March 16, 2008

Tibetans´ Corpses and Oromos´ Cadavers: Chinese and ´Ethiopian´ Crimes

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

Few people allover the world knew that guy; but one thing is certain: Champa Phuntsok will soon be very, very famous. As his name suggests, that guy is a Tibetan. Still few people even in China know that he is the (appointed not elected) chairman of the Tibetan government.

Few words suffice to make know such people; and truly, Champa Phuntsok did not say much these last days. Regarding the national uprising that invaded like a thunderstorm the streets of Tibet, the renegade Tibetan Champa Phuntsok said simply this:

This plot is doomed to failure.

His compatriots took to the streets only to be mercilessly massacred by the Chinese soldiers who prolong an illegal occupation of the vast Central Asiatic plateau that in the past only occasionally and briefly belonged to China.

Justifying China´s grip over Tibet equals to acceptance of eventual Iranian irredentist claims over Israel on the "basis" that before 1400 years the Sassanid emperors controlled the Eastern Roman provinces of Syria Coele and Syria Palestinia for some years.

Contrarily to his terrorized, deprived, and multi-dimensionally tyrannized compatriots, the warped Mr. Champa Phuntsok is not intimidated by the Chinese, as he is empowered by them to play their game. Having sold his soul for a plate of lentils (Genesis, 25:34), Champa Phuntsok represents the epitome of the rascality and high treason.

Tibet and Oromia

With an average elevation of 4900 m, the Tibetan plateau has become the theater of unprecedented despotism and cruel cultural, linguistic, religious and ethnic oppression ever since China crushed the 1959 rebellion.

At a great distance from Lhasa, in another continent, a different, African, plateau has similarly become the theater of extensive genocidal practices, and racial hatred, oppression and inhumanity; at an elevation of ca. 2300 m, Finfinne, the historical capital of the Oromo Kushites, has been viciously renamed Addis Ababa to become the capital of the tyranny that ensued from the military expeditions of the 19th century barbaric and heinous ´kings´ of Abyssinia.

The subjugated (since the second half of the 19th century) Oromos, rightful descendants of the Ancient Meroitic Ethiopians (who were centered further in the North, in the area of today´s Sudan), have been deprived of their lands and properties, terrorized, and exposed to multifaceted tyranny.

A name like Champa Phuntsok may not be known to the African Oromos, but the effect of such renegades has been highly understood and their immoral, treacherous and criminal attitude adequately reprimanded.

Oromos and Tibetans: similarly oppressed by ´Ethiopia´ and China

The Afro-Asiatic parallels that can be drawn between the Central Asiatic and the Eastern African plateaus help us identify both, Tibetans and Oromos, martyred nations engaged in the path of Freedom, Independence and National Dignity.

Tibet is certainly larger than Oromia; with a surface totaling ca. 1800000 km2, Tibet is far larger than the Tibet Autonomous Region, a Chinese administrative invention geared to divide Tibet (and the Tibetans) and let the Chinese rule.

The Oromia region has similarly been reduced to ca. 370000 km2 as one of the administrative regions of the pseudo-republican, bogus-federal state of Abyssinia (fallacious renamed ´Ethiopia´). In fact, the largest part of Benishangul province, and sizeable areas peremptorily attached to the Amhara province belong to Oromia, being demanded by the Oromo liberation parties, movements, associations, and organizations. According to correct estimates, Oromia stretches over a surface of ca. 500000.

Tibetan population attains ca. 5 m people, being in decline since 1959, due to persecution, oppression, forced displacement and assimilation, tyranny and physical extermination.

Oromos total ca. 30 million people, being by far the largest ethnic group in the racist and totalitarian hell of Abyssinia; Oromos live also in Kenya (Northern province).

In the same way Tibetans are ethnically and linguistically different from the Chinese, the Oromos are marked by striking ethno-linguistic divergence as regards the ruling Amhara and Tigray Abyssinians. Part of the Tibeto-Burman languages, Tibetan is different from Chinese, and even the formation of the so-called Sino-Tibetan linguistic family is largely hypothetical.

Things are even clearer in the African plateau; the Modern Oromo language belongs to the Kushitic family of languages (along with Somali, Sidama, Berberic and Hausa), and they are all very different from the Semitic languages (like the Ancient Assyrian, Babylonian and Phoenician languages, Aramaic and Modern Syriac, Hebrew, and Arabic) to which belong the languages spoken by the Amhara (Amharic) and the Tigray (Tigrigna) Abyssinians that have been derived from Gueze (Ancient Axumite Abyssinian).

Oromos and Tibetans: Parallel Paths to Liberation

After having been disputed by Mongols, Nepalese and Chinese, Tibet became part of the colonial rivalry between Russia and England in Central Asia; the 1903 – 1904 British expeditions obliged the Dalai Lama to flee to Urga in Mongolia. After signing a treaty with a delegation of monks the British force left Lhasa on September 24, 1904. The Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906 confirmed the Anglo-Tibetan treaty, and one year later in the Anglo-Russian Convention, Britain recognized the ´suzerainty of China over Tibet´. The Anglo-Russian rivalry over Tibet is hidden in-between the lines of the notorious Tibetan – Mongolian treaty of 1913 and the Simla Convention (1914). While trying to keep the Russians far, the British even when they recognized Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, never admitted explicitly that Tibet would be a regular Chinese province. With China abolishing monarchy and establishing a republic in 1912, the Chinese control over Tibet became nominal.

Only after the rise of the People´s Republic of China, the Beijing authorities expressed a nationalistic interest for Tibet. According to a 1951 agreement between the Tibetan and Chinese central governments, the Dalai Lama-ruled Tibetan area was supposed to be a highly autonomous area of China. However, the terrible cultural clash with the communists in Beijing, the diverse interpretations of the terms of the agreement as regards the different provinces of Tibet, and the involvement of America precipitated the 1959 insurrection and the Chinese military intervention.

All this sounds very familiar to the African Oromos; British military and diplomatic experts voluntarily become the advisors of the barbaric pseudo-kings of Abyssinia, sold them guns, accepted the slave trade that the Abyssinian rulers extensively practiced (although Britain fought against it in adjacent Sudan!), and tolerated the genocides undertaken by the Amhara and Tigray military rulers against the subjugated Oromos and other Kushitic nations. All that mattered for Britain was to prevent Italy from seizing control over the entire area of the Horn of Africa and the African plateau.

What the Oromos experienced since 1865 the Tibetans started undergoing almost 100 years later. A brief enumeration of the similar Chinese and Abyssinian practices involves:

1. Mass extermination

2. Extrajudicial killings

3. Imprisonment and tortures

4. Internal and external displacement

5. Selection of traitors ready to supposedly represent their nations – against their national interests, and to the benefit of the invading forces (Chinese and Amhara – Tigray Abyssinians)

6. Extensive implantation of new settlers (Chinese in Tibet, Amhara and Tigray naftanya in Oromo Ethiopia)

7. Brutally enforced cultural assimilation (the Chinese practiced it by destroying the Buddhist temples and by forcing Tibetans to accept the Communist indoctrination, whereas the Abyssinians implemented it by desecrating the Oromo sacred places and by erecting their infamous and profane pseudo-churches)

8. Unprecedented linguistic assimilation (by prohibiting the use of Tibetan and Oromo languages at the level of the education and the administration throughout Tibet and Oromia for long periods)

9. Cultural and national discrimination (involving use of pejorative descriptions, and state-promoted disrespect as regards the Oromo Religion Waqqefanna and Buddhism).

We intend to terminate this article, calling every humanist and political activist, every free citizen concerned, to join forces with the Tibetan Government in exile and with the Oromo Liberation parties, movements, associations, and organizations in view of

A. the most definite eradication of the Chinese presence from Lhasa and Tibet, and

B. the most unambiguous obliteration of the Amhara – Tigray existence from Finfinne and Oromia.

We will republish here two texts, namely a Press Release issued by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) with respect to the recent insurgence in Tibet, and an excerpt under title ´Internal and External Displacement´ from Prof. Mekuria Bulcha´s article "Conquest and Forced Migration: An Assessment of the Oromo Experience" that was published as a chapter in the collective volume "Arrested Development in Ethiopia - Essays on Underdevelopment, Democracy and Self-Determination" (edited by Seyoum Hameso and Mohammed Hassen, The Red Sea Press Inc, Trenton (NJ), 2006).

Fresh protests in Amdo Labrang – Tibet (

According to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a fresh demonstration erupted this morning at around 10 AM (Beijing Time) in Labrang, Sangchu County, Kanlho "TAP" Gansu Province in the eastern part of the Tibetan area as a follow-up to yesterday's demonstration staged by monks of Tashikyil Monastery which was later joined by thousands of Tibetans in the area.

Thousands of people including monks from Labrang Tashikyil Monastery staged a peaceful demonstration at the county government's headquarters. The demonstration was started by monks of Labrang Tashikyil Monastery and was later joined by common citizens at a place known as Choeten Karpo (White Stupa) where people offered Sangsol Prayer (incense burning ritual). After the prayer session, people raised "pro-independence" and "Long live the Dalai Lama'" slogans while heading towards the Sangchu County Government headquarters. The People Armed Police (PAP) fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air to disperse the demonstrators. The latest report indicates that there are cases of demonstrators being arrested and beaten by PAP forces and PSB officials from the area, although the number could not be ascertained at the moment.

Communication lines in the area are known to have been cut off since this morning with little information coming out from the area. Yesterday, the police started to fire live ammunition in the air and started beating demonstrators when they neared the Sangchu County Public Security Bureau headquarters. So far there is no information on people having been arrested or detained at the moment. This is for the first time that such large scale demonstration took place in the area.

TCHRD expresses it deepest concern about the safety of the peaceful demonstrators and at the same time expresses its deepest fear and anxiety that hundreds of Tibetans who will suffer for airing their grievance and peaceful exercise of the freedom of expression, opinion and assembly. TCHRD condemns in strongest terms the Chinese security agencies use of brute force on the peaceful Tibetan demonstrators. TCHRD while welcoming the timely statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the current situation in Tibet, it appeals the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently send a UN fact finding mission to Tibet for first hand assessment of the situation.

End of Press Release

Express your support to the mercilessly oppressed Tibetans:

Internal and External Displacement

(Conquest and Forced Migration: An Assessment of the Oromo Experience)

By Prof. Mekuria Bulcha

(Taken from: Arrested Development in Ethiopia - Essays on Underdevelopment, Democracy and Self-Determination, edited by Seyoum Hameso and Mohammed Hassen, The Red Sea Press Inc, Trenton (NJ), 2006)

Nearly all regions of Oromia were affected by the conquest, and internal as well as external displacement of population took place in one form or another. Both oral traditions and written records confirm that even regions whose rulers submitted without much resistance did not escape the destruction, exploitation and displacement caused by the conquest. According to these traditions, not only economic production but also social reproduction was thwarted. The following verse quoted from a Geerarsa (a genre of the traditional oral Oromo poetry expressed in song) sang by a bachelor who lived in one of the regions which initially submitted without resistance, to console his fiancée who was aggrieved by the postponement of their marriage expresses the situation.

When I was ready for marriage,

Dajjaach Birru descended upon us.

I gave him all my money to save my life,

And I am left only with the tatters on my ass.

Even the married think to separate to day,

Be patient, you have yet a long time to wait.

(Author translation from Oromo language)

Dajjaach Birru in the above quote was the governor of Leeqa Qellem in Western Oromia between 1918-1927. Jote Tullu, the mooti (king) of Leeqa Qellem, was among those Oromo leaders who submitted to Menelik without armed resistance in 1886. Jote was made Dajja(zm)ach and was allowed to continue to rule his territory with some degree of autonomy. However, the initial peace between Jote and Menelik did not last long. When the imposition of the gabbar system was also met great resentment from the people, conflict broke out and Jote was removed from his post and imprisoned in 1908. His imprisonment led to open rebellion and the defeat of the Abyssinian army. It was to put down the rebellion and to re-establish Abyssinian rule that Dajjaach Birru was appointed from Addis Ababa and "descended" upon Leeqa Qellem accompanied by 7,000-8,000 soldiers in 1918. The punitive measures he took are said to have caused large-scale displacement of the Oromo population. Alessandro Triulzi who has recorded and analyzed protest songs from the same region and period wrote regarding forced migration and displacement that:

the prosperous and seemingly contented condition of the country

witnessed by Major Austin in 1900 had quite changed by 1918

when the gabbar, many of whom had left their homes and gone to

the forest on individual basis, started to flee en masse. Some 9000

moved up north to the fertile Begi highlands, under the patronage

of Sheik Hojäle al-Hasan ... (Triulzi 1980:179).

The war of conquest had generated refugees who fled to neighboring territories then under European colonial rule. However, records about the fate of these refugees or those who were sold into slavery are few and scattered. One of the written sources relates the fate of a prince, Firrisaa Abba Joobiir, and his followers.

Firrisaa was the crown prince of the Guuma kingdom (today a district in Ilu Abba Bor) which was one of the five Oromo states in southwestern Oromia. Upon the annexation of Guuma by the Abyssinians in 1882, Firrisaa fled with some of his followers to Massawa on the Red Sea coast where they stayed for more than a decade (Cerulli 1922:45).

Enrico Cerulli has also recorded that around the years 1899-1900, Firrisaa went through the Italian colony of Eritrea to the Sudan. He assembled some of the Oromo refugees who lived along the Ethio-Sudan frontier, and entered the newly created Ethiopian Empire at Anffillo. From Anffillo he proceeded eastward to Guuma. On arrival in the land of his ancestors, Firrisaa invited all of its chiefs to a meeting and proclaimed Guuma independent of Abyssinia and himself its king. War broke out between the Oromo and the Abyssinians and Firrisaa was victorious in the initial stages. However, the Abyssinians came back with reinforcements and supplies of new weapons. After two and a half years of struggle, the pressure of well-equipped and well-supplied Abyssinian forces proved effective and the Oromo army was defeated; Firrisaa was killed; and the Abyssinians were able to consolidate their position in the region (Cerulli 1922:52). Fought in one of the remote corners of the Ethiopian empire at the end of the nineteenth century, Firrisaa´s freedom struggle remains unknown even among researchers on Oromo history.

Uprooting and forced migration from Oromia did not stop with the end of conquest and the consolidation of Abyssinian rule. The harsh rule which the Oromo were subjected to, continued to spur uprooting and displacement almost at regular intervals. There are many oral accounts about families and communities who took refuge in inaccessible lowlands and perished because of malaria. Although not comparable to the internal displacement, there is some evidence to confirm that the conquest also caused cross-border migration all along the borders of the Ethiopian empire at the turn of the century. Dennis Hickey (1984:42), who had studied documents from that period wrote about the peoples of the southwest thus:

A certain minority of these peoples avoided enslavement through defensive migration, either to a ´protected´ agricultural zone of the southwest, or across the Sudanese border. In all probability, the flight of the Uduk from Beni Shangul (...), far from being an isolated phenomenon, had distinct parallels along the entire frontier. ... The depopulation oft en perceived by contemporary observers was more a product of [cross-border] out-migration and tactical retreat [internal displacement] than accurate indication mortality and captivity rates.

With regard to "cross-border" displacements in the South, one of the earliest records about Oromo exodus caused by the Abyssinian conquest is found in British colonial archives. It concerns the fate of about 4,000 Oromos who fled across the borders newly created by the British and the Abyssinians to British East Africa Colony in 1910. This occurred just about a decade after the conquest of the Boorana region and was induced by the harsh rule imposed by the Abyssinian naftanya administration. Describing the reaction of the Boorana Oromo, Margery Perham (1969:314) has noted that

The population [in Boorana] was not large and the soldiers pressed so hardly upon the gabbars allotted to them that many of these fled to the bush or into British territory. The governor [of Boorana], urged by his soldiers, pressed the British authorities to round up and send them back.

Correspondence between the Ethiopian Government and the British Ministry for Foreign Affairs during the period indicates the many attempts made by the former to get back the refugees and the humanitarian gestures of some of the British colonial officials of that time. Some British colonial officials both in Kenya and London argued that forced repatriation of refugees "could not be condoned on either moral or diplomatic grounds and would cause enormous damage to British prestige in East Africa." However, some of the ´pragmatic´ officials within the British colonial administration maintained that sentiments should not to be allowed to interfere with policy, and that the refugees should be used as a bargaining chip in the efforts to secure territorial agreement with the Abyssinia (Maud cited in Hickey 1984:145-46).

Fortunately, for the Oromo refugees, there were also influential officials within that administration who saw forced repatriation as morally objectionable. From London, Louis Harcourt, the British Colonial Secretary wrote in 1910 that "it would be objectionable to approve of the Boorana and other tribes being returned to the Abyssinian government, and their being submitted again to extortion which ... is the fate of most subject tribes under Shoan rule." In fact, as one source put it, the British officials saw the gabbar system as "a far worse evil than slavery" (see The Times, 18 April 1931). Thus, the Oromo and other refugees were allowed to stay in the British colony.

Documents in Kenyan and British archives show that over the next two decades (i.e. from 1910), the Ethiopian government never abandoned its claims on the Oromo refugees in Kenya but raised the question of their forcible repatriation on many occasions. The Abyssinian officials argued that "the provincial administration´s viability was directly threatened by the flight of the gabbars and the erosion of its base of taxation." The Ethiopian government did not pay salaries to its soldiers and administrators but gave them a number of (depending upon the rank of the soldier) Oromo families as gabbars upon whose labor they lived. Hence its officials argued in their correspondence with the British that the land is useless without the Oromo gabbar, and insisted that the soldiers and administrators of Boorana province could not be provided for unless the refugees are sent back.

Although the Oromo refugee problem continued to cause some diplomatic problems for their colonial administration, the British Foreign Office refused to hand them over to the Ethiopian administration. In fact, for these refugees, their flight into the British colony was just a matter of internal displacement. The Boorana territory straddled the border between the Ethiopian empire and the British colony of Kenya; and for the Oromos, both the British and the Abyssinians were alien intruders. Hickey has argued that when the burden under pax Amharica became unbearable, an increasing number of Booran families took their stocks and moved south to the shelter of pax Britannica. Although it would be illogical to construe that any sort of colonialism is a promoter and guarantor of peace, the displaced Oromo were forced to stay in the territory occupied by the less oppressive colonial power—the British.

The overthrow of Lej Iyasu´s government in 1916 also caused internal displacement of a significant number of people, mainly Oromos. The opposition that the Abyssinian nobility and clergy showed Iyasu´s government was important because its contribution to perpetual conflict among religious and ethnic groups in Ethiopia than for the forced migration it caused at that time. Lej Iyasu was an offspring of a political marriage which the invading elite entered into with some of the indigenous Oromo elites. His father was an Oromo leader and his mother the daughter of the architect of the Ethiopian empire—Emperor Menelik II.

On the death of Menelik, Iyasu became heir to the throne and tried to go beyond the political marriage of the few elites from the ruling and subject nationalities and create a political integration of the various peoples, religions and cultures of the Ethiopian empire. As Hans Lockhot (1994:13) has aptly remarked, Iyasu found it humiliating and discriminating against a major part of his subjects if he allowed the prevailing ethnic and religious hierarchy to continue. Therefore the "Crescent had to be incorporated into the imperial crown as well as the Cross; and new heraldic figures had to be added to the national flag."

Thus, Iyasu´s main aim became building a nation out of empire, and he was convinced that his policy of equality of all religions and ethnic groups before the law would reduce the empire-state´s chronic conflicts and enhance economic and social development (Marcus 1994:113-14). Had it succeeded, Iyasu´s policy could have probably reduced not only the ethnicity or nationality-related conflicts but prevented the mass-exodus of refugees that Ethiopia has been generating over the last seventy years. However, his vision of ethnic and religious pluralism and nation-building became a serious threat to the interests of the Abyssinian nobility and the Church. His religious policy was also a challenge to the so-called Tripartite powers—Britain, France and Italy—whose colonial territories shared borders with Ethiopia. Fearing that Iyasu´s co-operation with the Muslim population of their colonies in Africa would prove subversive, they co-operated with the Amhara (in this case Shoan) nobility, providing them assistance including a "large consignment of machine guns" to bring him down (Lockhot 1994:23). Later Iyasu was unable to seek asylum in the neighboring colonial territories ruled by the British, the French and the Italians. Hence he became an internal displaced person, or a refugee within his own country with many of his followers. He roamed the hot Afar lowlands for five years. He was captured in 1921 and was kept in prison until 1935, where at the outset of the Ethio-Italian war, Haile Selassie had him killed. Some of his Oromo followers had fled to the British East Africa colony. Still today there are families in Tanzania who are descendants of those refugees.

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Similarly with Buddhism's Nirvana, the Oromo Religion Waqqefanna offers a way and an initiation to complete peace and eudemonia.


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