Dissent is Patriotic

by Anaf Lello

In the wake of the Colin Kaepernicks of the world, debates on what constitutes and negates nationalism and patriotism are headlining more than they have in ages. Political dissent is nothing new here in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, although it is certainly met with varying capacities. In America, public displays of dissent seem to be at an all-time high, with President Trump signing prejudice into legislature at his leisure. In the case of Ethiopia, however, those who claim that the diaspora’s armchair tourists and beguiled expatriates are hindering the nation’s progression with their “anti-unity” claims of foul play are missing one simple fact: dissent is inherently patriotic.

Dissent may look different in every era, but it is an inextricable facet of nationalism whose absence is only telling of a lack of transparent, democratic society. Several decades ago, when it was debated in the U.S. whether the Pledge of Allegiance encouraged patriotism or limited free speech, Bush Sr. found a platform in arguing the former. The irony? The idea of putting an end to reciting lines such as “one nation under God” – lines in direct conflict with the religious freedom outlined by the 1st Amendment – was seen as anti-American. What could be more American than the documents that make up the rule of law? What of the rights and freedoms the Constitution is meant to uphold and inform?

Unfortunately for many Ethiopians, the same is true for Ethiopia’s political affairs. Where even identifying too strongly with your ethnic group is seen as an affront to the Ethiopian identity – a strange allegation, considering the ethnocracy that has ruled for a quarter century – it is apparent that the threat of a united front against the government was the catalyst for the government crackdown on the people’s last few years of protests. In October, that same government went so far as to issue a state of emergency, citing the “damage that is being carried out against infrastructure projects, education institutions, health centres, administration and justice buildings”.

What the government has not issued, however, is an accurate statement detailing the transgressions it has committed in carrying out the Addis Ababa expansion plan, the Irreecha Massacre or the death toll for any of the clashes between unarmed protestors and government officials. In Ethiopia, lack of transparency, consensus and government accountability are rampant. If not made obvious by the power the ruling party maintains with all 547 seats in Parliament, this is visible in many other forms of apparatus of control – the 99% election wins that Africans know all too well, the monopoly on media and the rising number of innocent people languishing in the country’s notorious prisons, to name a few.

Political dissent is holding your government accountable. Political dissent is voicing your constitutional right to disagree with edicts, laws, bills, policies and anything else that oppresses those whom are affected. It is no mystery – you should be able to speak out against your government. And as long as those on the ground are suffering, my patriotism will manifest in criticizing a government that has terrorized its people for many successive regimes and monopolized upward mobility for a select few, not in blind flag-waving. That is not negotiable. My dissent is, always has been, and always will be patriotic.


Anaf Lello is a student living in Southern California. She is interested in feminism as a liberatory discourse, exploring Oromo women’s narratives and understanding the Gadaa and Siiqqee instutitions. Her favorite style of Oromo song is geerarsa, because of its historical significance in expressing the plight of the Oromo people.

Dear Diaspora

by Chaltu Siraj

Dear Diaspora,

Watching the bloodshed and genocide take place in your motherland an ocean away has taken a toll on you. As the government is rounding your people up and using their bodies for target practice, I know you cannot help but to think, “who is next?” You have read history and heard the stories as your manguddoo tell their truths, with their eyes full of tears, but nothing can compare to the pictures and videos that have surfaced snapchat-2689406031888312227during the #OromoProtests. From the Ambo Massacre in 2014 to the revolutionary wave of protests in November of 2015 to the most recent atrocity, on the 2nd of October, 2016 with the Bishoftu Massacre, it has all been televised. Every single waking moment of the day, you refresh your social media and see pictures of corpses and videos of fearless adolescents, elderly and children running the streets of Oromia chanting, “nuti abbaan biyya”, “we are the fathers of the land”. You heard the story of the mother who was forced to sit on the corpse of her child. You heard the story of the woman who was killed in cold blood, seven months pregnant. You watched the video of the elderly woman who took an oath that she would shield your brothers and sisters from live bullets if they were fired in their direction. With every picture, every video and every account we heard reported, a piece of you died.

Following the Bishoftu Massacre, the sense of urgency was at an all time high. You held emergency meetings, raised funds and were ready to do whatever it took to reclaim what was rightfully yours. As you are looking to your elders, community leaders and your elites to guide you in efforts to save the lives left and to work diligently to ensure that those lives lost are not in vain, you are finding yourselves at a loss. The government-declared State of Emergency in Ethiopia has hindered your accessibility to the documentation and photo and video evidence of the atrocities being committed against your brethren, with the lack of internet and network access. Just because your feeds have grown thin, have you forgotten that your motherland is crying and her children are dying? Have you forgotten that this ruthless government is on a mission to wipe out an entire population of your people? Have you forgotten those images and videos already?

In the light of recent controversies surfacing on social media, I was reminded of an excerpt from a play, The Taxi Project, written by Aaddee Martha Kuwee Kumsa in collaboration with three others. In the introduction to the scene, Seeyyee (Kumsa) speaks about her decade-long incarceration and her conscription to the military upon her release. She went on to describe that she declined conscription and decided to flee with her children, as the rebel forces were bringing down the government right in front of her eyes. As she fled, she feared being caught with her children and made the ultimate sacrifice as a mother, leaving her children behind with her younger brother. The scene, as played on stage, of the conversation between Seeyyee (Kumsa) and her younger brother is as follows:

SCENE 21: BABY BROTHER

Seeyyee: I had a speech prepared but …

I’d like to ask my baby brother to be with me here tonight.

(She lights a candle.)

Seeyyee: The last time I heard my brother’s voice, I was crying into the phone. I could see the turbulent billows of smoke rise over my homeland. I could see the fire spread and the flames dance all around him. Agitated tongues of flame lashed out to lick my brother. Yet, he stood there smiling, so sure of himself.

Baby Brother: Stay put my big sister, stay put. I’m home; you are the one in exile. Stay put till you come home to freedom.

Seeyyee: But, what is home and what is exile? Oh, I enjoy home in exile, when you are rendered homeless at home.

In my homeland, Baby Brother, in my homeland,

The grass shades me from the scorching sun;

but in exile, Baby Brother,

the sun burns me in the thickest shade of the biggest tree.

In my homeland, Baby Brother, in my homeland

The meat of a flea feeds a multitude;

but in exile, Baby Brother,

Two friends fight over the meat of an elephant.

Baby Brother: Home is freedom, my big sister, home is bilisummaa. Home is dignity. Home is justice. Exile is wherever home is not.

Seeyyee: Exile is wherever they plough the fields with guns and sow the seeds with blood. In an unjust world, home can only be in the struggle to restore freedom and justice.

Baby Brother: Yes, that’s why I took to the woods with the village youth.

Seeyyee: Our father took to the woods, and I am not coming home

Our father’s brother took to the woods, and I am not coming home

Our mother’s brother took to the woods, and I am not coming home

I saw the injustice

And my heart howls.

Oh my heart howls with rage.

Kumsa’s word choice and imagery in this piece is a reminder to you, first and foremost. You fled for a reason. For those same reasons, decades later, your people are still running. This should always be the mindset that you live with. You should be yearning for the day when your nation can stand in Finfinnee and raise the resistance flag and hold your heads high, tasting sweet victory. You should be yearning for the day when you are reunited with your loved ones, no longer fearing for their lack of security. You should be working with one another, alongside one another, in a race to attain bilisummaa from every front. You cannot forget that as fish outside of the water, every victory achieved can only be attributed to those fearless souls, who dodged bullets and slept with one eye open and to those who sacrificed themselves in the name of a free Oromia. Do not forget you are merely an advocate, an amplification of the voice of your people and their plight.

As you are fighting over the meat of an elephant, Oromia is still bleeding; she is crying and awaiting your return to join your brethren under the Odaa tree. Dammakkii! Si waamtii Harmeen.

Sincerely,

Caaltuu Siraaj


Chaltu Siraj is a fourth year Criminal Justice major residing in Atlanta, Georgia. She hopes to use her education and skills to continue advocating for the Oromo people.

#SiiqqeeSuperstar – October 2016

For her dedication and advocacy around the issue of Oromo protests, this month’s Siiqqee Superstar is Najat Hamza. We applaud her for her appearances on the Al Jazeera program “The Stream”, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and countless writings that have spread awareness of the dire situation Oromos are facing in their homeland.

“In all debate11231317_10156038811645431_2185074586262288304_ns, let truth be thy aim, not victory, or an unjust interest.” That quote by William Penn is the epitome of the type of intellect Najat embodies when engaging in an art she has so gracefully mastered: debate. She flourished in high school when she qualified to represent South High School in the 2003 Minnesota State Debate Tournament. She has brought this skill to the important issues that plague the Oromo people back home and continues to be a voice for those peacefully protesting.

Most recently, she has begun efforts to support and advocate for Oromo women prisoners, as their challenges differ from that of their male counterparts in the Ethiopian prison system.  Najat, thank you for amplifying the voice of our people and for your dedication to simultaneously pushing for women’s rights.

“I am grateful for the great women before me who had to remind me to assume my place at the table as prescribed to me and for me.” – Najat Hamza

Links:


http://www.mprnextgenfellows.org/oromo-activist-wants-the-world-to-hear-her-people/

Fantastic work, Najat! Jabaadhu!
Siiqqee Chronicles Team

A Letter to Qeerroo

by Elella Daba

As the sound of the call for freedom rings louder, I thought it was about time that I reached out to you. There is no question that the past four months have been demanding and trying. The sacrifice that you are paying on behalf of our people and country has not gone unnoticed. The determination that you have to stand in front of bullets with nothing but your bare hands and the courage that you have to fight for our people at any cost makes the likes of you a hero. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said that you are redefining the meaning of determination, courage and hope.

The enemy really believed that the will and the spirit of the people had been broken; that the fire burning bright had been put out. But you are living proof that this is not the case. You keep proving them wrong time and again. No matter how many times the enemy barks of planning and taking merciless action, you refuse to back down and sell off your land. The message you are sending is clear: Oromia is not for sale, never has been, and never will be.

I want to tell you how much we appreciate you, Qeerroo. I want you to know every Oromo heart beats true for you, prays for you, thinks day and night only of you and the struggle of the people that you are leading. No other nation can ever claim to be this lucky, lucky to have a generation that has not forgotten its history, nor has become a sellout. The struggle of our people has not become foreign to you. The heroes of yesterday that sacrificed their lives are living and breathing through you. Their struggle has not been for naught. You have taken the torch and you have run faster towards freedom than anytime before.

From every corner in Oromia you have organized and come out in droves, marching and singing the songs that I heard when I was a little girl, “siifan lola Oromo narra hin gortuu” bringing back so many memories of the struggle and the price paid by so many Oromos. The sheer determination I see in you tells me that fear has left Oromia. The naysayers can say whatever they want, but the time is not for the faint-hearted. No longer can they tell you that you are not well organized or that the enemy is more prepared than you. Despite the immeasurable obstacles you are facing everyday, you keep pushing back, harder and stronger. I have no doubt that many wish you were theirs, that they could call you their own, claim you as their brothers and sisters, and heroes of their people. But you belong right where you are, and it is with the Oromo people. You are writing history with your blood and the price you paid for our people will never be forgotten.

Qeerroo, the hope and the future of Oromia, I want to tell you I believe in you, that I believe in your potential to build a brighter future for Oromia. You are what we have been waiting for. You and only you will be determining your future, and the future of the generation coming after you. The next generation will never have to wonder what qabsoo looks like; they have you as a prime example. Our ancestors began this struggle and famously promised “gabrummaa hiddaan buqqifna, dadhabnu ilmaan itti guddifna”. They started “fincila diddaa gabrummaa” and now you are rewriting history with “fincila xumura gabrummaa”. Your children will never know the taste of injustice. I have no doubt they will eternally be grateful for the price you paid and for the responsibility you took upon yourself to put an end to injustice.

Your sister,
Elella Daba


Elella Daba is a university student living in Norway. Her hope is to see the day where Oromos will be able to determine the future of Oromia without any preconditions imposed by outsiders. As the saying goes in Afaan Oromo,  “alagaan alaguma, Oromo dammaqi”.

Six Foot Deep

by Soretti Saleh

Momma, I thought you knew
I was six-foot deep
Six foot deep before I knew

Change it up

Six mans* deep
Hands held behind my back
Wearing rubber shoes
I’m running in any direction
I see the steel bit aimed for my head
Running away before it passes through
A baby on my back,
Now regretting I had you
Your family has gone too
Nairobi or Mogadishu
A celebration as it looks south
Oppressors celebrating the death of
Our people; so let us know with the sense of fume
That our bodies burn with the
Remembrance of all of you
That light gives us motivation
At least to a couple or a few
So be the lamb that roars

Ask our government, was he but a mere peasant?
Peasant was king, in the eye of one,
Whom to a cockroach had been lessened,
Crushed could he be, momentarily.
Momentarily were we human beings

Dark, blood, and bodies.
We see because it’s the destruction they’ve conceived.
Hope, light, and prosperity.
We can’t have if we can’t show our identity.
Advocates, activists,
Guns that face me.
Words,
The bullets to address we.

Warriors.
“Peace” is an annoying interruption of war
For a warrior can swiftly swing a sword
And my pen, can write your horrors
A symphony of cries and screams,
My diaspora
Try to recover

*”6 mans” is Toronto slang, meaning “6 men”.


Soretti Saleh is an almost high school graduate in Toronto and is destined to pursue law at Harvard in order to help the diaspora and our people back home. As a young girl, she would listen to both her parents come up with poetic songs and so she made poetry her own and used it as a tool to spread awareness about the Oromo diaspora.

A Message for Our Graduates

by Amaanee Badhassoo


Oromo students protesting in front of Haromaya University

Congratulations Oromo graduates,

I would like to especially congratulate Oromo graduates this year. You give me chills, your success is a nation’s success and your victory is a nation’s victory. I am inspired by all of you and the families that nurtured you.

May you never forget that you are a product of warriors, founders of democracy and the great African nation. No matter where you go in life, be reminded of the sacrifices made on your behalf. Let their sacrifices be your armor, strength and courage.

Do not allow anyone nor existing oppressive systems restrict you from making your dreams a reality. Become thinkers, healers, advisors, educators, innovators, change agents, humanitarians, leaders and all that you aspire to be. Lean on one another and empower each other.

There is something special about this generation. I am confident that this is the generation that will put an end to misery in Oromia, Ethiopia and win some victory on behalf of humanity. So, graduates, brush your shoulders off, you are the champions of Africa and the world. Who is going to stop you? Take the world by storm, victors!


Amaanee Badhassoo is currently a researcher and consultant in MN. She is a prospective student of law and an aspiring lawyer, political advisor and conflict negotiator. She is inspired by the previous and current social movements in Oromia, Ethiopia. More importantly, she sees the Oromo struggle as a symbol of defiance against oppressive systems. The victory of the Oromo struggle is an alternative to the current repressive ethnic federalist system that aims to benefit a few!

Spoken Word by Soreti B. Kadir

 

A very moving piece by Soreti B. Kadir inspired by Hawwii Tazarraa’s protest song “Ka’i Qeerroo”. In her words: “News of Hawwii’s arrest by Ethiopian security forces (third time in 3 months) surfaced less than 24 hours ago. Her beautiful song is my heart’s anthem right now. My tiny tribute to her and all who have sacrificed similarly to bring the #OromoProtests movement to where it stands today.”

We loved Soreti’s lyrical prowess and powerful delivery. For more of her work, buy her book of poetry, entitled Siyaanne, at the following link: http://soretibkadir.strikingly.com/

No Ethiopia Without Oromia

“There is no Ethiopia without Oromia. Here’s a short note on why!

It was the Oromo people who fearlessly fought the fully-armed Italian colonizers. Their bravery was admired not only by Africans, but by the colonizers themselves. It was the Oromo people who fought for the dignity and decolonization of Africa. It was the Oromo people that assisted in the fight against the Derg regime and defended the Ethiopian people as a whole against tyranny and potential genocide.

It was the Oromo people that sent food to Tigray when the famine almost destroyed an entire group of people. It was the Oromo people that brought TPLF to power for the mere purpose of restoring justice and order to the Ethiopian state (until they were betrayed by TPLF/EPRDF).

It was the Oromo people that built Ethiopia. Ethiopia is nothing without Oromia. Now, a century later, Oromo protesters are fighting for the dignity of the citizen populace and survival of millions. They are facing a merciless regime and live bullets to protect Oromia, Ethiopia from land grab.

If you are an Ethiopian, African and (heck) a citizen of anywhere in the world, you ought to be inspired, moved and in complete awe of the resilientOromo protesters‬.

My vague words don’t do much justice for the ‪#‎OromoProtests‬, so I will leave it here.”

death-toll-rises-to-140-in-ethiopia-protests-against-urban-expansion-1452276969
Woman grieving murdered Oromo protestor

– Amaanee Badhassoo

 

Why We Won’t Put Down Our OLF Flag

 

I understand that these are emotionally challenging times for Oromos and other concerned Ethiopians worldwide. For the most part we are in pain, and it’s not the kind of pain that we can find a cure for readily. I myself have resorted to an unhealthy amount of social media intake. I read everything, I mean everything, on #OromoProtests.

Recently, during my excessive browsing on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., I have come across tweets, Facebook statuses, and various posts, sharing concern about the diaspora global solidarity rallies and the excess of what they call the “OLF flag”. At first I didn’t think much of it. People have opinions, that’s fine. Then, I started seeing it more frequently from people whom I feel should know better. The arguments are flawed for so many reasons, but it is dangerous when it is coming from individuals that have far-reaching influences.

First of all, OLF is part and parcel of the Oromo struggle. It is an organization that has contributed more to the Oromo struggle, Oromo consciousness, and resistance to oppression than any other Oromo organization save the Macha Tulama Self-Help Association. Every conscious Oromo the world over owes our consciousness to one or both of these two organizations. The younger generation, such as myself and the young students dying for their rights on their own soil, are beneficiaries and products of the sacrifices made by those who came before us, who resisted before us, who stood up before us, who sacrificed before us, who said NO before us, and who paved an unprecedented path through remarkable bravery, courage, resilience, and ultimately their lives. Yes, through the years the organization has had its failings, but its contributions to the Oromo people’s struggle far outweigh its failings. I and every Oromo who is able to speak their language proudly, know our history, name our children proudly, learn qubee, and walk down the street with our heads held high and proud, owe gratitude to this organization and the awareness that their struggle birthed.

Now, when an Oromo who is a direct beneficiary of this same organization orders me to “leave my OLF flag at home”, I am appalled, and here is why:

First, this assertion criminalizes OLF. Contrary to popular belief within the broader Ethiopian community, OLF is NOT a criminal organization. It is NOT a terrorist group just because TPLF and their allies choose to classify it as such, nor is it Ethiopia’s enemy. With that logic, these same people we are showing support and solidarity for are also “terrorists” and we are ALL terrorists. OLF is not and was never any ethnic group’s enemy. Its resistance is to successive oppressive, repressive, and murderous regimes, who annex Oromo land, displace Oromo people, degrade Oromo lives, and murder Oromo people with impunity. To tell us we are not helping our cause by flaunting a flag that is a living symbol of Oromo resistance in order to accommodate others who may feel offended by it, while not voicing a single aversion to others flaunting a flag that is a symbol of 100+ years of oppression to me and my people, is blatantly disrespectful. You all should know better.

Now, I have many dear friends, that I love as much as my own family, from various other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. They identify with the Ethiopian flag and despite my personal aversion to it, I respect that. It’s part of their identity, just like the OLF flag is a significant part of my identity. They accept me, I accept them. I still love them the same. I also welcome anybody to bring any flag that they feel represents them to any solidarity rally anywhere in the world, because this is about humanity. It’s about innocent people losing their lives for simply airing grievances. If my carrying the OLF flag deters anybody from standing with #OromoProtests protestors, I and the broader Oromo community are better off without their support because they are part of the problem.

Also, TPLF is NOT murdering our people because we are holding our flag, it is murdering people because it is the only way they know how to govern. They know none of these children and elderly are associated with OLF or any diaspora politics. They kill us because they are incapable of governing, because it’s the only way they have governed, and because they are an illegitimate government that can’t allow any room for dissent. DO NOT lay blame where it doesn’t exist. With or without the OLF flag’s presence, TPLF will continue murdering our people. We are not the cause of our own misery. We are all victims of a brutal regime that needs to go for the good of EVERY Ethiopian citizen.

Those who are committed to social justice and human rights are not and should not be worried by what flags I am holding. Our common goal is to amplify the voices of the brave souls who are brutally being silenced, to amplify their voices to a world that chooses to not listen, and do our very best to assist the broader Ethiopian populace in building a better future for themselves and their children. That should be our common goal. Solidarity should not come at the expense of my identity, my history, or my values. This flag represents everything I hold dear. Too many have paid the ultimate price for us wielding this same flag. Too many have been maimed, raped, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered over it. It is not a symbol owned by a single political organization, but it is in every way a symbol of Oromo people’s resistance to oppression – oppression of any kind!

We are not going to put down OUR flag, we are not going to be apologetic about our views, and we are not going to appease anybody. We will wield this flag, we will flaunt this flag, we will raise this flag, we will stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are being murdered and we invite anybody who wants to stand up for human rights and justice to join us. Wield whatever flag you choose, you are ALL welcome.

Instead of laying blame where it doesn’t exist, we should all do our best to amplify the voices of the deliberately silenced. The #OromoProtests have already accomplished inter-ethnic solidarity all over the world. It is definitely remarkable and I am ever more inspired by and proud of all those involved. It shows me what we can accomplish when we put humanity first and value human lives, and it’s wonderful that none of it has to be at the expense of my beliefs and values!! Let’s all do what we can individually and lay off the lectures. If you do lecture, create a meaningful dialogue in which people can educate one another.


Qaanqee Gaara Kaakkaa is a student of Political Science and an aspiring human rights attorney residing in the Twin Cities, MN. She has immense appreciation for the Oromo Gadaa system because it grants value to all living things.