Reviewing the Oromo Question

Of the 150 years of trial and tribulation the last fifty years were when it became possible for all-inclusive pan Oromo struggle to be launched with OLF as a vanguard. Objective of the struggle was to decolonize Oromiyaa and establish a democratic people’s republic. At the same time the Habashaa were engaged in internal power struggle in which Tigraaway came out as victors. OLF joined them in a transitional arrangement because TPLF/EPRDF accepted united Oromiyaa, federal system, using one’s language for work and education and protection of Oromo interest in Finfinnee until further arrangements. These conditions were accepted by TPLF to pacify the Oromo and avert the sudden dissolution of the empire state, not to have OLF as rival in the transitional government and beyond. Some suspected that the agreement cannot hold and hurried up to wind up whatever is possible. One of them was education policy, which was made ready for implementation the following academic year. As feared the coalition fail apart. Without OLF participation and Oromo approval a constitution was promulgated. But it covered issues raised in the transitional charter. After the struggle reached certain level the Oromo joined the old enemy and the neighboring oppressed in a drive towards supremacy of law, peace and democratic change but putting its program aside for the time. By that the empire was saved from a sudden collapse, which could have affected the region much. The Amaaraa accused TPLF for intentionally dismantling Ethiopia, by recognizing freedom of peoples of the colonies. But they do not have the power, or the faith to pull down the federation by crying like those of olden times.

Oromo accepted federalism by postponing their fundamental question and decided to try living with others if all are interested. It is believed that members of the federation will present themselves with their country, strengthening their unity and identity and holding to their states to govern themselves. One has no right to interfere in others affairs. Rights and duties, they have from each other will be shown in a constitution they draft and promulgate together. Though not all accept the present constitution, they have agreed for the sake of peace to abide by it and joined forces of change until the next election. When we talk about Oromiyaa we mean unbroken territory with towns like Finfinnee in it. Remnants of the Nafxanyaa invaders want to use Finfinnee as their last trench from where to spring to reconquer Oromiyaa. That is not surprising, what is surprising is those Oromo that show half-heartedness in taking action when Finfinnee is attacked by Nafxanyaa system hopefuls. In all states, different nationalities and those of the former colonizers are also found. The towns were military camps of invaders for this reason many remnants are found in them. If they want to accept the changing condition of governance and live in peace, equality and freedom with the indigenous respecting laws of the state or quit, it is their right. But involving in conspiracy with forces outside the state is not allowed. No one will be subject to eviction or allowed to agitate for eviction outside the law. Problem generated by this is the concern of that state and does not involve any other state. Old relation with Habashaa colonial system is no more acceptable to the Oromo. A new covenant based on the will of all must be agreed upon. Any demand for rights in Oromiyaa has to be based on that covenant and Universal declaration of human rights alone never on imperial traditions.

Ethiopia was imposed over Oromiyaa by force. Flag and past history of Ethiopia are no concern of the Oromo. If there is one that asks, what shall we do then, one has only to present it for discussion and get it clear, no one has the right to curse or abuse others for it, it is also bad manner. Even to give the name Ethiopia to the new union depends on the will of those that form the union not on cacophony of Habashaa cadres. All nations and nationalities have their own history and identity. Therefore, there will be no reason to take alien identity as their own without their expressed will. The Battle of Adwa is always taken as a common example for that. True, it cannot be denied that captive Oromo were involved as pack animals and have also shown valor as fighters and military leaders. Though the battle was a fight between two colonizers the blackness of Ethiopia had blurred this fact to third parties. Both sides had involved peoples of their colonies in the war. It was something like this that was referred to as, “Sirba giddii, kan mangistii” (forced dance of the government”). Since it was not more than ten years then, since the nations of the south were occupied by Ethiopia, they did not even recover from the wounds and destruction inflicted by the Nafxanyaa. Adwa should have been remembered by the colonies for men and woman who perished on the way to Adwa by abuses and heavy loads and those who had fallen to bullets from two sides in the hills of Adwa. False propaganda cannot attract people towards each other. Let the truth be told and heal internal wounds first.

Oromo youth of the 60s went out to struggle for freedom with slogan, “One country, one nation, one destiny”, vowing to found Democratic Peoples Republic Oromiyaa. Let us not concentrate on living cadres of OLF until they cleanse themselves but enjoy the memories of its fallen heroes and heroines. Though the causes for initiating the struggle for liberation are still there, the enemy to struggle with is not where it was and as it was. The empire it founded is also staggering. Changing its structure how nations and nationalities govern each other had been suggested. Now only its world outlook remains floating in the air. Oromo political organizations are also not only OLF but multiple of them. The Oromo people is not the one there when the struggle was started, but a more politically conscious and with common vision. Therefore, it is essential to reassess the situation and review own tactics and strategy for clarity.

OLF went out with determination to raise awareness of its people when only few counted on fingers were politically conscious. It is that determination that made the people to be politically conscious to the level it has reached today. Today whatever is done on its behalf requires its consensus. The time of voluntary campaign is over for now. Though for different reasons armed struggle did not expand as expected, much benefit was registered by it. OLF has no liberated areas, but it was successful in liberating millions of people’s minds. For that, it has gained love and sympathy from Oromo people and hate and curses from their enemies.

Delaying of the hoped liberation and increase in oppression, has made the Oromo people to rise in unison from high and low lands and demonstrate great protest. That protest was comparable to the movement they made before five hundred years to reclaim their overtaken territory. They then showed their superb military skill against the two empires, Habashaa and Adal. The Habashaa are still moaning about it. Oromo protest movement over five years forced change in the EPRDF and caused for a transitional period to be declared. Young leaders of OPDO joining the Oromo movement made much difference. It is then that Team Lammaa was liberated by its Qeerroo peers and given back to Ethiopia.

With the change that came, OPDO (ODP) reformed itself and grabbed power in EPRDF in 1918. OPD/EPRDF is now legally responsible for running the Ethiopian empire. Friends and foes, from afar and near have taken Dr. Abiy’s transitional administration as an Oromo government. Some Oromo organizations accept this with qualifications. However bitter it may be, to swallow this truth might help them not to be marginalized and stand on same side with the enemy. Federal ruling party and that of Oromiyaa being the same this time, could blur sovereignty of Oromiyaa. Because of that it could be difficult to draw boundary lines to blame for trespass. The Federal administration could take this advantage and interfere in internal affairs of Oromiyaa.

Therefore, it is up to ODP to be truthful to Oromo people and set constitutional standard for future operations as not to leave bad precedence. For instance, was there any consultation outside the ODP to invite federal defense force to form its Command Post in Oromiyaa, affecting life and security of all? Inviting federal force for internal problem shows weakness of relations of regional state and the community which is a big supplier of resources and human power for the federation. One that calls itself government of the people has to distinguish between handling external invader and internal rebels. It is necessary to be careful not to be seen as offshoot of past colonial government. Oromiyaa state should not appear as particular arm for federal government. Let this not be taken as justification for continuation of armed struggle by an organization when all others have laid down their arms in favor of peaceful struggle. In this case only one group is allowed to carry arms for maintenance of law and order, the transitional government.

Existing mistrust between the different political settings is understandable. Enough work is not done among Oromo organizations to feel Oromiyaa administration to be theirs. For this, non-partisan civil administration must be established in consultation with all concerned. Until that is done, it remains ODP cadre collection in the minds of all others. For our people to be armed is a right which all organizations have to discuss together how that could be realized. OLA had been the only armed force the Oromo had. Now situations are changing and OLA belongs to a faction of OLF. There is a legal transitional government of Oromiyaa that is entrusted with maintenance of law and order. That means, a member organization of the transition cannot keep “private” army. Therefore, it has to join the main street peaceful warriors. Let us save the revered name OLA from being soiled with conflicts of groups in the nation. If joining the new forces of change is considered self-destruction, let it be; for it is said, “Exile with the whole people is migration”?

On 22 June 2019 a very shocking incident happened. Elected Amaaraa leader and his collogues were slain. The slayer was told to be their collogue in charge of security, General Asamino who is no less hero for Amaaraa than the slain. How that happened is under investigation and much cannot be said. Because of that incident, Amaaraa Diaspora, big and small, has gone berserk throwing insults and curses at the Oromo. In homeland too, there are those that echo same position. All these cacophonous folks could have hand in agitating old Asamino for the conspiracy. They came out in protest before any form of investigation as soon as they heard his death. Even Major Daawwit came out with Amaaraa intellectuals to thrush Dr. Abiy because this might be his last project to incite coup d’état in which he failed again. Those are said to be Amaaraa intellectuals, how credible will they be in whatever they are going to inform the world after these lies? Oromo have to be always prepared for barking dogs can sometimes bite.

The incident in Amaaraa country is exposing the hatred Amaaraa ruling class has for Oromo and the OLF. The over spread, we have married and have off springs from each other is wiped off and the dry bread is exposed. They are still thinking in terms of the decaying empire which was built on bloods and bones of the Oromo more than a century ago. Then Oromo were their main enemy. Now it seems they are reverting to the same position. In olden times when Tigraaway falls Amaara used to replace. Now that tradition is disrupted and no more taking turns. The Oromo are not going to take turns with them in ruling the empire. If they are willing, they can join them in a new union. The union will have structure and name all agree upon. All nations and nationalities will democratically run the union as equals no more masters and servants. Abiy will be the last emperor of the Ethiopian empire. That is what is pushing them to madness, their nemesis “democracy is on their heels. They do not believe he will guide it to what is favorable to them. Even ODP is ruling in the name of EPRDF not in its Oromo name. They are now postponing Walqaayit as their major rallying point for the Amaaraa. From now they are going to create allegation after allegation to defame OLF’s good name and picking up Oromo/OLF as their war cry. Oromo, because they are free; OLF because it ignited the freedom struggle. All allegations against OLF are lies that cannot be substantiated with tangible evidence. OLF for them is now the Lucifer to blame for all their failures in all corners of the world.

The Abiy fad is now over because they realized that he is not convertible. They are starting to call him names not because he is Abiy, but for being leader of the ruling party with Oromo name. Otherwise he had been praising Ethiopia and their kings who are enemies of the Oromo people, more than they do. He has also vowed to return her to her ancient glory. First, they were elated assuming he was the redeemer they were looking for. Later they were fade up with the him for what they wanted from him is to help them get access to resources and human power of Oromiyaa they were cut off from, not praise for their past. To satisfy them, they expect him to betray his people and deny them certain rights. That shows their ignorance of where consciousness of the Oromo reached. Abiy believes that he is an Oromo that did not need to take another’s ethnicity to be Ethiopian. At this moment nobody can claim to be more Ethiopian than him, whether they call him Wanaag or Onaag.

Amaaraa ruling classes had never transferred power in peace. What now happened though saddening is not a surprise. The rationales want to tip toe and recapture Ethiopian power through legal means. But, the radicals did not have the patience to wait for the uncertain result of legal process. They thought if they could capture Amaaraa region they could pass to the adjacent neighbors as in olden days. But they did not understand that all are capable to defend against aggressors unlike the olden day when they were armed with spears and clubs alone. Any ways, the attempt failed before further damage. The Amaaraa want to blame external force for their internal problems. They denied that there was coup d’état and related deaths on both side to OLF machination and Dr. Abiy. OLF is for them a code word for anything Oromo. For some among them, there are no people called Oromo and a country called Oromiyaa. They are even falling short of Minilik’s position on this issue. If they are denying Oromo identity that means they cannot be partners in the federal system. To live with each other the Amaaraa has to start looking at their relations from the same premises. Oromo are not different in race from them for they are Black Africans and so cannot be accused of “racism”. They are using that term because they think it is a pet word for the West. They are no tribe for any nation for they are self-sustaining nation formed by several great tribes thousands of years ago. Amaaraa can form a union with the others only if it accepts the right of nations to national self-determination including independence.

Now it is only the Oromo and other oppressed nations and nationalities that favor federation; as for the Amaaraa elites they still feel superiority they no longer have. They are trying to threaten anyone that stand against them but their threat no more holds with the Oromo. It is only reason and love that can win them. For the Oromo and other neighbors passing in silence anymore will be allowing them to disturb peace of the region. Let Amaaraa people be asked directly if they support the federal system. The old unitary structure with all its tentacles can never be there again. But they are free to restore their old Habashaa kingdom. As they do not interfere in others interest, Oromo do not tolerate others to interfere in their interest as well. It is only accepting equality and freedom of people that used to be abused and despise in their names, not bad mouthing by their elites that will be an answer to other’s questions. It must be known that it is possible for peace of the region to get jeopardized by catastrophe that can befall with actions of provocateurs in them. However, much heirs of its architects may sweat to save it, the declining empire is destined to fall. And a new union based on the will of all peoples has to be formed. What is required is how to build that together preventing all from going their ways as of right, not propping the falling. Interests of peoples now living have more value than past history.

Ethiopia can have individuals addicted to her. But majority Oromo are not. For this reason, they can easily quit. The Oromo have nothing to be proud of history individuals participated in as subservient. For individuals being proud of it is their right but they should not distort history of Oromo nation to satisfy own ego. For all eventualities the final decision maker on its destiny is the people. The Oromo people must be allowed to decide on their country, land and resources, governance and relation with neighbors. For non-Oromo in Oromiyaa as long as they want to live in peace respecting its laws, Oromiyaa is their country. Human rights are respected for them as individuals and as community. But while living in Oromiyaa conspiring with those who are thinking evil of Oromiyaa cannot win them respect of their hosts. Had it not been for Oromo love for people they all know how they came there. To survive as people, it is a must that Oromiyaa enforce its laws. Free movement of people and goods will not be denied in Oromiyaa for any human being but have to be conducting according to Oromiyaa law.

For now, supporting the present transitional system empire Ethiopia is ruled by is a duty for all peace-loving peoples. It is accepting this that freedom fighters like ONLF put down their arms in favor of peaceful struggle and decided to support transitional administration. For the Oromo this period has to be a period that helps them for resting, recover and reorganize themselves to realize their dreams. Since the Oromo are vanguard in bringing this change, propping it up is also expected from them. There are many waverers focusing on the change from inside and outside the empire. Those in the country will not be satisfied unless the government is removed. Those outside if they doubt the ability of the government to maintain stability, they may start looking for alternative candidate. Trend that started during the period called “the Scramble for Africa” has to be broken. Nations and nationalities have to govern themselves as they like not as third parties desire. As long as Oromo and the oppressed of the empire are not in agreement with, no force can remove the government and govern the country in peace. The time is time of transition. It has been agreed that supremacy of the law and peace have to be maintained. The laws are based on the present constitution, which should not be messed up with.

Majority Oromo did not lose hope on Dr. Abiy’s government so far. At this time when Oromo are being attacked from different quarters, they cannot afford to start shooting at themselves. Except people’s army, they also do not believe an organizational army could insure peace. That army has to go back in peace and live according to the will of the people. Oromo deliberates on issues concerning the country using their age old “Ilaa fi Ilaamee” discourse technique, not use violence to carry their points through. Armed struggle started after all means of peaceful settlement of conflicts was exhausted. But there is now an opening for peaceful struggle. Continuation of armed conflict when there is no national consensus is hurting. If there is anyone that is not feeling the pain from fighting between youth remaining in the jungle and government, he is not an Oromo. Any one fanning to escalate the conflict is unproductive zealot or enemy of the people. On the political stage we see two Ethiopia. The old imperial one and the reformed version led by Dr. Abiy and Dammaqa Makonnin’s EPRDF. It is advantageous for Oromo liberation movement to support the reformed one as long as it accepts supremacy of the law and democratic governance and get rid of imperial Ethiopia. With reformed version one can move towards one’s goal through peaceful struggle. Therefore, there should be no wavering to get rid of imperial Ethiopia.

We have no doubt that majority of those in the jungles love their country. But we question the wisdom of their leadership in putting them and innocent people in harm’s way when it can be avoided and their cause can be served in another way. Neutral elderly should not lose patience in trying to mediate in good faith the conflict between government and youth remaining in the jungle. Oromo life and resources that could be beneficial for tomorrow are getting destroyed. Revenge that can pass from era to era is being piled up. The loss incurred by children lacking education, the market being disturbed, blocking of roads and administration of justice being trapped should be felt by all. In the 70s an Habashaa organization took measures that had no consensus of its people. With that, it aggravated the conditions in the empire and caused massacre of thousands of youths and its own destruction. To repeat such practice cannot produce result better than the previous one.

It is said, “The hornless cattle drinks water under the curved horn”. To use available opening with patience is only being smart. For all Oromo are considered as one and the same by the aliens, abandoning each other at such a moment is catastrophic. The alien can hurt more than one’s own brute. Differences can be sorted out when common survival is assured. It is possible that there are Oromo organizations that want to unite with Ethiopia or those that want independent Oromiyaa. These should not be taken as irreconcilable conflict for they can be resolved by the superior judge, the people. To choose from among the two positions is the right of Oromo people. For this reason, organizations have to work together for realization of the universal right of nations to national self-determination. This time it is only the Oromo that can grant or sabotage the liberation of Oromiyaa. Therefore, leaving aside saying “I am a better nationalist than you”, we can accelerate the realization of national Kaayyoo if we focus on tolerance, stop fanning each other’s defects, and encouraging each other to move forward. Oromo nationalist is one that loves Oromiyaa and is ready to pay any cost to defend her freedom. Others woo our unruly and try to make use of them, while we antagonize them more and push them away into arms of our enemies. What can be done? Those in the mountains, and those that live under a situation where there is nothing to be scared of have to feel responsibility and seek for solutions. They should not be like the children who stand by and instigate bulls with lyrics to fight. Oromo should not miss this opportunity offered by the transition; it will help them for tomorrow’s struggle. Peace, freedom, life and resources of the poor are at risk.

There are changes in the field of struggle that require reviewing conditions under which Oromo liberation movement operates. There are political, social and economic change since then. The aim of Oromo liberation struggle was to decolonize Oromiyaa and establish independent democratic people’s republic Oromiyaa. Map of Oromiyaa OLF vowed to fight for was shown on all its publications. But a lessor map was compromised for a transitional period. Education and work in own language is made possible. The colonial government then listed as enemy is not where it was and as it was. The scattered Oromo territory is now partially united. Federated states are formed replacing the then unitary government. State of Oromiyaa is one of them. Oromo political organizations are also not only OLF but multiple of them. The Oromo people is now united and has formed common vision. Changing how EPRDF works, it was able to make Oromo under it to challenge supremacy of one organization and make decisions to be proud of. All the changes were achieved with great sacrifices. Instead of recognizing this for them, the alien tries to provoke Oromo in all its discourses and cracks jokes at rights to ask for what is theirs earned with blood of their children. Be that as it may, all these changes since the struggle started, demand for reassessing the situation and review tactics and strategy fitting to the period.

Oromo postponed demand for independence to save the danger a sudden collapse could bring to the region. Peaceful struggle was adopted and the question of national self-determination was left as it is in the constitution. Forces against the constitution accuse in Amharic, those asking for national self-determination by such words like,” Zaranyaa, gosanyaa and gooxanya (racist, tribalistic, regionalist); those are either chauvinists or idiots that echo what others say without knowing their implications. Oromo are great nation and have to be recognized as such. Creating chaos in Finfinnee to try to negotiate for power is forgetting that. Rather than getting Ethiopia that they are lamenting for such attempt could have even costed their freedom. As former colonizers they have to raise their hands totally off from Oromiyaa. Oromo can never view Finfinnee outside Oromiyaa. This old enemy cannot understand something called compromise; it assumes that people are afraid of it when they keep silent. Now the alternative they have is to be embraced by a new union or pull back to their old kingdom. They do not have the power or the faith to take down the federation like those of olden times by crying and replace it with old unitary system. The fury and tirade Amaaraa diaspora are showing in different streets of towns overseas harms than help the Amaaraa at home. Oromo believes in democracy freedom and independence but compromised for equal participation of all nations and nationalities that were under the empire and those that used to run it with iron feast. They say to take turns in governing is not allowed. Do they forget what that took turn did to them? If he wanted what does Abiy lack that TPLF had? What is going on among the diaspora Amaaraa is a declaration of war against the Oromo and their leadership. Some of them are criminals that slipped through TPLF fingers. Oromo are known for their patience and tolerance but everything has a limit. Let us hope consideration of peoples lasting interest and reason will prevail. Oromiyaan haa jiraattu.

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

July 2019

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