Jaatani is Remembered

Jaatani is Remembered

By Najar Nyakio

Ethiopia by road isn’t a walk in the park, especially if you’re on a timetable and have to be somewhere on time. Yet it’s a beautiful ride, the scenery is breathtaking and if you’ve never crossed the Equator, you will notice that we are all the same people, speaking different languages.

One of the major reason for crossing borders was to attend the unveiling of the statue of Jaatani Ali on Wednesday 12th of June in Yarbello, Southern Ethiopia. 

Jaatani Ali Tandu was a Borana Oromo leader and the former Provincial Governor of the Borana Province in Southern Oromia. Jaatani was born in 1939 to Borana-Oromo parentage in Melbana, Southern Oromia. He was an extraordinary public servant through what is known as the most difficult political times for the Oromo peoples, yet managed to serve the Oromo people with distinction, gaining the respect of his people. He is one of the most beloved sons of Oromia.

On Wednesday the 12th of June, there was a large unveiling ceremony with pomp, dancing and some guy holding a broom – I didn’t understand that part of the unveiling of the hero’s statue in Yabello, Southern Ethiopia. Excitement crackled in the air as Borana from both Ethiopia and Kenya attended the ceremony, dancing poetry, singing – a beautiful culture.

During the ceremony it was explained how on July 2, 1992 in Nairobi’s down-town Ngara, four operatives of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front Ethiopian People’s Democratic Front (TPLF/EPRDF) hitmen traced Jatani Ali, who had gained the title of the most-wanted opposition activist, to the Tea Room Hotel and assassinated him. He was buried in Kenya’s Marsabit.

Jatani Ali had served as the Governor of the Borana Province in Ethiopia under the leadership of Mengistu Haile Mariam, but had escaped to Kenya after the fall of the Derg in 1974. The Derg were a committee of nearly 120 military officers who came to power in Ethiopia after ousting Emperor Haile Selassie and ruled Ethiopia until 1991.

Jatani Ali was the undisputed leader of the Borana peoples who still harbour the hope of living free in Oromia lands – lands which were confiscated by Emperor Haile Sailessie. This expansionist and secessionist scheme has often destabilised the politics in Northern Kenya and is both ignored and  rudely taken for granted by mainstream media — however, it is widely acknowledged in both the Security and Diplomatic circles.

Najar is an Indegeneous Rights Consultant and advocate