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“We are here”: The soundtrack to the Oromo revolution gripping Ethiopia. – African arguments March 30, 2018

Posted by OromianEconomist in Muscians and the Performance Of Oromo Nationalism, Uncategorized.
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Far from being a footnote in the Oromo struggle, musicians like Haacaaluu Hundeessa have been its centre of gravity.

Haacaaluu Hundeessa's music has given sound and voice to the Oromo struggle.

With the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as chair of the ruling coalition, Ethiopia is set to have an Oromo leader for the first time in recent history. This is in no small part thanks to brave and sustained protests by ethnic Oromo youth.

For nearly two and a half years, activists have defied brutal government suppression that has seen over a thousand people killed and tens of thousands arrested. Mostly led by the Oromo and Amhara, who together make up two-thirds of the 100 million population, demonstrators have endured the imposition of two states of emergency and a brutal crackdown.

Now, for their pains, they have overseen the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. And they will soon witness the assent of a young and popular Oromo leader as Ethiopia’s next prime minister.

When historians look back at this period, they will see how persistent protesters reconfigured Ethiopia’s political map in just a couple of years. They will note how Oromo politics was forced from the distant periphery to the very centre of affairs. And they will observe how the passionate Oromo youth – known as the Qeerroo – drove this change.

In all this, however, one thing that should not be overlooked is the critical role played by Oromo musicians and artists. Through their work, they have mobilised scattered marginalised publics and helped create a politically conscious, defiant, and resilient generation. They have tapped into the transformative potential of subjugated memories and experiences, disrupted official histories, and altered the people’s very relationship to power.

Oromo music, the struggle’s centre of gravity

Oromo music and concerts have rarely been strictly musical. They have always been sites of political agitation, cultural self-affirmation, and spiritual rejuvenation, drawing together audiences who share an unassailable commitment to the Oromo cause.

Activist stalwarts have provided the conceptual architecture and strategic direction of the struggle. But Oromo artists’ poignant and powerful lyrics have given voice and significance to the group’s insufferable indignation. When their political leaders have failed, artists have given new meaning to the agonies of defeat. When they have prevailed, artists have amplified small victories to inspire whole generations.

Far from being a footnote in the history of the Oromo struggle for freedom and justice, musicians, poets and creators are its centre of gravity – the signature tune and the definitive sound of the Oromo revolution.

“We are here”

Amongst the many Oromo artists to have played a role in recent events, one musician and one performance stands out.

On 10 December 2017, the capital Addis Ababa staged the biggest Oromo concert it had ever seen. It was held to raise humanitarian funds for the over 700,000 Oromos displaced by violence in the east. But the event held a much deeper significance too. It was not only the most symbolic, defiant and spectacular Oromo concert ever broadcast live by Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN). It also featured an unprecedentedly large number of senior government officials, a sign of the slow but tectonic shift taking root in Ethiopian politics.

In the concert, a diverse cast of artists performed, leading up to the kaleidoscopic set by Haacaaluu Hundeessa. Through 11 minutes of heart-shredding ballads, the young singer delivered a show that was awe-inspiring and painful, honest and complex, impassioned and subtle. Working through themes of marginality, vulnerability and resilience, he articulated the distinct Oromo experience with raw clarity.

Haacaaluu has given sound and voice to the Oromo cause for the past few years. His 2015 track Maalan Jira(“What existence is mine”), for example, was a kind of an ethnographic take on the Oromo’s uncertain and anomalous place within the Ethiopian state. This powerful expression of the group’s precarious existence quietly, yet profoundly, animated a nationwide movement that erupted months later. Maalan Jira became the soundtrack to the revolution.

In October 2017, Haacaaluu released Jirraa (“We are here”). In contrast to his previous more sombre hit, this song was a statement of endurance, resilience, and self-affirmation. It celebrated transformations within the Oromo community and fundamental shifts in Ethiopia’s political landscape. It embodied a newfound collective optimism, a feeling that Oromo culture is no longer in jeopardy, and a sense that the Oromo society is finally in the middle of a robust ascendancy.

“Closer to Arat Kilo”

As many have pointed out, art can have a transformative power that a political debate or summit cannot. In her book Utopia in Performance, for example, American scholar Jill Dolan describes how a performance can have an effect “that lifts everyone slightly above the present, into a hopeful feeling of what the world might be like if every moment of our lives were as emotionally voluminous, generous, [and] aesthetically striking”.

Haacaaluu’s December show did just this. As soon as he occupied the stage, the scene immediately felt magical. His opening greetings – “ashamaa, ashamaa, ashamaa” – electrified an audience who understood his use of the traditional Gerarsa repertoire and its unconscious grammar. As he strode lion-like around the platform, he evoked a rare outpouring of exuberance in his adoring audience. And speaking at a moment in which the Oromo protests had been building momentum for over two years – and, unbeknownst to the crowd, just months before one of their own would become chair of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition – Haacaaluu repeatedly asked the audience Jirtuu (“are we here?”), driving everyone justifiably nuts.

In under a minute, the singer had created what Dolan calls moments of communitas, “resulting in a sudden and deeper insight into the shared process of being in the world.”

As the performance progressed, Haacaaluu escalated tensions, asking the audience how long they would have to wait for freedom. He lamented the absurdity of a marginalised majority, criticised a rigged system, and expressed his yearning for unity, peace, and justice.

In switching between articulations of precarity and resilience, Haacaaluu challenged the audience and the Oromo leadership in the gallery, which included Abiy Ahmed, to make bold moves befitting of the Oromo public and its political posture. He urged his audience to look in the mirror, to focus on themselves, and decolonise their minds. We are, he said, closer to Arat Kilo, Ethiopia’s equivalent of Westminster, both by virtue of geography and demography.

The Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, the party in the ruling coalition that put Abiy forward, thankfully followed Haacaaluu’s advice. After PM Desalegn announced his resignation, it fought tooth and nail to secure the position of the Prime Minister. After Abiy’s imminent confirmation, the first chapter of a journey for which Haacaaluu has provided the soundtrack will be complete.

The 41-year-old Abiy will be taking over at a highly fractious and uncertain time. He will continue to face immense resistance from the deep state and the security forces that stand to lose from democratic opening. In confronting these challenges, he should remember the deeper meaning and significance of Haacaluu’s lyrics and monumental performance.

*Awol Allo is a lecturer in law at Keele University School of Law. He tweets at @awolallo.

More:

[Wax & Gold: The tightrope challenges facing Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed]

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Oromia: East Ethiopia – The forgotten crisis. -Relief Web March 30, 2018

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Odaa OromoooromianeconomistThe UN is silent as over 45 million Oromo people are subjected to genocide

Some observers estimate the number of people who could need humanitarian assistance, displaced people and host communities included, at five to seven million. Very few people are paying attention to this crisis and not enough money has been allocated to it. The basic need for water, food, hygiene and facilities are only just being met. The support provided by funding bodies falls short of what’s needed.

East Ethiopia – The forgotten crisis

Published on 29 Mar 2018 View Original

The grazing regions of Oromia and Somali in southern and eastern Ethiopia have witnessed an escalation in inter-ethnic violence in recent months. Since last September, more than one million people have fled their villages and been displaced to hundreds of reception areas. HI is working to protect the most vulnerable individuals, primarily women and children. Fabrice Vandeputte, HI’s head of mission in Ethiopia, explains the causes of the crisis and how our team is responding.

How did the crisis begin?

For years, ethnic groups have been fighting over natural resources, especially water and pasture land in the regions of Somali and Oromia in southern and eastern Ethiopia. But the conflict has intensified due to long periods of drought and the famines that have followed them. A disagreement over where the border lies between the two regions also recently turned violent, when hundreds of thousands of people from Oromia living in Somali and even in neighboring Somaliland were forcibly removed to Oromia. The Oromia authorities expelled the Somali population in reprisal.

Where are the displaced people living?

More than one million displaced people, mostly women and children, are currently living in 400 reception areas, such as schools and public buildings, but also with families and the like, on a north-south line from the towns of Jigaga to Moyale, on the border between the Somali and Oromia regions. These population movements are putting a lot of pressure on host communities. For example, one woman we met recently has taken in 50 or so members of her close or extended family. You can imagine the day-to-day problems that causes in terms of sanitary facilities, food, and so on.

What are conditions like for displaced people?

They’re exhausted. Think about it: you’re walking down the street, minding your own business, when you’re suddenly surrounded by police who load you onto a vehicle, and transport you hundreds of miles away from your home region. That’s what’s happened to most displaced people. They’ve lost everything they own. A lot of children even get separated from their parents. Many suffer serious psychological distress.

What are NGOs doing?

Unfortunately, very few humanitarian actors are supported by funding bodies or are able to implement emergency programs. NGOs in the field are finding it hard to launch a response because displaced people are spread across lots of different sites, and you have to find them. Organizing aid for people scattered over a large area is not easy.

What is HI doing?

We’ve set up a program to protect women and children. When people are suddenly displaced in large numbers, and forced together in very poor conditions, it leads to tension and violence, and women and children are usually worst affected. There’s also a heightened risk of rape and child trafficking. In Babile and Kersaa, where we work, we’ve formed mobile teams whose job is to spot risky situations and vulnerable individuals and to refer them to the right services, such as health centers, social services, NGOs, and the like. We’re also opening areas for women and children where they can play or get psychosocial support.

How do you think the crisis will develop over the coming months?

Some observers estimate the number of people who could need humanitarian assistance, displaced people and host communities included, at five to seven million. Very few people are paying attention to this crisis and not enough money has been allocated to it. The basic need for water, food, hygiene and facilities are only just being met. The support provided by funding bodies falls short of what’s needed.

Humanity & Inclusion in Ethiopia

Present in the country since 1986, our team is working to provide support to the displaced as well as improve the quality of and access to physical rehabilitation and orthopedic-fitting services, livelihoods facilities for families of children with disabilities, and assistance for refugees and displaced people, and more.

Can Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister pull the nation back from the brink of civil war? – New Statesman March 30, 2018

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Odaa Oromoooromianeconomist

Abiy Ahmed in 2017

Can Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister pull the nation back from the brink of civil war?

by Martin Plaut*, New Statesman, 29 March 2018

Abiy Ahmed has come to power following a period of intense unrest and violence.

 

For months now, Ethiopia has been trembling on the brink of a civil war. Anti-government protests that began in 2015 over land rights broadened into mass protests over political and human rights. The government responded with waves of arrest, punctuated by hundreds of killings. Then, last month, the government announced a six-month state of emergency.

In the middle of February, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn finally threw in the towel and resigned. For weeks, the country has been without a leader. Now, finally, a brief announcement on state television has declared that Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has voted in Abiy Ahmed as new prime minister.

But Ahmed is something of an outsider; a member of the Oromo, who – despite being the country’s largest ethic group, at 34 per cent of the population – have never held power in Ethiopia’s modern history. Living in the centre and south of Ethiopia they were forcibly incorporated into the empire during the reign of Menelik II (1889-1913). Using imported firearms, Menelik embarked on a program of military conquest that more than doubled the size of his domain. Despite their numbers, the Oromo were routinely discriminated again: being referred to by the derogatory term of “galla” which suggested pagan, savage, or even slave.

The problems of ethnicity were supposedly eliminated in 1991 when rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement swept to power in Addis Ababa. Under the brilliant, but ruthless, Meles Zenawi a new system of “ethnic federalism” was introduced. Each ethnic group was encouraged to develop local self-government, while being guaranteed representation at the centre.

A system of ethnic parties was established and nurtured. These came together in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of four political movements.

But there was a strong belief that behind each party stood a representative of the Tigrayan minority, which controlled the coalition with a rod of iron.

Gradually, however, each of the four constituent parties has developed its own political culture. Abiy Ahmed emerged as a key player in what became known as “Team Lemma”, which has been steering change in recent months. The team resisted Tigrayan hegemony in order to transform EPRDF from within, while at the same time governing Oromia legitimately and serving local needs.

It would appear that this has now finally succeeded. Some cast doubt on Ahmed’s ability to lead this complex transformation, pointing out that he is well connected to the security services. Others suggest that his mixed religious background — he has a Christian mother and a Muslim father — his education, and his fluency in Amharic, Oromo, and Tigrinya as making him well qualified for the job.


*Martin Plaut is a fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He is the author of Understanding Eritrea and, with Paul Holden, the author of Who Rules South Africa?

 

Related (Oromian Economist sources) :

Irrespective of whichever media outlet’s one may read, the following five key connections are either implied or purposely made about the connection between the election of Dr. Abiy and demands of the Oromo people. And they are all wrong.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed is an Oromo, But he is not Oromo Prime Minister!

I did not like how the election of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as the chairman of the EPRDF and as the Prime Minister designate of Ethiopia, pending approval by the Parliament, is being framed and set up by both local and international media and the implication of his election on the demands of the Oromo people in Ethiopia.

Irrespective of whichever media outlet’s one may read, the following five key connections are either implied or purposely made about the connection between the election of Dr. Abiy and demands of the Oromo people. And they are all wrong.

1. Dr. Abiy was not elected to represent the Oromo people. He is an Ethiopian Prime Minister representing the entirety of the Ethiopian people including the Oromo people. The Oromo people did not nominate or elect him to represent them in the Office of the Prime Minister. He is elected as an individual, possibly, representing the OPDO, the Oromo wing of the EPRDF. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that Dr. Abiy is becoming the chairman of the EPRDF and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia by representing the Oromo people.

2. Dr. Abiy was not elected to calm down and sooth the Oromo people and the Oromo protests. To begin with, the demands of the Oromo people was not to elect Dr. Abiy to the office of the prime minister. Second, it is wrong to assume that the Oromo people will be calmed down and being soothed by the election of an Oromo individual to the office of the Prime Minister unless the office Dr. Abiy represents, the Office of Ethiopian Prime Minister, responds to the demands of the Oromo people and all the demands of the #OromoProtests are addressed. In fact, the Oromo protests will continue their struggle until the political, economic and social exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people in Ethiopia ends. The Oromo people knows he is an Oromo but he does not represent the interests of the Oromo people alone. As a Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy represents the interests of all Ethiopian people. The Oromo people will not expect either specific favor other than what he could do for all Ethiopia’s or being disappointed if he fails to deliver any of his promises. But, with Dr. Abiy in the office of the Prime Minister, the Oromo people will work with him to end those marginalization and exclusions. The same holds true about the demands of all other Ethiopian people. Simply put, the struggle will continue including by working with him to address the demands of our people for justice, equality and freedom.

3. Dr. Abiy’s success or failure as the Prime Minister is not Oromo people’s success or failure. Dr. Abiy’s success or failure as the Prime Minister is just that. It is his individual success or failure. The Oromo people will not be praised for his success nor condemned because of his failures. But, will I be, as an Oromo, happy at his success? Triple Yes! Yes! And Yes! In fact, I will do everything in my power for him to succeed to advance the causes of equality, justice and freedom in Ethiopia. I believe the Oromo people, the same as all other Ethiopians, will do the same and work hard for his success. Other than that, attributing his failure or success to the Oromo people will be totally wrong.

4. Dr. Abiy, as an individual, is not a superman to do miracle in solving Ethiopia’s multifaceted problems. Rather, his administration, the ministerial cabinet and other executive authorities he appoints, the support of progressive forces in the EPRDF, and the support his administration gets from the Ethiopian public including from those in the opposition will determine whether his administration succeeds or fails. Therefore, instead of focusing what Dr. Abiy could do or not do, let’s look into what we could do both as an individual and as group to help him and his administration bring the much needed transformative regime change in Ethiopia.

5. Dr. Abiy is not an Oromo Prime Minister. He is an Ethiopian Prime Minister. Designating him as an Oromo Prime Minister is a tacit attempt to imply that the Oromo people assumed political power in Ethiopia. That is simply wrong. The Oromo people, together with other Ethiopians, are struggling to establish the government of the people for the people by the people in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people’s political power to elect and remove from office their representatives through democratic elections are not yet to be secured or even formally acknowledge by the current Ethiopian regime. Therefore, implying as if the election of Dr. Abiy signifies the transfer of the political power to the Oromo people is totally wrong.

I hope both the international and local media will not make these and similar mistakes as they continue to report on this issue.

 

ቄሮዎች ስለ ዶ/ር አብይ ምርጫ ምን ይላሉ?

ባለፉት ሁለት ዓመታት በኦሮሚያ በሚደረጉ ተቃውሞዎች እና አድማዎች ጉልህ ተሳትፎ የነበራቸው “ቄሮ” በሚል መጠሪያ የሚታወቁት በወጣት የዕድሜ ክልል ያሉ የክልሉ ነዋሪዎች ናቸው፡፡ ከጥያቄዎቻቸው መካከል የኦሮሞ ብሔር በፌደራል ስርዓቱ ውስጥ ተገቢውን ቦታ ማግኘት አለበት የሚለው አንዱ ነው፡፡ የዶ/ር አብይ አህመድ ምርጫ ጥያቄያቸውን የመለሰ ይሆን?

ODF Statement on the election of Dr. Abiy Ahmed as Chairman of Ethiopia’s ruling party