Oromo Heroes and Heroines and the Political Playing Field they Paved


In the month of April, Oromo communities remember Oromo Heroes and Heroines Day. To be exact, April 15 is generally accepted as Oromo Heroes and Heroines Day.


The Oromo people did not have the chance to collectively decide whether to have Oromo Heroes and Heroines Day or if it should be on April 15 every year. However, the fact that countless Oromos have paid various levels of sacrifice for the Oromo people’s liberty is well known to both the proponents as well as the opponents of the Oromo people’s right to liberty. It is also not without a reason that Oromo nationalists and at least one Oromo political organization, the OLF, observe Oromo heroes and heroines day every year even before the Oromo people regain their liberty.


The question of who may be an Oromo hero is also what the Oromo nation or its elected representatives will identify and remember in due course. Until then, one can broadly consider Oromo heroes to include all Oromos who paid what they can in the effort to restore the Oromo people’s right and protect what has been gained without any expectation of personal gain or payback. Visible examples are those who fought against Abyssinian conquer of Oromo country, members of the Macha and Tulama Self-help Association that were targeted and punished by the Hailesellassie regime, members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), other Oromo political organizations, and individual nationalists that became targets for speaking or believing in their conscience.


The opponents of the Oromo people’s right to liberty have made all attempts to punish countless Oromo nationalists and made them pay various forms of sacrifices. Yet their sacrifice has not been in vain. It rather spread out to form a political playing field that is propped up by the hearts of countless Oromos and became a field readily visible to the eyes of the international community. Needless to mention that Oromo cause is not without a fundamental foundation.


This political playing field that was level enough at its formative stage has now become a thorny field to those that show any tendency of abusing it. The field that became wide open at its early stage gave some the opportunity to advance their personal or group interests at the expense of the nation’s interest. Naturally, in a field that is so wide open, it may not be surprising if some demonstrate a tendency of showing off their energy to outrun others without proper compass. It may not be surprising if some thought it a wit to plant some thorns or lay some obstacles just for the temporal pleasure of seeing others on the march get hurt by the thorns they planted or the obstacles they laid.


When taken back to observe those in the political playing field, it is not difficult to see various characteristics of some of the players in this political field that has minimal rule. Anyone with a little political experience can readily identify those that are committed to advance the cause as much as they can as well as those that have the tendency to abuse the very cause they purport to stand for. While praising those that have earnest commitment, the observers should remind the weak mix in the crowd, for the sake of their integrity, that this field has become thorny in many directions except one. The directions that have become thorny are marked Personal Interest, Group Interest, Political Rookie, Mischievousness, Duplicity, and Girrisaa Way. The only way the observers can see without thorns is what is called Bringing back Liberty to the Oromo People Way. Its name is long as its path is broad that can accommodate many on the march so that they may travel smoothly side by side or following each other, as they wish.


The Personal Interest Way is outside Oromo culture in which anyone doesn’t nominate oneself for a leadership position but the people elect their leaders. That is an attribute of the Gada system. In fact, it is shame to be on the stage of the Oromo people and speak to them without having been elected by them. However, having gone to different schools of thoughts, there may be individual Oromos prone to go to the Personal Interest Way that has become thorny in Oromo political playing field.  


Group Interest Way opens the door for group agenda that may become under the surface for others. No one can blame any disclosed group interest since any group can do what it wishes as it wishes so long as it doesn’t interfere with the movement towards the Bringing back Liberty to the Oromo People Way. However, it is the undisclosed Group Interest Way that may show the tendency for the interference that we should be after. That paves the way for unnecessary burden to collectively understand what one group has cooked. It is philosophically the wrong way that leads to the thorny field.


Political Rookie Way is a sensational short distance drive. The direction for this way is led by Oromo political rookies that have the conviction but not the experience, far-sightedness, or necessary equipment called proper education. They are quick to judge without understanding or making the necessary analysis. They want to get on the freeway without reading to identify the entrance signs to the freeway. They are so weak in reading the signs of how to get on or when to get on the freeway. Political Rookie Way becomes a feeder road for Personal Interest Way or Group Interest Way. The drivers on the Personal Rookie Way sometimes end up at a dead end not only confused but also deserted by the drivers on the Personal Interest Way or Group Interest Way because the latter two group of drivers can read the signs better than them and know where and when to make a turn as well as how to make the turn.


The drivers on Mischievous Way tend to think that going around the curve or playing see-saw makes them succeed in their ventures. In fact, some of them have no shame to utter that those that drive on the Mischievous Way are often those who succeed. They may also show a tendency of hit and run, especially those they fear of seeing their mischievous drive, and then cry to make the victim appear the victimizer. They forget that this is Oromo political playing field built on well developed Oromo culture that is resistant to that kind of trait. As the drivers on this way play their see-saw, repeatedly demonstrating their highs and lows, they make themselves appear to more people from the front as well as from the back. Their mischief, a shameful character among the Oromo, are the thorns they planted to which they will fall victims.


While there is nothing philosophically wrong with Duplicity Way, practically and at this point in the struggle of the Oromo people, it leads to more confusions than give answers. For instance, the struggle of the Oromo people falls into three camps. They are generally known as the liberation fronts, the oppositions and the collaborators with the TPLF/EPRDF government. Some recent developments are the attempt by the liberation fronts to renew their commitment under ULFO and the formation of a notable new opposition. While the coalescing of the liberation fronts is encouraging in the fact that it is attempting to overcome the thorn of Duplicity Way, it is not clear whether the formation of a new legal opposition will reduce the thorns in Duplicity Way. Critical comparison of the political philosophy of the Oromo National Congress (ONC) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) shows no substantial difference. In fact, the latter seems to be a brainchild of the former, born nine years, instead of months, later. Both fall within the framework of solving Oromo question within Ethiopia. Indeed, OFDM seems to demonstrate its youthful political experience in this camp by calling for some sort of Affirmative Action policy for the Oromo people, when inferred from a recent interview with its chairman. This is at a time when the ONC is demanding premiership position for the Oromo people, a sound and far better rationale. If there is a way to solve the Oromo people’s question through collaboration with the TPLF, it is better to join the OPDO and strengthen it instead of forming another OPDO under the TPLF. By the same logic, to solve the Oromo people’s question through the advocacy of the Oromo people’s right in Ethiopia, it would have been better to work with the ONC than forming a similar party that is politically less far-sighted than the ONC. Any Oromo party that advocates solving Oromo question in Ethiopia should make its priority to advocate that the Oromo people are the head of the family of nations and nationalities in Ethiopia and should assume meaningful political power. That realization alone should have made the founders of OFDM strengthen the ONC by joining it than form this new party with lame excuses that do not escape critical analysis by any measure. In addition, when the TPLF/EPRDF government wanted to move Oromia’s capital from Finfinne to Adama, it was a stage set by the ONC that gave a space to air grievances by some of those who now formed the OFDM. They must have looked a better force when they were together then. Similarly, they must have looked a better force together in the course of political movement as well. Duplicity Way gives an opportunity to open the door for political takeover exercise to which kind the Oromo political playing field has become thorny. This way is specifically relevant in view of the developments since the formation of Matcha and Tulama Self-Help Association from which the OLF inherited the Oromo people’s struggle, as Obbo Lenco Lata noted in his recent interview. It is also relevant in view of the history of OSA whose founders now find themselves on the sidelines, as well as the history of United Oromo in North America (UONA) whose founders found themselves politically marginalized.


Girrisaa Way lacks proper compass. It is not marked well for those who can and are willing to go on stampede in Oromo political playing field at a moment’s notice. For a moment, this is a dangerous group of stampede since the direction in which it is going is unpredictable and its exercise identifies no old or new comrades. It has a very short memory of the Bringing back Liberty to the Oromo People Way. It gets busy on the stampede and does not know when it ends up in the thorny field and then becomes unable to recuperate.


The thorny field has become thorny enough to even the opponents of the Oromo people’s right to liberty. To them, the pretension of representing Oromos in theory when they are not representing them in practice is a political cleverness. Two incidental victims of this direction are the TPLF and its leader Meles Zenawi. Under a close observation, both the TPLF and the people of Tigray are today politically in a far worse situation than when they started the struggle. Both have severed their relationship with the Oromo, the Afar, and the Amhara peoples, among others, as well as their kin in Eritrea. They have been fractured into two camps, and for the foreseeable future, their political significance in East Africa will be minimal. Their downturn in political dominance started when they stepped in Oromo land whose political playing field was paved by Oromo heroes and heroines. Now, it is revealing to observe a recent plea for Meles Zenawi by an Oromo observer through what he called diplomacy being the finesse of politics. All these, we are observing in a little over a dozen years since Meles and his party marched to the center blaming the center for the ills of the political problems in Ethiopia. How interesting is it then to seek a safety net in the center after spending a dozen years in the center trying to govern every where from this center.


The other potential culprit that seems to be preparing itself for the thorny field in Oromo political playing field is a new political party called Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). Using the code words of unity and democracy, yet having the virtue and courage to challenge the status of Oromia as a regional state, this group is on an attempt to march to the south after having cooked its political course in the north, as was revealed by its leader, Hailu Shawul, sometime back in his interview with one of the private newspapers in Ethiopia.


The Eritreans have also been stepping in the political playing field paved by Oromo heroes and heroines and their feet that stepped in this field don’t seem to be all healthy. The economic resources they reportedly gathered from Oromo land, such as coffee which they exported to other countries as foreign currency earner, are reported to have become a source of the ongoing conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Not only is Eritrea’s leadership divided, but the impasse of the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is reportedly hurting Eritrea’s economy. In fact, the monitoring of the Temporary Security Zone by the UN forces has been costing its coffers millions of dollars for years now. It is a cost that may not be avoided without careful consideration of the Oromo political playing field. In deed, this field may have projected itself onto the UN table disguised as the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.


In the final analysis, Oromo political playing field paved by Oromo heroes has become a firm ground and is on a historical path to the final destination of Bringing back Liberty to the Oromo People Way. Both the Independence Way and the Democratization of Ethiopia Way can be led to the final destination of this common highway of Bringing back Liberty to the Oromo People Way. The decision of where to go from there should be left to the Oromo people.