Democratizing Ethiopia is not a shift in paradigm but maintaining the Colonial Status quo

By Danbale

Part 1

This paper although emerged from my reflection at the London Oromo Conference (22-23 Oct 2016)it is not about appraising the conference but about the unspoken messages behind the conference. I convinced myself to attend the conference to observe two major outcomes: how the International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA) would bring to diaspora Oromo; the long held democratising Ethiopia in the face of the angry and disaffected diaspora and bring consensus between Oromo political parties that were spilt by meticulous handy work of TPLF for two decades.

What is more fascinating for me to notice at the conference was the arrangement of the speakers and the time slot given to the proponents of Oromo Bilisumma, the democratising Ethiopia speaker’s. The meeting started with a presentation of intellectually stimulating papers the kind you would expect at Oromo Studies Association nonetheless pointing to the themes of the day. In the afternoon of 22 Oct the meeting was dedicated to Oromo political parties presentation. To no once surprise, the Oromo political organisations spilled bins and threaded accusation against each other and the public was also given chance to ask questions at the end that appears to be the strongest criticism of Oromo political parties that would suffice a resignation of the leadership by the standards of Western politicians.

The milestone for the second day was the famous speech by the arch proponent of Ethiopian federalist and democratization activist Izkele Gabissa. His presentation started with a warm up on Gadaa but stopped short of his repeated mantra of paradigm shift in Oromo struggle from liberating Oromia to democratizing Ethiopia. His main argument which is also supported with his article of Friday 21 of Oct, 2016 is that the time for calling for Oromia independence is an out-dated , “What is inscrutable is the fact that the idea of self-identification, self-reliance and self-rule that the OLF planted among the Oromo has grown to the sentiment of “national liberation” expressed by the #OromoProtests. The #OromoProtests has been a national drama unfolding before the entire world.  Reasonable people know the demands of the present Oromo revolution.  They don’t torment them with the same question they asked of their predecessors’. He further quotes in this same article Obbo Taha Abdi testimony on 8th of April 1992 before US House of Representative and Foreign Affairs subcommittee to justify his stands on democratization of Ethiopia where Taha has allegedly said ; “ an opportunity to democratize, transform and create a new Ethiopia in which the equal enjoyment of civil, economic and political rights of all the people are assured and above all there is no alternative to the democratization of Ethiopia”.

What is more depressing is to note that Eskele uses every public opportunity to promote his view of democratizing Ethiopia as the Alfa and Omega to the life of Oromo nation .He elaborated why we need a shift in paradigm in the struggle against Ethiopian empire at his press interview defending Atlanta Oromo leadership conference to ESAT television and recently in Canada where he outright said, “ I don’t recall Oromo’s protesting for self-determination. What I heard them say is democracy and rule of law.”.  I don’t know how loud the Oromo should voice their interest for Oromia self-rule and do away with Ethiopian tyranny other than what they have been saying in the last one year and paying the ultimate price in thousands to this effect. If that is no sufficient to hear Oromo desire for Independent Oromia, I don’t know what a “ reasonable person” Ezkele is referring to want to know about Oromians determination.

His case for demanding Oromo’s struggle need a shift in paradigm has not shifted for a quarter a century nor produced academic evidence to this end. For a quarter of century there has been ‘ democratization of Ethiopia ‘ in the making that the Western stakeholders strongly approved off. One would think an experiment of democratization for twenty five years or so would generate sufficient evidence that political scientist can digest to support their debate not reiterating a simple statement of a former OLF central committee from a quarter of a century to obstruct Oromo struggle and make a case for democratizing Ethiopia as a solution to Oromians national question. One wonders if there is hidden motive for this unsubstantiated rhetoric, I noted the following clues from his essay.

Origin of the shift in paradigm argument

What appears as an academic evidence for the debate on shifting in paradigm of Oromo national question for independence of Oromia was a note from black American struggle for emancipation referring to The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy in America by economist Gunnar Myrdal who suggested “Once African-Americans started to demand that the principles of liberty, equality, justice and fair treatment of all citizens inherent in the US Constitution be extended to them..”. By the same vein of argument Eskele says. “…Oromo’s should insist the constitutional rights and the federal arrangement be respected.  Oromo protesters became defenders of the constitution against a government that with impunity violated the political, economic”. He goes further to recommend that : “ I argue that the art of politics for the Oromo at this point is foregoing the emotional satisfaction of calling for a grand military victory over the “Wayane” and accepting instead specific measures that are likely to produce tangible and lasting results” Meaning the armed struggle against the TPLF should be stopped and worthless and Oromos should be contained by some measures amendment that the TLPF regime might pronounce in response to Oromo-revolution. He further recommends, “ Oromos must use constitutional means to claim that access and gain that leadership”. These phrases will be laminated in collective memories of millions of Oromo’s for the years to come probably worth keeping (translated in Affaan Oromo) them for educating future generation of Oromians on how the struggle has been fought from within in the same scale and magnitude to those at the battle front.

There are two flaws in these disparaging in this seemingly academic arguments I would like to raise here. In the first instance to compare Oromo, a nation with its own homeland, language, history and heritage for thousands of years to disposed black American (Africans forced to slavery) who are uprooted of their native land , culture value, language and heritage and have nothing but the colonizers language, religion and values.  Why he couldn’t compare Oromo’s with Kosovo, the breakaway republic of former Yugoslavia but the American America black people struggle is a subject I would like to deal in future article. Second flaw in this too simplistic argument denies the fact that Ethiopia is a lawless land where there is no independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and .  This argument should have appraised the failure of judiciary, policy and all state institutions and the very fact that the present apartheid TPLF government based at the heart of Oromia –Finefine is not something Oromo’s can stomach.  It is simply giving unwarranted credence of authority to TPLF a legal instrument with little reference of the reality on the ground.

The truth of the matter Ezkele’s argument for demanding a shift in paradigm from Oromians seeking independence appears to me as to ODF political line. Here is what is said in his article of 21st October ayyaantuu : “ At the moment, it is not clear which OLF is still promoting the idea of “total independence.” Over the last half century, the OLF has splintered into several factions. The Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), for instance, has a new political program that doesn’t mention total independence’. The question one would naturally want to ask: Is the academic argument by Ezkele is there to defend the ODF political line or is it simply to find supportive evidence for ODF. I will leave this to the readers to make up their mind.

Danger behind democratization- agenda

In is seminal article, Assefa Jalata notes the hidden agenda of democratization “ in the ideological clothing of universalism, progress, democracy, development, .. have hidden the massive human rights violations of indigenous peoples and have contributed to the perpetuation of underdevelopment, poverty, and suffering for the majority of the world populations (De Sousa Santos 2007; Rajagopal 2003, 2006).”

What is also hidden behind the agenda of democratization of Ethiopia and demanding a shifting paradiagm from liberating Oromia in effect is advocating for maintaining the present colonial boundary that will work for global capitalism allowing the neocolonial states and local and transnational capitalists to intensify the exploitation and dehumanization of Oromo people an experiment that has been tested for twenty-five years.

Conclusion

As the struggle for Oromian independence draws to close, the proponent of the grater Ethiopia are taking every conceivable public space to get heard and bring their feeble ideological argument against just cause of Oromo nation. While no one deny the role of scholarly debate, but disregarding the lived experience 45 millions Oromo voice willfully is an acceptable. The Oromo’s says for those who want to hear: Galmi keenya bilisummaadha. Our goal is liberation

Oromia is a crime seen at present. The exhibit of the crime committed against Oromo’s are there for all to see. But why the International Oromo Lawyers Association (IOLA) ignored the exhibit and failed to forge alliance with other humanitarian organisation to take the criminals to the International Criminal Court (ICC) but pursue a different path is not clear for us to see. For now is suffice to say to Federalist, Ethiopian democratization advocates amongst Oromo it’s an democratic and not honourable to say to Oromo’s that there is a glass cling how far you can go on yourself determination without your enemies approval. There is more moral and intellectual responsibility in framing a discussion around a party political ideology presented as tenders prescription for a Oromo struggle when it is actually intended for maintaining the present status quo.

References

Assefa Jalata (2016). Reimagining Global Social Movements in the Perspective of Egalitarian Democracy Ayyaantuu.net [ 27th Oct 2016]

Ezkele Gabissa (2016). The Oromo Leadership Convention and the Future of Ethiopia. Ayyaantuu.net [ 21 Oct , 2016]

9 Responses to Democratizing Ethiopia is not a shift in paradigm but maintaining the Colonial Status quo

  1. Whitestar October 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Bravo!

  2. Solomon October 30, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    Are you talking about Oromia’s complete independance?
    I believe that is a wish of some Oromo intellectuals which they are trying to impose on the people.
    If it comes to that a fair referendum can be carried out. BY fair I mean both sides of the idea making the arrgument without interferance.
    I believe Oromo people will go for a true federal democratic government in which they have a an audible voice!
    I am Oromo by blood (only mother side). MY mom and most importantly my grand parents have never even remotely talked about Oromo people outside the context of Unified Ethiopia.
    And I have to say … none of them were beneficiaries of previous governements….. No bias there.
    I believe The group of Oromos who think like my parent / grand parents is significant.
    One thing I have learned from Ethiopian politics is that Intellectuals tend to think and speak for the people instead of listening and really understanding what people need and work off of that.

  3. jobr October 30, 2016 at 6:05 pm #

    Is there a part 2 to this ramble? The sequence of events that have unfolded over the last few weeks is just another testament to the Oromo political machinery’s unique way of bringing itself to a grind whenever you think there is some semblance of progress. Regardless of which side of self-rule you advocate, spewing the kind of crude language used at this public meetng, especially from self-appointed representatives of the people will not help the just cause of the people. What seems to be lacking from the lexicon of these people is the fact that self-rule cannot exist in a vaccuum and you must deal with the subjects in your surrounding for your own security. It looks like both sides are for self-rule but one side is saying that you cannot build your house in a circle of fire and expect not to be caught up in your own making eventually while the other side doesnot give a hoot about what follows the end.

  4. StarAction October 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    Wether independence or self-rule as developed nations have it whereby no other provinces/region interfer with the others, that all are a choice of a province/region.

    Voice of heard in Federal? No one has a right to override the voice to be heard in a province/region and even in a community.

    If understanding is required on mutual bases, product of resources distribution can be happen. But resources ownership and own management are only under a province/region. There is no more desired nor rationally acceptable to jump over other region/province and cause damage on people.

    If unity is necessary for peace and stability, the first priority against this should be addressed in meeting. That is removal of TPLF.

    I can see some immature discussion about national unity, national independence, national democratization and so on goes on in meeting. But none of these are relevant in the present context. Because, there is no way to implement such discussion as far as TPLF is still on power. Nor expect TPLF will go peacefully.

    The priority should be so unity to remove TPLF. How to unify in this areas? Is that talk onto oneself?
    Just few approaches:

    1) Role of Diaspora to unify in taking away military and police from TPLF. If every disapora contribute about $20 per month per individual having income, that will pay all military and police who defect, refuse to work, mix with their respective province/region from TPLF.

    2) Unity to stop any supports and aids from developed nations and China for TPLF. This automatically paralyze TPLF.

    3) Unity of local people to stop any meeting and contact with TPLF and TPLF’s agent.

    4) Unity to fight TPLF.

    5) unity you get sanction on TPLF.

    Don’t waste time to discuss about fate of the nation. That will be discussed aftermath of TPLF removal.
    That will include the choice of people.

    If this will not happen, men of TPLF will continue slaughtering men of other people except Tigree. Then they will marry women of others! That is what has been going on including in Ogadean.

  5. Sorsa October 30, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    Dear Organizers of the Oromo Leadership Convention in Atlanta:

    In order to reduce confusion and make it easier for your audience to follow the discussion I recommend that you introduce strict discipline by raising the bar to speak at the podium in Atlanta.

    One way to do so is limiting speakers to those registered members of five dominant political groups below in Oromia who have registered substantial practical impact on the ground.

    Religious groups and groups not significantly fighting the regime on the ground should not be given the opportunity to speak at the conference, even if they have “grand ideas” on paper. If some groups or individuals still insist on speaking, then they should officially join one of the established political groups and speak on their behalf. Other than that they should not abuse the audience only to stir controversy while they have no visible influence on the ground. Here the groups I have in mind:

    1) OPDO – reflecting TPLF’s agenda, officially has substantial registered members

    2) OFC – officially registered legal opposition with a very large following but with no
    teeth.

    3) OLF – armed opposition practically fighting occupation, also with very large following

    4) Gummii Abbootii Gadaa (GAG) – unarmed but ultimate leaders of the oromo nation, in theory.

    5) Qeerroo – the main engine behind the current uprising against fascism.

    These are the only groups known to have substantial support among the oromo and from which consensus should be sought. The rest can be there as participants but not as active speakers. For people who insist on speaking without being party members of the above groups my advice is that they be the people to challenge the speakers with questions and propose how they would do better. Or, they can form distinct political organizations with considerable support and visible influence across OROMIA similar to the above, not just with close friends in America or Europe.

    The same way, religious groups should be strictly barred from speaking politics at the

    podium, except for giving their traditional blessings. For example, one of our qeesis

    recently preached that TPLF was chosen by God to rule – so we need not even fight them as this would be fighting God himself.

    Therefore, since opinions like these and the one expressed at London conference are followed across the world there should be no political place given to all religious representatives until they officially join the political organizations mentioned above and be delegated by them.

    The same applies to political activists with no organizational allegiance.

    This way the world understands what Oromos as a nation actually want by breaking down and linking their various aspirations to major political groupings, and it is easier to reach at a practical consensus on the way forward.

    On the other hand, if every oromo or group is given opportunity to speak, the sought after consensus would be highly subjective, difficult to find, unrepresentative, and potentially biased.

    Of course, the right to make final decision should not be taken away from the people of Oromia.

    Galatooma!

  6. Sorsa October 30, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    Dear Danbale:

    I fully agree with your concern about “democratization” without oromo arming themselves to their teeth and leading every single stage of that process.

    That is why I am strictly opposed to unarmed oromo groups working with armed non-oromo groups only to sell the interest of the oromo nation! for example, If ODF is allowed to grow its maximum life span and role is predicted to be that of OPDO!

    On the other hand, if oromos are in charge of the army and every step of political decision making there should be considerable advantage for everyone remaining in the union.

    However, it would be wishful thinking if some oromos think someone will offer them their oromia on silver plate without fighting for it.

    I do not support Independence of oromia as long as Oromos are in charge of fully autonomous Oromia and all critical government institutions in the country, proportional to their population. This is my opinion, which may or may not be shared by oromo masses which should be known after referendum. But, first things first, our people are dying and we need unity of purpose even with the SATAN if necessary to get rid of wayane,now!

  7. Sirbo barbo November 1, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    Traditional classical theories of change are poured from experts down to the grassroot to implement in the way it is baked by themselves. This is how a colonial thoughts and actions had been operating, and it is far from truth to say this is not the case now. It persists in different ways, both by subjugators and the subjugated. Above all , it is sad to see that this is seriously prevalent in the minds and deed of the subjugated , like some Oromo elites. They still tell the Oromo that Oromo cannot leave without its colonizers. They beat the drum, we know for for you, while they do not have their own self esteem . If education is not for emancipation, what the hail is it doing for human being unless its outcome is abused like by these elites. At least they do not dare to say that the Oromo people can determine their destiny. Believe it or not Oromo cannot give up for provisional project funded against its cause. Danbale has rightly narrated relevant points and I do not want repeat it .

  8. oftaha November 1, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    waan amma tplf dalaga jirtu ifati tigrai yoo fotoqsu barbaadan namni isaan dhoorku danda’u hin jiru.ani badiyaan jiraadha diqaalan takka wareen maka qaban ummani oromo Ethiopia tokkumma jaalata ja’an kuni soba adiidha Ethiopia maqa ja’ullee sila akka keenyan dhagahullee hin barbaanu garu amma waan hayyooni keenya irratti waliigale ni fudhanna walkomachuu dhiisa wa’ee fotoqu oromiya ilaachisee rifarandamiin akka murta’u irratti waligaluun dirqama taha bu’aa rifarandami fudhachuun dirqama kana tahu baanaan itti hangi waligaltanu nigeha kana nutu murteeysa ummani oromo sirna mataa isaatin buluu barbaada sirna keenyaan isaan bulchuu hin barbaannu bulguun diqalaa fi ayyaan lalatuun dhimma oromo hin murteesitu.wareegama amma kafalle dachas sagal kafallee oromia billisoomsina.goota akka leencati fi nituu beeka.

  9. Bi Bi November 2, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    The “Colonial state” swan song and useless mantra aside we need to be pragmatic in assessing the human, material, social, economic, strategic, etc. resources of Oromia the great and through that struggle to have autonomous control over it, all within the over all framework Ethiopia, Horn of Africa, African continent, the Middle east and the world at large. Where is the colonial state? 🙂
    Amhara state, tplf state, Wolaita state…? 🙂

    Some of you guys are amazing when you keep chanting the same old sterile chants from your insulated and isolated ivory tower palaces not knowing the fact that Mengistu Haile mariam (TIKUR SEW) grabbed power from His majesty and ruled that country for about 17 long years . Then came the tplf (Tigrian Liberation Front) and grabbed power from TIKUR SEW, Mengistu Haile mariam, chasing him all the way to Zimbabwe the beautiful.

    And then after some years the tplf’s strongman leader, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died all of a sudden, leaving total power vacuum that has been there for long time to be picked up from the ground by any one interested. Still, the ivory tower Colonial state mantra chanters said nothing, saw nothing, heard nothing about all of these and other changes on the ground and in practice. Please colonial mantra folks, give us a break! 🙂

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