publication of the interview we had with Sidama National Liberation Organization
Chairman, Mr. Kambata Xoola, we cover in this third part a wide spectrum of
issues, encompassing Sidamas’ political aspirations, national and cultural
identity issues, education and religion. The brilliant and noble environment of
this great nation is comprehensively portrayed by the knowledgeable and humanist
SNLO Leader, Mr. Kambata Xoola.
His references to Sidama cultural and religious topics highlight dimensions of 5 millennia long Kushitic continuity from Ancient Egypt through Meroitic Ethiopia down to modern Kushitic nations. Sidamas’ conception of the world is identical to the Ancient Meroitic and Ancient Egyptian systems of thought and belief.
- Would you give us an outline of the Sidamas’ political aspirations?
- There is no society that lives under colonial yoke in the 21st century. Sidama National Liberation Organization, (SNLO) struggles to make such acts of cruelty against the nation past history. The Sidama nation is democratically egalitarian society. Its primarily need remains to restore its lost identity. It aspires to reclaim its administrative, socio-cultural and politico-economic rights. If this is the case, the Sidama nation aspires to peacefully co-exist with nations of the empire with common goal of respecting humanity and human values, equitable distribution of available resources, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly, towards alleviating poverty our nation is under, and working together for common good.
Otherwise, if the successive Abyssinian rulers like TPLF continue to suppress Sidamas’ fundamental rights under the pretext of a unified Ethiopia, the nation with like minded democracy loving nationals or independently will continue its struggle for liberation and further opportunity for independence that will be decided by the wider society - not only by politicians. This is a deeply rooted belief among the Sidama people, although they are currently suppressed.
- What is the level of literacy among the Sidamas?
- The level of literacy in Sidama is very low compared to other Zonal administration in southern Ethiopia, never mind northern regions such as Tigray and Amhara whose literacy level is more than 80%. We can’t compare Sidamas’ literacy rate with that of peoples living in the northern Ethiopian regions for simple reason of systematic marginalization. The Sidama people were deprived of their basic rights of sending their children to schools since 1890s, ever since the Abyssinian colonial powers have taken control over their land.
The schools that exist in Sidama region are inadequately equipped and always lack resources compared to other regions. Sadly, the few Sidama cadres don’t have good will for any issues that concern the nation and they only mind their personal advantages. Therefore, the nation remains backward in educational achievements. If one compares Sidama (with above 5 million people) graduates with others nations under 1 million, it will be embarrassing. Overall literacy rate in Sidama land is less than 40% at present. As a result, the Sidamas remain in literacy bottom line.
- How many among the Sidama children attend Primary and Secondary Education?
- They are not more than 30-35% of the total population - compared to above 90% of the population in the Tigray region.
- What is the official education language in Sidama land?
- Sidamoaffo (that receives constant oppositions from the settlers), Amharic and English.
- What would you suggest as improvement of the educational system available for Sidamas?
- To think about education, the nation needs to be liberated and regain its lost administrative, socio-political, economic and cultural rights. If people in any society are not allowed to decide on their issues, if they are dictated by outsiders, if people are constantly told what to do, and if they are being intimidated and regarded as inferior, there will not be any ground for fertile mind to flourish!
Whether I suggest possible ideas for improvement, as long as the underlying problems remain intact, there will not be any progress. The Sidama Nation needs to reclaim its autonomy, to decide the best way forward for its people and the generations to come. Otherwise, it will be impossible to think about any form of development, educational improvement and basic rights for its wider society.
- Would you give us an outline of the major traditional fests and festivals held annually in Sidama land?
- Fiichee, the Sidama New Year.
Sidama Religion Kalaqaa Kaaliiqa –a Kushitic continuity from Ancient Egypt
- What are the main religions practiced by Sidamas?
- Christianity, Islam, Traditional religion believers believe in Kalaqaa Kaaliiqa, God the Creator or Almighty.
- Would you give an outline of the traditional Sidama religion?
- Prior to 1960s, the entire Sidama nation believed in Kalaqaa Kaaliiqa, God the Creator and Almighty. As a part of their beliefs, they perform sacrifices ‘Kakaalo’ to their ancestor’s spirits. They also strongly believe that their ancestors’ spirits have the power of inter-mediating between them and God. In particular, if there happen to be a natural disaster, such as failure to rain for prolonged period of time, failure of crop to yield enough for consecutive years, if epidemic kills significant number of people, if herds die in mass and so forth, they initiate specific ceremonial practices, calling for repentance of male and female elderly for any wrong-deeds on behalf of the nation. Such deep-rooted beliefs are embodiments of the Sidamas religious identity.
Additionally, Sidama nation offers sacrifices to any spirit that might directly or indirectly cause culturally unacceptable things (considered as an outcome of anger of spirits or God) to their children, land, farm, country and generally the well being. Sidamas believe that nature has strong link with God. They also strongly believe in balancing nature and natural order. If any traditional Sidama is being questioned what his/her religion is, he/she tells without hesitation that her religion is Kalaqa Kaaliiqa (God) and ancestry spiritualism.
- National and Cultural Identity; what makes a Sidama different from an Oromo, a Shekacho, and an Anuak?
- As one scholar writes, "We know of no people without names, no languages or cultures in which some manner of distinctions between self and others, we and they, are not made. Self-knowledge- always a construction no matter how much it feels like a discovery-is never altogether separable from claims to be known in specific ways by others’’. The Sidama nation has got its distinct identity with its peculiar characteristics and attached interpretations.
The differences of cultural and national identity of the Sidamas range from day to day life to the whole range of traditionally accepted ways, social life and its essence with varied meanings. Therefore, although there is similarity of some heritages with Kushitic national origins in the country, still the differences outweigh similarities. Their similarity may be is that with any nation that is suffering and those nations who share similar fate under the tyrannical rule of brutal Abyssinian regimes.
- Are there many Sidamas to have entered in mixed marriages, and what is the origin of their partners?
- There are very few; and actually there is no study available about this subject. In particular, educated Sidama elites who have national feelings remain cautious when they think of marriage with people of Abyssinian origins. At the moment, the Sidamas mostly remain homogenous. However, we can estimate that there are people who entered in mixed marriages but they are a very small fraction of the general society. They are married with people from various ethnic groups without significant distinction including foreigners, such as Europeans.
- Where do Sidamas live outside Sidama land? In Abyssinia or in the Diaspora.
- I suppose that above 95% Sidama nationals live in Sidama land. There are few exceptions who are scattered to the different parts of the world, including Abyssinian Empire, and notably Finfinne (Addis Ababa); they are approximately 5% of the overall Sidama population. As regards the Diaspora Sidama community, the majority among them live in the United States, being relocated with Lottery visa that the US government grants for some countries all over the globe. Finally, there are a number of Sidama nationals scattered in African countries as well.