Difference Between Freedom of a Country and of People – Remark on the ODF Statement
Ibsaa Guutama** | March 2013
Recently, another organization with the Oromoname has appeared. It is to be remembered that, last year, an organization claiming a similar vision with the present and bearing the name of the Oromo Liberation Front was declared. The statements which both gave to the public media seem as if they were written by the same scribe. The current organization now calls on the Oromo people saying “We have risen with new vision, new tactics of struggle to empower you to pull out from the paralysis in which the struggle is in. To get the objective we designed for the struggle to empower you realized, let us heat up the struggle henceforth.” Is it to empower Oromo or Ethiopians? It [the new organization] might think that people might have forgotten what those before it said, or it itself might have forgotten it. To remind it further, there are organizations formed inside the country with the same vision. It is good to see programs of OPDO, OFDM and OPCO, and identify similarities and differences. There is also OBDN (Oromo National Democratic Movement) in recent history. All say they will struggle for Oromo rights within the Ethiopian union. How they go for it might possibly have differences, but differences of presentation in splitting words into details does not change the end goal.
What they think will make them different is probably the type of pack that came together and their leaders. Studying their individual background might give one a clue. But for now, that is not our concern. Rage and grudge can also make one miss the big picture. We do not also go into assessing that. What we are out to show now is that the struggle for which Oromo sons and daughters came so far paying immense sacrifices in the four preceding decades is not for the objectives they are presenting. At the end of their statement, the general call they made to Oromo organizations says, “We believe that ending more than a century old subjugation of our people should be of a paramount interest than dwelling on trivial political wrangling … Thus, we call upon all of you to join hands with us in strengthening our camp to intensify our legitimate struggle and put an end to sufferings of our people.” If this was taken as addressing also the true OLF, the Oromo people should not be deceived by it. The difference OLF has with them from this presentation is very big, and the way it relates to them will also become different. It will not be the same with relations they are going to have with those they consider their differences are trivial or those they do not have differences with.
The way OLF looks at the Oromo people, thekaayyoo of their struggle it believes in, the suggestion it presents as a solution, in short, its vision is different from theirs. OLF believes that the Oromo was an independent nation, had a country that had separate territory from the colonizer with whom Oromo have differences in history, culture, tradition and language. Its political objective, as asserted on its political program, is to establish a Democratic Republic Oromiyaa. If anyone says that the OLF did not have the intention for territorial independence, but only popular freedom it would be denying what was concretely put into writing. Probably then, their pen did not reflect their minds. OLF had also stated in the foreign relations section of that program, that “It will work to bring about where possible political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respect for mutual interest and the principle of voluntary association.” Such a policy was formulated with those who now say they lead a new organization and can not be subject to denial. The Oromo have a background of democratic culture known as the Gadaa. For this reason, nobody can lecture it about aspirations it has for equality of human beings and for peace. It is something in the genes. But, they will not trust to aliens their right to independence.
The meaning OLF attaches to the right of self-determination is also different from theirs. OLF does not take this right as depending on changing names of the empire. It does not also accept what they said the nature of the empire has changed, had Wayyaanee not refused to change its outlook. The Habashaa-built empire could change only when the people, whom it is built on, are freed and become independent, not because the colonizer named itself People’s Democratic Republic orFederal Democratic Republic. From what it presented in writing, this new organization intends to build federation without dismantling the empire. OLF believes that considering federation, confederation or independent state come only after the right of Oromo to national self-determination is realized.
OLF had never said to the Oromo that it knows what is good for them. It only said that they have to get the chance to freely decide on whatever they aspire for. Nationalists, who had been paying the ultimate sacrifice for half a century and are continuing to this day, are those who had been agitated by those who now say they are struggling for its reversal. Some are disabled losing their limbs, and others are subjected to lifelong debilitating diseases. Today, they are saying you have been dead for us; you have been crippled for us; and we shall take whatever you have achieved so far to enrich the multinational struggle we are going to make for the right of the enemy and others. Where about of bones of those fallen heroes and heroines, and even what their names be – are not known. Because they cannot rise and defend their spirits; that responsibility is left to their comrades who stood firm with the kaayyoo they had fallen for and to the young generation of liberators.
The struggle that the new organization claims to open a new venue in the Oromo struggle has nothing new as mentioned above, but a boring repetition of what has already gone before it. Members of this organization are not free from the causes that, so far, paralyzed the Oromo struggle. It was under their watch that it started wavering. That means, they knowingly left it to stagger. Despite the political program, which they vowed to implement with so many comrades – dead and alive, they deny that they had never struggled for the independence of Oromiyaa nor would they struggle for it now. They were only for people’s civil rights. For them, the Oromo people have had no difference from their neighbors. All have no citizenship, but are subjects of the rulers. For this reason, they have no exception for the Oromo, but struggle for all to have equal citizenship rights. They had made it clear that they struggle for all, not for the Oromo alone, and are swearing like colonizers to amend the definition given to national self-determination by an international body. “… Forgetting others rights, in particular that of the neighbors, and struggling only for ones own will not achieve sustainable achievement. … we have given new interpretation for the struggle Oromo is waging for its own national self-determination so that it enables them to struggle for all other persons and nations.” (translation: the author’s). The right of nations to national self-determination is proclaimed by law. To change or amend is the right of the body that made it, not that of politicians intoxicated with self-interest.
During the Darg, members of OLF were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed as ‘narrow nationalists.’ These ones are also showing the propaganda they are planning to release to brand OLF cadres in the same manner. As they say, “… we go apart with the stand on the right of self-determination by forces that see its definition narrowly as realization of independent country alone.” These people try to bring together what does not look alike to strengthen their position. For people brought to submission by force, neither an outlook of a dictator or a democrat can stop them to demand for independence. For example, they say, “… when we remember the efforts made to implement federalism without democracy like it was tried in former Yugoslavia that culminated in horrendous bloodshed that took place in the aftermath of its breakup, we are afraid thatWayyaanee’s policy could possibly lead to similar debacle” (translation: the author’s).
After the demise of Marshal Tito, the nations under Yugoslav federation practiced the rotating leadership. But that did not bring change on Serbia’s being an empire. What could have made difference are not individuals who lead, but the consent of the occupied on the structure of the state. It was absence of the consent that caused bloodshed. It is not because nationals of Tigray understood democracy less than them, but because Wayyaanee cannot be democratized because it is at the head of an empire. Because they benefit from it; they are not willing to dismantle. It proves that empire cannot be democratized unless dismantled. If dismantling peacefully is refused, it could possibly lead to spilling blood. The new Oromo organization seems to believe that, if empire changes its name, the status of people’s rights automatically changes. It is enough to observe from what is taking place in Catalina, Quebec, Scotland and Wales that colonial state administration’s being democratic cannot change the aspiration of nations to be independent.
Those who now say that they have a new vision have hand in said paralyzing of the OLF. In similar manner – in the breaking up of the faction calledJijjiirama from OLF Shanee Gumii. They are also the ones who pushed General Kemal Galchu to his present position only to give up on him later. The mishaps reached here with protracted machination of paralyzing the OLF. Because it is built with blood and bones of brave Oromos, OLF is not uprooted like they thought. The program they came up with now is not new. For this reason, it is not necessary to design new tactics to tackle it. The right to engage in what they like individually or by forming an association is an inalienable right of human beings. For this reason, to go on any route of their choice is their right. To present their petition to become Ethiopian citizens as long as they are accepted is also their right. But, to bray belittling the struggle of the Oromo people and those struggling for independence as nonexistent will be considered trespassing. The people have to know the difference between those claiming to struggle for it. The question that, why all of the activists do not move together, must be based on that knowledge. Those who have little difference, but believe in same kaayyoo can coordinate their struggle putting aside their little differences. For the time, there is no other solution for those that have big differences in outlook – except endeavoring to reach their declared goal in their own way. But over time, one that realizes the existing truth may correct its stand, and join the correct line of liberating Oromiyaa.
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!