The OLF on a Delicate Ground


Some news sources have recently made public that the OLF National Congress, its highest constitutional body, is underway in Eritrea. 


This congress is being conducted after serious differences in the ranks of the OLF leadership and the members and supporters of the organization emerged a few years ago. Two reasons often mentioned as the main causes of the differences are 1) the direction in which to take the Oromo peopleís struggle and 2) power struggle in the ranks of the leadership. The wind of such rhetoric has become so common among the Oromo people that the outcome of this congress will be one of the most interesting in the organizationís history.


The fact that the boundary issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea is at a historical milieu may not help the deliberations of this congress. The mere fact of coincidence of this congress and the state of the border issue at a critical juncture makes it politically appear that interest in this congress from both Ethiopian and Eritrean sides may not be absent. This congress is bound to be factored into this issue and will not escape a major anecdote in history books. Even more complicating to the congress is the fact that the boundary issue seeks to erect what would be the Berlin Wall in Afar land, among others, whose inhabitants are historically more related to the Oromo people than the highland Eritreans who may have been helping the facilitation of this congress in their capital of Asmara. This issue is a subject that the Oromo people and their organizations should approach very carefully and delicately. If anything, instead of siding with this or that side of Abyssinians, the Oromo people should advise the two Abyssinian groups to solve their problems peacefully without involving the Cushitic people. 


In Ethiopia, the recent formation of the Ethiopian Democratic Forces as a coalition of the Oromo National Congress, the All Amhara People Organization and the South Ethiopia Peoples Democratic Front finally is taking a strong foothold in the landscape of Ethiopian opposition politics, thereby giving the people some hope of taking the power into their hands.  


On a global scale, East Africa and the Red Sea region are in focus since the region is expected to make a big impact on the world in the coming decades, as observed by former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr. David Shinn.


Because of the above factors, this national congress and by extension, the OLF are on a delicate ground. For members and supporters of the OLF and for the Oromo people at large, it should put to rest the rhetoric and come out clear and clean in terms of where the OLF is headed. It has the choice to demystify the allegations or corroborate them through its actions. Any change of direction combined with any manifestation of the allegation of power struggle will put on the back of the organization a heavy load that could be beyond its capacity to carry. No pragmatism with a baggage of self-interest is pragmatic.


On the other hand, if this congress brings out a clear direction and a call for reconciliation among all the OLF members, it will lay a ground for a robust and mature political organization that East Africa has produced. Such a political organization will have the potential to deliver political rights to the Oromo people and peace and stability to East Africa. There are indications that it is already attracting a pool of intellectuals that are bound to make a difference in the politics of the region. It should use this opportunity to the advantage of the Oromo people, the region and beyond.