Whenever we speak about Oromo struggle we look back a bit if yester year’s experiences might help present efforts. The government of Hayila Sillaasee was toppled by revolution that erupted as a result of peoples’ rage. To replace the emperor Darg coordinated some forces around a minimum program. In that way it brought together those who say they follow socialist principles. Many from the Diaspora dashed to participate. It saved them coming through Baale as promised. All Habashaa “progressives” lauded class struggle as panacea for societal problems. That attracted nationalists who did not have self confidence to go national struggle alone.
Oromo activists were also able to rally youth that believed in the colonial status of Oromiya and were determined to struggle for her independence. With that they attracted many youngsters mostly from inside the country. But there were dropouts along the way that joined the Darg group as a result of stronger connections with collaborators and the ease of getting employment. The deceptive presentation of the revolution had also a role. After analyzing the nature of the struggle led by Darg and the situation in the empire the Kora that convened to found the OLF concluded that those that gathered under the Darg were Nafxanyaa organizations and their Oromo collaborators were no other than neo Goobanaas (quislings). For this reason it noted that they do not represent Oromo interest and incapable of solving the national problem. In conclusion it founded the Oromo liberation Front (OLF) and launched its political program.
Oromo that joined Darg’s Marxist Leninist organizations Union (Imaaledihi) started persecuting Oromo that are not their members branding them as reactionary narrow nationalists. At that time they may have thought it politically correct but later many cannot help to regret. The Oromo says “she went out without peers and came back without companion.” The goal of their Habashaa comrades and their identity failed to match. For the Nafxanyaa group except for minor window dressing the empire had to remain in tact. They know Oromo that joined them remained true to the theory of class struggle and want to put it to the finish. So relations started to take down turn
Finally after reestablishing itself the Nafxanyaa groups started to harass “their non fitting” comrades in arms. Just like their forefathers they did not spare them to be of use to their people. All Habashaa organizations looked the Oromo with suspicion and disdain. Thus those who joined the Habashaa unconditionally to change the empire and create a situation where peoples could live in equality, peace and brotherhood were proved wrong then. For all who went to Habashaa schools such were stories repeatedly told. No one of them escaped those schools. Therefore their choice could not be attributed to ignorance but to what is now called “Stockholm Syndrome or “capture bonding”. This happens when an abuser brain washes the victim to be grateful for being spared and follows him with awe and affection. The Oromo had lived under captivity for more than a century. That influence could still be around.
OLF was formed independent of external influence. But through time there was a possibility of its being tinted with some reactionary effect. Comrades were seen dropping each other at every crossing. It could not implement its political program due to various reasons. The problem was not from the program but from those entrusted with it. Struggle requires from comrades trust, unity of purpose, determination, commitment and vigilance. It is said sweat saves blood. Freedom cannot be easily achieved unless one sweats for it. Wavering between choices can be fruitless and may even lead to catastrophic bloodletting.
More problems developed with veterans entertaining different outlooks clandestinely and using any means that wins them support irrespective of consequences. As a result whistleblowers started to warn of two outlooks running in the organization. One is the official and dominant OLF position of establishing independent republic of Oromiyaa. The other outlook developed by minority over a period of time is rooted in Imaaledihi program. And that is “to create a democratic Ethiopia in which the right of individuals and groups are respected”. These two outlooks among others had affected the way OLF operated. The leadership kept on denying the existence of difference in outlook, paralyzing the organization. But these days whether it was ‘leaked’ or stolen a document branded “OLF Manifesto” appeared on a web site ending that position. It says among others: “2.1. To build an Ethiopia based on the willingness of Oromo and other nations and nationalities where the political, economic and social rights of the Oromo are respected at all levels.” (writer’s translation)
This outlook was not new for many Oromo circles at home. There are organizations that adopted it officially. But it is the first time that a suppressed idea is released from an OLF camp. Now the two ideas and their adherents are going to break out of their shell for a public debate. The debate will not be in one organization but between two sides having different outlooks. Each will use tactics fitting it to advance its line of thought. That there could be areas of cooperation in the process cannot be ruled out. Till the end one of them will agitate for independence and the other for union. Those that defied the force of habit and came out with such a clear thought are praiseworthy. Their official declaration is eagerly awaited. Now Oromo struggle will lineup in two rows. The name OLF will stick to where it belongs when official dichotomy is declared.
What is going to make the difference is not the name but the dedication. The idea of the ‘leaked’ manifesto was also heard being aired by an allied faction. It is choosing an idea not a faction that will make the struggle meaningful. OLF is an organization with long history and adored by all nationalists. Hence there is no Oromo Organization that does not want to wear its name. But from its character design it does not fit all. Therefore it is proper that all who have revised methods from the original OLF kaayyoo to adopt a name fitting it. Activists that rally behind different names will be measured not by the name but by results they register.
All organizations engaged in the struggle have to be in Oromiyaa where people that bleed, get wounded, tortured and die for it are. They may go through Baale or Boolee that does not matter. To organize the youth and make the future of struggle more dependable needs operating from inside the country. The Diaspora is a small fraction of the population of Oromiyaa. Its role should not be more than that of a representative or a foreign face of the struggle. If the struggle has to be viable its present siege must be lifted.
It was the existence of the two outlooks that begged the question “Do OLF leaders know what they want?” Leaders that had access with third parties were not explicit on the issue because of split loyalty. What OLF program tells and what they impart on relation of Oromiyaa and Ethiopia were diametrically opposed. What matters is what they think is good for the ears of their hosts not principled positions. The Oromo by nature are peace loving but this was not stressed in foreign relations to minimize doubts if Oromo struggle were secular. There had never been conflict in OLF based on peace and war. But leaders suppressed the truth and didn’t falsify when that was alleged hoping the other side not theirs would bear the blame. In principle OLF is for peaceful resolution of conflicts but the nature of its enemy forced it to call to arms.
In general, to have a clear outlook helps to know what one wants and organize accordingly. The organized has set priorities ahead of events and will not be surprised by spontaneity. The coming forward of activists with clear objective of democratizing Ethiopia is a significant breakthrough for the struggle. Oromo struggle should no more be in stalemate because of conflicting political outlooks of leaders. There should be no more hiding under ambiguities. Let all openly rally behind an idea one believes in. The struggle so far entangled in murky outlook must be released and all freely express ones belief in freedom, civility and brotherhood without equivocation. Thank you!
Ulfinaa fi surraan gootota kufaniif; walabummaa, walqixxummaa fi bilisummaan kan lubbuun jiraniif; nagaa fi araarri Ayyaana abbooliif haa tahu!
Ibsaa Guutama miseensa dhaloota saganta ABO isa jalqabaa baasan keessaa tokkoo.