By Matebu Benti, Ph.D.
November 27, 2017
I have written this comment after watching the speech made by Professor Ezekiel Gebissa of Kettering University. He spoke to a certain group of Americans at an event organized in Minneapolis by Oromo Voices Group.
Professor Ezekiel Gebissa is among the individuals, as they often tell the public on the Oromo Media Network (OMN), who claim to have a remote control of the current Oromos’ struggle in Ethiopia. In my earlier article entitled “Toxic Propaganda Targeted at Ethiopia and Ethiopian Unity: The Divisive Strategies”, I showed the strategies of this group to advance their hate and divisive agenda. The evidences cited in the article are from what these self-proclaimed Oromo protest leaders themselves repeatedly said on OMN.
In this recent event, along with Professor Ezekiel Gebissa, two White panelists made introductory remarks before Professor Gebissa spoke. The first speaker, who said she was a civics teacher, mentioned few quick facts. She indicated that approximately 35 to 40% of the Ethiopian population is Oromo. She stressed that Oromos are not the majority in Ethiopia but the largest ethnic group. She also reminded that Ethiopia is one of the only countries not colonized by European. This is a blow to Professor Gebissa who spearheaded the so-called the Oromo National Charter that states that the Oromos are under colonial subjugation by the Ethiopian regimes.
The second speaker Ms. Robin Phillips, the Executive Director of the Advocates for Human Rights, stated how her organization works with the Oromo and other Ethiopian ethnic groups in Minnesota.
Then Professor Ezekiel Gebissa spoke in his turn. His speech was a deliberate misinformation underestimating the intellect of the fellow panelists. He expressed his baseless hatred against the Amharas, as he usually did on OMN. The first panelist checked the facts and tried to support her speech with evidence including the ethnic composition of the Ethiopian population. As a person of Ethiopian origin and a professor of History, Professor Gebissa was supposed to show facts that are more concrete. Instead, contrary to the first speaker, he blatantly said that about 50% of Ethiopian population was Oromo. As a professor, he did not dare to cite any evidence when he directly contradicted what the fellow panelist said earlier.
Official statistics shows Oromo is 34.5% of the Ethiopian population. By saying half of the Ethiopian population is Oromo, Ezekiel Gebissa lied. He deliberately misinformed the audience.
Regardless of the facts that the Oromos partook in Ethiopian history, Ezekiel Gebissa, a professor of history, labeled the Amhara with all evil characterizations as long as his vocabulary permitted him. He ignored or deliberately omitted facts that prove otherwise and tried to appeal to the emotion of the White audiences. He did not seem to know that audiences are in the information age and any literate person has access to the knowledge base to check the validity of his accusations.
There are much more important attributes to define a person than his or her ethnicity. However, since Professor Gebisssa sees things only through the lenses of ethnicity, I have to give few illustrations here. The former ruthless dictator Colonial Mengistu Hailemariam Wolde Ayana, who committed despicable crimes in Ethiopia, was an Oromo descent. However, he has never been ethnocentric and many Ethiopians did not even know his ethnicity. He did not mention his ethnicity either. The late King Haileselassie was born in the Oromo speaking area called Ejersa Goro, Ethiopia. His mother was Woizero Yeshimebet Ali Abba Jifar, daughter of the renowned Oromo ruler of Wollo province Dejazmach Ali Abba Jifar. King Haileselassie’s father was Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa, an Oromo descent. King Menelik II, married to Taytu Betul who was also an Oromo descent and who established the capital Addis Ababa. Her father is a grandson of Ras Gugsa, a member of the powerful Oromo ruling family of Yejju. The first lady was the architect of the Battle of Adowa that is seen as a victory for all black people. Most of the famous military Generals under these rulers who defended the country from foreign aggressions were Oromos.
Ethiopian history cannot be written or told without mentioning the Oromo heroes in all walks of life. To mention few evidences, the Ethiopian bishop and martyr Abune Petros, executed by Italians in 1936 was an Oromo. The most famous singer of Ethiopia, the legendary Tilahun Gessese, was an Oromo. The utmost Loret Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin was an Oromo. The celebrated Military heroes General Jagama Kello, General Legesse Teferra and many others were Ethiopian Oromos who dedicated their lives to Ethiopia.
It is obvious that Ethiopia had repressive regimes but also it is good to put things in a context. The cruel TPLF-led government, being with the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), introduced the current constitution and ethnic division to suppress any organized dissent and to exploit the resources. TPLF massacred thousands of peaceful Ethiopians regardless of their ethnic origin. Many innocent Ethiopians, journalists, and political leaders are currently suffering in prisons. The only way to get out of this problem is for Ethiopians, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or other differences, to unite and remove the TPLF-EPRDF dictators from power. Ethiopians are trying to unify their struggle for democracy and justice. However, the OMN group including Professor Gebissa always negates any effort that leads towards unity. What Professor Gabissa said is divisive and not supported by evidence. It is a continuation of the hate propaganda he and his colleagues launched on OMN.
A learned individual should be able to differentiate facts from opinion or propaganda. Ethnicity should not restrain him from seeing the facts on the ground. Using an academic rank to misinform the public is immoral and unethical. Professor Gabissa’s speech is devoid of facts but dangerous propaganda that can cause ethnic clashes between the Oromos and other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. No one will benefit from this. It would rather alienate the Oromo ethnic groups and expose them to more harm. I hope the professor will support his claims with facts. It is impossible to spread lies without facing resistance while we have living witnesses for what happened in the recent history of Ethiopia.