Our Stand and Theirs

Long, long ago, when this writer was a kid the common folks defined politics as art of lying. It was not something expected to be practiced by descent people. For the learned that was taken as definition of the ignorant and so defined it as art of governance. Now at this age when we see it, the” ignoramus” definition was more near to the truth. For this reason lying has become the norm.  Anyone that has power, control over the media and the purse is seen getting away with it. No wonder to see petty dictators release white lie about their criminal acts and intentions twisting facts and figures in support of anticipated goal.  Constitutions, rules and regulations are drawn supposedly to show individual responsibilities and accountability but in reality they are part of the lies of dictators and deceivers. All information states and collaborating media release should not be swallowed before checking the intention and the source. They are mostly lies. The following paragraphs are to show differences of seeking independence and maintaining the empire state by democratizing it. The two have clear distinctions of principle that only the gullible cannot distinguish. Here “Our” refers to those who struggle for independence and “Their” is for the government and its opposition and opposition to be.

When the Ethiopian constitution was drafted no respectable Oromo organization had endorse it, not that much for its content but because of how it was made. The peoples it claimed to serve did not participate in the making. Therefore it was no better than byelaw of a party. It had served and is still serving the purpose for which it was made, simulating rule of law.  By it multiparty system was also declared (Art. 56) as face saving device for international community that gave it unconditional support. They know they can apply the Habashaa maxim, “Indayaamahi xiraawu, indaybala gifawu” (Call him that he does not complain, push him that he does not eat) to exclude all they wanted. Hence election flaw in all aspects from preregistration to post ballot throwing was designed and implemented. No other way is expected from a colonial empire system. Let alone expecting fair and free elections even to live in peace under it is preposterous. The rulers always made it known that they have earned their position with sacrifices they paid. They are no different from their “shiftaa” (rebel) predecessors. The Habashaa never give up on their tradition willingly unless forced out.

All those that accepted the constitution, which advocates integrity of the Habashaa colonial empire were registered as what the West calls “loyal opposition”, whether Wayyaanee is democratized or not. There had never been tolerance for potential rival in Habashaa history. Power is acquired only by defiant opposition. To verify this read how power was transferred starting from Teedros without going farther. Creation of an empire only strengthened that tradition. And no empire in history has ever been democratized before it broke into its component parts. Therefore oppositions’ promises for democracy for all peoples of the empire are show of insincerity.  It is not up to the colonized to sacrifice to change that history. Opposition’s objective is not to change that history but to displace the incumbent and strengthen it. The talk about democracy is only to make their platform palatable for the voters. Oppressed peoples struggle for their freedom not for choosing between masters.

In short differences between loyal opposition and liberation movements are liberation movements believe that all peoples want peace, freedom and independence. To achieve this they have to get free from colonial occupation and domination. To start thinking about the peoples under colonial rule and the colonizing nation each one of them should free themselves and have free will to negotiate with neighbors.  Oromo has no problem to come to negotiation table with all those willing to consider each other as equals and show mutual respect for each other’s interests. Then only can they start to negotiate for their future relations which may or may not end in unity. For some opposition Oromo has the obligation of fighting for freedom of the others and democratizing the empire.  They are opposed to independence of Oromiyaa. Loyal opposition’s primary objectives are to overthrow the government in power, the Wayyaanee.

 For liberation movements the major issues are not overthrowing a government but dismantling the empire and assure freedom for all under it. This can be achieved through peaceful negotiations or armed uprising. As for leaders of the empire it is up to their own people to retain or discard them. Independent Oromiyaa could help its neighbors to find their ways if requested but will not choose rulers for them. Unity has no absolute value by itself unless those to unite show absolute will to rejoin. In other words accepting equality of all peoples, recognizing their rights to national self-determination and acceptance of the rule of law has to precede all other conditions. Liberation movements believe individual rights are affected by absence of group rights. Therefore one cannot be dealt with without the other. For the Opposition individual right will take care of group right. That means they do not talk about independence of Oromiyaa but individual freedom in general. They line up national question with women’s, football, farmers and self-help associations etc.

Liberation movements believe that Ethiopia can never be democratized unless it is decolonized.  Any one that replaces the incumbent cannot be different from it in governance.  Empire cannot be ruled without sheer force. Any force that replaces the Wayyaanee has to maintain integrity of the empire which under the present reality cannot be maintained without suppressing nationalist resistances. Therefore they make no difference for the peoples of Ethiopia if not a change of name. All those that are to sale their platform and pick support from international community and from nationals in the name of opposition parties are not presenting alternative platform to address the major grievances except blaming the incumbent power ad nauseam. How can they disentangle themselves from long standing imperial tradition without affecting the structure? They cannot, they are choosing to remain conjoined twins rather than taking the risks of separation.

The OLF as its name indicates stands for liberation of the Oromoo nation. Its world outlook or ideology is as enumerated in its political program.  It is based on the firm belief that Oromiyaa is a country over which the Oromoo people are the sole sovereigns. All those others that accident of history had made them residents of Oromiyaa are Oromiyaans as long as they accept sovereignty of Independent Republic Oromiyaa and its constitution. Thus the struggle that is led by the Oromo Liberation Front is for the realization of the right of national self-determination up to and including independence for Oromiyaans. Any negotiation that does not recognize this right of the Oromiyaans will not be acceptable by any independent minded generation.

Therefore creating fruitless tension based on pride and prejudice helps only succession of dictators detrimental to peace, stability and development of the region. Even in this age there are provocateurs that are out to create dissention among Oromo and other people living among them to justify continuation of the empire system. It is arrogant non Oromo that do as they were told and humiliate the kind people they live with provoking rage. For this they have scattered agents among people that live in peace together. Those have tried to agitate alien to despise and humiliate the Oromo that had lived supporting them.  With impeding danger the impetuous may be harmed. Provocateurs that escape the force of law and those maneuvering those from distance may wait for their time to get exposed. Unassuming Oromiyaans will move on living together struggling for liberation and development of Oromiyaa.  

Oromiyaa was a land of the rule of law and Gadaa democracy from time immemorial.  Those are the principles that guide Oromo activists. The OLF has assured its support for peaceful and cooperative coexistence with its neighbors and the world. It has even provided for the possibility of political union based on mutual respect for each other’s national interest.  Its method of struggle is peaceful political and armed struggle when necessary. Because the Ethiopian atmosphere does not allow peaceful struggle it had reverted to armed struggle since 1974. It has tried several times to resolve existing conflict peacefully but in vain. The OLF only defends the people against armed aggressor and never harmed unarmed civilians not for fear of repercussions but because that is safuu (unethical and criminal) in Oromo customary law and culture. Oromo may not be merciful in battle field but never harsh outside it even on captives. Oromo loves if all peoples join it as brothers and sisters with equal rights as a matter of tradition. To try to impose ones will on another is inhuman for the Oromo.

As mentioned OLF had come reasserting its position on peaceful resolution of conflicts with all those that accept Oromo right to national self-determination. This it believes is a universal right that no one should be denied. Evidence for this is Paris Conference of 1993 where it agreed to participate in another conference to be held in Finfinnee after the opposition accepted that right. But the government imprisoned member of its delegation and the agreement was betrayed by opposition groups that participated in the conference. The make believe constitution of the incumbent power has provided for this right but no one will expect implementation from a false instrument. Most aspirants to replace the present government are against this provision however fictitious it might be. Whether Wayyaanee implements it or not article 39 of its constitution is a human right provision and to oppose it is inhuman for any one and even traitorous when it comes from members of colonized peoples.  Habashaa politicians oppose article 39 because of the recognition of the colonial peoples separate identity, which they so far came suppressing. They are still unable to part with their feudal imperial past while the colonies had broken their leash and will never get back to it.  

Such reactionary attitude has hindered peoples of the region from uniting to speak in one voice as Africans. Africa is now being threatened by recolonization.  Not only their shortsightedness but also powers across the sea do not want them to speak in one voice. There are compradors among Africans that are ready to sell her out.  It is high time that peoples of the region get down to negotiation table and resolve conflicts among them. For this it is up to Habashaa elites to demystify the story of their glorious past and lead their followers to make peace with all by redressing for past mistakes. Unless questions each group raised are addressed it would be naiveté or contempt to think of moving each from positions one came paying great sacrifices for. With positive thinking to understand each other peace could ascend. It will help to take away African wealth others hanker after and stop any conspiratorial machinations if only African peoples can stand hand in hand.  

All the big powers and big economies of the world prefer to maintain the status quo in each African country irrespective of human right abuses by the rulers. Some justify such stand as not interfering in internal affairs of a country. But they do not apply the same standard when they supply the abusive government with arms, training and budget for defense and security.  They prefer lubricating the engine of dictatorship as far as that serves their national interest. They come to Africa to exploit its resources not to alleviate the suffering of its people.  They do not feel they are dealing with bandits that are holding up the legitimate owners. Recently the butchers of Finfinnee have slain Oromo students, teachers, doctors and children in masse not more than fifty miles away from where they sit in meeting with US Secretary of State.

Oromo nationals all over the world had expressed their disgust to all powerful governments through peaceful demonstrations. Despite having that information leading butchers of Oromo children were invited to US-AFRICAN Leaders summit meeting at the white house.  Because all are of the same type no one among the African leaders protested sitting with the butchers. It is known that international relations depend on strength and wisdom of the actors. No one will be willing to be partner with weak unreliable group. But that does not justify condoning crime and entertaining heads of “terrorist states”.  

Oromiyaa has share of all the major religions.  The Oromo are never known for extremism or fanaticism. Majorly they are centrists. There could be some adversaries of Oromiyaa that based on significant number of its Muslim nationals want to bias the world against it. Any assertion not based on empirical facts could certainly lead to wrong judgment. Extremism is detrimental not only for world peace but more so for the fledgling Oromo revolution. Therefore just like it defends itself against the occupier, it is also to its interest to be ever vigilant against the rise of extremism from any quarter. For the Ethiopian regime any group that is opposed to its repressive rule is “terrorist” a term that makes the paranoid raising their ears. The major victims of such allegations are Oromo nationals.  They are being labeled as supporters of a liberation organization they unilaterally declared “terrorist”. This certainly will have a backlash whose consequence could be beyond their imagination. How one might respond from instinct of survival could be devastating and unprecedented. All have to rest assured that the failure not to listen to Oromo plight is possible to change their disposition.

To common man’s knowledge “terrorism” is an unpredictable senseless violent action against the unarmed innocent not expecting people at a place and time they never dream of. This could be with kidnappings, explosions, scary sounds or cruel and painful public executions. That by no standard should include people that put up resistance against forces of an oppressive terrorist regime. But now days it is extended to cover all those that conduct armed struggle or intend to conduct one against aggressor’s losing the purpose for which it was originally coined. The big powers are at war with terrorism. Any willing partner in the campaign is appreciated. Due to this they are easily fooled by brutal regimes that mention the code word “terrorist” that can put them into blind action. Terrorism may require definition by international forum before it is taken to mean all the people out of power triggering genocide and turning the victims to more violent response.

Oromo as a nation or its political organizations never laid their hands on innocent persons of any race or creed. They have no national disposition to be terrorists though their courage is boundless in the battlefield. That is why no third party has corroborated enemy defamations. We may hear protests from world politicians against government imprisoning some persons for freedom of expression but for thousands of Oromo unlawfully herded into prisons or killed alleged being “terrorists” they are silent. Material benefit supersedes what they brag about as “their sacred democratic values”, politics dominating principles.

Because some parties in Europe are called Christian Democratic it does not mean they are crusaders with intention of proselytizing by the sword. In the same way if an Oromo liberation movement call itself “Islamic or Waaqeffannaa Front for Liberation of Oromiyaa” it should not be treated differently. For one thing so called “Islamists” are not nationalist organizations. They are internationalists. Therefore an organization for liberation of Oromiyaa cannot be branded as “Islamist” for inserting Islamic into its name. The founder of the frequently referred to defunct organization (Let his soul rest in peace) was loved and honored by his people as a national hero.  Oromo liberation movement has rallied Oromo of all regions and religions, and they are paying the ultimate sacrifice in unison. It will be disingenuous to try to divide them in region or religion.

All people of the empire whether they are the Southern Peoples including the Oromo, Sidaama, Afar, Somali or others, desire to live in peace and dignity with freedom from hunger and abuses. The common Habashaa people are no different from the others in their desires. But it is the ruling elite in and out of power that had lived on the sweat and resources of other nations that had remained obstacle to freedom of any sort for the past more than a hundred years. All wars were their wars not peoples’ wars.  We say to bring peace and freedom to the region that empire must be dismantled to release all those put under its grip without their will and only those that are free would negotiate for future relations. For them this position is backward, secessionist and ractionary.  Africa is under threat of being shared out among the rich from overseas.  If one cannot stop them one has to at least be able to negotiate better terms for Africa.   But when it remains difficult to create understanding within a region to talk of Africa remains a dream; dream we say may one day be fulfilled. Until then the people will go on bleeding but dreaming about a bright future. 

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
August 2014

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