Monday, June 12, 2017

Changing Alphabetical Order is a Matter for the People

Changing Alphabetical Order is a Matter for the People.

                                           (Dr Tsegaye Ararssa)

If the OPDO is working to change the order of the Oromo alphabet secretly, then it is probably jumping from the political cliff. (If what is being talked about is a method of teaching writing and reading skills, it is another matter, although even that is debatable among experts of language and pedagogy.)
The change of alphabets has a serious impact on the integrity of a particular language. To that extent, it leads to the violation of a community's right to language. As such, it can't be done without the participation of the entire population in the decision to change it.

Changing alphabets as a way of altering the integrity of language is a preeminently political act whose decision requires direct popular vote in a referendum. It is not something to be decided upon technically by a select few. It is not something to be decided on the basis of the whims and conjectures of a few politicians.

It is not even something to be decided through representatives in parliament (although the Parliament is at liberty to discuss, frame the agenda, debate, and resolve on the process and timeframe of the referendum).
This is because the right to language--apart from being the right of the individual to speak, to write, and to get social services in her/his language--is a collective right that is an aspect of (cultural) self-determination. It is no accident that the right to language (i.e., the right to speak, write, develop, and preserve one's language) is inscribed as part of the self-determination clause (Art 39(2)) in the FDRE Constitution (the constitution that never was).

This right to language includes the right to one's choice of script for one's language. The Latin script is the chosen script for Qubee Afaan Oromoo. The order of that script was not decided upon by the OPDO. The making of that choice antedates OPDO and/or its educational bureaucrats of today. That choice has never been questioned by any Oromo soul, past or present. No one ever saw it fit to rethink it thus far. That popular political decision can't be rethought in secret by a corp of experts even if there was a technical need for rethinking. They don't have the mandate nor the representation to do it. Only the people have mandate on such issues of crucial importance.

In multi-lingual societies, autonomy over decisions on language matters is of central significance as an aspect of linguistic justice (i.e., a just and fair distribution, among languages, of resources, power, and public spaces and amenities needed for the utilization, promotion, and development of languages).

This autonomy starts with the decision on scripts but it also includes the decision over the use of languages in the administration, in courts, in education, and in the media. It includes equality among languages in public spaces, institutions, and service-giving agencies. In particular, it is about equal and/or proportional distribution of financial resources for language education, language development in the media, in literature, and the wider cultural industry. In a genuinely multilingual polity, languages get recognized as co-equal working languages of the country's government thereby showing the deep diversity of voices, narratives, and writings that express and represent the peoples in the country.

The recent dabbling with the change of the alphabetical order of Qubee Afaan Oromo--if it is beyond methods of teaching--amounts to a tampering with the right of the Oromo people to theier choice of script. It is also tampering with the integrity of the language. As such, it should be denounced in the strongest of terms.
If this is, in deed, part of the bigger habesha supremacists' ploy to replace the Latin-Qubee script with the habesha/Geez script (as some of these thugs, aka homeless politicians, are dreaming of doing), they need to be told that they are not only playing an impossible game (a forbidden game, as it were) but they are playing with a dangerous political fire.
For whoever wants to do it should first go out to convince the people in a free and fair popular referendum. (No, it is not enough even to go to OPDO's Caffee! )

Anything less is an open declaration of war on the Oromo people, on their language, and on their identity. It shall only be met as such.

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