Before I start writing about oromo history , as an introduction and as I am not a history writer I want to say a little about my stand point. Many Abyssinian court historians and monks , oromo historians as well as world historians who were interested in oromo case wrote a lot about oromo peoples at different times. Almost all Abyssinians who wrote about oromo history are the so called self centered extremist Ethiopianists who have never ever understood what a history is and who's main objective is to advance the Abyssinian hegemony in the empire. Well as they are against oromo true identity and they are part of the colonizers who buried our identity for over a century & proud of their 3000 years history that is all what is expected from them.
When we come to some western historians but not all who wrote about oromo, as long as they are in Ethiopia and they used that biased evidences written by Abyssinian court historians and monks and they can't find any library or museum with the account of oromo true history and there is language and transportation barriers to go out of the city and look for some primary sources that is all they can do as long as they are interested in the matter under discussion.
The concept of writing oromo history by oromo intellectuals and elites is the new phenomenon emerged particularly before two or may be three decades despite the belief that the oromos are the ancient peoples may be on which other peoples in the Ethiopian empire emerged. Even if is a recent development which is not deep rooted in the society touching all spheres of the society, there are loads of possibilities in the future and there are a lot accomplished and a lot to be done.
The Oromos led an independent existence as masters of their own destiny and makers of their own history for greater part of their pre-colonization era. During their long history ,the oromo developed their own religious ,cultural, social and political system known as Gadaa system, a uniquely democratic political and social institution that governed the life of every oromo individual in the society from birth to death. Oromo of Ethiopia by Mohammed Hassan a history (1570-1860) accounts the following " The independent existence of the oromo society was brought to an end abruptly and rudely by the creation of the modern Ethiopian empire during and after the 1880s. The conquest and annexation of their territory not only deprived the oromo of their sovereignty but also of their history, because the creation of the empire consolidated myths and untruths long held and circulated Christian kingdom about oromo ,who were generally portrayed as people without history." To make readers better understand the process of colonization and surrender of oromia and oromo people I want to quote the following rudiments from what I have read ...
BEGINNING OF LONG DRAMA
The indigenous inhabitants of the red sea coast on the side of Northeast Africa were the Beja, Afar, Saho and other cushitic peoples. Since the early 4th century B.C there were continuous massive immigration of various peoples including the ancestors of the Axumites from south Arabia across the red sea to the northeast Africa. The first waves of immigration from south Arabia came into direct contact with the natives mentioned above. The initial conflict ,naturally was among the natives inhabiting the red sea coast of northeast Africa and the immigrants from south Arabia. The motives of new comers were to: to conquer, settle by force, and subjugate the natives. This was indicative of the fact that the immigrants had aggressive, expansionist, and imperialist behavior. As a consequence, the conflict was ferocious and violent in character (Levine 1974:71,79, and Ullendorf 1965:51).....
The next stage of phase one was the rise in power of the Axumite empire from the first to sixth century A.D. The core of this empire is the south Arabian population who settled at the red sea coast of north east Africa as mentioned above. The Axumite empire conducted a series of invasion in order to expand its dominations. The first victim was the Nubian kingdom which was ruthlessly conquered. Next the Axumites invaded the famous kingdom of Kush and destroyed its capital known as Meore in the middle of the fourth century A.D [Levine 1974:12,Hassan 1967:8-9,Duncan 1952:3]. As a result ,the ancient kingdoms of Nubia and Kush lost their home ,state and independent existence. The Axumite empire enriched and established itself at the cost of destruction and subjugation of the native peoples of the north east Africa.
The third stage of phase one refers to the further expansionist exercise of the Axumite empire. The Axumite empire attacked another Cushitic group called the Agew [Buxton 1970:44,Hess 1790:8,Ullendof 1965:58-60]. The Axumites under estimated the power resources of the agew people to counter -attack and even possibly endanger the very existence of the Axumite empire it self. At the end of the day, the Agew people managed managed to defeat and eventually destroy the empire state. At any rate, the Agew people replaced the Axumite empire and established a dynasty known as the Zague Dynasty which lasted from 970-1270 A.D [Hess 1970:33-35, Levine 1974:70-71].
The most dramatic phase of the conflict history in he Northeast Africa was a period from mid-fifteenth to late sixteenth century, a turning point of the conflict history of the region. The expansion of Islam ,inter alia, was an important factor during this phase of the conflict in Northeast Africa. Islam made significant expansion in the Sudan from the twelfth to the fourteenth century [Hasan 1980:113-114,1967:17,Lewis 1980:20, Mac MICHAEL 1935:42]. The spread of Islam was also advanced in the Sudan by the funj state which came to power at the end of the fifteenth century. The funj state pursued a policy of conquest, territorial expansion, and promotion of Islam[Hasan1980:122-123,Daniel1969:203,Trimingham1969:19].
In addition, a number of Islamic states appeared since the early thirteenth century in southern Shoa such as Ifat, Adal, and Mora, and as well as Hadiya and Bali in southern Ethiopia [Hess 1970:38-39,Ullendorf 1960:70-73, Levine 1974:76]. It was noted that the conflict during the given period influenced the evolution of alliances of various actors around the Islamic empire of Adal and the Christian empire composed of the the Abyssinian peoples. Religious differentiation as a major cause of conflict between the various peoples in Northeast Africa was a new development in the history of conflicts of the region and it was characterized by the involvement, for the first time ever, of powerful external forces of those days: the Turks and the Portuguese supplying with arms & ideological support and assisting by putting combat armed forces with matchlock in the battle field respectively.
The appearance in the conflict situation an indigenous force i.e. the oromo ,changed the course of events. In those days, the oromo was a follower of traditional religion known as 'oromo religion'. The oromo a purely African native population used traditional warfare systems and traditional weapons in this conflict. It was self-dependent and self-reliant on its own resources, population, and indigenous knowledge of warfare. The oromo faced both the Islamic and the Christian empires on its own strength with no external assistance whatsoever.
The conflicts during this period can be divided into two parts. The first conflict was initiated by the Adal empire whose main motive were to conquer and Islamize the Abyssinian and other peoples in northeast Africa. The second conflict was dominated by the oromo. While the Adal empire was getting ready to administer the defeated Abyssinian peoples, the oromo engaged the army of the Adal empire in a fierce battle. At the end of the day, the oromo army destroyed a huge army of the Adele empire which was equipped with the latest weapons of he times namely fire arms in a famous battle of Hazaloo in 1559 [Hasan 1990:27].
Once the Adal empire is cleared out of the way ,the oromo found it relatively easy to deal with the Abyssinian peoples because they were badly hit and weakened by the Adal army and hence were incapacitated to put up any effective resistance. It seems appropriate to emphasize that the oromo people saved the Abyssinians from total Islamization and possible extinction under the Adal imperial rule. The Oromo drove away the Adals and the Abyssinians to any furthest possible secure limits. The oromo occupied and settled on the territories evacuated by them. So, the last lands went back to the rightful owners. This was truly an act of justice. The settlement of oromo on the newly recovered lands effectively created a physical separation between the Adals and the Abyssinians. The oromo expanded and established its administration on a large territory [Hess 1970:12,Greenfield 1965:53-57,Pankrust 1961:79-80,Buxton 1947:51, Ullendorf 1965:75, Keller 1988:19-21]. The power resources at the disposal of the oromo nation by far exceeded the power resources of any actor in the region. The presence and active role of the oromo people helped restore peace in the region for three centuries at a stretch [Ullendorf 1965: 75, Lipsky 1962:12-13, Levine 1974:80, Deressa 1957]. Consequently, the oromo nation became the most important variable in the power equation of Northeast Africa. The oromo transformed the balance of power in the region where it acquired a position of a regional power in its own right.
Despite the dominant political position of the oromo, the democratic and egalitarian ethics of the oromo people did not permit it to colonize and subjugate the peoples such as the Abyssinians or the Adals[Levine,1974:79]. Similarly, the oromo did not attempt to convert the defeated peoples to the traditional oromo religion. The ancient oromo democracy is based on equality, mutual respect, freedom and national liberation. It was morally unacceptable to deprive peoples of their basic human rights. Therefore, the oromo nation pursued a policy of peaceful co-existence with its neighbors big and small alike.
THE PROCESS OF ABYSSINIAN CONQUESTS AND COLONIZATION
The oromo were badly victimized under successive Abyssinian authorities attempts of oromo mass extermination. The expansionist and imperialist aspirations of the Abyssinian peoples gradually picked up momentum in the late 19th century. Emperor Tewodros (1855-1868), the so called king of kings became the first pace setter for advancing the expansionist and aggressive adventures of the Abyssinians.
Tewodros first turned his face to Wallo oromoo after unifying scattered regions of Abyssinia and went further to make Abyssinians feel superior as an ethnic entity with a mission to colonize and spread Christianity by any means including force. The Wallo oromo was the first to face the brunt of Abyssinian gun-power which was aided by European modern armaments due to their gallant struggle against his occupation of their land. Even though the Wallo oromo expelled and defeated the Abyssinian conquering forces many times in 1860s, finally due to the superiority of firearms Yohannes IV subdued and conquered Wallo oromo in 1877. The Tulama oromo who put a firm resistance under the fierce fighters like Tufaa Muna, Goshu Gissila and many others abandoned in the late 1870s. The Macha oromo of Wallaga and five gibe states fell prey to menelik's force between 1881-1882.
Source: Mohammed Ali, Ethnicity, politics, and Society in North East Africa, conflict and social change,1996(119-127).
OROMO PEOPLES STRUGGLE FOR SELF DETERMINATION
The oromo didn't always passively accept Amhara hegemony at anytime in history, even though they didn't managed to take over political power. As a support of this statement once again I will try to quote some facts from references I used to build these page...There is evidence that the "fact of conquest" during the age of European colonial expansion in Africa and and the simultaneous development of the concept of the modern nation state served as a catalyst for the development of genuine oromo nationalism. Sporadic local revolts were endemic throughout the period of Ethiopian colonialism. Several major incidents, however, stand out : the Raya-Azebo revolt, 1928-1930; the Oromo Independence Movement of 1936; and the Bale Revolt,1964-1970. There is some questions s to weather the 1928 and 1964 revolts constituted struggles for national liberation, but about the 1936 incident there is no doubt. In the year emerged a confederation of of Oromos from Hararge, Shoa, Jimma, and Illubabor, calling itself the Western oromo confederation. This association appealed to the league of nations in 1936, and subsequently to the British government after the collapse of Italian East Africa, for recognition of the oromos' right to self-determination. The aim was to establish an independent oromo republic, but the idea was ignored by the league as well as by the British.
Signs of oromo nationalism did not again become apparent until the mid-1960's when the oromo self-help association, Mecha-Tulama, was founded. The organization, named after two of the major oromo clans, was established in 1965 as a self-help club dedicated to promoting oromo self-identity and improving the lot of the oromo. Since political parties were not allowed, associations such as Mecha-Tulama often took on political roles.
The organization attempted to involve oromo in both cities and the countryside. It was most successful in the south, Arussi in particular, where oromos had been relegated to the status of tenants on land that was once theirs. At the height of its development, Mecha-Tulama claimed as many as 300,000m members. The leadership comprised educated oromos who had been Amharized but subsequently rediscovered their culture, deciding to fight for a fair share of the spoils of modernization.
The most prominent leader of Mecha-Tulama was Tadesse Biru, a former general in the Ethiopian police force and the territorial army. He was from a Shoan oromo family and had established himself firmly in Amhara culture. In fact, his oromo origins were not apparent to many until he began to champion the cause of his people. Tadesse Biru appeared at organizational rallies in southern tows, delivering speeches critical of the government's policies toward oromo areas and encouraging the people to demand their just due. He carefully linked his appeal to the dignity of oromo culture, a culture that, he emphasized, was being destroyed at the hands of Amhara.
By November 1966 the Haile Selassie regime became sufficiently alarmed at growth in the movement's popularity to arrest its top leadership including Tadesse Biru. The pretext for this arrest was a bomb explosion in an Addis Ababa movie house that was attributed to him. The Mecha-Tulama was banned shortly thereafter. Tadesse Biru was brought to trail in 1968 and condemned to death, a sentence later commuted to life in prison. Mecha-Tulama was significantly for several reasons. From the perspective of the government, it was a clear identification that the commitment of assimilated ethnic elites was not assured. Ethnic affinities were often much stronger than class attachments. It was also an indication that political sentiments could not be suppressed merely by forbidding political parties. The movement sensitized the oromo to the importance of their own national culture and to the contradiction inherent in the emerging politico-economic system.
Another example of oromo disaffection with the status quo was a rebellion that developed among the oromo of Bale province in 1964. This revolt followed a similar revolt among Somalis in Bale. Between 1964 and 1970, separate groups of oromo rebels in the region conducted guerrilla campaigns against against government forces, attacking military garrisons and police stations in Bale and Borana.
The most prominent leader to emerge in this revolt as Wako Gutu, a local leader of great influence. There appears to have been some effort to co-ordinate the efforts of Wako Gutu's guerrillas with the activities of WSLF, and between 1964 and 1969 the oromo rebels relied on the Somali government for both material and moral support. The Oromos, however, appear to functioned autonomously. Their grievances at this time were local, relating to perceived injustices by the government.
With the change of government in Somalia in 1969 and the withdrawal of official Somali support for guerrilla campaigns in southeastern Ethiopia, it became more difficult for the oromo rebels to sustain their struggle. Subsequently, in 1970 Wako Gutu and other rebel leaders agreed to a truce with Ethiopian government. The most prominent of this leaders were given titles and pardoned by the emperor. Some rebels went into exile, reconstructing themselves as the Ethiopian National Liberation Front and the United Front for the Liberation of Western Somalia. To the extent that guerrilla activity continued to exist in the early 1970s, it was on a severely reduced scale. Some support was funneled through the liberated zones of the ELF, but for the most part, guerrilla activities in the south and east ceased in the early 1970s. Significantly, the group that went into exile came to take on a more radical ideological character than the guerrilla bands that thrived among the oromo in the periphery between 1964 and 1970, but it was never able to make itself felt militarily.
Serious oromo militancy did not emerge again until the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was founded in 1973, dedicated to the "total liberation of the entire oromo nation from Ethiopian colonialism." This organization claimed to be more a prodigy of the primary proto-nationalist resistance of the oromo people than of Mecha-Tulama or the Bale rebellion. The OLF began an offensive against the Ethiopian government in Hararge province in 1974, but sustained activities did not occur until 1976, after the collapse of the Haile Selassie regime. It subsequently spread its activities to Wollega.
The leadership of the OLF initially was comprised of young, educated oromos from Arussi province, but by 1976 it claimed a broad -based leadership with a following from all oromo areas. Beyond national liberation, the OLF's program calls for the establishment of the Independent Democratic Republic of Oromia.
Source: Edmond J. Keller, "Revolutionary Ethiopia, from Empire to People's Republic", 1988[158-163].
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