By Libah Leencoo
His given name is Abdulkariem Ibrahim Hamid. But he is well known by his nom-de -guerre “Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa”. He is a great grandson of Ibroo Shaxaa, one of the ministers in the last Raabaa Doorii of the Afran Qalloo Oromo which was on power at the eve of Minilik’s conquest of Hararge.
Jarraa was born in 1937 in small town of Watar which is found on 65 kms southwest of Harar. He attended Islamic education within his family. He started modern education thereafter and compeleted his secondary school in the city of Harar in early 1960s. He then joined the Harar Military Academy but left it when the academy’s administrators prohibited him from exercising his faith freely.
Jarra went to Assabot (in Carcar, West Hararge) to farm on his family’s land in the mid 1960s. There, he could see the miserable life of the Oromo tenants very closly. His heart was filled with a great sorrow; he understood that the cause of the misry was the prevailing “Gabbar” system and the remedy to end that misery was seeking the indpendnce of his nation by all possible means. The incidence had a tremendous effect on the young Jarraa Abbaa Gadaa that his life journey totally changed thereafter; on that spot he decided to immerse himself in his half-century old quest for Oromo freedoom.
In 1968, Jarraa Abba Gadaa went with few men to join the armed revolt of the Bale people which was lead by famous patriots like Waaqoo Guutuu and Aliyi Cirrii. But when he reached there and saw the real situations, he realized that military training and armament was important to have a meaningfull contribution in the revolt. Hence, he and his followers crossed the border and enterd Somalia to seek the training and the weapon.
Jarra and his men had a bad luck in Somalia. Then (in 1969), the Somalis totally changed their long tradition of supporting the Oromo freedom struggle; the newely created government of General Mohammed Ziad Barre started to advocate a policy claiming that the Oromos of Hararge, Bale and Sidamo were actually Somalis even though they speak a different language. Further, the Somalis anounced that only WSLF (Western Somali Liberation Front, popularly known as “Somali Galbeed”) had a right to free the provinces of Hararge, Bale and Sidamo and all fighting units must be organized under it.
Few Oromos accepted the new Somali plan. But Jarra and most of the Oromos in Somalia decreed that this was an act of self denial and totally rejected it. From the latter group, more than a half left the idea of undertaking the armed struggle and returned back to their homeland. But Jarra and few people crossed the Indian Ocean in order to seek another way of continiuing the Oromo national struggle. On the help of some briliant Oromo indviduals living in Yemen such as Hassan Ibrahim (popularly known as “Elemoo Qilxuu”), they were gathered at the port city of Aden (the then capital of Yemen People’s Democratic Republic a.ka. “South Yemen”) to lay down the foundation of a new organization fully determind for Oromo Freedom.
When the Oromos in Yemen were about to start discussisons on the foundation of the new organization, another delegation of Oromo elites joined them. The delegation was lead by Hussein Mohammed Ali (known popularly as “Sheikh Hussein Sowraa” or simply “Hussein Sowraa”). Hussein was the Secretary General of WSLF at the time; but he was being frustrated by the new Somali policy which denied the Oromo freedom. On the order he got from the Somali government, he came to Yemen to seek support for his organization. However, the morale and determination of Oromo nationalists he saw in Yemen caused him to change his course. So he abandoned WSLF and joined the Oromos in Yemen. learning this, the Somali government send him a death threat which had little effect on bringing him back. However, the incidence taught Hussein Sowraa and other Oromos that they must always take care of the Somali government as they were taking care of the Ethiopian
government. So Hussein Sowraa and other Oromos discussed the matter and agreed to undertake the founding congress of the new organization in Damascus, Syria.
The founding congress was undertaken as planned. But the newly founded organization was given a name “Ethiopian National Liberation Front” (ENLF). This seems an irony; the then Oromos were demanding a freedom of Oromo nation yet they didn’t call their organization in the name of “Oromo” people. Why? Why did they chose ENLF over other names? What were the major things executed by ENLF? What was the final fate of ENLF? What was the role of Jarraa Abbaa Gadaa in ENLF and then after? How do scholars evaluate the contribution of Jarra Abbaa Gadaa in the Oromo national struggle?
Part two of this essay will try to answer this questions.