Today’s post features a song by Ariet Oman Ojullu, a composer and singer in the Mekane Yesus Anywaa Church in Gambella town. The song, titled, “Tiiyu Meer Yi Beenho Man En,” means, “Let us make peace in this generation.” Ariet composed this song about two weeks prior to our meeting (on June 25, 2016) and sang it in her church to advise the people of her congregation to love one another. “The way people are living is not really reflecting a godly life,” she said. “I saw people are not loving each other. And, also, there is discrimination taking place everywhere. People say, ‘I am from this place, I am of this place, this place…all kinds of differences. They are [creating] discrimination [by saying], ‘You are not from this place, you are somebody [else].’ Even in our church here, in this congregation…people always have these conflicts with one another. So, this kind of attitude inspired me to compose this song. I want to address the message of love. We have to make peace among ourselves as a people of God.”
Ariet’s song is certainly applicable to Gambella as a whole (and the whole world, come to think of it), but she also specified that there is even discrimination in her church, which has all Anywaa members. When we think of discrimination in Gambella, we usually think of inter-ethnic conflict, but intra-ethnic discrimination is not out of the ordinary. My Anywaa friends have expressed to me some disappointment that they wish there was more unity among the Anywaa people. Some suspect that the government may have something to do with this, paying some Anywaa people to keep an eye on other Anywaa people and creating division. In what may be related, some researchers have observed that the government and NGOs have monetized peacemaking by co-opting and paying local leaders in the Ethiopian lowlands to mediate conflicts, which is regarded suspiciously by their communities. Intra-ethnic conflict also sprouts from resource scarcity: for example, Lul Anywaa coming to Gambella town might be regarded suspiciously by Openo Anywaa, who don’t want them to take jobs and opportunities. Of course, intra-ethnic division is hardly exclusive to Anywaa (in Gambella region, intra-ethnic divisions among the Nuer are even more pronounced), sprouting from regional loyalties, vying for political power, and, as always, competition for natural resources. On the flip side, subgroups of different ethnic groups have friendlier relations with each other: the Openo Anywaa and Thiang Nuer, for example.
At the end of our interview, Ariet said, “I hope they learn about how to make peace among themselves. I composed this song so people can have access to listen to it. That’s what I want to do.”
We hear you, Ariet. Discrimination is happening everywhere, not just in Gambella. We can all benefit from taking her message to heart.
*** Yet again, we must thank the wonderful Ojho Ojullu Othow for translating this interview and both Ojho and Apay Ojullu Aballa for writing out and translating the song text. You guys are the best!
Feyissa, Dereje. 2011. Playing Different Games: The Paradox of Anywaa and Nuer Identification Strategies in the Gambella Region, Ethiopia. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books.