Editors note: This is a word-for-word translation of a recent speech by the President of Oromia Regional State, Mr. Lemma Megersa. The 16-minute speech in Afaan Oromo (link below) was apparently broadcast on the state-run Oromiya TV. Read OPride’s commentary on his speech here: http://www.opride.com/2017/02/09/lammaa-magarsaa-sweet-talking-lackey-genuine-man-people
Before we blame others, we have to ask ourselves: what were and are our internal problems? We exposed ourselves to our adversaries. This is why we remained colonized for so long. There is no other reason as to why colonization came to fruition on our backs. Our biggest challenge, more than anything, is still getting organized. Our biggest homework, the biggest task for our people today, is to get organized. Unity. Not unity in name only but truly coming together from our hearts and minds. Aren’t honey bees a type of insect? But what is it that they are most admired for? Their unity. The organized swarm (colony) has a leader. They follow that leader and make sweet honey. In unity, there is a strength. Without the colony, scattered honey bees are just like any other fly. And anyone can squash a fly. Similarly, a society that’s not organized – whose minds and hearts are divided – cannot win. It is always exposed to danger. It has no agency.
This generation must leave behind the fixation on what others did unto us. We don’t need to count past abuses that were meted out to us. We need to start looking inward and start addressing our own internal problems. Herein lies the solution to our challenges: Lack of unity and our inability to get organized. This is crucial if we are to change our people’s history, the Oromo people’s history, and our region’s history.
Oromo nationalism is the foundation of everything. Our nationalism is our driving force (our motor). It is our pillar. It doesn’t matter if we are numerous, educated or rich. Those things will have no use without Oromo nationalism. The tribalism that we despise today wasn’t created with bad intentions. When we say Mr. X’s tribe, we have to also recognize that it is a form of social organization. It is a survival mechanism. Tribes come together to repel and defend itself against external aggression. To support and back each other up as needed. Tribalism is not only about blood (lineage) relations. It is a form of protection. Survival. We need this motor that unites us – Oromo nationalism – in order to move forward together and to survive. We must understand this.
Oromo nationalism, however, need to safeguard against two ills: The first is servitude/colonization. More than what others have done unto us, there are so many among us who don’t believe in our own ability to accomplish certain things. There are countless Oromos who are still asleep. There are so many who oppose and stand in the way of our vision asking such questions as “look at our main agenda? Can the Oromos really accomplish these goals? Are we really that capable?”
This is a colonial mentality. A liberated mind is worth more than anything else. Once a human mind is contaminated with a colonial virus, you can’t cleanse (decolonize it) by simply dipping it into the well of knowledge or wealth. But only a decolonized mind can bring about real change. We need to wage a serious struggle to reverse this. This is because there are so many Oromos who still don’t believe we can win or reach the feats of success achieved by others. How many of us release this “negative energy” day in and day out to demoralize each other? You, the young people, must protect each other from such maladies. This is my biggest message to you.
The other thing is, in this country, it is a problem to say this or that doesn’t concern me, take oneself out and stay on the peripheries. Whether one likes it or not, Oromos will determine the fate and future of this country, Ethiopia itself. Let alone development, Ethiopia cannot continue to exist as a country without Oromos (full) participation and without affording the Oromo people their fair share. We have to accept this. We have to believe in this fact in order to determine and demand our share. If we took ourselves out and stay on the margins and allow others divvy up our resources, what are we going to claim?
When we say we’ll rally around Oromo nationalism to move forward, we have to safeguard against these two tendencies. If we balance these two issues, guided by the light of Oromo nationalism as a motor and we maintain our unity, there is not a change that we can’t bring about in this country.
The youth are well positioned to do this. In the past, we blamed illiteracy for our predicament. But today we are educated. All of you are educated. Even if we aren’t more educated than others, we have knowledge that’s sufficient to help us tackle our own challenges. One thing that makes all of us proud is that we have created a proudly nationalist generation. A generation that is educated and one that can fight for its rights.
We have created a generation that doesn’t bow down to anyone. A generation that is already making history. A generation that has already changed the meaning of one of our forefathers’ proverbs: You escape from tough times and a rock thrown at you by laying low. It is simply impossible to do so in this day and age. Laying low could mean never getting back up. Nowadays you can only escape by having a plan on how to fight whatever may be thrown at you. That there is a generation which is ready to change this history gives us hope.
Our youth, while unemployed, should not lose faith. They are a force for change. Our people, our society and all of us are putting our hopes on the youth. This force should realize that they are no longer facing darkness but light. They must confront today’s challenges head on. The world is a river full of problems. Only those who work hard can win in this world. One cannot win by sitting idly and staring at the problems of the world. In fact, the longer we sit around, the more difficult our problems will get. And our problems won’t suddenly disappear. We shouldn’t be fooled on this. It is a mistake to think that the world will welcome us by laying out green grass (like red carpet?) on the floor. We are instead confronted with multiple challenges. Like all people, we must be prepared to meet those challenges head on and overcome them.
You should prepare yourself knowing that you are the answer to our people’s problems. You should believe in your ability to take over the reins of this country and lead it. No one else is prepared or better positioned to do this. The future is in your hands. Yesterday, those of us who are now in the position of leadership looked up to others who came before us. It is our turn now. Tomorrow will be yours. The key here is not to simply take over the reins of power. But to make history with it whenever we are in that position whether the power lasts a year, an hour or a few months in our hands.
Today is our gift. I have to work hard today to seize that opportunity. There is nothing that can be saved for tomorrow. We have to do all in our power today to confront tomorrow’s challenges. Especially those of us, the younger generation, who have both historical and generational responsibility, must work hard. I believe all of us, including you and the Oromo people, must start a major revolution in Oromia. An economic revolution. We should be thinking day and night about economic empowerment. We should be dreaming about making money. A society that is not economically empowered will become a servant to others. Only numbers. It cannot get ahead. An economically disempowered society will be pushed around easily by those who have money. There is no shortcut to success in this world. We must work hard and do so tirelessly to get ahead in life. That will be the source of our freedom. Our strength. We have to be economically strong. Simply debating political ideologies won’t change our lot.
Year after year – now for 5, 10, 15, 20+ years – we have been blaming narrow nationalism, rent seeking, good governance and chauvinism for our predicament. How much longer should we continue to talk about this? If it is not filling our food storage or improving our bottom line, what good is the talk going to do for us? No use. This is why I say each and every one of us should focus on the economy. Those who can farm should do so. Others can be merchants. From now on, as Oromia Regional Government, we have been asleep, we should wake up and start an economic revolution. We have to change past history by becoming each other’s strength. We have to act and work like people who bear historical and generational responsibility. This is the only solution to our problems. We should understand this and work together. As a party and as a regional government, we are ready to partner with you. The agenda of the youth will always be our agenda. We must not cripple or fail a generation that will tomorrow take over the reins of this country. Like we fought to empower the youth with education, we must ensure that they are also economically empowered and are proud of their identities. We have to work hard to ensure that the youth are prepared to lead our communities, our state, and our country.