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UNPO: Oromo: Alterations of Afan Alphabet Raise Concerns About Community’s Cultural Rights June 10, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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#ABCDeebisaa

Oromo: Alterations of Afan Alphabet Raise Concerns About Community’s Cultural Rights

UNPO, 9 June 2017

Photo courtesy of USAID Ethiopia@flickr

Authorities in Oromia changed the order of the Roman alphabet used for the Afan Oromo language on the grounds that the old alphabet order is allegedly an obstacle to the reading skills of Oromo school children. According to Oromo intellectuals, however, this change is aiming at diminishing the cultural rights of the Oromo people who have been subject to a marginalisation process for years. This issue is occupying the center of Ethiopia’s political news cycle, even though this regulation had been silently carried out in 2016. Therefore, there are doubts as to whether the regime uses this debate to divert public attention from large-scale Oromo protests. In the past months, the Ethiopian government has been in the world’s spotlight due to massive human rights violations in the country.

 


 

This article has been published by Global Voices

 

Authorities in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest state, have infuriated language experts and Oromo nationalists with their decision to re-arrange the order of the alphabet of the region’s language, Afan Oromo.

In multilingual and multiethnic Ethiopia, orthographic choices are complex linguistic and political decisions that have great socio-political consequences.

Among Ethiopia’s written languages, most write their language in either the Ge’ez or Ethiopic alphabet, known as “Fidel,” or the Roman alphabet. Afan Oromo officially adopted the Roman alphabet — in its usual order of ABCD and so on — after the current government come to power in 1991.

However, more than a quarter century later, the regional educational authorities of Oromia announced they were reshuffling the “Qubee Afan Oromo” (as the alphabet is called). The first seven letters are:

L A G I M Aa S

 

Justifying the change, authorities blamed the old alphabet order as the reason why reading skills among primary school children in Oromia remain poor. They even cited a research to back up their claim.

There is, however, a problem with their argument. It was based on a misrepresentation of the findings of the research. In fact, the research, which was funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010, revealed a broader problem of reading skills not only among Afan Oromo-speaking primary school students, but also students whose mother tongue was Amharic, Hararigna, Sidaamu Afoo, Somali and Tigrinya.

In the study, pedagogic and logistical difficulties were identified as factors for poor reading skills in Ethiopia’s six major regions. However, the order of alphabet was not cited as a factor for the dismal reality. In a post on the citizen journalism site OPride.com, one blogger agreed with the findings of the research but questioned the connection it had to the alphabet order, writing:

There is little disagreement on the core problem here: The education quality crisis in Ethiopia needs fixing. The disagreement here though is on the proposed solutions. This is underscored by a key question that everyone is asking: JUST HOW DOES REORDERING THE AFAAN OROMO ALPHABET IMPROVE READING AND LEARNING OUTCOMES?

‘Yet another fraud perpetrated on the Oromo people’

The change actually took effect in 2016 and school textbooks already reflect the reshuffling, but it was done so quietly. So much so that the news of the letter order change only made it into Ethiopia’s political news cycle after government affiliate Oromia Broadcasting Service reported about it. Over last two years, a series of political events with far-reaching repercussions such as protests and internet outages has dominated the country’s news cycle.

As soon as the change was reported, concerned Oromo intellectuals started raising questions.

For them, this is the latest attempt in a series of steps intended to diminish the cultural rights of the Oromo people, who have historically been marginalized in Ethiopia. On Facebook Awol Kassim Allo, wrote:

“The casual change/disfiguring of the Alphabet of a language spoken by more than 40 million people without any debate and discussion is appalling. The excuse given to justify it – improving the ability of children to read at early stages of instruction – is lame and cannot stuck up to scrutiny. …This is yet another fraud perpetrated on the Oromo people and it must be rejected.”

The circumstance of the change also stoked another fear: that the decision to alter the order of the letters might be a plot by people who were disgruntled when the Oromos opted to adopt the Roman alphabet over the Ge’ez alphabet in 1991.

Prior to 1991, Afan Oromo was written in different alphabets. The first Oromo Bible was printed in Ge’ez letters in the 19th century. During the reign of emperor Haile Selassie (1930-1974), Afan Oromo was not a written language.

When Ethiopia’s military regime came to power in 1974, it decreed that all Ethiopian languages must be written exclusively in Ge’ez alphabet— a draconian policy intended to promote unity among Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic groups.

Parallel to the Ge’ez letters, however, Oromo language experts and Oromo nationalists were also using the Roman alphabet. Paul Baxter, a social anthropologist, wrote that the Roman alphabet was used to transcribe the Afan Oromo language among Kenyan Oromos in the 1940s.

Proponents of the Ge’ez alphabet believe that Ge’ez signifies the rich liturgic and literary tradition of Ethiopia. For them, preserving Ge’ez in the age of the Roman alphabet’s domination is a sign of resistance to cultural globalization and a symbol of identity. Responding to Awol Kassim Allo’s post on Facebook, Abeba Teshale wrote:

“Simple, structured, logical, Ethiopian, African, Amharic/Tigregna alphabet is there for any one interested to adopt. 26 vs 338 syllables! There is an alphabet for each sound and for the ones that don’t have one, we could crate a symbole. Just a thought”

For many Oromos, though, adopting the Roman alphabet is a matter of selecting an alphabet that best fits the Afan Oromo sound system.

According to academic Teferi Degeneh Bijiga, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the topic of Afan Oromo writing system, complex historical, cultural and linguistic forces were at play when Oromo intellectuals decided to adopt the Roman alphabet in 1991.

Over the next few weeks, this issue will be front and center in Ethiopian politics, where the Ethiopian government is operating under a state of emergency because of the protests that began over land use as well as political and economic marginalization in Oromia in November 2015.

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Africa: Extractive industries push Africa’s indigenous peoples to the margins June 10, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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“Worrying that so little is done to protect the environment and the indigenous peoples,” says the report.
With detailed field studies from Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and Namibia, a new report sheds light on the consequences of extractive industries on land rights and indigenous peoples in Africa. “Worrying that so little is done to protect the environment and the indigenous peoples,” says the report.

Environmental degradation, cultural ethnocide and gross human rights violations: For indigenous peoples these are some of the consequences of the current global race for natural resources and raw materials.

The skyrocketing global demand for natural resources is driven by the growth of both western and non-western economies and the liberalization of transnational investments and agreements.

Indigenous peoples in Africa are among the first to feel the consequences of the global increase in extractive industries, as they often live, where natural resources are found.

Terra nullius: No recognition of collective land rights

Indigenous peoples in many cases share collective land rights. But this ownership of the lands is not officially recognized by African states. Therefore indigenous peoples’ lands are often seen as fertile ground for natural resource exploitation.

“It is considered terra nullius, no one’s land, since there is no ‘visible’ use or occupation of the land,” says the new report, issued by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

When mining and construction companies move in, indigenous peoples generally get evicted from their ancestral lands and territories without any free, prior and informed consultation, consent or compensation.

“We struggle with the misconception that extractive industries benefits society by bringing modernity. This illogic defies the very fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa under the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Indigenous peoples host wanted natural reserves and resources

In 2020, 70 percent of all copper will be extracted from indigenous peoples’ territories, and in 2009, 70 percent of all uranium used in nuclear reactors was sourced from indigenous peoples’ territories.

And the tendency shows that the growth of extractive industries in Africa will continue.

“The pressure of the extractive industries leads to the question, if indigenous peoples will actually be able to stand up against this new and major direct threat to their environment, livelihoods and lives. If the international community and African states don’t prioritize the principle of free, prior and informed consent, the future survival of indigenous peoples and their unique cultures will be seriously threatened,” says Marianne Wiben Jensen, IWGIA’s Senior Advisor on Africa and land rights and Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.

The new report will be presented at the meeting of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in July 2017, where the conclusions and recommendations of the study will be discussed.

“I believe the impact of the study will be enormous. It can inform many in Africa, including governments, on the state and consequences of extractive industries on the rights of indigenous peoples. And it can serve as source for civic action for policy changes on the ground,” says Dr. Melakou Tegegn, Expert Member of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa.

The Working Group will organize national dialogues on the findings and recommendations of the study in the countries covered in the study.

Extractive Industries, Land Rights and the Indigenous Populations/Communities’ Rights: East, Central and Southern Africa
Includes field studies in Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda and Namibia

Published by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and IWGIA with financial support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Published online: May 29, 2017

 

About the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations / Communities in Africa

In 2003, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights established the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa with the responsibility to advise the Commission on matters relating to the rights of indigenous populations/communities on the continent. In this capacity, the Working Group found it appropriate to commission a study on extractive industries, land rights and indigenous populations/communities to inform and guide its activities and that of all other stakeholders. http://www.achpr.org/mechanisms/indigenous-populations/about/

About International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)

Since 2001, IWGIA, an international human rights organisation defending indigenous peoples’ rights, has been represented in the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa with Marianne Wiben Jensen as an expert member. For almost 50 years, IWGIA has documented the fight for indigenous peoples’ rights. IWGIA works through a global network of indigenous peoples’ organisations and international mechanisms. IWGIA promotes the recognition, respect and implementation of indigenous people’s rights to land, cultural integrity and development on their own terms.