Let Me Hear Your Truth

Chaala Hailu Abata, an Ethiopian poet who was imprisoned and tortured in his country of origin for writing poetry critical of the regime, lives in safety in Sweden today. But his thoughts remain back in Ethiopia with the oppressed Oromo people. In this poem he inquires into their narrative—the narrative of the long-silenced people who lit and bore the torch of freedom during decades of oppression. Their silenced voices need to be given the power and the space to be heard—“After that day, my freedom will also be comprehensive too,” as Chaala Hailu Abata writes.

May 3 2019 Text: Chaala Hailu Abata

This poem is motivated and written on the basis of certain speeches of Oromo politicians and mainly on the current political situation in Ethiopia. I have aligned myself with the majority of people whose voice is not yet heard; while some opportunists and those who have been defending the oppressors for decades are trying to tell us that people are liberated and gaining their freedom. I ask the majority of people who sacrificed everything, from material to life if they really won their freedom. I protest against the speech of some demagogues, because the fundamental solutions for the injustice against the interest that the Oromo’s demand in the last 50 years, in particular, the last 5 years of #OromoProtests of Oromos, are not solved. More importantly, the Oromo are not asked why they started fighting 50 years ago and their rights are to determine their fate.

I don’t want to hear the views and versions of demagogues
But tell me your truth and your feeling if it’s true
If what everyone says to me is true,
Tell me if you’re free.
I want to see your face now that you’ve won your freedom.
I love seeing your joy, but it’s not mine.

Tell me what you think and let me hear it 
From your mouth in your own words,
What makes it a truth instead of some other?
I only hear empty voices but no truth.
Their voices can be higher and louder
Their dances and songs will be more and more exalted
in your house, where your own voice is still unheard,
But they translated and interpreted it in their version
and they wanted to tell me you had freedom.

Who has been oppressed and now has freedom?
Why can’t I hear it from you and
Why do they have to speak on your behalf?
Don’t you have a language to speak for yourself?
Is it true the echoes of loud voices,
that have orchestrated your freedom?

From #Borana to #Barentu,
From the south to the north, and from one corner to another,
From your mountains to many rivers,
From east to west and extended from #Baro to #Shaballe,
From #Hawas to #Abbayya, and from #Jamma to #Gannale
From #Cilalo to #Jamjam and from #Rogge to Batu
From #Gaaramuldhata to #Tulludimtu,
The voices of traitors, and the voices of oppressors,
Now witnessing and telling me you are liberated
I hear the sound of them telling that you have the golden freedom
and it is told by others and repeated and loudly sings of sung,
“We are liberated and we have the expected freedom now.”
And they put your causes into the junk,
The fight you started half a century ago,
The #kaayyoo of your beloved children have fought for
They said, you’ve achieved the set goals and now, 
that #kaayyoo doesn’t do anything and must be buried
with the oppression because you’re free.
Let me see in your eyes and look at your faces
When you tell the truth, the truth I’m starving for.
Let me hear it from you and I can read your faces that you are free.
From the beginning, you were deprived of
fundamental rights and affected,
As I have observed  from my childhood,
It will never convince me, when the folks who have sold your cause out tell it to me
But, you who are the most oppressed, the farmers,
It’s not the traitors who should sing now that you are free.
But let me hear it from you,
Let me hear the voices of the people,
not the voices of people paid to make up stories,
Let me hear from the Oromo students who have ignited the light of freedom
by sacrificing their precious lives.
Let me hear them if they really have freedom!

If I don’t see and don’t understand your freedom 
If the distance made a cloud and I misunderstood
The real situations you are in now, and your freedom,
Let me see and hear what you have now.

Some people explain it in the media and they tell us:
You are now freed from taxation without representation,
you are getting your lost land and resettled to your own land
You are now free from oppression and detentions.
But I wonder why the same people
I’ve known for decades, tell us that
“our people are liberated.” 
I knew them, they had been telling us the same stories over.
I knew them and their history, and of course, they always had their freedom.

And I know them, they never care about anything but their own business,
They only work for their own interests
And I know they’ve never been oppressed.
So I can’t trust their stories and verses,
Nothing can be new to them
About what happens and will happen to you.

You’re the only one who can say,
“I’m free and I have my freedom,”
I just need your voice, the voice of the victims.
The voice of the people, repressed and 
resilient for over centuries,
I need to hear the voice of the mass,
the voice of Oromo students
Let me hear from you if you really have freedom.
After that day, my freedom will also be comprehensive too.
And I will live and lead my own life as I wish,
I’m going to be released from the disturbing
spirits of our fallen heroes and heroines,
And it’s going to be the end of all stories.

One last thing I want to say is that 
My dreams never have been any different than yours,
Now let me hear your voice of freedom.
Because I knew the oppressed voices you had,
I’m hungry for the truth, let me hear from you the truth.
So I will understand,
I’m too far away to know your situation
I will consider myself just barking pleading for nothing,
when you tell me you have your freedom!

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Definitions for words
1. The Oromo people of East Africa are divided into two major branches: Borana Oromo and Barentu Oromo are the two major groups they are in turn subdivided into an assortment of clan families. From West to East and North to South.
2. Baro, Shaballe, Hawas, Abbayya, Jamma and Gannale are the biggest rivers in Oromia-Ethiopia.
3. Cilalo, Jamjam, Rogge, Batu, Gaaramuldhata and Tulludimtu are the highest mountains in Oromia-Ethiopia.
4. Kaayyoo is objective, main goal of the Oromo struggle.