As children we all went through school that taught proper noun is a name of a particular person, place or thing. It is exclusively give to one to express specific character, quality or condition of creation. Any later claim laid to it has to prove its authenticity against all other claimants. Documents and/or eyewitness at its birth will be called to verify if the claimant is a genuine owner of the name. Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is a proper noun. It was given by its founders forty years ago. They have described its goals, strategy and tactics for its growth. All its future actions were bound by given constitution, program and regulations. Therefore any doubt of who is the OLF can be checked against the blueprint of its founding articles and living witnesses.
When ideological or religious split occur the splinter groups usually maintain the central theme. The controversy will be who is more orthodox than the other. They all cite the same holy book but for interpretation the words and layout of the books are not changed. If changed they take a different name and create different book. In OLF organizational documents all had in common were last amended in 1998 when there was only one OLF. The split that occurred after that has resulted in two factions (customarily known as QC and Shanee) claiming the same name and supposedly upholding the same truth. Before resolving the conflict of authenticity one of them (Shanee) had somewhat amended the constitution of 1998 adding and twisting some words to reflect the new world outlook of the group. But still it claims to maintain the basic principles of liberation as laid down in the old constitution. The other still maintains the 1998 version of laws and political program.
So far reasons for repeated schism are not given proper attention. The Shanee further split into two (2008) with the new creation referred to shortly as Jijjiirama. The Jijjiirama now came out with clear unconventional basic change to OLF program (2012). A new organization whose program has no basis in the past organizational principles is born. It uses the OLF name to penetrate the Ethiopian market. Shanee’s previous amendment hints intention to open a way for democratizing the empire and also showed half heartedness to part from original kaayyoo. It was also not daring enough to go beyond referendum. When and at which joint the next split may happen is the speculation of every one. But to be vigilant and cleanse their house to maintain integrity of the national kaayyoo is the duty of revolutionaries.
The change made by Jijjiirama has lost all characters of OLF and more resembles the other Oromo organizations operating as legal opposition to the EPRDF (like OPC &OFDM). Even OPDO appeared in form more Oromo after all melted into Madrak. A rebel and an opposition have different goals. OLF is a liberation front not conformist front. Opposition is conformist. What makes it different is not only the name but the initial program that sets the political, economic and social goals of the struggle, the national kaayyoo; history of millions of patriots that gave their lives for the kaayyoo and existence of millions from old to young that adore it because of its program. If one is missing from these elements to call oneself OLF is a lie. It would be a waste of effort to call oneself OLF without meeting these criteria. As an Oromo saying goes “Damma utuma minyaawu maragu” (They seal honey container despite the mouth watering effect of it). So it is better to reserve it for bad weather. Remember that slain Oromo patriots had in their memories the independence of Oromiyaa and OLF when they passed away.
Jijjiirama is determined to be Ethiopian and is negotiating to be accepted. OLF on the other hand is struggling to be free from Ethiopian occupation and atrocities. It is an organization that the enemy aspires to destroy or totally control. But every one is entitled to change ones mind and go after own interest. Activist in Jijjiirama have to be appreciated for the courage they showed to take clear stand on Oromiyaa’s relation with Ethiopia against opinion of millions. The same courage is required to choose a more fitting “proper noun” other than OLF. Now those that believe in democratizing the empire can regroup and form an organization that fits their outlook bringing the so far existing ideological stalemate to an end. With that it is hoped OLF will be left as it was.
No body should get surprised or annoyed by the drum beats that had already started in Ethiopianist camps. Oromo says, “An enemy is delighted even when ones baby belches”. They know OLF never gave up its original line of struggle and will never give up. But their targets are their own nationals for lucrative reward in appreciation of their ability to “tame the untamable” and winning confidence for their line of struggle. They may exhibit piece of their make believe kill (as giddaayi) to crown their victory. Even if the true OLF surrenders to them it will go down the drainage as traitor for the Oromo people will never give up its right to independence through the realization of the right of nations to national self determination.
That be as it may, the coming forward of activists out of a pack with clear objective of democratizing Ethiopia is a significant breakthrough for the national struggle. Flocking together with undeclared different outlooks had paralyzed the organization for a long time. This move by Jijjiirama could save the day for nationalists if all with similar beliefs stop shying and join them. There seems no other way for the remaining other than joining the new Jijjiirama line to democratize the empire or joining hands with those who want independence from the empire. No one should take it personal and have hard feelings against each other for choosing outlook of ones liking.
Problem may come in choice of alliance. If alliance takes a brother to direct confrontation with a brother that brother is no more itself but part and parcel of the enemy. Joining organization that does not recognize unrestricted people’s right to national self determination and that is determined to enforce its will by force is where brotherhood ends. Care should be taken that one is not shamed before history, the nation and the family.
Liberation includes physical and mental disentanglement from oppression, servitude, fear and ignorance. People under colonial rule; peoples’ land grabbed by the enemy; groups and individuals that fell under enemy spell mentally, all need to be liberated. Oromiya as a country under occupation requires total liberation that includes mental and physical aspects. It is thus incumbent on revolutionaries of Oromiyaa to take into consideration the problem of groups and individuals that are always on their knees for mercy and leftovers despite contempt the enemy shows them. Many are still under the spell of oppressors though they have better opportunity to free themselves than their forebears. It may be difficult for those who had taken oath of loyalty to colonial institutions. But for the educated and those that had no such experience it could only be said lack of consciousness in Oromummaa an outlook that liberated many from colonized mentality. These are the ones that need to be freed from their dark past.
It is not only the colonized that needed liberation but also those with strong nostalgia for their feudal colonial past. Many are heard bragging or lamenting about the territory their forebears preserved for them smashing their bones and spilling their blood. It was true, the occupied did not give up their liberty without putting up the toughest resistance they could muster losing half their population. Old occupier remnants see history only from the unjust and insignificant sacrifices in comparison that rewarded them with lucrative colony for more than a century. It does not consider the gross abuse and wanton destruction they perpetrated when weapon of mass destruction, foreign relations and information was their monopoly.
The colonized fought only with bare hands, sticks, spears and bows and arrows against weapons they saw for the first time spitting fire from long distances. These remnants blow up only agony of those who went to kill and got killed and refuse to imagine how many children, women, elderly and animals were burned down alive in their homes. All those that dream of reliving those days have to be helped to face reality. Now, the occupied have risen to demand for justice not vengeance. For what they lost not for what is others’. What is important is the present not the past that could drag all into unending conflict based on flashbacks of past memories. A wise advice will be to leave their country and freedom alone by closing old chapter and opening a new one for future peace and tranquility. The Oromo says “you don’t remain with the past and dirty hand”.
For the last twenty years Oromo Liberation Struggle has remained under attack by external and internal adversaries. Externally the attempt that started to replace OLF by “Salaamaawii Oneg” in 1992 and continuous manufacturing of divisive Oromo factions did not materialize. All along internal turmoil was being brewed by infiltrators. Their mission is to saw seed of mistrust among nationalists, encourage subgroup loyalty as opposed to national cohesion and take out steam from national aspiration for freedom and independence. The attack has effect on organizational strength but the desire for independence has picked up momentum than ever. From this it is certain that no hullabaloo could stop Oromo youth from its march towards forming Independent Republic Oromiyaa.
Therefore it is incumbent on all nationals to weigh consequences of their actions for aspirations of this great nation before launching any program that affect political struggle of its people. The independence struggle may be delayed but cannot be stopped. This generation of activist might be weak organizationally but strong enough to sustain the struggle. Assault on Oromo Liberation Struggle is not focused only on independence strive but on Oromo unity as well. Therefore actors must beware that there may come a time that regrets alone cannot mend the damage caused by their present decision.
As long as one claims to have something inside that feels the pain of the Oromo nation one cannot allow tag of war continue and consume national time and energy. The OLF is an Organization that had paid a lot and has become an icon of the nation. Still there are millions that uphold the original kaayyoo and are ready to pay the sacrifice it demands as long as they are alive. Organizational weakness at certain period does not mean it will not get strong ever. For lack of patience if one says today or never will it only be ignorance. If those who claim to be Oromo turn against this force the result will be unending fratricide. Let us not forget what happened when Goobana Daccee mobilized Oromo force against its own people. The effect of shame of defeat and lose of human dignity then had left a great scar on the psyche of the nation.
Let any group choose its own way but let it not provoke feelings of hate and indignity among siblings. The OLF is separate from its active members. It must be kept above inter membership biases and bickering. It is an indivisible entity that members quit or join. It is a national pride that should be converted into historic relic even if all members quit it rather than using its name for what it was not founded. All national heroes passed away with OLF and national kaayyoo it advanced in their memories. Those memories deserve respect. To whichever school of thought they belonged, leaving OLF as it was for permanent peace and understanding among nationals is a duty Oromummaa demands.
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 a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.