Because of the conceptual strength of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) campaign against it from many directions, defamations, efforts to break it into pieces, did not materialize; they could not erase it from Oromo hearts, it rather went on rejuvenating. But in practice the leadership did not demonstrate strength the organization requires. It lacked the essential energy. There is also weakness in economic aspect. To generate that also demands stronger organization and leadership. That means the OLF mission is waiting for all round stronger organization and leadership. As an organization it did not put in place methods for correcting defect that might be encountered. It was realized very recently that problems eating it from inside started from the head down. There were undetermined members of the leadership. Therefore it demands not slicing and baking a little bit for once appetite but conducting a revolution on oneself. The vision of independence is the stored hope of Oromo people it cannot be extinguished until it gets the chance of being realized. The Oromoo always remember that they are part of Africa from time immemorial. African unity can be formed by its free peoples not dictators.
The kaayyoo OLF came forward with is the kaayyoo nurtured by forefathers of Oromo from time immemorial. That kaayyoo was based on independence, freedom, unity, equality and brotherhood of tribes and peace and harmony of neighbors and respect for human and peoples’ rights and natural environment. That came guarded by the system known as Gadaa. One feels kaayyoo than expressing it. However this writer will try to approximate what it feels as follows: “Kaayyoo is principle based on constant outlook and reflects objective people have on peace, unity, independence and life of happiness which every one awaits it’s reaching the desired goal with hope.” Oromummaa includes volunteering to pay the required sacrifices until this kaayyoo reaches its set goal so that it passes from generation to generation. Kaayyoo and bilisummaa are concepts with great depth, you live them than explain.
The time OLF was founded was a time when enemies were planning to employ new methods on the Oromo by screwing hard tools of oppression that could erase any Oromummaa element left in them. Youths of the day came out vowing to stand against and get rid of any form of oppression and exploitation by establishing people’s democratic republic of Oromiyaa. Their nationalism is that of liberation not one that foster hatred for or supremacy on any one. Did they know what they want? Yes! Had they doubt about independence of Oromiyaa? Never!! Do they know that there were comrades among them that had doubts? No! They never expected that at least not from the leadership.
The youth then did not formulate properly the Oromummaa outlook in order to have uniform understanding but followed it from intuition. That was why it became easy for unbelievers to interpret the list on the written program as they liked. “Walabummaa” and “bilisummaa” in Afaan Oromo were not known as having different meanings. It is the same as “independence” and “freedom” in the English language. Give it any name the objective of the program is to found “people’s republic of Oromiyaa”. Be that as it may, the two words should not have been presented as to create confusion in people’s minds. What the Oromo liberation front is can be observed from its amended programs of 1976 and 1978.
To create common understanding it is not difficult to take “walabummaa” for a country and “bilisummaa” for the people, it only adds something to what we have. But it will not be appropriate to take as if the two words had traditionally different meanings. The persons that were once leaders of OLF told they never took separation from Ethiopia sincerely. Thus one of the weaknesses of the organization generates from twisting the true messages of the program and creating doubts in the minds of border liners. To say “I like bilisummaa” and “I do not support walabummaa” intends to confuse “Adda bilisummaa Oromo (OLF)” with their recent revelation of democratizing the empire.
These X-leaders suggest searching for another way for the kaayyoo of bilisummaa had become outdated. The exiting of Amhara and the coming of the Tigrawayi, the crumbling of state farm and selling of Oromo land to foreign companies, population growth, and the end of cold war were presented as enough reason to make the kaayyoo obsolete. What is surprising is those who tell us this now had asserted in their earlier statements their change of mind on the kaayyoo long before those things happened. It is unusual to cite evidence from future events. It may be appropriate to change tactics when there are new developments but not the kaayyoo. By the way, is there any one phenomenon that can be cause for changing ones objective of struggle from the above list?
It is surprising for amending errors known at the outset to take forty years and even that in vain. As individuals it is the right of those leaders to have their own opinion. But they have traditional and legal duty and responsibility for their past. It is said defying the proper adherence to the rules and regulations of the organization did not start with them but had been there for long. There had been overlooking breaches of rules and regulations and also taking imbalanced measures in other aspects even under their watch. Partiality was complained. This was another thing that spread suspicion and caused crisis for they were not explained in time.
When they were in power they had the authority to convene National Congress or Central Committee meetings and get issues discussed. But later when internal and external situations changed they could not get attention in the way they assumed to be. Rather than breaking the law they should have accepted the reality and followed petitioning procedure they used to expect from their subordinates. If denied, justice would have been on their side. Situations change with time. What one bring to the fore today may be pushed back tomorrow. What cannot be pushed back is only the interest and honor of a nation. There is no one that had agitated the nation to pay the necessary sacrifice to popularize this kaayyoo more than its founders and the cadres of OLF. These ones were at the helm of it.
Patience, tolerance and wisdom are what are expected from leaders if there is no other commitment. The captain would try all means to save his/her ship from sinking and if he/she fails he/she has to sink with her for it is shame to abandon her while in distress. Those founders should have considered themselves as captains. To abandon it before it breaks will be of greater shame than ships captain. They have legal, moral and historical responsibility and accountability. The lack of that is the cause for the present complicated crisis whose solution is taking time.
An organization should not be led by spontaneity but plan what it intends to do ahead of time. It is expected to put in place political program, constitution, laws, regulations and several other documents to guide principles it upholds. All these reflect the kaayyoo of the nation. Members from top to bottom have to understand the details of the documents in common. It is then that they understand the national outlook, Oromummaa. In case of OLF those documents were put in place forty years ago. It seems that the ones who had no commitment to the kaayyoo did not bother to its dissemination or implementation.
Oromiyaa is rich in human resources and those found under and above ground. Those resources are used to oppress it and enrich its alien enslavers. Oromo liberation movement has to focus on those resources without access to which it cannot be self reliant. Foreign aid is not dependable. The struggle did not start with that expectation. But it will not be rejected. It is the duty of leadership to find ways and means of raising revenue. This will not demand less sacrifice than that demanded to defend against the enemy. For this reason it requires a determined leadership whose priority is self reliance.
From all direction everybody wants to point to the organizational weakness of OLF. It is the accountability of the leadership to strengthen the organization. How can those who were leaders complain about those weaknesses? How come one thinks of constructing a new one when one cannot maintain a forty years structure with all the infrastructures and good will? This could be a part of OLF weakening process. It is not unusual to defame or if possible to ruin what one does not believe in. But it is unethical to point to a mess that one is part to. Industrious people make mistakes but admit and try to correct them. How can one intentionally desolating the house he/she built be credible for a new one? Politics is run with tact not grudge. Unless there are remnants of kaayyoo deserters that did not expose themselves so far, this is the opportune time for others to hold hands and show the difference.
Leaders that now quitted cannot be denied gratitude for their previous contributions to the national cause; however the gratitude and honor is interrelated with honor they give to the national kaayyoo. If they could take the vicious circle they are in as only a bad dream and get cleansed and go back to their organization, it is what everyone would welcome and appreciate. To do that requires wisdom and courage. Those leaders of factions that kept the name of the organization by claiming not to have changed are to be acknowledged. That does not mean they have monopoly over OLF. That is what they are going to transfer to those online. For this reason the turbid relations should not be personalized.
We have seen in the past ten years that trying to tear up OLF and form into small parishes cannot solve the suffering with which the Oromo nation is overburdened. The two OLF have something to tell about their differences. One says “I am the guardian of the original kaayyoo”. One among them might have seen first that anti kaayyoo elements were entrenched in the other. Whether they have the OLF label or not, all others take the kaayyoo as erroneous. OLF is favored not because of its name but because of what was included in the political program it started with. It cannot also be denied that the name is loved and honored. Because one twists its objective and have the name sticker on, one cannot become OLF. The people know not two three OLF but one. And that is the one that will not disarm until the Oromoo right to national self determination including independence is realized. To try to discredit the OLF for having several individual that claim its name and leadership is to intentionally deny what OLF is. There is only one OLF all the rest are counterfeits. Check them against their political program.
OLF is a front of truthful gallant individuals that came out to defend their people, their country and their honor from occupiers vowing to pay the ultimate sacrifice until the occupier leaves their land. That was what they did and is doing when they gave their lives for the cause in all corners of Oromiyaa. They were carrying the OLF political program in their pockets and there banner in one hand and their weapon in the other. All the way they believed in their leaders and marched into fire with their orders. They have praise songs for their country, their organization, their banner and their heroines and heroes and their comrades as they were taught by their leaders. OLF thus transcends the living and embrace the dead. It is the spirit of all those revolutionaries that has come and gone in the past forty years. It has strong base and character that counterfeiting cannot replicate. Leaders and members may demonstrate weakness and confusion but OLF will ever remain strong. Members and leaders are variables while OLF will remain constant.
The Oromo expect from their leaders to abide by the rule of law. They hope they will build a country where everyone has a chance to be listened to. That is a traditional practice inherited from the Gadaa system. One that breaks the law is uprooted or at the worst faces the ultimate punishment. Though that is now story, to respect the Gadaa safuu (ethics) is expected from all Oromo. The kaayyoo that it started with and is still following had turned the OLF into Oromo spirit. It will never bend or be overcome. Just like it is strong in theory, there is no reason why it should not be strong in practice. Learning from the past and correcting present mistakes should not be difficult. Those leaders that have adhered to the original kaayyoo must hold hands urgently; for excuses seem to have been eliminated. What remains is to break the spell of habit and end seclusion.
The daily life of Oromiyaa is under threat. The situation that is now created is making the Tigrian ruling class more nervous and frightened. The totalitarian vicious rein that only Mallas can harness to ride them and the empire is too coded for heirs to understand. Habashaa opposition is conspiring against them vigorously. There is no one among them that does not swear to reveres rights the oppressed so far registered. Others are praying to their Gods and evoking magic power for the king to expire. In short the danger hovering over Oromiyaa cannot easily be hushed. Those that submitted and did not submit are all in the same boat. At the same time those who want to dismantle OLF are trying to discourage patriots through gaps available to them. They are advising them to join the throng for they cannot stand against it. This is only to achieve their objective of blunting the struggle.
Those that feel Oromummaa have to find ways before it is too late. It is essential for those that claim to be Oromo to come to the rescue of the other if they have to survive the catastrophe focused on them from right and left at this critical time. For the time being the minimum program that may rally them is to believe that they are one people, and have one country and one destiny. They can come back to their different outlook if they survive the catastrophe. The time is when activists can’t afford to be divided by branding each other as “we” and “them” but a time everyone is expected to show magnanimity and try to understand each other. To retreat to alien camp at this time when catastrophe is thundering towards one, amounts to be buried alive. Many brave Oromo met their ends in that way. A lesson can be learnt from our forefathers like Goobana Daccee. They lost their lives and their good names.
The identity, body, belongings, labor, and life of the Oromo people were not spared since its occupation. More than those that perished defending themselves the number that died repressed as slaves, despised, suffering from famine, and distress were greater. When all that was happening no one from the oppressors camp has opposed their government and stood by the oppressed. All had the belief that the Oromo were sent to serve them by their God. Even today one cannot see any one that changed ones mind. Losing hope of any solution and fade up of kneeling for the oppressor Oromo found the OLF to reverse the situations.
Since then, there was cacophony in the camp of the enemy complaining about OLF’s desire to divide the people that so far lived in harmony and was intermarried and had offspring from each other. Why didn’t they see the said harmony and being in-laws and alleviate their suffering so far? Why did they see them down with contempt? Still no one showed regret for the suffering they caused for over a century. Now their nightmare is lose of Oromiyaa’s resources and cheap labor that they used to exploit at will. They are not willing to live together in equality and brotherhood as a people accepting them as owners of their country. They consider it their mission to keep the colonial empire for ever. OLF has sworn to dismantle it. It will be only then that all the people imprisoned in it are released to live in peace.
The Oromo do not have rights to demand from their neighbors but from the colonizer. Now the work awaiting the Oromo is consolidating the existing leadership and developing new ones from below while strengthening their organization. Though they appears emaciated, internally they are not only strong like wire grass but also that they have a potential force is known. To consider other duty before exploiting this potential and establishing themselves would be like self sabotaging from reaching ones goal. To see beyond the self could come only after independence. However alliance with colonies like them during struggle has to continue. To think of democratizing the empire would be like the saying “She covers the head while leaving her backside naked”
Senior members of the OLF were of the generation that upheld Pan Africanism as influenced by Black American idealists and theoreticians which were transmitted to the continent through African politicians of the 60s like Kwame Nkrumah. Those understood OAU as a means towards a genuine African unity. So far it did not materialize. For a genuine African unity to be realized it must be based on untainted will of each African people not government most of which are dictators. There is conflict of interest between those dictators and African unity based on democratic principles of freedom, equality, nonalignment, respect for human and peoples’ rights and fraternity and sorority of Africans. They are too narrow-minded for it.
Unless the OLF turns its theoretical strength into practice fast the Oromo question could take generations to get resolved. On the other hand even if that take several years, the OLF can never be erased from Oromo hearts. Making all efforts with what it has, its mission will remain with expectation for strong leadership and organization. It had legislated laws on how to control defects. But it did not put in place a body with authority to supervise and administer justice daily. With it intentional negligence of the leaders could have also been curbed. That weakened it. The problem of OLF started at the head. There were the undetermined among the leadership. Therefore purifying it is waiting for time. It is not to take slices and bake something for one, but carrying out a revolution on oneself that could help to achieve ones goal. Oromo people are part of Africa’s people. African unity will be formed by free will of the people not dictators or colonizers. That is OLF’s inherent principle for unity in the region as well as for the continent. First each people have to be genuinely free. Vision for the future is clear, the hope Oromo stored to be independent cannot be extinguished until they get the chance for it to be realized. Be it strong or weak OLF is only one.
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.