The Exposure Of Oromo Secessionism: A Blessing In Disguise | by Henok Y. Tessemma

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In one of his many articles, the late Ethiopia scholar, Prof. Donald Levine, ponders over Ethiopia’s failure to reverse a “pattern of missed opportunities”. He lists the 1960 coup attempt by the Neway brothers, the 1974 revolution, the fall of the Derg, the Ethio-Eritrean war, and the 2005 election as important historical junctures that could have changed the country for the better. Levine cites three reasons for the loss of the opportunities: (1) a culture of distrust, (2) “masculinity ethic and spirit of warriorhood”, and (3) unquestioning embrace of foreign ideologies that don’t fit the historic and contemporary realities of the country. No doubt Levine would have added the massive protests of the past twelve months to his list of “missed opportunities’. Also no doubt, alas, he would have been worrying that the three reasons that ruined previous chances could perhaps ruin the current one, too.

Ever since the release of a document calling for an “Oromo leadership convention” by prominent Oromo political activists several weeks ago, there have been all sorts of passionate reactions across the Ethiopian political spectrum. The document instantly generated a firestorm of controversy because of its extremist interpretation of Oromo/Ethiopian history and its incendiary language. Probably its most controversial aspect is that it insinuates, in a not-so-subtle fashion, that the “Oromo nation” has been colonized by Ethiopia, and that it has to be liberated. The ensuing uproar forced some of the organizers of the convention to engage in a string of explanations on multiple Ethiopian media outlets. Even though the explanations were not particularly compelling, they were somehow able to convince many Ethiopianists to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. Then came, weeks later, a conference of Oromo nationalists in London where speakers, including arguably the most prominent Oromo political activist, explicitly declared their intent to dismember Ethiopia in order to get what they want—with the sizable audience warmly applauding. That effectively put to rest any lingering doubts about the objective of the organizers.

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There is nothing new about the flimsy colonial narrative. It is a stale, overly simplistic, and reductionist myth that has been falling in and out of favor among Oromo extremists over the past five decades. Yet there are two things that are new and surprising about the narrative and the way it is being promoted this time around. Firstly, it is being promoted publicly, arrogantly, and at a time when multi-ethnic solidarity against the TPLF regime is gaining significant traction, at a time when the regime is visibly panicking over the solidarity. Secondly, the narrative has emerged as bare-knuckle, violent secessionism, without even its usual veneer of “a quest for self-determination”.

 

What a strategic disaster it all turned out to be! The Oromo nationalist community the organizers were supposed to galvanize behind the heroic sacrifices of Oromo protesters back home is now divided and engaged in open recriminations. Some of the Saner Oromo nationalist voices are seriously questioning and challenging both the content of the convention document and the verbal declaration of desire to break apart the Ethiopian state. Moreover, the TPLF propaganda machine has been having a field day playing the godsend fulminations from the London conference over and over and over, and many Ethiopians are taking the regime seriously for the first time in quite a long while.  Above all, the Ethiopianist/unity camp that used to take Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and statehood for granted has been shaken to the core and deeply antagonized. So we could have a three-way battle on our hands all over again. Ironically enough, however, the hitherto (largely) dormant unity community has now a solid ground and a powerful rallying cry to mobilize around.

 

Some may say that the separatist agenda is espoused only by a small group of individuals, and that we should not make a mountain out of a molehill, so to say. Well, this kind of optimism is problematic on many levels. For starters, even if we assume the group to be small, there is no denying that it is a very influential group, and really toxic one at that. The fact that some well-known pathological otherizers are among the people behind the convention also says a lot about what is going on. There are clear signs that what once was a fringe position is now enjoying a lot of mainstream attention. What’s more, judging from the relatively few unequivocal and principled denouncements among the wider Oromo nationalist community, there seems to be at least a significant level of tacit approval of the imperious declaration of intent to dismantle Ethiopia.

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Ethiopia is Like a Ship Out in the Ocean

 

None of this is to say that whoever threatens to dismember the country necessarily has the right or the power to do it, far from it. Part of the problem with the public silence of Ethiopianists toward ethno-nationalist fanaticism is that it gave the fanatics a false sense of entitlement and moral superiority. Truth be told, if history, justice, or fairness mean anything at all, most of the “arguments” of the colonial thesis wouldn’t get off the ground, to begin with. It has to be stated that, historically and morally speaking, no single ethnic group in Ethiopia, not even one, can claim an uncontested, exclusive right to all the geographical areas they currently inhabit. That is what makes the country a ship out in the ocean, as it were. All Ethiopians, especially those in the central and southern regions, are bound up together so tightly by an extremely complex web of factors. Any unilateral attempt to forcefully remove that web is like someone trying to bomb a ship they are aboard and to expect to survive the inevitable catastrophe. Either we all sail on the ship harmoniously—together, or we go down—together. This is a practical fact.

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The secessionists will surely take such inconvenient truths as empty threats. That comes as no surprise. After all, many of them have been living in an ethno-nationalist parallel universe where their “Oromia” exists in a historical, cultural, demographic, and geographic vacuum. Even worse, some of their collaborators are unabashedly claiming that there is no such thing as Ethiopian-ness. Although obviously nonsensical, such a claim could serve a broader and more sinister purpose than provoking or irritating Ethiopians. It fits nicely into an emerging pattern of extreme ethno-nationalist rhetoric that seeks to undermine Ethiopia as a historical entity and Ethiopian-ness as a legitimate identity. The pattern, however, is a sort of antithetical extension of the colonial thesis since it flies in the face of the myth that Ethiopia is a colonial empire. Coherent or not, nevertheless, the separatist network would do well to remember that their reckless activism is irresponsible brinkmanship at best and a declaration of war at worst.

 

 

So it would be a mistake to play down, gloss over, or ignore the threats from the secessionists. Granted, the colonial narrative is essentially a delusional scheme that aims at political mobilization by whipping up collective self-pity. But that is what makes it especially dangerous: the scheme could succeed if enough people get deluded. And enough people can get deluded. Fortunately, the scheme has come out in the open, and has made it impossible for any one who cares about the country to sit idly by and watch political developments in the country like a neutral observer. That dubious luxury is no longer available. Still, when all is said and done, Donald Levine must be rolling in his grave. One can only hope that the hapless people of Ethiopia can avoid an endless internecine violence.

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12 Comments

  1. It seems that the whole world is ignorant about The Oromo People. Do not forget the 50 mn Oromos are more Ethiopians than the others who talk too much about Ethiopianism. Durin all the Italian invasion, it was more than 75% of the Oromos who made great succrifies to save Ethiopia. The same when Somalia invaded Ethiopia armed and financed by the USA to wipe out Ethiopians.

    The Oromo intelectuals missunderstood themselves. They only learned and follow the lessons given them by the Eplf (shabiya) and the tplf/woyane. The eplf and tplf brain washed the Oromo intelectuals by telling them tat they are not Ethiopians and in most cases even paid them to forget about their Ethiopiawinet.

    Ethiopia belongs to the Oromos. NO one is more Ethiopian than the Oromos. The Oromo people are rsponsible for the unity and survival of Ethiopia.

    Shame on some metally corrupted and ignorant self appointed Oromos.
    Ethiopia prevails.

  2. Even though, Ato Tessemma sounds erudite and well-spoken in the piece he penned here, his solipsistic tone of the argument about the Ethiopian history, the Oromo nation, and the colonial thesis is ignorantly ranted! Abyssinia/Ethiopia is a colonial Empire. A basic and cursory examination of North East African History of the past 2 centuries can reveal the conquering of peoples and who the conquerors were! I think, it is disappointing to read such a piece that is seemingly well-composed, but full of invective and innuendos!

    The Oromo Nationalist do not need any one’s permission to pose a critical question regarding the Empire! Libben Wakko’s tirade at London conference does not represent the views of some of us, but for the Oromo Nation to come out of its century plus old oppressive colonial cosmology, any statement whether it is “incendiary” “flimsy narrative” lays bare the feeling of many Oromos!So Ato Tessemma, if you have any balls, go out and confront the Wayanne thugs like the Oromo Youngsters are doing! stop your intellectual masturbation from afar!

    • Fool man! Your shallow and detached-from-reason brain thinks that it will be as easy as ranting on the websites to carve out a fictitious “country” out of one of the world’s oldest countries. Believe me it will never happen. God forbid, if in case it is going to happen it will only be at the detriment of the Oromo people and the rest of the Ethiopians who will be pitched against each other waging a never ending war against one another. And that is what you like to happen? Or your mediocre brain tells you that this will never happen? Unless you are the enemy of Ethiopians including the Oromos, how can you long for that?

    • Respecting your opinion, you painted yourself as well history educated personnel. Alas, your insultive and unruly degrading vocabulary usage make me pause and think about your emotional and basic moral IQ.

  3. Having intently followed the arguments that have been forwarded by likes of Dr Tsegaye Ararsa his ilks and their veisiral negative reactions to anything Ethiopian, as the time goes by, it has become crystal clear that something sinister was brewing. The selective Vocabularies they use to describe other Ethiopians was a clear tell tall sign what possibly to follow. Other Ethiopians whether they are situated right in the meddle or adjacent to T.P.L.F created map of Oromia- they are called “neighbors” “the oppressed people” the negotiation is also “between Ethiopians and Oromos” The Amhara resistance to illegitimate handing over of the Ethiopian territory to Sudan and forceful takeover of historically Gonder areas was construed and welcomed by radical secessionist oroms as a sign that Ethiopian nationalism is in its death bed. It is further from the truth, Ethiopian nationalism is well alive and it is kicking. While all Ethiopians have accepted the legitimacy of the Oromo people struggle for true proportional representation both in governing and ownership in all sphere of Ethiopian life, neither the unity of the Ethiopian people nor the Territorial integrity of Ethiopia has never been negotiable. The unity that was established among Ethiopian people in their struggle against undemocratic dictatorial minority government, shouldn’t be squandered by handful egomaniacs who can’t see beyond their self-aggrandizement. We are sure Oromo-Ethiopians will raise to the occasion and guide the struggle for democratic Ethiopia in the right direction.
    Long live Ethiopia.

    • My friend, there so many naive Ethiopians who are willing to buy a very deceptive, well marinated & intellectually formulated words but poisonous & devisive agenda of Oromo actvists. This activists true color is getting exposed as their day goes by. Ewnetna nigat eyader yiteral. They other dangerous card this actvists are playing is religion. They claim Islam is the religion of Oromo and on other token this activists are trying to sell the philosophy Iriicha on the other side. They change their colors based on who they audience is. In national issue, they are nationalist who support and struggle for the unity of Ethiopia, other time when audience is different, their words are changing saying the nation of Oromia, in other audiences, Iriicha and Islam are their trade marks. They underestimate the divided and weak camp of opposion group supporters which is reality.
      I deducted from their promotion of ideas that this activists forsee future Ethiopia as Oromo dictators who will replace the current regime and unleash revenge on all other ethnic groups esp. the ‘colonizers’ Amhara and Tigreans. For them as they declared publicly Ethiopia means Amhara and Tigreans.

  4. To all Agames / Woyanes /TPLF thugs and those masquerading with crocodile tears trolling the web:

    I am an Oromo and mad as hell – why the likes of the author of the article can patronize Oromos at will. No you can’t do that. Oromo activists do not need your crocodile tears in the name of Ethiopia. They are no less legacy than any of you chauvinists masquerading as patriotic Ethiopian. Moreover the political opportunism being exploited by the Woyane and chauvinist elements like the writer of this article to stain the struggle and sacrifice of the Oromo – with the out of context mis-representation of the content of Oromo activists in general.

    The facts can be summarized as follows:

    1) The London Oromo Meeting was intended to provide unity and clarity on the future of Oromia within the Democratic Ethiopia to be established in the event of the fall of the TPLF or Woyane government;

    2) To provide a unified leadership and guidance of the Oromo struggle against Woyane or TPLF in the ongoing struggle, among all Oromo political entities; and

    3) To come to a social contract or draft a charter that outlines and maps the nature of the relationship among Oromos i.e., an extension of the Gadaa Legacy;

    4) Oromo being the largest nation in the Ethiopian Union is not separating;

    5) Historically Oromo Ethiopians had a major stake in the Ethiopian sovereignty as they have sacrificed so much and played a distinguished role in the various wars waged to protect Ethiopian sovereignity – such as the repeated Italian wars of aggression, Somali war, War against the secession of Eritrea; and

    6) Will provide a glue to the future of the Democratic Ethiopia to be established by all nations and nationalities (Oromos, Amharas, Ogadeni, Gambella, Gurage, Afar, Sidama, Wolayita, Tigre etc) after the fall of Woyane or TPLF.

    So all the activists presented was primarily focussed to underscore that Oromos will be at the center of the future Democratic Ethiopia – first class citizens and second to none.

    TPLF / Woyane thugs and accomplices are trying hard to distort the facts, destruct the unity and solidarity primarily between the Oromos and Amharas – Long Live the Unity of the Oromos and Amharas – Period!

    • One thing need to be agreed on is, TPLF is not the only one destructing the unity. The ones who claimed to be Oromo activists must take responsibility too. You’re denying their publicly declared rant to dismantle Ethiopia from the elite paticipant of the London meeting is very fresh which is received with great applaud. If you are trying to be genuine, please comment on that instead of covering it up with sweet words. We supposed to agree to call black, black and white, white not skipping and blame someone. I do not see the difference in policy of tribalism between TPLF & OLF.

  5. Save your crocodile tears to your TPLF cadre training of the Tigre colonized Ethiopia – You referred to the by Tigre / Agame thugs and scums cold blooded massacre of Oromos an “irrecha incidence” – you trivialized the murder of people as an incidence – You are simply disgusting.

    Needless to say you try to patronize Oromos that you are a better Ethiopian than the Oromo activists who poured out there emotions in defense of the Oromo at the London Conference. You are indeed disgusting sub-human creature – Period!

    • Personal attack is not civilized way of conversation. We must respect one another. Opinions can be criticized without provoking and degrading your fellow citizen. Our main goal is not attack one another. You are not my enemy. Let’s learn from others keeping aside our emotional destructive rant aside and lets workout in building bridges instead of walls.

  6. It looks like the above article by a certain Tessamma is broached from the terrorist TPLF playbook. It is aimed at nipping the budding solidarity and alliance between and among various Ethiopian communities in their fight against the terrorist TPLF regime. It is no secret that there is a diversity of opinions in any community or country and even in a closely tight family. Likewise, as in any normal society there is a diversity of opinions in the Oromo community as to how best to address the Oromo issue and as to what the best path forward ought to be.

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the opinions banded around by some opinion formers in the Oromo community is the formation of an ‘Independent Republic of Oromia’. There is no poll conducted to put a number on what fraction of the Oromo community espouses the independence option but some anecdotal evidence indicate that it is a tiny fraction. For instance, there are fractions of Texans (including some former governors) and Californians that support the secession of their respective states from the Unites States of America. Those are just opinions and there is nothing you can do against it.

    No amount of brainwashing or indoctrination can eliminate the diversity of opinions in any society. If you have the power, you may be able to eliminate some of the espouse-rs of the opinion you don’t like but not the opinion itself. This is because a society is bound to have a spectrum of opinions (some extreme, some moderate, some mainstream, some tributaries, some in-between, some extreme left, some left of center, some center, some right of center, some extreme right, some fall in one of so many more bands between each of those aforementioned segments of opinions) no matter what their percentage distributions may be. This is just a fact and We just have to accept and exist with it. This fact is not lost on the writer (the Trojan horse of the terrorist TPLF) of this rubbish article but it is a sinister motive meant to disunite the Ethiopian people and force them to fight each other rather than the terrorist TPLF that is terrorizing and killing thousands if not tens of thousands of Ethiopians as we speak. The way forward is forging unity and strengthening it while keeping our eyes on the ball, namely, dismantling the terrorist TPLF and forming a new Ethiopia where the rights of all its citizens including those who espouse extreme ideas are fully respected.

  7. One thing I noticed beside the point. We most of Ethiopians or Africans lack the skill of communication. We think our opinion is superior than other’s opinion. If our opinion is scrutinized, criticized or opposed, we take it as a threat and lash out our insult. Instead of selling our opinion, we tried to impose our opinion. That is why may be most of us conclude our comments with negative phrases. Engaging in a matured conversation is a rare asset in our community. Very sad to say. I’m not an outsider, I’m part of this disease. We should not take it lightly. Respectful conversation is a key to solve a problem. I beg every participants my fellow beloved countrymen to engage instead of tearing apart each other. Name calling is a road block. That is our primary enemy. I know, many will again post negative comment about my plea mocking or degrading. Let’s our seasoned intelectuals will lead us in this direction by being an example. Thank you.

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