“Do the Oromo know what they want?” This was an irritating question raised everywhere around diplomatic circles after the 1992 falling apart of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia. For any genuine member of the liberation movement and in particular that of OLF their organization has a political program that was made public decades ago. It was with this knowledge and recognition that the OLF was invited to the London Conference of 1991 and the subsequent Conference of Peace and Stability that formed the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE) to replace the military junta. The National Kaayyoo as reflected in this program did not remain an exclusive thought of the vanguard organization but that of majority of Oromo people. Since then many political organizations have adopted it without modification to the basic tenets of the program. All nationalist organizations believe that the goal of their struggle is reestablishing Independent Republic Oromiyaa. The people have endorsed this in various ways even where there were no political organizations around. As a result genocide is being committed against the people of Oromiyaa irrespective of political belief one belonged to. Continuous reports by International human rights organizations and other governmental and non-governmental establishments confirm that. This can be a proof that Oromo know what they want; they are dying because they demanded for it or they refuse to accept alien rule. All those deaths and sacrificed are not to democratize the empire but to get rid of it. They are the opportunist, undetermined, wavering elites, afraid to be themselves, that try to distort aspirations of the Oromo inviting the question” Do they know what they want” from aliens? Genuine Oromo organizations will not make commitment on the nation’s behalf but fight to create conducive atmosphere for it to determine what it wants. The Oromo may negotiate for their independence with who so ever is controlling the empire state through their independent organizations not through colonizer’s lackeys that compete for Ethiopian throne.
OLF has been the most endeared crown jewel for the nation and a horrifying monster for the enemy. It is the program that set highest standard national kaayyoo or principle which is not yet surpassed in reflecting Oromo ideal. It is that program that made it a target for anti- Oromo elements, infiltrators, saboteurs, collaborators and the politically low conscious simple tones. Those are the ones that want to retry their last century failed ideology of creating democratic Ethiopia that they thought can solve all issues of the empire and help them continue bootlicking their old master; but it has costed so many dear Oromo lives for nothing. Such are the ones that blowup minor temporary historical accidents to cripple national struggle instigated by enemy agents camouflaged as Oromo nationalists, while colonial force led by small clique from a county in Aduwa is “straightening up” the whole empire in the name of Tigray. Some narrow minded individuals lacking national pride are registered to serve those in creating discord in Oromo community. They sniff around for minor differences and try to create great controversies out of them. It is customary for families, clans and tribes to have attributes for each other. It is only the weak and naive that uses such attribute for extra national consumption. In particular to use that in service of alien interest and try to divide national unity is safuu. No trick in using regional, religious or tribal sentiment can any more sabotage the march for free and independent Oromiyaa.
Any nation or organized group that loses its internal harmony cannot defend itself even from the weakest enemy let alone from more organized and coherent one. For this reason it has to reevaluate its performance frequently. Oromo tradition permits only maximum of eight years for a peer group to stay in power. How to practice that tradition needs to be reexamined and solution sought. Otherwise present trend of mistrust will not be fair for the leaders and the led. That also gives a chance for the galtuu to raise their heads in national fields and gnaw the organization from its base. Service fatigue, inefficiency and boredom can lead to decadence. The vanguard Oromo organization, OLF has to be protected from decadence by all means if the nation does not want to throw out all the sacrifices, achievements, hopes and goodwill through the widow. Decadence comes like quicksand pulling down to irretrievable bottom slowly but surely.
When indecisiveness, lack of commitment to the cause and wavering by spineless politicians is added to this, it sends to third parties mixed message so as to generate the title question. The dream of all Oromo that love their nation is the realization of what OLF mapped out for it decades ago. Desperate to reach the envisioned goal some might have tried to take shortcut with makeshift organizations that could take them nowhere. It does not need a prophet to foretell they will never win power through colonial election. It is only elected group that bows out with ballot paper. One that did not come through election waits to be seen off in the way it came. For some, aliens had devised structure to use the “Oromo” name but with controlled operations. In both cases the institutions created are those that maintained standards set by colonial laws. And so can only serve keeping intact the empire and institutions and policies created to subjugate nations and exploit their resources. Therefore it cannot create equality and new democratic relations among the inhabitants of the empire. For those who do not believe unless they see firsthand it is good that they participated. But after seeing that the whole system is a hoax to remain and hope to be accepted one day would only be effect of Stockholm syndrome that needs to be treated. The only solution is not propping the empire but to dismantle it and free all nations shackled under it. The architect nation of the empire will also then be free to put its own house and relations with its neighbors smooth and in order.
Historically Oromo nationals assimilated into the system or working under Habashaa rulers are more vicious towards the Oromo than the genuine Habashaa themselves. Raas Makonnin and his son Tafarii and Mangistuu Hayila Maariyam can be cited among top actors. The Habasha system is so blinding that even their own supposed progressives have lost their faculty of critical thinking. There could be misplaced Oromo nationalist at heart in colonial institutions but as long as they are in those institutions they can serve only their stated purpose. It is only the naïve and the doubtful that sympathize with them because of their names knowing that they volunteered to strengthen the colonial empire. From there they can do no good for their nation for any divergence will backfire and destroy them. Therefore it is from such institutions that any liberation strategists and true national activists have to guard themselves. They are breeding grounds for agent provocateurs and spy networks. It requires a principled outlook to distinguish between colonial institutions and individual actors. Human beings can change sides but institutions will stay on until they serve their purpose; because they have no conscience that helps them change they continue to serve or die out.
Let us forget for the moment all Oromo organizations. As Oromo, do all have anything they need in common? If they have, let them ask themselves what do they want? Organized Habasha interest wants their land, their resources and their labor keeping their own secured. They don’t even recognize that Oromiyaa primarily belong to Oromo. Even the incumbent power that recognized Oromiyaa state in its constitution is reluctant on its application and in practice its attitude is no different from the rest. In addition the international communities are not taking into consideration the Oromo factor in regional politics. Most of them had traditionally sided with Ethiopian autocratic establishment because that was the only force without passion for humanity as long as its selfish interest is satisfied. So far those have served them as “development and security partners” in advancing their interest in Africa. Still they help those dictators to build capacity of oppression and control so that they can serve them more in their scramble for Africa’s wealth at the expense of the colonized peoples in Ethiopia. But in this era of information technology their actions cannot be kept secret from the world and their tax payers.
Therefore the way they see Oromiyaa as storehouse of Ethiopia which they can easily share needs to change. Oromiyaa is a country that should not be hindered from practicing its right to national self-determination if peace and stability is of any benefit to them. The ancient European model that destroyed Native Americans should not be encouraged in this century. Oromo struggle is local and has no connection to international conflicts. It would be better to leave it that way rather than pushing it beyond its intentions. The ways things are managed in Oromo liberation struggle may not be up to standard today, but that does not mean the principle for which they stood is not practical. It is because of them that every galtuu is not afraid to have the word Oromo as a suffix to its own. Beware, that the time will not be far off when mountains and valleys of Oromiyaa can no more be accessible to aliens until the Oromo question gets positive response. The tsunami to come which can be felt by a common observer should not be lost to political scientists and situation analysts.
Human right is only a code word for global marketer to mobilize support against those they find to be weak or unfriendly. They are more interested in their facilitating for them investment and open market rather than alleviating the suffering of the Oromo people. Listen to any of their news, good or bad about the empire; they are given as if there is no Oromo problem. They tell about a never colonized Ethiopia but not mentioning that it is a colonizer; for that matter the only African partner in the scramble for Africa then as it is now. Should the Oromo be accused of not knowing what they want because they are not intimidated by such huge conspiratorial globalized force and demand for their birth rights? There could be some spineless Oromo who chose to collaborate because they take resisting as pushing a mountain. But those do not represent the Oromo nation. Oromo has a saying “One already socked is not afraid of the rain”. The question is not that of existing as individuals, but that of surviving as nation or perishing.
That the Oromo want independence and freedom has no doubt. The method of achieving this might seem a point of contention. But national survival effort needs a concerted effort, it cannot be handled divided. This the nation has unanimously shown in the support it gave to OLF political program. Their lack of strong organization does not imply that they do not know what they want. The enemy works hard to divide them into petty organizations. That is how those tempted by it brought the struggle to sluggish state. But true Oromo activist are striving to reassess their existing organization, correct defects and enrich their strong points and accelerate the revolution. They have already built goodwill with blood, sweat and bones of Oromo revolutionaries. That is what the enemy is after to destroy. Patriotic individuals, irrespective of creed, gender, region etc. have shown their readiness to sacrifice whatever it may demand to get national kaayyoo through.
One means that the enemy sets sibling against each other not to have cohesion is, injecting divisive poison of clan, county and religion. Liberation organization is not government and so have only one electoral constituency, the nation. Reactionary minds may interpret their own biases not as individual problem but as group folly. For true nationalist whatever irregularities only the individual actors not the tribe or clan or religion they belong to but the individuals themselves are to bear responsibility or condemnation if any. That is what the common good requires. Any one that under the cover of clan, county or religion tries to put obstacle on advancement of the nation a unit is only serving interest of the enemy knowingly or unknowingly. Such types do not represent the nation and never reflect its aspirations.
Therefore the response for the questions raised above has to start with realization of highlighted reality together. For Oromo to reclaim their lost rights requires clear understanding of the problems. It demands unwavering commitment and determination to prove their stand to third parties. To do that they have to weed out the narrow minded saboteurs and enemy agents. True nationalists have to standing shoulder to shoulder as siblings and comrades and start revaluating their organization if it is to the standard they initially set for it, not evaluate it based on their biases for or against individuals leading it or their origin or their own negative biases. Particulars of their counties have to be reflected through their national aspirations. When the struggle is concluded with success their counties will have geographical representation. But for voluntary self-restraint, there should be no limit to freedom of self-expression.
Participating in the TGE was not based on consensus of the general membership or the Central Committee but on urgent demand of the time. For all understanding OLF political program was still intact irrespective of the Charter. Therefore there was no legal ground to expect Transitional Charter to supersede the OLF program. For this reason it was legitimate for OLF cadres to carry on political education based on the program. Members of the International community seem to purposely misunderstand this legitimate right of the organization and obligation it has for the Charter. The true OLF in no time, then or now, renounced its objective for independence. At a crucial moment after the fallout from the transitional arrangement the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) was engaged in relentless struggle to protect the gains of decades. At that time the diplomatic community was accusing OLF of having hidden agenda from their transitional partners and themselves. But some members of the leadership were shy to clearly defend organizational constitution. That clearly indicates a broken system. If a system breaks down let alone mending, botching it up will not be easy. That is what many organizations suffer from. When TGE flawed many members of the top leadership were in the field. From those serving in Finfinnee all went back to the field except three that left through Boolee and one who was on foreign assignment already. For all we know from the field it was decided that the Secretary General leave for foreign land. All paid sacrifices but some paid the ultimate sacrifice to mend the broken system.
The grand cadres graceful accepted the allegation for “hidden agenda” and blamed the small cadres for zealousness. As seen later many of them, though they lead an organization that has vowed to establish Independent Democratic Republic Oromiyaa had a different hidden agenda from their people and comrades. Hidden agendas drawn to satisfy aliens even if that meant derailing the national struggle and destroying the liberation movement. This can be observed from the chaos created in the liberation movement camp, in particular from 1998 to the present. There was an attempt to lead this great national organization by individual whims rather than by its constitutional laws. This generated insubordination that each OLF officer started to air own opinion on trend of the national struggle. That be as it may, it should be known that the Oromo people have no illusion about their relation with Ethiopian state and clearly know what they want, Independent Republic Oromiyaa, contrary to the wishes of those members of the leadership. They are ready to utilize their universally recognized right of nations to national self-determination to its full extent.
The unadulterated OLF had articulated more than four decades ago Oromo interest that as we saw is relevant to all generations. That is why all the Ethiopianist movements could not suggest better alternative that satisfy Oromo demands. However much they demonize the liberation movement, however they tried to distort history of the nation and whatever shameful comprises they tried to make on sovereignty of the people, they could not move the Oromo away from its original kaayyoo. Unable to fulfil their mission their true self has burst out of its shell but the independent movement has survived without them, with minimum glitches. There are some detractors that say kaayyoo for independence and democratizing Ethiopia are two sides of the same coin. But that is distortion of the truth. Let alone being sides of the same coin, they do not even belong to the same coinage system. Many Ethiopianists before them had tried to present Oromo question in ways that amount to surrendering Oromo legitimate rights, but only the independence line stood its ground and brought about tremendous change; change that many now try to use as a bargaining chip to enrich enemy camp. Oromo nationalist is one that lives Oromo and thinks Oromo.
Ashes and flours may seem similar at times but always qualitatively different. That is why the Oromo say “Daaraa fi daakuu dha” to emphasize deceiving similarities. To take a unionist position is one’s right but trying to compare ashes and flours is a treachery. The independence camp does not accept Oromiyaa being integral part of Ethiopia but a country that lost its sovereignty to colonizers only a century ago. And so firmly believes it has to be free and independent. Those that think otherwise must beware of that before clapping their hands driven by emotions in support of a position they might regret when they come to their senses. It is wise to show firm stand on either positions of struggle in which Oromo are involved rather than flowing and ebbing with every tide. It is despicable for a member of people under occupation to have no guts to stick to a principle but get swayed by momentary weakness and strength of actors. Such character of segments is what raises the contemptible question, “Do they know what they want?” But character of individuals should not have led to the generalization of being that of the whole nation.
Let no one think otherwise, the Oromo by tradition love resolving conflicts in a peaceful manner. Their courage in battle and resilience under defeat should not be negatively interpreted. They know what the devastating effect of using arms that is why they use them only when their survival comes under question. Self-defense is a birth right for all living things including human beings just like access to food, water, air and shelter. If an oppressed fights back it will be considered sacrilege and terrorist act by the oppressor. On this all aggressors collude to keep the oppressed remain submissive against all moral standards they claim to follow in public. Those that defend humanity from oppression and all forms of abuse by its evil parts are the blessed for that is the only means to protect human dignity and survival. Those that fight for their human rights and justice are also the blessed for there cannot be more contemptible act than tolerating injustice against one’s nation and humanity.
The Oromo have to be free from fear and threat of any sort from any quarter to determining their own destiny. Collaborating with the enemy cannot lead to this end. Therefore first they have to be in a position to assert their rights to be heard as a nation. If they cannot be heard they need no more than a roar of their numbers to whisk away the enemy. In short united they can easily be free and independent to negotiate on their relations with any one on equal level. If there are genuine unionists parties they have to come up with their proposal after that is achieved. Then only can the opportunists and the genuine warriors distinguished. Oromo as a nation have never been willing partners to the Ethiopian union. Therefore, they do not see themselves from inside the union but from under it. Any move to answer the Oromo question has to take these positions into consideration. Here we are talking not about individual collaborators but about a nation. Old galtuu had accepted their position as servants of the colonizer. New ones are applying to replace their predecessors but begging for change of status to citizenship. Citizenship or not they promised to offer their service for the empire as loyal opposition ad infinitum. Though rebuffed they never lose hope but keep on beseeching to be accepted. It rather became the Oromo saying “Eenyutu si dhungannaan hidhii muxxesitaa” (who do you think intends to kiss you that you protrude your lips?).
When we talk about Oromummaa it is with the assumption that no proud Oromo will take second position to any member of non-Oromo group or abide by their dictates without own will. The Habasha can never move an inch from their political tradition of “submit or perish” and adopt the rule of law. Hierarchical life is part of their psychological makeup as a nation. That is how government and the governed view each other there. That is how they want to see relations between themselves and the colonized nations. For this reason it is waste of time to try to reason out with them rather than preparing to defend and advance own kaayyoo under any circumstance. The OLF asserted that Oromiyaa is not Ethiopia more than four decades ago. They took that as unfinished assimilation of the wild Oromo. But when young Oromo who they thought have fully tamed and won to their side publicly said without reservation, “I am Oromo first” they were infuriated and there was no name they did not call them with. This is a great message for all galtuu who dream to be accepted as bona fide Ethiopian and equal.
The Oromo know what they want for they are the ones that experienced tragedies of a hundred years from loss of freedom and independence. They want to regain what they lost sovereignty, freedom and independence. What sends doubt to many is if their liberation organizations know what they want. After half a century they still fail to show maturity. The democratic political culture heritage of ancestors is not yet enough reflected in them. Oromo political and social culture had come being threatened by external autocratic culture until the decline of Gadaa system and its almost total collapse under colonial rule. The coming of the OLF was hoped to reestablish the lost democratic practice of democracy and transparency, at least in Oromo organizations. It has on paper offices filled with election and its highest body Kora meeting in given years. In between Kora meetings they have arranged it was assumed, a committee that will handle policy issuing and supervising over top leaders. This Committee has to meet in given intervals in a year. But still the threat of external autocratic culture persists and Kora made structure and policy on paper are made irrelevant. Had it functioned as intended it would have served as model of the Gadaa democracy for Oromo activities at present and in the future. But Oromo organizations old and new have lost their purpose and abandoned their mission. They are behaving like a ship that lost its compass on high seas. So they need self-reassessment to get back on democratic Gadaa track. Especially the vanguard organization and hope of the nation, OLF has to avoid any temptation to imitate autocratic culture which could be detrimental to its continuity as the favorite. If they forgot, that is what all genuine Oromo liberation organizations should seek before going into action.
All the sacrifices the Oromo nation paid and the continuing struggles are not without a purpose. The objective of Oromo struggle as stated by the Oromo Liberation movement is to achieve freedom and independence for Oromiyaa. The Oromo had a democratic system and tradition that is strange and frightening to Habashaa elites. It is only adopting principles of that indigenous system that could pull out the region from social and political calamity imposed by authoritarian colonial system. Thus the Oromo have enough reasons to demand for freedom and independence they lost to Habashaa oligarchy. To depict the nation as goalless and groping in darkness unable to find its direction is ridiculous. The Oromo know what they are struggling for. Their leaders have to refrain from being source for all doubts by their words and deeds. It is not the force of occupation or sellout collaborators that define the identity and interest of the Oromo people but the Oromo people themselves. They are a nation with full right of determining their Destiney. Their struggle is to achieve this end. The answer to the question, “Do they know what they want?” is yes they know. It is only the mentally enslaved pusillanimous that want to send such doubt for they are afraid to face the outcome of the struggle for freedom and independence more than they are afraid of the sacrifices it entails. That will not offer them the individual glory they are dreaming for. And it will not help fulfilling the vows they made to thwart it.
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 forefathers!