Ethiopian Revolution toppled the Haile Sellasie
On September 12th, 1974, the Military Coordinating Committee
proclaimed itself as the Provisional Military Administration Council (PMAC)
and took over the state and government power.
At the end of 1974, to weaken and eliminate the major opposition groups
in the urban centers, the Derg sent all university and high school
students and teachers to rural areas on what was called "Development
Through Cooperation Campaign" - Zamacha.
General Taddasaa Birru escaped his
prison in the remote town of Galamso, where he was arrested since he was
detained by the government security agents. He walked to Addis Ababa
after the fall of Haile Selassie's regime.
5 Sept, 1974
The Oromo guerrilla activities in
Charchar mountains created a great deal of fear among the naftanya and
junta circles. The government deployed a special force in the area
where the guerrillas were operating and carried out mass genocide on an
innocent civilian population. The guerrilla leader, Hassen Ibrahim,
popularly known by his name De Geurre - Elemo Qilixxu - was martyred. He
and his comrades died for the self-determination of Oromia, which still
motivates millions of Oromo.
In the home front,
soon after the death of Elemo Qilixxu, General Taddasaa Birru continued the
armed struggle in central Oromia, Shawa. After he escaped from a
prison in Galamso and returned to Addis Ababa earlier the year, he
continued to work at political agitation. However, the junta's
security personnel constantly harassed him. Thus along with a few
Oromo nationalists like Hailu Raggaasaa, he left the city and commenced
armed struggle in December 1974. Immediately, he declared land 'free
and for those who work it."
Nov 1974 to Feb 1977
General Tefer Banti was appointed
Chairman of PMAC and head of state. This was done to mislead the
Oromo people and to gain time to further consolidate their position.
|13 March, 1975
Birru, immediately after he commenced (along with other Oromo
nationals) armed struggle in central Oromia, declared land 'free and for
those who work it." As a result of the popular action he took,
he won several followers within a very short time. This event
panicked the junta who hurriedly declared the nationalization of rural
land that, at first, appeared to many as though the land was being
liberated. Then it mobilized its military and security personnel and
infiltrated the rank and file of General Taddasaa's followers. This
led to his arrest on March 13, 1975.
|19 March, 1975
Birru was brought to trail before a special Military Tribunal. The
Junta's own tribunal sentenced him to ten years imprisonment.
However, the head of state, meaning the Derg, changed the sentence to
death, and he was executed along with Colonel Haile Raggaasaa, whom the
Tribunal hand sentenced to life imprisonment. These murders produced
indignation among the Oromo people and those who knew them as
leaders. This further strengthened the determination of Oromo to
continue to fight for their freedom as they believed that nothing positive
should be expected from the Ethiopian colonial government.
The few individuals
who went back to Aden, after the incident in Charchar, together with
others organized themselves under another name, the Organization for the
Oromo People's Liberation Struggle (OOPLS). For a while ENLF and
OOPLS functioned side by side until their offices were closed mainly
because of the cordial relations that developed between the governments of
Ethiopia and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen.
Some Oromo nationalists came
together and formed, among others, a cultural committee in Finfinne (Addis
Ababa) who drafted a constitution for the formation of an "Oromo
Cultural Association." The government refused to approve the
constitution. However, the committee was able to encourage and help
the formation of several cultural groups in the regions.
A group of Oromo nationalists
started a weekly newspaper called "Barrisaa" (meaning dawn) in
Oromiffa under the guidance of the "Cultural Committee" formed
in 1975. Since the government refused to grant permission, the
Sabean script was used instead of the Roman script. "Barrisaa"
gained popularity among workers, students, even peasants, etc, within a
few months and became the largest newspaper in the Empire with over 20,000
copies per issue.
A few of the past leaders of the
Baale movement, like Waaqo Guutu and Aliyyi Chirri, went back to
Somalia. At the same time, about 800 fighters, mostly members of the
previous Baale movement who remained behind in Somalia in 1970 (when the
Baale movement came to an end) and who in the mean time had take intensive
military training in Somalia and other countries, were sent back to Baale.
Initially, they identified themselves as Oromo simply to be accepted by
the population and to hide their true motives. They were received
with great enthusiasm; however, the group quickly revoked the Oromo name
and replaced it with a brand new name "Somali Abbo." In
actual fact, the group was organized under the name of the "Somail
Abbo Liberation Front" (SALF). The main objective of this front
was to 'liberate the lost territories of Somalia' which they claimed to
include Baale, Arsi and Sidamo, the same objective as its sister
organization the WSLF.
At the famous Bokku Tule in Jibat
and Macha province of Shawa, the surrounding Oromo peasants organized a
cultural festival. Several invited guests from different parts of
Oromia were present at the festival.
The Derg issued a major policy
directive on the 'nationalities question' and other issues in a document
called the "National Democratic Revolution" (NDR). The NDR
declared the right to self-determination of all nationalities will be
recognized and fully respected. It went farther and suggested
regional autonomy as a solution to existing political problems, thus
severely limiting the exercise of self-determination. But even these
declarations remained empty promises and the regime completely failed to
fulfill its own pledges, however limited they were.
The Derg brought together the five left-oriented rival groups
Waz League, Malerid, Abyotawi Seded and Ichat working closely with them
and created the Provisional Office for Mass Organization Afairs (POMOA),
which soon transformed into Ethiopian Marxist-Leninist Organizations (EMALD.)
|13-14 June, 1976
A two day
"Founding Congress" of the Oromo Liberation Front was held in
Finfinne. All of the disorganized and organized uprisings, revolts
and movements of the Oromo people for over 75 years under the Abyssinian
colonization culminated in the birth of the Oromo Liberation Front.
A few members of ENLF who were released from custody in Somalia in 1975
and others who had entered the country on previous occasions, as well
representatives of the underground study cells, individual Oromo
nationalists and patriots were members of the "Founding
Congress." The Congress revised a 1974 draft and issued a new
detailed political program of the Front. For the first time in the
history of the Oromo national struggle, a political organization with a
political program and a clear set of objectives emerged to lead the Oromo
people in the struggle against Ethiopian colonialism and oppression and on
resumed in Gara Mul'ata, Hararge by the Oromo Liberation Front.
Students and intellectuals were dispatched into the field from urban
centers to provide needed leadership and cadres. This rapidly
improved the number and quality of fighters.
joined the Oromo Liberation Army and fought in several battles as a
The OLF assigned a
foreign affairs representative to the office in Damascus, Syria. OLF
activities in foreign lands have grown hand in hand and commensurate with
the activities inside Oromia.
Oromo" (Oromo Star), the official organ of the OLF, first
appeared. It's being issued irregularly and it's in Amharic.
Some middle class Oromo women got together to form the
first few women's study circles to read and discuss radical literature,
especially those on women's oppression. The main objectives were to
be aware of the roots of gender oppression, to organize Oromo women at
grassroots to raise gender consciousness, and to bring the message of
liberation to them. But these groups were to be nipped in the bud
when the Supreme Politico-Military Command (SPMC) of the OLF moved to
eastern Oromia to intensify the armed struggle.
In Sidama region Arero Province,
Agara Mariam district in the Soyama Sorro sub-district, 176 women,
children and old men were massacred at one spot at one time by a visiting
Derg member. Individual Derg members enjoyed unlimited power and had
functioned as the ultimate authority.
The Oromo Cultural Committee
organized an Oromo Cultural Show in Finfinne (Addis Ababa) in which
cultural troupes from Arsi, Baale, Hararge, Illubbabor, Shawa and Wallagga
participated. The Show was organized on the pretext of raising funds
Barrisaa. Addis Alem Genet, Amarech, Askale Alemu, Askale Waawayyaa,
Genet Alemu, Likkee Waldee and Tsehay Tolasaa were among the most active
women in and around the Barrisaa Fundraising Committee. The result was an emotional reunion for the first time
in perhaps centuries in the history of the nation. The show was
staged in the National Theatre for two days; it was attended by thousands
of Oromo. While a few foreign newspapermen were present at the
festival, the Ethiopian News Agency newspaper, radio and TV boycotted it
and the event was not reported. Following this festival, all
cultural groups were banned by the government.
EMALD was divided on the issue of
the nationalities question. One group favored the implementation of
the principle of self-determination up to independence while those
opposing opted for regional autonomy. This led to the disbandment of
the EMALD, and many of its members and a few Derg members who supported
self-determination in its true sense for nationalities issue were either
shot, imprisoned or exiled.
Mengistu Haile Mariam shot his own
way to the top in one bloody purge after another. Almost single
handedly he has brought about the imprisonment, massacre and death by
starvation and war, of millions of the empire's population during his 14
years in power until he was removed in 1991.
Members of the
leading organ of the Oromo Liberation Front and representatives of the
fighters and underground cells met in Finfinne to restructure the
organization and elect a new leadership. According to the new
structure, the Front was to have 41 central committee members. The
central committee elected five individuals from among its members to an
executive body called the "Supreme Politico Military Command (SPMC)." The five members of the SPMC were the chairperson,
vice chairperson, secretary and two other members overseeing the
activities of the committee. Under the SPMC, there were five
functional committees each headed by a member of the central
committee. These were military, political, financial and logistical,
social and foreign affairs committee. The leaders elected to the SPMC were Muhee Abdoo, Magarsaa Barii, Gadaa
Gammadaa, Leenco Lata and Baaroo Tumsaa.
Mengistu and his clique after
consolidating their position in the Derg turned against the very forces
and groups who brought about the revolution by unleashing their infamous
"Red Terror." The streets of Addis Ababa and other cities
and towns were littered with the dead bodies of youths, workers and
intellectuals, victims of the Derg's "Red Terror" campaign.
During the "Red Terror," thousands of Oromo youths and
intellectuals were slain mercilessly. Often it was enough to be an
Oromo to be suspected which led to arrest and death.
of young peasants, students, workers from the army, etc. joined the
OLF. Many of them fled the infamous "Red Terror" from the
towns and cities. The peasants fled from the advancing Ethiopian and
Somali armies. At one time, in early 1978, the number of the OLF
fighters was estimated at several thousands. By this time, the OLF
influence reached large areas of Hararge and Arsi, northeastern Baale and
Shawa bordering northeastern Arsi area, such as Awash National
Ibsituu Margaa joined the Oromo
Liberation Army (OLA) as a guerrilla regular and fought on the front line
of eastern Oromia.
Juukii Bareentoo joined the OLA
and fought at many battles on the front line of eastern Oromia.
War was, mainly, fought in eastern Oromia. The War affected the
Oromo national struggle in many ways. In 1977 the OLF and Oromo
peasants obtained large numbers of arms and ammunitions that the Ethiopian
army had abandoned in its fight before the advancing Somali and Western
Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) armies. Then in 1978, the OLF gained
more weapons from WSLF fighters and the Somali army fleeing from the
attacking Soviet and Cuban forces. On the other hand, the armies of
both regional powers and WSLF have tried their utmost to eliminate the
nascent OLF guerrilla force.
Saartu Yusouf was among the Oromo combatants who were
killed during a battle between retreating Ethiopian soldiers and an OLF
Most of the leaders
and cadres working in the cities and towns had left for the field to join
the Oromo Liberation Army in Gara Mul'ata and other areas. Many
students and members of the armed forces joined the Front in large numbers
and dispatched to the field as well. OLF guerrilla operational areas
expanded to many parts of Hararge and Arba Guugu in Arsi. A few
leaders and cadres were dispatched to Gadab and other parts of Baale and
commenced the armed struggle there.
Some leaders of the
OLF fighters in the eastern Oromia region attempted to create dissension
in the fighting forces. The attempt was foiled.
Attempts were made by the OLF to implement the plan to extend armed struggle in central Oromia, western Shawa.
A guerrilla unit was dispatched to the Gudar river valley, northwest of Ambo. The guerrilla detachment
was spotted only a few weeks after its arrival in the area and many of its members were captured.
This caused consternation in the government circles and led to the mass arrest and imprisonment of
innocent Oromo peasants, leaders, students, teachers, workers, intellectuals, women and merchants.
Most of them were from Hararge and Shawa.
The Derg proclaimed what it called
a "National Revolutionary Development Campaign," whose aims were
to increase agricultural production for local consumption by increasing
the size of state farms and by agitating and pressuring revolution,
meaning the Amharization of the dominated nations under a socialist
blanket, and to serve as part of the over-all military and political
strategy aimed at keeping the Oromo people and other in perpetual
The OLF opened a
foreign affairs office in Khartoum, the Sudan.
The Derg embarked on the
villagization program immediately after the Ethio-Somali war was
over. Using war as a pretext, the army was deployed into the
countryside in Baale to burn houses, cut down green crops, confiscate
property, and kill farm animals and those who resisted.
Settlement of Abyssinians in
Oromia has been used by consecutive Ethiopian regimes as an effective way
to suppress, exploit and control the Oromo population. The major
settlement involved in the large scale movement of people from the north
to Wallagga, Baale and to other parts of Oromia and adjacent areas.
The commission for organizing the
Party of the Workers of Ethiopia (COPWE) was set up. Members of the
commission were hand-picked by Mengistu. It was set up for the
single task of organizing a single, would be, ruling party.
Oromo students, women, peasants
and leading intellectuals were mass-arrested and imprisoned by the Derg.
This unparalleled indiscriminate mass arrest of Oromo all over the country
even caught the attention of the international human rights
organizations. They were suspected of aiding or having knowledge of
the Oromo Liberation Front, which was fighting the government in parts of
government appeared to show some degree of understanding and cooperation
by allowing the OLF to open offices in Somalia.
"Oromia: An Introduction to the History
of the Oromo People" first issued.
The OLF extended
armed struggle to western Oromia, Wallagga region, starting with a dozen
or so fighters. Apparently, this was facilitated by the opening of a
foreign affairs office in Khartoum.
The offices opened
by the OLF two years earlier in Mogadishu, Somalia, were closed down and
the OLF members working in the country were told to leave. Some
observers have hinted that the main reason behind this action by the
Somali government was the OLF's reluctance to come to terms with SALF -
Somali Abbo Liberation Front.
The villagization program was
extended to Arsi, Arba Guugu province, where 600,000 persons were affected
by the program in this region only.
Mandatory national military
service was proclaimed. Continued conscription of peasants and
workers through the peasant associations and urban neighborhood
associations (Qabale) by force or trick was met with stiff resistance
until it became difficult to fill the required quota.
The military junta established the
"Institute of Ethiopian Nationalities Study" by
proclamation. The content of this proclamation did not differ from
that of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) of 1976. In both
documents, the Derg's policy on the national question was narrowed down to
military, diplomatic and economic benefits of cooperation or unity by the
various political forces opposing the Derg regime were self-evident.
Based on this understanding, the formation of a united or solidarity front
of forces opposing the Ethiopian regime was proposed by various
groups. Unfortunately, some of the forces were sticking to their
dogmatic views and their intransigence and intolerance continue to be a
serious obstacle for the cooperation and progress.
joined the OLA, worked with the hawwisoo (musical troupe) till 1986, then
trained in health care, and fought at many battles on the front line of
eastern Oromia. Not only did she take part in large battles, but she
also treated and took care of wounded.
Juukii Bareentoo became the first Oromo woman fighter
ever to be elected to the Central Committee of the OLF, because of her
excellent and extraordinary ability in leadership and teaching. She
was responsible for the propaganda section of the political department.
Five years after its creation,
COPWE was transformed into the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) at a
lavish celebration of huge cost. The Derg members discarded the
military attire for civilian garb. They forfeited their military
titles for comradeship and gradually transformed themselves into civilian
Marxists. Among the WPE Central Committee members of 200, there were 118
Amharas, 23 Oromo and the remaining 68 from 85 or so remaining nations and
Famine seriously threatened some 10 million inhabitants of the Empire.
This famine was perhaps the worst experienced by the peoples of this
region. The ruthless exploitation of the backward peasantry was and
still is the major cause of the chronic food shortage and the most
significant contributing factor to the creation and exacerbation of famine
in the Empire.
Arbii Miilii joined
the OLA, worked with the hawwisoo (musical troupe) and became deputy squad
commander because of her fighting abilities.
The Derg army ambushed the command post of the OLF
leadership in a place called Billiqa. Juukii Bareentoo was among the
fighters who fought in a long battle that saved the lives of many members
of the leadership, including Galaasa Dilboo, the Secretary General of the
OLF. Juukii took her own life to avoid falling into the hands of her
The villagization program started
in Hararge as part of full scale military campaign against the OLF.
The villagization program affected about 50% (2 million) of the Oromo
population living in the eight highland provinces of Hararge.
The Somali Abbo Liberation Front
ceased to exist inside the country. Most of the areas in Baale and
Arsi where SALF used to operate fell under the influence of the OLF.
Ibsituu Margaa rose
to be platoon commander in the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). She
became a Dabballee Buttaa (cadre of the Buttaa, 3 platoons) and was
responsible for training hawwisoo (musical troupe). She defended the
Oromo peasants as they were fleeing Mengistu's villagization program.
Aradoolaa Abdalla joined the OLA and took part at ten
major battles in western Oromia. Because of her bravery, she rose to
be platoon commander in the guerrilla leadership.
|5 March, 1986
The Kenyan paper, "Daily
Nation," reported on the magnitude of the villagization program:
"The biggest forced migration of people in modern history coupled
with persistent government neglect of agriculture is threatening to plunge
Ethiopia into a new, man-made famine."
|13 March, 1986
The "International Herald
Tribune" reported that "Western diplomats day one motive for the
government program [villagization program] is to cut off peasant support
for anti-government separatists, such as the Oromo Liberation Front."
The Italian government gave 200 million dollars for the
implementation of the controversial settlement and villagization
The junta came up with a highly
publicized draft constitution for the People's Democratic Republic of
On a cold October day in 1986, long-time
Maa'ikalaawii (Central Prison) Oromo prisoners of conscience: Gezahegne
Kassahun, Kebede Demissie, Muhee Abdo and Yigezu Wake, were dragged out of
their cells and executed by cold-blooded security officers of the Derg
regime inside a military intelligence compound in Kotebe, a Finfinne
to an Amnesty
International Report, in addition to
being ardent Oromo nationalists, the four executed prisoners were:
Gezahegne Kassahun - former first deputy chairman, All Ethiopia Trades Union,
Kebede Demissie - former Ministry of Agriculture official,
Muhee Abdo - civil servant and university graduate,
Yigezu Wake - former army lieutenant.
"crime" resulting in this cold-blooded extrajudicial execution was being Oromo.
prisoner of conscience, Ibsaa Guutama, recounts that October day in 1986
in his book, titled Prison of Conscience, as follows:
Upper Compound, Muhee Abdoo and Gazaheny Kaasaahun were called [out]. It
was already heard that several old prisoners from the Karchallee had
arrived presumably to be released. Gazaheny informed this writer [Ibsaa]
about their arrival, shortly before he himself was called out. The
subsequent addition of the two comrades [Muhee and Gazaheny] raised doubt.
After some time, the Administration sent for their belongings. That was an
enough clue for something bad [had happened to Muhee and Gazaheny.] All
their comrades were numbed. They did not know how to respond." (Source: Guutama,
Ibsaa, "Prison of Conscience: Upper Compound
Gubirmans Publishing, New York, 2003.)
used to strangle & execute the October 1986 Oromo martyrs: Gezahegne
Kassahun, Kebede Demissie, Muhee Abdo & Yigezu Wake. Source:
Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team
(Viewer Discretion Advised)
a similar account, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team,
that worked with the Special Prosecutors Office (which was set up in 1992
to investigate and prosecute former Derg officials), reports the
that we interviewed said that late on the night of October 7, 1979
[Geez Calendar, 1986 in European Calendar], a truck arrived in the prison compound and twenty prisoners were offloaded.
The night was cold and many of the new prisoners had wrapped themselves in blankets. They were put in holding cells apart from the
main cellblock. The next morning, at 10-20 minutes intervals, the guards called out each of the twenty new prisoners by name and,
one by one, they were marched away. Ten Makalawi prisoners were similarly called out and taken away. The thirty men never returned,
and by late afternoon rumors
began to circulate that they had all been executed." (Source: Reports by
the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team)
imprisonments and cold-blooded executions against Oromo nationalists were
not limited to the four October 1986 martyrs and to the Derg regime. Just
in October 2007, the Oromo Support Group reported 3,981
extrajudicial killings and 943 disappearances. In addition, it has
been reported by former inmates that the
Qallitti Prison Camp alone had 85% Oromo prisoners of conscience. This
is despicable and outrageous by all human rights standards.
imprisonments and killings of Oromo nationalists are the
tools deployed by the Abyssinian System of Domination to intimidate and
exterminate the Oromummaa movement. It is, therefore, imperative that all
independent Oromo nationalist institutions declare October as
the Oromo Nationalist Prisoner of Conscience Month to honor the October 1986 martyrs, to bring about awareness about the hundreds and thousands of Oromo prisoners of conscience
languishing helplessly and awaiting extrajudicial executions in prison
camps of the Empire today, and to invigorate the campaign for the unconditional release
of all Oromo political prisoners!
The new constitution was presented
for referendum and declared accepted. Then, deputies to the National
Shango (Ethiopian People's National Assembly), hand-picked by the party
cadres and presented to the population, were endorsed. Mengistu
Haile Mariam was now President of the Republic.
Following the creation of the National
Shango, the Derg declared itself
Aashaa joined the
OLA in western Oromia. Her greatest jabduu (heroic deed) was in 1988
when the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) stormed Oromo refugee
camps in Yabus. Aashaa fought in the defense of Yabus for one
month. Aashaa kept fighting even as she was surrounded by SPLA
forces and killed many SPLA fighters before she fell.
"Oromia: An Introduction to the History
of the Oromo People" second-edition published, author: Gadaa
People's Liberation Front (TPLF) started to undermine the OLF by
establishing the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) among Oromo
prisoners who had been captured while serving in the Ethiopian
Arbii Miilii took
command and led the OLA unit when her commander fell during the fighting
between Oromo Liberation Army and the Derg army around Asoosaa in Giizan.
She was seriously wounded during this fighting.
The London Conference was attended
by the Derg, Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), Oromo Liberation
Front (OLF) and Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), but the Derg
officials withdrew from the end of the meeting after hearing the news that
Mengistu Haile Mariam fled to Zimbabwe. The Mengistu
regime was finally deposed.