Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ethiopian Airlines: Anti-Oromo

By Dirribi Demissie Bokku

My name is Dirribi Demissie Bokku. I am president of Mecha -Tulama Association. In this capacity I was imprisoned for three years because we protested against the removal of Oromia’s capital from Finfinne. Prior to my imprisonment I was employed at the Ethiopian Airlines for over twenty years. Upon my release from employment the Ethiopian Airlines against its policy and the law refused to take me back. They also refused to pay me my severance pay and other benefits including free tickets for employees who had worked and retired from employment. The Ethiopian Airlines had not done this type of harsh measure against anybody in its long history in the past. This was done specifically because of my strong stance against the removal of Oromia’s capital from Finfinne.

My life history and the saga of Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) are as presented in my book Oromo Wisdom in Black Civilization as follows:

Mr. Dirribi Damuse has put down certain points he sees as milestones in the course of his life to this day. The aim of putting down the points to the attention of readers is not an attempt of glorifying the life of an ordinary Oromo national. It is rather to tell the hardship an Oromo nationalist confronts under the Ethiopian empire even at the turn of this century; it is to the extent of denial of the right to life. It is to tell the reading public how much the state and its machineries boldly act to subjugate or else eliminate an Oromo. This is a rare opportunity the writer grabs to inform the world about man’s inhumanity to man.

Mr. Dirribi Damuse tells us about major events in his life in the form of first person “I” as he claims it is right to do so since he is master of his own affairs. In fact, it is possible to develop his personal account in to a big volume. However, that would lead to unnecessary wastage of precious time of readers.

I, Dirribi Damuse Bokku Abdi, was born to a peasant family in the presently West Shawa Zone of Ilu Galen District in May 1952. I attended Primary School at Gedo town and Secondary School in Finfinnee, the capital. It was during the reign of the Derg that I was imprisoned implicated with affiliation to All Ethiopia Socialist Movement known by Amharic acronym MEISON. I served five years and three months prison term without trial. That created the chance for me to study nationalism in line with the Marxist view of the time associated with history of the Oromo. Out of prison, I was employed at the Ethiopian Airlines in 1983. As a staff of the Airlines, I studied Economics in the evening/extension programmed at Addis Ababa University, which requires longer period than the regular does. When I was in fifth year round (1991) out of the seven years to complete, the Derg was overthrown with eventual closure of the University for a while. I also found mine in the lineup of politics in the new chapter though never returning to school.
I became a member of Waaqeffannaa Religion Followers Association in 2001 in the course of which I began to study the culture, history and religion of the Oromo. In the same year, I became member of Maccaa-Tulama Self-Help Association to which I was elected president two years later. On the other hand, the Association entered into a serious political debate with the government that year. The argument attributed to the issue that Oromia should retain Finfinnee immediately after it was announced that the Council of Oromia moved its capital to Adama. I, together with other board members of the Association, maintained firm stand on the matter.

The Association called for public demonstration to express their view against the decision. The government violently crashed the demonstration blaming the Association for blackmailing the state. Apparently, I was imprisoned from May 18, 2004 up to March 2007 only under litigation process with the pretext of taking buy time for clarification. At the end, I was released up on acquittal. Then I was informed dismissed from my position with the Airlines without any sufficient ground. One could say, unfortunately though, it was due to solely the deep-rooted hatred of Abyssinians directed towards the Oromo. The Ethiopian Airlines Management, in a feat of demonstrating loyalty to the government by starving my family and me, wrote a letter on April 30, 2008 stating, “The reason for interruption of your employment duties would not allow you to rehire.” Besides, I was denied severance pay despite my legal right to claim for it after well over 20 years service. I did neither steal nor damage the property of the Ethiopian Airlines. I never had dispute with any staff member too. If I fought for the rights of the Oromo over Finfinnee, there is nothing to bother the Airlines because it is none of its business.

The die-hard stance is testimony to the harm done on purpose against those who struggle for the rights of Oromo. The intention in this specific case is to deny the claim by Oromo over a city completely encircled by the very population and the issue the government accepted justified. The constitution provides especial rights to Oromia over Finfinnee. It is true that Finfinnee naturally belongs to the Oromo where God created them. Thus, I committed no crime at all. Since I was confident that I never committed any crime, I was ready even to face the gallows on the issue of Finfinnee.

Here the Ethiopian Airlines committed three major crimes: denial of the opportunity to work and live; unwilling to effect severance pay; and denial of 8 free air tickets per year during retirement. The Ethiopian Airlines had the tradition of restoring many of its employees who were released from prison after serving jail terms. There is a notable case to cite. The government released a person called Ob. Darara Damasa in the Millennium Pardon Act. He had been accused of affiliation with OLF and had been sentenced to death but later on changed to life imprisonment. After serving 13 years of jail he was set free in the new Millennium. Moreover, the National Regional Government of Oromia allowed him to resume his job, teaching. The reason behind refusal of restoring me to my position by top management of E.A.L such as Mr. Girma Wake (Chief executive Officer C.E.O)[1] and Mrs. Frehiwot Worku Executive officer human resource E.O.H.R) has never been clear to my conscience. In fact, they did not want direct talk with me. Do not I deserve due human respect? Alternatively, they do not care for human respect. It is from this that I concluded the hatred and contempt of the Habesha against the Oromo to be the underlying cause. (King Sahel Silasie’s army at Bole, which is the current Ethiopian International Airport site, killed my great grandfather. Oromos are still uprooted from Finfinnee and its environs. They are denied job opportunity. Why should the Habesha commit all such heinous crimes? Why do they kill us? How long should they uproot us from our fatherland?)

After two years or so of joblessness I was employed in Oromiya International Bank that enabled me support myself and my family as part of its objective of alleviating economic problems of the Oromo. This, to my understanding, is the reflection of the role of nationalism in helping nationals under difficulty. The very fact that the Oromia National Regional State re-instated Mr. Darara despite difference in political outlook again is a matter of fellow feeling under nationalism. It means the problem of an Oromo family is a matter of their concern. To the contrary, the E.A.L Management rejected my request to resume my duties as a matter of survival since they do not bother whether an Oromo family starved to death. While running lucrative business in Oromia land and Air space and Finfinnee, center of Oromia, why is E.A.L act against the interest of Oromo? Let history and Oromo people judge as to what the reaction to intentionally starving human beings and that those who are at least formally acknowledged citizens of a country should be.

I ask all my compatriots to demand that Mr Girma Wake, Ex Chief Executive Officer of EAL and Ms. Frehiwot Worku, the Ex Executive Officer of Human Resource, who were officers at the time when the action was taken against me and the current management of EAL, to answer the following questions:

What is the justification that EAL refused to return Mr Dirribii’s to his job?
As a matter of management ethics, is it appropriate to refuse to talk to an employee for the entire year, an employee who served the EAL for over 20 years?
Is it appropriate that an employee who served for more than 20 years should be fired simply because he was jailed without being found guilty of any offense?
It was reported that Ms. Firehiwot Worqu said “when he stands on a street side and begs, he will refrain from his talk of the rights of the Oromo, and others will see him and also stop talking about Oromo rights.” Is it correct to fire an employee from his job to make him example to others for political reasons?
The dismissal letter of April 30, 2008, states the reason for the denial to rehire as follows: “the reason for which your employment was interrupted in the first place will not allow you fore reinstatement to your job.” Following this logic, what are the conditions that become the ground for refusal to rehire of an employee who had been forcefully removed from his job?

The action that the EAL took against me was intentionally done to discourage an individually Oromo from struggling for his people’s cause. The EAL management through its acts has clearly shown that it is an anti-Oromo organization. Even though this organization is created and maintained through the Oromo people’s wealth it has time and again shown its anti Oromo stance. Even if at this stage there are not many things that we could do, I demand our people to boycott flying the EAL until and unless it reverses the action it took against me and change its way of discouraging Oromos from struggling for their people.

[1] He also tried to contact through elders such as Prof Ephraim Isac Mr Bulcha Damaksa, a member of parliament and Mr. Alemayehu G/Medin.



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