Free My People

Oromia. Ever heard of it? Probably not, and this is what has me upset. Oromia is a region in Ethiopia that has Oromos, my ethnic group, the largest ethnic group in the country. For over 150 years, there have been constant genocides in the country, but no one has talked about it. However, there is a likely chance that you’ve heard about the Tigray war than the Oromo genocides. If you don’t know already, there is conflict between TPLF (Tigray’s People’s Liberation Front) and the corrupt Ethiopian government. However,  these events occurred very recently and received  a lot of media attention from International sources like CNN. While blood is being shed in my ethnic group, other regions are getting media attention, and support from other countries. This just goes to show how corrupt this Ethiopian government is. Government officials are constantly saying that they want Ethiopia to be one, but continue to execute and silence my people. This has been a problem before Haile Selassie’s, the last emperor of Ethiopia, time. He, too, silenced my people by making Amharic the only language spoken in the country. Those who spoke any other language, especially Oromiffa, were later labeled as someone who was against the government and executed. There have been more than 150 years of my people being burned alive, executed, and silenced. 

I never really knew what a heartbreak was until Hachalu Hundessa died. Hachalu Hundessa was an Oromo political activist and singer. Growing up, I always heard about Haccee being the “greatest of all time.” He was so great that even my mom went to one of his parties with the rest of the Chicago Oromo community. My favorite song from him has got to be “Masaan Gamaa” because that song talked about the struggles of my people. One of his famous lyrics in that song is “Alagaan alaguuma maaltu algaadhan fire jedhee” which translates to “A foreigner will always be a foreigner, so who would call them family?” In this lyric, the Ethiopian government and their supporters are the foreigners. The word foreigner does not hold the same meaning in this song as the English definition. In my culture, we are very welcoming to even those that we do not know. However, a foreigner in Oromiffa means someone who is not related and does not want anything to do with you. So, basically a hater. However, it wasn’t until his death that I finally understood the meaning behind his lyrics. His music varied from the struggles of Oromos to traditional love songs. During his late teenage years, he was locked up for taking part in protests that were against the government. He was able to compose lots of music during his 5 years in jail about how unprincipled the Ethiopian government was as well as love songs. Once he was released, he continued to unite his people and bring them up through his music. A week before his assassination, he was called for an interview and he held back no words. He felt that the government was dishonorable and untrustworthy. After he was killed, the government put no effort into the investigation and constantly came up with excuses to cover up what happened because only they truly knew what happened. There have been many theories that they paid someone to set everything up to lure him to his fate. Haachaalu was a father, a wife, and a son. His death truly hurt me as well as the Oromo community. Our whole family decided to wear black the whole week to show our sadness. Every time I hear his voice, I always question myself “Wow, so he really is gone?” Even after all the chaos, anger, confusion they caused me and my people, the Ethiopian government continued to keep the media out and not give us the answers we needed.  

So, here I am. I’m not asking much from you but , I am tired of being labeled as an Ethiopian because I know this is not what my people fought for. My people want to be free from these foreigners. I want to bring this to light, so the allies and oppositions of Ethiopia can see what they’re doing to their own people because Ethiopia is “one”, right? Hopefully one day this blog reaches the Model UN, so they can understand the support we need. These “Ethiopians” have caused so much suffering for my people that it keeps me up crying at night. I have family members back home that are always talking about how scared they are everyday and that they’re scared to claim their “Oromummaa”, their Oromo-ness. They’re scared to claim their identity because they’re scared to end up like Hachalu and the many others that had silenced executions. So, why am I writing about such a disturbing topic like this? Well, you probably didn’t know about this disturbing topic before I told you and that’s the problem. I know that my writing alone won’t give Oromia the world wide attention it deserves, but I do know that this is a start. Whether I present this to my classmates or friends, I am bringing it to light for my community. This is the only solution I know, so all I’m asking of you right now  is to just listen. 

Dureti Irkiso

Walter Payton College Prep – DMSF Class of 2026

Photo on Adobe Stock by Hiren Ranpara