Can I Get Enough Vocabularies? Why I preferred to use English to Afan Oromo

Can I Get Enough Vocabularies? Why I preferred to use English to Afan Oromo

By Kallacha W. Kunee

Afan Oromo


Why I preferred to use English to Afan Oromo

  • One of the employees working in Ethiopian Airlines asks one of his colleagues, “Bannaantee qu’aanqu’aa baalagee maalet min maalat nawu?” His colleague who was an Oromo answers, “Banyaa qu’anqu’aa baalagee tirgum yallawum. Iziyaawu yannaantee qu’aanqu’aa wusxi fallig.) It is somewhat like this ,“What does rude mean in your language? We don’t have it in our language. Find it in your own language.”
  • Arrabsoo: I know a bilngual Oromo woman was telling me,“Oromiffaan nama arrabsuun garaa ‘na hin gayu. Kanaafan yeroo arrabsoo ta’e Amaariffa filadha.” When loosely translated, it is like saying, “I don’t get sufficient words when I want to insult someone in Afan Oromo; therefore, I always resort to Amharic whenever I wanted to insult someone.”
  • Because of the shortages of sufficient vocabularies to define such loaded words that are never been in the Oromo culture and a bit hard to translate them to Afan Oromo (Eg. Ethnocide, Cultural Genocide.) There is a popular saying about the people of Iceland and the elephant: “We cannot have a name for an animal that we don’t have.”

Posterity Measures for Accountability Purposes

After our country was conquered by the Abyssinians, the political elites who have occupied our land denied our existence at all. They have written a false political history and repeated the lies over and over so that we accept those make-believe lies that were being perpetuated. They have been deliberately and intentionally perpetuating that we have migrated from Madagascar. They have been depicting us as amphibians that have been living under water somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The objectives of such political history was part of the denial of our existence to justify that we have migrated from elsewhere; hence, they had every right to kill, torture, maim, displace and dispossess the intruders or the unwanted guests.

They gave us a pejorative name Galla and kept on writing their political make-believe stories so that the rest of the world perceive us as a very negligible tribe (gosa) who do not deserve that much attention to participate in the socio-political, economic and cultural life of the Ethiopian Empire.

While I was working for Ethiopian Airlines, they used to call us “idaaxaan/anaasaa bihereseboch” whenever we spoke in Afan Oromo. They used to mock at our Oromo names: Fayyeraa Nagaraa, Sirnaa Kafanaa, Waaqgaarii Somboo, Dabalee Shaabaraa! They have been doing everything under the sun to humiliate and dehumanize us and the pejorative name they have given us was an integral part of the denial of our existence as a people. Due to the humiliation and dehumanization campaigns, people were ashamed to identify themselves as an Oromo. This is known as cultural genocide.

Cultural genocide: is the systematic destruction of traditions, values, language, and other elements which make a one group of people distinct from other groups. defines Ethnocide (or cultural genocide) as a related concept that refers to acts that contribute to the disappearance of a culture, even though its bearers are not physically destroyed. Acts of ethnocide include denying a group its right to speak its language, practice its religion, teach its traditions and customs, create art, maintain social institutions, or preserve its memories and histories.“Indigenous populations frequently have been denied the right to practice their own religions and customs and to speak their own languages by nation-states, a process described as ‘cultural genocide’ or ‘ethnocide.’” (Hitchcock and Twedt 1997, p. 373).

According to World Genocide Watch, “perpetuating poverty” is one of the tactics often used by ruthless regimes that are engaged in committing genocide against the ethnic and religious groups they have targeted to exterminate and cleanse them to vacate and occupy their spaces. Prevent Genocide International also observed it perfectly, “The genocidal purpose of destroying or degrading the economic foundation of national groups was to lower the standards of living and to sharpen the struggle for existence that no energies might remain for cultural or national life.”

As a result of such genocidal policies, we are also significantly shrinking and our body weights and heights are becoming smaller as compared to our foremothers and forefathers. The objective is obviously to make us physically and psychologically unfit to resist their exploitative and repressive brutal governance systems. Obviously, # OromoProtests are the outcome of these severe political, social, economic and cultural crises.

A Highly Systemic Hoarding of Information

They have crafted a highly systemic and assimilative educational policy by denying our girls the right to have access to education so that those very few educated Oromo men would marry Abyssinian women. The enrolment of girls was not more than 3% when I was in the elementary and junior high school. People had to change their names to Amharic not only to get decent government jobs but also to escape the chilling effects of humiliation and dehumanization. Speaking Afan Oromo in schools, government offices and the courts was a criminal offense and I am a living witness to this reality. Those who dared to speak Afan Oromo would be beaten in front of the students during the evening before the students and teachers sing the “National Anthem” that praises the Imperial flag and the Monarchy during the Haile-sellassie regime.

They were deliberately and purposely creating dysfunctional families by building garrison cities all over Oromia. There were also other social problems such as commercial sex in these garrison cities. As a result, people who live around these cities are heavily affected by the influences of alcohol, sexually transmitted venereal diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/Aids, etc.

They were using our young men as cannon fodders and that itself has created other social problems such as the disturbance of female-male ratio, the existence of too many single mothers who are struggling to raise fatherless children. They used to sell our people as commodities to the Arabs and Europeans. Even today, Oromo girls and women are forced to serve as maids in the Arab countries since they are systematically denied having access to education and other opportunities.

There are too many educated and conscious Oromos here in the diaspora who preferred not to marry Abyssinian women because they didn’t want to get dehumanized and belittled by chauvinistic Abyssinian supremacist women who think it is their right to commit any kind of the widely discussed verbal and psychological violence against the Oromo people. They couldn’t also find a perfect match from Oromo girls due to such discriminatory educational policies.

It was a recent memory when an American Anthropologist, Bonnie Holcomb, whom the Oromo people have adopted as Qabbane Waqo, was telling stories about her difficulties to get anyone who would tell her about the Oromo people here in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

To counter such crimes against humanity, strong Oromos who courageously fought back against such  systemic hoarding or withholding of information have started naming and shaming those Oromos whose spirits were severely broken and who have succumbed to ethnocide. An Oromo elder was telling me during Global Gumi Oromia (GGO)founding  conference in Minnesota how he confronted someone who was saying,” huletegna sewu fit begalligna indattannaggiregn naan jechaa turte yero Finfinnee turre.” When loosely translated, it is like saying, “Don’t speak to me in Afan Oromo in front of people anymore.” We will keep on naming and shaming those who have succumbed to ethnocide. I also know an Oromo guy who was scared to death to speak in Afan Oromo when I was working for Ethiopian Airlines. There was also another Oromo man  who was saying, “Inee diroom Gaallaa negn; ahunim Gaallaa negn.” He was being praised for being a very good ‘Gallaa’, “Hulluum indaantee behonee!”These were real and true stories of some of our people who were working for Ethiopian Airlines.

In addition to denying us access to education, communications between the Oromo people were disconnected. Prior to the conquest of Oromia, the Oromo people were transmitting messages among themselves through a cultural communication method known as “Iyyaa, iyya dabarsaa” during emergencies. After conquest, however, our people have resorted to a clandestine form of communication known as ‘seera ususaa’ so that the occupation armies and the “Naci Labaash,”  (the security agents) could not hear them. The secret meeting of Abbaa Gadaas at Madda Walaabuu after the conquest of Oromia and “seera ususaa” was disclosed by Oromo elders to the trailblazers of the Oromo struggle who were said to have been the first to hear and disseminate these tightly kept social secrets to our generation. The Network of Oromo Activists (NOA) has been cleverly and wisely using such codes as “kotte-duudaa, re’ee and kudha tokko” while secretly communicating among themselves.

Media: Filling the Gap (Annual, Semi-annual (OSA Conferences) vs Daily/Weekly Coverage of News and Events by Journalists and Activists)

The attempt to improve communications between the Oromo people was one of the major daunting tasks and many precious lives were lost; many people were brutally tortured or killed and many others were forced to flee their beloved country, Oromia. Print media such as Voice Against Tyranny, Bakkalcha Oromia, Barisa, Urji, Seife Nebelba,Gadaa, Qabee, Bilillee, Madda Walaabuu, ..etc. and Radio programs such as SBO and others that were being broadcast from Cairo and Mogadishu were part of the struggle to improve communication between the Oromo people and thereby raise the awareness and consciousness of the people by countering disinformation and the pathological lies of Abyssinian propagandists.

Those heroes who are alive but who have endured persecution and torture in detention centers like Dr. Kuwee Kumsaa and Eyob Bayisa need recognition and respect and martyrs like Kumsaa Lataa, Rev. Guddinaa Tumsaa and many others shall be remembered forever on Oromo Heroes Day when it comes to media and the creation of awareness and consciousness of our people.

As fragmented individual efforts alone couldn’t be a solution, Gubrimans Publishing, the editors of, Daandii Ragabaa, Simbirtuu Radio, The Horn Of Africa Human Rights League (HAHRL) and prominent Oromo personalities like Obbo Ibsa Gutema, Dr. Hamdessa Tusso, the former President of Oromia Supreme Court, Obbo Teshale Abarra, have spent their precious time and founded the Madda Walaabuu Media Foundation that I believe has played a great role in informing and educating not only the Oromo people but also the rest of the world through a weekly program called Oromia Insight. There was also a three day weekly broadcast in Afaan Oromo through Oromo Voice Radio (OVR) I sincerely appreciate Aliye Geleto and his team for perfectly predicting on one of OVR programmes how the action of one of our Athletes could be a game changer in introducing the Oromo people to the rest of the world. With the courageous act of one man, Feyisa Lellisa, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, #OromoProtests were echoed all over the world. 

These efforts have intensified further thanks to the Internet and the Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Videos. Credible Internet based Websites like,, Oromia Online, OPride,com, OromoPress,com, Gulele Post, Oromia National Academy (ONA), The Oromian Economist, …etc. and internet based Radios such as Oromo Voice Radio (OVR), Simbirtuu Radio, Seife-Nebelbal Radio, and TV broadcasts such as Oromo TV, OTV-MT, OMN and ONN are doing great jobs in educating and informing the Oromo people. We must also take great care about disinformation and divisive propaganda campaigns by the enemies of the Oromo people.  

I have to take this opportunity to correct the editors of Urjii magazine for the highly biased and unethical reporting about the extra-judicial killings of Caalaa Baqqala and Fayyeeraa Baqqala. “Hulet maanninnetaachewu yaaltaawwaquu sewooch tegedlew, askerenachewu begundaan tebellaa.” It was very unfortunate to read such unethical and biased reports. It was such ignorance that was holding us back. All of them were Oromo martyrs who have done their best and I would like to remember and recognize their martyrdom. There is no Oromo who is a better Oromo than the Other Oromo. It was a leadership failure that has been failing us and I am not going back to bring them up here because many people have been wasting their time in bickering for the last twenty five years.

Both our freedom of expression and freedom of movement were taken away from us when the TPLF security and military forces have intimidated and harassed us while we were trying to distribute Bilille Magazine at Ambo town. Hence, we were forced to discontinue it. Similarly, all other Oromo print media outlets have stopped publishing because of intimidation, harassment, and barbaric torture in the notorious detention centers and prison facilities of the brutal regime.

This is what an American scholar has written few years back about his observation in Ethiopia on The Times of Oman:“Human stupidity is endless but that of Ethiopia is infinite and dark.”

The Ethiopian Regime is Guilty of Crimes Against Humanity

“Acknowledging Genocide Against the Oromo” ~ The Journal of Oromo Studies Volume 21 No. 2, November 2014. Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

According to the International Criminal Court (ICC), crimes against humanity include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population with knowledge of the attack:

  • Murder
  • Imprisonment
  • Torture
  • Rape
  • Enforced Disappearances

The best way to stop the genocidal massacres against the Oromo people is the posterity measures we take to document each and every Oromos history of persecution – detention, torture, enforced disappearance, killings and the displacements and dispossessions from their ancestral land by the past and present Abyssinian regimes. This will also send a strong message to Oromo collaborators and deter them since there is nowhere to escape in this highly networked and globalized world.