The Trouble with Concept of Unity: theirs
We are now at a time when politico-economic tsunamis from west and east are threatening African freedom and social life. These demand to think differently and progressively from the old ways. Instead of releasing the people of Africa from age old fuedo-imperialist prison, to try to keep them there further, amounts to leaving them to havoc and destruction that the tsunamis are going to bring. The tsunamis do not distinguish those who imprisoned and the prisoners. The prisoners, the guards and their bosses would be wiped out without mercy. Those who add fuel to conflicts between siblings will at the end be consumed by the flame that flares from their own makings.
Therefore a wise person is required to think on how to save Africa not ho to destroy or dominate it. Oromiyaa is one of such countries in colonial prison that needs to be freed and defend itself as an entity, not only from local bickering but also from the oncoming global destruction.
Oromo unity starts from the smallest social unit, the family, and builds up to the nation. Each unit in that range has something to retain and give to the upper echelon. That was the basis for Gadaa democracy. That was what made it different from its northern neighbors.
It is and it has been a different people from its conquerors in its history, tradition, political outlook and language. Any one who believes it has to remain under the Ethiopian empire must have been blinded by his or her own selfish interest or is ignorant of the essence of Oromo struggle. Or could it be the contempt for a people who they have been told to be black slaves in their childhood bed time stories?
The Oromo people are a mixture of the natural and the naturalized. Over its long history several groups and individuals have come to join it voluntarily or through war. It did not enslave the vanquished like others do. It had a flexible system that embraces all human beings that accept its culture, values and rule of law and its tradition. The victimized take refuge in Oromiyaa to take advantage of the inclusive rule of law that recognizes even the right of animals to coexist with human beings. That is what the name Oromo stands for, which means “People”. The ancients were proud to call themselves Ilmaan Ormaa, children of people.
Most elements of Oromo social and political values had stood hundred years of repression and subjugation and have come to this day. It is the strong roots and self identity that helped it to maintain a common language however much the colonizers had tried to ban its use in public. The Oromo had never given up its struggle for freedom and independence since its conquest. Its liberation movement started under one of the most brutal regimes on earth. It will not be wise to think it would collapse because some one wished it. The world is no less conducive to struggle for ones birth right than it was half a century ago. It is a time when the world is in labor to bring forward a new and just world order; a world order where no individual or group can abuse human rights without consequences. With this hope the oppressed and abused march ahead to claim their rightful place in free world community.
Being Oromo or independent Oromiyaa is neither a fantasy nor a distortion. It is a fact of history. Above all the Oromo has shown unequivocally that they aspire to be independent. That by itself entitles them to the right of national self determination up to and including independence. It was for that to be realized, that a liberation movement was set in motion and a national liberation front was formed almost half a century ago. Their fate is in their own hands. No one can stop them from the path of freedom they chose then.
President Isaayyaas in his interview with Amaara opinion makers advocated for the empires continuance as used to be but without Wayyaanee. This might have surprised some who had different opinion about him. There is no question that Isaayyaas was an accomplished freedom fighter. Eritrea had sacrificed thousands of its youth for the sake of freedom and independence. For this reason it is assumed that any one that participated in that sort of struggle is aware of the value of freedom. But for those who followed his speeches and communication he had been expressing the same stand over a long period of time. Many have short memory or do not want to remember. There is no inconsistency in his present interview. To borrow Fanon’s observation, it is enough to say, the oppressed forgets and forgives easily. Probably that is the Presidents belief as well. His pro Ethiopian empire stand might have been influenced by several factor of with his own national interest is the paramount. Was this strengthened by the maxim “blood is thicker than water”? We are not very sure. If that could be so Oromo objectives are different from power struggle of cousins.
With sacrifices made by Oromo sons and daughters over a century and other progressive forces Article 39 was included into the Ethiopian constitution. Many naively believed that president of Eritrea was one of the architects of this article. It was what the oppressed and colonized paid for. The president alleged that this article “institutionalizes division”; division of an entity that he laments for its destruction. He also told that he had opposed its inclusion. He promised “the sky is the limit” for cooperation with the empire state with out affecting his sovereignty.
The Habashaa land south of his dearly founded state and Oromiyaa and its southern neighbors have the riches that all alien mouth water for. Oromiyaa seem the richest of all of them. That is why divided southern neighbors are not attractive to Mr. President. His stand thus emanates from his own national interest not from wellbeing of his African brethren. The Habashaa that still claims ownership to the lost sea ports would not be condoled by any word of sympathy for what they consider their amputated head. Recognizing their colonies alone as their domain will never satisfy them.
One can agree with the president that no entity is eternal let alone a national liberation organization. Every thing on the universe is transitional. A liberation front may be replaced by national party or parties but not by stooges of an empire state. Many of us still entertain the ideals of Pan Africanist like Kwame Nkrumah of United States of Africa. To expect Oromiyaa to remain Habashaa kitchen (Madbet) as it used to be called is a distortion of the cause of a people and a fantasy that amounts to illusion. The Oromo think bigger than that. They demands and struggles for their freedom and stand in solidarity with those disenfranchised peoples of Africa. And they look forward to form union with any one on the principles of their mutually expressed free will.
No country on this earth that oppresses other peoples can claim to be free and remain for long as a member of the community of free world. And no oppressed peoples can be free unless they get rid of oppressors. This much even a child understands. It is preposterous to talk of how other peoples should be constituted when one has his or her homework pending.
Article 39 of the Wayyaanee constitution is recognition of the ideals for which all freedom fighter that brought down the Darg gave their lives for. At least Wayyaanee has the heart to recognize that, if not in deeds at least in words. To read another motive into this article for post Wayyaanee era is no more than a propaganda piece. No dictator has ever thought of falling. There dream is always to remain in power, never thinking their own deed could cut them short. Until then they never stop manipulating all at their disposal. There is an Amaara saying “indaayamaah xiraawu indaaybalaa gifawu” (call him to avoid grudge and push him that he does not relish). That is what was done in 1992 to Oromo groups when Mr. President was in good terms with the President of Ethiopia.
Otherwise to say they have contingent plan to live divided entity behind for when they might be forced to quit would be forgetting the nature of a dictatorship. Let alone the heirs of Yohannis IV, nostalgia for the old order is bothering the august President of Eritrea. All oppositions to Wayyaanee fail to appreciate that it included article 39 to save the empire state from immediate collapse. It is giving a breathing space for the Habashaa groups to prepare themselves for the inevitable destruction of the empire state. In the mean time manipulating Oromo mind and international community and distorting reality will continue.
The Oromo has its own priority and national interest. First it has to be liberated to express its will freely. It is only a free people that can negotiate with others on equal footing. A slave rebels because peaceful negotiation with the master is unthinkable. Therefore it has to free itself or get freed to make a deal of any sort with the master or any other free people. That is the purpose of Oromo struggle, realization of their right to national self determination. No nation or individual has the right to tell them how to reconstitute themselves. They are at war with those who wanted to dictate them that; to see things from that angle amounts to allying with the enemy.
African peoples and in particular peoples of the Horn will not expect any change from the present incumbents of state power. All are parties to the chaotic situation. They all fail to see a larger global picture while trying to outsmart each other in the struggle for local political and economic power. For Africa to overcome the present difficulties facing it, productive forces that are shackled by chain of ignorance and greed have to be released. The people must be allowed to choose leaders and systems of their choice. Recognition of equality and liberty of all nations, nationalities and creed is a necessity not a luxury.
All present rulers are imposed on the majority by force of arms not by the free will of the people they rule. They have to keep it that way for that is the only model they know. That is why they want to solve all contradictions by individual whim rather than collective will. If citizens do not know what their lawful right is, it will be very hard to expect progress and stability. The rule of law is required to maintain stable, peaceful and self sustaining society. Africa needs magnanimous leaders to lead it towards that, not greedy and arrogant tyrants. These had failed to feed their hungry and disease ridden peoples inviting perpetual dependence on over seas handout or leaving them to be emaciated.
The Oromo are the most peaceful and industrious people by any standard. This is misconstrued as silliness by those who cannot appreciate the nobleness of their political thought. That even slaves under the crudest form my lose patience can be learned from Spartacus, the ancient Roman slave. Patience for any one has a limit; ignoring all possibilities would be dangerous not only for the region but for the whole of Africa.
The Oromo certainly will continue their struggle however long it may take and what ever cost it may entail. As a people they have always wished peace and prosperity for all people, neighbors and the environment. Therefore the positive end of their struggle will be a harbinger of bright future for Africa and its Horn. The children of Ormaa (people) will never recommend the continued lose of identity of a nation. That is what is expected from true Africans.
An African whose heart does not bleed when he sees the suffering of a people of the horn, Somalis is only a mentally grafted one. If Somalia burns no African would benefit. Those who add fire to it are those who hope to subjugate all the colonized nations and nationalities for ever. Because of that our Somali cousins are burning. The cause is not only in them it is also with us. The destiny of the peoples of the horn is intertwined; to solve one all must be solved. Except for our internal politically unconscious segment our enemies are from the same source. We are the abused and the disenfranchised for this reason justice is on our side. We shall overcome!
The new Oromo generation has no more tolerance to live under contempt by any human being. Therefore all those who have taken Oromo peaceful gestures as stupidity or ignorance have to rethink to avoid backlash. Oromo liberation movement might be at its ebb presently. That is only transitional. The time for its flow will not be far away. That would usher a new era for African peoples to unite on the principle of equality and mutual trust.
The right to self determination is the birth right of all oppressed nations that is internationally recognized by all members of world community worthy of the status. No individual or group can deny this unless one is conceited and narrow minded as the likes of Mussolini, who think that she or he can defy the whole world and get away with it.
It is contemptuous and purposely humiliating for one who has run away from it to dictate terms of its future existence to the Ethiopian empire. Free thinking Oromo also feels that the nation is ones again betrayed by those it trusted. Oromo struggle is guided only by the nation’s free will not withstanding the principles of peaceful coexistence with fellow human beings. Human rights are not something that anyone can give or deny the others at will. How would politicians of concern view such unwarranted interference into others affairs? The present weak setting would certainly phase out giving way for an independent national organization that will take the kaayyoo to its legitimate conclusion.
Oromiyaa shall be free!
Long live Pan Africanism!
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 forefathers!
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF