Opride Reporter, Kenya
Last week, news broke that few commanders and members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) formerly affiliated with the faction called “Change” have surrendered to Ethiopian government. As the remaining leadership of the faction attempted to distance itself from the defectors, speculations mounted that the Ethiopian government have long infiltrated the ranks of the OLF.
In very complex and shocking developments that transpired over the weekend and into the week, the Kenyan based Daily Nation reports some 70 rebels have laid down their arms and returned to Ethiopia. Reliable sources from Moyale also confirm the news putting the number of those who surrendered much higher.
Low morale among the soldiers due to factional fighting, weak leadership and dwindling resources as the result of the internal backbiting that has been going on within the core leadership seemed to have played greater role in enabling the defecting commanders persuade the soldiers. In a brief phone interview, a leader with the OLF group insisted the defectors are few disgruntled people who were demobilized years ago and the rest is a trumped up propaganda being staged by Ethiopian government.
The official, who requested not to be named, added most of the details are still murky and that an internal investigation shows a communication between the defectors and Ethiopian government agents has been going on for a while. In the meantime Bilisummaa.com reports, SABO, a radio station affiliated with OLF has called on public to punish the sell-outs with death where ever they maybe found.
As raucous as the whole developments is in this area traditionally known for being a strong hold for the rebel group, our sources add that celebration has been full force in Moyale where Ethiopia’s ethno-racist regime is wining and dining those who gave in. The current minority regime has been long at work to exploit the rift within OLF and has repeatedly accused Kenya for harboring what it calls a “terrorist” group.
Sources from Isiolo and surrounding areas are telling Opride reporter in Kenya that the TPLF and its pawn – the “Oromo People’s Democratic Organization” used the Gadaa leadership to pave a way for the surrender. It is said that the leadership of the newly elected 70th Borana Abba Gadaa, Guyo Goba, played a pivotal role facilitating the exchange between the surrendering party and the government in return for recognition as the traditional leadership of the Borana in Ethiopia.
Years of repeated leadership failures have dwarfed the OLF, a vanguard and an organization once championed by Oromos from all walks of life. When the “Change” group broke with the Eritrean based “Shane” in 2008, many touted the call to reform the organization as a last hope to recuperate OLF. But the change group has failed to fulfill a multitude of promises largely constrained by rumors, mistrust among the Oromo Diaspora and the unanticipated challenges of reforming an old culture within the OLF. The Oromo Diaspora serves as a nucleus for monetary and material support for the rebels.
A wise Oromo saying goes Bishaan jige haguma dhaqaban ol qaban. Roughly translated water spilled cannot be recaptured, only what is left of it can be saved. That is the state of Oromo Affairs and more so of the OLF as it pertains to our quest for independence and/or self-determination for Oromo people within democratic Ethiopian structure.
This catastrophe which is being hailed as of unequal proportion should serve to unite all Oromo factions in general and the OLF in particular. Whereas the TPLF regime will surely seize the opportunity and produce documentary films in the runner-up for the May 22 Parliamentary election, a time — perhaps the last such time, has come for OLF to forge a unity of purpose if it is to emerge as a formidable force. The current developments and years of paralysis in the OLF camp also calls for reversed strategies and rethinking of its tactics. The year 2009 passed amid unsuccessful unity calls that have never went beyond declarations.
The slightest of the progress came on October 31, 2009 when a merger of five Oromo political organizations was announced at a gathering in Minneapolis. The merger was later derided by cynics and critics of the OLF as pretentious and an attempt to legitimize the change group’s loyalty to the cause of the people. That was followed with what is now transpiring as a hoax – a merger call by the rebels and commanders of the OLF southern division (WBOZK), who are now reportedly welcomed by Ethiopian forces with grand celebration.
Whether this grim news is the end or a new beginning in Oromo struggle for self-determination will depend on what corrective action that will be taken. In the meantime, the writer most sincerely hopes, the other factions will not welcome the developments as good news to only legitimize their brand of OLF. I urge all parties to drop the “I told you so” attitude and grasp the moment for a coalition of all Oromos including freedom fighters and Oromo Liberation organizations to emerge. It is also high time for the general public and supporters of the OLF to cease banking on false hope and come forward to face an uncomfortable reality.
Failure to come together in response to such an assault to our agenda of national struggle and what could well be an end to dreams of many – a dream for which a countless martyrdom has been paid – will leave the Oromo with no alternative but abandon the armed struggle led by the OLF and focus on seeking peaceful settlement to the long standing Oromo-Ethiopian conflict. However, learning from the mistakes of yesteryears and using this opportunity as defiance, Oromo people can prove to be a viable force in the entire Horn of Africa region as strong as our enormous number.
In the end, I would like to urge the Oromo people in the country not to be outraged. The time calls for calmness and soul searching in order to effectively deal with the ever growing repression of the Tigrean regime. No doubt that, Ethiopian election 2010 will surely prove to be sham by any standard. The autocratic regime of Meles Zenawi has already started intimidation and harassment of Oromo and opposition candidates only few weeks into a belated “campaign season”.
As such, the surrender of Oromo fighters, large or small, maybe a temporary deterrence, not by any means a permanent setback. So long as the legitimate Oromo quest for peace, justice and equality doesn’t get an appropriate answer, the struggle against an unjust system will continue. It may take many forms, this year may not be ours slowly but surely, my people, freedom and justice will be won.
*Oromsis Adula edited this report corroborating sources from Kenya, Washington D.C and Ethiopia.