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Asafe Jalata

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The Emergence of Oromo Nationalism and Ethiopian Reaction

Asafe Jalata’s article forwards our understanding of the very complicated situation in the Horn of Africa. It describes the Oromo national movement’s independence struggle within the historic, multi-ethnic Ethiopian nation-state that was constituted along colonial lines in the middle of the 20th century. That empire came under challenge by the Oromo, the Tigrayans, and the Eritreans. Though constituting the numerical majority, the Oromo were subordinated as the political minority within Ethiopia. The removal of the monarchy in the early 1970s and later its army in the 1990s destroyed the ruling Amhara political base. With the demise of the Ethiopian military regime in 1991 and the emergence of the new Tigrayan government, the Oromo Liberation Front became a coalition partner and opposition force for almost a year. In the process, the Amhara lost both their freedom and Eritrea, which gained independence in 1991, after 30 years of war against a Soviet-backed Ethiopian army. (The transitional government has now set up a tribunal ostensibly under the Nuremberg Convention-to try members of the country’s former Marxist military regime, including former President Mengistu Haile Mariam, on genocide and murder charges. Defendants face the death penalty if convicted.) The article details the emergence of the Oromo national movement, the collective grievances of the Oromo people, and the social forces involved in the Ethiopian empire. It describes the intellectuals who came to the fore as the leaders and proponents of Oromo nationalism, the strata who had collaborated with former Ethiopian ethnonational elites, the role of farmers and peasants in inculcating the Oromo’s democratic tradition, and the intricate process involved in the construction of peoplehood.

Ethiopia; nationalism; ethnic group relations; colonialism and colonization; liberation movements

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 22, No. 3 (1995): 165-189

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