The Oromo Forum for Dialogue and Reconciliation (OFDR) releases this document to extend its best wishes for the New Year and to send a message of peace and harmony to all stake holders in the Oromo liberation camp so that they realise the consequences of disharmony, factionalism and fragmentation and embrace a fundamental change in their attitude and political culture that can benefit the liberation movement immediately.
At the beginning of the New Millennium, i.e. long before the establishment of the OFDR, the then existing five Oromo liberation organisations came together to form the United Liberation Forces of Oromia (ULFO) with a great sense of jubilation and hope among all Oromo nationals including those that had already lost faith in these organisations.
The short sightedness of our political leaders led to the deterioration of ULFO and its eventual demise during the last ten years and it also resulted in unparalleled damage to the Oromo liberation camp and the Oromo nation. Our political leaders and their supporters ignored the nation empowering concept of ULFO to boost their own egos and applied the same principle to the proposal put forward by OFDR in 2008 without having any meaningful alternatives other than some initiatives and measures designed to fulfil their group interest and ensure their “supremacy”.
The devastating impact of the behaviour and political culture of the Oromo political leaders evolved out of uncontrolled personal and or group ego on the liberation camp is obvious to our nation but it is essential to point out some of them in order to gain better understanding of the root cause of our predicament:
- The ever increasing fragmentation of organisations and multiplicity of factions with increasingly diminished ability to have any impact on the struggle against the enemy of the Oromo people. There was only one OLF when ULFO was established in 2000, there were two OLFs when OFDR was established in 2008 and now there are 3 of them. It is not hard to imagine the 3 factions of the OLF are much weaker and non-potent forces individually compared to the single OLF that existed prior to 2002. There are even some elements of the Diaspora that are talking the possibility of the 4th faction emerging sooner or later.
- Frustrations and lack of progress pushed various prominent Oromo individuals including intellectuals, artists, politicians and business people to “approach” the Number 1 enemy of the Oromo people the Wayyane government in case our enemies change their hearts and offer something short of Bilisumma. As we have witnessed the experience of these frustrated nationalists (jallan hamileen cabdde) has been very disappointing. Never ever colonial institutions give away their livelihood and privileges because of the niceties of a few colonial subjects.
- The fragmentation in the Oromo liberation camp also contributed to the weakening of the legally operating Oromo political organisations and personalities in the Empire and their shift towards the conservative political establishment in Ethiopia that is led by the Abyssinian elites. Their desperation for political space in the country particularly in the urban area like Finfine led some of the very well known Oromo nationals to oppose some aspects of the Ethiopian Constitution in tandem with the Amhara elites and protect the use of Amharic language in Oromia.
- The desperation of our political leaders also escalated the importance of local identity rather than Oromuma as the basis of our nation and unifying symbol. Unbeknown to their supporters, our political leaders use these differences as a tool to advance their personal or group interest at the expense of our nation including their own supporters. Anyone who can see what is going on today in Somalia and Afghanistan cannot support clan based politics to prop up ultimately some bloody local war lords. Our colonial masters use the principle of ‘divide and rule’ to stay in power and it is shame to see our own political leaders using the same tool to ‘keep’ us under the same rule.
- The most recent phenomena of the fragmentation and process of marginalisation that started prior to the formation of ULFO was the act of betrayal committed by some section of WBO including high ranking politicians. Once again no matter how bitter it is to face such an act it will be wiser not to inflame the situation and make unnecessary generalisation that has never helped us in the past.
At a national level, the impact of bad political culture that has been being practiced by our politicians is immeasurable in terms of Oromo human and material costs. To mention a few:
- The destruction of the fauna and flora of Oromia directly by way of deliberately lit fires and or indirectly in the name of economic development. The poisoning of rivers, lakes, etc and surrounding environment due to unsafe and uncontrolled agricultural practices such as the flower industry can be mentioned as a damming example.
- The impoverishment of Oromo farmers and their eviction from their land and the current wave of massive sale of prime farm lands to sovereign interests such as Saudi Arabia , Djibouti , Nigeria , etc in the name of foreign investment is enriching the Tigraian ruling elites and breaking the backbone of Oromo economy.
- The mass arrest and abduction of Oromo nationals who are suspected of opposing any unfavourable government policy towards the interest of the Oromo people. For example three students from the University of Hawasa have been abducted by the agents of the Wayane government for their alleged opposition to the pollution created by the gold mining practices in Shakiso, etc.
- The assault on Oromo institutions including the exclusion of Oromo program from Ethio TV and its relegation to the regional state based TV station, the closure of independent newspapers, the inferior education system, etc has been increasing from year to year.
The worsening of human rights abuses and economic deprivation in Oromia are largely influenced by the weakness and failure of the main players in the Oromo liberation camp due to their bad political culture and refusal to change for better, tolerate each other and listen to Oromo wisdom for the sake of the nation that they have suffered for until now. The OFDR is not dishing out all these criticisms for the sake of belittling our politicians or denying them their contributions and sacrifices but to let them be aware that without a shift of paradigm in their thinking and approach everything they fought for is being wasted.
The OFDR believes that the starting point for fundamental change lies in dialogue and reconciliation in the Oromo liberation camp based on Oromumma and we all need to focus our energy on the following points if we need to get out of this doldrums in the foreseeable future:
- The initiative taken by the OLF-Jijjirama faction to unify various Oromo organisations is commendable but not far reaching as important players in the Oromo liberation camp including the OLF-Shane and OLF-QC factions and FIDO are not part of this arrangement. The core leadership of GOPLF is not in it and there is no clear information whether all or part of the UOPLF (Tokkumma) is in or out. We urge the three factions of OLF to leave behind their old animosities and look for reasons that can bring them together rather than keeping them apart. We cannot see how one faction is going to be triumphant over the other let alone liberating Oromia. In the end we appeal to all factions and organisations to step over their egos and come together for the sake of saving our nation.
- Oromo political elites should refrain from using region and religion as a tool of building their own power base and vilifying others. No matter how easy it is to follow this approach its ultimate impact on achieving Bilisumma for all or any region is zero.
- Oromo political elites should instil the spirit of Oromumma in the minds of their supporters and actively discourage them from using any means of communications including paltalk from generalisation and marginalisation of any sector of the Oromo nation based on the acts and behaviour of their political opponents.
- Oromo institutions such as the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) and the Oromo National Academy (ONA) should continue to engage in the development of research materials including concepts, models and analysis that can assist the Oromo liberation movement and exert their influence in shaping the behaviour of our political leaders.
- Oromo community associations, mosques, churches and other civic organisation around the globe need to step up their effort to uphold Oromumma, refrain from rewarding bad behaviour and exert positive influence on our political leaders.
Finally the OFDR reaffirms its commitment towards the facilitation of dialogue and reconciliation in the Oromo liberation camp and appeal to all stake holders to focus on the big picture, Bilisumma. Or else history is never forgiving to those who squander opportunities and remembers them as losers and wreckers rather than founders and builders of their nations.
Oromo Forum for Dialogue and Reconciliation