by Dharra Budicha and Mohammed Ademo
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a rebel group established in 1973 to fight against what it calls Ethiopian colonialism
and form an independent Oromo state – an area almost the size of Texas – is no stranger to suspension of membership and factional splits.
On Jan.1, the OLF faction led by former Ethiopian General, Kamal Galchu, boldly announced amending the organization’s three-decade-old political program. The group claimed OLF had once and for all dropped its “secessionist agenda.”
The news, dubbed by Ethiopian groups, OLF’s “best Christmas present to the Ethiopian people”, has since captured the diaspora-based Ethiopian media airwaves. The controversial decision was widely criticized by Oromo nationalists, OLF’s tradition mainstay. To that end, Oromo youth, nationalists, and former comrades of Galchu’s faction took their fights online by issuing a series of press releases and other forms of denunciations. Undeterred, leaders of the breakaway faction (KG-OLF hereafter), seemingly alienated by the Oromo, continued to make rounds on Ethiopian media outlets by giving interviews.
During the media frenzy, there was one notable face missing from the limelight – forcing KG’s faction to rely on Mr. Kassim Abba Nesha, whose Amharic comprehension left much to be desired.
Last month, an OPride.com reporter talked exclusively with then Secretary General of KG-OLF, Mr. Amin Jundi. Jundi, 45, was born and raised in the Bale region of Oromia, where he also completed his secondary school education. After High School, he studied business for a year at Haromaya University, in eastern Oromia, before leaving for Djibouti.
His involvement in Oromo struggle, which began at a refugee camp in Djibouti, later took him to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, where he received a three-month military training from OLF field commanders in 1989. When war broke out in Somaliland, he was then sent back to Djibouti where he worked in the OLF office and organized the community. Before coming to North America in 2001, Jundi served as chairman of the Oromo Youth Association and General Secretary of the Oromo Community in Djibouti. He also produced plays and led other artistic and cultural productions that delighted audiences.
Afterwards, Jundi came to realize that Oromo intellectuals were less concerned about the plight of Oromo people. He decided to fill the void. “For the last 10 years, I’ve been running up and down – doing all I can from fundraising to dealing with the organization’s finances – to the extent that some called me the OLF ‘beggar’,” said Jundi who hasn’t missed a single OLF yearly conference, no matter where it is held, since coming to North America. On these occasions, Jundi was a much sought after presence for his humor, his laughs, and quick wits, not to mention his cosmopolitan ability to bridge differences.
Jundi, who previously worked as a data analyst and in organizational affairs and information departments within the OLF’s regional hierarchy, was promoted to the central committee after the 2011 split – where he served as the Secretary General until last week.
Jundi, who says going back to Oromia to visit his ailing mother is more of a moral issue than anything else, blames leaders’ personal egos and lack of clarity in the organization’s program for OLF’s perennial splints.
“The OLF program can be fixed if the egos of these individuals are diminished,” said Jundi two months before he was suspended. “Attitudes like ‘I am the best, who are you? I’ve been in the organization for 10 years, you’ve only been here for 5 years leads to people making their own teams and groups.” At the time of interview, Jundi defended his faction’s bold decision – challenging Oromo nationalist to unite in response to KG-OLF’s decision and forge ahead with the independence agenda.
Yesterday, General Galchu announced via email that Jundi was relieved from official responsibilities effective immediately. The brief statement stated a disciplinary case brought against Jundi by the chairman has been forwarded to OLF’s Discipline and Control Committee. In the interim, the statement barred Jundi from speaking or acting on behalf of the OLF.
According to reliable sources, Jundi was reportedly bothered by the KG-OLF’s tendency to deprecate the achievements of the OLF and Oromo nationalism on Ethiopian forums. Long before the suspension, Jundi was already on his way out.
Asked about the suspension, Jundi said he had "no comment."
Editor's note : Since we published this story, OPride.com has received comments from readers and conflicting reports about the news itself. Here we publish a screenshot of the email that our reporting was based on. OPride.com has independently verified the email was indeed from General Kamal Galchu's office.