By Salad Malicha
Major Gen. Jatani Ali was born in 1939 in Melbana location, Dirre district, Borana zone, Oromia region of Ethiopian empire by the mother, Karu Ali and the father, Ali Tandhu. He was admitted to Medane Alem primary school in Finfine (Addis Ababa) in the year 1952. Later he joined General Wingate secondary school after which he joined Abba Dina police training college there in the capital. After leaving the college, he worked in different parts of the country. Throughout the schools and workstations he was adored by his workmates and the communities he lived with.
In 1974, he became the governor of Borana zone of southern Ethiopia. His impacts on the lives of communities living in the area were beyond mere expression of words. The pivotal advice in his countless public lectures were; take your children to school, diversify your economic activities [do not depend only on the livestock; venture into businesses, and crop farming], learn other people’s languages, build houses in towns and cities, ‘lafti tessan lafe tessan, laf tessan jabefadha’.
Borana zone, like any other pastoralism area is an arid land where communities face various challenges everyday. They loss their livestock to drought [lack of inadequate pasture and water], and diseases. Area being marginalized, accessibility of most areas were difficult. To solve these problems, Jato came up with a Sordu project. It was to solve not only the problems of pasture, water and provide medical care, construct also roads to improve accessibility. It had three main ranches; Dambala wachu, Wallenso, and Sarite. These were to provide pasture, water, and treatment for livestock awaiting to be sold. On selling, 70 per cent goes to the owner and 30% goes for social amenities. Moreover, he created Unity and co- existence of communities living in the region; Borana, Gujii, Gabra, and Arsi.
After Tigray Patriotic Liberation Front (TPLF) took over the power from derg, he was among the officials most wanted and hunted. Derg is loosely translated as provisional military government of socialist Ethiopia , was a communist marxist-leninist military junta that ruled Ethiopia. He ran away from his mother land and lived in Nairobi, Kenya up until he was assassinated by TPLF agents based in Ethiopian embassy that fateful second evening of July, 1992. He didn’t marry publicly but He left behind one girl with no one know until his assassination day called Hawwi Jaatani with her mother. He lived his entire life for his community. We lost many more Jatanis, the likes of Jarso Wako, Abdub Naqata, Boru Dine, Kanu Jillo and many more to our enemies.
Despite being not with us today, his spirit lives among us. Although few, we still have those who emulate his distinct and exemplary leadership. An everlasting monument to Jaatani is not a statue cast from a bronze but legacy that lives on in people’s lives and minds, to inspire the current and future generations to follow his example in having education, dedication and courage to serve their communities honourably.
“Gaaddisi dawo gosa wa nurra cabu hin malle, Jatani Ali Tandhu biyyeen si dhawu hin malle” Lokoo Ashene Dida (musician)
Rest In Eternal Peace, Baba Yetu, JatoBiyyen si sablatina.
Book: Jatani Ali Tandhu: Life & Legacy of a Borana Statesman , by Tadhi Liban (Author)