August 21, 2020by Mosisa Aga
Qeerroo are organized—but not under Jawar MohammedThe term “Qeerroo” was introduced to the Oromo political scene in April 2011 when an Oromo youth organization named “Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo (QBO)” or simply “Qeerroo” was established.
Soon after its formation, Qeerroo released its first manifesto, opened a website, and organized a series of protests in many higher education institutions. Oromo student protests led by Qeerroo continued intermittently throughout Oromia until a major series of protests broke out in 2014 and 2015, which continued nonstop, resulting in the collapse of the TPLF-Tigrayan hegemony in Ethiopia.
The purpose of this article is to impart the beginning of the Qeerroo movement and correct some misconceptions about Qeerroo. Specifically, I will rebut a widely held misconception, that “Qeerroo is a spontaneous social movement without formal structures.” I will also attempt to shed light on the role of the former activist and now political prisoner Jawar Mohammed in shaping the early movement of Qeerroo.
Since 2009, I have written at least eight articles on Oromian Student Movement (OSM) and the Qeerroo unrest, posted on various websites but mainly on Gadaa.com using an alias name. On 12 November 12, 2009, I wrote about the 2005 widespread protest. On 11 November 2010, I published on the continued resistance that took place between 2006 and 2010. On 19 November 2011, I released a chronological review of OSM from November 2010 to November 2011. On 7 November 2014, I published about the chronological summary of the widespread Qeerroo movement from November 2013 to November 2014. More of my publications are available at this link.
Furthermore, I have made at least two scholarly presentations on Qeerroo, one at the 2019 OSA annual conference, presented by Lammi Benya on my behalf, the other at the 2018 OLF Policy symposium in Finfinne.
Apart from writing and making scholarly presentations on Qeerroo, I was involved with Qeerroo activities including supporting the movement personally. I have intimately known about the preparations that led to its establishment in 2011, including the adoption of the term “Qeerroo”. I remained up to date about Qeerroo’s activities thereafter. After the formation of Qeerroo, I have been continuously involved in translating their public statements into the English language to this day.
I stated above some of my contributions and sources of information about Qeerroo not to brag about my very modest contributions, but to qualify myself for this article and solicit the readers’ confidence for my argument. With this done, let me present a brief history of the origin of Qeerroo from my vantage point. To keep the focus on the subject at hand, in this issue I will address only matters directly related to the history of the Origin of Qeerroo.
Unless specifically stated otherwise, by the term “Qeerroo” I refer to the organization of “Qeerroo Bilisummaa Oromoo” (QBO), translated as Youth for Oromo Freedom. When a reference is made to an individual “Qromo youth” the term “qeerroo” will be used – with the letter “q” not capitalized. QBO is used to distinguish this original organization from other imposter groups that were created later for promotional purposes.
The origin of Qeerroo
As a prelude to pinpointing the beginning of Qeerroo, it is helpful to note that in my November 2011 article I indicated that the Oromo Students’ Movement (OSM) has gone through a qualitative change by forming a coordinating body for civil disobedience known as Qeerroo. Here is an excerpt from that article.
“In April 2011, the Oromian Students Movement (OSM) underwent a qualitative change. Inspired by the Arab Spring, Oromian youth all over the globe came together by forming a coordinating body for civil disobedience known as the National Youth Movement for Freedom and Democracy (NYMFD) aka Qeerroo. In Afan Oromo “Qeerroo” literally refers to an unmarried young person. It can also mean simply a young person.”