OLF is a 37 years old revolutionary secular political organization. Its objective is to uproot colonial system and establish an independent Republic of Oromiyaa. Though it did not reach its goal yet for those who are grownups at least twenty seven years ago, achievements of Oromo struggle led by OLF was undreamt of. That was not easily achieved, so many lives were sacrificed, so many properties were destroyed, and numerous families were dislocated, incalculable social and psychological damages were caused. Oromoo is the single majority people in the region. Therefore its liberation is believed to be a guarantee for peace, equality, cooperation, and stability of the region.
Governmental system will perish and generations will pass. But peoples and the land will remain attached and near to each other for ever. Individuals and groups that could disturb the life of peace could arise now and then in the course of history.
It was in that way that a group built and inherited an empire and stretched itself over Oromiyaa and kept on ravaging it for over one hundred and twenty years. There is no enmity between peoples. But to watch in silence the colonial drum beats that are still going on by their kin will not free them from accountability. They have blood on their hands for deeds of those groups. To absolve oneself, pay at least symbolic gumaa (blood payment) and apologize and get forgiveness from the wronged in the African way. Bringing about reconciliation will be good for present life and the future of their children.
Before formation of the empire Ethiopian administration had changed hands between Tigreans and Amaara. The country was divided into Fiefdoms and the king of kings managed them through indirect rule. The same principle was applied to the colonies except the rule being direct through his appointees. By it Oromiyaa was cut into sections (provinces). Then it was not labeled as racist structure. Now for its function Tigreans applied the same formula with little modification and more control. But structurally Oromiyaa was reconstituted. They assigned locals by election (with guardians) for administration though not free or fair. Now it is labeled as “racist” or ethnic by many Habashaa elites, mostly non Tigreans. Wayyaanee recognized colonial peoples responding to popular demand of the time to avoid the mess done by its predecessors.
If these people were truly taking others as Ethiopians and equals, when Amaara and Tigrians had their countries to themselves why not Oromo, Anyuwak, Wala’ita, Kafichoo, Sidamaa, Somalee etc? Is it not a deep seated racism that is troubling them more than Wayyaanee’s plan? Do these elites know the implication of their ranting? “Racist and ehnic federation” is also heard when coming out of the mouth of Oromo ignoramus and quislings. The “racist” and “ethnic federation” hullabaloo came when Ethiopian unitary system was decentralized and assumedly some sort of devolution of power was enacted for the colonies. That demystified long entertained Habashaa superiority complex. In their minds Habashaa and the colonies were of different races, Africans and non Africans probably? Otherwise when they collaborated in the invasion and enslavement of other peoples such word was not uttered.
It is such mentality that made those elites to consider the injustice their fathers committed against the Oromo as something appropriate and not to be regretted. Ignoring our odaa shade they still demand from us to gather under their colonial flag. When they brag about the mass hand cutting, breast cutting, tongue cutting and other abuses that took place from north to the south there can be Oromo that uplaud. Seeing those there are ones that look down on our people; to do business with such ones unconditionally means to despise oneself. It is also safuu.
Those who can ally with the oppressed are people with similar colonial history; world democrats that uphold human rights; progressive Ethiopians that take the past as dark spot on their history. So far their focus is only on its resources not the atrocities human beings are subjected to. Otherwise it will not be difficult to free and build democracy be it for Oromiyaa or Habashaa with the foreword looking democrats.
All peoples who lived under Habashaa crown had never been free. All kings used all sorts of inhuman punishments and reigned over them with terror. People have taken the relations between them and the kings as ordained in heaven and lived praying long life for them. That was the freedom of Ethiopia much talked about. Check history of Amde Tsion, Teedros, Yohannis IV and Minilik II among others to understand details of abuses. With brainwashing people had lived boasting about their inferiority. When the kings subdued other nations they also exported a harsher improvised version of abuses practiced on their own people. Habashaa elites still question if Oromo has the right of self-determination? They lack knowledge of history of the region and the world. For them Oromo is created to be their dependent that they could harness and gallop at will; they have nostalgia for free labor, ram, butter and honey they missed. The Oromo says, “You cannot remain like the past and with dirty hands”. Would they learn something from that?
Unless the Habashaa people become self conscious and free itself, it will remain force of oppression and reaction. It will not be hard to live together or along each other with people that accepted freedom, equal rights, and brotherhood of human beings. Neighbors existed depending on each other. One has what others lack. Such natural order changes when one of them tries to monopolize what belongs to others over and above ones own. No people accept that in silence.
We have mentioned about those that can be allies. Before assuring that they are true democrats, running to form alliance with those who are pregnant with dictatorship could put us into cog mire. Oromo says “who do you think would kiss you that you protrude your lips”. So far many wanted the Oromo for servitude not as a rival. We should have learned from the mistakes of our fathers staring from Goobana Daccee downwards. At their time they were brave and wise. They had constituency behind them. But deceived by the situation they erred and formed alliance with the enemy. That is why they are serving as example for all trash and trifle quislings that came after them and referred to as Goobana. The present ones are deceiving themselves without any one deceiving them. These are overwhelmed by ignorance, paranoia, fear, cowardice, and capture bonding. Why Goobanaa and others were fooled should be studied to avoid repetition.
In question of expanding support, for Oromo priority is to make peace internally. Then reach understanding with those that have common history of defeat and oppression. If those have any doubt about them they have to show them in deeds. If that is successful no one can stand against oppressed united. After that it is possible to call for progressive democrats in the oppressor’s camp if there are any. This will make those that like life of peace and happiness for all an absolute majority. Together it would be easy to break the empire system and build new and just formation or formations according to the desire of partners to freedom. All that is to create a peaceful and stable environment and does not mean Oromo needs a prop up to be liberated. It is only a matter of touching the proper button which so far eluded them.
We have seen that the objective of OLF is to establish an independent democratic republic Oromiyaa. It was also mentioned that this will be achieved by using all means of struggle against the army of occupation and bringing an end to colonial rule. That being the objective and methods of the OLF the final decision maker will be the people of Oromiyaa. By using the opportunity the nation will use its right of “national self determination” to make its choice known under observation of international community. The OLF will abide by the people’s decision. But the people shall uphold the right of self determination for all times.
OLF programs up to 1998 under international relations section indicated the possibility of bringing about, where possible, political union with other nations. That was not a part of the political objective but a proviso if independence were achieved. “Independence” and “the right to national self determination” are neither different nor separable things. It chooses independence because it has the right to national self determination. The occupier will be persuaded to accept the right of the people’s to freedom by force or reason. The people will assert its determination through its vote at a referendum undertaking.
Self determination, independence, forming union with other peoples, are parts of referendum process. The struggle is a struggle for the right to national self determination. The decision to found an independent republic or to leave Ethiopia in tact is a result of that struggle. For this reason it has no logic to split them and say self determination of Mr. so, independence and union of Mr. so and so. To present it otherwise is to intentionally create unnecessary confusion. Food is eaten; a part is absorbed into blood and the other ejected as refuse. This does not make the digestive system three. If there are those that believe their role is only to get the people up to referendum it does not reflect OLF’s kaayyoo. It rather seems a fear to lose the ability to play with the two possibilities in Oromo and foreign courts. Among others, that is why many are saying Oromo do not know what they want. OLF as an organization has to work towards the decision and cannot back off until the people’s will is implemented.
Hence the lawful road that takes both to independent Oromiyaa or maintaining the status quo in Ethiopia had to pass under the people’s decision. The kaayyoo that OLF follows beginning at early stage is to establish Democratic Republic Oromiyaa with guaranty. That was to show that referendum is not the end of OLF’s activity. To canvas for independence and provide guidance towards its choice is the duty of OLF as the vanguard of Oromo independence struggle. Members who want to fall short of that have to take other name not OLF. To preempt and form union with other people reminds one the failed “Salaamaawii Oneg” (Peaceful OLF) an EPRDF project. If the present one is different from that one it needs further in depth explanation to the public. Creating relations with empire that are different from the constitution of OLF, changing the strategy of OLF, forming alliance with organizations that do not recognize Oromo right to liberation, to claim being OLF is a fraudulent forgery. To secede from old OLF is a right; but to be called by it will be considered as poking a finger into the nation’s wounds.
Most activists that claim to be OLF had been marching together under its constitution that came down being amended from 1974-98, with the same kaayyoo. The kaayyoo that OLF follows and many brave souls were sacrificed for was that one. It is that kaayyoo that can unite all those who are in the camp of bilisummaa. Changes that came later are not those they can commonly claim. There are those who have different goals but still claim that they are struggling for Oromoo rights. The vision of all activists should not necessarily be the same. But the basis of using the name OLF cannot be other than the constitutions up to 1998.
The break up between the first groups came about because one of them happened to foresee what is going to take place today. From the three groups that call themselves OLF the two had changed and amended articles of the constitution when they were together. That amendment contradicts with what the three had in common. It is only “TA OLF” that did not change the 1998 version. That means the political objectives that asserted without wavering establishing independent republic of Oromiyaa stays with it. For this reason they say the name should also remain with those that advocate that strategy.
OLF for various reasons failed to maintain its unity. For this reason faction used to form according to their fury and go out to form their own organization with different names. But they did not abandon the original kaayyoo. On the other hand those that now failed to move together are trying to change organizational strategy and walk away with the name. There is reason for a name to be given at birth. Nothing can be it unless that criterion is met. For this reason, to leave it as it was will be respecting that honorable kaayyoo and the people that sacrificed for it. Even if it declines now it will one day rise and reinvigorate the dwindled hope. If struggling over the name continues to persist it will be going back into the same vicious circle that entangled the struggle in the past. But let us hope there will be no more going to alien court for adjudication.
The difference that is admitted now is of great help for a struggle that had been entrapped over a long time. It should not be seen as out of the ordinary but activists should go with what is in their heart without wavering. The two groups can form understanding in the spirit of Oromummaa so that relation should not go rough accidentally. Nothing also forbids them in drawing a minimum program for some activities. Previously the problem was the inability to openly declare ones stand. Accepting difference of opinion is a step towards tangible democracy. Since the present is going to be one amongst the already existing unionist organizations it is not a new phenomenon. What is different is its calling itself OLF.
One stands firm with the original kaayyoo not because of desire to be different from other organizations, from hating other peoples, or for not understanding that it is like pushing a mountain and the sacrifices it requires. But because it is the only way to make all hitherto existing sacrifices fruitful. There are those that use different openings and try to sabotage the effort this nation is making to regain its lost identity. Wavering and stumbling on its way will leave it a despised loser. The reason d’être of OLF is to stand those challenges and advance the Bilisummaa Movement of this decent and peace loving nation to a proud respectable conclusion.
OLF is evaluated not because it has power, it is few or numerous, but because of the persistence to uphold the kaayyoo that will bestow honor on its people and keep continuity of the struggle till victory. Oromo organizations back home which are legal oppositions are trying in vain to democratize Ethiopia. The government has kept on knocking their heads down so that they will not look up for what it is doing. On the other hand government and other adversaries are doing all they can to disturb peace and unity of OLF. They are pushing hard on it to give up the kaayyoo and join the colonial system. That means to get castrated like all others. That they know will knell its death toll. Then, hope of the people that they will one day be free and become one among free nations will be dashed. Today it might be suffering from shortage of strong organization, militant leadership and convenient environment. Be as it may, this genuine Oromo struggle will not go to foster home because of a glitch in time. Shortcomings that one generation had is hoped to be overcome by another to keep the people’s kaayyoo vibrant. This can be witnessed from the struggle Oromo militants are waging in the mountains and valleys of Oromiyaa at the present time. OLF is no more the pet of its “founders” but darling of the nation.
These days, statements are being issued. One declared the strategy it drew to democratize Ethiopia. It declared its choice of non-violent struggle; forming alliance with Ethiopian oppositions without precondition and working towards democratizing Ethiopia. The declaration does not mention from where the leaders are going to call for resistance. If it is by hue and cry transmitted from Asmara there are many things to be doubted. If it was thought Arab Spring could jump to Mallas like wild fire the foretold “day of rage” had passed without event.
The second condemned the first’s using the name OLF for a deviated strategy. Though it stood firm with the original kaayyoo other than condemning use of OLF name unjustly, it did not make loud enough call for the disfranchised bilisummaa activists. The third one complained that its name was falsely included in accusation for which it was not a party. It did not take a stand on the Manifesto, Alliance and Nonviolent Struggle and showed no commitment to one line. It rather came out furiously against its name being mentioned. To its credit it had also made solidarity call for Oromo revolutionaries and “QC” as well.
But what is expected from all was to be frank and transparent to the Oromo people and to each other. The old strategy and the changed one have to be compared and contrasted. Does the changed version have advantage over the old? What influences can it have on the struggle for bilisummaa? Can they see eye to eye and tell OLF members and supporters how they came to advocate for different stand after so long? Those that struggle and those that support have to know and believe in and choose the line they want to pursue. Still areas of cooperation between the two groups are a possibility. Mallas is tightening his screw on all liberation movements. The Oromo has lived under repression alleged as terrorist for over twenty years. His recent declaration is more for international consumption otherwise he has never lived by rule of law and needed no legislation domestically. His intention is to mislead foreign countries so that they deny comfort for refugees that run away from his harsh rule. To turn the tide against Wayyaanee trying to understand the geopolitics of the time is indispensible.
There are those murmuring about writing in foreign language as giving out information that should have been left in Oromo circle. At the same time those same people talk of the virtues of global village. He is only putting foreward what some do at the back of Oromo people. He only wanted to inform them like that ancient dog “we knowingly eat with rubbish”. He does not hide his vision for the nation from any one. What he does and says has to be transparent. Whatever we do or say in the name of the people must be transparent and unequivocal. To enable one who is listening, seeing and working to know what is going on and criticize, enrich with ideas or oppose is being democratic. To be equivocal and evasive would only affect credibility. There are readers that hurry to criticize looking only at name of the author and the title. That would only result in rambling out opinion filled with hate. Because two persons belong to different schools of thought their communication should not necessarily be adversarial.
Another issue is about old people “that meddle” in areas that should be left for the young generation. But they live with them in the same time and space. They taste together the good and the bad produced by nature and man. Therefore it should not be forgotten that the elderly have rights and duties in this life. In the Gadaa system all had roles according to peerage. Leaders and those that defend the country were those that had energy for it. The role of the elderly was to give opinion and advice. As long as his body and mind function normally this writer will not sit in silence and see when accidents befall Oromo struggle. It is not possible to silence a gadamoojjii like this writer under Gadaa or now.
To give way he stands on no ones path. If it is about his thoughts, society will be delighted when the young have better ideas that do not take us half a century back not mindful of the tragedy we passed through. The People will throw this writers idea into archive of history not because the idea came from elderly but for finding a better one.
To conclude, the sacrifices OLF made since it was founded is tremendous. There should be no doubt that liberation of the Oromo can bring about peace to the zone. Peoples in the mother land know that it is advantageous for neighbors to live in peace, had there been no disturbers.
But groups that sprouted from them are not willing to show regret for crimes their fathers had committed against the Oromo. They have still dreams of continuing in power for they have contempt for the people. But to live in peace they are expected to absolve themselves, apologize and beg for forgiveness in accordance with African tradition. Allying with colonized peoples in the region and progressives in the colonial camps and democrats of the world in the drive towards Bilisummaa is beneficial. Struggle for bilisummaa will be concluded when the right to national self-determination is realized and choice of the people is implemented. Whether it votes to be independent or for union with others it will assert its will at referendum. Oromo organizations that accept up to that point can form a front. The name OLF has to remain with those who did not change the essence of their political program. The days or hiding oneself are gone; every thing has come out clear. The struggle demands from all according to ability and tolerates no discrimination be it for race, gender or age. Nothing done for people’s benefit should be covered up. Encouraging public debate and critical thinking demands transparency. That is required from a revolutionary organization. With proper internal and external understanding, Oromo struggle armed with Oromummaa and determined and committed to the cause can grab Bilisummaa in a short time to come.
Patriots determined and committed to the national cause are pillars for their country.
The struggle for bilisummaa shall continue until victory!
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.
***This is also a response for coments, criticism and badmouths received through different chanels on my article “In defense of bilisummaa”; many thanks for those who showed interest of participating in all forms