A Better Alternative for the Oromo: Independent State of Oromia
Via Luucee Gurmuu
A recent article being circulated in the Oromo diaspora raises a few self-evident truths peppered-in with some mischaracterizations of Oromo demands, untruths, and distortions. This piece shall address a few of it to provide the reader with a more balanced view of the subject.
The authors hit the nail on the head by stating that OPDO is compelled to “embrace demands of the Oromo people.” In fact, as any casual observer can attest, OPDO’s embrace of demands of the Oromo people is a result of the Oromo people’s struggle to make the region ungovernable not just for it but for its controller – the Ethiopian government as well. Over the first three years of Oromo protests, OPDO, in concert with TPLF/EPRDF, left no stone unturned to frustrate and bury Qeerroo protests. Only after failing miserably to extinguish Oromo thirst for liberty and emancipation did the OPDO “embraced” Oromo demands. What is the OPDO – a mere TPLF lapdog – to do with Oromo protests which its master’s “third largest army in Africa” failed to put down but “embrace” it! The alternative conclusion, that OPDO embraced Oromo demands of its own free will and from the bottom of its heart – after trying not just to frustrate it but to kill it for the past 26 years – requires suspension of rationality on the part of the observer.
Anyone with a healthy dose of a skepticism or any savvy student of politics but with no vested self-interest would, and should, view OPDOs recent change of heart as an attempt to stay in power and prolong its life until time proves him/her otherwise. Not enough time has elapsed since OPDO “embraced Oromo demands” for its leaders to receive accolades and flowery praises as precedent setters for “a new era in Ethiopian politics.”
The article contends that Oromo political demand has always been for a participatory democracy within Ethiopia, same as demand of “other Ethiopians” and that “OPDO officials and diaspora-based activists now speak with one voice about the future.
The truth, however, is quite different. The difference is not on whether the Oromo are struggling for freedom, justice and democracy but on the context in which they are demanding the realization of these important ideals.
First, over the “last half century” there is not one demand that was/is common to all nations and nationalities in that empire. The Eritreans demanded an independent state which they achieved in the 1990s. Oromos, Ogadenis and others are demanding total emancipation from the yoke of Ethiopian colonialism the existence of which the authors don’t dispute but argue is now defunct. Then there are proper Ethiopians whose demand has always been participatory democracy and justice from their governments. Even the current rulers of the empire did demand an independent state at one point In the history of their struggle before deciding to settle for the imperial throne.
Secondly, Oromo nationalists resent any suggestion that participatory democracy and civil rights would buy their loyalty to Ethiopia. They affirm their right to be Oromos (not Ethiopians) and to an independent state of Oromia different and separate from Ethiopians but living in peace with it as good neighbors. This is because true nationalists, and good students of history I might add, are mindful of the fact that a “peaceful, prosperous and democratic” empire is an oxymoron. The proof of this is in the pudding which in this case is Oromo protests of the last four years. In these protests, participatory democracy, civil rights or any of the usual pro-democracy chants have never been resonant street slogans. Not a single Ethiopian flag appears in these protests either. Instead, the popular chants are the usual pro-independence slogans such as “Oromia for Oromos” and requesting the removal of the occupier’s army from their land, always adorned with the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) flags – a symbol of independence of Oromia.
Even in “protest songs, resistance literature, cultural performances and a public display of new symbols of national pride” the authors cite” in connection with the Oromo struggle against cultural domination, the authors had ample opportunity to provide examples of such songs, performances or symbols that indicate the Oromo demand for participatory democracy in the current Ethiopian state structure. They did not! In observing these displays of Oromo nationalism, one doesn’t get the sense that the performers and artists involved in creating and performing them believe Ethiopian colonialism is defunct as the two authors would like us to believe. They create and perform as if they are in a life and death struggle against a colonialist occupier, which, in reality they are. Just listen to Bilisummaa Jifaaraa’s “Amma Yoomii” or Yaanet Dinquu’s and Caalaa Bultumee’s “Abbaan Biyya Oromoo dha” songs which are representative samples of Oromo protest songs. To sample but a few of the lyrics:
“Impaayera afaan qawwe jalaa si baafachuuf” (to liberate you from an empire ruling you by the barrel of the gun)
“Ripaabliik Oromiyaa walabaan ijaarrachuuf” (to build an independent republic of Oromia)
“abbaan biyya Oromoo dha yaa qeeroo …” (the land belongs to the Oromo)
“baasi gumaa gootaa halagaan ha jiiluu…” (avenge the killing of your heroes lest the enemy never repeats it)
“ka’ii gali jedhiin yoo beekna ulfina …” (Ask the occupiers to leave our land before they are forced to)
“fakkeenya fudhadhuu warra Sudaan Kibbaa, alabaan isaanii addunyaarra sirbaa …” (learn from South Sudan whose flag is flying high all over the world)
In fact, in Oromo protest songs, OPDO and its cronies are identified as “jala demtuu fi saree …”
With all this information at their disposal, one wonders how and why the authors arrived at their conclusion that Oromo demand has always been for participatory democracy. Could it be an innocent but a serious misinterpretation by the two authors (OPDO elites) of the mood in the country or a deliberate distortion of the truth to appease, and appeal to, Habashas and the international community for whose attention Ethiopianist Oromos have always worked harder than organizing and arming the Oromo people to claim its inalienable rights. I will leave the judgement to the reader.
Another blatant untruth the authors wrote is that “Oromia government officials and diaspora-based activists now speak with one voice about the future.” It is true that OPDO officials and diaspora based OPDO activists, of which the authors are leaders, have recently made their formerly confidential relationship and unified political view public. However, it is the epitome of dishonesty to assert OPDO officials and all diaspora-based Oromo activists speak with one voice about the current state of the struggle much less about the future. Unless of course, one believes there are no other Oromo diaspora activists besides the OPDO ones! But such a belief would ignore the reality on the ground in the diaspora where multiple Oromo activist groups such as OLF members and activists are not speaking in one voice with the OPDO. In fact, the latter group of activities struggles for an independent and democratic state of Oromia different and separate from Ethiopia but living with it as good neighbors. In other words, “the convergence of Oromo interests and an emerging consensus” the authors speak of is not between OPDO and Oromo independence activists. It can only be one between OPDO and its diaspora activists which is not new but existed for a long time concealed from the Oromo public but was made public recently.
The authors have all the rights to wish, and pray, the independentist group out of the diaspora and even the face of the earth, but their wish has not come true yet. They know this full well. What then is the purpose of such intellectual dishonesty which leads them to propagate such untruth when they know facts on the ground don’t bear out their assertions? I will leave that judgement to reader as well.
In conclusion, it is true that there are Ethiopianist Oromos bending back over forward to appease habashas and cannot imagine Oromia without Ethiopia. But these are in the minority albeit more vocal than the independentist Oromos because of the support and encouragement they receive from OPDO and others. Majority of the Oromo people, as is evident from their actions and chants during recent protests and their long history of struggle against Ethiopian colonialism, offer the better alternative of an independent Oromia.
Remember, all achievements gained by the Oromo struggle which the authors listed would have been impossible without the leadership and sacrifice of the independentist camp always against the advice and opposition of, Ethiopianist Oromos. Had Oromos listened to Ethiopianist Oromos for the last 50 years, none of these achievements that we proudly cite today would have been possible. Oromo children would still be instructed in the Amhara language, Oromo peasants would still be paying for Amharic interpreters to have their day in court, great Oromo artists would still be singing in Amharic to earn a living, the list goes on!