We the Oromo started struggle to free ourselves from years of injustice. Injustice means, being denied the universally recognized human rights. Those rights include among others, right to freedom of opinion and expression and right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Our people have come protesting against abuse of those rights and are still protesting by methods within their reach. As a kid (1960s) this writer remembers that once the governor of Qellem forbade people’s representatives and chiefs of Qellem from assembling to discuss their grievances and from leaving the area without his permission. It was a threat that daring it could have costed their lives and freedom. Then as today the question was about land grab. The natives had already problems of over population in areas they were limited to. They expected to expand to adjacent area robbed from them by government. The colonial government sent its retired soldiers to select fertile ones from so called government land and grab them dashing the hopes of natives.
The people dodged the abusive sanction of the governor and met at night in Gabaa Abbaa Dhaasaa (Gabaa Arbii) in Galan. There they decided to go to Finfinnee on foot hiding from local authorities, meet the Emperor and register their protest. If the emperor doesn’t heed they had vowed to meet again for alternate plan they already whispered to each other. From this we learn that even the most oppressed people have a breaking point of tolerance against injustice. Thus people and chiefs of Qellem defied local authority and took their case to colonial Head Quarters. The Emperor saw their determination and bent to their demands by ordering Qellem land not to be given to anyone until further notice. It stayed as that until the 1974 land proclamation that tactically made all land property of colonial government.
From the above experience we learn that abuses, local or external have limits that cannot be passed in silence. The abusers may be kin or alien, individuals, groups or their instruments. For instance, if a social media established to serve all Oromo equally and impartially, discriminates between national it will not considered less offensive than the gagging imposed by the enemy; it means it also does not abide by democratic principles. Oromo organizations formed in foreign land are not meant only for the support they give to the struggle now but also are meant to gain skill and experience for future independent Oromiyaa. Organization can have quality and ethical standard they want to maintain. But their policies of operations need to be transparent; it will be inappropriate to tell the public what one is not. Any one that claims to be activist has to oppose all unfair and discriminatory treatments from anywhere.
Oromo organizations or activist have to be truthful and unequivocal in their dealing with nationals. Therefore deceit and lying should be watched out vigilantly. If there are ideological differences between groups, that should come to the open. Some may shun the kaayyoo (objective) of Oromo independence. Because this outlook is popular among Oromo masses those that dislike it do not dare to clash head on with those that prophesy it. But they sabotage surreptitiously activities advancing it. Media is one of the most powerful weapons that saboteurs want nationalists not to have access to. For this reason those in independence camp must be vigilant as not to be outwitted. They have always to be on guard against opportunist reactionaries. Those could hurt only if they are left to be indispensable. Liberation activists must have self-reliance as their objective principle. In this era when others have digitalizing their political, economic and social practices we should not remain complaining in the same old way.
The year 1991 was a year when Oromo from all corners flocked to Finfinnee to get acquainted with each other. Together with those they met they had the opportunity to visit different regions of Oromiyaa. Under Odaa trees known to exist even before 15th century they deliberated about past memories and future visions with clean heart. It was a time with no pretentions. Among such deliberations, the one that took place under Odaa Bultum is worth remembering. It was under Odaa Bultum that a man from Walloo said to others that “we unlike you were not under alien rule for only a hundred years, but for four hundred years” and though we have forgotten our language and culture we did not forget our identity. He beseeched them not to falter in keeping up the spirit of Oromummaa.
Those living around Odaa Bultum also dug out a “Bokkuu” buried from the time they were occupied, and handed it over to OLF representative to remind the new leaders the democratic and independence past of the nation. It was a relic put in their custody as a trust and also in recognition of OLF as the legitimate heir to those leaders that held the Bokkuu before they were colonized. In return they expect the new leaders to walk in the footsteps of the Gadaa Fathers. Everyone there was proud of custodians of Odaa Bultum for keeping such national treasure safe for all those years. Each in attendance there expressed one’s own dreams and visions for independence and freedom. Resolution of the gathering was put in writing to accompany the Bokkuu as told. All that assembled vowed to uphold the kaayyoo of independence advanced by OLF. Those vows have come being repeated whenever Oromo meet in masse. That is also what we hear from current protest marches.
For decades the Oromo people lived under autocratic and dictatorial system. Some were deeply brainwashed by educations and socializations they were subjected to beyond repair. They accepted colonial model of administration as the ideal to be attained. Such people are so frightened by changing situations and wanted the status quo to be maintained for they are familiar with it however demeaning and oppressive it may be. When the OLF was founded the oppression though bitter did not relatively break the back. Now it reached a level where it cannot be tolerated for a second. Because that could uproot the Nafxanyaa system in a way they never computed they are now mourning for it.
The kaayyoo for which the OLF had been struggling became more relevant as a result of conditions getting more matured than before. Still ingredient of original OLF program is the only correct path to avoid further disaster and resolve the colonial issue once and for all. To state that it is not beneficial now, as if the oppression had been lifted will not be seen less than standing with the enemy. Oromo who say that are leaving the liberation camp to serve the colonial empire. Even before it was not the independence of Oromiyaa that they wanted but building a bridge that could connect and help them to negotiate with a system they think could be born when the empire crumbles. There action had effect on unity and security of political activists and even the nation to some extent. The breaking up of OLF into Shanee, QC, and Jijjiirama etc. were all their making. They took a longer road not understanding that liberation of Oromiyaa could also be liberation of peoples of colonial motherland. It would have been better for them if they had the patience to rely on their independent people and negotiate for any benefit or power.
Many that left the liberation camp are not yet mentally liberated to have confidence to walk outside the path cleared by colonial masters. That is their only model that they are comfortable with. Oromo political culture is democratic and cannot integrate into Habashaa autocratic one. Unless you break one you cannot fit into the other. The Habashaa rulers and their oppositions, from Eritrea to Amaaraa land do not bother to bend and fit it in, but want to continue mounting it and dictate it as usual. Instead of developing their own heritage and skill, the mentally unliberated Oromo have runaway to join them with excuse of the impossible mission of democratizing Ethiopia. The truth is the feeling of exaggerated self-importance that prefers to follow aliens rather than abide by national peer laws. For that they formulate stories and tastes acceptable to their hosts. They even avoid the term Oromiyaa and Oromo while they repeat “Ethiopia” ad nauseam. If at all they mention, it is as something they accidentally find themselves in.
Nowadays Ethiopianists are frolicking like a recently released calf on foreign platforms, away from the struggle’s headquarters. They had been sabotaging the struggle ignited by OLF for over twenty years but failed to extinguish it. They didn’t understand that they are misfired bullets. For this reason no hoodwinking, no infiltration, except sincere repentance can any more get them back credibility they lost long ago. Unity they jeopardize to attack a group in foreign land Oromo are mending in their country with their own blood. After pushing OLF to level of disintegration for not accepting their reactionary and treacherous proposal they founded organizations that they think can fit into the colonial empire system. Their calculation did not work; OLF still exists and will exist as long as Oromiyaa remains occupied. The Habashaa did not receive these losers with open arms. Presenting past history, they may try to be accepted as still being leading Oromo figures during such time of crisis. To augment that, they have started to call for reunion of Oromo political organizations which they caused to fragment. It is hoped that world powers will not try to impose any group without the people’s will if peace is to reign in that region. So far overseas power had considered Oromiyaa as appendage of Ethiopia. That position has to be reconsidered if the solution has to reflect the aspirations of the Oromo, the largest and most inclusive group in the region.
In the 60s those that started to lay down the foundation for independence struggle severed themselves from those that say they were for democratizing Ethiopia. Their separation was not simply to be different from others, but to take more risks than them and found independent Democratic Republic Oromiyaa. Then OLF that openly vowed never to turn back until independent Oromiyaa, where all human being live in equality, peace and happiness is realized was formed. That vow is still upheld. No one can stop it except the interest of Oromoo people. From the negative personal experience they had during the struggle, some activists are begging to give their hands to the enemy they had been fighting for four decades. They said that was what they wanted and have never meant what they then declared contradicting themselves from one interviewer to the other. However they still miss what they left behind, the goodwill and symbols they helped in creating. So they express nostalgia for them at every forum. Deep down their conscience is not resting in peace.
Oromo symbols reflect the objectives for which OLF was founded, independence and freedom of Oromiyaa and the Oromiyaans. It is with them in mind that thousands of heroes and heroines of the nation paid the ultimate sacrifice. Therefore the symbols now belong to the people; they are not placards to write party names on. The Oromo people are now expressing the national will together making call for referendum irrelevant. They want the lost right, sovereignty over their land; in short it means their independence. To take an opposite stand to this is to be insensible to people’s will and comrades fallen for it. People upheld the original kaayyoo not because someone dear, say OLF founders, told them but because they believed in it. They have made it their own thanking them for articulating their interests. For an Oromo to think people have taken it in the past because we told them so and now also they will take if we reverse and tell them that it was a lie, is inherent contempt for the people and arrogance learned from their aristocratic heroes. The people are spilling their blood and giving their lives because they believed in the kaayyoo and wanted to create an independent democratic and peaceful life; not to satisfy political thirst and passion for fad, of the selfish autocracy worshipers.
When the Oromo people, despised as ignorant by own arrogant and alien ones suddenly burst out demanding for their rights, all were shocked and stunned not knowing how to handle the situation. Positive seeming words of solidarity never heard from the colonizers’ side started to flow. That was a good sign beckoning the possibility of having partners for peace. That be as it may, they have one unforgettable message conveying that relations will never return to where they were. Now they better start looking at Oromo people as African brothers not as their meek colonial subjects. If that happens, discussions about outstanding issues of the region could commence. But if their objective lacks good faith and is to distract the Oromo and dilute their struggle, the consequence will be regrettable.
The people of Oromiyaa have shown that they are smart enough not to be cheated ones again. No Goobana will present their freedom on silver plate as before. Those who want to have good relations have to ask what Oromo want; the time of “I know for you” has long gone. It is only free and independent Oromiyaa that can safeguard the interest of her neighbors and the world; not Ethiopia dominated Oromiyaa. Though the major input has to come from nationals, any change to come cannot neglect the role of world powers; but to make such roles beneficial for the nation, Oromo patriots must show selfless efforts. Long live independent Oromiyaa! Down with colonialism! Down with TPLF and its running dogs! The struggle shall continue till victory!
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!