Qabsoon Oromoo Eessa Geesse?
By Ibsaa Guutama
In olden days when they collect fire wood or fetch water, or when they spend the day playing in the fields and go back home, kids walk in a file all holding the waist of the other and putting the head on back of one in the front. Only the leader is able to see the surrounding; the others see only the ground beneath. All behind ask, “did we reach” without raising their heads. The leader replies, “we are almost.” They go on asking the same question and getting the same reply until the leader announces “Here, we are!” When they raise their heads, they see they have arrived home. Something is on the stove; the house is emitting smoke. They run with joy to their individual houses salivating. There was no more happiness than overcoming the tortuous road and reaching one’s goal.
So far we had come looking at those who claim to be Oromo activists in two camps. To both, only we have asked “did we reach?” without ever getting the “Here, we are!” reply. One has arrived at its destination leaving us behind; the other’s destination is far off and full of obstacles. The one that went to the alien camp brought no benefit to the Oromo other than strengthening the aliens’ muscles. The other, even if it has the truth, lacking the will to challenge and break out of pressures by societies of friends and foes encircling it, is seen cursing left and right from confusion. The Oromo in the liberation camp while asking “did we reach” and being told “we are almost,” fire is being set to their village before they reach it. If the village is burned down, there will be no more two camps; all will turn captives and destitute. It is like what is said to hot porridge, “They are deceiving when they blow you; it is not to fondle, but to swallow you.” The galtuu is cajoled because the liberation camp exists.
The Ethiopian “Opposition party” exists because of the liberation camp. The weakening of this camp will not strengthen the “Opposition”. For that reason, no organization, having an Oromo name, reflects the potential power of the Oromo nation. If the liberation camp strengthens, the “Opposition” will be strengthened more to counter it. That has a weakening effect on the Oromo political movement as a whole. All organizations are so weak to defend the spontaneous uprisings of the people and direct them in an organized manner to a victorious end. For this reason, rather than putting all hopes on them, the Oromo wise and brave have to discuss for a better solution. What the Oromo movement needs is not individual cults, but institutions. They have to ask if it has one that could survive individuals or control them.
The OLF is an organization that has vowed to form the Democratic Republic Oromiyaa and started the work. At the same time, there were many that joined multinational Ethiopian organizations saying they would find answer to the Oromo question in the democratized Ethiopia; they were disarmed with the enemy’s propaganda and even said, ‘Oromo do not have the tradition of self-rule.’ Self-deniers forget Oromo’s rich history of self-rule. Even if they didn’t have, that does not justify to be ruled by aliens. Those who believed in this [in the right of the Oromo to self-rule] gave their lives for freedom and built the OLF. OLF uncovered the firm base of that Oromo identity that no one can shake or distort. That is why the enemy and its agents continue to relentlessly attack it. Because it was built to change a decadent system that people are fed up with, no one could destroy the liberation camp despite the many internal and external obstacles. Ethiopian leaders are never known for constructing, but destroying. Their government was formed on the principle of plundering and genocide from the start. The Oromo liberation movement is an agent of change and peace. Unless change comes through outlook and deed, to say let us mend tatters cannot be a solution. The Ethiopian leaders, whom Oromo know since their occupations, are all arrogant and selfish. They could not change traditions that they have got through heritage. There will be no solution unless the empire by which they brag is dismantled and the countries are restructured.
The struggle to take kaayyoo of liberation to the finish will always be invigorated and never wilts. Any Oromo who believes to be a human being has to move with that hope unless one wants to remain being considered sub-human. Thus, it is only if the struggle keeps on being energized that solutions could be found. One who doesn’t have proper understanding continues to ululate and clap hands for whoever comes without assessing critically. Both Madrak and OPDO are not organized to bring about change, but to patch an existing system. Unless change comes, hunger, disease, oppression and terror cannot be stopped, and human rights cannot also be respected. It is only one who stands for the majority and the oppressed; and that is only the Oromo liberation movement. There is no better way to democracy than answering the Oromoo question.
Liberation politicians of the time are abandoning the outlook Oromummaa bestowed them and are starting mimicking that of the oppressor. And that is one that says power and knowledge trickles from above. But what is not there cannot trickle. Taking advantage of present confusions, they are trying to distort the Oromo destiny by collaborating with aliens. They have so far come by distracting attention from their weaknesses by touching people’s soft joints. They have made that their objective rather than struggling and leading the struggle. So far there is no one who claims to liberate a span of land. They have understood that, for not achieving that, their reason for being is coming under question; they are slowly pulling out one by one, and crossing over to enrich the enemy camp. Without land, there could not be what one calls a nation. To get a spot from where to struggle is even going to be harder. However, the Oromo youth has come from generation to generation overcoming difficulties, today also they are the existing hope. Now, it is their turn to get back their country; bring justice to Oromiyaa; and develop their leadership. To think that they would quietly accept when their lives, identity and property are being erased from existence is to have contempt for Oromummaa. Have no doubt that all Oromo are not of galtuu or quisling character.
In Ethiopia, Madrak is one of the big collections of Ethiopianist organizations that are referred to as Opposition. The one called OFK is its member. One of high level leaders of OFK, Baqqalaa Garbaa was invited as a keynote speaker on the OSA conference in the U.S. This person had been imprisoned and tortured for being an Oromo. He deserves praise for standing witness for torture and discrimination Oromo prisoners are subjected to and exposing the Ethiopian rulers for what they are, expressing the grudge he has as an Oromo. The rest of his speech is in line with his organization and his coalition’s Ethiopianist political outlook. The Madrak carries two different packages that don’t go together, i.e. saving Ethiopian empire and democratizing it. They are not presenting anything better for the salvation of the peoples than the Wayyaanee; they are rather swearing to delete the article in the Ethiopian Constitution that recognizes the rights of peoples to national self-determination. It is not hard to see from those surrounding him as to which direction this fresh politician was being pushed. Some of them are those who are working for the anti-Oromo liberation overtly or covertly. What is surprising is when those who were yesterday saying “liberation or death” are now seen giving standing ovation and ululating. Is this spontaneous upsurge or have they been deceptive so far. The wise learns lots even from experience of others; our son does not seem to bother even from his own. He stumbles when it comes to the method for the Oromo struggle.
A nonviolent struggle, in short, means to abandon the Oromo question for independence and accept to abide by Wayyaanee’s Constitution; it doesn’t have other meanings. For Obbo Baqqalaa to register and compete for power according to Wayyaanee‘s Constitution is his right. But that action is contrary to the Oromo claim that they are an independent entity, and not appendage of Ethiopia. He doesn’t lack information that, according to the history of the Ethiopian political culture, one who comes to power had never transferred it voluntarily. One who joins it will be legally bound to loyally defend the flag that it carries by killing and dying for it. The programmed Oromo struggle shall never be pulled back until it brings down the colonial flag, and replace it by its own and claim back their country. How can one reconcile this position with that of Madrak without involving a violent struggle? The Oromo love peace, but do not believe that Habashaa political tradition would change by miracle. For this reason, the conditions in which the Oromo struggle is being waged and that of those who have said to have practiced a nonviolent struggle are not similar. The objective for which they had struggled, and their historical and geographical conditions do not match.
To be similar to that of Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle, it should not be under Wayyaanee’s Constitution. Obbo Baqqalaa had mentioned some tactics similar to that of Gandhi’s peaceful struggle. Gandhi did not use those tactics as a member of Britain’s loyal opposition, but as an Indian political activist. As to that of Dr. Martin Luther King, he struggled in a politically matured country. He did not have a separate territory to claim, but Oromo do have, unless Madrak does not recognize it. Though Martin’s effort ended costing his life, still much is left to be fulfilled. Let us not forget that the history of the American Civil Rights Movement is shared by Malcolm X, the Black Panthers and many other groups which were not peaceful. Anyways, to simulate struggle of those persons with that of the Oromo is to reverse the Oromo struggle and invite the naïve to serve as a scourge for Wayyaanee. Therefore, it is better to be an independent Oromo organization and wage the said nonviolent struggle, or stop using Oromo name where it doesn’t belong.
What is expected of the Oromo struggle is to dismantle the colonial empire. Unless that is done, there will be no opportunity not only for realization of the right of nations to national self-determination, but it will also be unthinkable to live in own country with Oromummaa. With the empire, the region will never have peace and stability. Situations that have no peace and stability germinate terrorists; also there cannot be smooth relation among peoples. Oromo have more chance than anyone else to keep peace and calm in the region because of their numbers and temper. For this reason, to have confidence in oneself serves better than being aliens’ running dogs. As long as groups are not in the enemy camp, they are entitled to their opinions and can work together at least with the minimum program. But to understand relations between Oromiyaa and the Ethiopian state, it demands to reexamine one’s soul.
To take different directions before strengthening the Oromo base, where to meet later in Oromummaa could be difficult; avoiding clashes in the process may also be unlikely because of differences in loyalties. Those who do not think for the future generation do not have principles to be sacrificed for, or they are still under the fear of the Nafxanyaa. They prefer to join the powerful and live for today and for the present benefit and comfort – which is a model that doesn’t have much risk, except being despised and humiliated. Those who are devoted for futurity and freedom of their nation prefer to die and get buried for the kaayyoo rather than live under humiliation and being despised. Though that is a model full of risks, they will never perish from memories of the coming generation.
In that region, no one has the tradition and will more than the Oromo liberation movement for advancing, peace and development, respect for human rights, opportunity for flourishing of civilization, and for preventing terror from sprouting. The Oromoo people are being oppressed, humiliated, despised and dehumanized. One who expects they will continue ad infinitum living under this situation is only the pusillanimous Oromo or selfish and arrogant alien who does not care for the future interests of own people. Colonial spell is already broken. This is only the tip. When what is boiling everywhere explodes, it cannot be cooled down until it regains the respect and rights it deserves and takes back its country from the colonizer. Everyone remembers, only those numbed by an abuse of more than a century, not those who had awakened and reached a level of despair who made them realize they have nothing to lose under a condition where death and existence have no difference for them. Oromo youth are demonstrating that they are not those of the past by giving their lives for their cause. What right do aliens have to evict the Oromo from their ancestral land if not contempt for the nation? What is the day and night threat for, what worst can it commit against them? It is only those who have no feeling of human dignity and born to be enslaved who tolerate such humiliations.
Over and above biting them to the bone, the colonizer is selling them to ones who have sharp teeth to crush their bones. When the time they started movement is considered, the Oromo should have strengthened their muscles to stand against all that come. But they are being paralyzed by indetermination and wavering of their leaders. While being hurled by deluge, those think there is nothing to cling to, except foam. Rather than self-reliance, they scan around with their eyes for a savior that could stretch them a hook. Now a crossroad is arrived at. It is better to separate chaff and grain before being doomed together. Those who cannot move with people’s interest have to leave way for the boiling force. The Oromo should not be judged by leaders who keep on growling the whole time.
They want to threaten them with feelings of world powers. But world powers, just like the Oromo, defend their national interests and have no particular hatred to discriminate them. Saboteurs of the liberation struggle want to say “look here; we have found an alternative for you!” Their alternative is one that kills Oromummaa; that makes an Oromo person to live like individuals who cannot claim the language, culture and life as a member of self-reliant nation. These people do not understand the commitment and determination the Oromo youth have for independence. They try to pull them apart and distract them from the cause, but in vain. To reach the present level, several heroes were sacrificed; innumerable resources were destroyed; how many growing-ups’ lives were cut short? Still existing conditions are more worrisome. But, the way Oromo activists and community leaders behave does not reflect that worry.
When the Oromo are evicted from land, where their umbilical cord and their dead were buried in; where they develop their language and culture with; where they farm and feed themselves; where they live in reconciliation with Waaq and the land; where they as a majority assert being owner to it, – and live like wanderer; instead of doing what is expected of them, raising hue and cry and go and make others go for the rescue to suggest accepting what the colonizer says and live with it means we can no more refer to each other as “we,” but “you” and “us.” To say do not oppose such groups means nothing but sabotaging the cause. What is acceptable would only be something based on common understanding. Until they get someone who says “here, we are,” the Oromo will not stop inquiring “have we reach yet?”
To conclude, the Oromo have a set goal – the question they have for each other is about distance and time. There are many who pretend to be friends and try to deflect them from their destination. But they will never stop until they get someone who says “here, we are.” The problem with the modern Oromo liberation movement is manmade. It is not lacking a genuine cause, but a strong organization, competent individuals and cadres who do not waver, but stand firm on the kaayyoo, a leadership that understands the Gadaa democratic ways, not those who favor the autocratic system of the aliens. Traditional dialogue (ilaa fi ilaamee) is avoided. There is much suspicion and mistrust among peers. There is too much ignorance, arrogance and selfishness. By depending on cliques, the majority is marginalized. There is a lack of self-assessment to verify if what the others say could be correct before rebuffing. There is difficulty differentiating between the enemy’s machination and friends’ concern. Shunning knowledge and experience is visible. It is high time that progressive intellectuals are mobilized in great numbers for the independence struggle. Unless Oromo can build strong organization fast and produce determined, selfless and constitution abiding cadres, a great catastrophe is hovering over them. Once Kaayyoo goes astray, to put it back may not be that easy. Present organizations are all porous and paralyzed. The solution is to awaken and cleanse oneself to prevent further damage from occurring. It is a challenge for all those young men and women who look ahead to the common goal with Oromummaa, never to stop the journey they have started towards Bilisummaa.
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