By Ibsaa Gutamaa
Changing times requires changing tools of operation and management methods; in other words, changing tactics and strategies. Absiinian regimes have come down improving their modus operandi by improving on the weak points of their predecessors. They are faster in adopting new technological tools from across the seas for plundering and repression than for positive development. Though they would introduce short-lived radical methods to look more benevolent than the regime they had overthrown, they never messed with the empire’s central theme that defined their relations with all their colonies. Liberation movements have not been able to cop up with changing times and methods of the colonizer. The need for change must be recognized to be ahead in time and organization, if the war is to be won. But, such changes should not contradict with their kaayyoo, for that could amount to suicide. Changing kaayyoo is not essential for there is no problem with it; but the way some view themselves is in a problem. Understanding the essence of the struggle, which is the need to regain lost rights to ones identity, may be difficult for those that are still in colonial trauma. Though hard to define simply, one can say, kaayyoo is the principled objective that reflects national dream for unity, liberation, peace and a life of happiness to eternity, which each Oromo has at heart, thus changing kaayyoo could be changing one’s identity.
It has been over a hundred years since Absiinian autocratic system was transplanted to the democratic Oromiyaa. With it, immeasurable damage has been caused to life, property, environment and the human mind. Each time a new Ethiopian regime comes to power, this damage is aggravated with the introduction of more sophisticated overt and covert tools of oppression. The regimes have more advantage to adjust their methods to changing situation because they use state resources at will. But more vigilance and getting ready, when the political conditions are ripe, could reverse the situation. In particular, at this point of world history, when the objective and subjective situations are conducive for human freedom, much time should not be wasted talking about internal gantuu and galtuu rather than firing up the struggle for independence.
The objective of the liberation movement is not only liberating the country, but also the minds that have been enslaved. That has proved to be the difficult part of the struggle. Many individuals show what psychologists call “Stockholm’s Syndrome,” whereby victims sympathize and even defend their captors. Understanding this helps to understand nationals that have been placed under such spell. For some, it may be point of no return, but at least others could be saved from taking the wrong humiliating trip. The Oromo national liberation movement has so far registered immense achievements despite the innumerable obstacles placed in front of it.
Ethiopian regimes have never realized from history that the days of their empire are numbered. It would have been better if they show remorse for their ugly past deeds and dismantle that ruthless monster they created a century-and-half ago. That was what the Darg and Wayyaanee failed to see. Their promises and revolutionary thinking lasted only until they had firm grip on power. Empires originate from needs in the mother country, and greed and arrogance of their rulers. Both states of mind do not seem to go away from Absiinian ruling class’s psychological make up and tradition of dependence on others’ sweats. Be them the incumbent power or aspirants, their intention is to cling on the empire system and retain it by all means available to them. The very thought of democracy makes such minority regimes and parties shaky, insecure and paranoid.
The OLF joined TPLF in the transitional arrangement without changing its political program in 1991. The transitional period was a testing period on which the future of the empire state depended. As declared on its Charter, Oromiyaa was to establish its Caffee, which could guide the way ahead. TPLF breached the Charter and aborted the transition – preferring the continuation of the empire system and denying participation of the colony – which might have bade adios to the empire system. Since then, OLF proper has tried to settle differences peacefully without giving away its right for independence. It has entered into discussion only with those that recognized the right to national self-determination; it may be logical to do so in the future as well.
Thus, the hope of peaceful decolonization of the region was cut short by intransigence of Habashaa elites. TPLF proved the inability of Absiinians to disentangle themselves from their autocratic past. No other group, it had been assumed, can be expected to have better vision than those that came fighting in the name of justice and liberation. But, it was a wrong assumption; they were only “a serpent under innocent rose flower,” to borrow from Shakespeare. Greed and deception are in political genes of all. Still Oromo are wooed to their trap under different guises.
So far, OLF is the best independent political organization Oromummaa has produced. No tongue sticking, finger pointing can change that. Its political program is based on Gadaa principles of freedom, equality and liberty. During all the years of conquest, no benevolence has ever been shown to give back rights they had snatched away by force of arms by ancient regimes, and there had also not been gestures by colonial elites of later days, to enter into negotiated settlement with the colonized. Peaceful approach failing, the OLF, through its sole efforts and unreserved blessings of the Oromo people, has raised the banner of freedom for the world to reckon with. The objective of OLF is not to overthrow Wayyaanee, but to liberate Oromiyaa. It expects more than Article-39 of its Constitution, with whose mention alone the blood of all Habashaa oppositions boil. Oromos with slave mentality are seen rallying behind them instead of struggling for own liberation in alliance with oppressed peoples.
Elites of the fallen group cry of their forefathers breaking their bones and spilling their blood in preserving the empire for them. But, never mention the blood spilt and the atrocities committed to wipe out, destabilize, dislocate and enslave the natives. They remember a drop, and forget the torrent of blood. History cannot be forgotten, but the wrong doings can be forgiven if all sides come to their senses to write a new chapter together on the bases of mutual understanding. In the Ethiopian case, even the new generation, that has nothing to do with abuses of the past, is heard irresponsibly justifying what was done to the colonies. That is what is undermining peaceful coexistence, stability and freedom of the region. That is why nationalists say alliance with such groups is detrimental to liberation of the oppressed nations.
Statements and approaches by elites from the colonizing nation are full of deceits and deceptions. To knowingly take a fake position and attribute it to a whole organization or people demonstrate only how the colonizers want to solve differences. There had been Oromo, who have put themselves under alien tutelage and command avoiding discipline. Those were called “galtuu” or “gantuu,” respectively. The enemy had no legal or moral grounds to claim such misguided individuals to prove partnership of a nation in its long history of autocratic rule.
Despite the historic backdrop, there are still national groups that want to surrender the struggle for independence. But Oromiyaa is not Habashaa sticker, but a self-reliant nation that struggles for independence. For this reason, those who prefer dependent lives are rejected as rotten eggs. Nationalists have to ignore them and march on with the national kaayyoo. Such phenomenon does not worth a minute of the liberation struggle, albeit to save them.
Nowadays, opportunists, snitches and ill-wishers are rushing forward to erase, cripple or derail the movement with all efforts they could muster. Some pretend to be concerned about the “lagging behind” of the liberation struggle and come up with failed models. By it, they disseminate their poison into the national struggle to create doubt if the struggle is at all going on. A liberation struggle has numerous obstructions. OLF is only four decades old; they have to remember that it had taken more than eight decades for ANC to achieve its goal. They want to point their fingers to individual patriots, who even today stand lofty above them with morale, despite long years of tortuous life of struggle. They suggest starting organizing from the scratch, as if the infrastructure of the movement had not been laid down, built and cemented with blood and sweat of martyrs long ago. To revolutionize is one thing, while to dismantle and build anew is another.
OLF is still a living vibrant organization. It has fire tested leadership whose determination and commitment cannot be questioned. OLF has never claimed to be a perfect organization. It has obvious surmountable defects and difficulties. Instead of rallying behind it and helping it surge forward, some join the enemy in discrediting their genuine efforts. The enemy is after them because it recognizes their agenda as the most dangerous to its evil schemes of domination. Purposely or accidentally to join the enemy in persecuting them shows their meanness rather than humiliating the national organization. All the hullabaloos we observe being written and spoken about the weakness of OLF are nothing but missions to sabotage the National Kaayyoo by agents provocateur. Compared to these ‘paper tigers,’ those involved in the recent schism deserve applause for the benefit from their desertion outweighs the damage it had caused. They have relieved the disease that was internally eroding the OLF in particular. Now, it is easy for those who believe in independence to get back together.
The question of Oromo’s political future could be a topic of national debate. It could be between pro-independent and unionist, or other positions, if any, though it means resurrecting what has ended in the 60s. Not halfheartedly as opportunists and renegades try to lie about the truth despite the vow they took with their dead and living comrades. As long as it remains a debate within the nation, and the final judges are the people, it could remain healthy. Beyond the national forum, it will be considered denying sovereignty of the people and betraying its trust.
Phrases and words like “national self-determination” and “referendum” are usually seen genuinely or intentionally confused. Though OLF had been struggling for the independence of Oromiyaa, it is the Oromo, who, at the end, decide on their choice. Through their universal right to “the right of nations to national self-determination” by a national referendum they will determine their destiny. That right is an instrument which helps advance to one’s goal. It is not the end, but the means to an end. Thus, the objective of the struggle is something beyond the realization of the right of self-determination “independence,” or otherwise. A people must be free to defend and use its right to national self-determination; otherwise, it had been a while since TPLF recognized the right for all. We have examples of the process of national self-determination from Eritrea, South Sudan, Kosovo, East Timor, Quebec etc., and we are going to learn more from Scotland soon.
OLF will not stop agitating for independence, rain or sun, it will remain the party of independence. That is its difference with kaayyoo quitters and diluters. It should not have been necessary to discuss this issue at this juncture of our struggle. But, the distracters always bring forward issues that are not relevant and timely – thinking that it might justify their revisionist agenda. Independence or union, if said process is followed, it will be the end for the empire state. A democratic setting that allows for freedom of organization, self-expression and, above all, the rule of law could be the outcome. If so, armed struggle becomes irrelevant. That is a good dream.
True nationalist have now witnessed what the whistleblowers have tried to warn long ago. It is now incumbent upon them to rally around the kaayyoo, strengthen their organization, reassess their tactics and strategy, and focus on the real enemy, not on their shame. By making their program public, they can assure their neighbors that they stand for their interest, too.
They have to convince the world by asserting unequivocally, without faltering, that they know what they want. Their presentations should not be based on the assumption of what others like or want to hear, but on their own program and sincere conviction. Their stand on national harmony, regional peace and stability and international relations or current world order must be clear. Independent Oromiyaa will be guided by the salient principles of Gadaa democracy that uphold “ilaa fi ilaamee, nagaa and araaraa” (dialogue, peace and reconciliation). All must know that the struggle will open new opportunity, rather than create worry, for neighbors. Nothing is more crucial than creating strong organization, unity and, above all, winning the trust of activists and supporters. An organization that cannot reach members and supporters in difficulty is a loser.
Honor and glory for the fallen heroines and heroes; liberty equality and freedom for the living, and nagaa and araaraa for the Ayyaanaa of our fore parents!
* Ibsaa Guutama is a member of the generation that drew the first Political program of the OLF.
- Source: Gubirmans.com