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!


Moosisaa said...

You are all hate mongerers. Please stop this. Instead of worsening the situation you should be preaching forgiveness. Our people have nothing to eat and have no time for hate but for development and unity.

Anonymous said...

To moosisaa,

Who are hate mongers? The people who request their equal right? Or, the people against such rights? I don't think such a comment would come from a person who believes in equal rights of human beings. It's true that most people in sub-sharan Africa and other continents have little or nothing to eat. One of the factors that contribute to poverty is inequality and injustice. The people that strive to block the request of these Oromo students advocate inequality and injustice. By implication they help poverty worsen

Mosisaa, are you in doubt of such occurances? Or, you think our people will have some to eat, if stories like these are not told? As far as our people have no time for hate. I agree with you. They don't have a culture of hate instead a culture of equality. As far as development, don't you know that Oromos are being displaced in the name of development? If you live out side of the Ethiopian empire, you can go there and Woyyane will sell to you Oromoo's land and you can evict Oromoos from their native place and start "development". As far as unity, that is the right of people to self determination. Period!

The quest for freedom is NOT hatred!!

Anonymous said...


You must be kidding. Forgive who? Unity with who? Who's development? If you are talking the unity of Oromia with Ethiopia, keep on dreaming.

Regarding development, no country develops under occupation. That is why we advocate for liberation of Oromia as a precondition for development to stand a chance.

In so far as hate is concerned, bye the way you are blaming the wrong people.

If you would like to preach forgiveness go forth and do it. But let us know what the Habashi Hanesh think about it. And good luck.

Anonymous said...


Would you please read Dr. Muhammad Magalommatis article (see the link below).

As per your definition is he a "hate mongerer"?

Dhugaa Dubataa

Anonymous said...

I'm almost certain Moosisaa is not an Oromoo. But, whatever or whoever you are, Have you read or seen Dr. Asafa Jalleta's book titled: "Oromia and Ethiopia" ? For me the stories on this blog reflects his book. I can list names after names of other authors that have written on national identity of other scoieties. Can you call them hate mongers? I don't!!

I don't disagree with you on forgiveness and reconcillation. However, if the victim offers it without the gulity person's admittance of wrong doing, obviously, forgiveness can not exist in the first place.

Nagaati/besalam senbet!!!

Anonymous said...

You guys think of a universsity graduation as a united nations meeting? kkkkkkkkkkkk rest assured your flag will not see the light of day. You are all idiots living in yesteryears while the world has moved on to democracy and internationalism. Don't fool yourselves - instead work for democratizing Ethiopia which is a mother land for us Oromos as well.

Anonymous said...

Hey the dumbst anonymous,

Was the liberation of Kosovo part of democracy and internationalism for you? How dumb should you be to call that internationalism? Do you follow news or at least have you read the brief article on this blog on Kosovo? Do you know when that took place last month NOT yesteryear? You must be dumb to call a previous month yesteryear. kkkkkkkkkkkkkk


Anonymous said...

To the chap who says "Ethiopia is a mother land for us Oromos...",

I have never heard such a load of rubbish in my entire life. You know what? Oromos do not use terms such as "mother land" i.e "inat agarachin", in particular with regards to Ethiopia. You are not an Oromo.

Do not waste your time. You appear upset and if you carry on like this you will end up in Amanuel hospital. Oromia is a reality and get used to it. Or else look for a piece of rope.

Nagaa si hin kenniin Waaqii Lafti!

Idil Adunya said...

To Anonymous who mentioned United Nations,

Next time Darartu Tulluu or Gete Waami win at international competition, I would like you to oppose to raising Ethiopian flag because that should only be done at UN per your argument. As a bonus, You might as well extend your request to stop playing the Ethiopian anthem on the occasion.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

i heard that Meles zenawi is actually trying to cut apart ethiopia and create Tigray Republic, Biyya Oromia and Greater Somalia.
check this old map of this

Ilmaa Maccaa said...

Dear Mososisaa,
The politically bankrupted SG did preach forgiveness and unity with core Abyssinians. It took them no where except to more degradation and spit on their faces by Qinjiit whom they tried to associate with. I am so sorry for you: a PhD holder for not not being able to learn from that. That goes for all your kinds: PhD holders who are still busy trying to sell us once again to our enemies just like Gobenaa Daccee. Shame on all of you the Jallataas, the Huseens and the Moosisaas .. etc, and all the Sellouts.

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