On Open Letter to Anita Powell

By Getachew Chemeda Nadhabaasaa – Read My Comments at the Bottom of the Page

A cattle-herding tribe in southern Ethiopia has crowned a new king in a secret ceremony considered so sacred that the Borena people believe it has the power to kill unauthorized observers.” (Anita Powell, AP – Badhaasaa, Ethiopia)

Dear Ms. Anita Powell,

May you have my congratulation for having visited Oromia and having a chance to see the dynamism of the Oromo Gadaa system in the Ethiopian colonial Empire of King of Kings (Nuguse Nagastoch).

I have read your written items, as it appeared on different Ethiopian-based websites, on the power transfer ceremony of the Boran Oromos of southern Oromia. I think, you either lacked adequate information about the Oromo people and their indigenous democratic tradition, or you were deliberately misinformed about the system, that, you were forced to come up with such very anomalous story. I do believe, your mis-presentation is the combined result of your mis-observation and the prejudice of your Ethiopian tourist guides/translators. To make it clear to you, Gadaa is the central institution of the Oromo people. It checks and balances Oromo people’s entire activities in every aspect of their life: politically, socially, economically, militarily, ritually and so on as one family. It had been at the highest stage of acceleration before the colonization of the Oromo people was effectively completed by King Minelik II of Abyssinia (alias Ethiopia) in the late nineteenth century.

Oromo people’s system of governance and their democratic tradition is indigenous to them, not the carbon copy of Western colonial system of democracy. It is diametrically opposed to, say, the monarchical institution of Great Britain and the tyrant Nuguse Nagast institution of Ethiopia. Hence, it is fatally wrong to call the elected Abbaa Gadaa of Boran Oromos as “King of a cattle-herding tribe.” Strictly speaking, the Oromos do not have equivalent word for the European and Abyssinian concept of “king and/or Nugus“, respectively, because the nature of the institution is dynamically working against the propagation of monarchical hereditary rulers.

That is why, the Oromos have been electing their leaders every eight years, which is not limited to five hundred years, as you put it. It exceeds over thousands of years. After eight years of public service, the Abbaa Gadaa will peacefully and ceremonially handover powers vested in him to the newly elected Abbaa Gadaa. His sons, unlike the monarchical dynasties of European kings and Ethiopian Nugusoch, have no right to claim succession of power inheritance. He is elected not by the quality of his lineage membership by birth. He is elected by the quality of his manner, discipline and by the deep knowledge he has among from members of his Gadaa party.

The institution functions publicly. There is no secrecy in its structure. Obviously, however, as common to any society of this world, there should be certain restriction to strangers which should not be considered as a unique anomaly to the Oromo Gadaa system.

Also, in your written item, you did not want to mention the founding father of the people you call “the cattle-herding Borena tribe”. Did not your translators or your Ethiopian assistants tell you how the Boran are the senior moiety (mana angafaa) of the Oromos? Believe it or not, according to Oromos’ facts of generational organization, the Boran Oromos are the senior ones. It is also a fatal mistake to try to write the social or political history of the Boran in isolated entity. The same is true for Gujii, Arsii, Matcha, Tulama, Wallo, Ituu or Karrayyu etc, to try to seclude them as if they are not part of the whole Oromo kinship organization.

Dear Ms. Powell,

I hope this very tiny comment of mine will get your favorable and farsighted consideration.

Nagaan (Sincerely),

Getachew Chemeda Nadhabaasaa, Member of Gadaa Meelbaa

Source: Gadaa.com

My Comments

Dear Getachew and all concerned Oromos;
I read your response (appeared on Gadaa.com) to a recent article by Anita Powell, AP – Badhaasaa, Ethiopia with great intent and admiration. As always, your comments attest to your knowledge of Gadaa practices and a sincere concern about the inaccuracies that can be observed all over the report. I salute you for being one of the few that called it out within days after the article was awash on major media outlets.

However, allow me to share my opinions on the confrontational/emotional manner with which you and others are responding to the writer. I think you agree with me that most of the problems with accounts/reports about Oromo people are the result of misinformation like this one.
Back in older days; the Abyssinian court historians have purposely distorted the Oromo culture and history. As a result today, we are trying every step of the way to correct those historical misinformation’s and a falsified history as transcribed by Abyssinian monks and missionaries who relied on inaccurate translation or what someone called ”purposeful disinformation”. In recent years thanks to Oromo historians and nationalists like you, we have achieved a great milestone in reversing that course. It is a work that needs to continue until that day when the Gadaa Republic of Oromia is established.

Yet make no mistake that the inaccuracies may or may not be a failure on Ms Powell’s part. To somehow draw a blow like these one, “you either lacked adequate information about the Oromo people and their indigenous democratic tradition, or you were deliberately misinformed about the system, that, you were forced to come up with such very anomalous story”, right from the outset is bit a stretch.

If it wasn’t for her reporting we couldn’t be debating about the occurrence of such event. If it wasn’t for Anita Powell, the world wouldn’t know about the existence of such indigenous system. As a people, we have failed time and again to create our own powerful media outlet. Often we complain about inadequate and lack of reporting on human right abuses in Oromia, our struggle, cultural and other Oromo events.

What we failed to understand is the fault is no one’s but our own. It is to be assumed that western journalists rely on tour guides and translators because simply they are not knowledgeable of events that they are reporting on. We are yet to establish such high profile media contacts with reporters of reputable organizations like the AP. If we have done our homework collectively or individually – – – she could have run the story through someone more knowledgeable before it reaches the World Wide Web. She may learn few things from the flood of insults and accusations about this report. But she will also learn a thing or two about our often emotional behaviors.

In summary; the bone of contention here is that we ought to be less confrontational and use opportunities such as this one – – – to establish a lasting connection with reporters or learn from such repeated in accurate reporting, get our acts together and establish our own powerful/reputable media outlet to write our own stories.

Oromsis Adula.



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