Gumii Paarlaamaa Oromoo (GPO)
Oromo Parliamentarians Council (OPC)
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Oromia at the crossroads
Qeerroo and TPLF are at loggerheads. On the one hand, the TPLF is doing everything imaginable to suppress Oromo national uprising including the use brute force. On the other hand, Qeerroo is challenging the status quo conquering fear and willing to pay any price to free Oromia once and for all. Throughout history, the price of freedom for all has been paid by a few who loved freedom enough to pay the cost for everyone, and in the case of Oromia, Qeerroo is paying the price of freedom for all at a heavy cost, facing ruthless and inhuman enemy armed to the teeth. The Oromo peaceful struggle to be free from TPLF tyranny has intensified the past 4 months. The level of violence –arrests, torture, and shooting and killing, murdering and dumping–by TPLF special-forces and the army against peaceful Oromo demonstrators and public disobedience is reaching a very dangerous point. Unless TPLF makes radical change, which is unlikely, we may be witnessing a replay of the Khmer Rouge period rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Communist Party of Kampuchea over Cambodia repeating itself in Oromia. The main difference this time, TPLF is not supported by Moscow or Beijing, but by cynical western “democracies” in the name of protecting their “national security interest”; an irresponsible and short-sighted policy that is grounded in egocentric short-term interest and surely destined to inflict heavy damage to their long-term interest and to the democratic values they ritualistically preach. After all, it has been said that, the degree to which souls cooperate with evil is directly proportional to the degree of suffering that will befall humanity, and not just humanity, but all of nature as well.
TPLF took control of Ethiopia and Oromia with the defeat of the Derg in 1990. One of the most important decisions TPLF faced was what to do with OLF. TPLF determined that to control Oromia, it had to systematically liquidate OLF. By 1990, OLF was one political organization Oromo embraced as genuine Oromo representative. TPLF was well organized; had the full support of Shabia (EPLF); and keen prop from the international community. The US with the blessing of Kremlin facilitated the downfall of the Derg junta and the control of Ethiopia and Eritrea by TPLF and EPLF, respectively. The TPLF and Shabia hoodwinked OLF political leaders into encamping OLF fighters, subsequently surrounding the encamped fighters and easily massacring unsuspecting fighters; turning those camps into a killing field. The remaining were either thrown into concentration camps, while a few political leaders and fighters exiled to foreign land. Within a few months-time, Oromia lost her brave sons and daughters fighting force that she produced over the two decades of military rule. The TPLF decision to liquidate OLF was taken as a bold move by TPLF admirers, while rational political thinkers judged the move as one of the most reckless and ludicrous decisions sure to haunt TPLF in the future. For an average Oromo, that evil act of TPLF/EPLF duo left wound that is still fresh and shall live for eternity in the annals of Oromo history. This political and military venture and drama was accomplished, thanks in part to Shabia and Washington scheme. The Shabia leadership self-serving decision to foolhardy conspire with TPLF was not only irrational and dangerous but proved to be plain stupid; Shabia paid a very heavy price in lives lost and treasure wasted a few years later.
Both TPLF and Shabia should have known that the defeat of OLF might delay, but would never stop the Oromo struggle for their right to self-determination. Too many wrongly concluded that the TPLF victory ended the Oromo aspiration for freedom. Yet, time has proven, that was one victory, one battle, in an ongoing war. The struggle never stopped and the war continues today, only the skills gained and the battle tactics have changed. The defeat of the OLF did not stop Oromos from continuing voicing their grievances, mostly peacefully, at times through low-scale protracted armed struggle. Each time, TPLF used the same method to silence Oromo struggle–brut security and military force. For sure, the damage on life and livelihood has been heavy, the degree of suffering enormous, the level of cruelty and savagery inhuman, yet Oromos continued to put Extraordinary Acts of Courage, Sacrifice and Heroism. For quarter of a century now, Afaan Oromo has been the lingua franca of Ethiopian prisons. Thousands of Oromos were brutally maimed and killed. Those who were able to cross boarders exiled from their homeland and reside as refugees every corner of the world. Thousands lost their lives while trying to escape inside or outside the country.
Scientists tell us that if you cap the volcano, eventually the pressure beneath rises to the point that the cap gets blown off in spectacular fashion. In the same vein, political and social scientis understand that the suppression of social mobility and the monopolization of power by the few at the expense of the many are universal dynamics in social orders. It’s not a stretch to surmise from this that the greater the TPLF concentrate power, the lower the social mobility for Oromo and others, the greater the odds that the system TPLF built will eventually collapse when faced with crisis as is happening now in TPLF controlled Ethiopia. The cap the TPLF put on Ethiopia through brut military force got blown off in a spectacular fashion in Oromia. Various evidences suggest that the buildup to blast-time in other regions is in full swing.
The most recent political unraveling in Oromia is sparked by TPLF’s ill-fated plan to grab more Oromo farm land surrounding Finfinnee. The TPLF Oromia land grab plan was secretly prepared under the Addis Ababa Integrated Regional Development Plan (AAIRDP). The plan extends the city’s authority to the surrounding Oromia region, including 17 Woredas, 38 cities, totaling 1.1 million hectares. The secret plan aims at achieving two major goals. The first action displaces Oromo farmers from their ancestral lands and settles Tigre Nouveau Riche and it accomplishes in the newly acquired lands, and the second, the outcome of the first, practically divides Oromia from contiguous territory into two, east and west, disconnected and detached territory. The official rational marketing strategy for public and international consumption behind the expansion of Finfinne was presented by TPLF as logical outcome to handle growth of the population and to bring about development that benefits the region. For the Oromo, particularly for the young generation of Oromo who grew under the regime and know this group as nothing but anti-Oromo determined to wipe out as many Oromos it can, it was an easy matter to untangle the evil intent, the deception, the make believe shenanigan. The major lesson was acquired from data that show how all Oromo land inside Finfinne was scavenged by TPLF rank and fine with little or no compensation for Oromo farmers. For the young generation, the Addis Ababa Master Plan was the catalyst that sparked political uprising. For the exiled Oromo, most veterans of Oromo struggle, this was a make-or-break moment, an opportunity to educate the international community who do not really understand the TPLF and challenge the wisdom of those who knew the TPLF but decided to defend the evil group anyway. Even within the OPDO, an organization created by TPLF from captured Derg soldiers for the sole purpose of implementing TPLF political objectives in Oromia, this program was too much to stomach, and some openly objected and were instrumental at exposing the content of the secret plan. So strong and so ruthlessly imposed were protocols constraining discussion of TPLF political, economic, and military objectives that when OPDO expressed with undisguised resentment, the fears and objections felt in much of Oromia, a political volcano erupted.
The Finfinne master plan did not get support even from some non-Oromo groups, including from those who do not necessarily have the best interest at heart for Oromo quest for self-determination. For some, the plan was undertaken without proper consultation with the Oromo who are directly affected. They thought that the plan is legally indefensible even under the letter and spirit of the TPLF constitution. For other nations that experienced land grabbing without even showing mock plan as the Finfinne master plan, the Oromia land issue was Déjà vu and were not amused by TPLF facade. TPLF uprooted many people in the Gambella and Southern regions, such as in the Omo, and the Afar Region handing their land to TPLF Capos or leasing their lands to foreign international investors with little or no compensation for the owners of these lands. The people of Welkait-Tegede were forcefully separated from Gondere kins and put under Tigray.
A few Amhara chauvinist extremists misinterpreted the current Oromo resistance movement as power struggle between TPLF and OLF. Admasu Belay writes “As much as we feel sorrow for the youth in Oromia who are being brutally attacked by the TPLF; deep inside we all know that the last few weeks of unrest is nothing more than a TPLF-OLF civil war. …. The current chaos in “Oromia” is really a battle for supremacy between two ethnocentric elitist groups. These two groups are the Tigray elites and the Oromo elites.” Such jingoistic old way of thinking coming out of children of Naftegna who hallucinate to revive the life their parents relished does not come as a surprise for any Oromo. This group should be reminded that the system that empowered you to rule using gun as a weapon of domination ended with the land reform of 1975, and Oromos and others won’t allow the reinstitution of Amhara neo-neftegna rule again. Contrariwise to the old-school-thinking, Oromos should acknowledge the new generation of Amhara who are sympathetic to our cause while also facing similar circumstances from TPLF. For example, ESAT played a major role in exposing TPLF fascistic action against Oromo these past 5 months, and spent time and large resources to collect crucial information that helped educate Ethiopians and the international community. This crucial media also invited several prominent Oromo to explain what was happening in Oromia. Others joined Oromo demonstrations around the world condemning TPLF killing of unarmed Oromo civilians and land grab.
The TPLF Oromia land grab plan venture were made possible by revising and modifying TPLF 1976 manifesto, as the result of and manifestation of the group’s confidence that it has dominated the political, economic, and military power over the entire country for 25 years, and was able to crash opposition so far. The TPLF initial plan was the formation of Republic of Greater Tigray. In their February 1976 manifesto, the TPLF defined who a Tigryan is; the land that the TPLF considers as Tigray; and the final destination of the TPLF. In general, a Tigryan is defined loosely as anybody that speaks the language of Tigrigna including those who live outside Tigray– extending the geographic boundaries of Tigray to the borders of the Sudan including the lands of Humera and Welkait from the region of Begemidir, to land extending down to the regions of Wollo, to Eritrean Kunama, to Afar lands including Assab. The final goal was to secede from Ethiopia as an independent “Republic of Greater Tigray”.
The change of heart from seceding from Ethiopia to ruling over Ethiopia gave the TPLF advantages, benefits, and profits the group never ever dreamed was even possible to dream. TPLF’s initial plans have been accomplished, even with the change from seceding from Ethiopia to ruling over Ethiopia. Ruling over Ethiopia also opened floodgate for TPLF to looting of the rest of the country. We also knew that the vision for TPLF to control Ethiopia was staged to the group, and the visionaries were Shabia leaders hopping for creating future possibilities in their minds for themselves. The Shabia vision was a strategic decision meant to create a possibility for Eritrea to share the loot of Ethiopia with TPLF for the foreseeable future. Conning TPLF settled to rule over Ethiopia, but, took Shabia’s other plans as a temporary tactical move. A few years later, TPLF reneged on sharing the loot of Ethiopia with EPLF, cut relations from Eritrea, isolated Eritrea internationally, thereby turning, the country once boasting as destined to become an economic Tiger of Africa, into an economic basket case.
Such TPLF short-term success stories has inflated egos of a tiny poverty stricken Tigray new leaders to continue to think of grandiose Tigray. Overwhelmed with flush of victories, the group’s abuse of power has reached its zenith. In one recent chat room a Tigrean responded to an Amhara saying “Don’t forget, we are Axumites, we ruled 29-45 kingdoms under our Axumite Empire. Gonder was built by Tigrayans. … We can repeat what our ancestors did, we have the capacity to rule the entire continent of Africa”. A mere 6 percent of Ethiopians are Tigrayans. The group’s coming to power is largely result of historical accident: The opportunity the sudden end of the Cold War created; the bizarre and twisted Mengistu leadership resulting in the refusal of Ethiopian army to fight; the American endorsement etc… The Tigray region barely feeds her current population in a good harvest year and the habitats of Tigray suffer from persistent drought and starvation putting her habitually at the mercy of international food donor organizations. For the past 25 years, Tigray was able to feed her population mostly through robbing from more fertile regions of the country TPLF control at gun point. These guns are manufactured by international powers for lackeys and Tigray can’t manufacture a needle without. The people who are been robbed were patient for far too long, but are saying no more now. That makes TPLF bravado foolish, perplexing, and dangerous for their own people. The group is not really qualified to run modern nation state. In terms of educational attainment and skills, most of TPLF leaders barely graduated from college (their Chief of Staff is elementary school 4th grade dropout. Several purchased Master’s degree papers from con-artists); almost never held regular jobs since most of them spent their youth fighting the Derg until they moved to Finfinnee. The group can’t find one qualified Tigre to replace their dead leader because every TPLF leader voted self, and finally decided to pick a Wolayta PDO, who is having a lot of trouble identifying who his real boss from within the TPLF. There is no leadership, and so the country runs byMilitary Fiat.
In terms of economic growth, the fact that a few mafia oligarchs from Tigray become billionaires and millionaires from stealing international donor money; land grabbing; and from multitudes of other forms of corruption is not a real measure of social mobility or economic progress for the masses. TPLF mafia controls the Ethiopian economy using two instruments. The first is REST (Relief Society of Tigray). This financial umbrella of TPLF is registered as NGO, and humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia is controlled by this group. The second is EFFORT (The Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray). EFFORT is TPLF economic empire and has monopolized the private sector of the Ethiopian economic sector to the extent never seen anywhere in the continent. TPLF can fool the donor countries, but not the citizens of that land; for the citizens know the true condition of their lot in life. The other major beneficiary of TPLF rule is Mohammed International Development Research and Organization Companies (MIDROC). MIDROC Companies are owned by the Saudi billionaire, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi. MIDROC Ethiopia owns 70 group and affiliate companies that are engaged in multifaceted business sectors across the country. The Saudi billionaire exploits Oromia resources, but loathed Oromo and shared none. Oromia suffered all the negative attributes associated with his myriads of mining and other businesses but none of its benefits. No employment, no infrastructure development, no schools and no hospitals for communities. Not a single Oromo is employed as head of his 30 or so corporation as a CEO. The communities experience deforestation, lethally polluted lakes, toxic, acidic water, too many very sick people and animals with symptoms related to toxicity and pollution. All the benefits went to his sponsors TPLF, and to his kin and kinfolks. The Saudi billionaire showers TPLF fascist clique with millions of dollars and with highest positions his corporations.
The national and international media trumpeted impressive double digit economic performance has not trickled down and benefitted the majority. Although Oromia is the richest region in natural resources, making a living has become unsustainable for Oromo and living in poverty has become a norm for the many. Of the 20 million people affected by drought, food insecurity and gripped by famine today, the vast majority are Oromo.
Twenty-five years of TPLF abuse of Oromo and exploitation of Oromia was reaching boiling point in Oromia even prior to the sinister master plan was leaked to the public. The master plan and the expected consequences for the very existence of Oromia and the safety of Oromo were in a grave situation. Prior to this and other plans, TPLF had disarmed Oromos from owning guns and even sharp home objects used for farming purposes that TPLF thought could be used as a weapon someday, using its Trojan horse, the OPDO. Notwithstanding, Oromo youth had enough and erupted like a volcano from every corner of Oromia telling the TPLF, Oromia belongs to Oromo, and the group should get out. The mass movement spread Oromia wide through peaceful protests, civil disobedience by students a la Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha. The TPLF reaction was not surprising. True to its usual barbaric manner, ordered its killer Agazi force, illiterate Tigray farmers trained to kill without questioning, irrespective of age, gender or occupation, to go and kill students. The entire Oromia was erupting, and Agazi force was also everywhere, shooting and murdering students at point-blank. Families who joined the demonstration or went to pick their kids were not spared. Kids from as young as 5 years to elderly of 80 years to pregnant women were summary executed. The TPLF orders the national army to join the Agazi and Oromia turned into a killing field. During the first three months of demonstration, over 400 Oromos are summarily executed; tens of thousands are wounded; and no one has good estimate on how many were captured and put into prisons and concentration camps. TPLF leaders whose 1970s manifesto was to liberate Tigray, are now the freshly minted sole political and military rulers of Oromia killing Oromos at will in their own homeland for speaking out and for peacefully demonstrating.
The TPLF wrongly believe that she can silence Oromo through such savagery and terror. The Oromo youth had different ideas, very similar in sentiment to Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death” speech in 1775 for the necessity of the American revolutionary war and the primacy of individual liberty. Patrick Henry concludes his long speech with the following: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! … Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
TPLF barbaric acts in Oromia was a reminder of Apartheid era in South Africa during anti-apartheid era demonstrations. Nevertheless, it could not stop the Oromo from continuing to peacefully demonstrating and refusing to surrender. The bravery and total repudiation of unarmed Oromo in the midst of this carnage facing TPLF fascist military force bare hand was never seen in that land. The courage mothers who lost their young, telling the enemy to get out of Oromia was exemplary for other families and praiseworthy by those who are facing similar circumstances. Jim Morrison once wrote that “There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.” That “something bigger than oneself” for Oromo youth is love of Oromia; dignity and honor of Oromoness; breaking the back of marauding Tigray thugs raiding and looting and killing innocent Oromo; the determination and commitment to free Oromo; and the actualization of free and liberated Oromia.
Oromia is the most welcoming of non-Oromo and hosts millions of residents of all national groups in that empire. Unfortunately, those non-Oromo residents inside Oromia did not join Oromo uprising in appreciable numbers. Still, Oromos protected all residents, while shedding their own blood, thinking of tomorrow and manifesting Oromo wisdom of welcoming and defending others even under environment of uncertainty–wisdom not to allow the enemy from dividing peoples. This wisdom of welcoming and defending others while defending also oneself, is ingrained in the Oromo being; an outcome of Oromo cultural practices lasting thousands of years. But, such benevolence practices have always been a double edge sword for the Oromo. Among non-Oromos flocking into Oromia to make a living; somerespectfully share in what Oromia has to offer and are grateful, while others also happy at making a good living, behave ungrateful, use, abuse, and exploit Oromia, while detesting and despising the very people that welcomed them. For the past 130 years, Oromia has been victimized as a result of its open culture of welcoming these latter groups, some forced others willingly. Defending non-Oromos inside Oromia during the past mass upraising still is wise and commendable, considering the TPLF effectively used to hang onto power through divide-and-conquer, even as some of these residents continue to be apathetic or even hostile at Oromo upraising.
By early March, TPLF knew that it can’t control Oromia through its surrogate OPDO, and all the mass killings, beating, pounding and clobbering and the torturing of those arrested can’t silence the Qeerroo generation. In yet another desperate move, TPLF officially put Oromia under its military rule. TPLF divides Oromia into 8 sections, and each section is to be commandeered by a military General. The governance of Oromia is under Defense Council containing 11 Generals. The council is led by the current chief of staff, Samorah Yunis. All except 2 are from Tigray; the other two include 1 Amhara and 1 Agaw. Not a single Oromo General was trust-worthy of TPLF to be included in the Defense Council that governs Oromia. According to one source, Samorah Yunis instructed his generals, with the following words: This war is about our survival; if we lose this war, it is the end of us (TPLF). Samorah is right, his group has done so much damage to the country, so much theft, too many lies, and exerted unrestrained abuse of power becoming one of the most hated in that country.
Opting for TPLF Generals to run Oromia did not come as a big surprise for Oromo nationalists, for they have always known that Oromia has always been under TPLF military and security occupation and OPDO is/was nothing but a façade used for hoodwinking the public and for international consumption. Prior to direct military rule, TPLF had established a sophisticated spy network where by one person is assigned to shadow and report on five persons deemed to be suspects of opposing its rule and for labelling such persons terrorist. The spy network spread to every facet of life including schools, religious institutions, peasant associations, urban associations, and to overseas. Also, prior to the direct military rule, any grievance by any Oromo is considered as OLF conspiracy, and OLF is labelled as a “terrorist” organization. Therefore, Oromo grievances and legitimate demands were branded as terrorist conspiracies under TPLF rule and are charged under the Anti-Terrorist Proclamation law. In essence, today’s Oromia wide movement for their right to self- determination makes all Oromo terrorists. That also explains why Oromo Generals in TPLF army were not included in the Defense Council, because they are terrorist suspects.
With the institution of Defense Council to govern Oromia, in a nutshell, a group of Tigray college-age-youth of the 1970s, whose aim was to liberate poverty stricken Tigray, not only liberated Tigray, but are crowning themselves as the 21st century colonial power of Ethiopia. The question then become, for how long can this tiny group of semi-literate gun tooting gang continue to behave this way? Many a times in history, twisted leaders form political parties aimed at domination of others. Adolf Hitler of the Nazi party, one-time Austrian vagabond who rose to be the dictator of Germany, came up with a bizarre plan to rule the world. Hitler was able to subdue many nations, defied successfully and humiliated some of the greatest powers of Europe. At the end though, he brought calamity to his nation. He was destroyed and Germany was destroyed, for he unleashed forces of hatred throughout the world. In Italy, another fascist rose. Mussolini rose in Italy and violence and territorial expansion on grounds of national or racial superiority were part of the fascist creed. Following few ventures and successes, Mussolini also met his grisly end in 1945. In the Horn of Africa, Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia also dreamt big, and built a formidable military good enough to defeat Ethiopia’s weak army in the early 1970’s. He advocated for Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn). Greater Somalia encompasses Somali-inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Djibouti, Ogaden in Ethiopia, and the North Eastern Province in Kenya. Siad Barre became even more daring and decided to conquer large part of east and southern Oromia, up to the Awash River. He won temporary battles with Ethiopia, but at the end, lost the war and with that destroyed the nation state of Somalia, which only exists in name on world map, as a failed basket case territory for over 30 years. Thus, history is not on the side of leaders and groups of swashbucklers who tried to dominate others whether the motive is political domination or territorial expansion, as history of Hitler-Mussolini- Ziad Barre attest. With Western countries continuing pouring money into the coffers of TPLF, while the gang is declaring war in Oromia and others killing, torturing and herding people into concentration camps, the fate of Ethiopia under TPLF will not be that different from the counties led by previous trio–Hitler-Mussolini-Ziad Barre.
Based on the past 4 months of TPLF behavior, it is clear that TPLF does not follow or care about the norm of just war against civilians. TPLF lacks just cause for war in Oromia, and it is fighting unjustly. When TPLF soldiers attack peaceful demonstrators, pursue them beyond what is reasonable, or violate other rules of fair conduct, they commit not acts of war, but acts of murder. Civilians, who have not forfeited their rights by becoming soldiers are never permissible targets of war. International law also suggests that every individual, regardless of rank or governmental status, is personally responsible for any war crime that he might commit. War crimes tribunals are meant to address such crimes. There is no justification for TPLF to send Agazi and its military into Oromia against peaceful student demonstrators. This is clear violation of international norm and is war crime against humanity. The decision by TPLF to govern Oromia using 8 Tigre Generals is telling the world that despite what Oromos say and do, TPLF has declared war on Oromia and is ready to kill anyone who is challenging hegemony over Oromia.
The question for every Oromo then become, how to bring this very dangerous situation under control, and how to defeat this dangerous enemy called TPLF with as minimum sacrifice in life as can be achieved without compromising our rights and the right to free Oromia.
Oromia is at crossroads. TPLF will use and say anything and everything literally to survive now it is clear that Oromo from every corner of Oromia has risen, is unafraid, and determined to free Oromia. TPLF is also cognizant that it is hated, despised and detested by an average Oromo for their despicable act of terror in Oromia-up to an estimated 500 peaceful demonstrators shot and killed at point blank in just 2 years; 400 in just 3 months. Dividing Oromia into 8 sections and trying to control using 8 Tigre Generals is a desperate act. We also know that trying to militarily occupy people who hate you and despise you did not work well even for Super-Powers. It is hard to imagine this working for TPLF; a group who do not have basic knowledge and understanding of the very most basic and universal human values; and distinguished for being the most primeval blood thirsty gun tooting clowns who think this is 18th century.
So far, our youth have achieved what was once unimaginable, and continue to rock the foundation of TPLF political power and economic infrastructure. In the process, many have lost their lives, thousands are severely wounded and locked-up in TPLF concentration camps. We understand that this is a very high price to pay. We also learn from others experience that freedom is everything it’s cracked up to be. Freedom is not free and does not come cheap. It requires dedication, fortitude, and great sacrifice. Notwithstanding, it really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. If we don’t take all the risk necessary to free Oromia, we risk losing even more. Our cause is a just cause, and no matter how hard TPLF plot evil, it can never quite match up to the power of our good cause. Try as she might, when everything said and done, TPLF will never keep the control of Oromia, and will be defeated decisively, for the young generation shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, and overcome any obstacle until Oromia is free and whole.
About the Author: Albasa Dagaga is a researcher and resides in Washington DC Metro area. You can reach him on email@example.com
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