Interview with NTV’s Yassin Juma : Part II – Before we dive into the making of “Inside the Rebel Territory” and the rift it has created since, you mention that it took you three years to get permission from the OLF, why did you decide to venture into an unknown territory to tell the tales of Oromo Liberation Front?

Y.J – Yes indeed it took me three years…perhaps a little bit more until we finally got to the bush. I decided to venture into the unknown, first and foremost, because Kenya neighbors Ethiopia and the fighting between the OLF and Ethiopian government troops has time and again affected our northern frontier. Secondly, we have a large audience base of Oromo speaking Kenyans, the Boran, Gabra, Burji , Garre, Ajuran, and Orma. And of course, we have a large number of Oromo refugees in Kenya. All these factors made it relevant for me to make a documentary about the OLF and Oromo struggle. I aimed at demystifying the OLF which is mainly feared in Kenya. The fact that no one had done a TV story about them although it is in a country next door motivated me even more.

I have been covering conflicts in our region and I think Ethiopia remained elusive …it had to be covered by someone and it happened that someone would be me. Being a war correspondent you find yourself wanting to go back to the frontline again and again…you become a war junkie and you derive satisfaction from filing war reports. I guess, I was getting bored by the war in Somalia and thought should venture into new waters or into new bushes? -What did you want to achieve with this particular documentary? Did you succeed?

Y.J – Demystify the OLF. Yes I think I did. – Two questions– first are you surprised by the response to your work so far and the controversy it has generated? And second, did you see this coming?

Y.J – I knew even before heading to the bush that my documentary would be controversial…so am not surprised that it turned out to be just that. I expected the Ethiopian government to protest because in the past they have tried to block journalists who wanted to cover the rebel territories. But I admit, I am surprised by the enthusiasm shown by the Oromo in the Diaspora since I did not expect that overwhelming response. – You alluded to this in the documentary; when the permission was finally acquired, you were packed and ready to go…what were you feeling?

Y.J – You know when you have waited for such a trip for more than three years you get discouraged at times. It was a surprise when I got a call that I should be ready for the tough journey North. It was such a short notice; I think a three days notice.

I wouldn’t worry much if it was Mogadishu but I was headed somewhere I had never stepped into before. And entrusting myself, my crew and equipment to people I had never seen or known was tricky. And the fact that you are going into a war zone adds to the puzzle. It was either you will come back with a good story or your crew becomes the story. It was a 50:50 chance, so I took the risk. I kept on picturing how the bush camp looks like, the danger of being attacked by the Ethiopians, the danger of the rebels mistaking us for spies, sneaking into Ethiopia…all this was going through my head. Luckily all went well. – Did your feelings change when your linkmen told you that there was a fighting? What were the guarantees for you and your cameraman’s personal safety?

Read Part I here.

— Part III continues tomorrow – –



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