Unity of Purpose: A Historic and Timely Call to End TPLF’s Tyranny in Oromia

The tyranny of the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) in Oromia continues. The decision to remove Oromia’s institutions from Finfinne, expelling hundreds of Oromo students from higher learning institutions, closure of high schools in many places in Oromia and killing a high school Oromo student all happened in a few months. The latest news reports that over 700 Oromo students of Jimma University have been arrested after their planned peaceful demonstration was dispersed before it started. Some university officials in Ethiopia appear to have taken up on themselves the duty of government police. The president of Jimma University seems to even doubt the identity of these students when he refers to them as “… who say they are Oromo students”, as translated by Voice Finfinne, in his interview with the Voice of America’s Amharic program on March 9, 2004. Some politicians in the Diaspora, through their websites, appear to exploit shamelessly this Oromo student unrest by linking it to other student unrest in Ethiopia a few years ago. This was done without any explanation that the two are entirely for different reasons although Meles’ regime is responsible for both. Indeed, other students in Ethiopia seem to give deaf ear to this current unrest in Oromia, perhaps, believing that what is unfolding in part of their country is not an issue of the country.

Some of the children of Tigray who were set out to liberate their region from Ethiopia have become perpetrators of atrocities in Oromia and elsewhere in Ethiopia since they took power in 1991. They have proved themselves to be non-behaving guests and are accountable for these atrocities.

In the face of all these, a unity of purpose of all Oromo political organizations is a historic and timely call. It demands political courage and vision. Oromos should leave the theoretical self-determination quest to academic exercise and search for a practical means to achieve their freedom and help bring justice to the seriously troubled horn of Africa region. TPLF has been found to be untrustworthy to allow fair election even at a district level in Oromia, and elsewhere in Ethiopia, let alone allow self-determination for Oromia. Appealing to TPLF government in Ethiopia for self-determination of any kind is in reality self deception as the TPLF is not ready to offer it nor is the UN prepared to go and supervise it.

Seeking a practical means by Oromo political organizations to root out injustice from Oromo land is what is more meaningful to both the Oromo people and the deceptive politicians from Tigray. In their culture, deception is quality, not shame, and honesty is foolishness. To be set out to liberate a one digit percent Tigre people of Abyssinia from Ethiopia, but then forming what they call the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and become the rulers of the rest of the country for over a dozen years with impunity is not shame but bravery, in their culture. As much as it tastes sweet to them today and makes them materially rich, it will be a bitter history they are writing for themselves by themselves. They have brought such culture onto the land of Gada and Guddifacha, the equivalent of modern day democracy and adoption, in that order.

The best politicking TPLF has been playing the entire time of its reign in Ethiopia is Oromo question and Oromo division. Oromos have allowed themselves to be divided between collaborators with the TPLF and those who stand for freedom. That has made them so busy for the entire life of Meles’ reign. Even recently, when the TPLF oversaw the eviction of Oromo institutions from Finfinne, this confusion demonstrated itself out when some Oromos took the time and energy to calculate whose interest it is to serve to protest TPLF’s grandiose decision to evict Oromia’s institutions from Finfinne. Oromos have put disproportionate focus on this division and little attention to the power Meles appropriated to himself and his Front and what they are doing with it against the future of the Oromo people. Meles and TPLF are using this power to chase Oromos out from their ancestral land while sitting in their guest house, Menelik’s palace. Now is the time for Oromos to find unity of purpose and put the TPLF to the test. This division, which has been a problem, could and should be changed to an opportunity to end TPLF’s tyranny in Oromia. There is a natural bond between all Oromos, not the kind of bond between the fifteen or so political groups that formed the United Ethiopia Democratic Front (UEDF) coalition in the summer of 2003. This coalition appears to have chosen not to render any meaningful voice to Oromo cry at this critical time in their history. In fact, it seems to be exploiting the current Oromo problem for its own purpose, as demonstrated in the recent press release of its branch in the U. K. 

After all, the entities in the UEDF have come out from their fifteen fox holes they dug independently and declared a level political playing field over the holes. Whether such field will become a source of conflict or true coalescing is bound to be tested and answered in due course. A critical analysis of the nature of the entities, however, suggests that the grouping is simply unhealthy. Some of the holes were dug during the late days of Haile-Sellassie, some during the time of Mengistu Haile-Mariam and still some others during Meles’ reign. Some deal with human rights issues while others are still in the shell of feudal frame of reference. Such arrangement is good for hide and seek game, especially when those in the holes dug a long time ago find it cozy to stay inside there than come out and join the dialogue in a new political era. Indications of this kind of game between the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All Ethiopia Unity Party (AEUP) seems to have been simmering in this coalition and is already spilling to the public long before the first anniversary of the formation of UEDF and the 2005 election. As the game continues, some may become political cats while others may be put under surveillance.  

Unity of Oromo political forces demands careful regrouping. A courageous and visionary political decision by all Oromo political groups will serve best the interest of the Oromo people at this moment in their history. All have resources that can be made available for this purpose. The first step should be divorce of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) from the TPLF. The latter has proved to be a battering partner to the former beyond any reasonable doubt. OPDO’s member and ex-president of Ethiopia, Dr. Negaso Gidada, is a living witness. In addition, the mass expulsion over night of more than three hundred Oromo university students should be a clear message. These students can perhaps administer Oromia far better than the current Caffee Oromia. Logical divorce from illogical partnership and regrouping along the natural bond of Oromumma (Oromoness) will weigh down in the history books OPDO’s misdeeds of the past. In addition, it will help reduce TPLF to its natural size, which should be an advantage to freedom struggle.

Other Oromo opposition parties should reassess their relations with Oromo vis-à-vis other political forces. Oromo freedom movements should refrain from political rhetoric and spearhead the formation of unity of purpose. The freedom struggle should be in all directions. Oromos can root out injustice planted in Oromo country by struggling on their own terms as well as on TPLF’s terms. The so called 2005 election in Oromia state should prepare not those who go to Meles’ parliament to implement his orders, but those who show determination to challenge it on Meles’ own terms. That will be one dimension of the struggle for freedom, which can be waged as Oromos keep discussing and struggleing for what is best for Oromia in the future.

Religion should remain neutral in this effort, as it should be in the future of Oromo politics. Any unilateral inclination towards associating any particular religion with pan Oromo politics will be Gobannumma of the Book. During the era of Gobana Dacee, Menelik’s atrocities against his subject peoples, the majority of them Oromo, was preached as civilizing them as if the autocratic culture brought upon them were more civilized than egalitarian values in Gada. Now, some righteous sectors may preach to save humble Oromo individuals’ souls as if Waaqayyo is not in charge, needless to mention that such inclination will be an attempt to erase our natural identity and hurting our struggle for justice and freedom. Oromia can not exclusively be a Waaqeffanna, a Christian or an Islamic state. All the three are bound to work only for their private institutions side by side in Oromia. Unilateralism in this respect seems to have proved detrimental to the Middle East and to the three branches of the children of Abraham and will not be good for Oromia or the horn of Africa for that matter. It should not be Oromo homework to drag or be dragged into what some call the greatest story ever told and the greatest mystery never solved; and this may be beyond the comprehension of those I know-it-all preachers. In fact, a deeper analysis may suggest that looking into Oromo civilization has the potency to lift Oromia out of this misery brought upon Oromos and also contribute meaningfully to world peace, which is already heading towards Gada way. Once lifted out of this misery, Oromos can be the economic tigers in the Horn of Africa in their own right just as the Asian tigers and Oromia will be the land of plenty, not the land of poverty that characterizes Ethiopia.

In the mean time, the president of Jimma University may keep wondering who those students are so that he may speak with more certainty in the future should he be asked for more interview.