“No man is an island” in Oromia

“No man is an island” is what I associate with Oromo culture. Oromo?! From where?! Oromia! Where?! It’s when I met Dhabesa, a journalist, from Oromia who is now living in Melbourne that I got to understand more about a not-so known country. Dhabesa and the Oromo community which he works with have the great ambition create the internationally recognized state of Oromia. According to Dhabesa, Oromia is a country located on the current Ethiopian territory but in search of government.

© Marion Cabanes – 04/04/2013

© Marion Cabanes – 04/04/2013

Now, why does Oromo culture make me think of this quote from a British metaphysical poet? When Dhabesa confides in me, he shares amazing principles of his culture that are far from the preconceived African-backward ideas and close to our new Western aspirations for a more harmonious world. In their religion “waaqeffannaa”, Oromo people live in harmony with nature. At a child’s birth, a seed is planted in the ground, at death, a tree is put in earth. Any living beings are respected and balance between human beings and nature is fundamental. In Waaqeffannaa there is only one god “Waaqaa” and other creatures including human beings who are connected to their mighty god through spiritual powers. As a young European woman I got particularly interested by the Oromo “Siinqee”, a women’s organisation excluding men which has both religious and political functions. Their customary right allows them to carry out legal actions against perpetrators of women’s rights abuses.

As surprising as it can be, Oromo and American people celebrate Thanksgiving. Now I imagine you raising eyebrows… Really?! How possible?! Unlike the Americans “Irreechaa” (Thanksgiving) is a non-religious celebration to promote a sense of belonging and cultural identity. Most of the Oromo festivals revolve around the survival of their identity despite the oppressive Ethiopian government. Oromo people represent about 40% of the Ethiopian population but for years they have been governed by a sheer minority (3%). In other words, a majority became a minority.

What is it like to fight for your ideas? In 2004 Dhabesa was at that time studying a Bachelor in Foreign Languages and Literature when he was arrested in his graduation year. He was sentenced to three years in prison and at his liberation, the recurring threats of reincarceration persisted. Persecuted, he fled to a Kenyan refugee camp and waited for a safer place. Luckily, the UNHCR sent him and his young children to  Australia in 2009 as he recalls the exact arrival date. Today, not only is he dedicated to build a strong and united Oromo community in Australia but he also fights for his wife to join the rest of the family here.

He is still part of the world of journalism by contributing to the news on the radio and by compulsively reading them. But today he also aims to finish his studies in social services to eventually get a PhD in Social Science. “To work with the community, I want to empower myself and invest in knowledge” he asserts. Community development is at Dhabesa’s heart but he also shares his concerns to see members of the Oromo community being psychologically and
emotionally weakened by the difference of environment. Back at home, “you are a majority and we are culturally and linguistically connected to each other. It’s easier to find support”. Understanding the difficulty in transiting from one habitat to another, Dhabesa puts his energy to orientating Oromo families and filling out the emotional gap. “Link up with your nearest community or anybody to get the chance to ask what to do to move forward. Don’t focus on one option and always look at all the possible options” he advised.

oromo Community

Check this website to see how Oromo people are active in your Melbourne

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35 thoughts on ““No man is an island” in Oromia

  1. […] Source: https://farfromafrica.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/no-man-is-an-island-in-oromia/ […]

  2. dany says:

    Hi,
    If there was any imminent and respected Australian who came very close to championing for the Oromo freedom it was the late Professor Fred Hollows. He was well known and revered by the Eritreans. Because he supported them during their liberation struggle by providing medical services in the liberated areas and publicizing their struggle to the Australian public which resulted in a huge public awareness and support. Prof Hollows was one of the distinguished guests during Eritrea’s celebration of its liberation from the Ethiopian tyranny, the same tyranny that the Oromos are fighting still fighting to gain their freedom just like the Eritreans. One thing I will not forget was what the late Prof. Hollows said during the interview he gave to the Eritrean Radio during that celebration in Asmara in 1992. The late Professor pleaded with the EPLF (the guerrilla that liberated Eritrea) and TPLF (that took control of Ethiopia) “not to forget the Oromos as they were your comrades-in arms.” He went on to say that the “Oromos led by the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) were fighting against the Ethiopia regime just like you were; and now you are lucky that you realized you goals of liberation but the Oromos are still far away from their freedom unless you help them achieve.” His fear for the future of Oromo came true as the TPLF and EPLF betrayed the OLF, waged war on it and forced it to withdraw from the then Ethiopian Transitional Government. As a result, tens of thousands of Oromos have been killed, disappeared and more than 20,000 Oromo political prisoners are held in Ethiopian prisons without any due process of law for just being Oromos who oppose the repression of their people. I know that Mr Thomas Kennelly was a friend of the late Prof Fred Hollows and he was also a friend of Eritrea. He wrote a book entitled The Road to Asmara” which account about the long journey of the Eritrean liberation war. I hope Mr Kennelly would one day show an interest in the Oromo issues and write it.

  3. dany says:

    Expanded version of my above post
    If there was any imminent and respected Australian who came very close to championing for the Oromo freedom it was the late Professor Fred Hollows. He was well known and revered by the Eritreans. Because he supported them during their liberation struggle by providing medical services in the liberated areas and publicizing their struggle to the Australian public which resulted in a huge public awareness and support. Prof Hollows was one of the distinguished guests during Eritrea’s celebration of its liberation from the Ethiopian tyranny, the same tyranny that the Oromos are fighting still fighting to gain their freedom just like the Eritreans. One thing I will not forget was what the late Prof. Hollows said during the interview he gave to the Eritrean Radio during that celebration in Asmara in 1992. The late Professor pleaded with the EPLF (the guerrilla that liberated Eritrea) and TPLF (that took control of Ethiopia) “not to forget the Oromos as they were your comrades-in arms.” He went on to say that the “Oromos led by the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) were fighting against the Ethiopia regime just like you were; and now you are lucky that you realized you goals of liberation but the Oromos are still far away from their freedom unless you help them achieve.” His fear for the future of Oromo came true as the TPLF and EPLF betrayed the OLF, waged war on it and forced it to withdraw from the then Ethiopian Transitional Government. As a result, tens of thousands of Oromos have been killed, disappeared and more than 20,000 Oromo political prisoners are held in Ethiopian prisons without any due process of law for just being Oromos who oppose the repression of their people. I know that Mr Thomas Keneally(another imminent Australian well known for his book Schindler’s Ark which was made into a movie ‘Schindler’s List) was a friend of the late Prof Fred Hollows and he was also a friend of Eritrea. He wrote a book entitled “The Road to Asmara” which account about the long journey of the Eritrean liberation war. I hope Mr Keneally would one day show an interest in the Oromo issues and write about it. I always ask myself why the just struggle of the Oromo people for freedom couldn’t attract similar interest as Eritrea’s from prominent intellectuals and philanthropists. I know the cold war tension during the Eritrean liberation struggle and Western democracies determination to eliminate Communism helped Eritrea’s EPLF and TPLF gain Western support in their fight against the Marxist Dergue regime of Mengistu.

    The oromos are he single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia constituting between 40-45 percent but denied their basic human right and are being killed, exiled and imprisoned in their tens of thousands. There are more than 20,000 Oromo political prisoners in TPLF (ethiopian) jails. As has been reported from time to time by various media Ethiopian prisons speak Oromo language. That is to say that the majority of prisoners in Ethiopian jails are Oromos unjustly incarcerated for just being Oromo and allegedly for supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The minority regime of TPLF is paranoid about Oromo and thinks that they a greater threat to its illegitimate domination of Ethiopia. The current elite that hails from the northern province of Tigre constitute a mere 5 percent of the Ethiopian population. However, they have monopolized political, military, economic and security apparatus in Ethiopia. The Oromos are continually sidelined and excluded from occupying key power positions in the government. So the Oromos remain gravely vulnerable to all sorts egregious practices of the minority junta. One thing remains abundantly clear for the Oromos: intensify their struggle until they achieve their inalienable right and ownership of their country. The future seems bright for the Oromo: as the world continues to open up due to globalization, free information flow and every country continues to be put under scrutiny and mass education make people aware of their rights the Oromos will only gain although at a slow pace. However, this requires the Oromos to organize and mobilize themselves and their resources and advocate for the right of their oppressed nation. As part of that struggle liaising and consulting with prominent human right agencies and advocates in the West and making them aware of the scale of repression against the Oromo nation plays a an important role in strengthening our struggle.
    Oromia Shall be Free!!!!

  4. mariecorb says:

    Great text Marion. Congrats! I really liked. I’m looking for more. Keep digging this stories. You are doing really well. Bisous.

  5. Maatii says:

    Thank you for such fantastic article. I really connected with my brothers through your beautiful article. keep up it, Please!!

    • mcabanes says:

      Thank you Maati for sharing this. I’m very glad that you appreciate this post! I had great pleasure in listening to Dhabesa’s story and getting to learn about a beautiful – unheard – culture.

  6. […] Source: https://farfromafrica.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/no-man-is-an-island-in-oromia/ […]

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  14. Teferi says:

    I followed a link and it worth it.

    thanks for this post. Not that I don’t know what you discussed with Dhabessaa but just to hear a fellow Oromo’s his success to find peace in the other side of the Pacific is satisfying.

    Our struggle is not of the cause for satisfaction. there are over 40000 Oromo victims of ruthless hegemony in the reign of Ethiopian empire.

    We will continue to fight for fair Ethiopia or establish the next country in east Africa, the Federal Gadaa Republic of Oromia.

    Continue to voice for us. Tell people about our cause.

    Thanks

    • mcabanes says:

      Hi Teferi,

      Thank for taking time to comment. I’m very happy that you appreciate the post. Dhabesa works actively with the Oromo community here in Melbourne. Please see the link to the association he works with by clicking on the image of Australian Oromo Community. 🙂
      I just hope that all the people of Ethiopia wil find peace.

      All the best to you.

  15. oromoland says:

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  21. hbmyworld2b says:

    heey, great article you got here dear. I just want to state that the siinque should be spelt as in Siinqee and it is one broad subject in the oromo gadaa system of democratic governance especially for women

  22. Berisa says:

    Iam very happy for that to biuld strong Oromoo community in the world,to resist the abuse of oromo peple write in their region,to be independ&selfgoverned,to irradiate poverty,plce my peaple let be united any else who have the blood of Oromoo,we always lisining about Oromo diaspora they dont have love one another,they are atagorased in diffrnt parts,they fight one another on their money budjet!!know we need cliver leader who can make Oromo peaple unite!!I need speial skills&stady more I need scholar!!thnkyo

  23. Berisa says:

    I tell you the ameezing thing,one day there wos a meeting among the members of OPDO in shashemene district,sudenly 1man wos have the picture of ABO IN his Mobile one body looked him&informed to the chair person he taken to the jail!!kun ka nuhubachiisu sabni keenya awaalanii irra taa’arran malee eenyuyuu fedha diina isaa wojiin taa’ee nyaachuu hinqabu jabaadhaa isin deegarraa!!

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