLITICAL REPRESENTATION
Other intended purpose is for the political representation in regional and parliament elections. While the Oromo are forced and removed from their ancestral land, new comers moved in mass to take their land. The new comers settled in big cities and towns in Oromia generally have higher economical level and political power.We should remember what happened to Chafe Oromia in 2002. The Oromo Administrative Headquarter was kicked out of Addis and transferred to Adama. In principle, Addis Abeba is the capital city of Oromia. It is also the seat of Federal Government of the country. The Head of African Union (AU) is located in Addis Abeba and some consider it as the capital of Africa. The real irony is that Addis Abeba is considered as the capital of Africa but not the capital city of Oromo people? What a joke!
Addis Abeba is the city:-
That plunders lands from indigenous farmers and transfer to the oppressors,
Addis Abeba expands while Shoa Oromia shrinks
The city that denied office to Metcha Tulema Association
The city that relocate Chaffe Oromia from Addis Abeba to Adama.
The city that has passed false criminal charges against our children guilty of terrorism.
The city banning Afan Oromo and use of Qubee
The city that make Woyane rip wealth while the Oromo are impoverished
The city of segregation and discrimination of Oromo nation.
So, then we are witnessing the not only land grabbing but campaign to totally destroy Oromo culturally, economically, politically and in all every ways possible.
There are other important questions behind the Master Plan.
What happen to those displaced people and who lost their land?
Where did they go?
What does it exactly mean to be victims of land grabbing?
The Oromo around Finfine do not have the right of citizenship. They have no land ownership rights.
Many were beaten, intimidated and even imprisoned for opposing not to leave their homes. They left behind trees, backyard vegetables and fruits. They destroyed their houses barns and used wooden ploughs as fire wood and disappeared.
The poverty brought upon these people is incalculable and devastating. They lost everything farm/grazing land, homes, property and unemployment. These people have depended for generations on farming and pasturing in order to meet their subsistence and income needs. The most striking is that they were even denied any land to build their new homes.
The majority blended into rural landscape or moved to fringes of Sheger, living in slum residence inhuman condition or living in deprivation.
The large numbers are drawn into oppressive working conditions, like stone quarry, working as “kooli” and daily laborer in construction works. Men become guards at new villas built on their lands. The women become house maids. Many young girls took up prostitution or become bar girls.
The Oromo are falling behind Tigreans and Amharas in education, hospitals, road building and all other developments. Income inequality and concentration of wealth is too big. Even many minority nationalities are doing better than Oromo. More than 70% those completed high schools in Oromia are unemployed and more than 45% college graduates are without work
The Woyane land lease had transformed these regions into condominium and luxury villas and the city is flourishing and from their prospective they call it development but development for whom and by whom?
It is evident from these statements that the evil Master Plan did not contribute to the welfare or socio-economic development of the indigenous population. The plan increased malnutrition and poverty. It only brought poverty and misery to the people.
The history is full of attempts by TPLF rulers to annihilate the Oromo people economically, culturally, and politically, in all and every way possible
The new master plan is only the tip of iceberg. But all across Oromia we are seeing a relentless and wide ranging land grabbing and make Oromia shrink.
Other strategy is the curving out certain regions from Oromia and giving or annexing with neighboring states. There is a wide ranging assault in all fronts to take away land from Oromia.
Raya Azebo–.separated from Oromia and divided between Tigray and Wollo
Assosaa….……absorbed into Benishangul.
Dire Dawa…..become an autonomous city and administered jointly with Somalia. Large areas of Hararge and Bale bordering Ogaden are deliberately ceded to the Ogaden Somalia.
Moyale……. Jointly administration with Somale.
City of Harar ……. surrounding 11 counties [gebere mahiber] annexed to city of Harrar and administered under Adere.
Furthermore, there is tension and conflicts with neighboring states and often leading to serious armed clashes. This is apparent in Hararge and Bale where armed Somali tribes supported by government purposely and attack the Oromo farmers and take their lands and cattle.
In the South the Gedeo people was given a self rule administration and there is constant boarder conflicts and clashes with Gujji tribes men.
Sallale………. June 2015 eight counties [gebere mahiber] were separated from Sallale/Oromia and transferred to Gojam/ Bahir-Dar administration. Why? Because they are Amhara speaking, and do not want to be administered or be part of Oromia.
The TPLF in holy alliance with special “Neftegna” groups redraw new district lines, all aimed at reducing Oromo land. They have meticulously for bigger political agenda for the consolidation of whole Oromia.
Furthermore, mass immigration and resettlement from other regions mainly from north are carried out systematically.
Also, do you know that 5 km of land on both sides of any road belongs to the Federal Government and not to Oromia administrative zone?
It should be noted that the contrast of land ownership in the North and Oromia is amazing. The land in the North is under the command of the citizens there. In Tigray and Amhara regions, land leasing and grabbing is not an issue at all. Tigray is for the Tigrians, Gojam is for Gojamoch,….. But Oromia is for all!
There is wide ranging assault in all fronts to shrink Oromia. The anti-Oromo elements and Ethiopiawenet extremist groups in the government are purposely and systematically chipping off land from Oromia. As in the feudal past there is injustices and inequality in land ownership between Oromia and North part of the empire.
While other regional states are enlarged and getting bigger the state of Oromia is getting smaller and diminishing. Oromia is just like a private playground to our ruling class, and Oromo can`t decide on their land, and someone has to decide for them.
As one TPLF official said “you talk that you are the majority, let me make it clear that we are going make you a minority!” The power to decide on land issues and other matters is given solely to the rulers and we Oromo are living by good will of TPLF.
The Ambo University Student Peaceful Demonstration
In May 2014 University Students in Ambo and Higher Institutions in all of Oromia took to the streets for peaceful demonstration against the illegal annexation of 30 towns and 17 woredas to Finfine. Brutal forces used to crush the students and local inhabitants. Thousands students all over Oromia were expelled from universities others thrown into jails and disappeared.
Anyone who may intend to resist the implementation of the master plan will be crushed and destroyed.
The regions around Finfine had been a battle ground with Ethiopian rulers since King Sahle Silasse, grandfather of Menelik. Sahle Sillase was a notorious king who conducted horrific genocide. He slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Oromo in Salale, Gimbichu, Muloo and Sullultaa. One of the most horrific genocide in the history of Oromo is the massacre that took place at Badii region between Muloo and Sullulta, where the entire male born population were massacred and wiped out, similar to Anole and Chalanko. Even those who offered no resistance at all were killed without mercy and that is why the place is called “Badii” meaning total annihilation.
During Haile Silases’s rule, his son Price Mekonen, took two gasha of land in Sululta after chasing away the farmers from their land. The farmers made an appeal to court and after they lost the court case, twenty elderly persons were chosen and sent to Sheger to make their grievances /abetuta to the emperor. The emperor was furious and said “how dare you accuse our son in court!” All the twenty representatives were given jail sentences and sent to prison.
In 2012 and 2013 the Sululta farmers who wanted to show their grievances by peaceful demonstration were beaten, arrested and thrown into jail and with false accusations of being OLF supporters.
What the Sululta farmers asked was simple democratic question of not to take away their land by force. If they take their land then to get fair price and substitute plot of land to build their future homes.
It is a long history of exploitation and injustices and ethnic hatred purposely imposed on Oromo farmers.
The Oromo people of Showa never accepted the Habesha ruling power over their territory.
The conquest of Shoa was not easy for Menelik. To expand his empire he had to torture and kill many Finfine Leaders [Balabats] one by one.
Here are list of the names of tribal rulers refused and resisted Menelik’s rule and paid heavy prices in their lives.
Name Ruler of [Balabat] Method of death
Tufa Muna Gulalle fighting enemy
Abeebe Tufaa Yekaa poisoned
Merewa Lume Lafto killed by lashing
Shumu Mannaa Kebenna died in prison
Gurara Lataa Centeral Finfine tortured and killed
Kajelaa Doyo Gafarsa killed after arrest
Amente Jaallata Kolfe killed by starving
All Finfine balabats/rulers who refused and fought King Menelik were purged, poisoned, lynched, locked up and killed. In spite of his glory and honor, even Gobena Dache who masterminded the invasion of Oromia was rewarded death by poisoning.
We must remember our fallen heroes for their sacrifice is the source of hope and determination to continue the Oromo struggle.
We live in Menelik shaped Ethiopia in ways many people may not imagine. As all its predecessors the current dictatorial regime in Ethiopia is the worst of all in its destruction of Oromummaa.
The Evil Master Plan that separates big chunk of land from the rest of SHOA OROMIA and annexing to Finfine is a calculated vicious scheme with racial or ethnic intention. Land robbing is the continuation of century old plan by the Abyssinian rulers.
New Master Plan will not benefit the Oromo, it is a Trojan-horse, viciously used to economically impoverish the Oromo farmers, destroying their language, cultural heritage and simply Oromo identity. It is a direct copy of Land Expropriation Act of South Africa Apartheid and Bantustan system of rule.
- The goal of the Master Plan is to suppress, minimize and weaken Oromuma.
- The Master Plan is a gimmick plan denying Oromia the income from tax revenue and other socio-economic wealth. Because of Master Plan many Oromo are living in deprivation.
- Land sale is a big business and is a cash-cow to fill the pockets of government officials and members of the party.
- Master Plan is full of corruption, bribery and crime.
- There is huge influx of new settlers and immigrants from other regions to take land from Oromo people
- Master Plan is murdering our farmers and University Students and all those opposing it.
- The Master Plan deprives our people basic human rights and fundamental freedom. In short the Oromo are deliberately marginalized, disempowered, weakened politically and economically and impoverished.
Menelik’s land serf system is gone.
Haile Sillases feudalism is dead.
Mengistu fled the country to Harrare with his vicious resettlement and villagization program.
Mele’s land leasing and land robbing is with us growing rapidly and turning the whole Oromia into Nazi concentration camp. It is worse than any of his predecessors and is marked by supreme cruelty in killing our children.
When they take away your land they take away everything including your Oromumma!
Let those who have eyes, see and those who have ears, hear that a “for sale” hangs over Oromia! Oromo living on the periphery of Sheger have no right to equality, justice, dignity and human rights.
I am asking you all to speak up about the injustices and land robbing by the TPLF terror regime.
Last but not list, I want to thank those individuals and particularly the Advocacy Groups the role they play to bring about justices in Oromia. I want to close this article with quote from Mr. Debashi Mitra [Ayyantuu Feb. 28, 2015] “In Ethiopia they live like animals, relentlessly, hunted down like games, killed at will and incarcerated in mass. No mercy is shown even to the women and children. They are the Oromo the largest ethnic groups, the most marginalized in Ethiopia and arguably one among the most oppressed people on our planet.”
Here are some additional historical names of Sheger :-
Before the conquest of Menelik, Finfine used to be the home of various Oromo clans/tribes; Gumbichu, Gullalee, Abichuu and Ekaa.
Lists of indigenous/original regional Oromo names of Sheger with changed names.
Sources:- Yewugena Dirsetochina, Yemaninet Tiyake by Tabor Wamii
Original Name Changed to
Tulluuu Xiixaa Entoto
Karra Meexxii Gojam Menged
Birbirsa Arada Georgis
Mana Abbichu Ferensay Legasion
Tulluu Daalatii Arat Kilo
Caffee Tumaa Sidist Kilo
Harbuu Irreechaa Ras Hailu Sefer
Mujaa Shiro Meda
Dhaka Boraa 22 Mazoria
Golboo Gofa Sefer
Tulu Diimtuu/Daalatii Menelik Bete Mengest
Garbi Senga Tera
Xaroo Atena Tera
Dachee Gulbaa Adis Ketema
Sululaa Garbi Tekle Haimanot
Boroo Kormaa Gola Mikael
Dabbasoo La gare[ French] Dheekaa Yeka
Laaftoo Nefas silk
Shagar/Finfinne Addis Abeba