by Ebissa Ragassa
The once suppressed truth about Oromo people finally reached a global audience on June 25 when Al Jazeera’s The Stream aired, “Oromos seek justice in Ethiopia.”
Instead of using the program as a teachable moment, a time for national contemplation and introspection about Ethiopia’s collective history, the two young activists Jawar Mohammed and Mohammed Ademo received a mob lynching, even if online. The half-hour segment on Al Jazeera provided an important opportunity to initiate a national discussion on how the very formation of Ethiopia led to the current crisis, including opposing viewpoints on Jawar and Ademo’s presentation.
However, the primary concern became how the activists identified themselves. The negative reactions directed toward Jawar and Ademo by pseudo-Ethiopianists revealed a hidden nefarious truth, even much more than what the two activists discussed on the program. The Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex, which has historically waged endless war against indigenous Ethiopians, labeled Jawar and Ademo ethnocentric, narrow-minded and anti-Ethiopian – ultimately proving the activists’ very own case on the world stage.
Judging from how shocked the two journalists who moderated the discussion were by the vile hate comments from the viewers, Jawar and Ademo could have ended their discussion a minute into the program. The questions asked were about rampant human rights violations and systematic marginalization of Oromo people in Ethiopia. I direct the reader to visit the Al Jazeera’s website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel to gain a better understanding of the anti-Oromo comments. The guests didn’t even have to say anything further as the truth became self-evident to the two journalists, who had no prior knowledge about Oromos before Ademo pitched the story two weeks earlier.
At some point during the program, the journalist seemed flabbergasted to witness that such a simple discussion could elicit so much intolerance from a group that supposedly work to unify Ethiopia and stands for all of its people. In fact, there are now petitions demanding that Al Jazeera apologizes and refrain from airing such programs in the future. Many conclusions can be drawn from this incident, however suffice to say for the very first time Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex was shunned by an international media organization, and the voice of indigenous people was heard internationally. This is a major victory in general for all people of Ethiopia who have been denied the right to air their grievances on such platforms.
The details of the discussion are not as important as the larger issues involved: Are Oromos targeted in Ethiopia, and if so, why? Dealing with this question would not only address the many grievances of other ethnic groups in that country, but it could also layout a solid structure for a democratic society.
What was most fascinating is not what the guests said or failed to say. Even if for a moment we ignore our inclinations that there were hidden motives for the guests’ media appearance, they should have been praised for standing up to a deceptive Abyssinian system that has done everything possible to dismantle their heritage, and has failed to create a fertile ground to uplift Oromo and other nations within its borders.
Some Ethiopians remain oblivious to the grand question trending in their own country claiming that Oromo history is and was part of Ethiopia’s history. However, the evidence on the ground suggests otherwise. Oromos literature is missing from Ethiopians history; Oromo traditional holidays are not honored officially nor encouraged by the state. Much more evidence can be listed. Whether this was deliberately done or were due to lack of information is a question for another debate, but I am inclined to lean toward uninformed people rather than deliberate ignorance.
Nevertheless, the attacks leveled at the guests as well as Al Jazeera for shedding a much needed light on the Oromo story were highly reprehensible. No one asked why our media, at least the ones based in the diaspora, failed to initiate such discussions or introduce our people’s systematic abuses to its audience.
The Ethiopian media’s silence on such major issues is best explained by their perception that any view deviating from ‘popular’ Abyssinian narrative is seen anti-unity and threatens the integrity of Ethiopia. Therefore they have chosen to stand with Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex that continues to hinder the progress of our nation. If Ethiopia’s unity cannot withstand such critical discussion from young activists, then Ethiopia’s unity is in greater jeopardy than we anticipated. If the free exchange of ideas threatens Ethiopia’s continued existence, and suppressing opposing views is the only remedy, then it must also be clear that a larger section of Ethiopian people will vote to live as free people and risk living without a country than being Ethiopians. If these anti-Oromo activists are concerned about maintaining Ethiopia, as it should be not as they imagine it, then we need to quickly rethink the future.
What’s more intriguing is why this is such a shocking news. What are other Ethiopians scared of the world knowing about the plights of their Oromo brothers and sisters? Unless of course Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex prevented them from freely engaging in constructive discussion and criminalized free exchange of ideas, perhaps disguised as Ethiopian unitary forces dividing the country by curtailing freedom of expression.
Ademo and Jawar’s discussion reveal that Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex has been working clandestinely against our national interest for over 200 years. Their discussion have shown that if you speak out against Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex, you will be lynched; if you dare to question it, you would be excommunicated; if you dare to alter the narrow Ethiopian narrative set forth by these same people, your character will be assassinated. Furthermore, the discussion exposed how fragile and desperate Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex is due to fear of losing its grasp amidst an assertive Oromo voice.
Ethiopia would only embrace democracy if all Ethiopians continue to apply pressures and resist Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex. Fortunately, many Ethiopians are coming to the aid of Ademo and Jawar by boldly fighting the complex. We hope that many more genuinely freedom-loving Ethiopians would join the fight, including those who have been deceived into the service of Ethiopian Political Industrial Complex.
*The author, Ebissa Ragassa, can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org