Between 1868 and 1900, half of all Oromo were killed – Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin
The Amhara under emperors like Menelik II utilised modern weapons and European advisors against their opponents, who fought with spears. The result was devastation and death on an enormous scale. Between 1868 and 1900, half of the Oromo were killed, around 5 million people. The tactics employed were brutal. Following the defeat of the Oromo Arsi tribe of the Bale region, for example, Menelik’s general had the right hands of all strong men cut off and tied to their necks, and the breasts of the women sliced off and similarly worn.
Hundreds of thousands of settlers, known as naftanya, meaning gun carrier, were dispatched by the Amhara government into fortified settlements in the Oromo areas. The settlers seized vast tracts of Oromo lands, on which the Oromo were forced to labour. Oromo place names were changed to Amharic and local language and culture were banned. Under the famous emperor Haile Selassie, who took power in 1930, Oromo lands were given to multinational corporations, expelling and decimating local populations. The Oromo were known by the derogatory name Galla, or lowly “outsiders.”
The Oromo rose in frequent rebellions, the largest of which broke out in Bale in the 1960s and resulted in the deaths of close to half a million people. Bale rebels would play an important role in forming the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which began a campaign that has continued to the present time.
The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie and the establishment of the Marxist government known as the Derg in 1974 brought further suffering for the Oromo. In the late 1970s the government began resettling mass numbers of people from the north in the Oromo region. By the mid-1980s this programme had led to a famine that resulted in the deaths of over one million people, shocking the world. During a “villagisation” programme in the same period, around eight million Oromo were moved into what were effectively concentration camps run by the military.
History as a past event is written for the present generation to read in order not to repeat the same mistakes committed in the past. But if those whose grand fathers had committed such crimes out rightly deny that history due to pride or what so ever reason, they are doomed to repeat it. While those who suffered will have the right to ask justice for their perished people and to defend themselves from the arrogant generation.
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