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Oromo Studies Association 2017 Annual Conference: Gadaa as an organizing theme of Oromo life July 29, 2017

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WALGAHIIIDILEE OSA BARA 2017 WASHINGTON DC

 

Oromo Studies Association 2017 Annual Conference: Gadaa as an organizing theme of Oromo life: Tradition, knowledge and contemporary significance

OSA 2017-Annual-Conferece-Program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpts from a Speech made by the Outgoing Chair of OSA Board of Directors, Prof. Mekuria Bulcha, at the Opening of the 31st OSA Annual Conference on July 28, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

OSAOn behalf of OSA Board of Directors and its Executive Committee, I want to welcome you all to this evening’s events. It is with a great sense of satisfaction that I stand before you to open the 31stAnnual OSA conference. The first time I came to Washington was 33 years ago in 1984 to attend the annual conference of Oromo Union in North America. In early July the same year, we had also an international Oromo conference in Berlin organized by the Union of Oromo Students in Europe. Bonnie Holcomb and the late Mammo Dibaabaa attended the conference from the US. The late Sisai Ibssa sent a paper to be read at the conference. It was then that we started to think about organizing an Oromo studies association. Few years later, OSA was formally organized. Since then, I have been coming almost every year, sometimes twice a year, to this country because of Oromo studies.

By and large, we have been conducting Oromo studies for more than three decades without financial support or institutional backing. Given the circumstances, I never imagined that we could write so many articles and books on Oromo history, culture, and language. When I say many books and articles, I am talking in relative terms reflecting on the knowledge that existed about the Oromo people when we started. If we take the gadaa system, for example, we had only Professor Asmerom Legesse’s classic book, Gadaa: Three Approaches to African Society published in 1973. Today, we have several books, doctoral dissertations, and journal articles on the gadaa system and many other topics concerning the Oromo society. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were very few articles published on Oromo history in international journals. Today, there are many books on the subject, most of them written by Oromos themselves. New ones keep on coming.

Although what has been achieved is what we had never imagined, what we have done so far is not more than a scratch on the surface. There are great gaps in our knowledge about Oromo history, Oromo language, and Oromo culture that are waiting to be filled. Without adequate knowledge about our past, we cannot make an adequate assessment of our present concerns, or have a clear vision of our future as a nation.

That said, Oromo studies should not limit itself to Oromia or the Ethiopian region. It must  go beyond the present Ethiopian borders, look into the cultural and historical affinities the Oromo seem to have, particularly with the peoples of Nubia and ancient Egypt. It is interesting to note that culturally, significant similarities in hair style, dress, etc. that  resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics motifs are still found among the Oromo. There are many artifacts and outfits used by Oromo abba gadaas and qaalluuswhich resemble the outfits that decorate the statues of Egyptian pharaohs. The resemblance between the ancient Egyptian concept of maat and Oromo concept of nagaa, both of which reflect ethics that regulate order and harmony provide execiting area for scholarly investigation regarding the probable affinity between the philosophies and cultures of the two peoples.

In addition, there are intriguing linguistic elements that indicated similarities between Afaan Oromooand the ancient language of the Berbers of North Africa. In short, there are historical, cultural, and linguistic factors which suggest Oromo affinity with the ancient peoples of Northeast Africa, countering the controversial theory about Oromo migration from the south in the sixteenth century in Ethiopia.

When we turn south, the interaction of the Oromo people with the inhabitants of East Africa is not less interesting. As brilliantly presented in Professor Gufu Oba’s new book, Herder Warfare in East Africa, the Oromo influence in the region from 1300 to 1900 seems to have been very substantial. Starting from Jubaland in southern Somalia and stretching south to Tanzania, the Oromo role in the history of the region was very significant.

That colonialism alienates the colonized from their true history is well-known among scholars. Hence, it is needless to stress here that distortion of history and suppression of information about Oromo society has been the policy of Ethiopian regimes for more than a century. Ethiopianist scholars have also contributed much to the distortion and cover ups. Consequently, there are important areas in Oromo culture and history that remain barely touched by researchers to this day. For example, very little study is done on Oromo social and environmental ethics. The Oromo moral and philosophical principles of Safuu and Nagaa which offer a unique model for passing over life on to future generations are waiting for exploration by scholars. The usefulness of Oromo philosophies, eco-knowledge, and social ethics in these times of glaring lack of environmental ethics, religious fanaticism, right wing political extremism, and lack of respect for human lives should be appreciated and mediated to the rest of the world.  The recognition of the gadaa system and the irreecha festival by UNESCO as intangible heritages of humanity in 2017 can be used as an opportunity to share with the world from the pool of traditional Oromo knowledge mentioned above.

In short, opportunities are abound for those who are interested in Oromo studies. As indicated above, there are numerous untouched areas to investigate. However, there are many challenges to be confronted as well. Acquisition of institutional and financial support requires hard work from OSA members.

The future of Oromo studies depends on our ability to recruit young scholars for research in Oromo language, history, and society. Therefore, building networks with researchers at home is very important.  Our cooperation with non-Oromo scholars engaged in African studies is also crucial. As a diaspora organization, OSA cannot do everything, but a lot more can be done.

Much more can be said about available research opportunities that OSA has as well as challenges that are confronting it. But, since we have many panels and round table discussions on dozens of topics in the next two days, I will not take more of your time with what should be done, I will use the few minutes I have to thank those who have been working hard to discharge their duties as members of the Board of Directors and OSA Executive Committee since August last year. ….. Last, but not least, I would also like to thank the local organizing committee who made this splendid evening possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and please enjoy your dinner and the rest of the evening.

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OSA: Statement on the Draft Law on Oromia’s Special Interest in Addis Ababa July 1, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #ABCDeebisaa, #OromoProtests.
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Statement on the Draft Law on Oromia’s Special Interest in Addis Ababa

 

For Immediate Release  June 30, 2017


The Oromo Studies Association (OSA) believes the draft law’s utter neglect of the Oromo people’s demands risks reigniting conflict on the unresolved issue of Oromia’s right over Addis Ababa.

On June 27, 2017, the Council of Ministers of the Government of Ethiopia announced that it has adopted a draft legislation to determine by law the “special interest” provision of the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution and sent it to the House of People’s Representatives. The legislation was an abridged version of the draft law the government had leaked a few weeks earlier and quickly disavowed after a backlash from a deeply skeptical public about the intent and contents of the legislation. On June 29, the draft legislation was taken up by House of People’s Representative with a view to promulgating it as law.

The Ethiopian Constitution posits, in Article 49 (5), that the special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Ababa concerns three important areas: the provision of social services, the utilization of natural resources and joint administration of the city in lieu of the fact that Addis Ababa location within the State of Oromia. The law that was designed to determine these issues would be expected to explain in detail the meaning and process of implementation of the constitutional provisions.

Assessed by any measure, the draft legislation is not worthy of its name. Nowhere does it attempt to define the “special interest” provision of the constitution or recognize the struggle of the Oromo people and their demands regarding Finfinnee/Addis Ababa. The draft legislation doesn’t designate the Oromia regional government as the beneficiary of the constitutional “special interest.” The boundary of Finfinnee is not delimited, even though that is a sin qua non for implementation of the proclamation. Instead there are indications of intent to expand the city limits into the Oromia state territory. With regard to social services, the proclamation only reiterates conventions and practices already in use and in place.

Rather than defining the constitutional provision, the “proclamation” rehashes policy issues that any city government must undertake to serve its citizens. Providing inter-state transport services shouldn’t be a matter defined by law as a “special interest;” market forces are already at work in this respect. Providing youth employment is a responsibility of an incumbent in any city government. It cannot be designated as a special interest of a state. Overall, if there is anything resembling a definition of the constitutional provision, it is allusions to the rights of Finfinne residents who happen to be Oromo rather than those of the Oromia regional state as stipulated in the constitution. The proclamation also re-grants constitutional rights to Oromo residents as if their rights within Finfinnee aren’t already protected by the Ethiopian Constitution.

In this sense, OSA considers the draft proclamation a mockery of the process of legislation that should be solemn and dignified. Even worse, the proclamation is an insult to the legitimate demand of the Oromo people for which, in the last two years, thousands have given their lives, limbs and livelihoods. To reduce the Oromo people’s demands to issues of youth unemployment, compensation for confiscated properties and provision of services is a dangerous political ploy that entails severe consequences.

As a scholarly organization that has documented the struggle of the Oromo people for freedom, justice, dignity and human rights, OSA condemns the Ethiopian regime’s blatant disregard for the Oromo people’s demands over Finfinnee. OSA scholars have documented the history of violent conquests and the consequent dispossession of Oromo lands, dislocation of homesteads and displacement Oromo people from the area today known as Addis Ababa.

It is unconscionable that the Ethiopian regime, when it is given the chance to correct historical injustices, has chosen to pursue the short term goal of perpetuating in power a group that has been there for more than a quarter century by force. OSA feels that the complete failure of the Ethiopian government to heed the cry of the Oromo people can only pave the way for more violence and bloodshed.

Cognizant of the long history and the intensity of the current demands of the Oromo people, OSA calls upon the following to take immediate action to obviate conflict and its horrendous consequences.

To the Ethiopian Government

The Oromo interest on Finfinnee is not “special.” It is historical and inherent. If this draft legislation were to have a chance of being accepted as adequate, it should respond to the Oromo people’s articulation of their interest during their protests last year. At a minimum, the draft legislation must include the following provisions.

  • Delimit the boundary of Finfinnee the city boundary as it existed in 1991. Continued expansion is a recipe for renewed conflict.
  • Recognize the Oromia regional government’s right to joint governance of the city. –      Establish the Oromo language as a working language.
  • Respect the political, economic and civil rights of all the residents.
  • Recognize the city resident full democratic right of municipal self-governance instead of treating them as subjects of federal authority.
  • – Restore and legally establish the city’s indigenous name, Finfinnee, as the official name of the city.
  • Established by legislation the Oromo people’s right to socio-cultural, economic, environmental, and political benefits in the city and take measures to facilitate the enjoyment of these rights.

To Oromo people all over Oromia and Ethiopia:

  • OSA is believes that your protest last year has brought you to the verge of victory. Your gallantry and fearless engagement of security forces has caused the Ethiopian government at all levels to heed your demands. OSA salutes you on your achievements and your discerning wisdom concerning timing and appropriateness of direct action.
  • OSA believes the government is aware of the power of your commitment to peaceful protest. We reckon that it will quickly abandon its misguided draft legislation. At the same time, we fully support your commitment to peaceful protest.
  • OSA affirms its commitment to continue to provide the institutional support and intellectual materials needed to press on the Oromo people’s struggle for ensuring Oromia’s interest on Finfinnee.

To Foreign Governments and Donors supporting the Ethiopian government:

  • The issue of land and the Oromo interest over Finfinnee were the main causes of the protests that lasted for nearly a year in Oromia in 2016. This draft legislation on Oromia’s “special interest” is now being described as a backdoor attempt to implement the dreaded Addis Ababa Master Plan that triggered the protests. Governments and representatives of the international community have an obligation to use their good offices and leverage to persuade the Ethiopian government to refrain from forging ahead with this draft proclamation.
  • OSA urges all parties to understand that Oromos are a force for peace and stability in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Respect for human rights and commitment to peace and justice have been the traditional governing principles of Oromos. It is in the interest of those states that have security and other interests in Ethiopia to support these enduring Oromo values and denounce the rule of violence and rule by administrative fiat. OSA is aware that all foreign parties in Ethiopia pursue their own interests. However, an interest that is singularly self-serving cannot guarantee long term stability.

To Non-governmental organizations and rights groups

  • In line with OSA statement on the Master Plan and the Oromo protests, issued on December 9, 2016, we reiterate our commendation of the courageous work of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and International Crisis Group in
  • investigating crises affecting the Oromo over the years. The irresponsible act of the Ethiopian regime in drafting the Oromia “special” interest legislation undermines the demands of the Oromo people over Finfinnee. As such, it is bound to provoke public anger. We urge you to continue to document the injustices that are being perpetrated under the state of emergency that has been in effect since October 9, 2016.

To International and Foreign Media Outlets:

  • OSA calls upon all forms of print, broadcast and online media to document and publicize the events underway in Ethiopia. The issue of Finfinnee is a potent political issue. We urge you to watch the events surrounding this draft proclamation as it is pregnant with all the elements that ignited a historic protests movement that resulted in the death of thousands of people in 2016.

The scheme to dispossess the Oromo of their land and homeland, to dislocate them from their livelihood, and destroy their language and cultural identity, whether expressed blatantly as a Master Plan or shrouded with a cloak of a “special interest” draft law, is a threat to the economic wellbeing and survival as a nation. OSA affirms its commitment to offer all possible intellectual and scholarly assistance to strengthen the efforts to prevent its implementation.

Signed

Ezekiel Gebissa, PhD
President, Oromo Studies Association

Mekuria Bulcha, PhD
Chair, OSA Board of Directors


Related Article:

Manii Marii Ministeroota Itoophiyaa faaydaa addaa Oromiyaan Finfinnee irraa argattu jedhee irratti wixinee baasee labse. Master Plan (Master Killer) 2.0

OSA: STATEMENT ON THE ATTEMPT TO ALTER THE QUBEE (ALPHABET) OROMO WRITTEN ALPHABET. #ABCDeebisaa #OromoProtests June 12, 2017

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#ABCDeebisaa

OSA: STATEMENT ON THE ATTEMPT TO ALTER THE QUBEE (ALPHABET) OROMO WRITTEN ALPHABET

For Immediate Release
June 9, 2017
The Oromo Studies Association (OSA) believes the Ethiopian government’s decision to rearrange the order of the Qubee Afaan Oromoo which has been in official use for a quarter century is misguided.
On June 3, 2017, the state-owned TV Oromiyaa (TVO) reported that the Oromia regional state, apparently at the behest of the Federal Ministry of Education of Ethiopia, had decided to alter the order of the qubee (alphabet) used in written Afaan Oromoo (the Oromo language). According to the TVO report, the Oromia Education Bureau made the decision over a year ago and introduced a new primary school curriculum in which the order of Qubee Afaan Oromoo was altered. New textbooks were distributed and early grade teachers were trained to implement the curriculum. Surprisingly, this changes were implemented quietly without consultation or input from the public and experts in the field.
The news report also stated that the changes were prompted by a finding of a USAID-funded study, the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA). The study was conducted in 2010 in eight regions and six languages by an American consultancy firm, RTI International. The critical finding of the study that ostensibly occasioned the curricular change was: “by the end of the second grade, a third of students were unable to read at all and about half read at much lower level than the proficiency benchmarked for that grade.”
OSA scholars and experts have scrutinized the EGRA document and several other studies conducted with the support of the USAID-funded Reading for Ethiopia’s Achievement Developed Technical Assistance (READ TA) Project. The EGRA researchers did inquire if the scripts and writing systems used in the various regional states had any differential impact on reading skills. The report found no direct link between the two variables and made no recommendation that altering the order of alphabets would improve early grade reading skills. In fact, the study posits that children learn to read faster in their mother-tongue. Accordingly, the USAID project mentioned above supported mother tongue instruction to improve early grade reading. In light of this, OSA maintains that the Oromia regional state’s attempt to leverage external support to implement its ill-advised scheme is a disgraceful act that should not be allowed to stand.
In addition to the EGRA study, officials of the Oromia Education Bureau and its associated experts offered an additional justification for the alteration of the qubee order. They claimed that a “word frequency test” they administered showed the Oromo language had more words whose first letter is the alphabet “L.” This was offered as the rationale for rearranging the qubee order. That means, early grade students will henceforth learn alphabets begin with L, A, G, M, rather than the customary A, B, C, D. If this were in the US, Big Bird and Barney will have to relearn their A, B, C, D, and their alphabet songs.
OSA members and other experts have run similar tests and found that by far the most frequent word in the Oromo language has “A” as the first letter. In fact, “L” is ranked as 13th in one of the tests, 19thwhen the letter is followed by the vowel “a” and 42nd when the upper case “L” is used in the test.
Viewed from the technical vantage point, there is no linguistic or pedagogical basis for altering the qubee order.  In the absence of any study that shows the qubee alphabet as a drag on reading skills or word frequency test results that shows “L” to be the most frequent occurrence,  nothing warrants the Oromia Education Bureau’s decision to change the order of the qubee alphabet and secretly implementing a structural curriculum change. OSA rejects the justifications given by the Oromia regional state officials and the experts as reasons for the ill-conceived scheme.
In fact, the OSA leadership believes that this scheme has a strategic objective. To implement curricular changes that are so radical and disruptive can have no constructive purpose. There is only a political goal to the unjustified changes. Given that the use of the qubee alphabet has gone on for a quarter century, the change to the order of qubee could only create resentment and frustration with the use of the qubee alphabet. OSA believes that tinkering with the Qubee Afaan Oromoo is a slippery slope that shouldn’t be embarked on. It must be opposed.
OSA reaffirms its unflinching support for the use of the Latin alphabet as the sole means of written Afaan Oromoo. The studies that the government has cited as the basis for its action identifies inadequacy of textbooks, reading materials, low student-teacher ratio, truancy and teacher absenteeism as factors for the low level of reading fluency throughout the country. The tried-and-true means for improving reading proficiency is more reading and reading more. The Oromia Education Bureau should focus on what works and turn away from the meaningless proposition to alter the sequence of the Latin alphabet which has almost nothing to do with improving reading fluency.
OSA believes that the decision to change the order of Qubee Afaan Oromoo constitutes violence against the long and bitter struggle Oromo struggle for written Oromo language.  In the 1840s, Oromo slaves began to use Latin alphabets to write in the Oromo language. In the 1870s, Emperor Menelik’s conquest precipitated the adoption of the Ge’ez script for written Oromo literature. For the next century, the Oromo language languished under the clutches of the ill-fitting Geez script.  The use of the Latin alphabet in Oromo transcription re-emerged later in the 20th century, exactly a century later. It was adopted as the official alphabet of written Afaan Oromoo on November 3, 1991 when over 1,000 Oromo intellectuals assembled in the Ethiopian parliament and made a historic and momentous decision to adopt the Latin alphabet in writing in Afaan Oromoo. In light of this history, the Oromia Education Bureau has a choice to make: either stand with the Oromo struggle for written Afaan Oromoo or take the side of those that seek to continue the violence against written Afaan Oromoo that commenced with Menelik’s conquest.
When qubee was adopted as the sole means of written Afaan Oromo, ABCD was the order of the alphabets. This order is synonymous with the Oromoo qubee. What was adopted in a solemn occasion cannot be undone surreptitiously and in such a nonchalant manner as Oromia officials have done.  It is bewildering why the Oromia government officials even contemplated changing by an administrative fiat the sequencing of the Latin alphabet that evolved over several millennia. The order of the qubeealphabets is what unifies the Oromo nation with the rest of the world that uses Latin alphabets. There is no justification for changing this relationship.

Today qubee is the identity of a new generation of Oromo, it is a monument to the triumph of Oromo nationalism, and a symbol of the bitter sacrifice the Oromo have paid to be free from oppression, domination and marginalization.  It is engrained in the minds of the new generation of Oromo and entwined with the Oromo struggle for self-determination. A violence against qubee amounts to a violence against the Oromo struggle for freedom and justice and freedom from violence.  OSA asserts that the order of the alphabet used in written Afaan Oromoo is sacrosanct. It is inalterable.


Ezekiel Gebissa, President, Studies Association

Mekuria Bulcha, Chair, OSA Board of Directors


OSA 2017: Oromo Studies Association Mid-Year Conference: Social Media and Social Movements: Leadership,Transnationalism and the Oromo Quest for Transformation April 2, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Oromo Studies, Oromo Studies Association.
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Social Media and Social Movements: Leadership, Transnationalism and the Oromo Quest for Transformation

Date: April 1-2, 2017.  Venue: Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA)


OSA Mid-Year conference 2017 Keynote speakers, Oslo 2017

Click here for OSA Midyear Conference, April 1-2 2017 OSLO Conference programe

 

 

 

Tamsaasa Kallattii Walga’ii Walakkaa Waggaa OSA ,Oslo Norway kutaa 2ffaa (As tuqaa ilaalaa, Click here to watch) https://www.facebook.com/OromiaMedia/videos/1907177729495085/

Tamsaasa Kallattii Walga’ii Waggaa Walakkaa OSA ,Oslo Norway kutaa 3ffaa

 

 

 

Tamsaasa Kallattii Walga’ii Waggaa Walakkaa OSA ,Oslo Norway kutaa 5ffaa

 

 

Tamsaasa Kallattii Walga’ii Waggaa Walakkaa OSA ,Oslo Norway kutaa xumuraa