Friday, March 14, 2008

Another Goal for Team Oromia

Blogger's note: A former university student writes "Thank you for posting Maaruu's story. As promised in my comment on that story, I have attached my experience from a dacade ago. Please share it with your readers."

Here you go.

Team Oromia 6 – Team Ethiopia 0
By Bay'isaa Nagoo

Reading Maaru’s narration of what transpired between Oromo and Ethiopian students at UW brought back bitter memories of a similar situation I found myself in as an Oromo university student a decade ago here in the USA. As a university student and a member of the African Students Association (ASA) at that university, I was ridiculed and laughed at for identifying myself as Oromian and Not Ethiopian. It was a constant struggle to assert my Oromo identity in the presence of Ethiopian students.

Three such occasions come to my mind. But, I will start with an incident which was, to use Maaruu’s analogy, decidedly a goal for Team Oromia.

Graduation day

After four years at the university, I was about to graduate. I was very excited and had even invited my parents all the way from Oromia to join in my celebration. As former prisoners of the DERG (my mother for 6 months, my father for four and a half years) for no other reason than being Oromo nationalists (Xabbaab, OLF, etc … as they were called at the time), I was mindful of the attachment we have as a family to our identity. So, I thought it would make my parents, myself and my nation happy to use my graduation as an occasion to do some thing that would introduce our nation to graduation attendees even if it meant just as a symbolic thing. To do this, I decided to use the university’s tradition of displaying the flags of nations of graduating class in the graduation hall.

So, I asked the University to allow me to bring Oromo/OLF flag that I would be honored to see displayed on the stage to represent my nation Oromia like that of other students. Since my adviser knew the political problem in the empire state Ethiopia very well and knew more about the Oromos than many non-Oromos from that empire, it was not difficult to get his blessing. He discussed this with the university and asked me to submit my flag to the department concerned with preparation for the ceremony. A few days after I had handed the flag which I borrowed from the Oromo Community Association in the city (because mine was not big enough for such occassions) to the department, I received a call from this lady informing me that there were enough flags that the University uses every graduation season and mine should be found in there. I called back and informed her that this was not the case and that I had the right to have my flag displayed just like that of other students. Because seeing our flag missing from among those of other nations would cause pain and disappointment to me, I told the lady that I would rather miss my graduation than attend with my flag missing. The lady was adamant that I should find my flag among the ones traditionally displayed. I was determined to take the dispute to any level but time was not on my side as the graduation was only a few days away. I visited my advisor who was very supportive of my position asked for his help. He visited the concerned department with me and argued with the lady on my part. At that point we learned that this was opposed by Ethiopian students. That made me even angrier and determined to take this issue to the highest level possible. I argued that I decide for myself which flag represented me and that Ethiopian students have no right to decide for me. With some help from my advisor, she finally relented and assured me that when I walk in to that hall, I would see my flag displayed.

The day of the graduation, as we were marching in to the graduation hall the first place I looked was at the stage - searching with my eyes for the Oromo/OLF flag. There it was, a symbol of our resistance against extermination! True to its words, the university had hang it there among flags of other nations a bit removed form that of Ethiopia. I was speechless! Words cannot capture the pride I felt not to mention that of my family members which they tried to express to no avail once we got home. It was bitter sweet victory but a small one.

I guess you could now say Team Oromia 6 – Team Ethiopia 0.

But I was known to Ethiopian students from our African Students Association (ASA) meetings well before this incident.

ASA and African Night

As was customary at the beginning of every academic year and the first meeting of ASA for the year, members would get up and introduce themselves and where they came from. Some were from Ghana, some from Nigeria, some from Ethiopia, etc … and naturally, I am from Oromia! I was really happy to be in the company of so many Africans under the same roof in North America. Then came my turn to introduce myself. I got up and introduced myself and told the meeting that I come from Oromia and that Oromia has been occupied by Abyssinians for over a century. This offended Ethiopian students in the meeting who started laughing at what I had just said to try and ridicule me. I paid no attention and continued to introduce Oromia. A few days later, I was approached by a female Ethiopian student who was in the meeting and was asked to run for the post of the president of ASA to represent Ethiopia and that they would support me in my campaign. I felt I was partly being ridiculed and partly being cajoled to sale my identity. I told the girl that I would leave that to Ethiopians and would actually consider running to represent Oromia.

Then came what was known as African Night. African Night was for my Alma mater what Afro-Caribbean Night (CAN) is for the UW. I was one of the organizers for the occasion and it was a busy night for me. We had invited a key note speaker (an African-American professor) from a neighboring college. The key note speaker read a poem about Africa in which he mentioned some African countries (mainly Ghana, Egypt and others) and their ancient civilization. Along the way he said a few words about Axum and Lalibela as well.

Some half hour or so later I saw an Ethiopian man (not a student of the university) intercepting the speaker while he was passing by one of the tables occupied by group of Oromians. He approached the professor and said to him “your speech was okay but you missed one major point, Minilik and the battle of Aduwa. I am disappointed that you missed that.” Incidentally, I was in the area chatting with the Oromo folks at the table and could not help over hearing the conversation. I felt like a Jew standing idle while Hitler was being praised or a Palestinian listening to Ariel Sharon’s adulation. I tuned around, and said to the professor, “Well, I’m glad you did not mention that black colonizer’s name, Minillik. Do you know that he himself was a colonizer and doesn’t deserve to be mentioned along with the other great African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and others you mentioned tonight?” The Abyssinian man almost hit the roof. He turned to me and said “how dare you speak of a great leader of a land with 3000 years history in this manner!” he almost went beserck on me had his wife and others intervened and pulled him away.

I latter approached the professor and explained what I meant. He promised to educate himself about the Oromo.

Why am I sharing this story with you? It is most certainly NOT to ask you to hate anyone but to inform the Oromo reader that Maaruu’s story is not an isolated one. Believe it or not, the effort to bury our identity and impose Ethiopian identity on us is wide spread even in foreign lands. Knowing what is going on is the first step in resisting injustice for those who value their Oromo identity. Sharing experiences like this one will help other victims in how to deal with similar incidents. Please share your stories, if you have one, for the benefit of our younger generation in foreign universities.

Have your say!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oromo Students are Subjected to Discrimination Even in the Freest Country on Earth – Seattle-USA

Blogger's note: An Oromo student writes "Dear Editor; I am an Oromo student at the University of Washington , Seattle . The story I attached is the discrimination Oromo students are facing by the same group who are making Oromos life harder back home. I hope you will post it as the Ethiopian websites would never entertain it. So, you are my only plausible outlet."

Following is what he wanted the whole world to hear (read).

From My Diary: Team Oromia 5 - Team Ethiopia 0
By Maaru Alaku
University of Washington

This is my personal diary and to make it a bit tasty I used football terms quite few times. This isn’t to be offensive to anybody, rather, it is because I am so passionate about football and I want to use this opportunity to test my own reporting skills of my favorite game. May I tell you also this is the first time in my life that I dare to present my idea in written form in any media, so my sincere apologies in advance if you find some grammatical mistakes and wrong usage of words/phrases. In terms of sticking to the facts, everything I wrote below is as accurate as one can be which anyone can ascertain from so many others who are at the same event I am going to tell you.

Every Year at the University of Washington (UW), African Students Association of the UW (ASA) presents Afro-Caribbean Night (ACN) in April. The occasion is usually a very fascinating one even for strangers let alone for nostalgic Diaspora Africans and the event being performed by young African students or Americans of African origin makes even sweeter to the elderly parents and community members coming to the occasion.

As it was customary, last year also the event was carried out successfully. However, to some of the attendees who happen to despise the mere sight Oromo students, the show was deemed tarnished by these "unruly Oromos". The Oromo students participating on the occasion as Oromos not as Ethiopians was the talk of every Ethiopian household in Seattle, even in churches and community centers. May be it went even beyond Seattle as it was negatively reported by SeaEthio web site.

At the time I was really amazed by the negative stance of the websites and individuals involved. I attended the event and I was very satisfied by the shows presented by the Ethiopian (Abyssinian) group and the Oromo group alike. I couldn't see anything offensive being exhibited by Oromo performers unless as I mention earlier, one is being offended by the mere sight of Oromos on stage in which case I can only say hard luck and pray to God to have mercy to this hate-monger-poor-souls.

May be, just may be, it is based on the recommendation of the community members and/or others who took offense by the mere sight of Oromo students having their own show, that last Sunday, 03/09/2008, afternoon, some members of the African Students Association (ASA) made a futile attempt to exclude Oromo students from this year's edition of the ACN.

To begin with, the idea itself is not only unjust, it is evil. It is discriminatory as well as unconstitutional based on the constitution of ASA that these same students and/or their former colleagues wrote. Well, they set a meeting on a Sunday afternoon mainly to the reduce the not-well-informed Oromo students to the minimum possible to amend the constitution so as to pass a law which would prohibit Oromo students from the ACN for good and possibly to expel them from the ASA membership. Had this happened, they would have found themselves in the mother of all troubles.

One cute girl said very loudly, “We should vote on it today as there is need to waste time on this trivial issue. Besides, the final-exam is just round the corner, only one week away”. She is such an ignorant as most of them are that she didn’t even know to vote on constitutional amendment, the proposal should be announced two meetings before. What these bunch of hate-mongers didn't know was how Oromo students were well prepared for this meeting despite the short notice, some of them in fact heard only hours before the meeting, and how determined they are to take the matter as far as needed to make sure that they be part of the ACN event for now and to avoid such a mishap for the future totally.

The president of ASA used her position to come up with a draft constitutional amendment just for the above-mentioned unjust cause. However, the ASA constitution clearly states that "Amendment of the Constitution cane be proposed if only two-third of the general body approved it." But when they realized that Oromo students are a force to reckon with and bound to charge the president of violating the constitution, it was announced that the draft paper written by the president is to be null and void. Goooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal Numero Uno for Team Oromia. But I wasn’t that happy as it was an own goal. Oromos taught them the first lesson of the day! I personally wondered if Meles Zenawi has registered at UW in the guise of this elegant and seemingly smart lady. Because he is one of those notorious for violating the constitution he himself wrote with his friends to harass and discriminate against his fellow citizens. One wonders if abusing power is a genetically transmitted disease and our ASA officials at UW contacted the disease that way from their Ethiopian (Abyssinian) cousins. The good thing , though, was UW isn't FInfinnee (Addis Ababa) or Mekelle or Bahir Dar University where Oromo students can be harassed at will. We are in the freest country in the entire universe, fortunately. So, Team Oromia knows the playing field is even and all it needs to be victorious is follow their game plan.

These group of students were so determined that they also tried to set a new rule which states that "ASA won't accept new members from now on for this academic year" thinking that the Oromo students who aren't paying members of the ASA will pay their dues and become active members which will sway the balance of votes during the ratification of the constitutional amendment (Only paying members have a voting right). This unwritten law took by surprise even some of the supporters of the constitutional amendment. An Eritrean and a Somalian student mentioned their disapproval of this law stating that new members have been accepted as recent as last week and it is unfair to refuse anybody suddenly. As to how Oromos should feel about this, you can guess. One wanna-be-smart fellow even suggested that the Oromos can pay and be members as the money would help ASA but they shouldn't be given a voting right. I couldn't believe my ears. Oh, Jesus of Nazereth, am I in USA or Ethiopia where Oromos were feeding the government army which is killing them as a payback for their kindness. Minilik II should be turning with pride in his grave wondering how his philosophy of harassing Oromos is thriving more than a century after his death in the far land of America while even the Socialism philosophy of Karl Marx and Viladmir Lenin is practically long dead in their countries of origin. That is why I gave the title above to my Diary. Quite seriously, I can’t tell you how shocked I am to find people with such a backward mentality in the 21st century America.

Remember once again, the meeting was held in Seattle USA not Finfinnee (Addis Ababa) Ethiopia.

Anyway, the new law couldn't get the necessary backing except from those who proposed it and not unexpectedly disappeared into thin air. Goal Number Two for Team Oromia.

As one can imagine under these circumstances, the discussion was so intense and full of emotions that some even feared a fight would breakout any moment. Luckily, it hasn't gone that far. The meeting went with Oromo students scrutinizing every single word said by the facilitator, who was a former student invited with others for this unjust cause mainly to outnumber and intimidate the Oromos to no avail. I really felt bad for him, as he was forced to repeat the same thing sometimes for 10 or 20 times.

Among the most debated issues were if the words "country" and "culture" are to be used on the advertisement flyer for this year's ACN event. Oromo students were against the use of the word "country" while the other group was for it. Eventually the idea of not using the word "country” won and a consensus reached. Goal Number Three. Team Oromia is now leading 3-0 and besides, the ball seems never to pass the half-line to be in Oromia–half of the pitch.

Nevertheless, the Team Ethiopia players look hell-bent not only to reverse the three goal disadvantage but also give a final knockout blow. As any team with three nil lead, the Team Oromia players are beaming with confidence with no sign of fatigue. The game is on.

Then, we came back to the most contentious part of who should be allowed to present its own show during the event and how much time to allocate. It was agreed that we should have representative from east, west, north and southern Africa and the Caribbean either by students or hired professionals in the absence of students from a given region. Even this customary practice and straight forward issue took more than half an hour and a lot of bad-mouthing to reach an agreement. The main issue and the core of the meeting, how to allocate time for groups from east Africa and under what name shall they present their show? Remember, it was agreed earlier that even the word “country” should not be mentioned even on the flyer let alone a country name. Some suggested for all the groups to present as one group under the name East African group. But this was rejected outright as it will be difficult to synchronize the schedule of each group with in the east African Group not to mention the not-so-hidden tension among them.

By now, the meeting was raging almost for three hours without significant progress and with no sight of an end to it despite the three goals registered by Team Oromia. The discussion was so frustrating even to the non-Oromos that some of them even started suggesting why don't we do it just like last year? In fact the cheer leader of this noble idea, at least as to me and Team Oromia, is the same cute girl I mentioned above who suggested for a vote today given the urgency of the case. I guessed she has a final exam tomorrow. Really!!!!!! All these fighting just to repeat the way we did last year? Wow, what a concession!!! Obviously this idea was applauded by Oromo students and dismissed outright by the majority of the other group. While those out of these two groups were either indifferent, may be they were enjoying the fight between Oromos and Ethiopians as they are either Eritreans or Somalians, or even support the idea just to get the hell out of this unending and pointless feud.

The group who organized the meeting even invited a representative from the governing body of student organizations at the UW as a witness for Oromos expulsion from the ACN event. The guy came late, fortunately for him, but he was subjected to the later part of the discussion when everybody was so charged that at times one can't know who is talking and who is listening. So, it was quite an experience for him to begin with. He was consulted in the middle of our heated debate that if it would be considered discriminatory to expel a group of students who aren't willing to work within a group with other groups from the same country. Then, the guest responded:" it is unreasonable not to allow student performers while you are hiring professionals from outside". He continued, “besides, priority should be given to the students of the UW". Our dear guest couldn't get the sinister intention of the facilitator. This added another setback to the cause of the meeting organizers while it brought a broad smile to the Oromo students’ faces, with it Goal Number Four. Quite amazing, even the referee scored a goal against the Team Ethiopia, albeit unintentionally.

Next, one of the meeting organizers raised her hand and said: “Quite honestly I am not personally against the Oromo students having their own show, however; the community members were offended last year and that is why we don't want that to happen again". What an honest young lady she is! But her honesty haven’t enabled her to be fair. May be she mean that she is honest for issues raised by her community while quite the contrary when it comes to Oromo brothers and sisters. But should I blame her being raised by such a community who doesn’t seem to know about individual right. If she was a teenager I may not but for her age I have to blame her as much as I blame the community. What! Said an Oromo student raising her hand. She continued “the community members have no right to give or deny permission Oromo students. Rather, you have to teach your community that everybody has the right to define his/her own identity and tell them to try to live with it”. Well, what options do they have after their young warriors are being clinically defeated by the enemy they despise so much and unwisely underestimate rather than swallowing the bitter pillow of witnessing Oromos having another show for the second year running at the Grand Kane Hall of the University of Washington. May I take this opportunity to invite you to this eventful occasion if you are residing in Seattle or its environs. The exact date will be announced by the coordinators soon, but expect it to be in the third week of April.

To be frank, it is almost impossible to describe all the punches and counter punches thrown from both directions and thus I will go to the final conclusion of this bizarre meeting.

Finaly, when there was no way out of this calamitous web of their own making and after five hours of mind boggling arguments, we were back to square one. The event to be presented the same way as last year. Thus, the east African group to be represented by the Ethiopian group, the Oromo group, the Somalia group and the Eritrean group. Remember, we agreed not to use even the word “country”; thus, when we say the Ethiopian group, for instance, it is a “band name” not a “country name” in this context, mocked the facilitator himself. Quite amazing!!! The students who claim to represent Ethiopia organized the meeting, (though the name is ASA, the members are actually almost entirely composed of east Africans which isn’t their fault to be fair,) to expel Oromos from such an event for good if possible or at least give them an identity known as Ethiopia under which they can present their show with other Ethiopian group. The end result, they lost that identity even for themselves and the name Ethiopia is reduced to a “band name”. No offense intended here, but as I mentioned above it was the facilitator of the meeting himself who designated as such. This wrap up a sensational victory for Team Oromia with 5-0 score line.
What a victory for Oromo students (Team Oromia) given the fact the time and the playing field was exclusively chosen by the Team Ethiopia, in fact, it is a victory for right against wrong. So, at the final whistle: Team Oromia 5 – Team Ethiopia 0 reads the score board.

My personal conclusion.

When I think about the meeting and the whole scenario retrospectively, I really feel sad to experience people not accepting and respecting the will of others in this era and of all the places, in the United State of America. Had there been a mutual respect among us, let alone for people who share a lot of values and experiences, despite countless unfortunate incidences, it would have been possible to have a show as one group even with others from much far places. But it isn’t meant to be.

But why Oromos are being despised for being themselves? Why the Seattle Ethiopian Community or any body for that matter is offended by the mere sight of Oromos on stage? Why some Ethiopians feel they have the right to tell Oromos what is good for them? And why of all the people, these smart young guys find themselves deep into this stinky trench? A lot of whys come to my mind with no answer. I am sure some Ethiopians will give me a sound answer sometime. Should Oromos be blamed for not want to be associated with Ethiopia? Not at all, under such circumstances, who in his right mind would want to be associated with someone who despises even his mere existence on this earth?

As an Oromo, 03/09/2008 was one of my happiest days at UW. As to my Ethiopian (Abyssinian) brothers and sisters who are misguided by something I can’t tell, please try to Love others as hate would destruct the hate-monger him/herself eventually. It is because of your hatred you end up “Aterfe baye agudaye” as the Amharic saying goes.

Have your say!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kosovo Debunks the Myth of Globalization & Single Super-Power as Impediments to Independence

“The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state. We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion.” (U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Washington DC, Feb. 18, 2008)

If there was any credence left to the notion that the era of globalization and a single-super-power has made the aspiration of a national community to an independent state impossible, then Kosovo drove the last nail in its coffin on Feb. 17, 2008.

On that date, in the era of globalization and with the blessing of non other than the “single super power” – the USA – Kosovo declared its sovereignty and independence from Serbia. The same USA, which we are told is twisting the arms of some so-called Oromo leaders to drop the idea of an independent state of Oromia has accepted, supported and justified the formation of the state of Kosovo.

In supporting Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, the US secretary of state goes on to say “In light of the conflicts of the 1990s, independence is the only viable option to promote stability in the region.” There is no mistaking what Dr. Rice is saying here. She is saying that if you are determined to achieve independence and fight for yourselves, and by so doing you disturb regional peace, then USA would have no choice but to accept your will in the interest of regional stability. This much should be clear from her statement even to the careless reader.

What is the lesson for Oromos?

An independent state of Oromia is feasible. If any Oromo reader fails to recognize this right away, it is perhaps because s/he has been demoralized by recent turn of events in the Oromo struggle. Never mind the defeatists’ “globalization and single super-power” mantra. Other nations have gained independence in the era of “globalization” with the blessing of the “single super-power,” Kosovo being a recent example. Why can’t Oromia? Forget the sellouts and the traitors. Kosovars had their share of those as well. Oromos have a choice. The fatalistic view that Oromos have no real choices to make except to remain in Ethiopia with the hope of gaining self-rule has appeared in different forms at times in history. It is rearing its ugly head once again. Oromos have a choice between rejecting this discredited defeatist view and struggling for sovereignty of their people and independence of their land or accept that view and languish in that “prison of nations” called Abyssinia, re-named Ethiopia in 1929.

There is no doubt that the world, including the “single super-power,” will eventually accept and live with an independent state of Oromia just as it accepted and lived with the states Eritrea, Kosovo, East Timor, Montenegro, etc … However, this will not happen until Oromos reject the defeatist view being disseminated by some so-called Oromo leaders and demand forcefully what is rightfully theirs – a sovereign and independent state of Oromia.

Have your say.



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