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              Oromia-Ethiopia: Oromo-Habesha Partnership Met Another Dead-End

By Boru Jibat

Inspired by the famous 2011 Arab spring that brought down long time dictators in North Africa, a spirit of collaboration was propped up between various political forces opposing to the current minority rule in Finfinne. Although most of the non-Habesha forces, such as the OLF, ONLF and SLF, have already formed strategic partnerships, such cooperation between Semitic-speaking groups and the rest of political forces in Ethiopia has been non-existent. It was imperative, therefore, to see leaders of some of the Diaspora-based Habesha organizations coming out to media along with political forces from oppressed nations in Ethiopia to underscore the need to act in unison.

The joint radio interview by representatives of OLF and Ginbot 7 at one time kind of planted the seeds of hope for collaboration and voluntary unity. Although it has been constantly proven difficult to find common political position with the Amhara elites’ camp, even with the most progressive elites, the healthy conversation we heard during that interview seemed to have signaled that positive changes might be taking place.

Many, including myself, seriously took this and tried to see light at the end of the tunnel. But, not too long after this joint interview, many of us proved ourselves wrong. Things began to take different course when Mr. Leenco Lata exposed that he was repeatedly approached by Dr. Berhanu Nega to join him to address the Ethiopian community in Minnesota. Leenco Lata is an ex-OLF Deputy Chairman, who currently does not hold any leadership position in the OLF.

It was clear why Dr. Berhanu secretly reached out to Mr. Leenco for such a meeting while he was well aware that Mr. Leenco could not speak on behalf of the OLF. But, he must have naively thought that, given his stature, Mr. Leenco’s appearance alongside with Amhara organization in political stages organized by the later would annoy the Oromo Diaspora, and create confusion and division within the OLF supporters, an opportunity Dr. Berhanu would have loved to exploit. But, both Mr. Leenco and the Oromo Diaspora were too smart to fall into this trap. Then, Berhanu had to rest on a softer target. The subsequent meetings, which he had organized and conducted with the group that were banned from the OLF three years ago, exposed that Ginbot 7 was nothing, but another old-school self-serving Habesha organization, which, as always, was not ready to recognize the rights and needs of nations in the Ethiopian empire.

Habesha groups, no matter who are leading them, cannot break out of the hard shell that blinds them for over a century, and hence, it remains difficult to have a meaningful dialogue with them and build a nation together. The new developments that have lately begun to manifest themselves in the Habesha camp show that the groups may have much deeper trouble when it comes to working with each other as well. The evaporation of Kinijit party from the national political scene following the 2005 election, the continued bitter hostility between Ginbot 7 and the rest of Habesha parties in Diaspora, and the continued in-fighting among the home-based Habesha political parties are testimonies to this.

I hope it is in everyone’s memory that the OLF did whatever it can to help create a new Ethiopia, in which the rights and dignities of all its citizens are guaranteed. That effort was frustrated when the TPLF decided to monopolize power by sidelining all progressive political forces, including the OLF itself. Instead of working with genuine representatives of the people, the TPLF continued to use its surrogates to impose its dominance in the empire. The decision by Ginbot 7 to conspire with the OLF splinters is simply a “copy paste” of this incident, and has once again stalled the possibilities of genuine collaboration between Habesha and Oromo organizations.

In the weeks and months leading to the ‘formal’ announcement of this “unblessed marriage,” we saw 95% of members of this group disassociating themselves from it. Exactly on the same day this marriage was declared, the remaining leaders of the group announced that they were not part of the deal. Kemal Gelchu, Hailu Gonfa, Amin Jundi, Nuro Dedefo and Ahmed Abba Nesha were the only ones in the wedding gown.

However, despite watching its partner dying a slow and awful death, Ginbot 7 still continued with the marriage arrangement because it thought this would undermine the OLF. This action of Ginbot 7, however, was clearly counterproductive. Instead of weakening it, this action rather reinvigorated the OLF camp. It cleared the later of traitors and the divisive agenda they were propagating for the last three years, and once again brought together genuine Oromos. Our people are in renewed spirit and are determined more than ever to rally behind their organization.

This kind of attack is not new to the OLF and the Oromo people. The TPLF regime used all its military and propaganda machinery to try to alienate the OLF, and kill the cause of the Oromo people. It has left no stone unturned to demonize the OLF: rounded up hundreds and thousands of innocent Oromos, tortured and brutally murdered women and children to prepare a fake documentary videos to discredit the OLF, planted and detonated bombs in several hotels in and outside Finfinne and tried to blame it on the OLF, attempted to create a fake OLF, and so on. But, all of them did not work, and the OLF, not only effectively resists this massive campaign, but also stands tall in the Horn of African political scene, and continues to give Meles and cohorts a never-ending nightmare.

Anyone seeking peaceful solution to political stalemate in Ethiopia should be smarter than TPLF and Ginbot 7, and have their compass calibrated. Ginbot 7 was too naive to try to attack the OLF in this way while they knew what this organization and its people had gone through in the last 20 years by successfully enduring massive onslaughts declared on them. Dr. Berhanu’s political compass must be messed up to make him believe that he could manipulate the aspiration of the Oromo people through buying soulless thugs like Kemal, who seemed to never get tired of putting himself up for sale.

There is no reason why Oromo people should worry that Ginbot 7, with this level of thinking and its present organizational capability, would undermine their national struggle. But, we take it to heart that no matter how trivial it is, Ginbot 7 is worse than the TPLF, and its goal is to perpetuate the same political agenda crafted by its fore fathers who brought us to political mess that we find ourselves in.

But, one may wonder why Ginbot 7 has chosen to engage in an activity that undermines mutual trust, hurts the spirit of collaboration and partnership? And why many Habesha elites are rejoicing of such mischievous deed?

The answer to the first question is plain and simple. Ginbot 7 merely wants to restore the Habesha supremacy constituted by the Atse’s by trampling over collective rights of the nations and nationalities for which the oppressed people have paid heavy price. The achievements so far gained are not a gift by anyone, but they were earned through blood and sacrifice. Berhanu and cohorts should have drawn a lesson from the results of the 2005 election, where they were rejected by all oppressed nations because the unity they were propagating with no regard to the rights and dignities of the different nations in the empire did not hold water.

The Oromos and other oppressed nations in Ethiopia have no problem with united Ethiopia, but the peoples should agree and sign in to that unity contract by themselves without any imposition. The Oromos do not hate unity, but, equally, they do not want to remain in forced unity imposed on them. However, they are willing to enter into voluntary union of nations and nationalities to form a new Ethiopia in which the economic and political rights and values of the different nations and nationalities are respected.

The OLF is belligerent to make sure that the Oromos have such right to decide on whether they want to continue as a united country with the rest of Ethiopians or want to go on their own. It has never said, at any time, that it wants to cede Oromia from the rest of Ethiopia. What is increasingly becoming dangerous for Ethiopian unity is, not the OLF’s position of insisting on the right to self-determination for the Oromos and other oppressed nations in Ethiopia, but it is the refusal to recognize the natural rights of the people to determine their own destiny and the blind denial by the Habesha elites of the plights of the Oromos and other nations. Their repeated attempts to distort the genuine questions of the oppressed nations are simply adding a fuel to an already raging fire. This will serve nothing, but only increases animosity, erodes trust, and narrow down the political space for possible partnership and voluntary union.

The reason why majority of the Habesha elites rejoiced with the action of the OLF splinter led by Kemal Gelchu is plain and clear. It is not because such a strategy is going to fortify the Ginbot 7 camp, but because they thought that it would annoy the OLF and the Oromo people. True, it is annoying when one breaks the sacred oath and decides to walk on the blood of our fallen heroes to sell our cause to groups which never liked Oromos. But, both the disappointment of the Oromos and the celebration in the Habesha camp are short lived. Kemal Gelchu served in the OLF only for two years, his continued presence or his dissociation from the OLF does not have a minute effect to the organization. OLF was there before him, has been there since 2008, and is still there after Kemal has surrendered.

Just like the action of Ginbot 7, the action of some Habesha individuals singing the Ginbot 7 dance was equally disturbing. But, this again will not have any impact on the OLF. It also does not benefit the Ginbot 7 camp as well, but it undoubtedly harms the spirit of Ethiopianisim, and highly undermines efforts and opportunities for forming a new Ethiopia that belongs to all of us.

One should question why we did not see a single letter from the Habesha elites protesting the inhuman treatments that the Oromos have suffered under the Tigrean minority rule for the last 20 years, but yet overwhelmed by letters celebrating the marriage of Kemal Gelchu with Ginbot 7? Is it really because this association will bring an end to the TPLF rule or because it is out of animosity for OLF and the Oromo people? Only few people like Mr. Fekade Shewkena can be spared from this condemnation. Mr. Fekade challenged the Habesha camp in his recent post that I thought was well articulated. It does not make a lot of difference on the ground whether the Habeshas protested the imprisonment of the Oromos or not, but it cultivates ground for the country that we aspire to build.

Let me conclude my message by an Oromo saying that goes like this, “Tikseen dhiyootti dhiiftee fagoo barbaacha dhqxi.” The opportunity for genuine collaboration to form a united Ethiopia is slipping away by days. Continued neglect for dignities and rights of nations and nationalities, and dirty political tricks cannot save the country from the political dilemma it finds itself in, but will only further complicate the already complex political landscape and make chances of a voluntary union remote.

* Boru Jibat can be reached at



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