By A. Dadafo, Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, Election campaign is in full swing – at least by Ethiopian standard. The marginalized opposition parties are going toe to toe with the ruling party making pitches to voters. The experience of 2005’s aborted election renders a cloud of fear over the country. On the one hand; the ruling party, although by all indications determined to quash any attempt at democratic contest, is nervous not knowing how the public would react. On the other hand, the opposition is working steadfastly within the tight political space to win the hearts of voters and make known the illegitimacy of the election to the rest of the world – at the event the ruling party once again declares itself a winner.
In a recent televised debate, Medrek, a coalition of eight opposition parties, announced its intention to make Oromo, along with Amharic, the official working language if it wins the election. Dr. Merera Gudina, the chairman of the coalition, made the announcement citing the experience of countries like Canada (French and English) and South Africa (at least eleven official languages).
The declaration of official bilingualism is aimed at easing the fear of Oromo public and a working compromise with the Oromo opposition – mainly the Oromo Federalist Congress. Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) is formed by the merger of two prominent Oromo opposition parties, the Oromo People Congress ( OPC) led by Professor Merera Gudina, and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) , founded by the renowned Oromo intellectual and statesman, Bulcha Demeksa.
Professor Merera affirmed that all parties in the coalition support the idea. However, Hailu Shewul’s All Ethiopians Unity Party has been reported to have opposed the idea. The ruling party has yet to make its position clear on the matter.
Afan Oromo is the third most widely spoken language in Africa after Hausa and Arabic. It is used as first language in Ethiopia, parts of Kenya and Somalia.
* Oromsis Adula edited this report. A. Dadafo is Opride Contributor based in Ethiopia.