National Workshop to Establish Oromo Intellectuals’ Union Conducted

 

A national workshop to deliberate on the proposal to establish Oromo Intellectuals’ Union was conducted at Haramaya University on June 29, 2019.

A brief introduction of the workshop and a welcoming speech was made by Dr. Feyera Dinsa, member and secretary of the committee that prepared a draft proposal to establish the union. In his welcoming speech, Dr. Feyera briefly explained the historical trajectory of the Oromo people in the last one hundred and fifty years focusing on the ups and downs in the struggle of the Oromo People for equality, liberty, freedom, fraternity, democracy, and etc. He particularly emphasized the fact that the Oromo nation has suffered from lack of unity because of internal and external factors.

Dr. Feyera reiterated that this lack of unity as a nation has prolonged the chance of attaining sound victories in the political, social, economic, cultural, and technological spheres. He further pointed out that though the current situation of the Oromo is changing for the better, still a lot remains to be done to settle the core problems of the Oromo nation. He said, this calls for a concerted effort of all Oromo individuals, groups, and all friends of the Oromo, particularly, intellectuals, to professionally and strategically sort out and address these problems. Dr. Feyera stressed that this initiated the idea of establishing Oromo Intellectuals’ Union as a body to spearhead the mission to create a dynamic and vibrant society that is able to secure its proper space in this competitive world.

The workshop was inaugurated with the opening speech made by Prof. Nigussie Dechassa, Vice-president for Academic Affairs. Prof. Nigussie raised the critical nature of human capital, particularly intellectual capital, in the development of a nation. He mentioned the case of Japan, Singapore, and Germany in which those countries utilize their intellectual resources in changing their fate in the world despite the critical scarcity of natural resources. Prof. Nigussie, therefore, emphasized the paradoxical nature of our country, particularly the Oromia National Regional State, which has been suffering for centuries from poverty and backwardness in the presence of abundant natural and human resources. He also mentioned that though the condition of the country has never been suitable for intellectuals’ full participation in the affairs of the country, intellectuals’ passivity in taking collective action has downplayed their contributions towards the development of their country. As a result, Prof. Nigussie stressed that the establishment of the Union is of paramount importance in creating collective social force that can break with tradition and bring on board intellectuals of different backgrounds for collective action to promote the cause of change and transformation in the Oromo nation and beyond.

The draft proposal to establish the union was presented by the chairperson of the drafting committee, Dr. Gutema Imana, focusing on the rationale to establish the union, its goals, objectives, core thematic areas, core activities, and administrative structure and membership requirements. In his presentation, Dr. Gutema indicated that Oromo Intellectuals’ Union (OIU) is proposed to be established as a non-partisan organization with a prime purpose of contributing to the overall transformation and advancement of the social, political, economic, cultural, technological, and environmental aspects of the Oromo society in the effort to realize an all-inclusive, democratic and peaceful Ethiopia. He further indicated that OIU is envisaged to be established with the aim to stir up the ongoing positive changes in the country so that the course of changes will continue on the right track. The union will strongly and energetically support diverse spheres of changes by providing evidence-based, balanced and neutral ideas, knowledge, skills, expertise, and experiences utilizing its intellectual members of diverse educational backgrounds. It will also serve as a think tank to provide advisory services in all sectors of the society. According to Dr. Gutema, last, but not least, the union advocates for the rights and privileges of the member intellectuals in all conditions and at all times. Membership will be open to all interested Oromo intellectuals who have first degree and above.

At the end of the presentation of Dr. Gutema, the forum was opened for discussions and questions. The participants forwarded several constructive ideas to enrich the draft proposal and also raised many questions to be clarified. Dr. Gutema and his team addressed the questions for clarification. In addition, ten major issues were identified for further discussion and decision. After detail discussion by the participants, a committee comprising seven individuals including lawyers and business professionals was established to refine the proposal to establish the OIU and to prepare bylaws for the union. Upon the completion of the necessary documents, the participants proposed immediate application for legalization of the union and subsequent registration of members from inside and outside of country.

Finally, closing remarks were made by Dr. Zelalem Bayissa, staff member of the College of Business and Economics. Dr. Zelalem appreciated the initiative taken by the committee to prepare the draft proposal to establish the union and the motivation of the participants in forwarding constructive ideas for the establishment of the union and the way forward. He also emphasized that intellectuals have to contribute their best individually and collectively in the overall transformation of the Oromo and other societies of the country.

The workshop was attended by invited intellectuals from several universities in the country as well as staff members of Haramaya University.

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