Oromo struggle is getting bitter from the length of time it is taking. Some veterans have retired without making much noise. Some are making efforts to phase out the OLF and give it a different direction quitting the original path. The injustice that was causing untold misery for over a century to the Oromo people was the reason for founding the OLF. That cause is still there adding more dimensions to the national suffering. The effort to water down Oromo struggle by some of its own creators in negligence of this reality did not produce the intended result so far except dividing the activists. To give OLF an Ethiopianist face several mediations, meetings and symposiums were carried out in foreign lands. The effort is still continuing to reverse the path of the struggle by changing tactics. But to succeed, no tactics has so far clicked with aspirations of the nation or win trust of the occupying power. The weakening of the OLF has for the time succeeded but its phasing out before liberation is getting unthinkable.
In the process quitter comrades have stepped into quagmire from which they are finding difficulty to extract themselves. Now they have devised a different tactic, a socio-political approach. Jarsummaa (elderliness) is an old Oromo institution for conflict resolution. Jaarsa (Elders) have great role in making peace and reconciling parties in conflict. Quitters of kaayyoo are trying to form a committee of Jaarsa under the pretext of resolving assumed conflicts. They are free to quit if they have no more guts left to fight it out. But these are not ordinary persons. They are still considered by so many as among leaders of the nation because of their role in the OLF.
For the sake of the people that have so far other expectations, they have to officially declare, they no more entertain the old idea espoused by the OLF and clear themselves from the movement. Such transparency will win them trust and appreciation in the short life left in them. It will not be enough to say we are not members of the leadership and so do not represent any organization. Making more sacrifices by being mavericks would have been heroic on their part. But running away from the cause they spent most of their adulthood life to try some amateurish political ventures would only hurt the Oromo people. The effect of The Hague meeting is already causing mass arrests while a member of the meeting is enjoying their enemy’s hospitality.
As learned later the difference in outlook within the Organization had been there for a long time. But no one dared to come out with it forcefully. Basically OLF was an amalgamation of persons of different backgrounds and possibly different outlooks. With all the differences they voluntarily formed a front with a political program acceptable to all. That was a political program to liberate Oromiyaa from alien occupation. It reflects the aspirations or kaayyoo of the nation. With time the organization was perforated. Different ideas and practices crept in through the holes. Articles of the program started to be interpreted to fit the revisionist trend and so more emphasis was put on referendum rather than independence. For others referendum is the means for asking national verdict on platforms to be presented by political organizations. As far as OLF is concerned it will be its program of independence on which referendum is conducted by the Oromo people to sanction their sovereignty, independence “Yes or No”?
After several slow downs and sabotages there came a time for many to rethink, that was the time when arrangements were made to work in coalition with the colonizer. The colonial masters did not want to integrate the movement into the mainstream colonial system. OLF was ejected from the coalition. Attempts were made by international bodies to patch up the differences and get back the OLF to Ethiopian political life. In many cases the efforts were face saving devices for international community. Most were in favor minority dominance. For the OLF, as Oromo forebears say it was like searching for a lost ox with guidance of one who stole and slew it.
All those times OLF as an organization did not give up canvassing its ultimate goal as the liberation of Oromiyaa. But underground some members of the leadership to that as nuisance and were willing to give up the struggle for minor concession by the colonizer. That created behind the door dissensions. After a time it developed into an open conflict with activists divided into two groups, nationalist and Ethiopianists. Struggle against the common enemy came to stand still. Internecine campaigns took over. No group had come out victorious. None of them benefited from the conflict except enemy of the nation. The Ethiopianists tremendous efforts to reconcile with Ethiopian government did not bear fruit.
Since the crisis there was lack of harmony between Oromo Diaspora. Instead of taking the past leadership as those heroes who came to pay the ultimate sacrifices and elected by peers for their ability some started to brand them as individuals who got together on the basis of their locality. Some of the then leadership used this hate-based allegation to rally support for its purpose rather that putting things in their right perspective. It rather seemed a preplanned project to humiliate the Oromo as a nation. Though it might have affected those in Diaspora it did not influence the Oromo at home that was burning under enemy oppression, poverty, decease and hunger. There their destiny is wielded together with bonds of life and blood.
The enemy has studied the weak links of the nation. It has injected this into Oromo nationalist camp which was taken up by some fools without consideration of their long lasting effects. Why should the identity composition, if any, of a group that might have come together by accident or intentionally, be the cause to break up the organization? Are not national freedom fighter supposed to transcend such trivialities? Though degrees of cohesion varied all Oromo have ancestral background which is universal to all humankind. Is it not up to politicians to know the variation and orient their followers positively? Or are there other objectives behind this entire hullabaloo?
They claim to be proud of their Gadaa tradition but there has never been Gadaa without tribes. If they really believe in what they prophesy, why do not they apply it in resolving conflicts? To go public with regional and tribal differences and call names or throw distractive criticism emanates from backwardness. This shows what he could do to persons different from him if that person gets chance. Difference in matured society is based on issues. Development is achieved when different ideas clash. Difference fanned based on race and tribe stunts and also scatters. For this the solution is to grow and mature then only could one identify harmful and beneficial discourses.
Politicians should feel responsible not to pull traditional codes in such different setting as a foreign land against their own nationals. Otherwise the unity of the nation will be at stake. Innocent persons should not be made to feel, insecurity, humiliation and the possibility of rejection by primary groups, immersed in traditional ethos against their conscience. That benefits only the alien at the cost of own people. The revision of the kaayyoo is revealing the immaturity of the leadership that intened to promote it. They have presented the Oromo struggle as if it was an internal sectarian struggle. The sectors have nothing to gain by turning the struggle inward but if they fight the occupier together they have country, freedom, resources and pride to win. That is why those who went before them made the ultimate sacrifices.
Past mistakes have lead to present crisis and misunderstandings. What ever has happened Shanee had broken up further. All tactics used so far did not lead it anywhere. For this reason the gurus of Shanee started to look for other way out. Down in their own hearts whatever diversion they make they might have thought is tactic towards the goal. But for the observer and analyst it is playing into enemy hands. Several justifiable interpretations and name-callings can emerge from such observations and analysis. This time the “tactic” took them to The Hague meeting. Before The Hague there were several attempts to take Shanee home. But they were always unexpected obstacles and procrastinations that led to the schism in Shanee. It was at this time that a group with “jaarsaa brand” supposedly with blessing from Wayyaanee arrived in USA to facilitate a way back for Shanee. But Shanee was no more there as a unit.
What was amazing was that this “jaarsaa” were Oromo who are in a position to know how the country is being run. They are ones who daily experience what is perpetrated on Oromo masses and also on Oromo organizations that had submitted to work with the colonial masters. They have seen when some Oromo “jarsaa” are humiliated in public even though they are collaborating. Why are they inviting “Oromo icons” for further humiliation? Are they genuine jarsaa or quislings? Oromo elders were supposed to uphold Oromo honor in the face of alien assault not to entice the Oromo to dishonorably surrender. On their part they might have acted in good faith and out of concern. But seen from their age, education and experience sheer opportunism cannot be ruled out. That being as it may this group went back for further consultation. They later came back changing the debate from political to sociopolitical throwing lifeline for Shanee and Co to catch.
At The Hague the said elders added some persons from the committee that reconciled leaders of CUD with the government and three persons that had played great role in founding OLF.The idea of democratizing Ethiopia was pushed to the back and now the slogan is to organize elders (Councilors) and search for conflict to be resolved among the people. It is customary for neighbors to quarrel on grazing and water sources. For that they have a traditional solution and need no expertise from outside. What they need is one who could liberate them from being looked down and being plundered by aliens. One who could prevent enemy hand that fans their small differences and flares up conflict between them? They are waiting for one who could challenge the enemy not one who distracts them from their decades old struggle.
The Oromo will live according to orders of the dictators not according to its own will as long as it is under alien rule. What those from The Hague say is not that they will help the Oromo to realize its right to self-determination but that they will tame them to be good subjects to the occupiers. The Oromo had understood each other well through their struggle, on matters of their kaayyoo of liberation and their unity. To say we will raise their understandings to higher level is preposterous and ignorance of the consciousness level they have attained.
Up until now the Oromo had no conflict caused by their differences. They have neither history nor ability to hurt aliens living amongst them. The Oromo had never risen against aliens living with them intentionally except by provocation of enemy agents. They could talk about restructuring their administration only if they were liberated. Until then it is up to the learned nationals to study relevance of the Gadaa for to be liberated Oromiyaa. As it stands now except obeying colonial system it has no right to adopt a system of its choice. For this reason, this tactic has also defect as all before it. If government is willing to give them such free hand as they propose why are thousands in prisons suspected for being free thinkers? Why is it not allowing equal participation and free and fair elections to parties that work with it? What is peculiar about The Hague elders?
Why are Oromo ‘politicians’ refusing to learn from experience? The unwillingness of Wayyaanee to tolerate any peaceful approach was seen now and again. It is ready to arraign with falls allegations any body who falls into its hand. When this writer was sent by OLF to attend a peace conference it was not without the blessing of international community. That did not save him from incarceration. Who ever is behind The Hague actors it is not in the nature of Wayyaanee to budge. Let us pray that these “jarsaa” rethink and go back to the old line and save the struggle and honor of their people. One may die but once to die in humiliation is a double death where one will not be allowed to rest in peace for ever like Goobana Daccee and Vidkun Quisling of Norway.
Any one who wants to go and work with Ethiopian government is free to do so without attachment to any thing OLF. There are millions that had vowed to uphold the kaayyoo of Bilisummaa and no chance to serve under different objective. If the Oromo do not abandon the quest for freedom there is no use for the enemy embracing quitters of OLF. OLF is indivisible. To use the name there is no alternative other than uniting it if divided, and mending it if broken and move with it forward. The Hague meeting is no different from the tactics tried previously to replace the original kaayyoo for which OLF stands. So it shall fail and the struggle continues.
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.