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Ethiopia: The 'new’ OLF program: much ado about nothing
by Jawar Mohammed
Earlier this week, one of the several OLF factions announced that it had adapted a new political program that apparently drops the ‘secessionist’ agenda. This announcement was preceded and followed by hyped fanfare by Ginbot 7 and its affiliates.
The news had excited a segment of Ethiopia’s political community long haunted by the prospect of an independent Oromia state and those democracy activists who wish to see cooperation among the opposition forces. Unfortunately, even for a casual observer of Ethiopian politics, the content of the new program does not show any substantive change nor the serious reflection the issue demands. What’s more, the exciting narrative employed to sell the supposed change to the public is at best disingenuous, misleading and distracting in the long run.
What’s new in the brief and poorly articulated announcement?
The press release announcing the new program reveals the superficial nature of the said change in policy. The closest inference to the much-celebrated “change of heart” reads, “The new OLF political program will accept the new federal democratic republic of Ethiopia”. There are two serious flaws here.
First, federalism, even if more of a facade, is now a two-decade-old experiment in Ethiopia; hence, it’s not clear what this ‘new federalism’ entails. Second, this is hardly a change, as OLF not only accepted federalism during the 1991 transition but was also its leading architect. To ‘accept’ federalism, a system it helped create 20 years ago, is at best disingenuous. Paradoxically, it is Ginbot 7 and affiliates, who are adamantly opposed to federalism, that need to accept it — not the other way around.
On dropping the secessionist bombshell
The buzz on both ends of the political divide about OLF dropping ‘secessionism’ and embracing ‘Ethiopianism’ is equally misleading. The Oromo movement, particularly one led by the OLF, had never foreclosed on the possibility of resolving the Oromo question within the existing Ethiopian state structure. The OLF program, through all of its amendments from the time of founding to now, left the door open for both options: reforming Ethiopia and establishing an independent Oromia.
The organization of late relies on the vague notion of ‘self-determination’, especially in its diplomatic outreach, for keeping these two options open. The much-celebrated new program invokes the same vague declaration asserting that, “the OLF will respect and honor all decisions the Ethiopian peoples will make using their right of self-determination.”
Beneath the fanfare, this is yet another word game in the never-ending drama of Ethiopian politics where politicians conceal their real objectives behind loose words. Amhara parties espouse unity while covering up their quest to regain dominance, Oromos use self-determination to appease and confuse their internal and external audience, while Tigreans proclaim democracy and federalism to camouflage their monopoly.
Why all the huffing and puffing?
The only change in all of this, if any, is the shift in the attitude of the ‘unity’ crowd. In the past, whenever Oromo organizations reached out to ‘unionist’ organizations they were met with suspicion, pessimism, and outright rejection. This time around, they are not only embracing the ‘changed OLF’ but also intensely engaged in disseminating and promoting the news.
There are three possible explanations for this:
1) the ‘unity’ crowd has always suffered from self-righteousness in attempting to assert a moral high ground against the ‘ethno-nationalist’ camps. They now see the OLF ‘embracing Ethiopia’ as their victory, a testament to the inferiority of nationalist narrative.
2) Ginbot 7 has been attempting to forge alliances with ‘armed’ and nationalist organizations, an effort frustrated by rival groups such as the EPRP, who accuse it of endangering Ethiopian unity. Therefore, Ginbot 7 & affiliates are beating the drum louder pronouncing that the OLF has ‘embraced Ethiopia’, a rhetoric solely designed to silence its critics. This also gives the leaders of Ginbot 7 some bragging rights for bringing a ‘rebel child home.’
3) In the last several years, there has been a popular demand to reduce tension and antagonism, between the Oromo and Amhara political communities, and replace it with reconciliation and cooperation. Thus, some, including international observers, were deceived taking the recent drama for a genuine initiative.
Oromo activists are likening this development to the formation of a new OPDO. The actions and attitudes of Ginbot 7 leadership elevate this suspicion. By sidestepping a genuine negotiation it had started with the core leadership and intellectuals and ‘running away’ with splinter cadres, Ginbot 7 appears to be imitating what the TPLF had done in late 80’s.
It might be the case that, in order to become a dominant voice in its envisioned coalition, Ginbot 7, despite the rhetoric, prefers to have a weaker OLF faction than a united front. But this is a serious strategic blunder. First, Ginbot 7 is not at a stage where TPLF was at the time. TPLF had already effectively defeated the Derg and needed satellite organizations only to legitimize its rule. In contrast, Ginbot 7 is banking on the Oromo support to overthrow Meles. At this juncture, such support cannot be garnered via a parasite organization and deceitful tactics.
Second, unlike the prisoners of war that made up the original OPDO, leaders and cadres of this OLF faction , even if seemingly novice ideologues, are hardcore nationalists who cannot be reduced to a subservient role. Like their predecessors, Ginbot 7 leaders seem to have taken the goodwill of the Oromo for naivety. But this could be a blessing in disguise with a potential to unite the fratricidal OLF factions becoming a catalyst for a popular demand of many diaspora based compatriots.
Hiding behind mountains of failure
Organizationally, the OLF has been on a downward spiral for the last two decades. The release of a ‘new’ program and formation of newer partnerships have, in essence, become a tactical gamble to cover up its organizational inefficiency and strategic blunders. This new faction emerged in 2008 with the promise of ushering in a swift ‘change’ and reigniting the struggle. Three and half years later, it had no results to show for the “change we can believe in.” Thus, in order to remain relevant and renew their contract with their constituency, they have to announce a new initiative.
Similarly, Ginbot 7 emerged by promising to bring down Meles and establish democracy within few years, if not months. Yet, three years later, it had nothing to show for it. Part of its support base is the ‘urban middle class’, a result-oriented constituency that demands return on its money and cannot be satisfied by nationalistic rhetoric alone. Thus, amid their shared desperation, the leaders of the two groups hope to use the alliance to calm their critics and energize supporters.
In search of a shortcut
These newer and more ambitious OLF cadres, fed up with the old and conservative institution, are interested in ‘doing something’ regardless of its consequences and whether it addresses or exacerbates the root causes of the conflict. Likewise, Ginbot 7, whose top leaders are engaged in a bitter personal feud with TPLF leaders, are hell-bent on avenging, by any means necessary, the humiliation they were dealt following the 2005 controversial election.
In order to thrive, the two groups need to access to each other’s resources (political, economic, manpower). The OLF, whose financial support from among its constituency has dried up, seeks to tap into Ginbot 7’s relatively better-endowed constituency. The OLF would also like to penetrate the Amharic-dominated media market in order to reach the urban constituency, Ginbot 7’s mainstay. Ginbot 7 lacks a military capability both in terms of manpower and an area of operation. OLF’s military experience and relative access to Oromo recruits and jungles of Oromia, is indispensable for a possible insurgency.
In addition, the leaders of Ginbot 7, whose ambition was cut short due to the re-alliance of the Oromo elite with the ruling party during the aftermath of the 2005 election, clearly understand the need for an Oromo partner to gain the support of - or at least neutralize - the domestic Oromo constituency.
Despite these needs, they do not expect cooperation to be smooth. The two groups represent antagonistic political communities whose narratives don’t see eye to eye, both in terms of diagnosing the problem and prescribing a solution. They rely on sharply contradictory analysis of the historical root causes of the problem in Ethiopia and have conflicting visions about the future. Bridging this entrenched animosity is a horrendous and time-consuming task beyond the stamina of the two groups under discussion. Thus, bypassing it with minimal and symbolic compromises, while leaving the major differences aside, seems the easy way out.
The appearance of communality between these two groups is not just a preference for quick fix. But it is the inability to learn from strategic mistakes they’ve made just few years back. The leaders of Ginbot 7 did not learn from their debacles with Coalition for Unity and Democracy and few botched attempted ‘operations’ afterwards. By making the same hasty and immature decision like its original ‘coup’ against Dawud Ibsa’s leadership, the OLF faction also demonstrated the same utter lack of self-reflection.
Can this tactical alliance work?
Generally speaking, bringing about regime change through allying forces presumes that
a) each member party brings certain capabilities ( strategies, experience) and resources ( human, material, financial) to the table, and b) the alliance would be sustainable.
Unfortunately, neither the OLF faction nor Ginbot 7 has tangible operational capabilities. Both parties are diaspora-based with little to no organizational visibility on the ground. They lack organizational strength and a feasible strategy to build one. The leaders themselves are not willing to directly engage in the conflict and are resigned to waging a long-distance war.
In other words, both parties bring no tangible strategic resources to the battlefield and their alliance adds little firepower to the opposition camp. There are very few examples historically where an opposition brought down an incumbent without direct action, be it through nonviolence or armed struggle.
This alliance is unlikely to be sustainable either. While avoiding concrete compromise makes it easy to form an alliance, it also paves a way for internal and external actors to break it apart. The two groups are not addressing the contentious issues that divide their respective constituency inviting detractors to poke at these glossed-over differences, stir up controversy and crack the alliance. For instance, within hours of the announcement, the OLF faction was confronted with internal revolt and defection from the rank and file—further depleting its already slim base.
This is in addition to the members and most of the seasoned leadership that had already dissociated itself long before the announcement. It will not be a surprise then if the leadership is forced to rollback its compromises in an effort to reclaim some nationalist credentials. Resorting to nationalistic rhetoric, after causing so much euphoria, will have a dampening effect on Ginbot 7’s constituency—who will pressure its own leaders back to their previous stance. This is exactly what happened to the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD).
Narcissism of righteousness
It’s quite disturbing to observe the ongoing orgy of self-congratulation amongst the ‘unity’ crowd. Ginbot 7 is busy taking credit while its conservative base is elated with glorious victory of their ideology. Unfortunately, the claim is false, and the declaration of victory is erroneous.
Before this announcement, some leaders of Ginbot 7 implied that they had convinced the OLF to change its mind. Such hyperbolic claims might help them collect some credit from their base but ignores such paternalistic attitude can cause serious backlash against the partner they were grooming.
It is true that the emergence of moderate parties, such as Ginbot 7, have been a positive development in improving dialogue between the two constituencies. However, to imply that Ginbot 7 baptized the OLF and helped it see the light of the day is foolish.
Starting in the late 80’s, Oromo nationalism has been undergoing a sustained internal critique. The debates have helped scholars and activists to scrutinize the objective, strategy and external relation of the movement. Hence, the issue of working with Amhara organizations and democratizing Ethiopia had been widely discussed long before Ginbot 7 appeared on the scene, and the discussion continued even when some Ginbot 7 leaders were dismissive of the Oromo struggle. They might be unaware of the internal discussions but how could they forget the fact that AFD, the predecessor to their current initiative, was the brainchild of the OLF? The Oromo leaders did not have to go to jail to recognize the genuine concern of those who worry about the potential danger associated with breaking up of the country.
Both this OLF faction and Ginbot 7 seem to be unaware of this history.
Given that the independence of Oromia has been a nightmare that long haunting the ‘unity’ crowd, it is understandable that the news of the OLF ‘dropping secessionism’ offers a sigh of relief. But what we’re observing is not an expression of relief but rather a declaration of ideological victory.
First, considering the half-hearted announcement is a usual tactical move coming from a small and disgruntled faction, it is too premature to declare a victory. Second, in a situation where there are competing nationalist narratives, such declaration is likely to stir up anger on the other side—weakening the moderates and strengthening the ultra-nationalists. To ensure its political survival, the moderate leadership would be forced to abandon the center.
Third, the sense of victory felt by the unity crowd does not seem to recognize the demographic changes taking place in Ethiopia. Oromo nationalism was built by successfully deconstructing the Ethiopian nationalism. Since 1991, the former has effectively displaced the later in Oromia and as a result an entire generation has been brought up with that narrative. Furthermore, despite its limits, self-rule has allowed the rise of millions of bureaucratic elites who have vested material and political interest in preserving the gains of the Oromo struggle and maintaining the nationalist narrative.
Although OLF was mainly responsible for constructing the Oromo nationalism, it is no longer in control of it. While the absence of a viable alternative political organization still allows the front to make minimal adjustments to the nationalist narrative, any shift that is perceived to endanger the interest of the rising bureaucratic elite faces automatic rejection.
Therefore, Ethiopian nationalism, with its conservative and assimilationist undertone, has little chance of re-establishing itself in Oromia, Ogaden, Sidama, Afar or anywhere else other than some urban areas and the Amhara region. The current elation is an exercise in self-deception, and further cripples Ethiopian nationalism as a unifying ideology by preventing it from transforming itself to adapt to new realities.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going”
The widespread antagonism we’re facing is a legacy of centuries of confrontations. Over this long period of conflict, the land has been drenched with blood and left us with painful memories that need to be recognized, deep-rooted prejudices that must be exorcised, and pervasive political, social and cultural disparities that must be addressed.
This is necessary both for waging a unified struggle against the current dictatorship and for building a democratic, inclusive, and stable country afterwards. In order to be sustainable and effective, alliance of forces need to be built on a solid foundation. Such foundation requires reaching concrete consensus on our collective past, present, and future. Issues of historical legacy had to be addressed head on. The role and share of the constituent parties of the alliance need to be clearly spelt out. The formula for equitable distribution of power and wealth must be developed. And each political block must openly and honestly communicate these compromises to their perspective constituency in order to secure a genuine support from the plurality. As we’ve observed during the Arab Spring and previous transitions, reaching concrete agreement on the rule of the game does not only help depose dictators, but it is also an indispensable factor in ensuring the establishment and consolidation of a democratic order.
Simply put, any initiative that hushes over the past and sends ambiguous messages about the future is doomed to fail. Sadly when they fail, they cause setback to positive gains by depleting trust and complicating issues. As the Oromo proverb goes, “karaan sobaan darban galaaf nama dhiba” or its Amharic version “alebabsew biyarsu barem yimelsu”
*Jawar Mohammed is a graduate student at Columbia University, New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have an independent Oromia state is just an illusion!!!!
This is a well written article exposing the insides of all these trash groups.
First of all never we need to realize that G7 and OLF have completely different ideologies, if they were to gain power (which will never happen) they would fight over everything and agree on nothing. G7 want to desolve the federation. OLF accept it. G7 want to bring back the haileselassie era amhara domination of everything, OLF at the very least want to be included. G7 are full of derg cadres and OLF are separatists who fought derg.
What actually do these two groups have in common?
Both are Eritrean trained armies which have accomplished nothing over the past two decades. Both have extremely loudmouth arrogant supporters in the diaspora, G7 in Washington DC, OLF in minnesota.
OLF got busted in last years bomb plot where the Eritreans tried to ise them to turn Addis into Baghdad. But they all got caught.
They are useless, pathetic, weak. The TPLF by this stage had freed most of Tigray from Derg. They freed all of Ethiopia in 14-15 years of struggle.
Its been 21 years that OLF broke off from EPRDF and in that time they have never even occupied a single Woreda or even a football field.
Ginbot 7 has bern aroind since 1997 under the name EPPF. 14 years of existance they are still eating sand at Sawa.
Really sad and pathetic. The supporters actually believe this OLF announcement was going to change this? It will change nothing.
Gura gura gura bicha. Berhanu is good at talking but not at walking.
FYI Kemal Gelchu and Dawud Ibsa are not jointly leading OLF as you have read.
Kemal Gelchu has actually been put into house arrest in Asmara.
Dead useless organizations.
We have the peoples party EPRDF. I am so thankful we have Meles Zenawi and not one of those arrogant bastards in America.
Jawar looked too untochable to me in his analysis. This is the first atempt among the OLF to shake the grounds and to come as a ’shoking’ news for meles and co. This time it is not about writing a ‘good article’ on a too good article for an ethipian people to do gambling at. Though there are some few good points you raised, you are so quick to critisize and you just look like you are looking at your ‘return on investment’ out of analysing of this too important issue than what it actualy bring to the ethiopian people. By the way, I am not a memeber of any party but I do not also belive that the constituency which ginbot 7 represents is not the middle class that waits for a quick return of his money than what it would for the ethiopian people. That is a very flawed analysis, and who knows may represent what you are as a person.
Mr.Jawar’s article reveals his deep rooted hate for Amhara tribe. It’s typical TPLF propaganda aimed at placing a wedge between Oromo and Amhara.It is not working anymore.We will see soon Amhara and Oromo Officers and soldiers deserting Meles’s military in masses and joining the insurgents to bring down the brutal Tigrean regime soon
THIS IS A WELL ANALYZED AND MATURE ARTICLE EXPLAINING THE REALITIES ON THE GROUND.
YOU DESERVE THE SINCERE APPLAUD AND GRATITUDE FOR THIS AWESOME PIECE OF WRITING, JAWAR.
CONTINUE THE GOOD JOB.
READ AND LEARN!!
“Unfortunately, neither the OLF faction nor Ginbot 7 has tangible operational capabilities. Both parties are diaspora-based with little to no organizational visibility on the ground. They lack organizational strength and a feasible strategy to build one. The leaders themselves are not willing to directly engage in the conflict and are resigned to waging a long-distance war.” (taken from the article)
The only damage dispora can bring is a damage to themselves. Burn down and ear your heart out.
“The OLF program, through all of its amendments from the time of founding to now, left the door open for both options: reforming Ethiopia and establishing an independent Oromia.”
which OLF? and who decided which Oromo organization represents the Oromo people. How will “reforming Ethiopia or independent Oromia” of OLF be any deferent from TPLF’s initial goal of reforming Ethiopia or independent Tigray? And knowing that the Tigrians have at least chosen the best of the two options and in their own way trying to transform Ethiopia, what is the logic in fighting and distracting the country for OLF’s unknown choice that might even be worse than TPLF? in short, why should Ethiopian or even Oromos die for an Organization that doesn’t have a clear vision? I think Jewar although he is trying to portray himself as a neutral analyst he is also trying to impose his narrow secessionist agenda using Ethiopian media. In other words he is exploiting Ethiopian platform for his own end game..But I wish he realizes how his dream is not only impractical but might end up being a living hell for Oromo people.
Ethiopia is blessed and protected by God! Our enemys bite and scratch each other to death. We don’t have to do anything, but lay back with the remote control “our computer, iphone etc..” on hand, and enjoy the show.
I think Jawar needs to do some soul searching, it looks like he is angry and delusional. Deep inside any body can tell he is in favor of the secessionist idea. His argument is more like fictional, to the least a joke.
Your eloquent analysis of the issues cannot be denied. However I am disheartened by the fact that you and all the critics seem to be hell bent on painting the “leaders” of Ginbot 7 and OLF that dared attach their names to this complex but necessary union as mere technocrats whose only wish is to grab power by hoodwinking the other party as well as the unsuspecting public.
Have we as a society fallen so low that we refuse to believe that our compatriots can drop their differences and try to work towards the common goal of human rights, equality and genuine democracy? Isn’t it about time that we celebrate the little victories, take a chance on each other and try to alleviate the plight of our people? Why do we have to dwell on the negative, strive to dismantle and snuff out every scintillate of hope?
It is about time we start being constructive instead of diligently throwing mud over every effort. I fail to see the purpose of soiling the union of Ginbot 7 and OLF using paragraphs full of facts and in some cases unfounded assertions only to conclude with the vaguely constructive piece relegated to the last lines of your lengthy article. I for my part would love to hear your DETAILED suggestion on a viable way forward that is palatable to all parties involved.
To have a united Ethiopia empire is just an illusion!!!!
Jawal. Discard your primitve agenda of balkanizing ethiopia and fight for a democratic ethiopia. Banda woyane is devouring on ethiopia and you are giving here a freelance support to these wormms and deki-looters.
when you have a position you were
honest know when you lost your
postion you want someone to to dead for you
we dont want we are exhausted from
fined for foolish
I really admire your educated analysis of the issue. Personally I am positive on the need to have a workable form of coalition that will help OLF and Ginbot 7 help the people of Ethiopia what it deserves in all its form. But the question, like you said, is “Will this thing work?” Having followed up the reports that that have been coming up after the announcement of the OLF faction, it sounds that enough work is not yet done to bring a real power to overthrow the tyrannic regime of TPLF. Whether OLF drops the agenda to secede Oromiya or not doesn’t really matter in Ethiopian long-term politics unless the real question of the Oromos for proportional share of power and use of resource in Ethiopia. It will only be another postponement. I agree with your assertion that any productive coalition should come based on an honest debate about the narratives of the past and and the present. Whereas any future coalition should be based on genuine compromise centering on proportional distribution of power and resources. I don’t see both of them happening in the latest political development or at least any of the parties didn’t mention about it. If any of them wish to bring a real solution, they need to engage the public on such debates and agree on concrete terms of the future.
At last, I appreciate Jawar’s analysis. I hope leaders of G7 and OLF will benefit from it. I would like to read more from you. Thanks
Wow! What can I say. Jawar has shown the likes of Messay and Prof. Alemayehu how to write comprehensive and clear cut analysis regarding issues affecting Ethiopia. In forming an alliance between groups whose conflict of interest is deep rooted in the history of the interactions between the nations and nationalities that make up the Ethiopian nation is only [possible when both parties have ironed out their differences and chart out their future plans in a transparent manner. What he is saying is organisations need to look into their history, put clearly their short comings and their strengths on the table. It is upon looking at these points that a genuine compromise can be achieved. Glosing over big issues such as the federal arrangement, to mention but one, is not going to take us any further than where we are at present. Let us say all factions of OLF agree to go along with the constitution regarding the nations and nationalities. Where is G7’s input regarding this? Thank you Jawar. It was refreshing to read something without the usual, down with this or kill that slogan that we are accustomed to here.
These days, it is rare to hear honest criticisms to one’s own group or belonging like that of Jawar. The usual rhythm we hear from critics and commentators used to be … “To turn blind eye on the limitations of opposition groups, and massage it with flattery and endless excuses".
Jawar. To hold the bull by its horns is unthinkable in the landscape of the vocal Diaspora’s debating style.
I would really love if the ‘jubilant’ unionists (Berhanu Nega, Messay Kebede, Andargachew Tsige, Fekade Shewakena, Alemayehu G/Mariam, Tamagn Beyene, …) come up with their honest counter-argument on the new OLF ‘program’ in a civilized manner. Given the magnitude of the matter, lauding the issue only through news coverage is far from adequate for the steps ahead of us.
Jawar’s article demonstrates a sharp understanding of the issues at stake. It should invite political leaders and academics for self-reflection towards a possible change of attitudes and actions. Keep up the good analysis Jawar!
I am astonished that Jawar has this negative attitude….I just do not understand how joining hands is a set back….and I just do not understand how Jawar put the main aspiration of the Oromo people is not freedom and equality but separation…. Jawar, I am sorry to say this but you only are good at writing english and not at understanding the essence of what you are writing about…."yeminagerutin ayawukum ena yikir yibelachewu"….or else you are simply some one working for the TPLF…I was so mad at Bereket Semeon when he told you you are shallow minded on Aljazira…he was right…
Mr.Jawar’s article reveals his deep rooted hate for Amhara tribe.
I recommend Jawar’s article to both the OLF and G7 bureaucrat’s to read it in depth. I think it is great contribution for both of them and to all of us to learn from it in an open mind.
I am jealous of his penetrating insight and through knowledge of Ethiopian politics and the courage to speak his own individual perception in this bold and honest way.
Let us see the counter argument in the same empirical way he did than attacking his personality and a would be ulterior motives.
I admire him!
You have undoubtedly written a nice piece of article, though you have demonstrated your partisanship with those who support secession. The Oromo affair as you said need careful and lasting solution. The search for solution therefore has to start somewhere. I think that is what is happening now. It is my wish that the started attempt develop as we go and finally coup up with your recommendation in the last paragraph of your essay.
A very factual and well written analysis by the young man from NYU. In my understanding I don’t think Jawar has any problem with the idea of forming a united front by the two unlikely groups like some of the commentators from the pro unity group pointed out here. what he is saying rather is that We, the pro unity group[and i don’t know if Jawar has picked a side], have declared victory and even worse yet started dankira regeTa when there is actually nothing to celebrate. I agree with him.
When General Kemal Gelchu deserted woyane and crossed the boarder into Artera to join OLF, we declared victory. No significant harm was done to woyane by his abandonment of the military and no significant gain was achieved by olf as a result of General Kemal’s addition to its fold. The olfs that were in Assmera, Minnesota, Oslo and other foreign capitals prior to the general’s change of heart is still there and their agenda of cessation is still alive. They were disorganized and deluded then, and they are still, mostly, deluded fantasizing building an anti-Ethiopia empire at the very middle of Ethiopia herself. Even if Ethiopia become a democratic country, the idea of forcing ethnic Oromos to choose between their country and an imagined empire will be around. Why? Because it is a business for some folks, a hobby for others and a source of comfort for the failed and the bitters in search of a punching bag and scapegoat, which is also why there is still a separatist group in a democratic country like Canada. However, olf’s agenda is never universally accepted by ethnic Oromos who are mostly fierce Ethiopians like their ancestors who had fought along side their compatriots to defend the sovereignty of their country Ethiopia. We have Pro Ethiopia political parties representing a good portion of ethnic Oromos led by Dr.Merara, the Honorable Bulcha[who has resigned recently i believe], Dr.Negaso[all loosely working within the promising Medrek], and even under the umbrella of OPDO which by the way has achieved a lot in short time especially compared to olf. Olf represents the few disgruntled, misinformed, and brainwashed citizens who are mostly living in the west and Artera. Therefore, the recent celebration of G7 and others is indeed ’so much ado about nothing’.
i usually rant and scream when i read an article like this being pro unity ethiopian. but you have such a deep understanding of Ethiopian politics i want to congrat. you for this article. Ethiopian politics is led by self serving sneaks pretending to speak for the people but only interested in power and money. G7 is lead by a rodent named Dr. Birr ahun amtu who is only interested in collecting money for his fat self and has no people backing. i am not sure about the OLF guy mentioned above as i have no idea who he is. but as an ahmara i want to tell you Birr ahun amtu is not liked by most Ahmaras and has no support. my stand is as long as there are no honest politicians around OLF should stand its ground in sccession. but do not trust this evil rodent named birr ahun.
By Boru Jibat*
Inspired by the famous 2011 Arab spring that brought down long time dictators in North Africa, a spirit of collaboration was propped up between various political forces opposing to the current minority rule in Finfinne. Although most of the non-Habesha forces, such as the OLF, ONLF and SLF, have already formed strategic partnerships, such cooperation between Semitic-speaking groups and the rest of political forces in Ethiopia has been non-existent. It was imperative, therefore, to see leaders of some of the Diaspora-based Habesha organizations coming out to media along with political forces from oppressed nations in Ethiopia to underscore the need to act in unison.
The joint radio interview by representatives of OLF and Ginbot 7 at one time kind of planted the seeds of hope for collaboration and voluntary unity. Although it has been constantly proven difficult to find common political position with the Amhara elites’ camp, even with the most progressive elites, the healthy conversation we heard during that interview seemed to have signaled that positive changes might be taking place.
Many, including myself, seriously took this and tried to see light at the end of the tunnel. But, not too long after this joint interview, many of us proved ourselves wrong. Things began to take different course when Mr. Leenco Lata exposed that he was repeatedly approached by Dr. Berhanu Nega to join him to address the Ethiopian community in Minnesota. Leenco Lata is an ex-OLF Deputy Chairman, who currently does not hold any leadership position in the OLF.
It was clear why Dr. Berhanu secretly reached out to Mr. Leenco for such a meeting while he was well aware that Mr. Leenco could not speak on behalf of the OLF. But, he must have naively thought that, given his stature, Mr. Leenco’s appearance alongside with Amhara organization in political stages organized by the later would annoy the Oromo Diaspora, and create confusion and division within the OLF supporters, an opportunity Dr. Berhanu would have loved to exploit. But, both Mr. Leenco and the Oromo Diaspora were too smart to fall into this trap. Then, Berhanu had to rest on a softer target. The subsequent meetings, which he had organized and conducted with the group that were banned from the OLF three years ago, exposed that Ginbot 7 was nothing, but another old-school self-serving Habesha organization, which, as always, was not ready to recognize the rights and needs of nations in the Ethiopian empire.
Habesha groups, no matter who are leading them, cannot break out of the hard shell that blinds them for over a century, and hence, it remains difficult to have a meaningful dialogue with them and build a nation together. The new developments that have lately begun to manifest themselves in the Habesha camp show that the groups may have much deeper trouble when it comes to working with each other as well. The evaporation of Kinijit party from the national political scene following the 2005 election, the continued bitter hostility between Ginbot 7 and the rest of Habesha parties in Diaspora, and the continued in-fighting among the home-based Habesha political parties are testimonies to this.
I hope it is in everyone’s memory that the OLF did whatever it can to help create a new Ethiopia, in which the rights and dignities of all its citizens are guaranteed. That effort was frustrated when the TPLF decided to monopolize power by sidelining all progressive political forces, including the OLF itself. Instead of working with genuine representatives of the people, the TPLF continued to use its surrogates to impose its dominance in the empire. The decision by Ginbot 7 to conspire with the OLF splinters is simply a “copy paste” of this incident, and has once again stalled the possibilities of genuine collaboration between Habesha and Oromo organizations.
In the weeks and months leading to the ‘formal’ announcement of this “unblessed marriage,” we saw 95% of members of this group disassociating themselves from it. Exactly on the same day this marriage was declared, the remaining leaders of the group announced that they were not part of the deal. Kemal Gelchu, Hailu Gonfa, Amin Jundi, Nuro Dedefo and Ahmed Abba Nesha were the only ones in the wedding gown.
However, despite watching its partner dying a slow and awful death, Ginbot 7 still continued with the marriage arrangement because it thought this would undermine the OLF. This action of Ginbot 7, however, was clearly counterproductive. Instead of weakening it, this action rather reinvigorated the OLF camp. It cleared the later of traitors and the divisive agenda they were propagating for the last three years, and once again brought together genuine Oromos. Our people are in renewed spirit and are determined more than ever to rally behind their organization.
This kind of attack is not new to the OLF and the Oromo people. The TPLF regime used all its military and propaganda machinery to try to alienate the OLF, and kill the cause of the Oromo people. It has left no stone unturned to demonize the OLF: rounded up hundreds and thousands of innocent Oromos, tortured and brutally murdered women and children to prepare a fake documentary videos to discredit the OLF, planted and detonated bombs in several hotels in and outside Finfinne and tried to blame it on the OLF, attempted to create a fake OLF, and so on. But, all of them did not work, and the OLF, not only effectively resists this massive campaign, but also stands tall in the Horn of African political scene, and continues to give Meles and cohorts a never-ending nightmare.
Anyone seeking peaceful solution to political stalemate in Ethiopia should be smarter than TPLF and Ginbot 7, and have their compass calibrated. Ginbot 7 was too naive to try to attack the OLF in this way while they knew what this organization and its people had gone through in the last 20 years by successfully enduring massive onslaughts declared on them. Dr. Berhanu’s political compass must be messed up to make him believe that he could manipulate the aspiration of the Oromo people through buying soulless thugs like Kemal, who seemed to never get tired of putting himself up for sale.
There is no reason why Oromo people should worry that Ginbot 7, with this level of thinking and its present organizational capability, would undermine their national struggle. But, we take it to heart that no matter how trivial it is, Ginbot 7 is worse than the TPLF, and its goal is to perpetuate the same political agenda crafted by its fore fathers who brought us to political mess that we find ourselves in.
But, one may wonder why Ginbot 7 has chosen to engage in an activity that undermines mutual trust, hurts the spirit of collaboration and partnership? And why many Habesha elites are rejoicing of such mischievous deed?
The answer to the first question is plain and simple. Ginbot 7 merely wants to restore the Habesha supremacy constituted by the Atse’s by trampling over collective rights of the nations and nationalities for which the oppressed people have paid heavy price. The achievements so far gained are not a gift by anyone, but they were earned through blood and sacrifice. Berhanu and cohorts should have drawn a lesson from the results of the 2005 election, where they were rejected by all oppressed nations because the unity they were propagating with no regard to the rights and dignities of the different nations in the empire did not hold water.
The Oromos and other oppressed nations in Ethiopia have no problem with united Ethiopia, but the peoples should agree and sign in to that unity contract by themselves without any imposition. The Oromos do not hate unity, but, equally, they do not want to remain in forced unity imposed on them. However, they are willing to enter into voluntary union of nations and nationalities to form a new Ethiopia in which the economic and political rights and values of the different nations and nationalities are respected.
The OLF is belligerent to make sure that the Oromos have such right to decide on whether they want to continue as a united country with the rest of Ethiopians or want to go on their own. It has never said, at any time, that it wants to cede Oromia from the rest of Ethiopia. What is increasingly becoming dangerous for Ethiopian unity is, not the OLF’s position of insisting on the right to self-determination for the Oromos and other oppressed nations in Ethiopia, but it is the refusal to recognize the natural rights of the people to determine their own destiny and the blind denial by the Habesha elites of the plights of the Oromos and other nations. Their repeated attempts to distort the genuine questions of the oppressed nations are simply adding a fuel to an already raging fire. This will serve nothing, but only increases animosity, erodes trust, and narrow down the political space for possible partnership and voluntary union.
The reason why majority of the Habesha elites rejoiced with the action of the OLF splinter led by Kemal Gelchu is plain and clear. It is not because such a strategy is going to fortify the Ginbot 7 camp, but because they thought that it would annoy the OLF and the Oromo people. True, it is annoying when one breaks the sacred oath and decides to walk on the blood of our fallen heroes to sell our cause to groups which never liked Oromos. But, both the disappointment of the Oromos and the celebration in the Habesha camp are short lived. Kemal Gelchu served in the OLF only for two years, his continued presence or his dissociation from the OLF does not have a minute effect to the organization. OLF was there before him, has been there since 2008, and is still there after Kemal has surrendered.
Just like the action of Ginbot 7, the action of some Habesha individuals singing the Ginbot 7 dance was equally disturbing. But, this again will not have any impact on the OLF. It also does not benefit the Ginbot 7 camp as well, but it undoubtedly harms the spirit of Ethiopianisim, and highly undermines efforts and opportunities for forming a new Ethiopia that belongs to all of us.
One should question why we did not see a single letter from the Habesha elites protesting the inhuman treatments that the Oromos have suffered under the Tigrean minority rule for the last 20 years, but yet overwhelmed by letters celebrating the marriage of Kemal Gelchu with Ginbot 7? Is it really because this association will bring an end to the TPLF rule or because it is out of animosity for OLF and the Oromo people? Only few people like Mr. Fekade Shewkena can be spared from this condemnation. Mr. Fekade challenged the Habesha camp in his recent post that I thought was well articulated. It does not make a lot of difference on the ground whether the Habeshas protested the imprisonment of the Oromos or not, but it cultivates ground for the country that we aspire to build.
Let me conclude my message by an Oromo saying that goes like this, “Tikseen dhiyootti dhiiftee fagoo barbaacha dhqxi.” The opportunity for genuine collaboration to form a united Ethiopia is slipping away by days. Continued neglect for dignities and rights of nations and nationalities, and dirty political tricks cannot save the country from the political dilemma it finds itself in, but will only further complicate the already complex political landscape and make chances of a voluntary union remote.
* Boru Jibat can be reached at email@example.com
Jawar, there is a time and a place and I feel this article is quite untimely. By the way you write better than you can speak. Your analysis should have pointed out as to why OLF leaders can not learn from the error of their ways. What is so fundamental that they can not have a change of heart. You have devoted ninty percent of your analysis on talking about completely unfounded allegations and ten percent on the solution for the Crisis in race relations.
You say there is no shortcut to any place worth going. Then you say and I quote “Over this long period of conflict, the land has been drenched with blood and left us with painful memories that need to be recognized, deep-rooted prejudices that must be exorcised, and pervasive political, social and cultural disparities that must be addressed". I agree with you there but what must be done now to that effect? You suggest nothing other than saying let the people of Ethiopia suffer for a little bit longer. In my opinion what has been started is the begining of a long journey to achieve what you just described above. I understand that divisions and ethnic mind set that existed for centuries are not going to vanish in weeks. It is going to take a generation’s life time but only in a truly democratic Ethiopia.
I do not understand your analysis of Ginbot 7. Do you know what I do not know? Please do not get me wrong, I am not a memeber of any organisation but one can only judge an organisation from its guiding principles and manifesto. You seem to give a lot of importance to background history of individuals. I would have more respect for your analysis if you were to give me a guiding principle of G7 that you do not approve and supporting evidence that the leaders are power hungry.
Furthermore when you decide to publish this article I am not sure what your intentions are.
Two questions loom large in my mind:
1) Are you self serving to the extent that you do not really care about the effect your writing imposes on the readers?
2) Do you have a deep seated prejudice and hatered against non Oromo Ethiopians? And are you a secessionist that you can not see one democratic Ethiopia.
Jawar, I have read some of your articles and I have heard you talk on a number of issues and I liked it all but having read this article I am sorry to say you have got a lot of growing up to do.
the more i see this issue the more i understand that the recent drama of OLF having a change of heart was produced and directed by shabia in asmera.
the bottom line as far as eritrea is concerned is the removal of tplf/eprdf and once that is achieved by a “unity” of OLF and others, the sky is the limit, including the independent of oromia ala eritrea..
don’t be angry at jowar for being honest and critical of those who want to, knowingly or unknowingly, fool us.
Here we go again.
To Jawar, those who stand for untied Ethiopia are a “crowd.” What about the tribalists that rally behind his cause? Well they are the “…ists.”
To him Ibsa is more Oromo than Kemal. Funny, ehh?
To Jawar, only the youth, the bureaucrats, technocrats, and business-person in what he likes to describe as “Oromiya,” “Sidama,” and “the Ogaden” are prone to change. What about those in the other kililistans? Don’t worry they are frozen in Jawar’s mind.
To him, Dr. Berhanu Nega’s and Andargachew’s opposition to Meles’s tribal minority regime is nothing more than a personal feud. What about Ibsa’s and Jawar’s opposition to Meles? Well, that is a totally different matter.
To Jawar, Kemal’s only motive is to gain access to the “Amhara-controlled” media. But who forbade Jawar and his likes to organize their media in the land of the free? For the likes of Jawar who grew up blaming the Amhara for everything under the Sun, the answer is simple: keep blaming the Amhara even in America.
To me, Jawar is an infantile politician in a different garb. He has a long way to go. Obviously, attending Stanford and Columbia have not helped him at all. It may be about nature rather than nurture.
Jawar Mohamed’s ‘’ MUCH ADO'’ TO STAND STILL FOR EMOTIVE REASONS
I read that Jawar Mohamed is one of a few who stepped forward to defend the status quo to stand/ remain still under we are ‘ Oromos in pursuit of ethnic redemption through a state of our own’ sort of logic.
As someone who has been reading his several pieces through website and who give him some credit although I always felt his writings lacked depth, I am moderately disappointed.
1. Jawar and his thinking reflect the bondage that kept Oromos in misery while mocking victory is declared by the mafia TPLF/EPRDF regime.
Jawar has hinted that MZ has a federal arrangement?
Really? Where? Why thousands are in jail then? Why is Jawar a refugee?
2. Jawar makes reference to Ginbot 7 and Abyssinia of a sort of a plot?
Against who has no answer? It cannot be some plot when the members of the same group break away citing tangible differences.
3. Jawar seems to argue that there is yet a kingdom to come under the outdated OLF agenda that militants pursue.
But, Jawar forgets that there is no a mandate for such a delusional and costly adventure for liberation.
Jawar’s piece reminded me of the quote I used for my MASTERS’ Thesis in Sociology from Eric Gellner on nationalism, ‘’ Cold Reasons against the Dark Gods'’, 1972):
‘’The central mistake committed both by the friends and enemies of nationalism is the supposition that it is somehow natural. The man has a nationalist just as he has a height, weight, sex, name, blood group etc.
….they wish to live with those of the same nationality'’-
Well, if the supposition of wishing to live with the same group is realistic, Jawar did not have to be an academic
from the comfort of a refuge!
The New OLF is where Oromos wish to be-A democratic Ethiopia!!
The facts on the ground as presented by Jawar seemed too sorrow to swallow for many proponents of unity. However, in my opinion, unified struggle to bring about democracy and respect for humanity in Ethiopia will work only when it is founded on realities on the ground than mere imaginations. I just don’t understand why others labor so hard to tell the Oromos what’s good for them. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Oromos can speak for themselves and other role should be to speak for their own. I am in favor of forming a strong coalition among opposition forces. I believe no democratic solution works for Ethiopia unless the Oromos are at the center of the struggle as it is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. jawar said it well. No need to cover up the facts and wish miracle to happen. As an Oromo myself, I know that the people of Oromiya want to see proportionally represented in ruling the country, equitable use of it’s resources, use by it’s own language and have the liberty and freedom to decide what’s best for himself. Regarding the contributions of OLF in the past for the Oromos, please don’t try to undermine it. I guarantee you that, this move will offend the vast majority of the Oromos. It’s not the fake OPDO that the Oromos to be proud of it’s culture, language, education and identity as it was before the Amhara kings forcefully colonized and deprived the people of all it’s rights. This is the result of a bitter struggle of the people led by the OLF. Still those minor changes that are coming to Ethiopia today under the repressive region are as well the impacts of the OLF. The TPLF knows that by heart that’s why whatever OLF does even at it’s weakest time is its worst nightmare.
Thank you Jawar. You have the opportunity to influence and history will recognize that tomorrow. use your chance to impact for the better. Like I said, I have no problem to see OLF work with G7 or anybody else. But not at all at the expense of the Oromos.
Please keep on following your heart and intellect regardless of what those people who don’t have slightest clue about Oromos demand was, is and will be and those who deliberately work to overshadow the bitter straggle of the proud people of Ormiya. I wish those individuals trying to champion coalition understand that.
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