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  • Kumsaa Boroo: Jiruu fi Jireenya/Life and Times
  • Getahun Benti (bio)
Kumsaa Boroo: Jiruu fi Jireenya/Life and Times, by Kumsa Boro Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2009; pp. 509. $39.95 paper.

This book is about the life and journey of an Oromo pastor, the Reverend Kumsa Boro, beginning in a small village, Gute, Western Oromiya, where he was born in 1910, and ending in an American metropolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he died in 2002. Starting life as a young cattle herder, he became a revered evangelist and a respected Oromo elder. His 92-year life journey was full of zigzags "punctuated by a succession of personal tragedies," as Leenco Lata has correctly stated in the blurb. Boro joined the American Presbyterian missionaries in 1920, an event that opened a long chapter in his life. From the missionaries, he received modern education and became a pastor. As an evangelist, he preached the Gospel to the Oromo people, dedicating his time and energy to fight injustice so that the Oromo could enjoy their God-given rights, and respect and human dignity on this earth. In doing this, he carefully walked the thin line between being a preacher and being a human rights activist, and he clearly demonstrated that he could be both at the same time without one role negating the other. [End Page 135] This, however, made his life more difficult and, consequently, his journey was full of ups and downs. He was persecuted under successive Ethiopian regimes. His suffering in the last years of his life under the current regime is quite revealing.

The book is written by Reverend Boro's children, based on scripts and information collected from him before his death. It is not an academic book with a theme and central argument. Nor is it written by a single author. The Kumsa-siblings reconstructed the "life and times" of their father and apparently wrote part of the book. But a substantial part of it is written by Kumsa himself, which makes it part autobiography. The issues and information contained in the book are also disparate. All these make it difficult for a reviewer to summarize the book and put it in an academic context.

The book is divided into three parts and ten chapters. The first part, an English-language version of the second part, is a biography of Kumsa. It is authored by his children, based on video recordings they made and other conversations they had with their father before his death. It introduces the book to readers and provides details of Kumsa's life journey from birth to death. It includes his family history, his contacts with the Presbyterian missionaries and his work as an evangelist, his two marriages, his children, and his life under successive Ethiopian regimes, beginning with the appearance of the malkagna-naftagna (armed Amhara settlers) system in Sayo district (Kumsa's birth place) in 1918 (24) to the coming of another period of brutal Ethiopian rule under the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in 1991 (75).

In the interim, Kumsa witnessed two administrations, both qualitatively different from the other regimes he had seen. The first one was the Italian occupation (1936-41), which brought apparent respite and hope to the Oromo people by temporarily ending the rule of the Amhara. Kumsa notes that the Italians did not live up to the expectations of the Oromo of Sayo, although they initially appeared to be friendly (166). Sayo's proximity to the Anglo-British Sudan made it an ideal place for the British in which to make contacts with the local people and incite revolts against the Italians. The Italians reacted by disarming the local people and putting the educated people under surveillance on suspicion of being British agents. Although Kumsa was spared from Italian arrest, three of his prominent colleagues (including Reverends Gidada Solan, Mamo Corqa, and Nagawo Tullu) were arrested and imprisoned in Jimma until the end of the Italian occupation [End Page 136] in 1941. The second short-lived administration that Kumsa experienced was that of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) (253-58), which he praised as the fulfillment of Oromo aspirations. The "11 blissful...


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