"Aani ëë alwäyya ki ngø këët ni yöö?" ("What shall I fear?") - by Achan Oboya

Achan Oboya, Anywaa religious singer and composer, sang this for us in Gambella wereda in June 2016. She composed it around the end of 2015 and attributes its inspiration to difficulties in life that she was facing at the time.

"[It was] the suffering that pushed me to write this song," she said. "Because, I had been in a tough time, so I was struggling with some challenges. But, [over] the course of time, I understood that God is on my side. I have to tell those problems that, ‘I have God, who can overcome all these things. He has the power. He already won the victory for me.’…Now, different people have the same problem that I had at that time…so I hope that this song will help them so that they can proclaim God’s victory [over] those problems that they are facing right now.” She has presented this song in her church, and all the church members now know it and sing it on their own.

The chorus references the book of Esther in the Old Testament, in which Mordecai, one of the protagonists, is sentenced to hanging by Haman, a prominent kingdom official. In twist of events, instead of being executed, Mordecai is instead rewarded by the king, and Haman is hung on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.

Achan started composing around 2004, after she began receiving songs in dreams. Gradually, she started singing them in the church, and now she is a respected and well-known church composer and even has put out some recordings. Achan connects the timing of her receiving her gift with what my Anywaa friends call “the incident,” or “the genocide.” The songs began to come to her in her dreams immediately after what human rights organizations estimate as many as 424 Anywaa were targeted and killed by mob violence in December 2003. Many Anywaa fled Gambella region during this time for fear of their lives and became refugees in Kenya and Sudan. The massacre devastated many Anywaa communities in Gambella region and still looms large in popular memory, continuing to shape contemporary ethnic consciousness and inter-ethnic and political relationships in the area.

Achan said that she began dreaming about songs directly after the incident and said, “It affects me generally as my tribe…I felt [bad] about the many lives that were taken…I believe that it was God who inspired me to receive those songs through dreams, so that I can share with people.”

Translation (English)
What shall I fear?
When everything I should fear has been overcome by God
Is there anything that I should fear?
When everything I should fear has been overcome by God
I shall fear nothing anymore.

Chorus (2x)
Brothers and sisters, come and see the victory of God
He has shown his victory
He has declared his victory over Haman
When he was boasting over Mordecai
God has declared his victory
The entire proclamation regarding Mordecai was overturned
The proclamation of killing
God has changed it into life

Walking on this earth, living in a joyful life
Because anything I may fear has already been overcome by God
This God that I am serving, there is nothing that he cannot overcome
He has overcome everything
So that everything that threatens me can know that I have a powerful God

Transcription (dha-Anywaa)
Aani ëë alwäyya ki ngø këët ni yöö?
Ni jappa da lwäyyö ki geni bee ni bööt Jwøki yöö
Aa gïna ngø këët ni lwäära yöö?
Ni jappa da lwäyyö ki geni bee ni bööt Jwøki yöö
Bung gïn ma do maara lwäyö ki gø këët ni yöö?

Chorus (2x)
Nyimera rangu böödö mar Jwøk öö
Ni böödö mare ka nyoodhe
Kaa nyoodhe ni yaa jïïa Aman aa ëë,
Ka bëëde ni bëëna nguuö öö bäät Møørdikay
Ni Jwøk öö böödö mare kaa nyoodhe öö,
Ni ööa waaci bärë mana gøø piny ëë kiper Møørdikay öö
Ni bee waa thøø öö
Ni wiili ni Jwøk ni kwøk öö

Acäädhö ni yöö bäät piny man, ni yiea met yaak öö,
Kiper gïïa da lwäärö gi bëët bee ni bööt Jwøki öö,
I Jwøk man bee ee, bung gïr piny öö yaa mo dhäthö jïrë ki böötö yöö,
Ni jammi bëët ööy ka løny jire ki böötö yöö
Ni ngäc møa tïïc aani ööy, na bëëda na lwäär ööy ni Jwøk dagø jïra mo teek öö

Credits and Bibliography

Ojho Ojullu Othow (coordinated and translated interview)

Feyissa, Dereje. 2009. “A National Perspective on the Conflict in Gambella.” In Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, edited by Svein Ege, Harald Aspen, Birhanu Teferra, and Shiferaw Bekele, 641-653. Trondheim.

Human Rights Watch. 2005. Targeting the Anuak: Crimes Against Humanity in Ethiopia’s Gambella Region. https://www.hrw.org/news/2005/03/23/ethiopia-crimes-against-humanity-gambella-region