Sometimes when the mind gets narrow with thought the mouth is released. Then unknowingly one starts to think loud that even neighbor overhears. Since you were only thinking loud, if asked “what did you say?” You have nothing to reply except asking back “which one?” Lacking with whom to share their thought our compatriots are seen whispering to the self and sometimes murmuring alone. To speak loudly there is truncheon behind them. If they are seen in a group of two or three they will be branded as conspiring. If they distribute written material it would be incriminating those that read it. As the saying goes “One ducks and passes under missile and bad times” but this time missiles are sent to the legs as well. It is like saying “you can run but cannot hide”. Not finding solution they took their anger and all suggestion they have underground. Roaring like the lion, bellowing like buffalo bull they were able to open a way that could lead to something. Now what the adversary tries is to block that way and turn them back to where they started. They rebelled because they were robbed of their country and resources, deprived of their freedom, denied their human rights and their culture and tradition was destroyed with the aim of their total destruction. Since then they had stumbled several times. Now they rising up and making calls to march in unison.
Raas Tafarii celebrated his eightieth birth day and passed away in disgrace. Before him it was only one king that reigned properly over the empire. Two came after him. Starting from the first through his time people were massacred for being Oromo and became serf for aliens losing their freedom and ownership over their country. Several were also sold to far off places. The life they started then became bitterer than bitter leaf. Both that came after him never condemned the genocide committed against the Oromo. Following their foot steps they rather started to take turns in massacring them. As long as they head the empire no one will escape responsibility for what was done to the Oromo people by preceding Ethiopian rulers.
The serfs started to grumble from some corners. Government created an organization to reform land holding system without serious intentions. Nothing came out of it. The demand for land started to sore when world price of beans went high.Land lords that had this information begun to evict the serfs. They started to sell or rent land to government bureaucrats and petty bourgeoisie that started rushing to get hold of plot of land. Banks that had never lent a coin for the serfs started to pour loans in abundance to the “gentlemen farmers”. Those that were being evicted from the land of their ancestors and those waiting their turn got furious and started to chase them out of the land and defend themselves against the land lords. Students and intellectuals considering the looming danger started to raise their voices in support of the serfs.
Some of the cries were to save the empire from falling apart while others were to ameliorate the burden of the oppressed. Tafarii was unable to answer the call. The government started to decay and crumble from inside and caught many by surprise. Holding high the banner of the oppressed, soldiers overthrew the king and replaced him as rulers called Darg. They came out with a system by which land was going to be distributed to the serfs. But all land was declared as property of government. That derailed Oromo revolution, which was aimed at making land property of the people. The soldiers did not change the structure of the empire but only how it works. At a time when they were short of space for farming and grazing Darg brought settlers from other regions and settled them on fertile virgin lands and among the native farmers in Oromiya. Those were lands Oromo peasants took for granted as their own. That sent despair across the land. They realized that freedom does not come through tail waging and begging. The solution was only to rebel and take to the mountains.
The cause for the first colonial campaign was shortage of raw materials for industries of the rich. Now it is shortage of food in rich countries that is causing the campaign for poor’s land grab. Therefore the outcome will not be different but rather harsher. Again TPLF being agent for those countries is uprooting the Oromo from their ancestral land. After the fall of the Darg getting some concessions the struggle came to at ease. The fundament of life of a nation is its economy. The major economy of the Oromo is based on land and so also its national characters are molded by it. Oromo land is still registered as state land. When it is even humiliating to live on the land of ones ancestors by will of others the worst befell. While improvement of the status quo was expected a more despairing thing happened. Some may accept what ever is dictated to them and choose to leave stooping but many were determined to pay the ultimate sacrifice and be considered as human beings. Even among the remaining there are now those who are looking for a way out. Many lives are being sacrificed and resources destroyed. Despite that, the struggle is moving on with its objective, kaayyoo of the nation and is marching forward waving its banner high.
When the government of Darg fell and that of Wayyaanee replaced it, OLF stood with it as a partner. Some benefits were achieved from agreements reached by negotiation to cool down past controversies and start a new life. In that , recognition of right of Oromo child to learn in its own language; divided Oromiyaa to be rejoined as an entity; Oromiyaa as a separate state to use Afaan Oromo as official language; recognition of the right of nations to national self determination up to independence; to establish conducted fair and free election for Oromiyaa administration were included.
On Oromo side supreme power was left for TPLF till transition period expires. That had calmed the situation for a year. Under the pretext of conducting election in peace it was agreed to take out guns off the streets. It was decided that all militia encamp. TPLF’s militia was left to frisk freely when the Oromoo were pressured to encamp. In that the international community had played great role, to make sure TPLF is put in place. Oromo was fooled as usual. After that the TPLF government turned back on the truce and voided the election program and severed the coalition with OLF. It performed some drama in drafting a constitution and proclaimed it alone. Though it included some of the early agreements in the constitution it started to interpret it as it fitted its interest. TPLF provided for formation of political parties to make a “mannaajoo” out of them. It then announced to the world that multiparty system was formed. A mannaajoo is mother sheep that was driven to the market so that her kids easily followed her. The kids are sold and the mother returns home. In the same manner the opposition exposed their supporters to TPLF facilitating for it to imprison or kill in the future. TPLF made them “mannaajoo”.
Political organizations that refused to join it were declared outlaws. People that did not support TPLF and its collaborators were harassed branded as members of the outlaws. They were imprisoned, killed, tortured, disappeared and exiled. Present conditions got worst than the initial ones that sent the youth into rebellion. Agreements that were supposed to bring about peace and reconciliation started to be shaped in such a way as to create convenience for dictators. As long as life was left in him unless treated one who is ill cannot heal even if the earth is turned upside down. Time may come with new medicines but it will not say “never demand to be relieved from your pains”. If the new world order (globalization), like those who want to scare us say, does not recognize our rights as a people it is nothing for us. We are struggling to be free from the first colonization; to survive and thrive we will add it to our menu of struggle. We will have nothing to gain by giving up for fear.
For this reason a nation that is injured and became thirsty of freedom will never stop asking to be quenched under any situation. To kick for survival is natures order. The struggle for freedom and independence is progressive not reactionary. The world is also not returning to colonial period campaigns of the 20th century. Running away from challenge is still degrading. Sometimes the way Oromo organizations behave seems as if they are on a mission of self destruction. They want to inflate their ranks by provoking weak joints of society such as locality, tribe, and religion not political outlook. Their objectives being not people but self interest they do not care if it is left scattered as long as it does not satisfy their interest. They will go yonder and try to register alliance with aliens. There are among them those that try to convince people that it is impossible to stand against the enemy.
Having situation we are in, in mind, let us try to see atrocities befalling the Oromo people. The catastrophe of oppression, imprisonment, torture, killings, fleeing and exile had become daily Oromo experience. In case we have already raised some of these points at another encounter let as repeat them over and over to remind each other without getting bored.
- The Oromo are being evicted from their lands for different reasons and not knowing where to retreat are flocking to towns to try to survive by begging. For quick return those that got the lands are pouring chemicals the lands have never known. The chemicals are flowing to creeks and fountains creating hazards and deaths for humans and animals that use them.
- Those that are not yet evicted assume that going to places to consult experts or neighbors on how to improve their living; to visit markets for information it provides; to call for helping hands on farms and to travel as need be are rights of the people. Those and daily life are placed under control of government agents, “Goox” and “Garee”. For this reason freedom of travel, self expression, association, and assembly does not exist. Its house and county are unacknowledged prisons.
- No one can avoid prison in any ways. To refuse to be a member of TPLF collaborators, to speak to people that do not favor the TPLF, to demand for ones rights and to be a member to Oromo organizations is a crime in the eyes of the Wayyaanee. They are thrown to prisons not accused for the preceding but for being members of OLF. It was long since ABO was declared an outlaw. But it was recently that it was grouped with Al Qaida and the likes and proclaimed “terrorist” bay TPLF Parliament. With that as a pretext they are intending to put in danger Oromo that refused to support them by labeling them as OLF. It is a part of planned genocide aimed at the Oromo nation.
- The prisoner is tortured to confess what he does not know and to expose persons that committed no crime. They break his parts, disable him and throw him to prison castrated. They use all torture mechanisms of the world to make one blabber without retaining even what is in one’s thought. If such a person survives it will be doubtful if he/she could be normal again. At times they arm and instigate neighbors to attack the Oromo. At places homes and property are torched with fire and people and domestic animals are mercilessly massacred with weapons from machetes to Kalashnikov automatic guns.
- There are no laws in prison. They take out whenever they want and kill and throw when they like. Even so, those that get the chance to be imprisoned are the lucky ones. If you are dead in their custody people will know. Many times they kill alleging one refused arrest to avoid taking to prison. They kidnap and make them vanish without being noticed. Until the Wayyaanee itself disappears their fate will not be known. For this reason relatives of victims will remain in suspense until that time. It will be difficult to rest the matter without seeing the body or having reliable information. The killings are reported by all International human rights organizations. In particular reports of Oromo Support Group starting from the 90s are most revealing.
- When it becomes beyond ones ability to resist atrocities a person will abandon his home and his family and flee to wherever his legs take him. He starts with a slogan, “Peaceful life, devoid of fear, threat and hunger or death”. To cross the empire’s border and reach some where one has to pass through, jungles full of predator animals, rogue robbers, burning sun and sand, vicious winds of the deserts, seas full of man eating sharks. On alien borders possibilities of being robbed, imprisoned, and physically abused and being killed by border guards are high. No choice than blindly move forward for if one turns back death and torture are awaiting.
- Probably very few people did not follow the ordeal in which our compatriots faced in North Africa very recently. We have heard how they were plundered, beaten, killed based on racial discrimination. We have also heard that our women were denied privacy and forced to share small over crowded room with male refugees. With them were found new babies and their mothers. We have also heard from survivors the calamities that befell in the sea where people died from hunger and were thrown overboard. It was also told that they passed through all hazards and reached Europe only to face another hardship. For all these some body or bodies will one day be accountable. But as an Oromo saying goes “pitying does not satisfy the hungry”, therefore prompt rescue will be expected from all capable.
- Last century when Yemenis came to Oromiyaa fleeing repression the Oromo received them with open arms like their own relatives. They were intermarried and became cousins. Those guests went to all corners of Oromiyaa freely and opened shops. From what we hear now some Yemeni tribes are discriminating our compatriots because of race and even murdered many. That is not a return they expected from their generosity. Had intermarriage been of any use there are no people that we got intermarried with than them. If religion could create alliance they should not have rained bullets and bombs on our Muslim compatriots. We learned from what happened that we have no better rescuers than our nationals. This event has taught a lot for those who so far did not notice that being in-laws and being of same religion cannot override personal and national interest. Because of their Gadaa background the Oromo have no room for discrimination and expect similar standard from all others.
- We have heard what happened in Bosaasoo to those that took refuge in Somalia. They were grilled with bullets and burned with bombs and fire. If there is benefit aliens could be preferred over cousins. There is no doubt that TPLF had hand in it. It was also told that those that flee from there and tried to cross to Arab countries met their end with boat capsizing or thrown overboard in deep sea.
- Because there is no employment in the empire there are many that are recruited by the enemy for military service. Previously thousands were used as cannon fodders in a war that was not of their concern. All were young, able bodied productive individuals. Even today they are being registered with possibility of being driven to participate in genocide of their own unarmed people. That still denies Oromiyaa able bodied working force. That means only children and the elderly will remain behind. Those who can fight, farm, reproduce are being wasted inappropriately. Unless all Oromoo take responsible move soon that they are being driven towards perishing is becoming obvious. Pershing includes erasing of national identity as well.
- Intentional destruction of natural environment and not preparing for prevention of the looming danger of famine in time is now wiping out domestic animals and the people that depend on them. International aid organizations had been pouring tremendous help but it is doubtful if it has reached where it was intended or it is contributing to covert genocidal plan. Numerous Oromo and other political minorities are perishing. The condition in Somalia is disastrous and now very hot over the media. It is getting sympathy because it is repeatedly shown. In Ethiopia though it is said 4.5 million people are affected it did not get due media attention. Probably, in Somalia there is no entity to bear the blame. On the Ethiopian side bad governance by a group supported by big powers is the culprit. Could it be the non existence of groups that demonstrate fit of rage that media attention is not given? Could it mean that there is no free media that go beyond interest of the powerful? Is that why Wayyaanee is spared criticism from friendly quarters?
We could not find outlet whether we try this or that way. This may take to saying that it would be better if one’s cadaver is eaten by birds of own country than leaving it to rot in foreign land. The problem that drove out the youth to start struggle did not go away but rather more troubles are added. It is funny to blame the objectives and the strategy, without trying to implement them full heartedly without wavering though the initial problems were still in place. To spread despair among people in this way will be interpreted only as sabotage on its declared goal. Now it is amazing to hear some singing in chorus, “The Kaayyoo is obsolete” The Kaayyoo is obsolete” to distract attention from the true weakness.
The assumed democratic practice among some activists was so much twisted that one could see no trace if it had ever existed. Some even fail to observe the natural development of the Organization. Over time it has affected Oromo of all walks of life. Despite that they have embraced it for its kaayyoo reflects their inner feeling. Those that assume they can run away with it as they like are on the wrong side of history. It has gone out of the hands of peers that founded it and become property of all Oromo. Therefore they have to carefully watch their steps when they try to meddle with the legitimate interest of the people. There are things organizations that hitherto existed or those that may be formed in the near future to be aware of. It will be impossible to coordinate Oromo activists in a situation where there is no equality and “ilaa fi ilaamee” unless they practice democracy internally. Trace of democracy is left in every one. That does not mean there are no organizational tiers and discipline. It means from head to tail they will be governed by laws they put in place.
One who denies OLF being the vanguard of Oromo liberation movement is only one who is a simpleton who does not know history or those who have hearing problems. It was organized in the name of the people for the first time and scared those who were nervously waiting for its inevitable coming. These days those who are crisscrossing foreign lands are like stranger heifer laboring to adjusting to the environs. Even if they make efforts for the time being it is said they will go back to where they came. It is said truth doe not forget its place. All will return to there true nest. Those who remain with OLF will be those that responded to call of true kaayyoo and those who had never quitted the true principle of the struggle. Had it not been for them OLF would have become one among the Ethiopian legal opposition parties. The hope that one day the Oromo will be able to achieve its rights to national self determination could have been dashed long ago.
So far we are saved from losing hopes. Though the enemy had enticed some from among our ranks it was only able to slow our struggle not to destroy it. The factions that allied with aliens cannot be expected to achieve any thing of significance except swelling the camp of losers. Injustices mentioned above are expanding non stop. Thwarting it is expected from determined Oromoo children. What is coming is not limited to property and freedom alone but could erase the race as a whole. The cacophony heard in foreign land is good for nothing. Libration movement must be present where those injured and know where their pains are, are found. Persons that cannot move among their own people turn to dance with those that condemn their compatriots hoping to get a shortcut to power. With that they become partners of aliens not of their nation.
One who is out to ruin Oromo organization had nothing to benefit his nation than fall in the direction he is swayed. To mix with aliens before settling Oromo issues and create a dependable rear amounts to remaining an alien for ever. Earlier we have said there are only two choices; to struggle for free and independent Oromiyaa or to try in vain democratizing Ethiopia. There is no way beyond these two. Had it been possible for Ethiopia to be democratized the joy would be for all Africa. But empire only falls, does not be democratized. That is why Oromo have first to find solution for themselves. It was told that once a baboon had thorns all over her body and when asked which one to take out, she replied “first that on my seat”. We should not be less clever than the baboon. Let us hold hands and rise for what we call democracy to be realized for Oromiyaa, our seat. Let us make efforts for survival and thriving of our race. If a panacea is found for us it would be a solution for Ethiopia as well.
What ever had slipped from our grip in the past has slipped. We cannot go back and live in yesterday. For this reason let us note what led us to mistakes yester day and keep them away so that they have no chance to come back. What were wrong were; lack of courage to assert one’s stand and instead follow others with fundamentally different opinion; failing to implement agreed upon system and overlooking and passing wrong doings without correction. Abundance or scarcity, majority members did not know. They have tried to enforce unquestionable orders from above sincerely and had sacrificed for it. They were not aware of what ever was getting meshed up on higher echelon. Had there been the opportunity to be discussed by all there could be no problem that cannot be straightened out. If the majority supports there is nothing that forbids changing even the kaayyoo, which could have found other ways to thrive. Now, unless what went wrong is corrected from its roots glossing over will not bring about a solution. Fractured system and procedure needs to be mended.
Those that believe in Oromo revolution can still draw a minimum program and work together for a distance. They need to be guided by the program alone until they cover the said distance. That means maximum program can be drawn according to own goal. If that is accepted in good faith the country may be saved from possible fall into a precipice.
TPLF is turning the empire into banana states. Its clients, the land grabbers are out in full gears. Our freedom, our resources and our life will continue being affected by the crises that is running at faster rate than ever. Not only people losing their lives but culture that survived from extinction are being swallowed by alien ones. With the slogan “OLF is terrorist; Oromo that does not support Wayyaanee are OLF” our people are being terrorized. What are being targeted are not only our resources, natural environment, our freedom and culture but also our capacity to say no to neocolonialism or land grab. The destruction of these and measures the enemy is daily taking are exercises that could be concluded with full blown genocide. In the past we have stumbled because of ignorance or a machination to turn the organization into private tool. Now let all turn back power to Kora Sabaa (National Congress) that Oromo activists convene with mutual agreement. Let it be led by supremacy of the law not by whim of individuals. Let us find solution to cleans and defend ourselves from infiltrators be them ideas or persons. Our leaders that persevered so long to preserve the original kaayyoo will have still a great role in helping the organization realize this dream. It is a matter of survival; to rise up holding hands for qualitatively different struggle is an urgent matter. Otherwise guns of doom are aimed at our heads. Folks! Are you going to perish quietly?
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.