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The Oromo Chronology @

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Before 1853


1853 ...

1872 ...

1865 ...

1909 ...
Haile Selassie

1930 ...
Mengistu Haile Mariam
1974 ...
Meles Zenawi

1991 ...

Events in Oromo History During the Reign of Mengistu Haile Mariam




Ethiopian Revolution toppled the Haile Sellasie Monarchy.

On September 12th, 1974, the Military Coordinating Committee (Derg) 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.

Dec 1974

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

General Taddasaa 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

General Taddasaa 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.

April 1976

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 MEISON, 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 to independence.


Armed struggle 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.


Saartuu Yusouf joined the Oromo Liberation Army and fought in several battles as a regular guerrilla.


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.


"Bakkalcha 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.

Sept 1976

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.

Feb 1977

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.

Sept 1977

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.

Thousands 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 Park.

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.


The Ethio-Somali 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 guerrilla unit.


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.

August 1978

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.

Nov 1978

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 servitude.


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 the south.


The Somali 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.

April 1983

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 regional autonomy.


The political, 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.


Ayyaantuu Daaqaa 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 nationalities.

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 enemies.


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 (SALF) 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 program.


The junta came up with a highly publicized draft constitution for the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE.)

October 1986

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 suburb.

According 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.

Their "crime" resulting in this cold-blooded extrajudicial execution was being Oromo.

Their fellow prisoner of conscience, Ibsaa Guutama, recounts that October day in 1986 in his book, titled Prison of Conscience, as follows:

"From the 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 Maa'kalaawii," Gubirmans Publishing, New York, 2003.)

Ropes 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)

In 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 following:

"The former Makalawi prisoners 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)

Extrajudicial 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.

Tortures, illegal 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 dissolved.


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 Melbaa.

April 1990

The Tigrayans 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 army.


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.

May 1991

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.