Mohammed Zakir (a.K.a. Meyra) was a legendary Oromo hero who is noted for his high contribution to keep the lights of Oromo nationalism shining after the martyrdom of his two hero colleagues called Elemo Qiltu and Ahmad Taqi. His real name is Mohammed Zakir Sheikh Omar. But he is well known among his mates and the Oromo nationalists as “Meyra”.A son of the reverend Islamic Scholar Sheikh Umar Aliye, he was born in Gelemso town in 1949. He was the last son of his mother whose name was Meymuna Saddiq. His father had a boy after him (Sheikh Omar married four wives).
His Early Struggle
Mohammed Zakir was trained on basic Islamic educations in his early ages. Then after, he attended the formal schools in Gelemso and Chiro before he joined the Addis Ababa Technical College (well known in its Amharic name ተግባረ ዕድ) for higher education. However, he left his college education uncompleted as he was attracted by the Oromo National Movement (ONM) which was then led by Elemo Kiltu (a.k.a. Hassen Ibrahim) after the latter set his foot in homeland with his fellow men to launch on an armed struggle in the Chercher Highlands.
No sooner than he was introduced to the leader Elemo Kiltu through Ahmad Taqi, his relative and close friend, he was assigned as the movement’s chief of intelligence and logistics where he was responsible for the daily consumptions of the Oromo fighters as well the necessary intelligence works. However, he didn’t join the guerrilla force openly due to the arrangements made by the leader, Elemo Kiltu, himself. Few months latter, while he was returning from Guba Qoricha, the guerrilla’s main operation district, he fall in the hand of the security forces of the newly emerging Military Junta and taken to a custody.
On September 5/ 1974, the operations of the short lived guerrilla had ended in great tragedy. Elemo Kiltu, Ahmad Taqi and other seven Oromos (including Sheikh Jamal Bareeda, Sheikh Aliyyi Arsii and Mahdi Ahmed, a nephew of Sheikh Muhammad Rashad Abdulle) were martyred at the Battle of Tiro.
The Dergue, which was not formal then (Emperor Haile Selassie was removed officially 6 days latter) turn its face to the urban people and caused mass arrest of the business community and the scholars in the towns of Gelemso, Baddessa, Mechara, Boke and Balbaleti. From among those detainees, eight people were taken to the city of Harar to be tried by the Harerghe Province Higher Military Court. The detainees were, in addition to Meyra, Muttaqii Sheikh Mohammed Rashid (a brother of Ahmad Taqi ), Ahmed Al-Hadi Hussein (brother of Mohammed Zakir Meyra), Mohammed Beker, Nejash Usmael, Usmael Ahmayyu, Amino Abdurahman (a.k.a. Amino Tuti) and Wayyaa Ibroo (a.k.a. Abubeker Ibrahim).
Meyra and the seven detainees were kept in the infamous Aw-Izin prison (now a state prison under the Harari People’s Regional State). After a series of interrogations, the Harerghe Province Higher Military court sentenced the eight prisoners to death. However, when the Dergue declared official amnesty for all political prisoners in November 1974, Meyra and the other detainees were freed.
A Famed Warrior
While still he was in his 20s, Meyra marched to Somalia leading a group of youth with whom he used to discuss the national agenda (the group is called “tuuta bariisaa’’) and some Oromo peasants to seek material assistance from the newly emerging military government of General Mohammed Ziad Barre. He returned as a commander of a brigade which included not only his fellow Oromo youths but also some WSLF (Western Somali Liberation Front) fighters who claimed giving support to our Oromo brothers. His brigade had effectively destroyed the Dergue army in Boke and Darolebo woredas. It’s said that Meyra was an up standing star in the battles that he fought. The Dergue army was completely driven out from most of the rural areas of the aforementioned districts of Boke and Darolebu. According to some, Meyra had marched as far as Milqay and Michata towns. It’s interesting to note here that as a gifted orator, he could bring persons of all sorts under his leadership. For example, one of his lieutenants called Mus’id Salah Muhsin was a Yemeni Arab whose father had been a well known business man in Gelemso town (Mus’id was martyred on one battle field)
Meyra was handling his relationship with his WSLF contemporaries cautiously from the very beginning. A few time latter, when the Somalis start to enforce the Oromos to accept the name Somali Abo as their national identity name, he came to an open opposition with the WSLF fighters. However, the most terrorizing situation that happened to him from his relationship with the Somalis was the installing of the flags of the Somali Republic on the freed Oromo lands by WSLF fighters. Meyra was furiously angry at this mischievous act of the WSLF and he immediately declared We are Oromos! We fight for our people. We are not Ziad Barre subordinates! There is no choice between two evil enemies. We will fight the WSLF as equal as we fought the Ethiopian illegitimates. He then turned the command against WSLF and its squads. His forces fought them in decisive battles and routed them totally from Darolebu district.
However, as he continued to fight them in Boke district, the Somalis enlarged their army with new arrivals and attacked his command. The fight between the two forces continued until the winter months of 1977. And finally, Meyra was martyred on the Battle of Kurfa Roqa, 30 km south of Boke town.
Mohammed Zakir or Meyra is widely honored as a national hero among the Oromos of the Harerghe region. However, his biography is still given little attention by scholars despite his immense contribution to the Oromo national pride and the Oromo struggle. Amazingly, the only exception to this comes from an Amharic writer, not an Oromo. This writer called “Theodros Mulatu’’ , who was Mohammed Zakir’s schoolmate, eloquently portrayed “Meyra” as an outstanding hero in his semi-fictional book titled “አኬል ዳማ” (read as Akel Dama, meaning the Bloody Land). And truly speaking, it was his legacy that moved more and more Oromo youths of Gelemso and the whole of Chercher region to join the national struggle. That is why the Canada based Oromo Artist Elemo Ali praised him beautifully in a song which he dedicated to the martyrs of the Battle of Tiro.
Dhigni Keessan Yaa’ee Carcar Xirroodhattii
Dhagatti Goggogee Ititee Biyyattii
Margaa Meyra inni hinbiqilchinee?
Ummata Dammaqsee Sossoose Qabsotti
Nu hordofaa Jedhaa Daandii Warraqsatti
To conclude, the Oromos would never forget this early exemplary hero. And above all, history will always remember Meyra and his heroism.