These days we are starting to hear twisted tales in foreign language about the OLF from irresponsible veterans, novices and the anonymous. With applauds from losers and divisive element they are fired up going out of limits. This writer believes poking at the past only reminds forgotten wounds. For the honorable maintaining sprit de corps and being truthful has no alternative. When the outlook of martyrs is being distorted and they cannot rise to defend themselves it is believed that this note may serve as an affidavit to some extent. The past must not be something we hide or exhibit to avoid or grab present disadvantage or advantage respectively. When in such a game the past is trimmed or manipulated to fit rather than reflect the whole truth it becomes deceit in the first degree. Lack of consistency in our daily relation could expose a picture of our character which we strive to hide. Writing this the writer is only fulfilling his role as a gadamoojjii the terminal class with full right to freedom of expression yet with reservation.
It is now over two centuries since Oromiyaa was colonized and four decades since unified struggle for independence begun. Leader of the occupiers that declared himself “The Emperor of Ethiopia and of the Gaallaa Countries” (Addis Ababa treaty 1886) imposed on the Oromo nation the harshest rule that is hard to imagine. It is said he reduced the population by half amputating, killing and enslaving. Since then, four tyrants changed hands with no less cruel treatment. Despite heavy handed total control over the nation’s life the occupiers were not able to gag the oppressed for ever. Oromo revolution was ignited when indignation of being treated as the underling in ones own country, and the bitter life created by undue exploitation, oppressions and abuse of rights to dehumanize the once dauntless and proud Oromo reached an intolerable level. Those that participated and paid the ultimate sacrifice believed that their leaders and comrades will remain committed to the cause they vowed allegiance together and defend the organization against all abuses, defamations and unwarranted smear campaigns until victory or until their last breath. But it is heartbreaking to see the opposite.
Oromo uprising did not occur all at ones but the one consolidated by OLF was nation wide and a solid reflection of the plight of the nation. Under Political objective paragraph of the initial OLF program it was stated clearly that the fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self determination and liberation from oppression and exploitation of the Oromo people, and the establishment of “Democratic Republic of Oromia”. OLF then publicly asserted Oromiyaa being a colony of Ethiopia and relegated all other Oromo political groups as Nafxanyaa generated formations (Bakkalcha Oromo issue number 1).
Ethiopian youth had struggled for so many democratic principles. But finally they ended up in fragmented line of struggle of which socialist and national liberation ideas were the leading ones. Those were the ones that saw simmering of national questions in the empire. Habashaa Diaspora tried to nip the idea in the bud but in vain. So, some tried to including with conditions, “the right of nations to national self determination” in their respective programs to control further damage. Many hoped adherence to class struggle will overshadow “narrow nationalism” in process of the struggle. In their practices they did not show beyond doubt that they believe in equality of peoples of the empire. OLF was an independent liberation organization. Its demands were based on history and predicaments of Oromiya not on phraseology contest with contemporary organizations.
Oromo revolutionaries were products of the pan African movement era. They believed the liberation of Oromiyaa will complete the liberation of Africa. In foreign relations section of its program as amended in 1976, OLF had indicated its support for genuine unity of peoples of Africa and the possibility of working to bring about union with other nations on the basis of equality, respect for mutual interest and the principle of voluntary association (section VII, articles 7&8) . This was the position of Oromo revolutionaries as opposed to propaganda of Darg supporters and other chauvinist.
Oromo liberation movement had been for independence of Oromiyaa from the outset. The term “magganxal (“to sever” to mean secession), is a word intentionally used by the enemy and its running dogs to undermine the nation’s history of dependency. It doesn’t smell good when it comes out of the mouth of Oromo activists. It was a demand for independence under which uncountable heroines and heroes were sacrificed.
The roadmap for the struggle and the tactics and strategies designed and the sacrifices made were all consensus based. But since then many apologists of colonialism have tried to give different interpretations and contort history of that august beginning. There could be revisions and amendments with changing times but to try to twist the fundaments of the initial program to fit an afterthought or to defend the indefensible is despicable. If revision of the original idea is genuinely felt necessary every body is entitled to own opinion and OLF constitution also provides procedures for it.
OLF is an organization of volunteers that joined it knowing what is expected of them. Since then millions of members of the young generation had joined the struggle for liberation of the fatherland and are still rallying in masse. They clearly know whether they are struggling for the ideals in original OLF constitution, which was independence, or for revised version of renegades. How the struggle begun and who started it is now a matter of history. The nation lauds the first steps but what matters for now is not the past but the present. Strategy and tactics have to consider present conditions without losing track of national objective. Would you as an activist condone those that say, “It was not our intention to demand for independence and so we beg for mercy from the occupier for past mistakes”? Or, those that say “No, the leaders of occupation and aspirants have to ask for forgiveness for a century of inhuman treatment. Then only can the nation talk with them about solutions”. Now leave aside what happened yesterday and go ahead with your choice. There are still millions who are ready to take the struggle for independence to the finish line. Each generation will make its free choice irrespective of “were and were not” in its history. But for quislings dependent people always fought for independence. Activists should declare where they stand now not where they were and who they were yester day. It is better to seal and put aside yesterday for history.
The struggle had so far registered several remarkable achievements. The hope is more glittering ones are yet to register. Had it not been for OLF the name of Oromo, Oromiyaa and their leaders could not have been a household name in the empire and the world that matters. The fascistic repressions that are directed against innocent Oromo nationals with allegation of being OLF by cowardly occupiers are lamentable.
That is a price to be paid for liberty without which it will be difficult to call oneself human. It is either absorbing insults and injury unexposed or facing open enemy rage resisting. OLF exists on the ground and in the hearts and minds of all nationals. No threat, imprisonment, killing, torture or treachery can erase it. Twisting facts in order to cover up ones weakness and failures may put Oromo wisdom under question. OLF did not operate to its full capacity because of justifiable as well as unjustifiable shortcomings in implementing policy. One has to admit these rather than sacrificing Oromo struggle to satisfy own unproductive opportunistic moves. If that is considered as tactics to win alien sympathy it is a naïve one for it lacks clarity and strategic backing to fool any one. It must be known that there is individual and collective responsibility for ones past.
Oromo loves peace. But peace cannot be achieved by the desire of one side alone. For this reason the Oromo have first to be in a position to enforce peace agreements if any. A solid organization and none vacillating and committed members are indispensable for the purpose. In the past agreements had fallen apart and the consequences were immeasurable. OLF needs to keep its house in order before going out to shake hands. It is funnier when a splinter unashamedly claims the name of the whole to sell itself to third parties. Those know it is forged but still useful for their propaganda. For them a divided OLF is a blessing when they themselves are in crises.
So far it is only OLF that is pressured to make peace with Ethiopian government irrespective of the outstanding Oromo question for independence. That means it is the victim that is being told to shut up and continue to live under occupation. Traditionally no one can live in peace with killer of his kin unless matters are settled through gumaa rituals. It was up to the victimizer to take the first move to absolve itself. Still that must be the procedure to bring peace between victims and victimizers. The occupier, the go betweens and facilitators all fail to consider the disfranchisement, abuses and genocide perpetrated on the Oromo for over a century. The Oromo question could be resolved only when its demand for independence is the main subject of a peace agenda. To suggest that the victim accept alien constitution and take oath of allegiance to the occupying force will be unfair an unacceptable by any standard.
The problem is not only arrogance of the tyrant but also lack of firm stand by the organization elites and failure of peace makers in understanding the Oromo question. More than any thing else existence of groups embedded in the organization that do not believe in what they preached had affected progress in the national struggle. Because of them Oromo cause remained misunderstood in many quarters. Be as it may, to derail the struggle they may play any card but when it comes to the sacred name “OLF” it will never be smooth for saboteurs. Many have fallen and several are mobilized to continue the struggle under it. Therefore no one has the mandate to modify its kaayyoo or sign its death warrant.
The Oromoo question is the question of freedom and independence. It is a question of empowering the people to exercise its right of decision making in matters concerning it. It is not a question of competing for power in administration of the empire. That was their difference with organizations of the seventies and that remained the difference with OPDO, OPCO, WAFIDO and many others. They are loyalists while OLF is a challenger. Any group or entity that tries to bring the Ethiopian Government or any other organization together with the genuine OLF has to start from that premise. Then only would the subject of discussion and expected result get clarity. No surrender is acceptable as long as Oromiyaa remained a colony. Lessons should have been learnt from Ethiopianists that utterly failed when trying to delegitimize the true OLF by deceptively using the arm of Minnesota court of justice.
The OLF has a standing policy to discuss peaceful resolution of conflict between Oromiyaa and Ethiopia with any one in power in the empire. Whether such a force has a constitution or not, that it is occupying Oromiyaa on behalf of Ethiopia is fact. For the purpose it uses its own laws that existed without subjects’ endorsement. They had no choice than obeying them for fear of repression. Therefore the relation of the colonized and the present constitution is not an issue for talks. Any other precondition for talks that affects inalienable right of the Oromo is out of questions. Any negotiation between the government and OLF should be on how to implement article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution. To start working towards that needs courage and good faith on both sides and on the side of those that try to bring them to a peace table. That only could guarantee future peace and prosperous life for all.
The way national liberation movements and multinational organizations view the Mallas regime are different. The multinational organizations want Minilik’s throne on which he is sitting by any means possible. His recognition of existence of nations and nationalities other than theirs were also considered as betrayal of heritages of the scramble for Africa. National liberation organizations had no interest in the throne but ask him to take it out of Oromiyaa. They take to be recognized as a people not as gift of a Nafxanyaa but natural law. They demand from him the secession of occupation. He has to pack and leave Oromiyaa for Oromiyaans. This they believe could materialize peacefully unless the colonizer insists on violence.
The OLF as an entity had not amended or drawn a constitution since 1998. If there is any to be claimed it is only as illegitimate as the claimers; therefore null and void. Until Congress of all OLF convenes and make changes the goal of the OLF is only that enshrined in 1998 constitution and documents. So far except for those that went on between delegates to Kora Sabaa (National Congress), let alone debates, forum prepared for public debate concerning question of Oromiyaa independence was not heard of. Those we know were concluded domestically and in the Diaspora before the founding of OLF. Casual discussions and informal discourses between individuals or groups could go on ad infinitum. We do not know if there are those conducted by conspirators. Those allergic to kaayyoo were not courageous enough to bring forward ideas outside the main stream thinking for debates. But other tactics might have been used to disseminate doubt among the membership resulting in slowing down of activities. It is only recently that they gathered the courage to express their dissension; still they did not bring it forth for public debate.
That was like ending “their cold war” and declaring globalization what ever the consequence could be for the nation and their own honor. Because of their procrastination and reckless actions the organization is fractured in a way that delights the enemy. Despite that there still remain those who are loyal to the initial national kaayyoo never to stoop for the occupiers. The kaayyoo had passed to the next generation of revolutionaries and there is no worry for continuity of the struggle for independence. But for now to jubilation of its enemies OLF is hurt but is certainly recuperating.
Unbearable suffering of the Oromo people for over a century ignited Oromo revolution four decades ago. The major demand of the revolution was the recognition of the right of national self determination up to and including independence and formation of Democratic Republic of Oromiyaa. As a proviso the possibility of working for unity of African people and union with other nations was included. The present Ethiopian government has included in its supreme law “the right of nations to national self determination”. Any peace resolution to bring an end to the conflict by negotiated settlement must reflect the spirit of that provision. It will be a referendum held accordingly that can conclusively settle the issue for this round. So far they are only hypnotized Oromo groups that are applying to be Ethiopians while the Ethiopians had never come out with an offer. Some wrongly accuse OLF about fewer people massacred by unknown culprits and immorally exhibited by TPLF for propaganda purposes while they want the Oromo to forget the ongoing genocide against them and the hand cutting, tongue cutting, breast cutting, burnings etc whose blood did not dry yet. The blood of innocent people Oromo or non-Oromo will not remain in vain. OLF does not live munching on the past but will survive all machinations and lead the nation to victory despite obstacles created by chauvinists, apostates and quitters.
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.