Qubee as an instrument of Oromo struggle for self-determination

The historicity of the development of Qubee

By Leenjiso Horoo

First and foremost, it is fair to sketch the long journey in its historical development. In its development, it has gone through numerous transformations in time. To properly understand its journey, its development has to be narrated backwards in time. For this reason, its development, its context, its use and its political implications should be historicized.

The development of Oromiffaa had been hindered by Abyssinian occupation of Oromiyaa. Hence for a long time, Oromiffaa had remained as a spoken language. Because of colonial occupation, the Abyssinians made it illegal and forbidden to write in Oromiffaa in any script, including in Sabean script. The early writing in the Oromo language began almost two centuries ago. It is the conquest of Oromiyaa by Abyssinia that interrupted its development into full-fledged writing instrument. Of the earliest writing was vocabulary of Oromo language in 1842 in Latin script by J. Ludwig Krapf, a German national. In 1899, Abba Onesimos Nasib (aka Abbaa Gammachiis) translated the Holy Bible into the Oromo language using Sabean script. In 1935, M. Mario Moreno, an Italian national wrote dictionary of Oromo language using the Latin script. In 1939, P. Gaetino da Thiene, a Catholic priest also wrote a dictionary of Oromo language in the Latin script. Between 1948 and 1953, Sheikh Bakeri developed a new script. All of these significantly contributed to the search for Qubee.

The final breakthrough in the search for script for the Oromo language came towards the middle of 1960s and the beginning of 1970s, with a phonetic study of the Oromo language made by Dr. Haile Fida, a brilliant Oromo scholar. Out of this study was produced an Oromo grammar book in Latin alphabet entitled, “Hirmaatadubbii Afaan Oromoo” in 1973. with Qubee and Oromo language grammatical rules such as long and short vowels - a single consonant for soft or double consonants for emphasis or stress of word – and more rules were published in Qubee and Afaan Oromoo. “Hirmaatadubbii Afaan Oromoo” was republished in 1979. This is the first systematically presented grammar book in Afaan Oromoo or Oromiffaa, written by an Oromo individual using Qubee.

This phase of Qubee in its context and use drew upon political implication. This is the Qubee known to us today. Later in 1970s, the OLF adopted it as Oromo alphabet. It was this Qubee that fundamentally changed the way the Oromo look at their own language. For the first time, Oromiffaa was transformed from a spoken language to a written language. Ever since, it has become as an instrument of struggle in the Oromo’s quest for independence. As the OLF entered Finfinee in 1991 and Obboo Ibsaa Guutamaa became Minister of Education for Transitional Government from 1991 to 1992, the implementation and its practical application officially began. Obboo Ibsaa Guutamaa single-handedly, as Minister of Education, made Qubee to reach every Oromo schools in every corners of Oromiyaa as official alphabet of teaching and work. That is, millions of teaching books were published and millions of Oromo children were taught in it. Indeed, Qubee brought the irreversible conflict between Ethiopia and Oromiyaa. It may sound clichéd, but the plain truth is Qubee would not have been possible as a living Qubee today without the work of Dr. Haile Fida and its adaptation by the OLF and without Obboo Ibsaa Guutama becoming Minister of education to implement it in that shortest period of time.

In the development of Qubee, in 1982, Gene B. Gragg and Tarfa Kumsa, published Oromo Dictionary. Dr. Tilahun Gamta published Oromo-English Dictionary (1989) and Comprehensive Oromo-English Dictionary (2004), among many of his previous others writings. Dr. Tilahun Gamta is the most recognized prominent Oromo scholar and educator who pushed Qubee to its height not only as instrument of instruction, but also as instrument of political struggle. When the Oromos talk about Qubee, Dr. Tilahun Gamta comes to every Oromo’s mind. He stands the tallest among his peers. Because of his commitment and persistent and tireless work and campaign, Qubee is now what it is today. And Obboo Ahimad Muudee published English-Oromo Dictionary (1995). Obboo Abiyyuu Galataa published Galma Afaan Oromoo (1996). Obboo Ibsaa Guutamaa published Special Oromo Dictionary (2004). For this, the Oromo are grateful and indebted to the late Dr. Haile Fida, Obboo Ibsaa Guutamaa, Dr. Tilahun Gamta and Obboo Ahimad Muddee and Obboo Abiyyuu Galataa for their uniquely special contribution to the growth and development of Qubee and its practical implementation in making it a living Qubee. They are rightly the founding fathers of Qubee Oromo. Their works enabled the birth of the “Qubee generation” as we know it today. It is from the above historical development of Qubee that the Qubee Generation was born.

The Qubee Generation

Understanding what is meant by the “Qubee generation” is not complex. Simply, the “Qubee Generation” is a new generation in the Oromo struggle that has came into being since 1991 with the adaptation of Qubee, a Latin alphabet, as Oromo’s writing script and thereafter. By Qubee Generation we mean the Oromo youth generation that have been born and grew since 1991 with the idea of struggle for the liberation, independence and sovereignty of Oromiyaa and a generation that has been taught in Qubee, in the Oromo school system. It is a generation that is not adulterated with Ethiopian political outlook. It is a generation that is not hostage to Ethiopian colonial empire’s policy of Oromo divide and rule. In that sense, it is a new generation that refused to accept Ethiopia, Ethiopianism, and Ethiopia’s institutions, its laws and constitution. The Qubee Generation is a new generation that sees Oromiyaa and its people with Oromo eyes; a generation that believes in truth and justice of the Oromo cause. It is a generation that has unbounded faith in the independence of Oromiyaa as those Oromo nationalists who had paid the ultimate price in lives in the struggle for the liberation of Oromiyaa and as those who are still in this struggle despite the obstacles posed by the alliance of internal and external enemy forces.

First and foremost, this generation is different from its predecessor generation, the generation of the Darg era. Their difference is fundamentally profound. The Darg era generation was raised as Ethiopians; taught as Ethiopians in Abyssinian political outlook and prepared for Ethiopia. In this way, to make them loyal to the empire, Darg had imprinted a political servitude on the characters of its era generation. It is for this reason, the Darg era Oromo generation has irretrievably failed to distinguish and understand the difference between democratization of Ethiopia and the independence of Oromiyaa.

As political difference sprouted within the OLF between pro independence of Oromiyaa and pro Ethiopian democratization faction, the Darg era generation overwhelmingly took side in favor of pro Ethiopian democratization. And so the Darg era generation supported Shanee [the Asmara Group], the pro Ethiopian democratization faction and went along with it and its political platform against the platform of the independence of Oromiyaa. Oromo nationalism or patriotism has not deeply ingrained in this Darg era Oromo generation; whereas it has irrevocably penetrated and instilled in the minds of the Qubee generation. This Qubee generation is raised as Oromo, taught as Oromo and prepared for Oromiyaa. This generation is raised in the spirit of struggle for independence of Oromiyaa and of its ‘bilisummaa’ whereas the Darg era generation were raised in the spirit of Ethiopian unity. It is for this the Qubee generation has been called the future of Oromiyaa and its people.

To reiterate what have been said above, despite the loyalty of capitulationists to Ethiopia, the Oromo are not loyal to Ethiopia; they have never been; they will never be. Their sacred loyalty is to Oromiyaa, their own country. The Abyssinians perfectly know this. It is by knowing this truth the successive Ethiopian empire rulers and their supporters coined a phrase that says, “Gaallaan maaman kamootee bichaa naw” which literally means to trust Oromo is only after his/her death. Later on, as time went by, they realized the political implication of this phrase and so they rephrased it as “sawuun maaman kamootee bichaa naw”, which means to trust a man is onlyafter his death. Since the last century to date, this has been Abyssinians’ long-standing policy towards Oromo. The Abyssinians believe that the Oromo are the threat to Ethiopian empire, the empire they build. That is rightly so.

In Abyssinian political view, even the most loyalist Oromo, as loyalist as Goobana Daacee and Habte Giorgis Qusees Dinagdee were considered as an eventual threat. For this, the Abyssinians see Oromo with skepticism and suspicion. It was because of this, Goobana Daacee, the man who helped Abyssinia to colonize his own country and Fit Habte Giorgis Dinagdee, the man who skillfully helped Menelik to rule the newly created empire were eventually poisoned to death. Throughout the history of this empire, all Oromo nationals who had made alliance with Abyssinians and served them and their empire with distinction and in good faith were dishonored, and discarded, and finally murdered. And if history is any guide, the new collaborators too will face the same destiny, the same fate that their predecessors like Gobanaa Daaccee and the rest had faced.


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