Let us Liberate Fifinnee from Colonialism and Dictatorship
From Journal of Oromo Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2 (2010), pp. 39-74.
Amazing Photos from Addis Ababa in the 1960s
By establishing his court in Fin!nnee (Addis Ababa), Menelik “directed the administration . . . and governed the newly conquered [Oromia] and his acquisitions through the military officers in charge of the garrisons of his own troops, whom he could appoint and dismiss at his pleasure” (Murray 1922, 41). About Oromia and other colonized regions, Harold Marcus (1971, 165) says this: “Not only were these territories effectively occupied and policed, but they were also being economically and politically integrated into . . . Ethiopia.” The colonization of Oromia, the development of the transportation and communication systems, and the establishment of Addis Ababa and garrison towns facilitated the development of the Ethiopian institutional milieu and created “the integrating nucleus of the colonial economic system” (Althabe 1964, 1-3) in Oromia with the collusion of the capitalist world economy. Commodities and food products produced by Oromo labor flowed to and were concentrated in Addis Ababa and other urban centers for local consumption and international markets. The Abyssinian colonial settlers also built garrison towns like Gore, Jijiga, Asaba Teferi, Assala, Goba, and others in Oromia. These fortified settlements had strong connections among themselves and with Addis Ababa in order to assist one another during emergencies. Although these towns were very backward compared to the European towns built in other parts of Africa during the colonial period, “the colonial structure . . . created a very special type of town: the center of trade in goods and of colonial power, the town is the reflection, both economic and sociological, of colonial domination” (Althabe 1964, 3).
The colonization of Oromia involved human tragedy and destruction: “The Abyssinian, in bloody raids, operated by surprise, mowed down without pity, in the country of the Oromo population, a mournful harvest of slaves for which the Muslims were thirsty and whom they bought at very high price. An Oromo child [boy] would cost up to 800 francs in Cairo; an Oromo girl would well be worth two thousand francs in Constantinople” (de Salviac 2005 : 28). The Abyssinian/Ethiopian government massacred half of the Oromo population (5 million out of 10 million) and their leadership during its colonial expansion (Bulatovich 2000: 68). The Amhara warlord, Menelik, terrorized and colonized the Oromo and others to obtain commodities such as gold, ivory, coffee, musk, hides and skins, slaves and lands. Menelik controlled slave trade (an estimated 25,000 slaves per year in the 1880s); with his wife he owned 70,000 enslaved Africans; he became one of the richest capitalists. He invested in American Railway Stock; “Today the Abyssinian ruler had extended the range of his financial operations to the United States, and is a heavy investor in American railroads . . . with his American securities and his French and Belgian mining investments, Menelik has a private fortune estimated at no less than twenty-five million dollars.” (New York Times, November 7, 1909).
Since there was no color line between the colonizer and the colonized peoples, as between Europeans and Africans, many scholars have failed to understand this colonial situation. The garrison towns gradually evolved into the major geopolitical centers for practicing political domination, wealth and capital accumulation, and religious and cultural dissemination. Akalou Wolde-Michael (1973, 10) describes that with Ethiopia’s colonial expansion “garrisons were set up all over newly acquired territories to hold down the conquered people. To maintain the army, part of the conquered land and, indeed, even the conquered people themselves as gabbars [semi-slaves] were assigned to the soldiers” and colonial officials. From these garrison centers Ethiopian soldiers and colonial administrators were dispatched to impose colonial rule on Oromos through subjugation, enslavement, and expropriation of the basic means of production such as land, cattle, and other valuable resources. With products collected from Oromia and other regions, Menelik continuously purchased quantities of weapons and military expertise from Europe (see Jalata 1993). Further, products in the form of gold, grain, cattle, honey, and slaves were channeled to Ethiopian colonial settlers in Oromian urban centers and towns. the colonialists gradually developed these urban centers into towns by using Oromo economic resources and labor and by building regulatory and service institutions such as offices, prisons, churches, medical and communication facilities, and schools. Several non-garrison towns emerged in eastern and western Oromia with the development of trade and communication networks. As rail service was introduced, the towns of Aqaqi, Bisho+u, Mojo, Adama,Walanchiti, Metahara, Awash, Mieso, Afdem, Gota,Munesa, and Dire Dawa.
While Oromos were evicted from their urban lands and forced to migrate to rural areas, Abyssinians were encouraged to migrate to cities and towns in Oromia. These processes were started by Menelik and have continued into the present. Menelik encouraged the migration of Abyssinians to the colonized areas in the late nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth century. The great famines in Abyssinia proper also pushed people to migrate to Oromia and other colonized areas (Benti, 1988, 133). According to Charles W. McCllelan (1978, 111-112), “Menelik’s redistribution of . . . resources had two major foci: one involved the movement of resources directly to the north [Abyssinia] for reallocation there; the other, the movement of needy northerners to the south [mainly Oromia] to be provisioned with noncommercial resources.” To solve economic and famine problems in Ethiopia proper, Menelik sent a series of large expeditions to Oromia. Harold Marcus (1975, 64-65) argues that “Expeditions were often organized during times of famine, when numerous refugees went along to settle in newly conquered lands along with the soldiers who stayed behind to garrison the forti!ed villages (katamas) erected as control points.” Further, the domination of institutions by Habashas and the glorification of the Amharic language, Orthodox Christianity, and Habasha culture encouraged the migration of more Ethiopians to Oromian cities and towns.
The TPLF regime is continuing the same policy of dispossessing and impoverishing Oromos to finally own Finfinnee and make Tigrayan colonial elites the master of the colonized Ethno-nations, including the Amhara. From the Oromo only the OPDO slaves can be cheated by the so-called “special privilege of Oromia” on Finfinnee, and the racist settlers who hate the Oromo use this opportunity to attack the Oromo people. Finfinnee belongs to Oromos and other peoples who are willing to cooperate with the Oromo and struggle to remove the fascist regime of Tigray and accept the Oromo struggle for national self-determination and egalitarian multinational democracy. The Qeerroo-led peaceful Oromo movement has made this reality abundantly clear. The Oromo national movement respects the rights of all peoples who live in Oromia and beyond to enjoy all rights that the Oromo people are struggling for. The Oromo people do not hate other peoples, and they only struggle destroy all forms injustices that the Ethiopian colonialism has imposed on them. The destruction of Ethiopian colonialism will liberate the Tigrayans, Amharas and other peoples who have been suffering under Ethiopian dictatorship, ignorance, and poverty.