By: Mulata Gudata
By coincidence, Mandela’s death was announced on the BBC television news as I was typing this article and that brought up a number of questions to my mind. I was listening to the ideals Mandela lived for, the trials and tribulations he had to endure, the victory to which he led his people, the magnanimity he was capable of in forgiving his tormentors and reconciling the nation as it was narrated by all the reporters with amazing passion and admiration.
By listening to that I asked myself: Had Mandela uncompromisingly stuck to his tribal enclave and refused to do anything with the opposite camp, would he achieve what he did? Had he insisted on blacks only region or country, what would South Africa look like today or would the peace and prosperity they enjoy today be able to happen at all? Had Mandela lived for amassing wealth would he be adored, admired and feted like we are witnessing? If at all he had any wealth, was any mention of it made in any way or if it were mentioned would it make any sense in helping his image? What is the special personal trait and quality such people possess that few of us can claim to have?
How do we compare self-less leaders like Mandela and self-centred leaders like Melesse Zenawi who was consumed with hatred all his life and lived with the supreme goal of enriching himself and a small clique around him before he left this world leaving behind the people he ruled for over two decades in more complicated problems than he ever attempted to solve? Will Melesse be remembered for his miserable failures or unlike Mandela for the staggering amount of wealth he managed to amass in such a short period of time? What inspires Mandel’s great sense of patriotism and our current leaders’ will of compromising national interest? What motivates some of us to support our leaders of today when we can see in Mandela what leadership means which we do not see any of it in ours, and if any isn’t it quite the opposite?
What level of correlation exists between the socio-political issues Mandela helped to resolve in South Africa and the ones we are grappling with in our country for over four decades? Apartheid happened in South Africa and that was not in our case, people were hanged, mass murdered and all sorts of atrocities committed against blacks. Yet Mandela said if we set things right today let bygones be bygones and he forgave his enemies who are whites, the people unrelated to him by any means as even intermarriage was forbidden by law.
When this man as a black person on his native land was able to forgive whites who came from overseas as colonisers, how really difficult is it for us, people of the same colour who are intermarried and lived together side-by-side for generations to forgive each other for historic atrocities we collectively committed against each other a century ago, to be able to address our differences amicably and move on? What benefit is there for us in needlessly widening our differences and pushing our self to the ‘cliff edge’ when we can easily say the past is gone, let’s move on by generously addressing each other’s concerns as Mandela did?
Mandela has been great and will remain that way as long as this world lives only because he was resolute in his stand and precise in his goals as he lived for his ideals of leading the black South Africans to freedom which he achieved. He lived for free and equal South Africans, he lived for reconciliation and above all he lived for democratic South Africa, all of which he had achieved in his life time in spite of the pain and personal losses he had to live through which is worth it to be great.
He is great not for amassing wealth and acquiring material and worldly things but for his love of his people as he made it his life mission the goal of ensuring their freedom. He freed them, reconciled them with their adversaries and left them in peace, for that he is honoured, feted and celebrated. Mandela will remain in the heart of millions of people across the world as an icon of freedom and an extraordinary human being who lived ordinary life. He left a colossal legacy behind which will outlive time and generations to come.
The quirk of history by sheer coincidence is such that Mandela had to get his brief military training in our country during Emperor Hailessilase’s time and the man charged with the responsibility of overseeing his training happened to be the late General Tadesse Biru, the inspirational source of Oromos’s struggle for freedom. With the knowledge of how Mandela brought to an end that struggle for which the late general trained him, I asked myself if the general were alive today would he recommend for Oromo struggle any different approach than the way Mandela led his people to freedom?
The answer is a resounding NO! Given how Oromos stand to benefit better than any other group in our country from a really democratic Ethiopia, the general would not recommend anything more or less than how Mandela handled and finished the struggle of his people in South Africa: addressing Oromo issues in a truly democratic Ethiopia.
Oromos don’t need fire arms to secede but one to ensure real democracy takes root in our country. For in a democracy we will have gone home to something that is ours by nature and culture even before the world had any idea of what democracy was – the Gada system. In a truly democratic Ethiopia everything is naturally set to play out in our favour making us to fear and worry about nothing what so ever. I have exhaustively discussed in my previous article on how in a true democracy the Oromos have all the chance on earth to rule Ethiopia indefinitely. We simply do favour to our country and justice to our self by pushing for democracy and make it happen in our land in abundance.
Before anything, all we need is work hard to ensure our concern is addressed to acceptable level by ensuring that our flag is redesigned to include our identity which we should count as part of our victory. When we manage to make our language one of the working languages (remember one of the working languages, not the only working language for we are not out to dominate others) in our country with Qubee alphabet, we will have won. When we ensure a percentage of the resources raised (say 60%, 70% or any agreed percentage, since this applies to all the communities I believe it will not be a big issue) from our land goes to the development of our regions starting at district levels, we will have achieved all that we need as people and that should enable us to joyfully accept to live with others with respect and dignity. Pushing for anything beyond this should count as inconsequential and mere nominal with no much substance apart from serving as a hurdle that obstructs and hampers any effort towards unity.
What is in a name? A name is just a name. What real substance is there for us in renaming our country as Oromia? Or United States of Ethiopia (USE), or simply remain with Ethiopia as a name? Personally I don’t see much gain or loss if it happens either way. In fact I see an advantage in remaining with the name Ethiopia as it is, since it is the name promoted and made renowned around the globe by our athletes most of whom are Oromos since that early time when Abebe Biqila hoisted our flag at Rome marathon in 1960. When all the points I raised above are conceded to the Oromo people by others, I also see justice in Oromos conceding about the name to others in a give and take civilised negotiations for we cannot insist on having everything our way.
I have also suggested in my first article about the possibility of going federal on provincial basis or on the basis of East, West, south, North and Central Oromia which I still stand to defend. When I say this I am not out to divide and weaken Oromos but I am up to make unity possible with others and at the same time strengthen Oromos by saving and preserving the love that exists in our midst before it is destroyed by the division that lingers among us. We do well by standing together and competing with others at national level by maintaining some space between us to avoid bad blood among ourselves that can easily develop into bitter rivalry that could end up having a serious impact on our role at national level.
To realise the merit of my advice all we need is look at our churches in Kenya and around the world, look at how our people break into open fights in refugee camps in Kenya where there is virtually nothing of real value to make us disagree over and fight each other to the extent of embarrassing our self in front of others. Also look at the division that exists in our political environment where we have little or nothing to share.
Simply imagine by projecting that to a situation where we have to share power and resource in a more complex social and political environment which is by far a lot larger than the situation of church and refugee camp or merely squabbling political parties in exile. We should be able to look facts in the eye and call it as it is with the view to handling and managing it to a favourable end instead of shying off and wishing it away only to regret when it explodes out of control.
This is by no means to suggest that Oromos cannot get along well, far from that. Simply it is human nature to disagree over different issues and ours is made worse by the sheer size of our diversity and different regional and social back grounds. It is the same with all other communities in our country; we see differences among them too but may be they handle it better than we do. So my recommendation is to help our self by handling ours wisely before it reaches a level where we can no longer do anything about it.
There are some of us who tend to advise that we (the Oromos) should leave Ethiopia alone as no business of ours even before we have really left it which is not at all wise. We should stay the course and push for our space not pull away from it. The time is not so much for pulling out as it is for pooling in. I don’t ask the Oromo people to go to the unknown before I know where we should go. My first article is my shield and arrow as well as the road map along which we should march forward towards setting right historic injustices to shoulder the responsibility nature has bestowed on us as the majority in our land – to hold the nation together not irresponsibly wander off wanting to tear it apart with highly unpredictable consequence.
We are geographically located at the centre of our nation and that lays on our shoulder the natural obligation and the responsibility of playing a befitting central role in the political life of our country which we cannot easily avoid by pushing our self to the periphery highly diminishing our self in the process. The politics of our country has closely moved towards real democracy out of which we stand to immensely benefit more than any other group once we manage to remove the Woyanes’ regime or force them to give-in to the will of the people. So we should not miss the opportunity by failing to proactively participate to ensure that our interest and concerns are taken on board to acceptable level.
Before the finishing line, I challenge all Ethiopians to ask our self the obvious: why do we come or always dream to come to the US America or United Kingdom and other European countries? Is it because they have excelled in tribal segregation? In other words, is it for they are tribally cleansed? The answer to that is simple and straight foreword: tribal issues have no place in those countries. Because their forefathers had the wisdom and the presence of mind to put a rich system in place which in turn served to enrich them by helping them to create boundless opportunities which could be enough even for us foreigners.
We simply arrive and fit in without any question being asked of our origin, colour or creed because the system is designed to accept anyone and everyone on merit so long as one obeys the law of the land and be able to pay tax and more tax on any earned income. They are wealthy not because they are averse to diversity rather they counted on diversity as a blessing and wanted more of it including us who had to run away from the place of troubled diversity. They have fixed their system making law the supreme rule of the land with institutions to rally around instead of crafty strong men to be worshipped for managing to gun their way into power.
That is what we need to emulate in order to fix our socio-political issues by generously recognising each other’s concerns to make our lad the land of opportunity not the land we die to escape at any given opportunity. For this to happen we have enough educated man power to help us reach there so long as we manage to come up with the key factor that has remained elusive for so long – the will to go down that road.
Finally, we all mourn Mandela as do people all over the world with world leaders saying their condolences one after the other by invoking the deeds that made the African hero a great man. We are moved by his humanity by his love for his people and the sacrifice he made but not because we are paid any bribe to mourn him as it happened in our country when Melesse died. So to Nelson Mandela, we say go well great man, the model and pride of Africans, RIP!!!