(OPride) — Following a controversial declaration on March 28, 2013, the newly formed Oromo Democratic Front held its first public gathering in Saint Paul, Minnesota yesterday.
With a record attendance of more than 500 people, the meeting, intended to introduce the new organization to Oromos in Minnesota, was “the largest Oromo political gathering in years”, eyewitnesses told OPride. Minnesota, also known as ‘Little Oromia’, has the largest number of Oromo immigrants outside of Africa.
The formation of Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) led by former OLF leaders has created an avalanche of reactions from the public. Oromo email listservs, chat rooms, websites, and social media have been abuzz over the weekend with responses ranging from outright dismissal to congratulatory. Some critics object fiercely to the age of ODF leaders, including its President Lencho Lata, while others protest the leader’s decision to advocate for a democratic alternative in Ethiopia, as opposed to liberating Oromia.
Supporters on the other hand praised ODF leaders for making a bold pronouncement to return the diaspora-based Oromo struggle home. Putting to rest a question that has been a constant preoccupation for the Oromo diaspora, ODF leaders ascertained their goal of waging a political struggle inside the country. “We have no desire to become another diaspora organization,” said Dima Noggo, Vice President of ODF. “We intend to build an Ethiopia-wide democratic alternative to EPRDF by engaging and developing a common platform with the representatives of all stakeholders,” Lata added in response to a question by Obang Metho, the Executive Director of Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia.
According to reports by Hegeree Media, many of the audience at the gathering in Minnesota lodged critical questions such as: Why launch ODF now? Great idea but how are you going to put your program into practice? Why should we trust you this time? Why the OLF flag? Can an empire be democratized? When did you begin to entertain this idea? Why did you not try to fix OLF?
Photo credit: HegereeMedia
The audience said to be one of the most diverse, both in terms of age and gender (more the former than the latter), were satisfied by the answers given to their questions, many falling off the long queue persuaded by answers given to others. However, the report said, there were also a sizable number who came to attack the personality of the leaders.
Asked about ODF’s vision on working with other Oromo political organizations, Lata said, “we want to build cordial relations with all Oromo organizations.” “We want you all to join us but if you disagree with our vision, do not stay on the sidelines. Join one of the many Oromo organizations.”
Here’s a short clip of the opening speech delivered by Lencho Lata: