Palais de Ménélik, Addis-Ababa, vers 1900
Palais de Ménélik, Addis-Ababa, vers 1900

For keen observers of the current Ethiopian politics, especially the writings, media interviews, and social media comments and posts by Oromo elites and activists, one topic has kept receiving a steady focus more than others: The role of Emperor Menelik II in the formation of the modern Ethiopian State and how largely negative and bad the emperor’s legacy is, especially for the Oromo people. In this piece, I sketch some major episodes in the Oromo Protest during the last one year to highlight the point that an attack on Menelik II and his legacy is not an isolated incident in the Oromo movement according to the Oromo elites; it is rather an integral part of it. One of my goals in this piece is to show why an attack on Menelik II is an integral part of the whole Oromo project according to the Oromo elites and activists. I submit that the dispute, claims and contentions about the meaning and significance of the Battle of Adwa[1], issues involving Addis Ababa from the Oromo elites and activists are also extensions or corollaries of the attack on Menelik II and his legacy. Also, the debate on whether there is an Ethiopian national identity, Ethiopiawinet, is an extension of the attack on Menelik II and his legacy. For the preceding reasons, I take it that to understand the significance of the attack on Menelik II is essential to a proper understanding of the project of the Oromo movement including a need to produce the Oromo Freedom Charter.

What Has Happened to the Immediate Causes for the Oromo Protest?

A year or so ago, the Oromo Protest began with the legitimate demands of the Oromos who suffered injustice under the current Ethiopian government. The injustice the Oromos have suffered under the current regime are part and parcel of the injustice the Ethiopian people have suffered under the regime in power for the last 25 years. We all know that the Oromo people in Oromia regional state have been mercilessly subjected to all sorts of mistreatment because they demanded the government to stop the ever-expanding land grab, to stop human rights violations, to allow peaceful protest to express their grievances,   to stop marginalizing the Oromos from the political space in Ethiopia, etc. However, in light of what has recently become the frequent topics of debate by the Oromo elites and activists, it looks like we are almost at a point when we need a reminder what triggered or started the Oromo Protest a year ago. The last several months the issues raised as part of the Oromo Protest are no longer what had triggered the Oromo Protest a year or so ago. The truth is that the Oromos who were initially protesting against the Master Plan, or the land grab in the Oromia Region, were not protesting against Menelik II and his legacy at that point, or even until now. If the regime in power did not engage in land grab and other unjust treatments of the Oromos, like the rest of Ethiopians, would the Oromo Protest have started as a protest against the bad legacy of Menelik II as we have been hearing lately? From the perspective of the protesters on the ground, based on the available evidence, the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” Imagine starting a protest against Menelik II’s legacy calling it as such and asking the regime in power to meet the demand. That would be a bewildering demand for the government. An important and inevitable question now is this: Why did those Oromos who have paid ultimate prices with their lives and those who have suffered life-altering injuries and imprisoned and tortured have paid all these prices? There is a need for a clear answer to the loved ones for the deceased and to those who will continue to be part of the Oromo Protest. The Oromo elites need to offer a clear answer without mixing the reason why the Oromos on the ground were protesting and their frequent and increasingly growing project of revisiting and reinterpreting Ethiopian history by way of attacking the legacy of Menelik II.

It is one of the purposes of this piece to seek a clear answer to the question: What is the ultimate goal of the Oromo Protest? Now we all know that the Oromo Protest has rapidly evolved into what it is now: a deconstruction of Ethiopian history, Ethiopian national identity, calling into question the meaning and significance of the Battle of Adwa.[2] Now it is absolutely crucial to understand the nature and the scope of the Oromo Protest or movement at this current stage. The answer the Oromo elites are presenting has frequently and increasingly comes in the form of engaging the issue of state formation in Ethiopia and with a claim that the Oromo nation has been colonized by the Abyssinia or the Ethiopian empire. 

Menelik II: The Colonizer?

According to some Oromo elites, the answer to the question whether Menelik II was a colonizer is a resounding, “yes.”[3] In his response to my article on the Oromo National Charter[4], Prof. Ezekiel Gabissa writes, “The question of internal colonialism has been a subject of academic debates since the mid-1980s. In Ethiopian studies, the pertinent themes were outlined and discussed in several essays in The Southern Marches of Imperial Ethiopia edited Donald Donham first published in 1986. The eminent sociologist Donald Levine describes the two sides as the “colonialist narrative” and the “nationalist narrative.”  These means the debate has ended in interpretive disagreement.  A generation of students in Oromia and other regions have [sic] up grown up learning the “colonialist narrative” version over the objections of the advocates of the “nationalist narrative.” This is a settled issue to need any explanation.”[5] From Prof. Ezekiel’s point of view, the debate whether the Oromos were colonized does not need further explanation. I disagree. We are not dealing with a mathematical or logical proof to suggest that historical disputes can be settled without a need for further explanation. At any rate, it is not the purpose of this article to engage in the debate whether Menelik II was a colonizer and whether the present regional state, Oromia, was once an independent nation which came under a colonial empire led by Menelik II.

In my view, to call the modern state formation in Ethiopia a case of colonialism seems to normalize and trivialize the European colonialism of Africa. This does not mean that one has to deny any injustice committed against any ethnic group in the present day Ethiopia in the process of state formation of modern Ethiopia. How we address the issue of injustice that took place under the modern state formation in Ethiopia need not be framed as an issue of colonialism. If it is framed as such, then the European colonialism of Africa and the state formation in Ethiopia would be considered the same phenomenon. Plus, even more surprisingly all non-democratic state formations in the history of the world would count as cases of colonialism, but that is too broad for a notion of “colonialism” to be of use to address issues that are rooted in the historical context of Ethiopia.  Having said this, I submit that the Oromo elites see a need to portray the modern state formation in Ethiopia as a case of internal colonialism because without this view a case to reclaim an independent nation, i.e., Oromia as a sovereign state, can hardly be realized. In other words, the colonial thesis in the modern state formation of Ethiopia is a necessary thesis for the Oromo elites. If a nation is colonized, the logical thing to do is to seek its independence as this has been the case for African countries. On what basis would the Oromo elites argue that they are not seeking an independent Oromia as a sovereign nation if they insist that Oromia has been colonized be the Abyssinian/Ethiopian Empire? The claim of colonialism suggests that what the Oromo elites are seeking is an independent Oromia despite the apparent denial by some of the Oromo elites.  Hence, for Oromo elites, Menelik II must be portrayed as a colonizer for one clear purpose: to seek an independent, sovereign nation, Oromia. Absent the colonial thesis, to seek an independent Oromia as a sovereign nation would be moot. Conversely, insist on a colonial thesis so that seeking an establishment or a rebirth of the Oromo nationhood becomes a legitimate issue; “legitimate, at least in the eyes of the Oromo elites. In my view, the Oromo elites need to come out and make their intentions clear to the Oromos who have been dying on the ground and to the rest of the Ethiopian people if seeking an establishment of Oromia as an independent nation is not their ultimate goal given their commitment of the colonial thesis. They also need to say why they need a colonial thesis if they are just seeking a just and peaceful and  democratic Ethiopian in which the Oromos will be a part of the rest of Ethiopians building Ethiopia going forward, definitely without the regime in power continuing to rule and ruin Ethiopia.

Independent, Sovereign Oromia

Why should anyone argue for the preceding view, i.e., Oromo elites are working to regain the independence of Oromia as a sovereign nation? Here are a few more reasons:

First, think for a moment how and why the recent “Oromos-only* conventions have been organized and what the focus of the Conventions in London and Atlanta was. Why Oromos-only? This question has a straightforward answer, though unconvincing: Because these conventions were designed to deliberate and discuss the issues that affect the Oromo people in Oromia. This straightforward answer is premised on the idea that the issues that affect the Oromos in Ethiopia are somehow unique and hence the need to address them by the Oromos-only first and foremost. But this premise is false. The issues that affect the Oromo people in the current Ethiopia are widely shared with the people of Ethiopia under the same authoritarian government. The Ethiopian authoritarian government jails, kills, harasses people from any ethnic group as long as their dissent threatens the safety of the regime in power. No one needs to dispute the fact that the Oromos and the Amharas are mistreated by the regime with greater frequency because the regime feels threatened   due to historical relations with the Amharas and the regime’s conception of the OLF as a threat to disintegrate the country. Returning to our point, for the Oromo elites and activists to exclusively focus on issues that affect the Oromos and everyone else in Ethiopia only by the Oromos alone is more plausibly in line with the claim I made above. That is, the desire of the Oromo elites is to exclusively organize the Oromos to address the issues that affect the Oromos, despite the fact that the issues that affect the Oromos are shared with millions of other Ethiopians. In my view, the best available explanation for this strategic move by the Oromo elites is this: Once the Oromo movement arrives at a stage when it appears feasible to seek independence for Oromia, all the things the Oromo elites have been doing in the meantime will be presented as evidence that the Oromos have arrived there by the efforts of the Oromos alone and no other group can have a say on the fate of Oromia. If this is not the best available explanation, how would the Oromo elites explain what they have been doing remains to be seen.

Second, there has been a discussion recently on whether there is a shared national identity for Ethiopians which some Oromo elites deny that there is such a shared national identity.  It is not the purpose of this article to engage in the debate whether there is a shared national identity for Ethiopians, which is a worthwhile topic that deserves a serious engagement elsewhere. My present interest is to make the following point: According to some Oromo elites, the Oromo identity that predates Menelik’s colonial conquest was the true Oromo identity and hence it needs to be restored, or regained, or reaffirmed for Oromos to be truly Oromos. In order to do that the Oromo identity must be distinguished from an imposed Ethiopian identity on the Oromos by the Abyssinian Empire. One can easily see that an attack on Menelik’s legacy crucially includes an attack on Ethiopian identity since an imposed Ethiopian identity on the Oromos is a direct consequence of Menelik’s colonialism, according to this reasoning. Hence, an Oromo identity without an imposed Ethiopian identity will reemerge as an Oromo identity only in an independent Oromia. This is a clear motivation why some Oromo elites engage in the debate on Ethiopian identity only to deny it. If this is not the reason why the Oromo elites want to deny Ethiopian identity as a shared national identity, what else motivates such a debate about Ethiopian identity? If all other ethnic groups and nationalities incorporated in the modern Ethiopia by Menelik’s southern expansion were to follow suit and deny a shared Ethiopian identity that would bring about a disintegration in an Ethiopian national identity, which amounts to a disintegration of Ethiopia as we know it. But is there a rationale to follow this reasoning following the Oromo elites lead? Apparently, the Oromo elites would answer this question in the affirmative since it would support their goal, the independence of Oromia that is free from a shared national identity with the rest of other nationalities in the present day Ethiopia. Think for a moment, once again, all the exclusions of other ethnic groups in most of the Oromo issues as the elite Oromos and activists have been doing. This almost complete disregard to other ethnic groups in Ethiopia is perfectly consistent with the claim I have been making so far that the desire for the Oromo elites is the independence of Oromia first and foremost without explicitly saying so despite the evidence that supports such a conclusion. I leave to the readers to develop the case of Addis Ababa and how some Oromo elites frame the issues involving Addis Ababa. I submit that it is another extension of an attack on the legacy of Menelik II.


Given the evidence that is available for any keen observer of current Ethiopian politics, I have argued that the best available explanation that unifies the Oromo movement according to the Oromo elites and activists is ultimately seeking the independence of Oromia as a sovereign nation. Short of this goal, it is deeply implausible to interpret all the evidence regarding the activities of the Oromo elites with another goal as the ultimate goal for the Oromo movement. Note that I did not claim that the Oromo people on the ground who have been killed, jailed and tortured have as their goal an independent Oromia as a sovereign state. Some might have such a desire or aspiration, but the evidence does not suggest that is why they have been protesting for a year or so. We all know what the demands were and the injustice the Oromos have been protesting against for which they have paid prices including the lives of many, in hundreds, if not in thousands just in one year alone. In my view, consistent with the argument above, the Oromo elites are working to put together a coherent idea that would serve as the cause worth dying for the Oromo people, but without the Oromo people expressing that the ultimate goal they want to achieve is an independent, sovereign Oromia. If my claims so far are correct, which I think are correct given the evidence, the Oromo elites and activists need to make clear the ultimate goal of the Oromo movement so that people who face the brutal government need to have a clear goal for which they are paying a price including their lives. One of the chief motivations for my decision to write this piece is observing and reflecting on  an apparent mismatch between the actual reasons the Oromos on the ground have been paying prices including their lives, and what the Oromo elites and activists offer as the main goal of the Oromo movement in the last one year. If the Oromo elites speak for the actual Oromo people on the ground, it is a responsible thing to be on the same page with the people on the ground at least on being clear why the people on the ground are paying prices for.

Finally, it must be noted that I did not claim that the Oromo elites and activists are totally detached from the movement of the Oromo people on the ground. Absolutely not!  My main claim is that as opinion makers and shapers, the Oromo elites have as an ultimate goal for the Oromo movement the independence of Oromia as a sovereign nation without explicitly saying so for a political backlash such a view would bring about. This claim is based on the evidence presented above. It is for the Oromo elites to show that either they accept the claim I have argued for or they reject it or they show another more plausible explanation of the evidence on which my argument is based. If they accept it, that is an important clarification for the Oromo people as a whole and for the other peoples of Ethiopia. If they reject my claim, then it is also important for them to show where the mistake is. That would also add clarity to the ultimate goal of the Oromo movement. Now the most important question is: What is the official, ultimate goal of the Oromo movement according to the Oromo elites, if it is different from what I argued for above, i.e. seeking an establishment of Oromia as an independent, sovereign nation?

*Tedla Woldeyohannes teaches philosophy at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and he can be reached at

[1] For my response to a claim that  Menelik claimed that he was a Caucasian and the consequent trivializing of the significance of Adwa see,
[2] For an article that calls into question the role of Adwa in modern Ethiopian history see, Hassen Hussein and Mohammed Ademo,
[3] See Asefa Jalata and Hardwood Schaffer:
[5] See here,

16 thoughts on “What is the Ultimate Goal of the Oromo Movement? By Tedla Woldeyohannes (PhD)

  1. Desperation of the Amhara tribe is getting high. What is your intention? What are you thinking oromo ? Kkk they are in total disarray these days. Keep them guessing folks. If you visit their website it is all about oromo. The last one year you have fought hard and that have unsettled the habasha duopolies. Keep the pressure on! It will pay off soon. And please write a good response to this guy. Where is professor Rundassa? Please write a response and tell him to buzz off!

  2. Wolteyohannes, Tedela,

    Yes, Menelik was colonizer of Oromia. Other parts of your article is poorly stated and don\t deserve argument from my side

  3. Mr Tedla,

    We Oromians don’t seek your permission or approval – to accomplish whatever we are aiming to do. Hence, what ever Oromians are aiming to do is none of your business. Shut up and mind your own business.

  4. The ultimate goal is clear.
    To regain or reclaim what was taken away from us under centuries of Abyssinian empire .
    Such as language, culture , self-rule , ownership of our resources , and bring freedom to oromo people to freely vote whether to live with Ethiopia or to form republic if oromia. I know Tedila said that he doesn’t think the oromo people don’t want to form republic if oromia.well we don’t have to argue about that now,let the oromo people decide by their vote let us not assume.
    He also talked about His Lord (Menilk) legacy. It is only the Oromo people who can ‘tell/describe ‘ The pain and sufferings that Menilk has inflicted on Oromo people ‘. One should realize that pain is ‘subjective ‘. This writter is trying to invalidate the pain that the subjects (the oromo s) are complaining for centuries. This is exactly what TPLF , the continuation of Ethiopian empire is doing. Instead of listening to our voice , and concern it is trying to invalidate and silence by force.It is easy to put a finger in someone’s wound. Brother, please leave us alone , when ever you talk about that guy, I hate to call his name (Menilk), at least over 40 millions of oromo people are in nightmare. The more you talk about him, the more the wound he has brought to us getting worsening . For you it is legacy, but for us it is an insult. That is why , we don’t think we can live with Abyssinia mongers , who wants to bring that nightmare empire back. The writer is purposely denying the Ultimate goal of the oromo movement. For a person like him who embrace Menilk’s rule, hard to swallow the oromo case. Therefore, just let us deal with our issue and you go ahead celebrate the legacy of your Lord (Menelik).
    This writter is very biased. The reason being is that why he is only concerned about oromos organized by the name oromo. There are organizations by the name of Amahara. Why are they Organized ? It is for the same reason oromos and others are organized. Why the Amahara is protesting to reclaim or regain Wolkait? If the Wolqait claim by Amahar is valid , which I think is absolutely valid, why not oromos claim of Finfinnee can’t be valid ? Is it sin Reclaimingthe the taken away of our language and culture from us.

  5. The question of Oromia was debated over and over in 1935-40.which paved for the ways to declare independence of Oromia and petitioned British consulate to recognize Republic of Oromia.
    Again in from 1955 60 the debates went on between Ethiopians themselves and the Oromians in one hands and resulted the birh of macha Tulama and finally finally to to organizing the Oromo for arm struggle led by olf.
    There is no country called occupation of another country moderniasation except The Habasha elites attempting to play wrong cards at a wrong place.
    British did not call occupation of france Modernisation or unification,Britiush did not call occupation of ireland dublin Modernization of uk,nor France call occupation of all countries white or black Africans fell under France rule Modernizations.
    so ,where so called phd holders bring such malecious terms to to deceive themselves and others igf possible.
    The fact all the ethiopian history book during Haile Sillasie did a have a map separates oromia as Galla lands including walo province from Abyssinian kingdom.its dergue who appolished those books because it contaned pictures of Halie sillasie as man brbrought Eritrea into Ethiopia.
    No activists ,no groups or individuals able to reverse the on going struggle for self determination and no debates needed at this time as all what Mr Tadele asking to know where debated on it in 1930s and have been debated over and over by Habasha n from 1957-70s.
    Therefore we have no time to educated every generations of self deceived and keep on deceiving themselves as i emphasized above. by calling occupation Modernisation.

  6. jara Habashaa kana kan ofii of goowwomsan nu goowomsuu akka hin dandeenye itti himu qabna.
    Japan yeroo china bulchite kolonii jedhame moo Modernization jedhame,?japan korea bulchuu turte,gabroomfattuu jedhamte moo modernization jedhamye,akkasumaas adii bay’ee adii bulche kolonii jedhaman modernisation fi tokkomsa wanni jedhame hin jiru.
    gabroomsuu dhaan modernisation jechuun of gowwomsuu isaaniiti.jara ofii isaanii humaa hin beeknkan proxy wars europaaaf geggeessan ummata keenya irratti maqaa akkas jedhu sana of moggaasuun illeen yekka seenaati.

  7. The most primitive people were chosen in proxy wars by European colonialists to destroy civilizations like Gada system of governance which modern democratic system only practiced by United states of America to day that is 8 years of rule by individual won an election or elections.
    Habasha occupied Oromia during inhuman proxy wars sponsored by European conquests and having destroyed civilization,culture and identity they want call such invasions and occupations Modernization instead of repenting for he breast cuttings of women,genocides and ass massacre they continued till the present day.
    Therefore let Mr.Tedele firs repent and delare that Minilk have commited crimes aginst humanity by cutting breasts of women and killing more than 10 million people .5 million in arsi ,2 million in Garba gurracha ,Shewa,millions i other places like gullallein Finfinne now knwn as adis ababa.then we we may discuss with hi on how to bring solutions to the on going crises urgently need olvng 0Osmia’s national questions

  8. The children of the garrison towns are running around to psychologically disarm Oromos. Some of the extremist idiots even reduced the number of Oromos to 3 million. The true Amahra nationalists are the Amaras who reside in Gonder, Gojam, etc., who are fighting the TPLF regime tooth and nail. Tedla likes are dreamers of yesteryear, who want to control and dominate the conquered people of Ethiopia. They pretend but they don’t have an iota of concern for the innocent Oromos being killed by the TPLF regime.

  9. This man was from wolayita. He was graduated from pentecostal college by BA degree in religion.from bible college not recognised by Ethiopian higher education. Ethiopian government gave him an opportunity for PHD because of his loyalty. So he didn’t pass through from recognised institution in Ethiopia. HIS BA degree is from bible Ethiopia check his profile.
    DR Larebo was also sacked from US university because of his in ability. Check Google..He appealed to court. The court ruled in favour of university. They didn’t have a moral to tell history for oromo.

  10. Dabtaroota surriin furrii
    Oromoon itti mare hurrii
    bara Minilik duude gurrii.
    The so called Abssynologists or debterologists try to tell us in the day light their myth as history. well myth cannot be history but you can entertain yourself and satisfy your chauvinistic ego.Most of Abyssinian elites are systematically working against the will of the people to keep and maintain Abyssynians domination at any cost.look how educated or un educated Abyssinians read each other in confronting us.when they are beating their drums all over mega cities of the world no Oromo talked why they excluded Oromo.They mind their own business,lets we mind our own affairs;in the name of accademics how many debterlogists are trying to divert and provoke Oromos from their intended 1950th they claimed Somalia to block their indepedence,but in vain, Republic of Somalia established.30 years of bloody war with Eriterea could not taught them a lesson.they want same history class from Oromians.if they keep shouting for immye Minlik as usual,the time is striking the last minute.we dont care about the Weyanes and their Abyssinians surrogates weeping and yell again and again.yes anything good about Oromo will not give them sleep.let them speculate and provoke in vain.

  11. Tedla is another Woyane’s underground agent who is trying to put a wadge between Amharas and Oromos in order to weaken the potetial threat to Woyane.
    The megalomaniac Woyane doesn’t hesitate to spend millions of Dollars to infiltrate and divide peoples. All Ethiopoians, particularly the two major groups Oromos and Amharas must be aware and alert for Woyane’s lie and tricks, instead of jumping each others to instigate.

  12. The Meles Zenawi’s corrupt government system was full of government errors. Hailemariam Desalegn admitted Meles Zenawi’s time system costed millions go to waste that was invested by farm development investors and millions of people exiled the country while countless lives was lost by famine the ancestoral land owners suffered while it only benefited the TPLFites government workers Meles Zenawi’s close family memebers who are investing billions of dollars in offshore accounts worldwide.

    Over one hundred investors who leased huge tracts of land in Oromia , Ethiopia, have vented their anger at a government minister after their land, on which they said had invested in millions, had been repossessed by the government.

    The 2997 businessmen farmers and businesswomen farmers , who had a notification from the Minister D’etat for agriculture, told the official that they have lost in millions of dollars after the government repossessed their land saying the plots were leased to them “by error.”

    The investors who took land six times the size of the capital Addis Ababa in Oromia were told by the federal government to leave Oromia after they spent millions of dollars towards their project.

    The Development Bank of Ethiopia meanwhile said it had lost in millions expected to be in billions following the measure by the government to repossess the investment land.

    There has also been allegations of taking multiple loans on a single plot from the Development Bank, which said had lost in billions.
    Agricultural investors that took loans in billiions for agricultural lands in Oromia had reportedly left the country without paying the Bank.

  13. The hidden agenda of this paper 1. To create discourse among Oromos in Oromiya and the Ormo elite. 2. To deny Oromos their rightful space in human history; 3. To cover up the authors belief that a 100 years old country name should overshadow the name of a nation 4000 years old, 4. To claim to the powers to-be that the desire of Oromos is against the wishes of the powers

    All this is same o-same o Habasha gimmick to keep the status quo. By the way, have you ever put yourself in the shoes of the tortured Oromos? Mr. author, you keep creating non-applicable and illogical scenario only to present your out of context arguments. You are not fooling anybody.
    Looking at the above comments on your scenario created for your arguments, you just succeeded in opening a Pandora box about yourself.
    As the Habasha say, ” ye ibd bale muwal dingay yaqabilal”.

  14. ssocation with them all times.Because Amhara elites some are former tplf and some are ex dengue commuted crimes against humanity.
    Birhanu Nega ,Jawar Mohamed of Ethsat and others donot represent Amhara people.So untill Amhara form their own organisation and able to sit down with others to discuss we donot want to associate with so called ethio derejet founded by TPLF to confuse the Amharas.

  15. we donot want to associate with Amhara organisations at these time,because non of them represent the interest of Amhara masses .
    some are ex dergue and tplf members like Birhanu Nega and so many.

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