When the #Oromoprotests was rekindled in Giincii a year ago, it made a strong statement about the Oromo people’s rejection of policies of evicting the Oromo from their ancestral land. By so doing, it also made a statement that rejected and repudiated a re-enactment of historic violence, the violence of dispossession and displacement, meted out on the Oromo through contemporary policy instruments such as master plans, urban development laws, investment and land lease laws.
In part, the #Oromoprotests were a resistance to decades of securitization of Oromo identity in Ethiopia. For far too long, in a country whose state opportunistically manipulates identity for political legitimacy, the Oromo identity–along side that of the Somali of Ogaden and several other groups of the South–was projected as a security threat to the regime.
To be an Oromo was later redefined as being a terrorist in an increasingly insecure Ethiopia. In staging the #Oromoprotests, the Qeerroo was saying NO to this continued securitization of Oromo identity that virtually pathologized and “quarantined” the Oromo subjectivity and their rights.
One year after the re-start of the protests, the Oromo are still in resistance. Resistance has become our unchosen way of being in the world. We have become a nation in resistance. And we are better of as a result. In a year of unprecedented grassroots social mobilization (with the aid of social media), we have confronted and challenged Africa’s largest, most ruthless, and best armed military. We have rendered Oromia totally ungovernable.(The regime had to impose a defacto military rule at first ; and it had to issue an emergency declaration later.) We have inspired the country into a similar resistance. Brave Konso courageously removed the regime from its area and replaced it with its own popularly elected governance team. The Walqayit was inspired to persist in its historic demand for the recognition of its distinct identity as an Amhara and the Amhara resistance has become completely unstoppable ever since.
We have sacrificed a great deal, yes. But we are today in a better place in spite of the sacrifice. As we remember the day, we do well to remember the Qeerro.I think we need to valorize every aspect of their struggle as we remember the day, memorialize our martyrs, honor their heroic sacrifice, and build on their epic accomplishments. We need to remember the selfless efforts of everyone from East to West, from North to South. We need to be able to tell the story and tell it beautifully.
That will be our way of saying thank you to those who paid dearly in lives, limbs, liberties, labour, and land. I want to enter this note of gratitude as a tribute to them from those of us who are privileged in more ways than one.
As the resistance continues, we will remember. We will bear witness. We dare to believe that tomorrow will be better than today. And we commit ourselves to do our part to imagine and live a better tomorrow.