March 18, 2013 (OSA) — The 2013 OSA Midyear Conference was held and successfully completed as planned in Georgia State University Campus on Saturday, March 16, 2013. The event started with the blessing of elders in accordance with the Oromo tradition. The blessing of elders was followed by the keynote speech of an Oromo heroine, Urji Dhaba, who sacrificed much of her adult life fighting for freedom and justice of the Oromo people. The title of her speech was “Yaadannoo Hadhaa Qabsoo Hidhannoo, Dararaa mana Didhaa, Jireenya Baqattummaa fi Egeree Oromoo fi Oromia”, roughly translated: “Memories of Tribulations of Armed Struggle, Atrocities in Prison, Life in Exile and the Future of Oromo and Oromia”.
The audience broke in tears as Urji eloquently narrated the trials and tribulations she has gone through in the bush, in the prison camp of the TPLF-led Ethiopian regime, in various hospitals and people’s homes for treatment from her illness which was incurred on her when she was gang-raped and severely tortured while in captivity.
The keynote speech was followed by Panel 1: Post-Meles Ethiopia and the Prospects for the National Liberation Struggle. The panel was intended to analyze the scenarios, possible opportunities and challenges created by the passing away of the Ethiopian dictator, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The panelists were Professor Mohammed Hassen (Chair), Dr. Ibrahim Elemo, Obbo Kadir Elemo, and Dr. Mosisa Aga. The presentations of the speakers were followed by a fierce debate from the audience with questions, answers and comments on the future of the Oromo and Oromia. One thing that all the presenters as well speakers from the audience stressed was that it is imperative that all Oromo political groups in the Diaspora coordinate their forces and work in unison. Some speakers from the audience sharply criticized the Oromo scholars for not doing enough in trying to press the leaders of the Oromo political groups.
The second panel continued after a one hour lunch break. The theme of Panel 2 was “Issues of Crises in Leadership and Organizational Capacity Building in the Oromo National Movement”. The panelists were: Prof. Asafa Jalata (chair), Dr. Harwood Shaffer and Prof. Ismail Abdullahi. The PowerPoint presentations of the three professors were followed by a heated discussion during the question and answer period.
The last panel was on miscellaneous topics: Oromo religion and ecology, issues of land grab in Oromia, and the legacy of the Oromo hero the late Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa as presented by Prof. Mohammed Hassen and complemented by Prof. Ismail Abdullahi. The panelists were Adde Bonnie Holcomb (Chair), Prof. Gobena Huluka, Prof. Daniel Ayana, and Prof. Mohammed Hassen.
Again, their presentations were followed by a heated discussion, and the 2013 OSA Midyear Conference ended at 5:00 PM as planned.