By Oromsis Adula*
Everyone seems to be excited about going to ATL all over again. That is good news considering OSFNA’s wobbly start that I have previously reported . I chose to mention OSFNA at the beginning of this short blog entry because I believe OSFNA is the powerhouse (the heart and soul) of Oromo summer conventions.
Without OSFNA I suspect the festivities would be much less eventful. I would like to say Thank Goodness the sponsors were benevolent. It would have been a nightmarish ride, if the schedule was changed or the venue was moved.
This short entry is inspired by an article written by Fayyis Oromia, one of our regular contributors. The writer raises a timely and critical question that every Oromo going to ATL or otherwise should be asking. However, Mr. Fayyis dwells on the alleged strategic differences and argues that the Burqaa magazine should have asked a question about strategy not direction, in their last year’s issue. I think the later is a question that must be asked here and now. For realists like me, most things Oromo has lost significance as the result of the current confusion that is clouding everything. The Oromo struggle, whatever is left of it, has lost its ground/grip and is no longer a strategic issue. At this juncture, whether we are asking a civic organization like OSFNA or our political gurus, the question remains the same. So let us all ask, where are we headed? Eessa deema jirraa?
First off, I would like to congratulate the International Oromo Youth Association leaders and the Oromo Youth Leadership Conference (OYLC) organizing committee, as they kick off their fourth annual international youth conference. This is a milestone achievement and the theme of this year’s conference speaks volume about the aspirations and devotion of the organizers.
But at this critical time in Oromo history, as much as we say youth organizations are non political, these emerging youth leaders ought to ask some of these tough questions. Not just ask but also be able and willing to deliberate about the ramifications of our current political paralysis.
It is one thing to know about thee self. But it is another thing to employ what we know about ourselves for a common purpose. For a purpose that is larger than our individual beliefs, group loyalty and other allegiances. So I urge our young people to take sometime and sincerely dive into the analysis of our current unfortunate political situation. It is frustrating, disheartening and even divisive hot button issue. Excuse the cliché here; but if not the young people, who? And if not at this desperate time of need for a new direction, when?
Once again the question is where are we headed? Is there an alternative way out? What role can Young Oromos play?
Soccer is a sport. You play with a ball as opposed to with words or ideas. But I am of the opinion that our soccer players can play a critical role in posing these questions. At the outset, I alluded to some of the challenges OSFNA has faced in preparing for this year’s tournament. The math here is simple. If not for the soccer players, there will not be a need for Oromo soccer tournament. If not for Oromo soccer tournament and the organizing aspects of things, there will not be a need for OSFNA. If not for annual Oromo soccer tournament, organized by OSFNA, there is no need for an annual pilgrimage to a chosen city. Instead, all political and civic organizations can organize their own separate events in their localities.
Therefore, if the very reason why we have annual conventions like this is because of our soccer players, they should have a bigger voice in non-soccer affairs. The soccer players can start by demanding a reform within our beloved organization – OSFNA. The solvency and continuity of OSFNA, I would argue, is critical for the future of Oromos in North America and Oromia at large.
Furthermore; our soccer players, most of them young and educated, can attend/participate in the evening and other gatherings so as to ask those tough questions. They can also make a bolder statement by avoiding field fights and playing the ball in sportsmanship’s spirit. They can hold hands and sing Tokkummaa at the beginning of every game. Although we sung it when we did not mean and it stopped touching our hearts. But since doing nothing is not an option, I think our players can use the field to make statements that everyone seems to have been leaving outside of the field. Ultimately, the challenge is how long are we going to be bystanders?
OSA has played a significant role in advancing Oromo scholarship. OSA founders, members and leaders (past, current), took on the enormous task of redefining Oromo identity, correcting the falsified historical accounts that have accumulated for over a century, and etc.
In recent years however, as various groups sought to control the organization for some weirder than weird reasons, OSA became marginalized and remained out of touch with the general populace. The tradition is becoming that where our elites, the best and brightest among them, come together to read research papers, elect the next leadership and disband. That is an inexcusable culture that must go.
Yes OSA members must do more research. Yes OSA should advance Oromo scholarship. And Yes OSA must continue reviving our identity, speaking out against injustices and reaching out to others who are willing to listen. At the same time, OSA leaders should work their hard out to make the organization a mainstream one. They can do so by reaching out to the larger audience that comes from different places for the soccer tournament. OSA can work in partnership with OSFNA, IOYA, and other civic organizations in order to garner the much needed mainstream support.
In addition to that, Oromo elites must use their world scale education and leadership abilities to bring the disfranchised political groups together. One would argue that even the elders failed to bring these groups together. Hence, it is beyond a reasonable doubt that OSA would succeed in taking on that issue. But I would argue that, it is better to do something about it than reading off a research paper on conflict resolution or the egalitarian Gadaa system of governance. Otherwise, it is a tearless cry by OSA presenters to write lengthy papers.
I repeat the analytical question is “where are we headed?”
If anyone deserves credit for the growth and deepening of Oromo national consciousness and identity, it is our beloved artists. They are the champions of Oromo nationalism. For some, everything they know about Oromo is what they heard from the recorded melodies of Oromo singers. If they can shape the public opinion then, I am certain, they can change the way we think and act now. But are they doing their job? I won’t be in a position to judge anyone of them in view of the fact that I am who I am because of their non-stop voice that echo in my ears even when I am asleep.
It is about that time again, when the unshakable unity and artistic inspirations of our singers is much needed. I urge all Oromo singers to do away with the taking of sides with disfranchised groups. Furthermore, irrelevant competition for attendees and unwarranted polarizations will only add fuel to the fire that is already engulfing the Oromo Diaspora households.
They too, can ask the question just like they did gazillion times before. Where are we headed?
Spectators and the General Public
Most Oromo convention week events are well attended. Oromos from around the globe make the much anticipated pilgrimage to take part in one or all events. Personal reasons of attendance vary depending on individual’s interest and involvement in Oromo organizations. I think, it is a worthy endeavor even if you wound up in ATL looking for your next fiancé. If you are looking for your fiance, at an Oromo convention out of all the places that you can go to, that says something about your taste and interest. So I say good call.
But seriously, how long is Oromo public going to be herded around by some power monger egoistic leaders? When is the Oromo Diaspora going to toughen up and ask our self-proclaimed leaders some tough questions? When is the right time to say enough is enough my people?
I spit blood
Blood of my ancestors
Buried under ground for my freedom
Blood of our pioneers
The heavy martyrdom
I am tired,
Of waiting, hoping
For a better day
And Pretend I am coping…
I am going to keep it real and simple
We got to ask these questions
Enough is enough my people
We got to win the fight
And fight to the bitter end
But let us start by asking the question
Where are we headed?