Re: wake up and read
Posted By: oromorality In Response To: Re: wake up and read (NB)
Date: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, at 2:58 p.m.
In Response To: Re: wake up and read (NB)
THE COLONIAL EXPERIENCE
Until the last quarter of the 19th century, the Oromo people had been an independent nation. As a sovereign nation, they had developed and used a unique democratic system known as Gada. This system being ubiquitous across the Oromo land had influenced and guided the way of life of the nation in political, economic, and social arenas. It guaranteed respect for political rights, equal economic opportunity, and full participation in all spheres of social milieu for every citizen. As a result, the Oromo people had been among the well-organized and led community of nations that enjoyed freedom, peace, and prosperity for several centuries.
However, by the turn of the 20th century, the Oromo nation lost its sovereignty. For generations, Abyssinian rulers had ambition to conquer and rule the Oromos and other peoples south of Abyssinia. But every venture they made to invade their neighbours had never been easy. They found it quite frustrating and at times humiliating. The Oromo people put up fierce resistance and defended their country often repulsing and inflicting humiliating defeat on the invading army of Abyssinians. This has dashed the aspiration of Abyssinian until the European powers of the time involved in the politics of the region. Such involvement has ultimately altered the balance of power in favour of the Abyssinians. With the material, technical, and moral support of Europeans, the war of colonization that the Abyssinians launched against the Oromo people for years finally succeeded. Consequently Oromia has been annexed and incorporated into the Ethiopian Empire.
To conquer Oromia, the architect of the Ethiopian Empire, Minilik II waged the most vicious war against the Oromo people. In effect, Mililik actually conducted a genocidal war to exterminate the Oromo people. Supplied with modern armaments and guided with the advice of military strategists of European powers, the army of Abyssinia for the first time overran the Oromo defense force. The Oromo fighting force with much less sophisticated weapons was ruthlessly killed by Minilik’s army. Captives were massacred or sold as slaves. The army indiscriminately burned alive the elderly and children they encountered all across Oromia. They terrorized and plundered the Oromo people. Such a wide spread brutal action of the army reduced the once prosperous people to abject poverty. The Oromo people were exposed to war induced famine. As a result of the incessant war of colonization for nearly two decades and famine, historians indicate that Oromia lost about half of its population.
Menelik II, the slave trading Abyssinian king of the nineteenth and twentieth century was responsible for the massacre and disappearance of millions of Oromos, Sidamas, Wolayta, Somalis, and others. He was responsible for the physical and psychological torture of the Arsi Oromos at Anole, where his soldiers chopped off every man’s arm, and every woman’s breast.
“When the people came, they were told to enter the narrow pass one by one. All males who entered were cut off their right hands on orders of Ras Darge. The Shoans (conquerors) tied the hand they cut to the neck of the victim. In the same manner, the right breasts of women were also cut and tied to their necks. As a result everybody who went to Anole … returned by (sic) losing his right hand and (her) breast. This widely known as “Harka Mura Anole” )Abas Haji.
The Oromo people who survived the genocidal war and the generations that followed have experienced the rule of the most anachronistic colonial system ever seen in the history of mankind. Their colonial experience began under the rule of Minilik. This became the beginning of what the Oromos referred to as the Dark Age of their history. Minilik dismantled their democratic and egalitarian system of administration and replaced it with his colonial rule. Under his rule they lost all legal and political rights as a nation. With no rights of any kind, the Oromos became literally items to be owned, bought and sold: slaves.
Establishing garrison towns and stationing colonial army (naftanya) across Oromia, the Oromo political, economic, and social activities were tightly controlled through out the reign of Minilik. With the exception of the colonial collaborators, by decree the Oromo people were denied the right to own properties. Their land was confiscated and their properties were taken as booties. Two-third of the land went to Minilik and his royal families, landlords and churches. The remaining 1/3 was given to the indigenous people who submitted and demonstrated loyalty to the rule of Minilik on conditions that they provide services to settlers, pay taxes, support churches financially and otherwise.
In the cultural front, Minilik outlawed the Oromo cultural practices. He campaigned extensively to denigrate the Oromo culture and promote that of the Amahara. As a result, for the Oromos practicing even their own religion was considered a crime. Their ritual sites and shrines were replaced with Abyssinian churches. To at least spare them from slavery, accepting the Abyssinian religion, moral value and norm became the order of the day. The Amharic language was elevated to the language of court and colonial administration, whereas Afaan Oromo was reduced to a home language. Where he failed to physically eliminate Oromos, Minilik used every conceivable method to obliterate every element that characterizes the Oromo people.
Under the subsequent Abyssinian rulers, the Oromo people in essence experienced the same degree of operation. The change of hands of the rulers changed only the system of operation; making it with time more sophisticated and subtle. Following Minilk, Haile Sellasie ruled the Ethiopian Empire for the longest period of time. For nearly half a century, he entrenched a feudal system that kept the Oromos as servitude. Under the feudal system more settlers were encouraged to head south from Abyssinia and live in the sprouting urban areas. The settlers in such urban settings assumed the role of centralized administration of the colonies. They controlled the life of the indigenous people through running newly established coercive state machinery such as court, police, and army. On the other hand the role of the Oromo peasantry became toiling the land and feeding the growing settlers in Oromia.
Again under Haile sellasie by proclamation the Oromos were forbidden to practice their tradition, custom, and religion. Suppression of Oromo culture and language continued with great intensification. In parallel, the degree of effort put to Amharanization and assimilation of Oromos greatly increased. The degree of assimilation to Amhara culture became one of the criteria for an Oromo to get employment opportunity. Access to modern education was restricted only to the children of naftanyas. When in fact schools were built with the resource and labour of the Oromo people, Oromo children were denied access to school. In summary, the successive Abyssinian rulers robbed the political, economic, and social life of the Oromo people. For more than a century, generations of Oromos went through similar colonial experience. They all suffered from policies of the colonizers geared to alienate them from active involvement in the affair of their nation. The policies include: waging genocidal war on dissidents, systematic confiscation of the Oromo land, resettlement of naftanyas, campaign of obliteration of Oromo culture, prohibition of the development and use of Oromo language, assimilation and Amharanization, deprivation of access to modern education, economic marginalization of the Oromos in all economic sectors.
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