As any concept, Oromummaa has different meanings on conventional, theoretical, and political,
and ideological levels. Although the colonizers of the Oromo deny, most Oromos know their
linguistic, cultural, historical, political, and behavioral patterns that closely connect together all
of their sub-identities to the Oromo nation. There is a clear conventional understanding among
all Oromo branches and individuals on these issues. The Oromo national movement has
gradually expanded the essence and meaning of Oromummaa. The colonization of the Oromo
and the disruption of their collective identity and the repression and exploitation of Oromo
society have increased the commitment of some Oromo nationalists for the restoration of the
Oromo national identity and the achievement of statehood and sovereignty through developing
the intellectual, theoretical, and ideological aspects of Oromummaa. In other words, some
Oromo nationalists and their supporters have started to further develop the concept of
Oromummaa as a cultural, historical, political, and ideological project for recapturing the best
elements of the Oromo tradition, critically assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Oromo
society, and for formulating a broad-based program of action to mobilize the nation for social
emancipation and national liberation.
This paper argues that the critical and thorough comprehension of all aspects of
Oromummaa is necessary to build a more united Oromo national movement. First, it introduces
the conventional meaning of Oromummaa through identifying and explaining the major cultural
and historical markers that differentiate the Oromo from their neighbors and other ethnonational
groups. Second, it examines how Ethiopian settler colonialism has slowed the full development
of Oromummaa by suppressing the Oromo national identity and culture, by killing real Oromo
leaders and creating subservient or collaborative leadership, and by destroying and outlawing
Oromo national institutions and organizations. Third, the piece illustrates how Oromo diversity
can be recognized and celebrated within a democratic national unity. Fourth, it explores the
concept of national and global Oromummaa as culture, identity, and nationalism. Finally, the
paper demonstrates how expanded Oromummaa can serve as the central and unifying ideology
of the Oromo national movement for social emancipation and national liberation.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The Essence and Meaning of Conventional Oromummaa
Oromummaa as the total expression of Oromo peoplehood developed from the historical,
cultural, religious, and philosophical experiences of Oromo society. As a self and collective
schema, Oromummaa encapsulates a set of fundamental beliefs, values, moral codes, and
guiding principles that make Oromo society different from other societies.2 Oromummaa has
been built on personal, interpersonal, and collective connections. It it is “an historically shaped
form of knowledge that emerged out of the Oromo experience of several centuries of life and
living (jiruf jireenya);” it has been evolved from the moral codes and guiding principles of
Oromo society, and has also “served as a mechanism that built Oromo society in the past and left
its unique mark upon the people, and their environment.”3 The Oromo belief systems and
cultural principles have been encoded in and expressed by Afaan Oromoo (the Oromo language.
Therefore, the Oromo language has been the main carrier of the essence and features of Oromo
culture, tradition, and peoplehood. Since the Ethiopian colonizers had failed to destroy this
language and replace it by that of their own, they could not successfully suppress Oromummaa
that has survived in scattered forms and underground for more than a century.
However, the colonizers have prevented the Oromo from developing independent
institutions that would allow them to produce and disseminate their historical and cultural
knowledge freely. To objectively and clearly discuss about conventional Oromummaa, we need
to know the historical, cultural, religious, linguistic, geographical, and civilizational foundations
of Oromo society. Currently our knowledge of Oromoness or Oromummaa is very limited and
fragmented. For generations, the Oromo have transmitted their history through oral discourse.
Since the colonization of Oromo society, Oromo scholars and others have been discouraged or
prohibited by the Ethiopian colonial state from documenting Oromo oral traditions; therefore,
adequate information is lacking on this society. Due to the dominant role of oral history, Oromo
historiography requires a thorough and critical study of oral traditions. The Ethiopian colonial
state has suppressed the production, reproduction, and dissemination of the intellectual
knowledge of the Oromo people. To deny the opportunity of self-knowledge to the Oromo
people in general, the youth in particular, the Ethiopian colonial institutions and their knowledge
for domination have been imposed on Oromo society through colonial education and other
institutions, such as the media and religion.
For most Ethiopian and Ethiopianist scholars, Oromo history began in the 16th century
when the Oromo were actively recapturing their territories and rolling back the Christian and
Muslim empires in the Horn of Africa. The Oromo had at that time a form of constitutional
government known as gadaa. Although we have limited knowledge of Oromo history before this
century, it is reasonable to think that this people did not invent their government system just at
the moment they were defending their country from the Christian and Muslim empire builders.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014During the 16th and 17th centuries, when various peoples were fighting over economic resources
in the Horn of Africa, the Oromo were effectively organized under the gadaa government for
both offensive and defensive wars. The gadaa government organized and ordered society around
political, economic, social, cultural, and religious institutions. We do not clearly know at this
time when and how this institution emerged. However, we know that it existed as a full-fledged
system at the beginning of the 16th century.
During this century, the Oromo started to live under one gadaa republic with a strong
democratic leadership and a national defense army. Today, almost all Oromos recognize and
express proud in the gadaa system and its democratic principles. Gadaa as the main institutional
emblem of the Oromo national character marks Oromo national culture and identity at all levels;
Oromo cultural, historical, and behavioral patterns have been marked by the indigenous
democracy of the gadaa system. This system has the principles of checks and balances (through
periodic succession of every eight years), and division of power (among executive, legislative,
and judicial branches), balanced opposition (among five parties), and power sharing between
higher and lower administrative organs to prevent power from falling into the hands of despots.
Other principles of the system included balanced representation of all clans, lineages, regions
and confederacies; accountability of leaders, the settlement of disputes through reconciliation,
and the respect for basic rights and liberties.
There have been five miseensas (parties) in gadaa; these parties have different names in
different parts of Oromia as the result of the population growth and the establishment of different
autonomous administrative systems. All gadaa officials were elected for eight years by universal
adult male suffrage. The system organized male Oromos according to age-sets (hirya) based on
chronological age, and according to generation-sets (luba) based on genealogical generation, for
social, political and economic purposes. These two concepts – gadaa-sets and gadaa-grades –
are important to a clear understanding of gadaa. All newly born males enter a gadaa-set at birth,
which they will belong to along with other boys of the same age, and for the next forty years they
will go through five eight-year initiation periods; the gadaa-grade is entered on the basis of
generation, and boys enter their luba forty years after their fathers.
All Oromo branches were organized in age-sets and generational sets to defend their
collective interest from external and internal enemies. In Oromo society, knowledge and
information have been mainly transmitted from generation to generation through the institutions
of family, religion, and gadaa. Young Oromos are expected to learn important things that are
necessary for social integration and community development. They learn appropriate social
behavior by joining age-sets and generation-sets. From their families and communities and
experts, they learn stories, folk tales, riddles, and other mental games that help acquiring the
knowledge of society. As age-mates, they share many things because of their ages; members of
generation-sets also share many duties and roles because of their membership in grades or
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The balancing of the domains of women and men was a precondition for keeping peace
between the sexes and for promoting safuu (moral and ethical order) in society. The gadaa and
siqqee institutions had influenced the value system of Oromo society. In the pre-colonial Oromo
society, women had the siiqqee institution, a parallel institution to the gadaa system. These two
institutions helped in maintaining safuu by enabling Oromo women to have control over their
labor and economic resources and private spaces, social status and respect, and sisterhood and
solidarity by deterring men from infringing upon their individual and collective rights. If the
balance between men and women was broken, a siqqee rebellion was initiated to restore the law
of God and the moral and ethical order of society.
The principles of justice and democracy guided the Oromo worldview and value. Oromo
society rejected hierarchies based on race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Therefore, when the
Oromo fought wars and defeated their competitors, they integrated them into their society
through the processes known as guudifacha and moogafacha. When other peoples or groups
were interested to join Oromo society they were allowed to join the society through these
processes. Although this assimilation process was not perfect, it involved both cultural and
structural assimilation to allow an open access to economic and political resources without
discrimination. Therefore, Oromoness or Oromummaa does not necessarily require biological or
blood ties, but endorsing social justice, popular democracy, and accepting the rule of law. The
Oromo nation used to make nagaa (peace) among its various branches and social forces through
assertive peacemaking process of the gadaa system that renewed Oromummaa as a social
contract in Oromo society in every generation. Oromummaa embraces the Oromo sense of nagaa
and justice among all Oromos and beyond through “balance of human beings with the
environment, balance of men and women, balance of productive forces, balance of power,
balance of families, balance within families, etc. At the heart of that notion of balance was the
principle or definition of justice. It was encoded in the law, or seera…. According to the Oromo,
justice prevailed when that balance was reached and maintained by law.”4
The behavior of the Oromo has been regulated by the gadaa democracy and principles.
Oromo society like any society has been conscious of its cultural identity, its relation to nature,
and the existence of a powerful force that regulates the connection between nature and society.
The Oromo knowledge of society and the world can be classified into two: a) cultural and
customary knowledge known as beekumssa aadaa, and b) knowledge of laws known as
beekumssa seera.The knowledge of laws is further subdivided into seera Waaqa (the laws of
God), and seera nama (the laws of human beings). The laws of God are immutable, and the laws
of human beings can be changed thorough consensus and democratic means. The Oromo
customary knowledge is a public and common knowledge that guides and regulates the activities
of members of the society; some elements of this customary knowledge can develop into rules or
laws depending on the interest of society.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Every person is expected to learn and recognize seera Waaqa and seera aadaa; however,
should someone does not know the laws of society or the laws of God, there are Oromo experts
who can be referred to. These experts study and know the organizing principles of the Oromo
worldview that reflect Oromo cultural memory and identity both temporally and religiously.
Another important aspect Oromo culture and history has been Afaan Oromoo. Although the
Ethiopian colonial system has tried its best to destroy all aspects of Oromo culture and history,
including the Oromo language, it did not have the capacity to totally impose itself on Oromo
society and its culture and language. The Amhara-Tigrayan colonizers have killed assertive,
independent Oromo leaders and destroyed or suppressed Oromo institutions, such as gadaa, in
the attempt to uproot Oromummaa and replace it with Ethiopianism. However, Oromo rural
families, particularly Oromo women, protected Afaan Oromoo because they had little access to
the institutions of the colonizers.
Without having a national institution that can protect it, Afaan Oromoo has remained the
blood and sinew of the Oromo identity, culture, and history. Today, the survival of this language
has enabled all Oromo branches that have been disconnected by colonial regions and borrowed
religions to be reconnected and revive their national institutions and Oromummaa. The Oromo
language as the gold mine of Oromo history and culture has remained the main pillar and marker
of Oromummaa. The Oromo national struggle led by the Oromo Liberation Front has enabled the
Oromo to write and read in qubee since 1991 although the Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government
has dwarfed its development and the Amhara elites have opposed this alphabet wishing to
impose their colonial language, Amharic. Generally speaking, Oromo institutions, such as gadaa,
siqqee, and waaqeffannaa (Oromo religion) have imprinted indelible and enduring marks on
Oromo personality, peoplehood, and conventional Oromummaa. How did Ethiopian colonialism
suppress Oromummaa? Why do the Amhara-Tigrayan elites hate Oromummaa while promoting
Colonialism and the Suppression of Oromummaa
Colonialism attacks the individual psyche and biography, as well as the collective history, of a
given people. These damaging processes occur through various forms of violence, including
colonial terrorism. “Violence is any relation, process, or condition by which an individual or a
group violates the physical, social, and/or psychological integrity of another person or group.
From this perspective, violence inhibits human growth, negates inherent potential, limits
productive living, and causes death” (author’s emphasis).5 Colonialism can be maintained by
committing genocide or ethnocide and/or by organized cultural destruction and the assimilation
of a sector of the colonized population. The Ethiopian colonialists have expropriated Oromo
economic resources and destroyed Oromo institutions and cultural experts and leaders; they have
also denied the Oromo opportunities for developing the Oromo system of knowledge by
preventing the transmission of Oromo cultural experiences from generation to generation. All
these have been intended to uproot Oromummaa in order to produce individuals and groups who
lack self-respect and are submissive and ready to serve the colonialists.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Under these conditions, the Oromo basic needs and self-actualizing powers have not been
fulfilled. In other words, the Oromo biological and social needs have been frustrated. “If failure
to satisfy biological needs leads to disease and physical death,” Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan notes,
“then denial of human contact, communication, and affirmation… leads to a social and
psychological ‘starvation’ or ‘death’ no less devastating than, and conditioning, physical death.”6
The Ethiopian colonialists have caused the physical death of millions, and further attempted to
introduce social and cultural death to the Oromo people. Both the Amhara and Tigrayan elites
have attempted to destroy or control the Oromo selfhood in order to deny the Oromo both
individual and national self-determination. Furthermore, the Ethiopian colonial state has
destroyed Oromo leaders who have fought against Abyssinian/Ethiopian colonialism, and has coopted
those leaders that collaborated with the system as intermediaries.7 Euro-American guns,
cannons, technology, and administrative skills have been utilized in colonizing Oromia and
maintaining the Ethiopian colonial system by massacring, repressing, and by reorganizing
Oromo society in order to control and exploit them. Since the colonization of the Oromo people,
one of the goals of the Ethiopian state has been the destruction and underdevelopment of the
Oromo elites and their leadership; the Amhara-Tigrayan state has used both violent and
institutional mechanisms to ensure that the Oromo people remain leaderless. Furthermore, to
ensure its colonial domination, the Ethiopian state has destroyed or suppressed Oromo
institutions while glorifying, establishing, and expanding the Amhara-Tigrayan government and
Orthodox Christianity.8 According to Bonnie K. Holcomb, “The essence of colonization was the
replacement of the values of Oromummaa as the overarching integrating mechanism of the
Oromo superstructure and replacing it with the ideology and the resulting institutions of Greater
The Ethiopian state has also sought to suppress Oromo history, culture, and language
while promoting that of the Abyssinians. The main reasons for suppressing or destroying the
major Oromo institutions was to prevent the transmission of the Oromo belief systems and
cultural norms from generation to generation and to stop “each new generation engaging
creatively with the circumstances in which they found themselves to find expression for the core
values in the way they organized themselves.”10 In consequence of these efforts, the Ethiopian
state has fractured Oromo culture and identity. It targeted Oromummaa for destruction and
established its colonial administrative regions to suppress the Oromo people and exploit their
resources. As a result, Oromo relational identities were localized and were not strongly
connected to the collective identity of national Oromummaa. Consequently, the Oromo have
been separated from one another and prevented from exchanging goods and information on
national level for more than a century, and their identities have been localized into clan families
and colonial regions. They have been exposed to different cultures (i.e., languages, customs,
values, etc.) and religions and have adopted some elements of these cultures and religions
because of the inferiority complex that Ethiopian colonialism introduced to them. Until Oromo
nationalism emerged, Oromummaa primarily remained on personal and interpersonal levels
because the Oromo were denied the opportunities to form national institutions.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The Ethiopian colonialists have also expropriated Oromo economic resources and
destroyed Oromo institutions and cultural experts and leaders. Oppressors don’t just want to
control the oppressed; they want also to control their minds, thus ensuring the effectiveness of
domination and exploitation. Na’im Akbar succinctly explains how the mental control of the
oppressed causes personal and collective damages: “The slavery that captures the mind and
imprisons the motivation, perception, aspiration and identity in a web of anti-self-images,
generating a personal and collective self-destruction, is [crueler] than shackles on the wrists and
ankles. The slavery that feeds on the mind, invading the soul of man [and woman], destroying
his [and her] loyalties to himself [and herself] and establishing allegiance to forces which
destroys him [and her], is an even worse form of capture.”11 The mental enslavement of most
Oromo elites is the major reason why the Oromo, who comprise the majority of the Ethiopian
population, are brutalized, murdered and terrorized by the minority Tigrayan elites today.
Without the emancipation of Oromo individuals and groups from the inferiority complex and
without overcoming the ignorance and the worldviews that the enemies of the Oromo have
imposed on them, the Oromo cannot have the self-confidence necessary to facilitate individual
liberation and Oromo emancipation. Some Oromo elites have become raw materials for the
successive Ethiopian regimes and have implemented their terrorist and genocidal policies. These
internal agents of the Ethiopian government have also participated in robbing Oromo economic
resources. As Frantz Fanon notes, “The intermediary does not lighten the oppression, nor seek to
hide the domination . . . he is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the
The Oromo national struggle has to solve the internal problem of Oromo society before it
can fully confront and defeat its joined external enemies. Ethiopian history demonstrates that
most Oromo collaborative individuals and groups have been king makers and have protected the
Ethiopian Empire without seeking authority for themselves and their people. These collaborators
have acted more Ethiopian than their colonial masters. “The oppressed learn to wear many masks
for different occasions;” Frantz Fanon notes, “they develop skills to detect the moods and wishes
of those in authority, learn to present acceptable public behaviors while repressing many
incongruent private feelings.”13 The Oromo collaborative elites have been politically ignorant
and harbor an inferiority complex that has been imposed on them by the colonial institutions.
According to Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, “Prolonged oppression reduces the oppressed into mere
individuals without a community or a history, fostering a tendency to privatize a shared
victimization.”14 Since they have been cut from their individual biographies and the collective
Oromo history, members of the Oromo collaborative class have only known what the Amhara or
Tigrayan elites have taught them and, as a result, they have constantly worn “Ethiopian masks”
that have damaged their psyches. The colonizers have never been content with occupying the
land of indigenous peoples and expropriating their labor; they have also declared war on the
psyches of the oppressed.15
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014By introducing an inferiority complex, the Amhara-Tigray state has attacked the Oromo
culture and worldview in order to alter the perspective of the colonized Oromo from
independence to dependence; consequently, every colonized Oromo subject who has not yet
liberated his/her mind wears an Ethiopian mask by associating his/herself with the Ethiopian
culture and identity. As Fanon asserts, “All colonized people—in other words, people in whom
an inferiority complex has taken root, whose local cultural originality has been committed to the
grave—position themselves in relation to the civilizing language . . . The more the colonized has
assimilated the cultural values of [the colonizers], the more he [and she] will have” imitated
his/her masters.16 As the European colonialists did, the Amhara-Tigrayan colonizers have
manufactured the Oromo collaborative elites to use them in their colonial projects. According to
Bulhan, “in prolonged oppression, the oppressed group willy-nilly internalizes the oppressor
without. They adopt his guidelines and prohibitions, they assimilate his image and his social
behavior, and they become agents of their own oppression. The oppressor without becomes . . .
an oppressor within . . . They become auto-oppressor as they engage in self-destructive behavior
injurious to themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors.”17
What Fanon says about other colonial intermediary elites applies to the Oromo elites:
“The European elite undertook to manufacture native elite. They picked out promising
adolescents; they branded them, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of Western culture;
they stuffed their mouths full with high-sounding phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to
the teeth.”18 Since most Oromo elites who have passed through Ethiopian colonial institutions
have not yet achieved psychological liberation, they consciously or unconsciously prefer to work
for their colonial masters rather than working as a team on the Oromo liberation project. What
Walter Rodney says about the consequences of the colonial educational system in Africa also
applies to the situation of Oromo intermediaries: “The colonial school system educated far too
many fools and clowns, fascinated by the ideas and way of life of the European capitalist class.”
“Some reached a point of total estrangement from African conditions and the African way of life
. . . ‘Colonial education corrupted the thinking and sensibilities of the African and filled him with
abnormal complexes.’”19 Similarly, some Oromo intermediaries who have passed through the
Ethiopian colonial education system have been de-Oromized and Ethiopianized, and have
opposed the Oromo struggle for national liberation.
Colonial education mainly creates submissive leaders that facilitate underdevelopment
through subordination and exploitation.20 Considering the similar condition of the African
Americans in the first half of the 20th century, Carter G. Woodson characterized the educated
Black as “ a hopeless liability of the race,” and schools for Blacks were “places where they must
be convinced of their inferiority.”21 He demonstrated how White oppressors controlled the minds
of Blacks through education in the United States: “When you control a man’s [and a woman’s
thinking] you do not have to worry about his [and her] actions. You do not have to tell him not to
stand here or go yonder. He [or she] will find his [or her] ‘proper place’ and will stay in it.”22
The behaviors and actions of most educated Oromo intermediaries parallel what Woodson says
about the educated African Americans before they intensified their national struggle.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014There have been also biologically and culturally assimilated Oromo elements that
preferred to disassociate themselves from anything related to the Oromo. Such assimilated
Oromos, like their Habasha masters, have been the defenders of the Habasha culture, religion,
and the Amharic language and the haters of the Oromo history, culture, institutions, and Afaan
Oromoo. Explaining similar circumstances, Fanon notes, “The individual who climbs up into
white, civilized society tends to reject his black, uncivilized family at the level of the
imagination.”23 The slave psychology of such assimilated elements has caused them also to
prefer the leadership of the Amhara or Tigrayan oppressor. Through his seven years of
experimentation and observation in Martinique, Frantz Fanon concluded that the dominated
“black man’s behavior is similar to an obsession neurosis . . . There is an attempt by the colored
man to escape his individuality, to reduce his being in the world to nothing . . . The
[psychologically affected] black man goes from humiliating insecurity to self-accusation and
even despair.”24 These conditions also apply to all colonized, repressed, and exploited peoples.
Therefore, some Oromos also have faced similar problems. Furthermore, the attack on Oromo
families and national structures introduced psychological disorientations to Oromo individuals
and incapacitated their collective personality. The family – as a basic institution of any society –
provides guidance in values, norms and worldviews, and acts as the educating and training
ground for entry into that society. Oromo families have been destroyed or disfigured by the
Ethiopian colonial institutions. Furthermore, the Oromo people have lacked educational, cultural,
and ideological resources to guide their children toward building national institutions and
organizational capacity. Consequently, Oromo individuals who have been brought under such
conditions have faced social, cultural, and psychological crises.
Due to these complex problems, the low level of political consciousness, and an imposed
inferiority complex, those Oromos who claim that they are nationalists sometimes confuse their
sub-identities with the Oromo national identity or with Ethiopian identity. According to Fanon,
“The neurotic structure of an individual is precisely the elaboration, the formation, and the birth
of conflicting knots in the ego, stemming on the one hand from the environment and on the other
from the entirely personal way this individual reacts to these influences.”25 The Ethiopian
colonial system was imposed on the Oromo creating regional and religious boundaries among
them. Under these conditions, personal identities (e.g. religious affiliation) replaced Oromoness
– with its unique values and self-schemas – and Ethiopianism replaced Oromummaa. Colonial
rulers saw Oromoness as a source of raw material that was ready to be transformed into other
identities. Since most Oromos have been psychologically damaged, they have run away from the
Oromo national identity. Through political, educational, and religious institutions and the media
the Ethiopian colonial elites and their successive governments have continuously created and
perpetuated negative stereotypes and racist values regarding the Oromo people26 and have even
led some Oromos to think negatively about themselves.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014That is why some Oromo parents have rejected Oromo names and given Amhara or Arab
names to their children in order to assimilate them to the cultures they considered superior. Some
Oromos have also developed self-hatred and self-contempt and worn the masks of other peoples.
Ethiopian colonialism and racism have made some Oromo elites hate their culture and language
and avoid self-discovery. The process of de-Oromization has created alienation among some
Oromos and imbued them with distorted perceptions of their own people. Everything AmharaTigray
has been praised and everything Oromo has been rejected and denigrated in some Oromo
circles; the colonialists have depicted the Oromo as barbaric, ignorant, evil, pagan, backward,
and superstitious. In order to avoid these perceived characteristics, some Oromo elites who
passed through the Ethiopian colonial education system were Amharized. The colonization of the
Oromo mind has indoctrinated the Oromo elites in order to isolate them from their families and
communities and distort their identities by disconnecting them from their heritage, culture, and
In order to achieve psychological liberation via the development of political
consciousness and national Oromummaa, it is essential to understand the process of oppression
by learning about the bankruptcy of assimilated Oromo elites and the crises in both individual
Oromo biographies and collective Oromo history. As Bulhan asserts, “The experience of
victimization in oppression produces, on the one hand, tendencies toward rebellion and a search
for autonomy and, on the other, tendencies toward compliance and accommodation. Often, the
two tendencies coexist among the oppressed, although a predominant orientation can be
identified for any person or generation at a given time.”28 The oppressed are chained physically,
socially, culturally, politically, and psychologically; hence, it is difficult for them to learn about
these problems and search for ways to overcome them. The conscious element of the oppressed
“opts for an introspective approach and emphasizes the need to come to terms with one’s self—a
self historically tormented by a formidable and oppressive social structure.”29 As the current
national crisis unfolds, Oromo nationalists in general and leaders in particular should start to
critically self-evaluate in order to identify the impacts of oppressive and destructive values and
behaviors on them and the Oromo political performance. Psychological liberation from
ideological confusion and oppression requires fighting against the external oppressor and the
internalized oppressive values.
Most oppressed individuals understand what the oppressor does to them from outside, but
it is difficult for them to comprehend how the worldviews of the oppressor are imposed on them
and control them from within. Bulhan explains that “institutionalization of oppression in daily
living . . . entails an internalization of the oppressor’s values, norms, and prohibitions.
Internalized oppression is most resistant to change, since this would require a battle on two
fronts: the oppressor without and the oppressor within.”30 The Ethiopian colonial system has
denied education to almost all the Oromo in order to keep them ignorant and submissive. Even
those few who have received colonial education have not been provided with critical education
and knowledge for liberation. As Woodson says, colonial education is “a perfect device for
control from without.” 31
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014So it has been difficult and challenging for most Oromo elites to engage in a two-front
struggle—liberating themselves from the values and worldviews of the Ethiopians and their
colonial institutions and structures. Because of the lack of political consciousness, the oppressed
individuals and groups learn the behavior of the oppressor, engage in conflict, and abuse one
another. Attaining a critical political consciousness enables the oppressed individuals and groups
to regain their identity, reclaim their history and culture, and regain self-respect while fighting
against the oppressor externally. Those people who are disconnected from their social and
cultural bonds are disorganized, disoriented, and alienated and lack critical understanding of
individual biographies and collective history; hence, they cannot effectively organize and fight
against the values and institutions of their oppressors. “The colonized had been reduced to
individuals without an anchor in history, alienated from themselves and others. So as long as this
alienation prevailed, the colonizer without could not be challenged. His abuses, humiliations, and
suffocating repression permeated everyday living, further undermining the colonized [person’s]
self-respect and collective bonds.”32 When some elements of the colonized people develop
political consciousness, organize, and engage in the struggle for freedom, they turn their
internalized anger, hostility, and violence that destroyed relationships among them against the
The Oromo nationalists have faced monumental political problems from the decadent
Ethiopian political system. In addition to brutal violence and repression, the oppressor uses
various methods of social control. “The oppressed is made a prisoner within a narrow circle of
tamed ideas, a wrecked ecology, and a social network strewn with prohibitions. His family and
community life is infiltrated in order to limit his capacity for bonding and trust. His past is
obliterated and his history falsified to render him without an origin or a future. A system of
reward and punishment based on loyalty to the oppressor is instituted to foster competition and
conflict among the oppressed.”33 The colonialists and their collaborators have committed various
crimes against the Oromo culture, history, language and psychology. The founding fathers and
mothers of Oromo nationalism understood these complex problems and tried to solve them
through developing social, economic, cultural, and political projects. Those people whose culture
has been attacked and disfigured by colonialism are underdeveloped; their basic needs are not
satisfactorily met and self-actualizing powers are stagnated; “For to acquire culture presupposes
not only a remarkable power of learning and teaching, but also an enduring capacity for
interdependence and inter-subjectivity. Not only the development of our higher power of
cognition and affect, but also the development of our basic senses rest on the fact that we are
social beings.”34 From all angles, the Habasha have tried their best to prevent the Oromo from
having clarity and integrity of the Oromo self; they have prevented the Oromo from establishing
cultural and historical immortality through the reproduction and recreation of their history,
culture and worldview, and from achieving maximum self-determination. “The pursuit of selfclarity
is . . . intimately bound with the clarity developed first about one’s body, the body’s
boundary and attributes, and later one’s larger world.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014 This pursuit of clarity has survival, developmental, and organizing value. It entails both a
differentiation from as well as integration with others and with one’s past. Without some clarity
of the self, however tentative and tenuous, there can be no meaningful relating with others, no
expression of inherent human potentials, no gratification of essential needs.”35
The founding fathers and mothers of Oromo nationalism purposely engaged in political
praxis to save the Oromo from psychological, social, cultural, and physical death. Without a
measure of self-determination, a person cannot fully satisfy his/her biological and social needs,
self-actualize, and engage in praxis as an active agent to transform society and oneself. “Selfdetermination
refers to the process and capacity to choose among alternatives, to determine one’s
behavior, and to affect one’s destiny. As such, self-determination assumes a consciousness of
human possibilities, an awareness of necessary constraints, and a willed, self-motivated
engagement with one’s world.”36 The Oromo nation cannot achieve self-determination without
developing all aspects of Oromummaa. The Ethiopian colonialists have assumed almost
complete control over the Oromo in an attempt to deny the Oromo the right of selfdetermination,
both individually and collectively. Unfortunately, the oppression is not limited to
national borders. Ethiopian colonialists have psychological impacts on some Oromos in the
Diaspora, and have infiltrated the Oromo Diaspora communities and their organizations in order
to dismantle them. Oromo individuals and groups who do not clearly comprehend the essence of
Oromummaa and self-determination and who do not struggle for them are doomed to both
psychological and cultural death. “History and social conditions present alternatives but also
constraints. We can choose to act or not act. But even when we lack alternatives in the world as
we find it, we do possess the capacity to interpret and reinterpret, to adopt one attitude and not
another. Without the right of self-determination, we are reduced to rigid and automatic
behaviors, to a life and destiny shorn of human will and freedom.”37
At this historical moment, most of the Oromo in the Diaspora are passive, and they do not
struggle effectively for their individual and national self-determination. These conditions have
left their communities vulnerable to infiltration by Oromo collaborators, who then attempt to turn
Oromos against one another. The founding fathers and mothers of Oromo nationalism as a social
group reclaimed their individual authentic biographies and Oromo collective history and defined
the Oromo national problem and sought the political solution of national self-determination.
Without psychological liberation, organization, Oromummaa consciousness, and collective
action, the Oromo people cannot fulfill the objectives of the Oromo national movement. “A
psychology of liberation would give primacy to the empowerment of the oppressed through
organized and socialized activity with the aim of restoring individual biographies and a
collective history derailed, stunted, and/or made appendage to those of others. Life indeed takes
on morbid qualities and sanity becomes tenuous so long as one’s space, time, energy, mobility,
and identity are usurped by dint of violence.”38
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The Oromo elites and leaders must realize that the Oromo cannot achieve their liberation
objectives without understanding and overcoming the internalized values that they have learned
from the oppressors and the inferiority complex that they are suffering from: “To transform a
situation of oppression requires at once a relentless confrontation of oppressors without, who are
often impervious to appeals, to reasons or compassion, and an equally determined confrontation
of the oppressor within, whose violence can unleash a vicious cycle of auto-destruction to the
self as well as to the group.”39 The Oromo national movement is still suffering from the
oppressor within and the lack of effective leadership and organization. Since the Oromo masses
are not organized and educated in the politics and psychology of liberation, they have been
passive participants in the Oromo national movement. They have been waiting to receive their
liberation as a gift from Oromo political organizations. This is a serious mistake. Oromo
liberation can only be achieved by the active participation of the majority of the Oromo people.
As Gilly Adolfo states, “Liberation does not come as a gift from anybody; it is seized by the
masses with their own hands. And by seizing it they themselves are transformed; confidence in
their own strength soars, and they turn their energy and their experience to the tasks of building,
governing, and deciding their own lives for themselves.”40
Developing national Oromummaa among the Oromo elites and masses is required to
increase Oromo self-discovery and self-acceptance through liberation education. Without
overcoming political ignorance and inferiority complex among all sectors of the Oromo people,
the Oromo national movement continues to face multi-faceted problems. The Oromo can
challenge and overcome multiple levels of domination and dehumanization through multiple
approaches and actions. As Patricia Hill Collins puts, “People experience and resist oppression
on three levels: the level of personal biography; the group or community level of the cultural
context . . . and the systematic level of social institutions.”41 Oromummaa consciousness as
ideology empowers the Oromo to intensify their struggle on these three levels. Developing
individual political consciousness through liberation knowledge generates social change. This is
essential to the creation of a sphere of freedom by increasing the power of self-definition for the
liberation of the mind. Without the liberated and free mind, we cannot resist oppression on
multiple levels. The dominant groups are against mental liberation, and they use institutions such
as schools, churches or mosques, the media, and other formal organizations to inculcate their
oppressive worldviews in the minds of the dominated. According to Collins, “Domination
operates by seducing, pressuring, or forcing . . . members of subordinated groups to replace
individual and cultural ways of knowing with the dominant group’s specialized thought. As a
result . . . ‘the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situation which
we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.’ Or . .
. ‘revolutionary begins with the self, in the self.’”42 Every Oromo must be educated to acquire
liberation knowledge to fight for his/her individual freedom and empowerment.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Without the liberation and the empowerment of the individual, we cannot overcome the
docility and passivity of our people and empower them to revolt and liberate themselves.
“Empowerment involves rejecting the dimensions of knowledge, whether personal, cultural, or
institutional, that perpetuate objectification and dehumanization . . . individuals in subordinate
groups become empowered when we understand and use those dimensions of our individual,
group, and disciplinary ways of knowing that foster our humanity as fully human subjects.”43
Oromo individuals and groups need to engage in the process of national discovery and liberation
while recognizing their diversity and unity. National Oromummaa as a political project
recognizes Oromo diversity within a democratic national unity. For instance, today the Oromo
have religious plurality that they need to adapt to national Oromummaa. All Oromo religious
institutions, including the church and mosque, must reflect Oromo-centered culture and values
and other democratic traditions and freely participate in the spiritual and cultural development of
Oromo society. All Oromo-centered institutions and organizations must also protect Oromo
women and children and encourage them to freely develop their talent through education and
Diversity, Unity, and National Oromummaa
Since the Oromo are a diverse and heterogeneous people, the exploration of the concept of
diversity is an essential element of Oromummaa. The concept of diversity applies to Oromo
cultural, professional, religious, class, and gender divisions. National Oromummaa facilitates the
social construction of an Oromo national collective identity, which unites a significant segment
of the Oromo for national struggle. Collective identities are not automatically given, but they are
outcomes of the active mobilization process. Oromo nationalists can only reach at a common
understanding of national Oromummaa and diversity through open, critical, honest dialogue and
debate. Through such discussions, a single standard that respects the dignity and inalienable
human rights of all persons with respect to political, social, and economic interaction should be
established for all the Oromo. Oromo personal and social identities can be fully released and
mobilized for collective actions if all Oromo recognize that they can freely start to shape their
future aspirations or possibilities without discrimination. This is only possible through
developing an Oromo identity on personal and collective levels that is broader and more
inclusive than gender, class, clan, family, region, professional, and religion. Basing this
understanding on national Oromummaa eliminates differences that may emerge because of
religious plurality or regional differences.
Despite the fact that the Oromo are proud of their democratic tradition, their behavior and
practices in politics, religion, and community affairs indicate that they have learned more from
Habashas and Oromo chiefs than from the gadaa system of democracy. While the social and
cultural construction of the Oromo collective identity is an ongoing process, this process cannot
be completed without the recognition that Oromo society is composed of a set of diverse and
heterogeneous individuals and groups with a wide variety of cultural and economic experiences.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Hence, Oromo nationalists need to recognize and value the diversity and unity of the Oromo
people because individuals and groups participate in collective action when such action is
connected to the Oromo collective identity that makes such action meaningful. In every society,
personal and social identities are flexible. Similarly, Oromo self-identity exists at personal,
interpersonal, and collective levels, and this confederation of identity is continuously shaped by
Oromo historical and cultural memories, current conditions, and hopes and aspirations for the
future. Every Oromo has an internally focused psychological self and an externally focused
social self. The Oromo social self emerges from the interplay between intimate personal relations
and less personal relations. The former relations comprise the interpersonal or relational identity
and the latter are a collective identity. The relational-level identity is based on perceptions or
views of others about an individual. Thus, individual Oromos have the knowledge of themselves
from their personal viewpoints as well as knowledge from the perspective of significant others
and larger social groups. The concept of individual self emerges from complex conditions that
reflect past and present experiences and future possibilities. Some Oromos are more familiar
with their personal and relational selves than they are with their Oromo collective self, because
their level of national Oromummaa is rudimentary. These Oromo individuals have intimate
relations with their family members, friends, and local communities. These interpersonal and
close relations foster helping, nurturing, and caring relationships. Without developing these
micro-relationships into the macro-relationship of national Oromummaa, the building of Oromo
national organizational capacity is illusive.
Organizing the Oromo requires learning about the multiplicity and flexibility of Oromo
identities and fashioning from them a collective national identity that encompasses the vast
majority of the Oromo populace. This process can be facilitated by an Oromo civic and political
leadership that is willing to develop an understanding of the breadth of the diversity of Oromo
society by looking for those personal and relational identities that can be used to construct the
Oromo collective identity based on expanded Oromummaa. The politics of Oromo liberation
constructs “a new Oromo family” in which all subgroups come together to regain their human
dignity by overthrowing Ethiopian colonialism and by building a just and democratic society. In
these processes national Orommumaa reflects the common denominator of Oromoness.
Oromummaa as a project and a national ideology has yet to challenge the conditions that
promote the politics of conventional wisdom because of the low level of cognitive liberation, the
low level of global awareness, and the low level of political experience and organizational
Low Level of Cognitive Liberation
At the individual level, cognitive liberation means having critical knowledge that allows one to
confront a complex problem and solve it. It means also developing high level of political and
cultural understanding and consciousness. On the political level, the critical understanding of the
past and current problems and formulating a dynamic policy to address and solve them indicate
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Politicians and organizations with a high level of cognitive liberation push their national interest
as first priority, and solve their residual differences through open dialogue based on the
principles of a common denominator. Our people have lived under Ethiopian political slavery for
more than a century. As a result, many are chained under ignorance and poverty. Most Oromos
are a rural and scattered people without modern communication networks and information.
For most of them, the understanding of the world is limited. Under these circumstances,
most Oromos are fatalistic and think that external forces will solve their problems.
What about the formally educated Oromos? The legacy of Ethiopian political slavery has
psychologically disabled educated Oromos; it has dwarfed their potentials and undermined their
creativity. Some of them want to be free from Ethiopian colonialism, but as a practical matter
they act like Ethiopians in their daily lives. Some educated Oromos are more Ethiopian than the
Ethiopians themselves. What about the Oromo nationalist intellectuals? Although they began to
defend the interest of the Oromo people, their cognitive liberation has not reached at the level
that they can build the Oromo organizational capacity. We cannot transform our cognitive
liberation without increasing our knowledge of the globalized world order and its politics.
Low Level of Global Awareness
As a consequence of the lack of critical understanding of the racialized nature of the global world
order, most educated Oromos try to refashion the world after their disoriented perceptions rather
than trying to understand how it works. The racialized capitalist world system is brutal to the
people who do not have power and state to protect them. The modern world is heaven for those
who have power and wealth. It is hell for most people, like the Oromo, who lack power, state,
and wealth. Most Oromos naively think that this world cares, and some countries are going to
help solve their political problems. They fail to understand that they only get support from others
if they first help themselves and convince others that they can benefit by helping them. The
Oromo can only achieve their liberation when they realize their human potentials. To do this,
they must know their potentials as a nation, and refashion their understanding of the fast
changing global system. The Oromo only achieve their freedom if they work for it.
Otherwise, the Oromo remain a powerless and victimized people without voice in the
world. They need to learn about the world around them, and how other oppressed people have
taken matters into their own hands by aggressively organizing and defending their collective
interests. The Oromo will build their power, if they believe in themselves and take individual and
organizational action to liberate their Oromia. If they continue to see themselves as powerless
victims who fight one another while expecting some leaders or some organizations to liberate
them, they remain hopeless victims.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The Oromo need to understand the realities of the fast changing world order by overcoming their
illusions and ignorance. Without cognitive liberation and critically and thoroughly
comprehending the world around them, the Oromo cannot fully develop their political
consciousness to overcome their organizational shortcomings.
Low Level of Political Experience and Organizational Deficits
Because the Oromo people have lived under Ethiopian political slavery, they lack experience in
building and running a strong political machine. The Oromo elites refuse to recognize their lack
of experience. They tend to hide their ignorance through impression management, and pretend
that they know everything. Nobody is born with knowledge, and nobody knows everything. They
fear to take action in order to avoid making mistakes so that they can be considered perfect
human beings. These elites also believe that their leaders and organizations know everything for
them, and they have only to do what they are told to do. This tendency has created a wrong
impression among the Oromo leadership. As a result, Oromo political leaders and organizations
require absolute loyalty without listening to the voice of their followers. Such approaches stifle
Most of the Oromo elites believe in wait and see approaches. Without fulfilling their
obligations, they expect miracles. If things go wrong, they are quick to blame those who have
tried to do something. They need to stop transferring responsibility to others by blaming certain
leaders and organizations. The Oromo need to give up their helpless sense of fatalism. The
Oromo must establish a single standard by which they measure themselves both individually and
organizationally before they blame others. When they do little or nothing they lack the moral
standing to blame others. There is no an external power or unknown perfect set of leaders who
will lead them to the promised land of liberated Oromia. Those revolutionary Oromos who have
high level of commitment have their own set of problems. They are not ready to share with the
people their hardships, grieves, and their shortcomings. What they want from their supporters
and sympathizer are blind loyalty and material assistance, not ideas and knowledge. They always
want to tell them stories but they are not ready to listen to their supporters and followers.
Because the supporters and sympathizers are not ready to accept a higher level of commitment,
they are satisfied with such relationship.
The Oromo must recognize that ideas and knowledge can emerge from ordinary people.
The capacity of revolutionary leaders is measured by their ability to listen to their followers and
sympathizers and by their willingness to mobilize and coordinate the best ideas and knowledge
directed toward taking action. Because the best ideas, knowledge, and other resources are not
mobilized and coordinated by the political leaders and activists, the Oromo political and social
organizations are unable to bring about a paradigm shift in the Oromo national movement. The
Oromo movement needs to create a platform using an alternative knowledge of liberation and
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014We know that there are no ready-made answers for Oromo problems, and millions of Oromos
need to work together to find solutions based on the principle of a common denominator. This is
the only way to solve the organizational shortcomings at all levels; this cannot be achieved
without embracing the ideology of national Oromummaa.
Oromummaa as Identity, Culture, and Nationalist Ideology
Overcoming several obstacles, the founding fathers and mothers of the two pioneering Oromo
national organizations, the Maccaa-Tuulaama Self-Help Association in the 1960s and the Oromo
Liberation Front (OLF) in the 1970s, started to restore and revitalize national Oromummaa.
These organizations established a roadmap for the burgeoning Oromo national movement.
Unfortunately, the Oromo national movement has since been confronted externally by the forces
of Ethiopian colonialism – with assistance from their global supporters – and internally by an
Oromo collaborative class that serves the interests of the enemy of the Oromo people. Some
Oromo elites have become raw materials for successive Ethiopian regime and have implemented
their terrorist and genocidal policies. Despite these external and internal challenges, in 1991, by
contributing to the demise of the Ethiopian military government and by joining the transition
government of the Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government, the OLF had partially transformed
conventional Oromummaa into national Oromummaa. Within a year, the attack on independent
Oromo political organizations, particularly, the OLF, and institutions was intensified by the new
nafxayans (new colonizers) before the Oromo national movement managed to achieve maturity.
Consequently, the consolidation of the Oromo national leadership and the maturation of national
Oromummaa have been incomplete.
As such, the movement’s ability to defend itself from internal and external enemies has
been significantly compromised. These challenges confronted the Oromo national struggle
before the Oromo leadership could develop the ideological coherence and organizational
capacity to catapult the Oromo national movement to an advanced stage. Recognizing the
significance of national Oromummaa, the Tigrayan elites have been determined to halt its
progress by killing or imprisoning Oromo revolutionary leaders. Although national Oromummaa
embraces Oromoness, all Oromos did not develop this central ideology because of the several
reasons explained below. Only those Oromos who have developed political consciousness and
believe and participate in the Oromo national movement have the ideology of national
Oromummaa. There are Oromos who speak Afaan Oromoo by being born to Oromo families and
by being related to Oromo clans and express certain aspects of Oromo culture, but do not care
about the Oromo national movement. Therefore, national Oromummaa goes beyond Oromoness.
The concept of national Oromummaa emerged in the Oromo national movement with the
deepening of Oromo nationalism and with further studying and understanding of the essence of
Oromo history, culture, traditions, and identity.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Realizing that the concept of Oromo nationalism could not adequately capture the whole
projects of the Oromo national movement, namely the reconstruction and development of Oromo
history, culture, identity, and vision, some nationalist Oromo and Oromia scholars have begun to
use and develop the concept of Oromummaa both theoretically and practically for empowering
the Oromo nation to achieve individual and collective human liberation. Oromummaa as an
aspect of Oromo history, culture, identity, nationalism, and vision builds on the best elements of
the Oromo tradition, and particularly endorses an indigenous Oromo democracy. Oromummaa as
an intellectual and ideological vision rejects the position of Ethiopianists, collaborationists,
modernists, and mainstream Marxists and places the Oromo man and woman at the center of
analysis and at the same time goes beyond Oromo society and aspires to develop global
Oromummaa by contributing to the solidarity of all oppressed peoples and by promoting the
struggle for national self-determination, statehood, sovereignty, and multinational democracy.
Hence, Oromummaa is a complex and dynamic national and global project and opposes the
ideologies of racism, classism, and sexism from without and from within.
As the central ideology of the Oromo national movement, Oromummaa enables the
Oromo nation to formulate its Oromo centric political strategies and tactics that can mobilize the
nation for collective action empowering the people for liberation. As Bonnie K. Holcomb states,
“The social and political process of prioritizing and articulating which ideas from among the set
values embodies in Oromummaa will be made into a formula for action in the twenty-first
century is the process of transforming Oromummaa into a guiding ideology. Such a process
would go a long way toward solving the organizational problems that arise when ideology is not
yet clearly formulated.”44 As a global project, it requires that the Oromo national movement be
inclusive of all persons and groups, operating in a democratic fashion. This global Oromummaa
enables the Oromo people to form alliances with all political forces and social movements that
accept the principles of national self-determination and multinational democracy in the
promotion of a global humanity that is free from all forms of oppression and exploitation.
The foundation of Oromummaa is built on overarching principles that are embedded
within Oromo history, tradition, and culture and, at the same time, have universal relevance for
all oppressed peoples. The main principles of Oromummaa are individual and collective
freedom, justice, popular democracy, and human liberation that are built on the concept of safuu
(moral and ethical order) and are enshrined in gadaa/Siqqee principles. Although some Oromos
have become adherents of Christianity and Islam, the concept of Waqaa (God) lies at the heart of
Oromo history, tradition, and culture. In Oromo tradition, Waqaa is the creator of the universe
and the source of all life. The universe created by Waqaa contains within itself a sense of order
and balance that are to manifest in human society. Although national and global Oromummaa
emerges from Oromo historical, cultural and historical foundations, it goes beyond culture and
history in providing an emancipatory narrative for the future of the Oromo nation as well as the
future of other oppressed peoples, particularly those who suffer under the Ethiopian Empire.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Oromummaa challenges the idea of glorifying monarchies or mootis (chiefs) or warlords that
collaborated with European slavers and colonizers and destroyed Africa by participating in the
slave trade and the project of colonization. It also rejects the notion of forming and maintaining
an exclusive racist or ethnocratic state and promotes a multinational democratic state.
Those Oromo and African scholars who degrade African democratic traditions just as
their Euro-American counterparts devalue the Oromo democratic system and consider
indigenous Africans such as the Oromo primitive and “stateless.” But learning about Oromo
society, with its complex democratic laws, elaborate legislative tradition, and well-developed
methods of dispute settlement can present a new perspective for Oromo and African politics. As
a national project and the central ideology of the Oromo national movement, Oromummaa
enables the Oromo to retrieve their historical and cultural memories, assess the consequences of
Ethiopian colonialism, give voice to their collective grievances, mobilize diverse cultural
resources, interlink Oromo personal, interpersonal and collective (national) relationships, and
assists in the development of Oromo-centric political strategies and tactics that can mobilize the
nation for collective action. As an ideology of human liberation, Oromummaa includes the vision
of a democratic state and the principles of multinational democracy in order to be emancipatory,
revolutionary, democratic, and inclusive.
Furthermore, Oromummaa as an element of history, culture, nationalism, and vision has
the power to serve as a manifestation of the collective identity of the Oromo national movement.
It is a revolutionary and emancipatory ideology. To be born from Oromo parents and to belong
to an Oromo community cannot necessarily empower an Oromo individual to develop national
and global Oromummaa. Such Oromummaa is acquired through learning about the Oromo
culture and history and defending the Oromo national interest. To date, the paltry, uneven
development of Oromummaa is a reflection of the low level of political consciousness and the
lack of political cohesiveness in contemporary Oromo society. The further development of
national and global Oromummaa is essential in unifying and consolidating the Oromo national
Oromummaa as the Unifying Ideology of the Oromo National Movement
The building of an effective national organizational capacity is only possible when national and
global Oromummaa can be packaged into national symbols, norms, values and policies that can
be used to mobilize the Oromo nation as a whole so that it can engage in well-organized and
coordinated collective actions at both the personal and interpersonal levels. In addition to a clear
understanding of Oromummaa, practicing it as values, norms, and policies facilitates the
mobilization of Oromo individuals and groups to overcome their political confusion and take
concrete cultural and political actions in the quest to liberate the Oromo nation from Ethiopian
settler colonialism and its global and regional supporters. Oromummaa as the central and
unifying ideology mobilizes the best elements of Oromo political and cultural experiences for
building national institutions and organizations with the capacity to liberate and develop Oromo
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014“The ideology is the specific chosen beliefs that guide the behavior of its adherents and in so
doing,” Bonnie K. Holcomb notes, “determine the construction of an organization, a set of
institutions, and ultimately, even economic system.”45
Among other things, the lack of political experience, borrowed cultures and political practices,
the abandonment of our democratic heritage of consensus building, and the lack of open dialogue
and conversation have contributed to the Oromo political fragmentation. We know the result of
the political fragmentation and the Oromo cannot afford to continue on this path. As the behavior
and political practices of Oromo elites and leaders of independent Oromo institutions in the
Diaspora—churches, mosques, associations, and political organizations— demonstrate, the
legacy of Oromo war chiefs and the impacts of Ethiopian institutions are far- reaching. Leaders
and followers spend most of their times producing gossips, rumors, conflicts and unproductive
arguments and stories. They have little interest or time in learning about management,
administration, and conflict resolution from their host cultures. The low level and uneven
development of Oromummaa and the lack of open dialogue among Oromo nationalists, political
leaders, and activists on the problems of regional and religious diversity have provided
opportunities for the internal and external enemies of the Oromo people—political opportunists,
free-riders, and regionalists of various forms—to fabricate and disseminate misinformation
among the less informed Oromos in order to turn them against one another.
Individuals and groups that attempt to turn the Oromo against one another rather than
uniting them to fight against Ethiopian colonialism are not the forces of political diversity. Using
regional or religious categories consciously or unconsciously as political bases is tantamount to
supporting the continued destruction of Oromo society. As the decentralization of the gadaa
system during the 17th and 18th centuries without an overarching national political structure
contributed to the defeat of the Oromo in the late nineteenth century, using localized or religious
categories in the Oromo national movement will promote the perpetual subordination of the
Oromo to Habashas. The educated Oromo elites have passed through colonial schools that were
designated to domesticate or “civilize” them by molding them into intermediaries between the
Oromo people and those who dominated and exploited them. They were disconnected from their
history, culture, language, and worldview and trained by foreign educational and religious
institutions to glorify the culture, history, language, and religions of others.
Consequently, most of them do not adequately understand Oromo history, culture and
worldview. When Oromo nationalists emerged to liberate their people by rejecting the
worldviews and institutions of the colonizers, they turned to Marxism-Leninism to fight against
the Ethiopian colonial system. Although the Oromo movement has achieved many important
things, the organizational and ideological tools that the movement has been using did not help in
organizing the people effectively. The Oromo human and material resources are still scattered
and used by the enemies who are committing hidden genocide on our people.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014The failure of Oromo nationalists and political leaders to frame Oromo-centric issues and to
formulate policies and directives that promote pragmatic actions has given a great opportunity
for those who functionally stand in the way of the liberation of Oromia. The Oromo national
organizational capacity will develop when true nationalists and political leaders start to work
openly and courageously by formulating practical domestic and foreign policies that can be
implemented by a broad-based Oromo movement.
Although the Oromo can learn a lot from other forms of leadership, without developing the style
of leadership that is Oromo-centric, the Oromo movement cannot build enduring national
institutions and organizations. The broadening and deepening of Oromummaaa require the
cognitive liberation of Oromo leaders and followers. Leaders with cognitive and/or behavioral
deficiencies will be unable to facilitate the broadening and deepening of Oromo nationalism and
the development of Oromo personal, social, and collective identities. Because leadership as an
activity involves intellectual guidance, directive and organizational capacity, Oromo leaders need
to actively work to achieve full cognitive liberation. Leaders with full cognitive liberation can be
effective leaders by balancing their “leading” and “led” selves and by interacting and conversing
with their followers. This requires critically and thoroughly understanding and practicing
expanded Oromummaa. Through intense conversation between and among effective leaders and
followers, strategic innovations and new solutions for existing problems can be formulated out of
diverse perspectives and experiences. Democratic conversations allow Oromo civic and political
leaders to be teachers and effective communicators, and also to be effective listeners and
Such leadership develops skills that empower all members of Oromo society to broaden
their national and global Oromummaa at the personal, interpersonal and collective levels. An
Oromo individual cannot start an open and honest dialogue with other Oromo individuals
without understanding expanded Oromummaa and engaging in dialogue with oneself. The
Oromo individual should critically evaluate oneself and look at her/his own attitudes,
perceptions, behavior, and knowledge with a single standard that she/he uses to evaluate others
in relation to the Oromo national struggle. When an individual Oromo treats his/her Oromo
sisters and brothers as he or she treats herself/ himself, the sense of justice, equality, and fairness
starts. The sense of justice, fairness, nagaa (peace), accountability, and democracy are the
principles of the Oromo tradition. Without understanding these basic principles, to make the
claim that “I struggle for the liberation of the Oromo people” is problematic. Change must start
with Oromo individuals. These individuals are both leaders and followers.
The Oromo political leadership must be guided by Oromo-centric cardinal values and
principles that reflect honesty, fairness, and the use of a single standard, equality, and
democracy. The emergence of Oromo nationalism from underground to public discourse in the
1990s allowed some Oromos to openly declare their Oromummaa without clearly realizing the
connection between the personal and interpersonal selves and the Oromo collectivity.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014This articulation occurred without strong national institutional and organizational capacity that
can cultivate, develop and sustain the ideology of expanded Oromummaa. The restoration of
expanded Oromummaa requires good interpersonal relations and the proper treatment of one
another to create sense of security, confidence, sense of belonging, strong and effective bonds,
willingness to admit and deal with mistakes and increase commitment to our political objectives
and organizations. The individuality of an Oromo can be observed and examined in relation to
the concept of self which is linked to psychological processes and outcomes, such as motivation,
affection, self-management, information processing, interpersonal relations, commitment, dignity
and self- respect, self-preservation and so forth.
The Oromo self-concept as an extensive knowledge structure contains all of the pieces of
information on self that an individual internalizes in his or her value systems. Every Oromo has a
self-schema or a cognitive schema that organizes both perceptional and behavioral information.
An individual’s self-schema can be easily captured by accessible knowledge that comes to mind
quickly to evaluate information on any issue. The Oromo self is the central point at which
personality, cognitive schema, and social psychology meet. The Oromo self consists both
personal or individual and social identities. The former is based on an individual’s comparison of
oneself to other individuals and reveals one’s own uniqueness and the latter are based on selfdefinition
in relation to others or through group membership. The lack of a deep and critical
understanding of Oromo culture, behavior, perceptions, actions, the criminality of the Ethiopian
state, the brutality of the capitalist world system, and the inability to play by the rules of the
system have created conditions conducive to engaging in the politics of self-destruction.
The politics of self-destruction that was started by Oromo war chiefs has been continued by
some Oromo elites who are engaged in promoting themselves at the cost of the Oromo nation.
Those Oromos who engage in such politics lack the ideology of expanded Oromummaa.
Oromummaa is about Oromo national politics and about rebuilding state power through
organizing and enabling the Oromo people to solve their political, social, economic, and cultural
problems as a nation. Without critically and deeply understanding Oromummaa, the Oromo will
be unable to build the strong Oromo social and political institutions and organizations that will
take the Oromo nation to social emancipation and national liberation. Therefore, accepting and
practicing expanded Oromummaa are the only ways of unifying and consolidating the Oromo
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Discussion and Conclusion
Oromo nationalists must recognize, promote, and develop all aspects of Oromummaa as the
central and main ideology and intellectual force of Oromo society by restoring and improving the
democratic principles to remove and prevent any domination from without and within. The
unifying ideology of Oromummaa must challenge the ideas of Ethiopianism and the
collaborative class and other reactionary forces and cultural imperialism that have been targeting
the Oromo culture and tradition for destruction. All Oromos who believe in social emancipation
and national liberation and the restoration of an Oromia state and sovereignty in a multinational
context are the owners of the national and global projects of Oromummaa. What are the
immediate tasks of Oromo nationalists? They must teach their people and children the correct
information about their conditions. Although the Oromo people have a lot of problems at this
historical time, they have a lot of things that they must be proud of and celebrate them. The
ancestors of the Oromo established a beautiful country and a democratic tradition.
The Oromo culture, history, language, worldview, and tradition are as valuable as that of
other peoples. Explaining about the conditions of African Americans, Na’im Akbar notes, “It is
through self-celebration that we heal our damaged self-esteem. Yes, feeling good about oneself
is a legitimate activity of cultures. In fact, any culture, which does not make its adherents feel
good about them, is a failure as a culture. It is through the energy of self-worth that humans are
motivated to improve and perpetuate themselves.”46 Similarly, the Oromo must be proud of the
Oromo democratic tradition and their principles of justice and nagaa (peace). While recognizing
and celebrating their historical achievements, the Oromo must recognize their weaknesses and
work hard to overcome them. The process of mental liberation requires courage, hard work,
discipline, and commitment; it involves individual, family and community. National
Oromummaa can be restored and developed by the active participation of Oromo individuals,
families and communities. “Since the new consciousness can take a lifetime to begin to show
tangible results, “ Akbar writes, “it takes a great deal of courage to persist in breaking the chains
of the old consciousness and developing a new consciousness.”47
Those of us who are a part of the Diaspora beyond Ethiopian political slavery must not
waste our time and energy on trivial and unproductive issues; we must build our brains and
communities to overcome the lonely and ill-equipped road to freedom. We do not need to wait
for activists or politicians to engage us in mental liberation and community building since they
are not better than us. Every Oromo nationalist has a moral and national obligation to promote
and engage in consciousness-building projects and developing national and global Oromummaa.
Colonialists use community divisions to keep mental shackles on their subjects, even in the
Diaspora. They use divide-and-conquer strategies, replete with tricks and deceit, in order to
destroy Oromo community life. This is one of the reasons why many Oromo communities in the
Diaspora face substantial problems and are overwhelmed by perpetual conflicts.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Most Oromos – despite the fact that they brag about it – forget their gadaa/siqqee tradition,
which was based on accountability, democracy, solidarity, and collectivity. We must realize that
there is strength in accountability, democracy, solidarity, and unity, and there is weakness in
loneliness and fragmentation. “As we gain greater knowledge and information, many of those
divisions will disappear because they cannot stand under the light of Truth and correct
information.”48 In the capitalist world system, the less informed are the less organized. The less
organized are the ones who are physically and mentally controlled by those who are organized.
In forming solidarity and building our communities, we do not need to agree on everything; yet
our unity must be built on our common denominator. As Akbar states, “In the process of
liberation, it is important to recognize that unity does not require uniformity. We can stand
together and preserve our separate qualities which serve to enhance further the objectives of
freeing ourselves and all of our people.”49 We need to have faith in ourselves both individually
We have many talented individuals in many areas that can play central roles in the process
of mental liberation and consciousness and community building on the principles of expanding
Oromummaa. “We must work to re-educate ourselves and our young people by seeking and
studying new information. We must find every opportunity to celebrate ourselves and we must
challenge the fear that causes us to hesitate in taking the chains out of our minds. We must work
together and we must have faith that our struggle will be successful, regardless of the
opposition.”50 We must also stand with and celebrate our heroes and heroines who have broken
the Ethiopian prison house by shedding their blood and sacrificing their precious lives to send us
around the world as Oromo diplomats to contribute toward the liberation of the politically
enslaved, psychologically chained, and economically impoverished Oromos. At this historical
moment, we the Oromo in the Diaspora should overcome our passivity, political ignorance,
individualism, naiveté, anarchism, fatalism, perceived inferiority, and community divisions by
actively engaging in our psychological and mental liberation and by building our expanded
How can we accomplish all these urgent tasks? We must attack our internalization of
oppression and victimization by rejecting the worldviews of our oppressors through unbrainwashing
our entire people. This can be made possible by promoting quality informal and
formal education through establishing study groups, cultural centers, and related institutions for
engaging in workshops, discussion groups, seminars, lectures, etc. These kinds of engagements
help us in overcoming our weaknesses and in fighting the basis of our powerlessness through
participating in political actions that can be demonstrated every day. This array of activities can
facilitate the further mobilization of our material, cultural, and intellectual resources to further
develop Oromo communities and national and global Oromummaa, which will facilitate the
building national institutions and organizations. Human liberation cannot be achieved by wish,
but it requires a lot of sacrifices and hard work. Most Oromos must recognize their moral and
historical responsibilities and start to contribute whatever they can for the Oromo national
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 20141 This paper was presented at a seminar of “Revival of Oromummaa,” Organized by the Oromo
Community Organization, Washington, DC, September 1, 2012.
1 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct or Peace Through Balance: Oromummaa in
the Twenty-First Century,” Presentation prepared for the Oromo Studies Association Conference
Roundtable,” Washington, DC, July 27-28, 2002, p.1.
1 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct,” p. 3.
1 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression, (New York:
Plenum Press, 1985), p. 135.
1 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, 56.
1 For further discussion, see Asafa Jalata, Contending Nationalisms of Oromia and Ethiopia; and
Asafa Jalata, Oromia and Ethiopia.
1 Ethiopian settler colonialism established five institutional arrangements in Oromia in order to
tightly control Oromo society and intensify its exploitation: (1) garrison cities and towns, (2)
slavery, (3) the colonial landholding system, (4) the nafxanya-gabbar system (semi-slavery), and
(5) the Oromo collaborative class.1 The colonialists were concentrated in garrison cities and
towns and formulated political, economic, and ideological programs that they used to oppress
their colonial subjects.1 The settlers expropriated almost all Oromo lands, and forced most
Oromos to work on these lands without payment. The Oromo intermediaries were used in
subordinating the Oromo people to the colonial society. Many people were enslaved and forced
to provide free labor to the colonial ruling class, and others were reduced to the status of semislaves
to provide agricultural and commercial products and free labor for their colonizers.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014Notes
1 This paper was presented at a seminar of “Revival of Oromummaa,” Organized by the Oromo
Community Organization, Washington, DC, September 1, 2012.
2 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct or Peace Through Balance: Oromummaa in the
Twenty-First Century,” Presentation prepared for the Oromo Studies Association Conference
Roundtable,” Washington, DC, July 27-28, 2002, p.1.
4 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct,” p. 3.
5 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression, (New York: Plenum Press,
1985), p. 135.
6 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, 56.
7 For further discussion, see Asafa Jalata, Contending Nationalisms of Oromia and Ethiopia; and Asafa
Jalata, Oromia and Ethiopia.
8 Ethiopian settler colonialism established five institutional arrangements in Oromia in order to tightly
control Oromo society and intensify its exploitation: (1) garrison cities and towns, (2) slavery, (3) the
colonial landholding system, (4) the nafxanya-gabbar system (semi-slavery), and (5) the Oromo
collaborative class.8 The colonialists were concentrated in garrison cities and towns and formulated
political, economic, and ideological programs that they used to oppress their colonial subjects.8 The
settlers expropriated almost all Oromo lands, and forced most Oromos to work on these lands without
payment. The Oromo intermediaries were used in subordinating the Oromo people to the colonial society.
Many people were enslaved and forced to provide free labor to the colonial ruling class, and others were
reduced to the status of semi-slaves to provide agricultural and commercial products and free labor for
9 Bonnie K Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct,” p. 3.
10 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct,” p. 1.
11 Na’im Akbar, Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery, (Tallahassee, FL: Mind Productions and
Associates, 1996), pp. v-iv.
11 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, translated by Constance Farrington, (New York: Grove Press,
Inc., 1963), p. 38.
11Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, p. 123.
11Fanon, Frantz, A Dying Colonialism, translated by Haakon Chevalier, (New York: Grove Press, Inc.,
1967), p. 65.
11Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Richard Philcox, (New York: Grove Press, Inc.,
2008), pp. 2-3.
11 Hussein Abdilahi Bulihan, ibid. pp. 125-126.
11 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 7.
11 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, translated by Constance Farrington, (New York: Grove Press,
Inc., 1963), p. 38.
11Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, p. 123.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014
12 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, translated by Constance Farrington, (New York: Grove Press,
Inc., 1963), p. 38.
13Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, p. 123.
15Fanon, Frantz, A Dying Colonialism, translated by Haakon Chevalier, (New York: Grove Press, Inc.,
1967), p. 65.
16Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, translated by Richard Philcox, (New York: Grove Press, Inc.,
2008), pp. 2-3.
17 Hussein Abdilahi Bulihan, ibid. pp. 125-126.
18 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 7.
19 Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press,),
20 Walter Rodney, ibid. p. 241.
21 Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-education of the Negro, (Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, Inc., 1990
, pp. xiii, and 2.
23 Frantz Fanon, Ibid. p. 42.
25 Ibid. p. 62.
26 For detailed discussion, see Asafa Jalata, Fighting against the Injustice of the State and Globalization:
Comparing the African American and Oromo Movements, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.
27 Begna F. Dugassa, “Colonialism of Mind: Deterrent of Social Transformation,” Sociology Mind, 1(2):
28 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression, p. 55.
29 Ibid. p. 56.
30 Ibid. p. 123.
31 Carter G. Woodson, ibid., p. 96.
32 Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, ibid, p. 139.
33 Ibid. p. 123.
34 Ibid. p. 263.
35 Ibid. p. 264.
36 Ibid. p. 265.
37 Ibid. pp. 265-266.
38 Ibid. p. 277.
39 Ibid. pp. 277-278.
40 Gilly Adolfo.  1967. “Introduction,” A Dying Colonialism, ibid. p. 2.
41 Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought, (New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 227.
41 Patricia Hill Collins, ibid, p. 229.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014
42 Patricia Hill Collins, ibid, p. 229.
43 Ibid, p. 230.
44 Bonnie K. Holcomb, “Oromummaa as a Construct,” p. 2.
46 Na’im Akbar, Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery, p. 39.
47 Ibid. p. 41.
48 Ibid. p. 42.
49 Ibid. p. 43.
50 Ibid. p. 46.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.6, no.8, March 2014