By Bahru D. Bayisa*
Many pro-Ethiopian unity protagonists are utterly shameless and intellectually dishonest. They would say and write anything as far as it perpetuates the myth that the Oromo people are Ethiopians. In his dubiously esoteric letter to Dr. Beyan Asoba, the self-belittling Dr. Fikre Tolossa writes that we are all sons and daughters of Ityopp’is’, and that we should, therefore, denounce our true identity our language, history, and culture and adopt that which is not ours, namely the Ethiopian identity.
His recommendations for us are in accordance with the way he himself has adopted the Ethiopian identity, consciously or subconsciously, denying who he truly is. Supposing that this guy’s claim to be an Oromo by birth is valid, he seems to be worse than his masters perhaps because he is driven and energized by their expected positive appraisals and accolades as he disparages and ridicules his own people. Unfortunately (or may be fortunately), they don’t seem to be pleased with him as he argues (in his other works) that the Amara are all of Cushitic origin despite their long established Semitic lineage.
In one of the interviews he gave on one of the media outlets in Amharic, the interviewing lady was apparently sarcastic about his perspective on Ethiopian history and people. She couldn’t control her laughter as she questioned him on why his views are in total dissonance with that of renowned historians. His answers were far from being reasonable and were least expected from a man who claims to hold a Ph.D. It shouldn’t be very surprising, however, considering that he had been educated in the former Soviet Union before he moved to the former West Germany where he did his Ph.D. in Amharic language, according to the interview he gave on ESAT television.
The most ridiculous and laughable comment he writes in the letter is that the Oromo people are suffering from identity crisis because of the political movement spearheaded by leaders like Dr. Beyan Asoba and many others. He should be kidding about this! The vast majority of Oromo people are actually far from having any identity crisis, for they have always stood up as proud Oromos in the face of ubiquitous persecutions and brutal genocides. I admit, however, that there are individuals like Dr. Fikre Tolossa himself who, by virtue of their early orientation (or disorientation) in the Ethiopian Orthodox church, have suffered identity crisis, and fell vulnerable to betray their own people. Come on Dr. Fikre! How do you blame us of identity crisis when you yourself have been ashamed of speaking in your native tongue – let alone writing it? If, as you claim, you are a genuine Oromo, how do you ally yourself with groups that made it their priority to altogether destroy our identity and impose theirs on us?
I suspect that Dr. Fikre’s prescription of the Ge’eez or Ethiopic alphabet for the Oromo language is more revealing of his insatiable love affair with Ethiopia and the Amharic language than of his linguistic expertise. As a pseudo-intellectual, who retold and rewrote the baseless myths and fables that the Ethiopian debtaras invented and perpetuated for centuries, he has rarely provided any empirical evidences for his outrageous claims. One of his arguments, for example, was that our father, Ityopp’is, would be disappointed if he were to come back and see that the Oromo are using the Latin script(Qubee) in lieu of the Ge’eez alphabet which he (Ityopp’is) single-handedly crafted for us all to use. He also went on to write that it’s only the poor and uncivilized people who do not have their own alphabet – who should borrow from others. According to this obnoxiously offensive argument, the Brits, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Portuguese, … you name it, are all uncivilized poor people, while the Ethiopians, by some cosmic and divine intervention, qualify among the world’s few civilized people. What a bogus and bigoted argument!
Needless to say, we have been absolutely satisfied by our choice of the Latin script to read and write Afan Oromo. According to Dr. Tilahun Gemta (1994), the Latin script was adopted unanimously by over one thousand Oromo intellectuals on November 3, 1991 due to linguistic, pedagogical, and practical reasons. He unequivocally argued that the roughly 250 Sabean characters are too unwieldy to adapt to Afan Oromo, and that the characters not only fail to indicate vowel length and gemination, but also slow down a writer’s speed since each symbol, which cannot be written cursively, has to be printed. On top of that, Dr. Gemta adds, “… one of the major drawbacks of the syllabary writing is that its characters do not represent the vowels and the consonants of a language separately notwithstanding the two are distinct categories.”
If the Sabean characters were as remarkable as Dr. Fikre and his friends want us to believe, why then do the Amharic speakers, while still communicating in Amharic, use the Latin script to send us instant messages (IM), text messages, and Facebook posts? Why don’t they use the Sabean characters when they chat in their now rampant Paltalk rooms? That is what we meant by practical reasons! Qubee has been so perfect for us anywhere, any time, and in all situations. It’s computer friendly, easy to read and right, and readily transferable as we learn other languages of the world, mainly English, French and Spanish. Even if it doesn’t have all these aforementioned linguistic and practical qualities, we are the ones who make decisions as we wish without consulting debteras!
To sum up, we are a proud people who have paid more than enough sacrifice to uphold and maintain our identity. We know who we are, and what is good for us. We do not need unethical prescriptions from Amharic language doctors and debteras, especially from someone who failed the character test of being true to himself. It will be a colossal mistake to push us too far in this regard since such insensitive and reckless diatribe will only hasten the disintegration and doom of the empire that is already on a life support.
* Bahru D. Bayisa: firstname.lastname@example.org