The Oromo people constitute well over 40% of Ethiopia’s total population and are the second largest single nationality group in Africa. They have their own unique language (Afaan Oromo), culture, and democratic governance (the Gada system). The Oromo have been fleeing and continue to flee their homeland, Oromia, due to political persecution, economic injustices and human rights abuses perpetrated against them merely because of their ethnicity.
It is estimated that more than ten thousand Oromo immigrants and refugees live in the Washington metropolitan area–the second largest concentration of Oromo in the United States (only after the State of Minnesota). Most of those who are here have lived through experiences of imprisonment, torture, or internment in their homeland and refugee camps in neighboring states. A significant number of them are separated from their loved ones and have lost their properties. They do not have established families in the USA. Like other refugee and immigrant groups, they face many barriers to becoming self-sufficient, including language and cultural barriers. The Oromo Community Organization (OCO) of the Washington Metropolitan Area was established in 1988 to assist them to overcome these challenges.