The 1st settlers of highlanders “Juru Odiel” and the connection of Abobo people

Minneapolis, MN, November 16, 2013 (GSN) - It has been 70 years or so when youths of Abobo swore, pledged the commitment to “work “with Haile Selassie's/Amhara regime feudal system. They sang Wani ya wani wana jai ne poya-Amhara,Lum poya-Amhara bacanjali andegna uletegna” that fathers we the youths of Abobo understand very well what Amhara’s governance all about, what we understand, should not be worrying fathers.

Please fathers we beg you, plea with you to give us a chance to working with Amhara regime feudal system. This was the sentiment echoed by Abobo youths seventy years ago; it represented a watershed in Anyuawa contact with outside world and with modernity in general.

It was early 19th century when King Odiel of the greater community of Abobo, who let first highlanders to have based and settled in small picnic camp called today “Gambella Town” for hunting purpose. In fact, the word “Juru Odiel” was not a coincident or farfetched word of some kind but real, with real people been contacted by “Jure” the so call “mountaineers or highlanders” who came to hunt or to buy of buffalo horns in the Anyuawaland, was followed by Haile Selassie's regime feudal system settling its first governances , and stationed in Gambella. But what happened after that was history today. From that epoch, time the Anyuawa movement toward modernity was constant but also was slow due drawbacks from push and pull cultural or traditional factors in the Anyuawaland.

It was in that epoch when small number of our communities left behind their villages, migrated townships, with most migrant from Abobo settled around government created districts, mostly around the town of Gambella. Thus the so called Gambella town, all of the missionary stations, known as Akado or Pokwo or Pnyudo or Agenga, Pomanpiny in Adura near Kotgar sub-district Akobo Cero have been the Anyuawa, Nuer people modernization magnets, or civilization attraction centers.

“Anyone who wants to be called Turuk, must have lived in town otherwise he is not a turuk”

But despite, new hopes, dreams, the quest for new beginning harbored by village migrants; the township life has not accommodated the new immigrants very well to fit in, many suffered from lack of jobs, as the result many left, returned to the villages they came from. And for those couldn’t return home to their villages, those who stayed put it was a different ball game them, many got a second chance for employment, substantial number of them were hired into police force, and many took jobs as translators or clerks, messengers, shopkeepers, bakeries, clinical dresser, so forth. Nevertheless despite improvement of their lives, their absences from the villages were met with condemnation, for abandoning home and their love ones. They were criticized, painted with ugly social stigma, they were rebuked, chastised, ostracized, insulted as wicked, devils, unproductive, unwanted criminals; the list goes on, on. Though many committed no crimes or killed anybody; it didn’t matter, and in the eyes of the villagers they were considered as social pariahs.

Not only that, Women who married to town’s men, were also rebuked, even harsher than men; they were called all sort of names: harlots, prostitutes, witches, devils who deserved no respects for refusing to stay home in their villages; pound grains like other women; or like their peers, or like their mothers and grandmothers did; again they were looked at as women who ran into towns to hide themselves from all social responsibility of villages’ lives.

Nonetheless, two decades later the clash between townies visa vise traditionalists in the villages changed, for the better. So therefore life in the villages to use Thomas Hobbes’s words was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, short,” unquote. So statistically when one looks at the Anyuawa migration patterns of their movements into the townships one would likely to find that those who left Anyuawa country were youths, that shows the Aboboeans youths were right in their oration 70 years ago that when one looks at the demographics of the towns today one would find all towns around Gambella were settled by young men, no old men in them. They the youths were only one who understood what modernization is all about.

The feud between tradtionist, modernists was over in this case. Anyuawa youths were flocking into towns in good many numbers, a lot of them who have relative in towns searched for their blood relations they had abandoned for decades; they found them with too much surprises. They found out that their relations had fared well, living fine, with their children well clothed, well, groomed, and properly schooled. They looked different from anybody they have seen. They look polished, vibrating, and very “turuk”. Here the bad relation or old wounds between the relatives was made to heal quickly, the wound faded away with the new reproach. And decayed, rusted attitudes were washed away by the new mood of understanding, new imperative of starting anew in cultivating kinship relation.

Specially the town’s kinsmen didn’t budge or dwelled on past bad blood relation they had with each other. In spite they welcome their kinsmen with open hands, treated them handsomely. They treated them with goodies, provided comfortable accommodations, when some of them returned home they carried with them lot of items such as: clothing to wear, soaps, beads, or salt, or mosquitoes’' nets, and oil,  needles, razors, axes, machetes, hoes, fish hooks etc...Etc... And they all felt good with each other’s ending decade’s bad relations between them. No more condemnation, no more dispossessions nor more disowning.

So battle was won by townies. It is of what author Kinley Dorji, the paradox of materialism of which he said after centuries of Bhutan rulers dragging their feet from modernizing their country, only dwelling on spiritual practices, honest hard work, Bhutan he said could not prevent the penetration driven by the forces of the globalization, the invasion of the commercial media, the complex implication of development, in this he concludes for real change to come to Bhutan, Bhutan must control change or be controlled by change.

And in our case the diffusion of ”reia” perfumes, saboon or soap, skin cream, hair cream, which was  hated the most by the village people won the battle of ideas for town’s peoples. It is paramount, importance that our societies by all means open up to change, we should not listen to do no good doers nor should we lower our guard down to work for the betterment of our society. We should know by now that the reactionary forces of anti-development were not alone. In fact most of our brothers in the west sometimes were cowed, hoodwinked by environmentalists, globalists, who called themselves the friends of indigenous people but behind the façade they had a grandeur agenda to keep developing world trapped in the cycle of poverty, of misery and wars. They want to oppose, restrict development from coming to our society for the sake of maintaining some harmful traditions which are counterproductive to progress and developments.

Mind you, during the junta government of Mengistue Hailemaraiam everything was done in secrecy without consultation with public, all the developments were done without media being informed or invited about the ongoing projects. Because those who run the regime believed that end justified the result of everything they do for the Ethiopian society. There was a pervasive believe that the mobs were better informed only with the end results than the means of how to accomplishing them.

Therefore he who felt unease about any policy under the totalitarian regime must stayed muted or else if the they spoke up something they will end up being incarcerated behind bars. It is not an, elite things anymore this is a different regime better than the gone one with the wind of social changes. Gone were those days when things were left in hands of tiny crooks of elites to muddy around with people aspiration. Policy makers implement decisions already taken in secrecy, public concern was not a matter to them. We are at different ball game. We should organize ourselves into mass movement to play the very effective role to confronting the current political climate we are in; effective organization is paramount and important.

The Anyuawa people should not fear modernization; they should fear the fear itself, not development. All development developed with thorough understanding, of the political and economic environment of the local inhabitants is imperative, essentially rewarding.

What we don’t understand now is why government has not listen to the voices at the local arena? Why all things must be from Addis Ababa? I was sadden by Mr. Samuel Zewedie Hagos sentiment he expressed, which I saw was very concern for the situation in Gambella, was helpless to do something that will bring positive changes “ Here, said whether you have master or more unless you come from Addis nobody listen to your advises and research findings! There is a saying in Amharic "Awekush Nakush". We don't have a platform where we can forward and reflects our view on regional development” this, many more voices I have heard it all, they are real and must be listen to if we want to positively change our region for the better.

After all it is federalism. All answers must come, must be handled by the local governmental officials. All problems must be solved by local authorities; the people they governed must be informed first with situations at hands. If the people Gambella were not the one coming up with solutions to their problems, were always made to wait for answers from the federal government than their rights to self-determination, their rights to govern themselves under the federalism was hijacked, they must demand for the return of political power of self-determination  into their hands. 

If all the economic developments were geared toward good purposes, the aim was to improve the lives of our people from age old miserable conditions as may sound than why is the government shying away from being criticized in its wrong policy or when their policy run head on to the walls?

The goal of any democratic government is to find ways to furnish economic empowerment through jobs creations, push for market economy, by developing entrepreneurships, and other social developments. But first we must see to it that our people are provided with skills necessary that would make them attain those lofty goals. Mind you in order to compete in this fast changing world we need to train, educate, and equip our people in various skills, so that they can have a say in the global economy.

Look, it is a brutal world out there, one must be prepared for one navigates in the ocean of comparatives atmosphere. There are social forces in Gambella , which look forward, want to see their society modernized and be fitted into globalized society as we are moving in this fast projected social trend, without modernizing our lives first, we cannot cope with heavy influences of globalization. Second there are those forces of retrogression, backward looking elements who wanted our society tied down into what the political scientists called “known past”, for the fear of the unknown future. For them the fear of the unknown future is real, the love for known past is unshakable, many glorified past lives whatever it might have been for them, they want it back in their lives at any cost, and without compromises. These are selfish elements who love Ethiopia only on their leaps. They shouldn't worry the majority.

However that’s not the way to confront modernization. We must train and equipped the forces of change, we should take roads to talk, listen to our people, explain policies in a way they understand us better. We should through representation of people redress our people grievances to the appropriate governmental bodies that hold polices in questions, see we could find remedies before wrong policy hurting the very people we trying help in the region.

Reporting by Ahmare Gilo, GSN contributor, Sources: Amhare Gilo is Studied Political Science at Minnesota State University, Mankato

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