Of Schools, Residents’ Rights, Oromia’s Interests, Names, and Remembrances
1. All children have the fundamental right of access to education provided in their mother-tongue. Oromo children (and all others except Amharic speaking children) in Finfinnee have been unjustly denied this right so far. And that is simply a discrimination on the basis of language and has to be condemned as such.
This week, four schools providing primary education in Afaan Oromoo are established in Finfinnee. We hope that this is the first step towards, the beginning really, of redressing the unjust past and the unjust distribution of educational access and opportunities to residents of the city. We hope it is a step towards correcting the human rights (and social justice) deficits in the city. Much to the shame and disgrace of the City Council, it is a testament to the city’s record of its denial of the Oromo right to education in their own city. It is a monument to the cultural domination under a settler colonial framework.
While the launching of the schools is a welcome phenomenon, especially for the Oromo residents of the city, it has nothing to do with Oromia’s special interest and should not be celebrated as an achievement as such. Nor should OPDO be allowed to ride high on the public emotions as if it fought hard for this outcome. In fact, the records show that they have long fought against it. (No Oromo forgets that, to date, it was only OPDO who resisted the proposal to make Afaan Oromoo the working language of Ethiopia. Not even centrist parties such as UDJ in MEDREK opposed this proposal.) OPDO/TPLF should be told in the clearest possible language, now more than ever, to stop manipulating the public grievances to merely exploit it to their own advantage.
2. Oromia’s ‘special interests’ as stipulated in Art 49(5) of the constitution are related to the interests and benefits the Government and People of Oromia as a whole should get from Finfinnee. These can not, and SHOULD NOT, be confused with the rights of Oromos living in the city.
The ‘special interest’ emanates from the fact that Finfinnee belongs to Oromia. The underlying premise is the Oromo ownership of the city. The demand for Abbaa Biyyummaa and the sovereign rights thereof emanates from this undelivered constitutional promise.
The interest specifically alluded to in the constitution includes provision of social services, guarantee of environmental safety and protection of natural resources, and recognition of joint administration over overlapping administrative matters. In essence, the last one is about enjoying shared administrative and political authority. It is about exercising co-equal jurisdiction. It is more about modes of enforcing dual accountability of the city administration to Oromia and Federal governments (or, preferrably, solely to accountability to Oromia).
In addition, the special interest has to do with Oromia having a share in the revenue, tax, and expenditure responsibilities of the city. Evidently, launching primary schools in the city has nothing to do with these interests or benefits.
3. Some folks are enraged by the fact that such schools are opened. They charge that this is discrimination among linguistic groups. That is simply a travesty, for an illegal discrimination is said to exist when a linguistic group is denied their right on the ground of the language they speak, not when one is empowered to exercise his/her rights. What people should demand is that schools operating in other languages should be opened as well, not complain about the launching of an Afaan Oromoo school. After all, discrimination to empower, and to create a level playing field, is legally acceptable universally. It is discrimination to oppress, and to meddle with the equal playing field, that is unacceptable.
4. There are also folks who complain about the choice of names for the schools. They are enraged because the schools are named after notable Oromo personalities such as Waaqo Guutuu and Taaddasa Birru. This complaint is coming from non-Oromo corners, mostly the Amharic-speaking Ethiopianist class, and from those who generally seek to decide whom to honor (and whom not to honor) as an Oromo hero. These ones are busy-bodies who should be told to mind their business and leave the Oromo affair to Oromos alone. Their advice is neither needed nor appreciated!
5. OPDO/TPLF is trying to make the best out of this. In an attempt to manipulate the public’s sentimental attachment to these historic Oromo heroes (such as General Waaqo Guutuu and Genelra Taddasa Birru), they are ceremonially invoking their names and statements. Obviously, they are playing their old game of manipulating public grievances not only to gain popular legitimacy but also to co-opt the #OromoRevolution and to stay in power. This should be resisted, exposed for what it is, and denounced as such.
The only ones to be celebrated for this long overdue gesture of respect for the rights of Oromo residents of Finfinnee are the fearless Qeerroo, past and present, who gave their all and who paid dearly in lives, limbs, liberties, and livelihoods.
The rest is…just noise.