Gauging Internal Strength on the Road to Freedom

The political dynamics of the Horn of Africa region appears to be clearer now than ever before. The quest for freedom from different directions are more laud and heard by more ears than, say, ten years ago. By the collective quest for freedom and justice, dictatorship is being scrapped off its machinations of deceiving both its subjects and the outside world. Both the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) are no longer enjoying comfortable following even from their constituents. 

On the other hand, the Oromo people’s quest for freedom and justice is more widely acknowledged today than ten years ago. The global quest for democracy everywhere and the internet have become the unwitting contributors to the Oromo people’s struggle. The Gada system, which some researchers call one of the most structured and democratic systems in the world, is in consonance with the global quest for democracy. The internet has become an excellent means of communication where falsehood is scrutinized and the truth is appreciated. It has brought and is bringing to light the just cause of the Oromo people to the global community, in a very fast fashion for that matter. The ongoing discussion by Professor Muhammad S. Megalommatis on EthioIndex’s Medrek ( forum is a case in point. The fact that the Oromo people will achieve their liberty and become the major players in the politics of the Horn of Africa region is a foregone conclusion. What some quarters are still struggling with is the inability to absorb this reality. 

As we look at a better future for the Oromo people and stability and peace in the Horn of Africa region, gauging our internal strength should not be left as tomorrow’s homework. As in any other people, there are weak links in our nation. We can easily identify four of them: 1) lie and the liars, 2) power saboteurs, 3) the yes only people, and 4) the silent smarty who can easily fashion their stance in such a way that when things go wrong, they did not have any hand in it or when things go right, their silence helped. The last group still has the illusion of solving a problem through silence. All these undesirable characters and characteristics should be rooted out on the road to freedom. It is a duty that should not wait for the days after freedom. 

It is unnecessary to look into how bad qualities these elements are in freedom movement. All these groups may think that they can easily bypass Oromo rich culture of Safu or norm. Such has led to failures of some groups and the signs of their failures are already playing themselves out. At one time, some of them tell us and in fact the whole world through their publications that only a few need to know the secrets of the struggle. At other times, when faced with the reality, they come out and tell us that there should be no secret from the public. More interestingly, we are told that their problem is in which direction to take the nation, instead of following the direction the nation wants them to take. They are good at teaching the Oromo people's question is a colonial question but do not show without ambiguity how this colonial question should be solved. As they present themselves to be the experts at colonial question, they have the morale to paint the pre-colonial tri-color flag of our nation as the creation of the enemy. Even more interestingly, they do not bother at all to understand the distinction between a national flag and an organizational flag, both of which have their own importance that can't and should not be interchanged at the behest of anyone or group but the nation. 

Such groups have also been confused between the system and the leadership that work. They fail to understand the rationale that the system that works is far stronger than a group of leadership. Hence, instead of working first to fix the system, they focus on the replacement of the weak leadership that is a product of a malfunctioning system. When asked about rejuvenating the Gada system within their organization, they become absolutely mute. However, when power transfer that involves other Oromo political organizations is raised, they join in the chorus. The classic scapegoat for the weakness of such individuals is Gobana Dacce who committed a grave mistake over a hundred years ago. Menelik showed Gobana his gun and the later used it against his own people with little or weak vision. Other Oromos have committed similar crimes and are still committing but they are outside the sphere of criticism of these groups. If they mean what they preach, it doesn’t matter whether Gobana is Gobana of the Gun or Gobana of the Book, both right and left. In fact, the later groups are those that are driving our nation into Europe’s version of the Dark Age, only if their conscious understands it. 

These are the challenges that must be tackled sooner than later. Oromo civic and scholarly organizations need to cultivate the culture of addressing such challenges. In their current state, they leave a big room for improvement. For instance, the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) is already trailing, instead of moving with or spearheading, in the scholarly discourse in Oromo politics. When differences in the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leadership surfaced to the public in 2001, OSA’s input in addressing the problem in its scholarly capacity was minimal. Many people expressed their disappointment at OSA 2002 conference since it went almost mute on the issue. There wasn’t much debate at its 2003 conference, either. It is at its 2004 conference that it started appreciable involvement on this subject. Better late than never, and it is in this sense that it is trailing behind. Without exaggeration, the Oromo cyber forum may have done more than OSA in this respect. Nonetheless, OSA’s current inclination for a scholarly debate on the problems should be well accepted. It is not in the custom of mainstream civic or scholarly association in the Horn of Africa region to publicly criticize the leadership of their respective freedom movement organizations. 

On the subject of studying the system that may work for the Oromo people, OSA should not take any comfort in learning from interested foreign scholars that the Gada system is one of the most structured and democratic systems in the world. If not better, OSA should have done at least as much study on the Gada system. Of course, it can excuse itself from research on this system thinking that it is outdated and should be modified to fit in the “modern world”. Such attitude emanates from forgetting the fact that the Gada system has its own mechanism of moving with time through modification of its existing rules or introduction of new rules every eight years. In its over two Gada-term existence, OSA could have proposed modifications to existing Gada rules and/or enacting of new rules. 

Finally, a new development all need to observe is that Oromo struggle has now three distinct dimensions: two major political camps and an Oromo free press with a sense of responsibility. The free press is the product of these political camps that are at times blinded in playing the win-lose game instead of the win-win fair play. This free press has already shown well sharpened pens that all groups should be wary of and do the right thing. No group should freely and irresponsibly play any game that is detrimental to our nation.