The Oromo want dignity, self-expression, and self-governance.
The Oromo want their voices to be heard.
The Oromo want sovereignty
They want to live together at peace with their neighbors, who themselves also live in freedom exercising their
Oromo activists, when for the first time came out organized they raised the question which Oromo people were grumbling about since occupation. If it was asked why the Oromoo people were grumbling the answer is that they want to get back independence and freedom they lost to colonizers. The above lines from Bonnie Holcomb’s OSA key note speech are taken from what she listed on what the Oromo wanted? It is now about half a century since OLF raised this question. Oromo were great nation, intelligent, adaptable to any situation, productive, fertile mind, courageous and without defects in all aspects. Their enemies are using Oromo since by historical accident they occupied Oromiyaa, as a machine for production, transport, building, communication and killings, freely or with cheap payment To maintain status quo they do not want them to develop consciousness and are doing all they can to erase traces of Oromummaa (being Oromo) left in them and pulverize their morale. They are not aiming at wiping out Oromo, their milk cow, but at blunting Oromummaa. That was impossible without committing genocide in the process. The Oromo had become aware of it and that unless they claim back their identity they cannot continue to survive as a nation and as human beings. That was how they started the struggle for independence. No one could stand against them if only they can mobilize their potential capabilities.
Initially there was relative unity in Oromo struggle. A move towards answering the question might have started but it is not yet given. Before that a hidden agenda was out that divided comrades. Constitution and laws were violated, the kaayyoo was looked over. With that, all started to shun and suspect each other. When a phrase is thrown from one corner every body starts to buzz. Nobody asks about its objectives. When they say, “throwing stones to each other, gap between the old and new generation” except relaying same from one to another no body question why such commotions were created. With time some seem to realize what was being cooked for them. Now we hear from public media that all alike are turning their faces towards each other. The lost trust seems to slowly healing.
Some say the world has changed. No one asks for whom, is it to make one a slave and the other master nor do they ask, then what is to be done? They applaud when they are told Oromo question is out of date and applaud also if some one says it is still relevant; being swayed by all that come is becoming a habit of the Oromo Diaspora. The Wayyaanee said OLF is dead when it was roaring loud; today too there are Oromo that say the nation is left with out leadership; OLF is broken into pieces, it does not exist. But still OLF is there roaring and there are other independent Oromo organizations as well as thousands that can provide leadership. It is not necessary to join Ethiopia in search of that. All said is part of the campaign to discredit organizations armed with Oromummaa. It is apparent that those that quitted OLF are those that ate their words or those that infiltrated to dismantle it but were not successful. There could also be those discharged for discipline. To regret is a right, but telling the truth be it about today or yesterday is magnanimity. Let it not be like the saying referred to a donkey, “Let not bent grass grow after my death” To bend the truth at any time takes no where.
The problems that gave rise to Oromo movements were political, economic and social; in particular the economic and political was the spear heads. Majority Oromo are farmers and herders. Alien occupied and dismantled their political and economic structure, it killed many nationals and sold several; it took away their land and made it for the state and rewarded its henchmen. It limited theirs and their domestic animals movements. They became tenants on holdings their ancestors passed for them and aliens started to use their labor and property freely. They lost authority over their homestead and family. When oppression reached unbearable level people started to grumble from corner to corner. Before much damage is done one among enemy groups came out and said land belongs to the people. With that it was told that land was snatched from hands of state and landlords. The oppressed danced with joy. They said “long live Darg”. The proclamation was amended as “land belongs to the state” while they were dancing. Hence people were left empty handed except for momentary jubilation.
Oromo activists recognized that in time and continued organizing OLF more vigorously. Darg’s change of mind in such time was taken as a warning message for all future dealings with colonial regimes. During initial chaos Darg made peasants to feel freedom. It diverted their attention from it and made them focus on landlords. When they were hurling rocks on those the Darg strengthened its mount. It levied higher taxes. It conscripted their children and sent them to war fronts as it liked. Seeming kind it started to get crueler than its predecessors. Land also belonged to the state during reign of the crown. The same continued even after that. Nothing was reinstated for the Oromo be it their culture, tradition, rights, language, or any other things. First making them dance and then kicking continued even after the Darg. As a result the empire system did not stop shaking from its roots.
For all we said the essence of Oromo struggle became more understood and more energized. Their enemies had been carrying internal power struggle as per their tradition. For this reason OLF might have taken those revolting as friends and taken its eyes away from them being deceived by pretenses. They, TPLF and EPLF of course share national characters with the Darg. They had no intention to recognize Oromo right to intendance but wanted OLF to help them overthrow the Darg. Both saw economic and strategic advantage in controlled Oromiyaa. Though their initial approach was not as rough as that of the Darg, for Oromiyaa the end result was the same, it remained occupied. Eritrea still does not support independence of Oromiyaa. But she gives shelter for factions of Oromo liberation for strategic reasons.
TPLF and EPLF did not have much problem to connect with traditional Habashaa friends. They know that their question does not challenge structure of the state. On the other hand because OLF’s aim is to dismantle the colonial structure they helped in building, to win them would not be as easy as for others. The Faranjii had helped in all Habashaa campaigns of breaking Oromo power by Teedros, Yohannis, Minilik, Tafarii and Darg. They were also the ones that helped TPLF recently. Faranjii know that their interest is safe with Habashaa elements for from experience they know they would not go back from betraying each other if they get more benefit. Because the Oromo is a big nation they doubt if they could mold them as they like. So, to form relations the Oromo have to go extra miles to meet them.
The coalition OLF formed in 1991 with TPLF ended shortly. After that in maters of economy the relation people had with their resources under and above ground became more severe than the previous times. Like all the previous regimes it transported Habashaa from the highlands and settled them in Oromiyaa without Oromo consent. Unlike them it sold Oromo land cheaply to wealthy entities from abroad and in the country. Those that bought are those who did not have concern for the dislocated population, the land polluted by chemicals and when human, animal and vegetation health was threatened. Still Oromo and their economic resources are going further apart. They are denied even being tenants and reduced to beggars on street sides unbecoming of their tradition. The government showed no compassion for them.
From day one of occupation to this day all have come committing crimes against the nation with the help of their Oromoo lackeys. Those they gave role in administration were those that were willing to immerse in Oromo blood. This has come down repeated through six regimes. The TPLF created three organizations in the name of other peoples from captives and quislings and made them members of EPRDF a party over which it is the master. It then announced that its objective is to create a government led by a dominant party. For name sake it allowed oppositions that can collect leftovers and serve as decorations. That means their dream about power was predetermined for them. Putting a non Habashaa in EPRDF in front of it like a chariot horse, TPLF is galloping with the rein and whip in its hands. How long would they be tolerated to stick out their tongues on intelligence of peoples of their colonies? It is said EPRDF’s world outlook is Abiyootaawwii Demokraasii (Revolutionary Democracy), the one dominant outlook. It is the only one that has that outlook. TPLF is said to prophesy “market economy” albeit for foreign consumption, domestically its policy is not different from the emperors.
Socially TPLF has introduced change that could serve it as a safety valve. Though it was not the major one, the question of Afaan Oromo was one amongst which the Oromo struggled for. It went beyond what the Darg aimed at for deceit and agreed with the OLF that it be used as a working language and as medium of instruction. It partly agreed on Oromiyaa territory whose map OLF has been popularizing for a long time. Dismantling “Xaqlayi Gizat” model of administration it made Amaara elite screechy. It has for the first time recognized in Habashaa constitution the existence of nations and nationalities and their having rights. Though that was result of the struggle agreeing to it make’s TPLF cleverer than the rest.
If the Oromo could see facts enumerated above together they can form unity of outlook. If all give different interpretations for what Oromo went through those that have similar views can form unity among themselves. After analyzing the conditions in Oromo society and history of the surrounding OLF concluded that the outlook of Ethiopian communists was irrelevant and drew its political program for forming Democratic Republic Oromiya. For a people to be respected and live in happiness with own identity it needs to be independent and free. Differently from this thought there are those that say it would be enough if we can democratize Ethiopia and as far as possible get the Oromo national rights respected in there. They are concerned about rights of the colonizer. This is different from traditional OLF outlook. Do Oromoo have own identity or not? How does Oromiyaa relate to the empire? One has to ask oneself.
These days, complaints, “they are throwing rocks to each other leaving the enemy alone etc.” is being fanned but it is not true at this time. Most have learned, wasting time condemning each other for difference of opinion has no benefit. That is why it seems many are showing reservation even when provoked by false statements and pathological lies. In struggle sideline conflicts of different forms have to be expected. Throwing verbal barrages at each other is one of them. Those are mostly caused by desperados and enemy agents not genuine activists. There is nothing to be gained by complaining but by standing against all forms firmly. At the end the line that has the truth will come out victorious. To avoid the worst what ever vision one has for future of Oromiyaa; it should not be one that degrades national honor by showing submissiveness, fear and shivering in the face of alien goggle. To accept less than equal status as a nation and as individual with any other nation or individual is a disgrace. Those who know nothing about honor from birth should not claim being Oromo. They will not be spared from being considered as enemy gadgets. But it would be sinful to throw rocks on one for ones choice, as long as that choice does not place the national interest on harm’s way. There must be a line that remains safuu and not to be crossed between nationals however bitter they may be against each other even verbally. “Safuu and ilaa fi ilaamee” are pillars of Oromummaa. Remember the war song “Citaa mana keetii hin ijjeerin kabi; hamaa nama keetii hin ajjeesin qabi”. Patience and perseverance may lead all to honorable victorious end that the nation deserves.
Oromo struggle came so far guided by force of habit not by dominant ideology that emerged from within. Oromummaa was only rolling on the tongue not ripe enough to be swallowed. Their rear that colonization had destroyed denied them the basis for coherent political ideology. For this reason when saboteurs from inside and outside attacked them all pulled into tiny precincts and started to affront each rather than defending their original kaayyoo together. To pullout oneself from this, it is essential to sift those with similar outlooks and reassemble them for defense of the kaayyoo. With difference of opinion as a pretext if one intends to violate human rights insulting and muffling other’s opinion that becomes lack of discipline and symptom of arrogance. Such one will not be useful for the future of own nation or other human beings. To pay attention to their senile gibberish will be a waste of the nation’s precious time. Reactionaries will dig out a knife for their own slaughter not knowing the consiqunce of their actions and utterances. All they do easily expose their pettiness.
For all purposes better ignore them as non existent and more than unity of activists, urgency of making efforts to achieve unity of struggle towards one goal must be considered. It is possible that Oromo activists may need some time to clear some details in order to merge their organizations with others. The part that personal ego could play should not be over looked in this matter. Questions of rallying ones constituency for the new venture, trusting political beliefs one had been entertaining over a long time to a new formation and the healing of old wounds may need to be taken into account. “Melting” cacophony of recent past in which all those that said they melted withered away, is also not encouraging. Until those are settled beyond doubt they can coordinate their struggle towards one direction. When those ready merge allowing others to take their time is necessary. It is not a must to harry for the sake of the panicky situation. Unity to be achieved must be such that past mistakes are never again repeated. If need be they can draw provisional minimum program of action. Until all decide to merge for good that can be an alternative.
To relate all we saw and heard to Oromo struggle we do not have the luxury. Phrase like generation gap, obsolete outlook etc. are being uttered many times. To be a revolutionary is not limited by age. One decides on ones world outlook. If an old person and a young one have similar outlook they are comrades. Their hope and wishes are the same. Physical weakness, liking for new styles, lack of appreciation for esthetics, adapting to new technology fast, that could come with age can be evaluated together and overcome with coordination. Generation gap could be a problem among those with different outlooks and those whose minds are not liberated. Only one with liberated mind can comprehend processes in natural development and that is a revolutionary. If he/she feels he/she has more to err than contribute, he will inform and retire; except for empowering ones people he has no greed for power.
Activist that have common goal had drawn together a program that takes them there. They have also made a constitution and laws they will be governed by. It was hoped that they will be guided by that as long as they remain together. That means they have voluntarily put themselves under one disciplinary system. They vowed to sacrifice their today’s comfort for tomorrow’s life of jubilation and happiness for all. If constitution and laws they have today show problem in the future they have put in place the procedure for amendment. They had also a system of coming into and going out of the organization. Decision was to be given by consensus or majority vote. How many of the activists that are giving eye to each other abode by those laws? How many considered themselves as the law? Let all question themselves. How can Independent Republic of Oromiyaa believe one that does not abide by rule of law now, to abide by it then?
It is said, “An alpha bull can be identified in calves’ pen”. When they say we build new thing questions arse, who, with what, what did they do to the earlier one? With that they can judge its future and conclude if it could grow to hopefull bull. Not to complete what one started, to straighten what is bent, and to nourish what is stunted cannot buy one, credibility. One, who took an oath to accomplish the objectives of struggle one believed in, cannot be moved by any provocation unless one is a naked opportunist. Our people could hardly have five percent of the population from literate to higher education. It has governed itself by instinctual knowledge and traditional education up to the time of Abbaa Gadaa. The learned are panacea for modern society. But one who is intelligent by instinct can coordinate and deploy them according to their capability and skill. The way to support each other cannot be a problem if there is a will. For this reason to say knowledgeable refuse to come to us is a complaint of the lazy or one with low self esteem. To say unless knowledgeable lead is the same as saying wait until the tail wags the dog. But it is when the dog wags the tail that it protects itself from tsetse fly and also attracts friends. To be wagged by the tail is portent. The learned have also to go and help in their struggle instead of waiting people coming to them; it is also their country. The required is commitment, Waaqaa given wisdom and courage. Over and above this mature political consciousness could hasten victory. We raised the issue of education for its own sake; otherwise leaders of Oromo organizations, without adding their experience in struggle, are mostly over educated by national standards.
In general what ever side one takes what has benefit is uniting Oromo struggle. However by leaving arrogance, chauvinism and selfishness behind and standing against the enemy with a common front, one can bring out ones character freely in independent Oromiyaa than in a democratized Ethiopian empire. Scattered thoughts deny the struggle direction. If those who stand for independence of Oromiyaa and freedom of the Oromo, group on one side and those that stand for democratizing empire Ethiopia on the other, it would be easier be it for people’s choice or to speed up the struggle. It could also clear the existing confusion and commotions. There were good opportunities that passed without being used. Opportunism becomes ugly when practiced by individual that crisscross for selfish ends. But when on the level of organizations the good is recognized, grabbed and tamed before it passes, shows wisdom. It is one that knows own inner self. It is said “Only the owner knows content of ones letter”. But if one does not pay attention to what others say, one remains echoing one self. People do not view you as you see yourself but can put you in different smeared boxes and point at you for others to take note.
To build strong formidable resistance all activists must grasp Oromummaa and its principles, which are democracy, liberty, equality, justice, rule of law and genuine love for humanity. That could be expressed through Unity of the struggle by forming an air tight organization. Strong organization enables to line up manpower, material, capabilities, and skill. If so people who have determination and commitment for their cause will not be entangled by those undecided and anti organized Oromo struggle. It is only lunatics that go against another without benefits for ones objectives. But if one is riding with dangerous baggage sheltered behind him one cannot complain. It will be unproductive to try to impose highly develop concepts On Oromiyaa without taking into account the level of development of its people. It is said “Alms (Sadaqaa) are according to ability”. No one can demand from us more than what we can offer, no one is also born with higher wisdom and courage than us. All use communication gadgets and health education etc so also we do. But whether political and economic concepts fit our purpose we have first to chew and taste. No one should force them down our throats. No one denies that each generation has its own idiosyncrasy. Generation gap becomes a problem only among those that do not have common outlook for own people’s kaayyoo and those whose minds are not liberated, not between all comrades that have difference of age. Those have one program, one constitution and a code of discipline. Whether they like each other or not nationals have to draw a line over which to trespass is safuu. United struggle helps to think together and find solution for all according to own standing. To empower the nation that is the only alternative. Agonized voice is calling saying come to the rescue fast, before the nation is totally uprooted and the whole Oromiya is sold out. To answer that, Oromo struggle based on Oromummaa has to be united, not tomorrow, after tomorrow, but today!!! All factions need to be cleansed from past pollution to form strong clean organization.
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.