Gurra Dimae: Translating President Lemma Magarsaa’s 1st speech into ACTION

Translating President Lemma Magarsaa’s 1st speech into ACTION

By: Gurra Dimae

This article is written in February, 2017 right after Obbo Lemma made his first speech as a President of Oromia Regional State. Much has changed since then and this article is intended to share my reflection on President Lemma’s first speech.

Related imageIn listening to his first speech as a President of Oromia Regional State, you could go both ways- rolling your eyes and thinking “you are right! As if you can do a fraction of what you preach!” or you might choose to believe every word he said and think you have his and his party’s backing. I choose not to speculate on whether he is genuine or not, but rather I focus on the opportunities or prospects of translating his words into action. As of 2016, many lost their lives not only for airing their opinions milder and less intense than what he now says but also for contemplating thoughts similar to his speech. Many are languishing in Ethiopian prisons under painful circumstances. However, I am an optimist and I have greater faith in the power of citizen’s movement. In the spirit of this optimism, I try to explore the possible prospects of translating his words into actions.

His message for the youth who are leading the struggle and paying the ultimate price – continue with what you have been doing for the last two years (the first opposition to Addis Ababa master plan was in 2014, where 47 Ambo youth have been murdered). He mentioned that they raised a generation that fights injustice, demands political and economic freedom, and endeavor to assert its rights to equal participation in every aspect of life. He acknowledged that the young generation’s quest for democratic right, self-governance and equal rights is a just cause- Meaning GO ON fight for your rights. He appreciates the struggle by the young generation and he seems willing to pass the torch to them. Basically in ordinary language he is saying – listen Youth! You did a good job in the last two years and continue your struggle in 2017 by being more organized and being SMART. Because, in his words, “you are the future of the country and you will be the generation that will ‘revolutionize’ the country”.

His Message for his members was “if you have a stick for an hour, a day, a month, a year or 5 years, use it to promote the wellbeing of your people”. Who are these members? I will focus on those who are directly working with our youth at the lower levels.

Agriculture Extension workers (or Development agents (DAs) as they are called in Ethiopia).

There are about 19,654 DAs in Oromia. The ratio of farmers per DA in Ethiopia is among the lowest (476) compared to other countries (china-625, Tanzania-2500, Nigeria- 3333 and India-50001). Their contact with the population allows them to translate the President’s speech into action. Our DAs can reach every corner of the country and they can protect the youth, promote their wellbeing and organize support from the rural mass.

Health Development Army (HDA)234

12 million households are organized by HDA and 2.3 million one-to-five networks are formed in Ethiopia in 2012/13. In Oromia, there are 880,975 one to five networks as of 2013/2014. Organized? Yes! Translating this organization to serve and protect the people is probably what Obbo Lemma is talking about when he say if you have a stick for an hour use it protect and promote your people. As of 2009/10, there are 13, 487 health extension workers (HEW) trained and deployed in Oromia.

Education sector Teachers and school administrators

According to Ministry of Education report (2010/11) there are 11,381 primary schools with 103,639 teachers, 18,349 trainers in Alternative Basic Education (ABE), and 1752 facilitators in Adult and non-Formal education centers making the number of teachers at primary level about 123,740. 528 secondary schools operate in Oromia with 18, 212 secondary school teachers. 196 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centers operate with 4,698 teachers/trainers. In 2010/11, the Oromia regional government employs about 146,650 teachers (excluding school administration staff).

How do all these three interact? In the local administration at the kebele level, HEWs represent the health sector, DAs represent the agricultural sector and teachers represent the education sector headed by the kebele administrator5. (Unicef Briefing Note, August 2014). These three groups join at Kebele levels representing the respective sectors (health, education and agriculture/rural development).

Adding only the above three, we got 179, 791 individuals working directly with the youth and the people. Add to this Oromia police, local administrator, youth and women associations, bankers, parliamentarians …

What can be done? Obbo Lemma’s words could be interpreted to mean somewhat like “The struggle is led by the youth. You are not asked to partake in their fight. All you need to do is –cina dhaabadhuu- protect the youth. HOW?

Warning/ prevention: Dhufa jirtii irraa goraa jedha. Dalla mana barumsaa kessaa qawwee baasaa jedha. The people send their children to school believing/trusting that you as a teacher and administrator will protect them in school compound.

Protection: Yoo balaa dhufaa jiru duran dursitee akkekkachiisuu dadhabde si’a balaan daqqabu uummatake harka irra qabi jedha.Yoo balaa dhifu irra ittisu dadhabde ulee harka qabdun irra faccisi jedha .

Preservation: Yoo balla ummatakee irraa faccisuu dadhabde namake miidhame wal’aani jedha. Hidhamma kee gaafadhu. Dadhabaake jajjabeesi.

What is in it for you? Yoo hinhubanee tatee, nurra deema /galaa jirti. Situu ummatakee walin hafa. Ummatakee wajiniin sabbontee jirachuu yoo fedhte, ummatakee cina dhaabbadhu. Obbo Lamma mal jedhaa yoo jeete- offiif maladhu siin jechchaa jira.

Is there a cost borne by individual? Yes there is, if not coordinated. That is why Obbo Lemma is comparing flies with bees. “Qindooftee yoo hojjette, damma buufta! Yoo hinqindoofne’moo tisiisa tatee hafta!”.

We praise Oromia police for ensuring and protecting the peace and wellbeing of citizens in Oromia region over the last year. They charterd a new approach by serving the community and transforming themselves into the people’s police. We hope that police officers in other regions will emulate this exemplary performance of Oromia police in the difficult months a head.

A call is made for Parlamentarians to oppose the state of emergency that is unconstotiuional according to consttuional scholars. The Question for you is where do you stand? Do you stand with the people and your own organization statement (OPDO’s) issued a couple of weeks ago. I hope you contemplate the following three elements you stated on the OPDO’s statement:

ዲሞክራሲ የህልውና ጉዳይ ነው።

በሃገር ውስጥም ሆነ በውጭ ካሉ ተቃዋሚዎች ጋር በሃገራችንና በህዝባችን የጋራ ጥቅም ላይ አብሮ ለመስራት ጥሪ ያቀርባል።

የህዝብ ለህዝብ ግኑኝነትን በማጠናከርና የጋራ እሴቶችን በማጎልበት ከመላው ኢትዮጲዉያን ጋር ለመስራት ጥሪ ያቀርባል።

A call from your constituency is the first experience of participatory democracy. I hope you take your statement and your consituency’s appeal very seriously.

To those who are at upper level feeling comfortable in Finfinnee: Like the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”. Bara waajirri Oromia akka kosii Finfinnee kessaa haramee Adaammaatti gatame enyutu irranfata? Haramuun bara kanaa garuu gara Adaamaatti osoo hintane gara halayyaati ta’a. Burayyutti, Laga Xaafootti, Sabbatatti manan ijaarradhe keessan nagaadhan ta’aa jettee yoo of dagatte bor akka kosi haramuuf akka jirtu beekuu qabda. Jiraati maladhu sin jedha hogaananike. Tisiisa ta’au dhiisiiti kaniisa ta’i sin jedha yoo siif galeef. “…….jalattuus! jibitus!….” isa jedhe hin dagatin.

Enyuunin abdadha? Kan jettu yoo taate, kadir Martuu akkas jedhee siif deebisa:

“ Sabaan wal quunamuun galatni kan Waaqa

Abdadhu qeerrooke! Itti fufi qabso haqaa

Bilisummaa hata’u galatni baratoota kenyaa

Qeerroon wareegamanii qabso kenya

Dhigni qulqulluun dhangala’e Finfinnee walakkaati Odda biqilche

Arguuf jirra sirna Abba Gadaa adunyaa bulche.”

Abdinkee ummatake ti.

1 Davis, Kristin, et al. “In-depth assessment of the public agricultural extension system of Ethiopia and recommendations for improvement.” International Food Policy Research Institute, Discussion Paper 1041 (2010).

2 HuiHui, Wang, et al. “Ethiopia Health Extension Program: an institutionalized community approach for Universal Health Coverage.” Ethiopia Health Extension Program: an institutionalized community approach for Universal Health Coverage. (2016). 3 Bilal, Nejmudin Kedir, et al. “Health extension workers in Ethiopia: improved access and coverage for the rural poor.” Yes Africa Can: Success Stiroes from a Dynamic Continent (2011): 433-443.

4 FDRE. “Health Sector Development Program IV: 2010/11-2014/15. (2010)  5 Unicef Briefing Note, August 2014.

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