The Closing chapter of Colonialism in the Horn of Africa
Tigrawayi were junior partners in Ethiopian political system. Except for few glitches the Amaaraa had the upper hand since the fall of Zaagu’ee dynasty. That was disrupted when Kaasaa Maraca the leader of Tigray came to power and anointed himself as Yohannis IV, King of Kings of Ethiopia. To reach there this king of Tigray had severed so many heads of Amaara and others. He subjugated them forcing them on their knees such that they would never raise their heads again. The king of Shawaa Minilik and the king of Goojjam Adaal accepted his suzerainty unconditionally. It was with green light from him that they started the campaign to colonize countries to their south. The Habashaa Empire is the result of those campaigns. Yohannis was slain on Matammaa campaign (1872) by the Sudanese. After that Minilik came forward as the alpha bull in Habashaa kraal. He retaliated against the Tigrawayi and sent them to slumber for a century of. They returned in 1991 with vengeance to be the last of the colonizers and witness when what they have helped done is undone.
After Minilik four rulers came to power under the leadership of Amaara subduing all opposition by sheer force. They all ruled with threat and terror. From among them it was Tafarii Makonnin that ruled for a long period (1916-1974) including the five years of Italian occupation. A junta called Darg replaced him. Darg like all its predecessors ruled with terror. Oromo and Habashaa youth rebelled and took to the mountains under separate organizations. From the Habashaa Tigrawayi were allied with Eritrea as neighbors should do. The Darg poured fire on all with red terror and weapons of mass destruction. Rebels under Amaara leadership, “EPRP”were crushed between Darg and Tigreans as not to pause threat to them any more. Those taken as captives from among them were organized into surrogates that later became “Amaara National Democratic Movement”. The Tigrawayi monopolized the empire through them and their likes.
Added to the grudge for humiliation after the fall of Yohannis, the anger Tigrawayi had on the Darg negatively affected the Amaara after Wayyaanee victory. They dismantled and scattered the army Amaaraa built for hundred years. They expelled Amaaraa individuals from key positions in the administration and replaced them by Tigrawayi. They recognized the right of nations to self determination and agreed that they use their language for work and education. That was the right Amaara elites did not recognize to this day. The Tigrawayi accepted independence of Eritrea against Amaaraa aspirations. They created an “Amaaraa” organization a reference they did not accept then. Traditionally followers of the vanquished used to be integrated into the new formation but not this time.
Tigray’s campaign was led by strong organization called TPLF. Its leaders were those hardened by struggle that demanded immense sacrifice. Of all of them their leader Mallas Zeenaawi was a cleverer, active and canning opportunist. TPLF was heavily armed and stronger than any force in post Darg Empire. After a month of their arrival they convened organizations that fought against Darg, Diaspora organizations that were not opposed to them and individuals they encouraged to get organized at that very moment, to a “Conference for Peace and Stability”. The Conference ended after approving “The Charter” and by it “Transitional Government” was formed. Prior to that they started governing as Ethiopian Peoples Democratic Front (EPRDF). That was a collection of organizations formed with prisoners of war from different nationalities. Later they proclaimed a constitution for administration of the empire that can safeguard rights of peoples and individuals ending the transitional period.
TPLF’s chasing out the dictator and agreeing on a charter for governance with organizations from different nations; building EPRDF with organizations of different nations from war captives as equals; having stronger fire power than the others and having powerful supporters from across the sea and being accepted as national army by participant of the conference has given them temporary legitimacy to rule the empire. Next they allowed opposition parties and registered them to compete for political power. They then scheduled for open popular election. In preparation for that, parties of Habashaa groups that had fallen from grace formed organization called “Coalition of Unity and Democracy (CUD)”.
The CUD run for election of 2005 and scared the Wayyaanee by amassing major ballots. But defective tactics resulted in several deaths of CUD supporters and lose of seats won. With that Mallas got the excuse to put all of their leaders behind bars. By tactics he devised elders he organized for the purpose intervened. The elders cajoled the prisoners and made them to apologize. That was achieved in the manner he wanted and they were released. Since then groups supported by the Amaaraa were kept at bay.
Had that election been fairly concluded the winner could have got the legitimacy to rule the empire. The competition for power was only the concern of the colonizers and their apologists, not the forcefully occupied peoples. That election failed to legitimize Wayyaanee to lead the Habashaa Empire. That was why human rights abuses increased from year to year. The next election did not also make matters different rather they proved that democracy will remain a dream in that empire. For this reason TPLF administration lacked domestic support and has to depend on foreign encouragements.
In later days Mallas started to focus on strengthening his individual power rather than that of his organization. For this reason he started to marginalize those that were his comrades in arms. He surrounded himself with younger individuals that did not have loyalty to TPLF but himself. For that he laid down replacement plan (mattakaakaat) and told EPRDF member organizations to follow suit. That helped him to keep out of way leaders of EPRDF that were captives and loyal to TPLF. Mallas started to spin EPRDF with strong arms after paralyzing TPLF. Based on his policy he brought a person called Hailemariam Dasaliny from the South and made him his deputy. Mallas died unexpectedly. Except for the coming home of his corpse, his death, illness and treatment was left untold. That left veterans and the new dumbfounded.
Those he gathered around him did not believe that they could govern without him. For this reason they swore that they will be guided by the policy laid down for them by their “great leader” (an echo from the Far East). It does not even seem they could eat their meals without praying for blessing from his Ghost. On the recent meeting of TPLF leaders that established the supremacy of Tigrawayi by their sweat and blood were sent off in accordance with the “mattakaakaat” policy. For this reason it seems that the power monopoly of TPLF over the empire is nearing to be challenged. How much that affects the supremacy of Tigray is going to be seen in the course of days.
So far the faces of all atrocities commited were of the children of Tigray. But henceforth it seems they are decided to remain behind and push non Tigreans to the forefront. The new formation fools no body except themselves. As far as the empire remains in tact the relation of Ethiopia with its colonies cannot change. It will be only implementing the right of nations to national self determination that can make the difference; not collections of dictators and captives. The present whitewashed power will not give legitimacy be it for the empire or for TPLF even to the small extent it did under Mallas. But if the whitewash turns concrete matters may differ.
Mallas had facilitated the way to become the uncontested dictator pushing aside his organization. The throne he constructed does not seem to fit any other. This time EPRDF is not filled with members loyal to TPLF like twenty years ago. Except for those suffering from slave mentality, others that followed them meekly for fear and terror in the initial stage are no more there thanks to “mattakaakaat” policy. For that reason there is a possibility for surrogates to dare and ask for a share in power and wealth of the empire. The way they are going to resolve that issue could affect not only the political relations in the empire but also that of the Horn. The four EPRDF member organizations can no more remain under spell of one man or party without their free will. The time has come for them to decide whether it is only their conscience and interest or that of a partner that can dictate them. They will either remain part of the imperial household or rivals with their own terms for partnership.
Starting from Dargs era Amaara elites have been fanning multinational organizations based on pretentions of being Ethiopian but led by them. Under the Wayyaanee they were forced by circumstances to form organization called “Mallas Amaaraa”. But it was short lived because it failed to satisfy the Amaara standard. However it seems they are starting to feel persecuted for being Amaara and that no organization under multinational name has been able to protect their national interest. As a result they decided to build one that could take care of Amaaraa interest and named it “Moresh” (calling one in danger). With the experience they acquired under Tigrawayi they may be able to realize the problems others had been facing under alien dictators. Difficulties help the reasonable to see things widely and wisely. If they are trying to safeguard their interest as a people and respect for those of others in the same manner they may be more understood. Unless the Amaara trust them Habashaa organizations that call themselves multinational may be forced to rethink the good for dictatorship strategies they had been following so far.
There is only one OLF. There are those who want mock at it being four five. Titan arum will not change its scent because one says it is incence. Those others will not also scape being called OLF the “titan arum”. True OLF’s principal objective is to establish independent Republic Oromiyaa and guarantee its well being. Independent Republic Oromiyaa shall be a country where all will enjoy liberty, equality, fraternity, freedom to form association and where the rule of law reigns supreme. There, there will be no discrimination or persecution based on race, creed, gender, tribe or nationality. All that will be realized only with strong organization that puts the kaayyoo ahead of any other interest. A strong organization is expected to be true and honest to people of Oromiyaa and its members in its actions and utterances. The time of struggle is not the time of governance. Any one that stands on the way should be dealt like the enemy is dealt with.
If an organization is not loose from inside there will be no way that evil could creep in. For this reason cleansing ones house and sealing all holes has priority. Guarding wellbeing of organization is a matter of life and death. For all purposes decisiveness and unwavering commitment to the cause are indispensable characters of a revolutionary. It must be realized that in a world where things move at speed of light leg drugging and procrastinations have no place. People should not be left in darkness from knowing what is going around in the world. It is the responsibility of revolutionaries to work for people’s awareness. They are only conscious people that know their rights and can demand for them. The wish of the people is for liberation forces to stand together and that would have been the ideal one. However all have to cleanse their home so that infiltrators that one kept away should not get a chance of getting in by using the other.
The colonizers have stumbled and are staggering. They should not be allowed to regain their balance. This is the time when all have to rally to take advantage of local and international situations. To derail OLF from moving forward and face the challenges many internal and external campaign are being conducted. That being so great majority of Oromo are stretching their hands to take it across all obstacles. It is only those who stand for its independence that could take the nation to a life of their dreams. OLF they know is the vanguard of their struggle for freedom and independence. For this reason all cacophony against it is to pass with the weather. The nation also understands that its struggle could be protracted. That may demand huge sweat and blood of their gallant daughters and sons. The work of the leadership is not only advancing the cause but also minimizing the cost. Therefore no time should be wasted listening to gibberish of reactionary elements. They are out there to compromise Oromo national rights for self interest.
For this reason all nationalists have to rally and thwart any machination against national interest. The present OLF office holders may be disoriented and sluggish. But no body has the moral high ground to question their commitment and devotion to the cause. Nudge them, help them, advice them, tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow the nation will have new strong leaders to assure continuity of the struggle for liberation and development. That be as it may still OLF is the strongest organization Oromo have. In Struggle there is always advancing and retreating, getting strong and getting weak. Today OLF is in advancing strong state. No one can turn it backwards. The time it reestablishes its headquarters in Oromiyaa and roar in all mountains and valleys will not be far off.
International atmosphere is conducive for Oromo liberation struggle. No compromise no turning back on the kaayyoo is necessary. It is up to Oromo activists to understand and grab it. Repressions and calamities that are befalling Oromiyaa are not something to be passed with silence. Any one with conscience can never ignore the plight of people who are denied liberty, who every day go hungry, who suffer from deceases so far known to humans and get no treatment, and whose voice of agony the world has failed to listen to and are dropping like autumn leaves every passing hour. The Oromo must be led from Oromiyaa. It is only then that their struggles get attention. The chapter on colonialism is closing and a vibrant Democratic Republic Oromiyaa is on the way to be brought forth Waaqaa willing. Viva free 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!
Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.