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Jul-20-2013 10:08printcomments

'Are you an Oromo First or Muslim or Ethiopian?'

Ethiopians are historically, among the most oppressed and brutally subjugated people.


(UGANDA) - I just read a very thoughtful article titled “Are you Oromo First or Ethiopian First?” Authored by Awol Allo and published by The web of Legal Theory Group of Glasgow University.

The piece enabled me to distance myself from the cantankerous exchanges as seen on social media between those of us who are proponents of raw Ethiopian patriotism and raw Oromo liberation activism. Accordingly, I was forced to reflect on my own position and give it articulation. In the process, I even found it difficult to prevent myself from delving into my diverse background.

From this perspective and some of the powerful points that Awol raised, I not only enjoyed his piece. I also shared some of his sentiments such as how a narrative of history is determined by those who hold power to the extent of making its subjects believe that the narrative is a common history shared by all and sundry. His suggestion for Ethiopia to be conceived as “a creation of a grand historical narrative and Ethiopiawinet as an ideology” per se poses no threat to my own Ethiopiawinet either. Since I have been convinced long ago by other scholars that Ethiopia like the United States of America, Great Britian, France etc, has “crafted beautiful lies of its own aimed at creating a ‘historical knowledge’ that serves as a weapon of power,” that too didn’t impress me as a revelation nor had it left the effect of any shock therapy.

Thus, up to that point I went along with the writer’s thesis that projected proponents of Ethiopiawinet as neurotic when challenged with historical grievances cited by opponents of Oromumma. Yet, Mr. Awol neglected to show the other side of the coin when he went into great length to quote writers such as Michael Foucault and Semir Yusuf. While I find no fault with these writers' observation of history or Ethiopia, Mr.Awol should also have been aware of Howard Zinn, an American historian who authored A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Howard Zinn was someone considered as far left to the despair of the mainstream America. He succeeded to upset the narrative of the American history that was held so dear not only by so many Americans but also by a multitude of suckers throughout the world. Zinn presented a different version so compelling to the extent of making it difficult for his detractors to dismiss the scholarly work whose title mentioned above.

Although, Howard Zinn stated his viewpoint in telling the history of the United States as follows;

“--we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities, and never have been. The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex.And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested not to be on the side of the executioners.”

Yet, he also hastened to add, for the sake of a balanced account of history, that “the cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”

In light of the above, therefore, is it only Ethiopiawinet that tends to be neurotic when challenged by those who feel historically aggrieved? In fact, are proponents of Oromumma justified to the extent of coming up with a centrifugal demand that further threatens to rent the Ethiopian state asunder? My own diverse family background that consists of “Amhara,”Eritrean and Oromo extraction, not to speak of the religious background, informs me without reading into any fancy scholarly work that the elites of this three ethnic groups have always been fierce power contenders who succeeded at one time or another and directly or indirectly to monopolize the national cake. In so doing, they excluded other Ethiopians such as the people of Wolayita, Gambella, Gurage etc.

Ironically, though, history has never recorded a separatist movement against Ethiopia from the peoples of these region whom history has recognized to be the most oppressed and brutally subjugated.

An Ethiopian political scientist named Merera Gudina from Oromo ethnic group put the plight of Oromos in his book Ethiopia; Competing ethnic nationalism and the quest for democracy as follows;

“---while the group of Oromos who penetrated historic Ethiopia or Abyssinia were participating in the making of history in the North, the bulk of the Oromo population were living in the South, East and West independently or with little contact with North Ethiopia. This greater part of the Oromo population became the victim of Menelik’s conquest in the last quarter of the century. The irony of Oromo history therefore is that they were among of the conquerors and the conquered, that they produced kings and queens while at the same time reduced to ‘gabbar’ (serf) and tenants alienated from the land of their ancestors.”

Further showing the futility of proponents of Oromumma, Merera added that “one can argue that one of the difficulties in promoting Oromo nationalism is that the colonial thesis is inappropriate for a people whose history, geography and demography did not fully fit them into the colonial system recorded in history.”

To drive home his points, he gave the best example;

“The British Queen never married a Ghanian, a Nigerian or a Kenyan, but Ethiopian kings were marrying an Oromo. Tewodros, Menelik and Haile Selassie are the best examples. By the same token, the Ghanaians, the Nigerians or the Kenyans never dreamt to become kings and queens of the British Empire under whatever type of assimilation, but the Oromos assimilados were able to become kings and queens of imperial Ethiopia. The best examples are Iyassu, Haile Selassie, King Michael of Wollo and King Takle Hymanot of Gojam.”

Against this backdrop of history, Ethiopians are justified for bringing their “love affair” to a “sudden halt” with Jawar Mohamed for responding on AJStream “I am an Oromo first; Ethiopia is imposed on me.”

If the gentleman had the wisdom to respond, I am an Oromo first, and then I am an Ethiopian next, no such “Tsunami” would have followed. Unfortunately, even that one is further from the truth. What caused the uproar is not Jawar’s response on AJStream. Rather it was his public utterance in Amharic whereby he glorified his Muslim "fellows"for beheading non-Muslims or Christian Ethiopians with a machete. One wonders then as to what would be Jawar’s response if asked “Are you Oromo first or Ethiopian or Muslim?”


Kiflu Hussain is an attorney based in Uganda. He says his passion for writing came from reading, and that it’s inevitable that the more one reads, the more one develops the urge to write. Kiflu has published articles in Ethiopia on the English Reporter, then a weekly newspaper along with a few Amharic articles on the defunct Addis Zena. It was after he and his family found refuge in Uganda, that he began contributing writings to the local papers and various websites such as Daily Monitor, Uganda Record, The New Vision, Ethioquestnews, Garowe Online, WardheerNews etc.

The reason for this is clear. Ethiopia, despite being a seat of the African Union had never produced a regime that allows even the minimum space for dialogue that other people in Africa enjoy so naturally. So Kiflu's ending up as a refugee in Uganda is a blessing in disguise for it accorded him with the opportunity to write. He says at the same time he learned, unfortunately, that his refugee status would be what showed how deep the hypocrisy of the “international community” goes. We at are honored to carry this gentleman's work and we hope that in the process, western people may come to appreciate the struggle of refugees throughout the world.

You can write to Kiflu at this address: E-mail;



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