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Obituary: In memory of Tadesse ‘Fido’ Eba, author, scientist, freedom fighter

Addis Abeba – The Najjo district was where Tadese Eba (Ph.D.), alias ‘Fido’ was born into a farming family in 1943, as is a common tradition, he grew up tending cattle and farming. Dr. Tadese commenced his education at Church school before moving on to Swedish Evangelical Mission School in Najjo for primary school. He was jailed for two months in the seventh grade. For his secondary education (9-12th grade), he went to the Jimma Agricultural School. His higher education saw him acquire a BSc from Haramaya Agricultural College for 4 years in 1965.  

Upon gaining educational opportunities in the USA for graduate studies, Tadese Eba studied at Wisconsin State University for an MSc. Afterward, he returned home to teach at his Alma mater (Haramaya Agricultural College), concomitantly conducting different types of scientific research. Standing out were his studies on Teff, which still maintain a significant place in modern times. He expanded his scholarship on Teff by writing a book in 1969. As a result of his research, we are today able to identify and name 3842 strands of Teff.  

Along with his studies on tree strands and cereals, he is also prominent for studies on Oromo history and culture. Under his pen name, ‘ Gada Melba’, he emphasized the cultural attributes of the Oromo, noting that the Oromo calendar had 27 days, each of which had its own name.  

Tadesse, widely known as Fido, returned home [after completing his Ph.D. studies in Vancouver, Canada] in the turbulent political years of the 1970s. He was employed in the ‘Ethiopian Research Institute’ upon his return and went to play a leading role in ‘Ethiopian Gene Bank’ or ‘Plant Genetic Resource Center’ from 1976 to 1979 when he went into exile. It was also during his return that the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was in its formative years and where he played a founding role during the period and subsequently began making contributions to the organization. 

Dr. Fido was imprisoned in Makealwai in 1978 after information reached government forces that he had participated in arranging transportation logistics   In 1978, there were plans to organize transportation logistics for Oromo Liberation Army (OLA)  forces moving from the East to the area of Gudar-Ambo. Fido was released due to the pressure laid by Germany and Sweden, major supporters of the Ethiopian Gene Bank, on the government. He however heard that he was going to be imprisoned again after which he fled to Sudan. 

During his exile in Khartoum, Dr. Fido joined the leadership of the OLF there and started working in the office. It was in Sudan, that he wrote the book called ‘Oromia: A Brief Introduction to the history of the Oromo people under the pen name, ‘Gada Melba’. As a result of his career affording him the opportunity to travel around and across, he was able to observe and study the history, culture, and norms of the Oromo. The book was first written in English but later translated into Afaan Oromo. The theme of the book circulated around who the Oromo were, their origins, culture, and religion, and what resources Oromia possessed and acted as a brief study of the history of Oromia. 

Dr. Fido was elected to the Central Committee and Political Bureau in 1988. Besides working in the economic branch, he contributed greatly to the consolidation and growth of the ‘Oromo Relief Association’. Dr. Fido has been offering leadership to the ORA after its establishment. After being permitted transmission in Sudan, he helped form the ‘Voice of Oromo Liberation’ also in 1988. He was elected to different capacities of leadership within the organization (OLF) including the foreign affairs branch and general assembly. 

He also wrote another book on Oromo naming under the title, ‘Moggasa: Oromo names and their meaning’, providing insight on 5000 Afan Oromo names in 2018. During the same year, answering the government’s call to return from exile, Dr. Fido joined the OLF leadership in Asmara to return to the homeland. He had returned to the United States in 2020 after experiencing foot pain, which upon further examination was revealed to be brain cancer. Dr. Fido battled the disease for two years before succumbing to it on May 1st, 2022. AS

Editor’s note: This article was sourced from OLF Press Release and BBC Afaan Oromoo.  

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