By Kadiro Elemo | September 26, 2013
The Oromo nation is saddened by the news of the death of Musa Bati, on Wednesday, September 24, 2013, in Nagelle Borana, Southern Oromiya. Musa Bati, who earned an honorific title of Sheikh—elder, in Arabic—at his salad age, because of his knowledge of Arabic and Somali, was among the pioneers of the Bale peasants’ resistance against the Ethiopian rule in 1960s and 1970s to end the humiliating yoke of tribute-giving, land dispossession, and cultural suffocations. A close confidante of General Waqo Gutu, Sheikh Musa led the Oromo fighters during many ferocious battles including the landmark battle of Dhombir, 1963. Because of the heroic activities of Sheikh Musa against Ethiopian army and naftanya marchers, his family paid a heavy cost. In one morning of the early 1960s, when Ethiopian jets raided his village, his family lost their entire stock, more than 300 cattle and camels. In the raids, which lasted for three days, the Oromo peasants lost more than 12,000 livestock and an untold number of people. At the time when the Oromos were unwelcomed in the administration, civil service, schools, media, justice systems of the empire, this tragedy was a major turning point in his life. This increased, according to Zaytuna Bati, a niece of Sheik Musa, the determination of the Sheikh, and his friends, to fight for the right of his people until they achieve victory over the invaders that despised their culture and robbed their land.
As a prolific writer, who earned a name of “brain of the revolution,” Sheikh Musa was a man in charge of keeping the diaries of the struggle and negotiating with enemies. In the late 1960s, when he met Emperor Hayla Sillase to negotiate an armistice and a peace deal, the emperor hardly believed his eyes when he saw a young man in the early 20s. The skinny boy did not meet the expectation of the emperor who heard a lot about bravery of an imaginary Sheikh. Then, the emperor said, “I want to deal with Sheikh Musa, a big one, not a baby one.” A witness had to come to prove to the emperor that he was dealing with Sheikh Musa, the real and the only one. When the confused emperor offered him a chance to go to school and a car, Sheikh Musa told him that his main demand was to ask the empire stop its abuses and violent repressions of the Oromo people, and he rejected his offer until the same chance extended to all Oromo children.
Except a brief exile in Somalia, Sheikh Musa refused to leave the country he loved most, Oromiya. He returned to the country after the fall of the military dictatorship of Mangistu Hayla Marya in 1991. He participated in the Transitional Government of Ethiopia, during the Transitional Charter Period. He remained in Oromiya even when the EPRDF government, after the transition charter period, led a monstrous clamped down on all democratic rights and brutally suppressed the Oromo people’s quest for self-determination. A fearless advocate of the Oromo people, Sheikh Musa of “dubbii sibilaa” (hard talk) was arrested for many years, at Hurso and Agarfa, along a prominent Oromo activists and elders. He was released after his health deteriorated, and when Mahmud Bune, a brother of Colonel Hussein Bune, another icon of the Bale rebellion, died in a prison. Sheikh Musa was 70 and survived by more than 20 children, some of whom still languishing in prison houses of Ethiopia on concocted charges of supporting anti-peace elements. We shall have ample occasions to remember the legacy of Sheikh Musa Bati during a commemoration of the 50th year anniversary of the modern Oromo military struggle against the Ethiopian rule. We shall display a video message of the Sheikh Musa Bati to the Oromos and friends of the Oromos, on October 20, 2013, in Minnesota, during the 50th year anniversary celebration, via Facebook, and YouTube. Maatii Sheekh Muusaafi firoota isaaniif Rabbin obsa haa kennu.