Monday, April 28, 2008

Oromo Students Shine at the 7th ACN Event

By Maaruu Alakuu
University of Washington – Seattle

This is a follow up to my last article about discrimination against Oromo Students at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle (Read here). As a result of that exemplary bravery by Oromo students at UW, they participated in the 7th Edition of the Afro-Caribbean Night (ACN) on April 19, 2008 for the second year running.

The night kicked off with a poem followed by a performance by West African dance group and Egyptian belly-dancers. A dance group form Zambia, the Caribbean and poems and fashion show took their turns before the Oromo dance group came to the stage. The event was quite sensational from the start to end, but wait, the end has some weird incidence to it. Besides our group, I personally enjoyed the Egyptian belly dancers show and the Caribbean dance group. The fashion show also gave the audience a glimpse of the variety of traditional costumes prevailing in Africa.

The schedule of events was arranged so that the Ethiopian group would perform at the end immediately following the Oromo group. In my opinion the organizers, dominantly Ethiopians, made such an arrangement so as to out do whatever the Oromo supporters have done during the Oromo students show. But that is such a low thinking on their behalf. Even this arrangement was a source of fun for some Oromos in the audience. I heard one guy jokingly saying, “We are on the top of Ethiopia”.

The time finally arrived and the Oromo performers came to stage to a raucous-applause from an appreciative audience, Oromos and others alike except you know whom. The group presented traditional dances from Wollo, Harar, Arsi/Bale, Jimma and Shoa. It was such a great show which the students who devoted their time despite the hectic nature of life at UW, deserve a lot of appreciation for. The Oromo residents of Seattle should also be commended for their support by coming to the event en masse. The Hall almost exploded following the appearance of the Oromo group on stage. It seems as if everybody in the audience is Oromo. It is an event, in addition to the entertainment part of it, which brought together Oromo of every religion, region or political outlook. We need such binding events to solidify our unity against the tyranny our people back home are facing day-in-day-out. Those not familiar with Oromos were particularly mesmerized by the young female performers swirling their heads during the Arsi/Bale dance. I am sure they were expecting the girls’ heads to roll off their shoulders any minute. It was such a unique style that even the Ethiopian dance group was repeating the same dance during their own Oromo dance event while the Oromo song they were playing was totally different. Without any exaggeration, the Oromo students' performance was the highlight of a very spectacular show.

Then comes the Ethiopians' turn. They presented their dances as every group only to spoil it at the end. The Ethiopian audiences were enraged not only by the Oromos but also by the Eritrean group. The Eritreans used the event very efficiently. They mixed every dance with the brief history about the people, their tradition, and percentage of the total population a given group constitute and so on. I heard one Ethiopian behind me saying why the Eritreans are being allowed to tell their history to the audience as if the event was a private property of Eritreans. I saw a lot of Ethiopians’ faces redden by the Eritreans' and Oromos' acts alike. But they have to learn to live with it for their own health. Well, coming back to the Ethiopians mess at the end of their show; the last music they brought on was music about the Ethiopian Millennium which wasn’t a problem by itself. The problem was to outdo the support the Oromo audience gave to the Oromo dance group, the Ethiopian audience run over to the stage to the extent that the event looked not an Afro-Caribbean Night held at the University of Washington rather a concert at some Ethiopian Restaurant.

It is common to witness an Ethiopian boasting about the uniqueness and originality of Ethiopian Calendar. First of all the Ethiopian calendar also known as the Julian Calendar was formulated by Julius Caesar in 46BC (Read here). Thus it isn't an invention by an Ethiopian expert. The funny thing about it is though; hearing Ethiopians boasting about a calendar invented by a person from a country considered an historical enemy of Ethiopia, Italy. This calendar was a remarkable formulation given the knowledge of the time, however, due to the problem it had in computation of days, a better and more up-to-date calendar called Gregorian was formulated and decreed by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom it was named, on 24 February 1582 (Read here). While both calendars are inventions by Europeans, particularly Italians, and there is nothing which relates them to Ethiopia, yet most Ethiopians delude themselves as if Julian calendar is of their ancestors' creation.

If one has to copy a technology from abroad why should he/she has to copy an older version? Ethiopians pride in the Julian calendar is like somebody being proud of buying a computer with 486 processor while the world is using Pentium IV. If fact is to be told, it is actually the Egyptians who didn't want to accept the Gregorian calendar and forced Ethiopian Orthodox church to continue using the old Julian calendar (Read here). It is known that the head priest (Pope) for Ethiopian Orthodox church was being appointed from Alexandria (Egypt) till as recent as the 1950s.

At the end though, it isn't really surprising for those of us who know the nature of Abyssinians. We know that they were deceiving us and themselves by portraying Ethiopia as a country of great civilization, great resources, proud people, and so on while the fact on the ground tells us otherwise. So, the fuss about unique Calendar and Millennium is just another empty bravado as usual.

Coming back to the main topic, ACN, the Ethiopians made a spectacle of themselves on the stage. The good thing though, it was the final show of the event and everybody else left the Hall as soon as the Ethiopian audience became a performer on stage. Thus, although the Oromo show was arranged before the Ethiopian one to try and outperform Oromos, it turned out to be advantageous for us. Had it been scheduled after the Ethiopian show, the Hall would have been empty due to the outrageous act of the Ethiopian audience.

In conclusion, it was a great night for Oromos and that is what we mainly care about. Oromo performers put on a spectacular show and the Oromo audience showed its admiration in a cultured way without offending others and tarnishing the image of the event.

Please visit Mana Bunaa for a great video of the Oromo show at UW.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Former Kinijjit Officials Hint at Armed Struggle to Defeat TPLF

In a four page press release they dispatched recently, five members of the now defunct Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party supreme council ”resigned” from their positions in CUDP over what they termed “fundamental differences” between their recently adopted political position and CUDP’s chosen method of struggle.

After preaching “non-violence” as THE WAY since the inception of CUDP (a.k.a. Kinijjit), Berhanu Nega, Andargachew Tsige, Daniel Asefa, Mesfin Aman and Chekol Getahun seem to have finally come to their senses and realized that it is a futile and useless method against a tyrannical force like TPLF/EPRDF.

In their press release, (Read here in Afaan Amaaraa) they lament the deplorable repressive and stifling political environment in the country and TPLF/EPRDF’s “true nature” which they now say is devoid of understanding “civilized politics.”

“This stifling environment which" they wrote, "is imposed on our country [by TPLF/EPRDF] and in which citizens, political parties and civic organizations are unable to perform their activities freely, has forced, not only CUD members, supporters and the general [Ethiopian] society, but also a few of us within the Kinijit leadership to raise questions around TPLF/EPRDF’s true nature and the method of struggle CUDP should utilize in the struggle against such an absolutely tyrannical force.”

“ … Given TPLF’s absolute tyrannical nature, we have come to give up on the belief that the repression imposed on the Ethiopian people by the TPLF/EPRDF can be eliminated by struggling within the confines of ‘peaceful and legal’ methods which the TPLF allows [or takes away] at its whim. Consequently, we have decided to struggle against the TPLF/EPRDF at a time of our choosing in a manner organized heedless of TPLF/EPRDF benevolence and free to employ any means necessary. “

“We have no doubt” they wrote, “that we will create a situation in which TPLF/EPRDF will present itself for negotiations [with Ethiopian opposition forces] not as a result of pleading with it but being forced to do so …” (translation mine)

The notion that one can struggle in a “peaceful and legal” manner to defeat TPLF when TPLF is in control of the legislative, the judiciary and the executive branches of government, election commissions, law enforcement, the army, etc … was preposterous from the start.

Congrats to Dr. Berhanu & Co. for finally getting it.

It is equally preposterous to give credence to the notion that there is democracy in Ethiopia or that the incumbent government is moving in that direction by joining or remaining in its parliament. It is hoped that Bulcha Demeksa, Beyen Petros and Merera Gudina will see the light in a not so distant future.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Three Million Suffer from IDD in Western Oromia Alone

"I have never seen any other country like this. If this problem continues, a generation will suffer." (Dr. Iqbal Kabir, UNICEF Head of Nutrition and Food Security in Ethiopia)

Dr. Kabir was referring to what he and his colleagues at UNICEF called in their report “A silent epidemic” - Iodine deficiency Disorder (IDD) – in Oromia. He had led a team of UNICEF staff on its second field trip to Western Oromia between April 22nd and 24th, 2007 to investigate the prevalence of IDD in that region and returned “absolutely convinced [that] the situation needs to be intervened without further delay”. His team consisted of a communication expert and a nutrition consultant, both from UNICEF. The epidemic had been officially reported to UNICEF by Obbo Mesfin Namrraa – a WAFIDO MP from Najjoo - with a request to assess the situation and provide support. Obbo Mesfin accompanied the UNICEF team on the trip. Having visited some waradas in Illu Abbaa Booraa the previous year and Ghimbi, Gullisoo, Boojji Birmajii and other waradas in Wallaga this time around, and having met the affected population and local Health Department officials, the team compiled its trip report titled “A silent Epidemic” in which it categorized the problem as “severe public health problem according to World Health Organization’s (WHO) cut-off point.”

According to this report, “young children, adolescent boys and girls, pregnant and lactating women and elderly women” are the most affected segment of the population. In one house hold of six, the team observes, the mother (age 28) and all of her children ranging in age from five to twelve all suffered from goiter. The report goes on to say: “the situation in Gullisso Primary School was even more alarming – in that particular shift of 400 – 500 children attending classes, a very significant number has visible goiter.” The team also tested salt samples sold in the area and found that “the samples tested absolutely negative for iodine content.”

Statistics from Oromia Regional Health Department dwarfs even the gloomy picture painted by Dr. Kabir’s team report. According to this statistic, almost 3 million people suffer from IDD just in Wallaga and Illu Abbaa Booraa regions alone.

Estimate of population Affected by IDD in 4 Zones of oromia

Affected Population
Metu town
Sub Total
East Wollega
Guto Gidda
Haroo Limmu
Leeka Kelecha
Wayo Tuka
Gidda Kiramu
Sibu Sire
Waama Bonayya
Waama Hagalo
Jimma Arjo
Nunnu Kumba
Gudeya Bila
Sub Total
West Wollega
Boji Birmaji
Boji Chokorsa
Kiltu Karra
Najjoo (rural)
Nole Kabba
Lalo Assabi
Sub Total
Kelem Wollega
Dale Sedi
Dale Wabara
Hawa Galan
Lato Like
Denbi Dollo
Gawo Kebe
Yaama Logi Walal
Jimma Haro
Seyo Noole
Sub Total

While it is difficult to estimate the number of population affected across all Oromia zones, Global Scorecard 2008 puts the prevalence of goiter in the Ethiopian Empire at 53.3%. (Read here) Some have attributed the recent upsurge of IDD in the country to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Assab, Eritrea, which supplied Ethiopia with iodized salt, has ceased to do so since the war between the two countries begu -(Read here.) This theory is consistent with what the head of one of the Zone Health Departments had to say about the timing of the upsurge. Asked when the problem was first observed, he said “the problem started to show up over the last 7 – 9 years period. The peripheral Kelem woredas were affected first … and gradually moved to more central areas over the last 2 – 3 years.” He goes on to say he, and others have reported the situation to Oromia Regional Health Bureau but “no intervention measures have been taken.”

What is IDD?

IDD is caused by lack of enough iodine in the diet - Iodine being a kind of mineral needed by the thyroid gland for healthy functioning. A visible sign of IDD in a person is goiter, a swollen neck caused by a swollen thyroid gland. Goiter due to iodine deficiency is a worldwide problem; in particular communities in developing countries are at risk. Consumption of salt not fortified with iodine may be partly to blame for iodine deficiencies. Various governments around the world are being urged to step up efforts to promote the consumption of iodine-enriched salt to combat iodine deficiency in populations of their respective countries. Another proven method of prevention of iodine deficiency is to introduce iodine into the public waters supply, an option which is not available to Oromia. However, provision of iodine fortified salt for public consumption is cheap and affordable method of prevention of IDD.

Once considered a minor problem causing goiter, according to International Council for the Control of IDD (ICCIDD), IDD is “the single most common cause of preventable mental retardation and brain damage in the world.” Among its devastating effects on social and economic development of the affected population are impaired growth and development in children as children with IDD can grow up “stunted, apathetic, mentally retarded, and incapable of normal movements, speech, or hearing”; causing miscarriages, stillbirths, and other complications in pregnant women and many others - (Read here.)

According to UNICEF, IDD “takes its greatest toll in impaired mental growth and development, which contributes to poor school performance, reduced intellectual ability, and impaired work performance.” - (Read here)

Many have written urging the world community to intervene without delay. The Diaspora Oromo Community should take part in this large scale advocacy work, including raising awareness, educating the public and fund raising activities. Doing nothing would be tantamount to condemning millions of Oromo people, particularly children, to a life of few prospects and continued underdevelopment.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Mediation Failed to Settle Dispute Over OLF "Trade" Name

The OLF legal drama in Minneapolis, Minnesota turned another chapter on April 8, 2008 when mediation failed to bridge the gap which brought the two parties to MN justice system in July 2007.

You may recall that Oromo Affairs reported that [The Asmara Group of] OLF had taken [TA-] OLF to court over the use of OLF name, logo and emblem in July 2007. You will also recall that the plaintiff had obtained a temporary injunction order against the defendant which was over turned a couple of days later. The case was eventually dismissed “without prejudice” a month later. (Read HERE)

One would have thought this retarded drama would have ended at that point but The [Asmara Group of] OLF re-filed the same lawsuit in September 2007. (Read HERE)

According to this blogger’s informants in both parties, an attempt to mediate the dispute by an independent mediator through MN court systems failed to settle the issues as both sides would not compromise on the use of the OLF name, logo and emblem. One informant summed up the exercise by saying "At the urging of the judge, we jointly hired a mediator — he spent a lot of time trying to figure out this case and it got nowhere."

By both accounts, the [Asmara Group of] OLF persisted in its claim to the sole use of the OLF “business” name without offering any middle ground for a compromise. It continued to insist that [TA-] OLF violated “Uniform deceptive trade practices act,” that it interfered with [the Asmara group-] OLF’s “prospective economic advantage” and that [TA-] OLF should cough up $50,000.00 in compensation for loses suffered so far by [The Asmara group of-] OLF.

[TA-] OLF, on the other hand, continued to insist that OLF is not a business organization formed for trading nor to collect funds for “economic advantage”, that the solution to the dispute is to be found in Oromo public court and not in a foreign court and that [the Asmara Group of] OLF is not an Oromo liberation front but an Ethiopian opposition party. They point to the fact that Dr. Taddasaa Eebbaa, the man who initiated the legal battle (Read HERE) was the same man who in 1998 signed agreement to accept the Ethiopian constitution and to renounce armed struggle as a precondition to mediation by Lutheran World Federation between the OLF and the Meles Zenawi regime.

Both sides are preparing for depositions to learn all of the facts before the trial. This is a process whereby attorneys on both side will ask the witness (may include both plaintiff and defendant) a series of questions about facts related to the lawsuit. It is expected that some big name OLF personalities will go through deposition. The case is scheduled to be heard in court mid-summer of 2008.

While our people are suffering under a brutal regime, our refugees are going hungry and without shelter all over the Horn of Africa, why are we lining up the pockets of American lawyers and mediators?

Truly retarded.

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