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History and the Current Situation Speak for Oromo Independence A Response to Jijjiirama and the Drum-Beaters of the Anti-Oromia Camp

By Prof. Mekuria Bulcha

 The  cultural,  linguistic  and  political  contours  of  a  modern  Oromo  nation  have  taken concrete  shapes  including  an  Oromo  state  in  the  form  of  the  Oromia  regional  state  with  a specific  territory and officially demarcated geographically  territory. For more  than  two decades the Oromo  have  been  conducting  their  educational,  administrative  and  judicial  affairs  in  their own  language. This was unthinkable  just  two decades ago. The contributions made by Oromo studies during  the  last  thirty years have  enabled  the Oromo people  to  find pride  in  their own history and culture. In spite of all these achievements, the Oromo are still under an intolerable alien  rule with  the  obvious  implication  that  independence  is  the  best  option  for  consolidating what the Oromo have so far achieved and will achieve in the future. It is for this reason that the Oromo people are conducting both political and armed struggle. Regrettably, however, there are obstructionist  forces  which  are  poised  not  only  to  foil  the  struggle  but  also  reverse  and/or jeopardize the fruits of our people’s bitter struggle and ultimate sacrifices. 

This article is a commentary on the much publicized claims of the Jijjiirama faction stating that “the question of Oromo independence is dropped by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)” and that such a question “was not part of the OLF political program” in the first place (ESAT January 1, 2012). The statements made by the group have stirred up strong feelings among both the anti- and pro-OLF groups and individuals.  Many observers in the “Ethiopian unity” or anti-OLF (anti-Oromia) camp have called the position taken by General Kamal’s group a heroic action in the service of their mother country. One of them has, in fact, argued in the Ethiopian Review (ER) that “There is nothing that the tiny minority of the old faction or anyone can do to change this reality.” By the “tiny minority” he means those Oromos who wrote the OLF political program, struggled for decades, and put in place  the  contours  of  the  emerging  Oromo  nation  and  state which  I  have  described  above. Showering  laudatory  phrases  on  Jijjiirama  another  thrilled  Ethiopian  called  the move  of  the faction the “return of the prodigal son” from a political “wilderness” after forty years. It is also stated  that  all  Ethiopians  owe  Brigadier  General  Kamal  Galchu  “a  debt  of  gratitude  for  his farsighted  leadership”  (ER  January  8,  2012). A  reporter  in  Finfinne  Times  (January  8,  2012) thanked  him  for  putting  back  on  track  the  Oromo  movement  that  has  been  derailed  by “confused  and  timid” OLF  leaders  for years. The  euphoria,  even  if  ephemeral  as  indicated by other observers, is understandable. The position taken by General Kamal Galchu has given the Amhara elite a hope of recapturing the political power they lost to their Tigrayan cousins twenty years  ago. However,  the decision  of  the  Jijjiirama  is  not  only deemed  treacherous,  but  is  also doomed to fail. Many Oromos accuse its leaders for being enemy agents who joined the OLF to “destroy” it and not to liberate our people in the first place.  

In my  opinion,  condemning  the  stand  taken  by General  Kamal  Galchu’s  group  is  not enough in itself. We must tell the members of the faction to stop the treason they are committing before  it  is  too  late,  use  the  situation  created  as  an  opportunity  to consolidate  the  national struggle  for  independence,  and  also  inform  all  the  drum-beaters  who  are  supporting  the concessions made by the Jijjiirama faction that the noises they are making cannot persuade the Oromo  people  to  support  General  Kamal  Galchu’s  politics  of  “New  Federal  Republic  of Ethiopia” which, in fact, already exists under the current dictatorial regime


The Right to Live under Laws of Our own Making 

As stated by the American social philosopher and Harvard Professor, Martha Nussbaum, national sovereignty is about a people’s right to “their autonomy, their right to give themselves laws  of  their  own making.”  National  sovereignty  is  a  right  for  which  tens  of  thousands  of Oromos  have  sacrificed  their  lives during  the  last  forty  years. As  the  authors  of  the  “Oromo Voice against Tyranny” wrote in 1971 “For an Oromo worthy of the name, there is one and only one way to dignity, security, liberty and freedom. That single sure way is to hold a common front against his oppressors and their instruments of subjugation.” What is more “An Oromo has no empire to build, but a mission to break an imperial yoke, that makes his mission sacred and his sacrifices never  too dear.” The mission  is  to  restore  lost  liberty and  to  live with dignity  in our country under our own laws. The action of the Jijjiirama faction clearly obstructs this mission.

Historically our Oromo ancestors have lived in their homeland making and obeying their own laws. They were ruled by leaders they elected periodically. But during the last 130 years we have  lived under  laws  that were made by  those who conquered our  land. These  laws were/are made not to protect our rights, but to deny us justice and human dignity in the country of our birth. General Waaqo Guutuu was pointing out that when he, in one of his mobilizing speeches during the Bale Oromo uprising of the 1960s, reminded his compatriots: “Remember they have plundered  [our  property]  and  distorted  our  historical  legacy…they  have  violated  our  dignity calling us filthy Galla. Do you realize how many times you have been denied justice in their court of law?” General Waaqo was describing the life of Oromo subjects in the Ethiopian empire of that time.

Denial of  justice  in Ethiopian  courts of  law was  experienced  at  all  levels of our  society: ordinary peasants and workers, men and in private business and public service were and are being affected.  It  also  affected high-ranking military  officers  and distinguished  civil  servants  because they  were/are  Oromo.  That  is  why  General  Taddese  Birru  told  the  Ethiopian  court  which sentenced him to death in 1968: “I am denied equality before the law because of my nationality. Because  of my  nationality  I  am  treated  differently.”  Comparing  the  outrageous  treatment  he received to the way the 1960 abortive coup makers led by the Neway brothers were treated (they were  not  tortured  or dispossessed  their  ranks), General Taddese  asked  the  court:  “Why  am  I disgraced  and  severely  tortured?” What  the General was  saying was  that  he was  tortured  and disgraced because he is an Oromo while the 1960 coup makers were not.

It is common knowledge that General Taddese spent six years in Haile Selassie’s prison and was assassinated by the Dergue in 1975. General Waaqo also spent his last days in exile and died in Kenya in 2006. What is not well known is that the two Oromo leaders struggled to improve the conditions of their people and not to do any harm to Ethiopia. Normally, governments listen to the grievances of citizens, accommodate the claims they make, and allow them to live in peace. That has never been the case with those who ruled and are still ruling Ethiopia. They exercised and  are  still  exercising  tyranny  against  all  the peoples  they  ruled. However,  their  cruellest  and crudest tyranny has been exercised against the Oromo because they hate and fear them most. The “Oromo Voice against Tyranny” mentioned above was written based on the experience the two organizations, namely Bale Oromo uprising and particularly of the leaders of the Macca-Tuulama Association. Since then, thousands of Oromo politicians have been jailed, tortured, and murdered without justice. Denied human rights and justice, thousands more are in Meles Zenawi’s prisons at the moment.


Jijjiirama.s New Political Program, Ginbot 7 and the Oromo Question

A survey conducted in 2003/4 by Edmond Keller indicates that the wish of 76 per cent of the Oromo respondents is to live in their own independent state. The survey included samples for  each  nationality  in  Ethiopia  and  was  gathered,  analyzed,  and  compared  using  statistical methods which ensure a degree of reliability of the information produced by Keller’s survey.The findings of Keller’s survey contradict both the political program of the Jijjiirama faction and the policy of Ginbot 7 which is opposed to the division of the Ethiopian state along ethnic lines. Dr. Berhanu Nega, the leader of Ginbot 7, has remarked that it was the Oromo prisoners’ bitter feelings against Ethiopia he observed in Qallitti prison which made him to go into politics. He  said what  disturbed  him most was  that  the  prisoners were  saying  that  they were  colonial subjects and not Ethiopians. Dr. Berhanu went into politics to solve this problem among others. His  solution  to  the Oromo problem  is  simple  and his  recommendations  are  the  following:  (a) convince the Oromo people that they are Ethiopians like anybody else, (b) discourage their talk about an independent Oromo state, and (c) reject the notion that there are differences that based on  ethnicity  or  nationality  in  Ethiopia.  These  recommendations  appeared  in  the  Ginbot  7 political program (15 May 2008) which declared unambiguously: “We reject the notion that the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia are social units tied together with mechanical force as false and divisive.” The policy  statement can be  read as an  indirect criticism of  the policy of  the current Ethiopian regime. In other words, they are saying that only individual rights and interests must be respected.

According to Ginbot 7 it is wrong to speak about collective rights and interests. Indeed,  the  behavior  of  the  Tigrayan  ruling  elite  has  reinforced  Oromo  rejection  of Ethiopian identity making their dissatisfaction with life under the Ethiopian law to boil over the brims. However, Ginbot  7’s  liberal policy will not  endear Ethiopia  to  the Oromo people. Dr. Berhanu’s  recommendations  for  the  solution  of  the  Oromo  question  show  a  superficial understanding of  the  problem  he will  solve. He  thinks  that  the  colonial  question which  the Oromo have raised for over forty years will suddenly disappear if people are encouraged not to think  or  talk  about  national  or  ethnic  differences.  His  party’s  policy  about  the  question  of nationalities  is  ahistorical.  It  reduces  the  division  of  Ethiopia  into  regional  states  to  a consequence of TPLF’s evil intention. That Meles Zenawi’s regime is misusing ethnicity does not mean it is the inventor of the conflict out of which the national liberation fronts that signed the Transitional Charter of 1991 were born. The Transitional Charter acknowledged and stipulated the  division  of  Ethiopia  into  regional  states  based  on  ethnicity  and  language  because  the recognition of the ethno-national identities and territorial autonomy of the different peoples was the  only  solution  to  Ethiopia’s  political  problem  which,  in  July  1991,  was  on  the  brink  of disintegration. Ginbot 7’s politics ignores the cultural, linguistic, and territorial identity which the Oromo people have claimed as their birth right and which, as mentioned at the beginning of this paper, they won through bitter struggle. Needless to say that Dr. Berhanu’s solution is already on a collision course with the interest of the Oromo people even as an idea. 

The political declarations and speeches which the Jijjiirama leaders and representatives have been making during the last four weeks suggest that they have listened to Dr. Berhanu’s advice and accepted his party’s political program without contemplating what that means in reality. That is why what they are promising the Oromo people is just the opposite of what Dr. Berhanu and his  party  advocate.  They  say  the Oromo  people will,  under  Jijjirama’s  new  political  program, retain the fruits of their long struggle. The achievements to be retained include, among others, territorial autonomy in the shape of the regional state of Oromia. The question is: if the Jijjiirama are going  to  form a government  in alliance with  the Ginbot 7 party and  the  like how are  they going to do that? 


One-Man One-Vote Democracy to Protect Oromo Rights and Interests

The  Jijjiirama  leaders’  answer  to  the  questions  I  have  raised  above  is  “one-man  one-vote democracy”.  We are told not to be afraid of democracy because “the Oromo constitute a good 40  per  cent  of  the  Ethiopia  population”  (on  Ethio-Current Affairs  Paltalk  of  January  7,  2012). Liberal democracy  is  also what  the Ethiopian political  organizations  including Ginbot  7  claim they  have  in  their  political  programs.  The  first  question  is,will  they  practice  it  in  case  they manage to come to power? 

In an interview with a journalist (ESAT, January 5, 2012 ), the former US Under-Secretary of State  for Africa, Ambassador Herman Cohen  said  that he  asked  an Ethiopian Professor  in Addis  Ababa  why  Mr.  Meles  Zenawi’s  regime  which  came  to  power  promising  democracy became authoritarian and the Professor answer was “Ethiopia cannot be governed any other way. This  is our culture;  this  is how we govern ourselves.” What  the unnamed Ethiopian Professor says is, of course, plain truth. Autocracy was the rule for centuries in Abyssinia and has been the political  tradition  of  Ethiopia  since  it  was  created  as  a  colonial  empire  at  the  end  of  the nineteenth  century. The  Jijjiirama  leaders ought  to know  that  as Oromos we  are not afraid of democracy. But, I do not think that the Abyssinian elite will abandon their political culture and adopt  democracy  as  quick  as  the  Jijiirama  leaders  and  other  Oromos  who  believe  in  the “democratization of Ethiopia” as an answer for the Oromo question wish. The idea of “one-man one-vote democracy”  is  appealing  to Oromos, but  its  application  to  the Ethiopian  situation  is undoubtedly problematic. 

The  second  question  is:  can  a  “one-man  one-vote  democracy”  enable  the  Oromo  to protect  their  collective  interests  such  as  linguistic  rights  and  territorial  autonomy?  I  can  say certainly not. We know that the Oromo at most constitute about 40 per cent of the Ethiopian population. Obviously, even if all Oromos were to vote and cast their ballots for a single party that  is not  enough  to put a majority  rule  in place  that  can protect  their  linguistic or  territorial autonomy.  In  fact,  Jijjiirama’s political program  jeopardizes  the achievements  the Oromo have made  in  terms of  territorial  autonomy  and  linguistic  identity  through  a bitter  struggle.  It gives chance to the Amhara political opposition who vow to replace the present regional states by old style provinces in which Ethiopia was divided before 1991. The Oromo have to stick to the goal of  independence  and not  to be  swayed by  the  rosy promise of one-man one-vote democracy; they can exercise democracy without interference only in an independent state of Oromia. The one-man one-vote model of democracy is feasible when Oromia is independent. I will even argue that  free  Oromia  can  become  a  model  state  and  “export”  genuine  democracy  and  political stability to the neighboring states and peoples in the Horn of Africa. The OLF must continue with its politics of cooperation with the political organizations of oppressed nations, nationalities, and peoples who share the brutal history of Abyssinian colonial rule with our people. But, the Oromo people should, under no circumstance, impose their will on any people or nationality big or  small. They  should approach  the political organizations of  the non-Abyssinian peoples and cooperate with them in the struggle against the present regime; they must be ready to enter into closer cooperation that will result in mutual benefit in every field now and in the future.  


Failure to Learn from History: Looking for Relief in a Wrong Corner 

Experiences  from  the  last  20  years  show  that  the  general Oromo  attitude  is  that  of  the proverbial  Oromo woman who  rebuked  her wily  adversaries with  resolute  skepticism,  “lama nansuufani”—“I won’t be fooled anymore.” It seems that the Jijjiirama leaders have not listened to  the  Oromo  people  whose  message  is  “enough  is  enough,  this  time  our  destination  is blisummaa  (freedom)  how  rough  and  tough  the  journey may  be.”  They  are  tired  of Oromo individuals and organizations that ally with Amhara or Tigrayan political organizations, keeping them under the nightmare of endless dictatorship.  As it is now, whether they are working with the present regime or opposed to it, pro-Ethiopia Oromo political parties and organizations are lacking the support of the Oromo people.

  Every Oromo knows that during the last four decades the Abyssinian ruling elite have won in all political games and grasped power using Oromo allies and making false promises. Once in power,  all  of  them  abused  the Oromo  and  other  peoples’  trust.    The  so-called  revolutionary democracy of  the TPLF  is different  from  the “socialist democracy” of  the Dergue, only  in  its  rhetoric.  If  not more,  it  is  at  least  as  brutal  as  the  “socialism”  of  the  Dergue.  The  Dergue intensified the cruelty that Haile Selassie’s regime exercised against the Oromo. It labeled those who were  opposed  to  its politics  as  anti-revolutionary,  killed  them,  read  their names  over  the radio, displayed their corpses in public and demanded their families to pay the cost of the bullets the “state” used to kill them. The regime was ‘brutally frank’ about what it was doing. Its staterun radio program sang a deafening“fukera” called “yefiyel waxaxee” and the list of the executed was read for the nation and the families of the executed. Milan Kundera wrote that  Fascism  was  based  on  frank  anti-humanism  and  created  a  moral  situation  which  was perfectly clear and simple, black and white. … Fascism left humanist principles and virtues untouched, because  it  emerged  as  its antithesis. Stalinism was more dangerous  for  all  its virtues  and  ideals,  because  it  began  as  the  advocate  and  gradually  converted  it  into  the opposite: love of humanity into cruelty, love of truth into denunciation, and so on. 

 The Dergue’s frank anti-humanism was a good example of fascism which Milan Kundera wrote about. The current regime kills its opponents without fanfare using methods that are even grimmer  than  those used by  its predecessors.  Its  leaders are cynical:  they preach democracy  in public, but are maliciously tyrannical and sadistic in their secret political dealings. The evidence for  that  is  overwhelming.  TPLF  tyranny  against  the Oromo  is  committed with  impunity  and complete disregard  for human  life.  It began  in 1992 when  the TPLF put  tens of  thousands of Oromos  in  a  concentration  camp.  Since  then  its  security  forces have  kidnapped  thousands  of men and women, killed  them and dumped  their corpses  in  the bushes  to be devoured by wild beasts. The families and relatives of the “disappeared” did not (and do not) even have the chance to ‘ransom’ and bury their sons and daughters as was the case during the time of the Dergue.  TPLF atrocities against our people are not confined within Ethiopia’s  territorial borders: they are not even allowed to live in peace in the neighboring countries as refugees. TPLF agents have  been  assassinating  real  and  suspected  opponents  of  Meles  Zenawi’s  regime  in  the neighboring countries since 1992.  During the last 20 years, thousands of Oromo children and women have died in refugee

camps in Somalia; tens and thousands of them are suffering in shanty towns and refugee camps in Kenya, Sudan, and Yemen in thousands. Nobody knows how many are getting drowned and devoured while fleeing across the shark infested waters of the Gulf of Aden in rickety overloaded boats. Many more have been and are being forcibly deported back to their torturers in Ethiopia from Djibouti, Kenya, and Somaliland. That they carry UNHCR identity cards does not prevent their deportation. The deportations occur often in secret and involve agreements made between the Ethiopian  security and  those of  the neighboring  states. Back  in Ethiopia  the deportees are imprisoned, or killed without mercy.  

Menigitu’s regime was meaner than that of Haile Selassie; and Meles Zenawi is even more tyrannical than his predecessors. Given the magnitude of injustices our people are facing, anyone who has a humane heart will agree with the Jijjiirama leaders about the urgent call for getting rid of Meles Zenawi’s regime with whatever means. However, the predicament caused by the TPLF tyranny need not  turn  the  leaders of Ethiopian political opposition parties  including Ginbot 7 into saving angels in the eyes of the Oromo.  Although what is in the liberal democracy kit with which Ginbot 7 says it is equipped only will be fully disclosed, if and, when they come to power, we know, at least, that its leaders are opposed to the present division of Ethiopia into regional states such as Oromia. In other words they will not recognize a structure that gives the Oromo people a  territorial  identity making  them masters over  their natural  resources. Forming alliance with an organization that will not recognize the gains made so far by our people to overthrow the present government,  is  tantamount  to  jumping  into  a  ‘deep  sea’  to  escape  from  the  ‘devil’.  In other words, the future which the Jijjiirama faction’s political program is promising our people is not going  to  shorten  their misery.  In  fact, what  the  faction  is  inviting us  to  is  a new  cycle of 6 conflict with a new batch of Abyssinian ruling elite. The misery the conflict can cause the Oromo and the other peoples of Ethiopia can be worse.

New guards of .the prison house of nations and nationalities.

 Historically, no love is lost between the Abyssinian ruling elite and the Oromo people. As indicated above, the former have succeeded in dominating the latter using violent means while the latter have continued to resist. That is why Ethiopia’s “prisons speak the Oromo language” today. The prisons in Ethiopia will continue speaking Afaan Oromoo until Oromia breaks out of the “prison-house of nations”, to use the name given to Ethiopia by scholars. That is why the new political program of Jijjiirama is being vehemently opposed by Oromos everywhere; they will not be confined to the ‘prison-house of nations’ indefinitely. 

If the Jijjiirama leaders have a vision at all as they claim, it is without doubt, a blurred one: they have  failed  to  see  clearly  the  reality on  the ground and  learn  from  the  experiences of  the OPDO to which they belonged in the past. They believe that democracy will rain on Ethiopia if the Oromo people  forget  the question of  independence and TPLF disappears  from  the  scene. They share their “vision” with ex-President of Ethiopia, Dr. Nagaso Gidada who argues in his autobiography  “Daandi: Ye Negaso Menged”  (2011)  that  if  the OLF  and  the TPLF disappear from  the  political  arena  Ethiopia will  democratize  and  the Oromo will  be  satisfied.  Such  an argument misses  the  fact  that  Oromo  dissatisfaction  concerns  not  only  the  atrocities  of  the current regime but the treatment they have been receiving from the Abyssinian ruling elite during the last 130 years. Our people reject being a part of a state in which past atrocities are repeated endlessly  and  often  with  increasing  ferocity  against  them.  General  Kamal  Galchu  and  his associates know that the past did not die with Menelik, Haile Selassie, or Mengistu. The atrocities committed against our people did not cease with the demise of those ruthless rulers; it continued. The  present suffering  of  our  people  is  not  going  to  stop with  the  demise  of Meles Zenawi’s regime, or because of Jijjirama’s dream about a “New Federal Republic of Ethiopia.” I strongly believe that it will stop only when we regain the right of giving ourselves laws of our own making and elect our own leaders who obey our laws. That can only happen in the independent state of Oromia envisaged by the OLF political program.


It is important to recollect the fact that the Oromo struggle started in the 1960s with the aim  to  change  their  situation  in  Ethiopia.  To  use  Edmond Keller’s words  “what  the Oromo wanted was  their  fair  share.” However,  that  effort was defeated  by  the  “zero-sum-game”  that dominates Ethiopian politics. That was the case both under Emperor Haile Selassie and Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam.  I  do  not  think  the  reason  for  the  failure  of  transition  to  democracy which was  proposed  by  the  1991  Transitional  Charter  is  unknown  to  Jijjiirama’s  leaders.  As members of  the OPDO,  they  themselves were  instruments of  the  authoritarian  tyranny which derailed a democratic transition, thereby hindering a peaceful settlement of the Oromo-Ethiopian conflict. The irony is that the Jijjiirama officers who joined the OLF to “liberate” Oromia a few years  ago  are now  telling  the world  that  they have decided  to  join  the next Ethiopian  regime, replace the current OPDO members, and become the guards of “the prison house of nations and nationalities” once again.


Where is the Solidarity that ought to be between Citizens of the Same State?

The Abyssinian elite will keep Oromia at any cost not for the love of the Oromo people but for the sake of its resources.  This is reflected in the views of some of the “progressive” non-Oromo  supporters of  the  Jijjiirama group  (,  January  5,  2012) who  also  claim  to be sympathizers  of  Ginbot  7  and  ask:  “What will  be  the  fate  of  the  rest  of  Ethiopia  after  the independence  of  Oromia?”,  and  blame  those  who  “dream”  about  Oromo  independence  for being  “out  of  touch with  reality”.  These  “progressive  Ethiopians”  do  not  reflect  on why  the Oromo want independence or what they think or how they feel about being under Abyssinian rule. Oromo opinion is irrelevant to them. Oromo suffering does not seem to move their hearts, or disturb their conscience. The fate of those Oromos who are made homeless and landless, the fate of uprooted and scattered families and dispersed communities does not worry them. These are  hardly  the  concern  of  the Amhara  elite. No  protest was  staged  in  solidarity with Oromo students who were dismissed from the Ethiopian universities, jailed, tortured and killed in their hundreds during the last ten years. The Amhara elite condemn Oromo nationalists but not the atrocities  committed  against  the Oromo people. What matters  to  them  is  that Oromia  and  its natural resources remain in their control. Thus, while demanding that the Oromo should think about  the  fate  of Ethiopia,  they do not  show  any  concern  about  the  suffering  of  the Oromo people under the Ethiopian rulers.   This utter lack of fraternal solidarity with the Oromo people described above is reflected in a chilling Amharic poem placed on the website of Tensae Ethiopia in December 2011. The poet chants his wishes “Oromowoch yibatatanu, Itiophian sayabarkikuat” which means approximately: “May the Oromo scatter and disappear before they defeat Ethiopia.” Summarizing the atrocities committed  against  the  Oromo  and  other  peoples  in  Ethiopia  as  heroic  deeds  of  her/his forefathers  he/she  says  that  groups  such  as  “Galla  Geday”  will  reappear  and  past  atrocities repeated in order to maintain the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. What is remarkable here is that the views of the anonymous poet are not far from the views of politicians and scholars who are reluctant  even  to mention the word Oromo  (they  seem  to  prefer  the  pejorative  “Galla”)  and think it is blasphemous for an Ethiopian nationalist to utter the word OLF, let alone sitting at a table with  its  leaders  and  negotiate  on  the  future  of Oromo-Ethiopian  relations  (see  a debate between  representatives  of Ginbot  7  and Andnet,  ESAT August  9,  2011).  Thus, when  these politicians and scholars talk about “Ethiopian unity”, they mean keeping intact the territory that constitutes  the  Ethiopian  state  under Amhara  control  and  not  the  equality  of  its  constituent peoples.  


We  should not blame  the  Jijjiirama alone  for promoting pro-Ethiopia politics  that negates Oromo  rights;  there  are  even  some  Oromo  scholars  who  talk  about  a  “common  Ethiopian home” suggesting that the Oromo must strive for that and not independence. While theoretically possible,  such  an  arrangement  must  start  with  the  acknowledgement  of  the  grievances  and recognition  of  every  group’s  rights  in  the  country.  This  requires  reciprocal  recognition  of collective  identities  by  the  parties  involved,  combined  with  the  fraternal  imagining  of  being citizen of the same state. Given the facts I have raised above, however, it is impossible to create such a situation in Ethiopia now or in the near future.  The cleavages between the major components of the Ethiopian polity, particularly between the Oromo and the Abyssinians, remain so deep that establishing a sense of solidarity that cuts

across  ethnic  boundaries  and  which  is  a  basis  for  the  establishment  a  democratic  state  is  a daunting  task. Therefore,  the on-going Oromo national  struggle  should  continue by  all means until independence is achieved and a democratic republic state of Oromia is established. There is no reason to believe that the leaders of Ginbot 7, or any other Ethiopian political organizations, who  have  already  stated  their  stand  on  the  national  question  will  ever  enter  into  even  a meaningful  federal  arrangement  recognizing  Oromo  claims  for  collective  rights.  That  is why independence becomes the sole option to overcome thepresent predicament of our nation.  It is the right of every nation to live in its homeland in peace. The Oromo dream about own independent  state  is  about  freedom  from  the  fascistic  and  Stalinist  genocide  that  have  been perpetrated  against  them generation  after generation. Every human being has  the  right  to  life; that  includes  every  Oromo.  Every  nation  has  the  right  to  survive;  that  includes  the  Oromo people. As Howard Adelman suggests, the breakup of imperial states such as Ethiopia and the desire  for  nations  such  as  the  Oromo  to  realize  the  expression  of  their  identities  through  a sovereign state, “is not the road to ruin, but the path to a new international order built on the rule of law and the protection of the freedom of individuals, the equality of groups.” The post-cold war break-up of the Soviet Union and ex-Republic of Yugoslavian were recent example of such a process.


Should we call Jijjiirama.s Action a .Blessing in Disguise.?

 Yes, but we must clear the air of a confusion that paralyzed the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)  for  the  last  ten  years  in  order  to make  best  use  of  the  situation  created  by  Jijjirama’s political game. Judging by the reaction it has ignited both at home and in the diaspora, it seems that the political program of the faction is already rejected by the Oromo people. The drums in the  fake  Ethiopian  unity  camp will  stop making  their  noises  soon.  That  does  not mean  the declaration  made  by  the  faction  on  January  1,  2012  is  not  without  consequences.  Its repercussions will stay with us for a while causing misunderstanding among Oromo groups in the diaspora. On the positive side, however, the bold declaration made by General Kamal Galchu’s faction will give us insights into the differences that existed between to two factions of the OLF which were led by Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo and Dawud Ibsaa, respectively.  For almost a decade, the argument was that there is no difference of vision between the two  factions  about  the  future  of Oromia. Preoccupied  by  the quest  for  “tokkummaa”  (unity), most Oromos have refused to see, or believe that there was a political difference between the two factions  of  the OLF. However,  this did not  bring  the  two  groups  together,  or  strengthen  the struggle for national liberation.  Now the truth is out in the open and staring at us in the shape of Jijjiirama’s politics. 


Jijjiirama.s Politics did not develop in Isolation

We all know that as Shanee was one organization up to 2008, the members of what became the Dawud Ibsaa and Kamal Galchu groups in August 2008 were sharing the same program. It was a program which mixed Oromo politics with the politics of democratization of Ethiopia and engaged  partners  such  as Qinjit  forming  the  so-called Alliance  for  Freedom  and Democracy (AFD). Even the present collaboration with Ginbot 7 has its roots in the rapprochements made with  Ethiopian  organizations  while  Dawud  and  Kamal  were  together  as  Chairman,  and Commander of Shanee-forces, respectively.  The AFD  rapprochement was defended  as  a  tactical  alliance  to  bring down  the present regime,  and  nothing more. However,  a  closer  examination  of  the  behavior  of  known  Shanee members  and  leaders  indicates  that  there was more  than  that  even  from  the  start.  One  can discern three categories of members already under the joint leadership of these two men: These were/are (a) those who are strongly pro-Ethiopia; (b) those who are strongly pro-independence,  and  (c)  those  who  were  in-between,  hesitatingly  accepting  the  views  of  whichever  group  is influential at the moment. 

Thus, in the first category we find those members of the Shanee faction who have declared their position  such as Kamal Galchu, General Hailu Gonfa, and Colonel Abebe Geresu, Abba Biyya Abba Jobir and Licho Bukura. These were leaders within the faction before they left it and went  in different direction but with  the  same destination, Ethiopia,  in mind. Dima Nogo who argues that the question of independence was/is not in the political program of the OLF (ESAT September  19,  2011)  belongs  to  this  group  also.  There  is  no  question  that  for many  years, members’ of the sub-group to which these men belonged were more influential than ‘members’ of  the pro-liberation  sub-group within  the Shanee faction. The  roles  they have been playing  in Oromo politics reflect clearly the difference between the Dawud Ibsaa and Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo groups.  It is impossible to argue that the position of these ex-Shanee top figures on the Oromo question  is  similar  to  that  of  Galaasaa  Dilbo,  Ibsaa  Guutama,  Demissie  Kebede,  Mulugeta Mosisaa, Abiyu Galata and many other prominent Oromo nationalists in Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo’s group. Here  the point  I want  to make  is  that,  judged by  the positions  their prominent  leaders hold on the Oromo question respectively, it is clear that there was/is a fundamental difference between the two factions. One faction is clearly for independence; the other is not. It was this difference which split the OLF in 2001 in the first place.  Going back to Jijjiirama’s “new” political program, it should be stated that the division in the OLF started long before the ex-OPDO officers marched to Asmara and joined the Shanee faction.  The  idea  of  solving  the  Oromo  problem  within  the  framework  of  a  “democratic” Ethiopia  state  was  present  within  the  OLF  since  the  beginning  (Dima  Nogo  on  ESAT, September 20, 2011) and found its expression in the Shanee faction. Leenco Laata’s book which entertained  the  idea  in detail was already published  in 1999.  In public,  the  idea was  expressed, albeit somewhat ambiguously, with the formation of the AFD in May 2006, a few months before General Kamal and his men marched  into Eritrea and  joined  the Shanee  faction. What makes Jijjiirama’s case different is the attempt to hijack the OLF, pose as representative of the Oromo nation,  and  “drop”  the  question  of  independence—which  is  the  fundamental  objective  of  the OLF.    In  reality  Jijjiirama’s  “new  political  program”  is  a  frank  version  of  the  Shanee’s AFD policy. It is boldly declared, but is not new.

  As stated above, the common ideology which underpinned the politics of both faction—the  Dawud  Ibsaa  and  Kamal  Galchu  groups—has  now  crystalized  in  Jijjiirama’s  clumsily formulated  political  program  of  the  “New  Federal  Republic  of  Ethiopia”. Anybody who  has listened  to  speeches made  by  Jijjiirama  representatives  on public  forums  and  communications with mass media will understand  that  the basis of  their political program has  its genesis  in  the political orientations they were given while in the Shanee group. For example General Kamal in his interview with the VOA argued that his group’s political program is not different from what Dr. Dima Nogo was saying in an interview with ESAT mentioned above or a book authored by one of the leaders of the OLF.  Although  that  the  Jijjiirama  political  program  had  its  origins  in  Shanee  politics  shows differences  that  exist/ed  between  the Dawud  Ibsaa  and Dhugaasaa  Bakakkoo OLF  factions, ironically,  there are  still  those who  argue  there was no difference between  them,  and who  say that, if it exists, it is nothing but a battle over words or a struggle for power. That kind of selfdeception is not useful in terms of Oromo unity. It is, in fact, harmful.


Doubletalk Harms: Truth Heals

One may ask why it important to talk about the differences that existed between the OLF factions  now? My  answer  is:  because  honesty matters.  Let  us  use  the  opportunity  created  by Jijjiirama’s  bold  betrayal  of  the  national  cause  and  speak  the  truth.  Reconciliation  requires speaking  the  truth. Acknowledgement  of past mistakes  is vitally  important  to  take  a new  step forward together. We criticize the Abyssinian elite because they have distorted our history. We have  a moral  obligation  not  only  to  stand  against  external  distortion  of  our  history,  but  also against distortions that come from inside.  With the departure of Jijjiirama, I believe that the majority of the pro-Ethiopia ex-members of Shanee  faction have now abandoned  the Oromo  liberation camp  for Ethiopia, and  that  the differences  between  the  Dhugaasaa  Bakakkoo  and  Dawud  Ibsaa  groups  have  diminished significantly. It is the obligation of the two groups to consolidate their forces, and work in unison for liberation.  The creation of a strong united OLF requires that the Shanee faction stops once for all its doubletalk of democratizing Ethiopia and liberating Oromia at the same time and join hands with all Oromo organizations that uphold “bilisummaa”.   In a speech he delivered at the Congress of Black African Writers in 1959, Frantz Fanon said  that  "Each generation must discover  its mission,  fulfill  it or betray  it,  in  relative opacity." Many in my generation found the liberation of Oromia from alien rule as their mission forty years ago and founded the OLF; and many have paid with their lives while fulfilling the mission. I do not have  any doubt  that  the Oromo masses have now discovered  their mission  too, which  is independence or “Bilisummaa” in Oromo parlance. However, many of us have been betrayers of the national mission in one way or another rather than working for its fulfillment.  Many in the diaspora have taken the comfortable “neutral” position of sitting on the fence blaming the OLF leaders, or criticizing the “bickering” factions for “lack of achievement”. It  is sad to read what these fence-sitters are writing on Oromo websites or hear what they are saying in Pal Talk rooms, asking without any  reflection or  shame: “Warri qabsoo  irra  jirra  jettu maal  fidde?” “Did  those who are in the struggle achieve anything?” This has been an excuse for not making contributions to  the  struggle. As  I  have  indicated  at  the  beginning  of  this  article,  the Oromo  people  have

achieved a lot during the last 40 years. Instead of making phony excuses like the above, it is now the time to climb down from the comfortable seats on the fence and contribute to the struggle. It is time that they come out from behind their pseudo-names and join the struggle, or at least stop making mockery of the Oromo cause for which thousands of Oromos laid down their lives. It does not work to sit on the fence and complain about Ginbot 7’s involvement in Oromo affairs; in  short,  it  is  the  obligation  of  all  OLF  members  and non-members  to  make  use  of  the opportunity created by recent events and rise up in unity to liberate our people from the tyranny of Meles Zenawi’s regime. This is a common mission; it concerns every Oromo.


*Mekuria Bulcha, PhD and Professor of Sociology, is an author of widely read books and articles. His new book—Contours of the Emergent and Ancient Oromo Nation—is published by CASAS (Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society), Cape Town, South Africa in 2011. He was also the founder and publisher of The Oromo Commentary (1990-

1999). He is an active member of the OLF and has served in the different branches of the national movement since

the 1970s.


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