This year’s annual conference of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) will be held on August 1st and 2nd, 2009 at the University of Georgia in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme of the conference will be “Looking for Opportunity in Crisis: The Challenges of Freedom, Human Rights, and Sustainable Development in Oromia and the Horn of Africa”. There will be up to seven panels on wide range of topics ranging from the role of theology in social justice to human rights and US foreign policy to the relations of Oromo with other ethnic groups to topics on media and the prevailing environmental pollution in Oromia.
Here are some of the conference abstracts (the full content is linked below).
Transforming Oromo News Media into the Oromo National Alternative Institution of Public Opinion
By Habtamu Dugo, Independence Institute, Washington DC
Abstract: Over the last half decade, Oromo individuals, political and civil society organizations have launched several online media outlets out of desperate feelings of “serving as the voices of the voiceless Oromo people.” Of the sprawling number of the Oromo online media, some have managed to thrive on quality content, while others have become unregulated tools that have polarized the nascent Oromo public sphere.
This article will focus on exploring the significance of independent Oromo news and human rights websites as the new and alternative institutions that have been shaping public opinions. Particularly, the article critically analyzes Oromo new media’s role in human rights and political activism. It will intend to do this by drawing on the theoretical insights from Jürgen Habermas’ (1989) classic theory about ‘the structural transformation of the of the public sphere’. It also draws on Herman and Chomsky’s (2002) theory of the political economy of the media to clarify the concept of how market forces and governments control the media and thereby people’s opinions on crucial social and economic issues.
Two reasons justify the relevance of critically analyzing the Oromo new media as alternative press institutions: (i) the Ethiopian government’s control of telecommunication services, broadcast, print an online media for pure purposes of manufacturing propaganda, which has effectively led to the systematic banning of all other forms of independent Oromo media within Ethiopia; and (ii) contrary to public expectations, the first world’s media (transnational televisions, radios, newspapers and magazines) have digressed from their publicist functions and turned into platforms for market forces and interests groups, who rarely want to address issues of human rights abuses and conflicts that are turning the Horn of Africa’s environments into scorched battlefields. The Oromo public opinion has been crashed and silenced between the colossal forces of a national repressive government and global market interests. If national and international media platforms continue to ignore the plights of peoples in the Horn of Africa, then it becomes important to take the Oromo new media more seriously and to centralize and crystallize them into alternative institutions of public opinions.
Notes of A Native Son: Koka before the Dam and the Lake
By Jimma D. Tufa, Washington, DC
Abstract: Qoqaa before the damming of the Hawas River was a pristine ecological niche used by Jille clan of the Oromo nation for time immemorial as seasonal farming and grazing pasture for their livestock. The Hawas-Aqaaqii Rivers basin has been the lifeline to Oromos as is the River Nile to the Egyptians. From its source in the Hochochaa Mountains, Hawass flows south through fertile hills and valleys of Central Oromia giving life and livelihood to farmers, pastoralists and others before it changes it course and flows northeast and empties into lake Abee. This natural and mystical flow of the River Hawass has created unparalleled beauty of ecological niches in the Great Rift Valley. Seasonal wetlands, flood plains, and desert oasis are the fantastically ethereal creations of this River and it tributaries.
Qoqaa was a seasonal wetland, and in some areas, flood plains that nurtured the habits, beliefs, and all other cultural ethos of the Jille clan of Oromo nation. During the dry seasons, Jille people migrated to Qoqaa from the surround highlands to farm short season crops, i.e. garbanzo beans etc… Jilles also used the flood- plains as grazing pasture for the multitudes of livestock that they are known for.
These cycles of livelihood of the Jille people were rudely interrupted by the Imperial government during the mid 1950s when, as payment for war reparation, the Italian government offered the Imperial regime to build a hydroelectric power station. It was decided by the regime to dam the Hawas River and flood Qooqa wetlands. The Jille people were told by the Imperial regime to evacuate their land without compensation. There were scattered resistance, but the whole Imperial administrative and police apparatus was employed to remove the Jille people from their beloved Qoqaa wetlands and plains. The process of damming was thus complete and Qoqaa was flooded to become a man made lake- Lake Qoqaa!
In this paper, I will explore and ponder about the paradise lost, Qoqaa, before the damming of the Hawas River from stories and narratives told by grand parents, aunts and uncles, – memories passed down to the generations of Jille youngster who never saw the great beauty and perfection of that lost land.
HIV Epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Oromia
By Shibru D Fufa, Walden University
Abstract: During the past couple of decades, the morbidity and mortality due to HIV/AIDS has grown in to pandemic proportions globally in general and in the sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Within the sub-Saharan regions, there are huge disparities in the magnitude of damage the disease caused including socioeconomic progress and loss of social capital. Due to its pandemic proportions, HIV/AIDS testing and case reporting has quickly been politicized so much so that the validity of some reports and the surveillance method used in generating those data to be questionable. This is particularly of huge concern in under reporting the real epidemics with little or no bias so that the imminent danger of under reporting the real epidemics is avoided.
The danger of under-reporting and lack of proper case-detection would be of paramount concern in sub-Saharan African countries in general and the Ethiopian empire in particular wherein the distribution of resources and access to health services is dictated by the government not the people. The use of biased data collection tools and hence biased health promotion policies and systematic discriminatory practices had caused in the past and continues to cause an irreparable damage to the health well-being of the indigenous oppressed people in the Ethiopian empire such as the Oromo people.
The current HIV/AIDS epidemics and trends being reported by the government of Ethiopia is a case in point. This paper will use available data from databases such as the Demographic and Health Survey database and the UNAIDS database to demonstrate the regional disparities in reporting of the HIV/AIDS epidemics. It will also remark on the policy implications of such disparities and their consequences in terms under reporting the disease particularly in rural areas of Oromia and other comparable regions in the empire.
The Plight of Women in War Times: Helping Women Survive War Crimes
By H. Yusuf & F. Abdulkadir, Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC) Canada
Abstract: The Ogaden, also known as the Somali region of Ethiopia, homeland to ethnic Somalis, has a longstanding history of being contested territories. This paper will conduct a deeper analysis of the psychological and social ramifications of prolonged and continuous conflict and war have on women. As we have seen in many parts of the world, during war conflicts and particularly ethnic-based wars, women are used as pawns on a chessboard as collateral damage. They are raped, sexually assaulted, and killed. The following research paper and presentation will show how the Ethiopian army have systematically attacks women when they want to demoralize the general population in the Somali region.
This research paper will be divided into three sections: the first section will provide a brief context to the history of ethnic-based conflict in the Somali region in Ethiopia, focusing the critical role women have in the Somali community. Secondly, provide concrete examples of the atrocities that are committed to destroy communities through shaming the women via rape, and inflicting psychological pain, and extreme violence through cases of abused women. Finally, employing gender-based analysis, and feminist thought, a way to move forward to help these women will be put forward. For these women to heal and feel well adjusted and integrated back into the community their plight must be understood; acknowledged and mechanisms must be developed that provide these victims with opportunities which will instill a sense of recovery and one way to do this is to accept them as integral part of community.
Source : Gadaa.com