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Can Oromia as a Country be a Better North East African Ally to the World with Security Concern?

February 18, 2013

By Daniel T.Dibaba

To many people in our world the word Oromia is pretty new and sounds odd. Since I am a nationalist Oromo and one of those who feel national responsibility to tell the world first hand and real story about this occupied country whose history had been told distorted to foreigners for over a century, I will try to describe about Oromia in order to shed light on it.

Background Information

Oromia (Oromo Land): is a country claimed by Oromos.

Location

Horn of Africa; in what is today Ethiopia. Oromia is approximately located between 3 degree and 15 degree N latitude and 33 degree and 40 degree longitude. 1

As one can see from the title, I argue that Oromia is located in geographically important part of the world for the fact that it is close to both Europe, and Arab countries, and as well   it shares borders with unstable countries which might be safe haven to groups which might pose security problems to the region as well as to the whole world. Oromia is also closer to the East African seas, even though it does not border them.

Neighbors:

·         In North : Abyssinia -Amhara, Tigrai

·         South: SNNPR,Kenya, Somalia

·         East: Ogaden, Afar

·         West:Gambella,  Gumuz,Sudan

Size

375,000 Square Miles, or, 600,000 square kilometers; Larger than France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium & the Netherlands combined.

Population

Over 40 million; 3rd largest nationality in Africa; single largest nationality in East Africa. This huge population had been systematically kept impoverished and deprived access to education and economic advancement   nearly for a century which was meant to make people ignorant and powerless to make it easier to colonize by European backed Abyssinia.

Now, once Oromia becomes independent and this population gets up and begins advancement, it is needless to mention what a great Nation and Power it would turn out to be. Right now, there is a report indicating that the minority Tigrean ruled government of Ethiopia is following a policy of biologically causing infertility in Oromia so as to make the Oromo population decline over time, to make Oromia lose the majority status in the empire, a problem which can also be compounded partly by a TPLF engineered poverty in some parts of Oromia. 2**

It is quite obvious that a lot of developed and developing world countries have less population but stand as country.

Religion

Waaqeffataa, Islam, Christian. Waaqeffataa was the original religion. As this is peculiar to Oromia I will explain it as much as I know. Generally, Oromos believed that the world is created by sky God; they refer to the sky as residence of God. They usually call their God as ‘Waqa Guracha’   literally translated as Black God meaning holy God. In Oromos the term black is often used to mean pure, as in ‘bishaan guraacha’ literally black water, meaning pure water. The Oromos worshiped their God at home and at some specific places like at river sides, lakes, under Sycamore, and on mountain tops. These places are most often green and lively. Oromos do not worship these places but believe they are holy places and prefer them as their sanctuary. One nationally well known such place is Hora Arsadi (Arsadi Lake) located about 25 Km from the capital Finfine (named Addis Ababa by a princess of the invading force of Abyssinia early 20th century). Oromos annually gather here for worship as well as to discuss on issues of national interest even currently.

However, today the majority of the Oromo people are followers of Islam and Christianity, while the remaining few are still followers of the original Oromo religion.

Oromo people have been in constant contact with other religions like Islam and Christianity for almost the last 1000 years. For instance, the Islamic religion was reported to have been in eastern Shawa about 900 A.D. and Christianity even before that. However, in favor and defense of their own traditional religion, the Oromo have resisted these religions for quite a long time. It is said that the Islamic religion spread in Oromia as a reaction to the Ethiopian colonization. The Oromo accepted Islam and non-Orthodox Christianity en-mass because they identified Abyssinian Orthodox Christianity with the oppressor and also to assert their identity vis-a-vis Abyssinians.

The two other religious beliefs, Christianity and Islam, started in Oromia about a century ago by their respective missionaries. Orthodox Christianity was initially imposed by Abyssinians, while Protestant Christianity started by European missionaries and Islam by Arabian missionaries by nonviolent teaching.3

What is special about Oromo is that there is no religious extremism. The followers of all the three religions denounce religious or any form of extremism. And in fact, as there is no idolatry, peoples are followers of either of the three religions.  This will make sure that there is no place for religious based violence whether at home or abroad. Oromos are peace loving and law abiding. They wish peace and prosperity for everyone. I believe this unity in diversity among Oromo will foster peace at home, in the troubled North East Africa as well as wherever Oromos live. It my strong believe that world powers, especially those who have interests  in North East Africa would  achieve more with less expenses working with independent Oromia to address regional affairs.

Resources

Breadbasket of the Horn of Africa -cereals including wheat, barley, sorghum, maize, tafi; exports includes coffee, oil seeds, hides and skins; it has the largest livestock holding in Africa; forestry – houses all the forest and wildlife reserves of the Horn including unique species like Nyala-lbex, Colobus monkey and the red fox. Minerals – two of three mineral belts of the region including gold, silver, platinum, uranium, marble, other varieties of rocks, Nickel, and natural gas. Oromia also has heavy deposits of other metal ores and charcoal. Recently Oromo geologists mention that there are enormous deposits of precious stones like sapphires in extended locations.

In addition to these, Oromia has a lot of exquisite natural scenic sites like lakes, zoos, green mountain chains with plenty of wild animals which are said to be rare outside Oromia and people with a natural beauty and tradition.

The fact that Oromo owns enormous natural resources implies that Oromo would not need to follow a policy of exploitation in its minorities and neighbors. This strongly promises peace inside and around Oromia.

Culture

Oromo has a very rich and original culture. Oromia has a lot of original cultures which include Dhanga (variety of highly nutritious foods with specific ingredients and recipe), Gada system, defense system,and rituals. Oromo have variety of music styles few of which coincide with the modern world music.The music styles include shaggooyye, Iyyaasee, Ragada, Raphisa,  Tirrii, Shubbisa, Hurruubsa , Dhiichisa, Geerarsa, and etc. In Oromia culture the Gada system is a very prominent democratic system that resembles the current day real democracy. In the Oromo Gada system every person passes through stages every eight years and sets of specific activities, responsibilities and duties are prescribed to each stage. Everyone enters to the first Gada stage at birth and enters the next ones every   eight years. Gada system is an effective democratic administrative system whereby the leaders of Oromia are elected by democratic voting system. According to Gada system the president is called Aba Bokku (Aba Gada). Aba Bokku can only preside one term of nonrenewable eight years. The stage that can preside is the Gada stage (40-48 years old). Gada system is highly democratic and ensures the human rights are respected at all stages. In Gada system individual conflicts are first resolved by arbitrating elders and if elders fail to reconcile the two sides the court is the final option.

Administrative and Leadership system

When we look at the Oromo leadership system a lot of things come to mind. Leadership begins at home and ends with the government.  What makes Oromo leadership system special is that it is totally democratic at all stages. Given the intention of my article, I will focus on leadership at government level. The administrative and leadership system requires those in Oromia government to be fully democratic and to play a leadership role than a master role. Those in offices are required to serve the society genuinely and fairly. The system is meant to serve the public and is not meant to serve only a specific circle of people or a specific clan. It ensures Oromos values, norms and mores are observed and respected. There is nothing like oppression, exploitation, and imprisonment without trial, kidnapping or extra judicial killing. Everything is democratic. The state ensures the rights of citizens are respected.

The political representatives promise that the leadership will once again be totally democratic, once independent. The government will do a lot to change the life of citizens. It is my hope that Oromo government will promote urbanization and mechanization. For over a century the Abyssinian rulers followed a policy of denying Oromos the right to modern education; deprived Oromos the right to own wealth and properties, and blocked urbanization in Oromia. In major Oromia towns they disowned the Oromos and transferred the properties to themselves or to their citizens and levied heavy taxes to systematically impoverish the Oromos. All these will once and for all stop in Oromia only when Oromia becomes independent. The Oromo government will   make sure the society keeps pace with world’s technological advancement and modernization.  So it means that the world will have a democratic, promising and reliable partner with a population of over 40 million, which is more or less similar to the population of Kenya. In case of Oromia   one has to understand that this population is homogeneous which will ensure peace. In addition, as history witnesses Oromo is kind, peaceful and has lived peacefully with minorities for centuries and will also remain so. Recently, it is becoming common that Oromo political organizations mention genuine concern to human rights of others and National minorities in Ethiopian empire, and promise they will treat all other minorities equally with Oromo citizens once Oromia becomes independent.

Political Representatives

Past and current

Here again, it is worth mentioning the fact that historically Oromos were led by regional kings like Bakare Godana (…. 1871), Moroda Bakare(1871 – 1888), Kumsa Moroda(1889 – 1924), Jote Tulu (…1870), Sacho Nechocho(1750?), Firisa (‘Aba Fogi’:1899 – 1902),Aba Jifar(1932), Abba Gadas and sultanates. These were some of the Oromia states’ kings (rulers) who were leading States of Oromia until they were finally one by one broken by the Abyssinian invasion and incorporated into Abyssinian Empire which was later called Ethiopia.  Oromia was totally incorporated into Abyssinia in 1932, when Jima (Shanan [five] Gibe) States were broken and included in Ethiopia. As the incorporation of Oromia in to Ethiopia was through bloodshed and crime against humanity, and the successive (three) rulers of Ethiopia did not represent Oromia and followed policy of systematically impoverishing Oromia, concerned Oromos started to organize to defend the rights of Oromos and to fight for the independence of Oromia. The first non political organization that was established in January 1963 to defend the rights of Oromos was Meca and Tulama Self Help Organization. This early Oromo organization has seen repression under all successive Ethiopian rulers including the current one.PR

The main political representatives of Oromia that struggle  for independence include Oromo Liberation Front(OLF), United Liberation Forces of Oromia (ULFO),Islamic Front for the Liberation of Oromia (IFLO),Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement(OFDM), Oromo People’s Congress(OPC). The last two organizations are unarmed and were established in recent decades and participated in two shame elections in 2005 and 2010 ,(OPC was established earlier and had participated in more than two sham elections), while the rest are armed and as a whole  are the ones Oromos hope will liberate  Oromia.

Out of the armed Oromo organizations OLF is stronger and has the majority Oromo public support and is currently active in Oromia. After it was established in 1973, it had participated in toppling Derg regime (previous Ethiopian regime) and had participated in transitional government of Ethiopia that was established in 1991 with Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF-current ruling party) until it was ousted in 1992 by TPLF fearing the popularity of OLF as a potential threat to its party. OLF has few factions, which merely differ in how to achieve the goal of independence, while all believe in independence of Oromia. Currently, the factions are getting unified under the original OLF and there is open call for all the independent Oromo political organizations for unity.   Since its establishment OLF has paid tens of thousands lives, money and material sacrifices for the cause of Oromia. Since OLF’s policy ensures religious freedom, there won’t be fear for religious extremism. ** The promising fact about OLF is that all the factions are more than ever uniting and have recognized the dire need for unity of organization and the Oromo Nation as a whole. This would have significant effect in effectively mobilizing resources for the liberation struggle. In addition it shows the level of national awareness in the society has grown and at its highest levels. In my understanding currently we can categorize the political organizations struggling for Oromia’s self-determination into three categories based on their strategies to achieve the end result.

·         Oromo Liberation Front (OLF): A conglomerate faction of the main and original OLF (Shanee) with OLF-Transitional Authority.

·         ULFO: An Oromo faction with similar agenda as in number 1.

·         Oromo Parliamentarians Council: Former Oromo Parliamentarians, work on building unity in Oromo Nationality, and Diplomacy, and Protection of Oromo Refuges. Oromo Parliamentarians Council is currently working on reaching Oromia.

·         Oromo People’s Congress: A merger of OFDM and ONC (Oromo National Congress) based in Oromia.

Both OLF and ULFO are armed political organizations that differ only in some of their strategies of struggle. OLF’s initial goal was to give Oromo the right to self-determination in form of referendum which they are denied by EPDRF (TPLF, OPDO and their allied non Oromo parties) even though it was included in the empire’s constitution during the transitional period of 1991 to 1992 when OLF was in the transitional government, while ULFO’s goal was creation of independent Oromia as a country and believes there is no need for referendum to achieve the goal. Currently OLF has reached an agreement the goal of Oromia’s National Struggle and unequivocally declared its end goal is restoration of Oromia as a sovereign country. Oromo Parliamentarians Council was established by former elected Oromo Parliamentarians who left the empire after a number of elected OFDM candidates were either imprisoned or killed by Ethiopian regime immediately after the 2005 Ethiopian election. A notable among the founder of Oromo Parliamentarians Council is Dr. Getachew Jigi. Oromo Parliamentarians Council has been working on building unity among independent Oromo Political Organizations; raising awareness of international community about Oromos’ human right violation by EPRDF; diplomacy and on making the Oromo Nation the owner of its struggle.  The fourth category is, as mentioned above, unarmed and registered by EPDRF as opposition party having offices in Ethiopia to participate in the elections (sham) held every five years. So far, the elections have only served to legitimize the government of TPLF in the empire. Many top leaders of this organization like Mr. Baqala Garba and Mr.Olbana Lelisa were convicted to lengthy prison sentences in Nov 2012 for speaking with Amnesty International and for demanding human rights for the Oromo People until August 2011.

Out of all the Oromo Political Organizations, OLF led by Comrade Dawud Ibsa (the first of the three mentioned above) is the main OLF, which is stable and has wide acceptance. It has hundreds of thousands of strong supporters, members of political and armed wings in addition to the general Oromo population that believe in it as the Christ of Christians and Mohammed of Islam for protection and independence.

None of these Oromo political organizations believe in terrorism as a means to achieve Liberation of Oromia. They even consider it as an act of desperation and strongly excommunicate it though EPDRF had tried a lot of times to accuse all of them at different times for an act of terrorism. In all of the cases these political organizations have denied the act and have not taken responsibilities therein. Most of the time EPDRF itself is implicated for carrying out a fake drama to kill civilians to accuse the rebels and opposition parties as terrorist. EPDRF’s act of terHYPERLINK "http://www1.oromo.org/enocide-against-the-oromo-people-of-thiopia.html"rHYPERLINK "http://www1.oromo.org/enocide-against-the-oromo-people-of-thiopia.html"orism. (Provocation of violence between Oromo and other nationalities4.

Mainly these Oromo political organizations strive to work with other nations’ opposition organizations in the empire on the struggle for liberation of the respective nations from the undemocratic and brutal rule by the Tigrean minority government. They have strong ties and understand each others’ goal. OLF and ULFO have ties with Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Gibot 7, Sidama Liberation Front (SLF), Afar* , Beneshangul Gumuz Liberation Front, while OPC is a member of Ethiopian Fedral Democratic Unity Forum a coalition of six opposition parties.

Prospects for Regional and World Security

The independence of Oromia has tremendous outcome first for its citizens, second for the region, and for the whole world with security, economic, and human right concern. It would mean Oromos will, for the first time in a century, be the first citizen in their own country. It will bring radical economic change into the lives of millions of Oromos, as the natural resources of Oromia will be fairly used for its development. I believe this will put an end to poverty for good in Oromia, which will ease the burden on donor organizations. Oromia’s independence will also have significant regional impact as formation of a true democratic and stable country in the region will end Ethiopia’s presence in Somalia that I believe is the main reason for instability in Somalia which is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars. In addition, Somalia Islamic Court had brought significant stability for months until the invasion by Ethiopia in 2006, which ousted the moderate Islamic court and led to the formation of more extremist Al-Shabab. So formation of Oromia as a country in North East Africa will remove Ethiopia from the equation of instability in Somalia, and probably bring to stability to that country as well. This will in turn bring solution to the world security concern in the region as a reliable government might form in Somalia as well. Piracy might be dealt with right from within Somalia, which might end the security problem in the Indian and Mediterranean Oceans.

One might ask what does the world benefit from this. Millions are suffering the result of oppression, thousands are killed at gun point, tens of thousands are in Ethiopian prison just due to asking for freedom of Oromia, millions are starving to death in the Empire while most often you cannot get any environmental but political explanation for the situation-people starving in green neighborhoods.  This time around, farmers are evicted and tons of hectares of farmlands are leased by Tigrean government to foreign countries and foreign nationals against the will of citizens. Injustice somewhere is justice nowhere!

Stakeholders

Oromo(Oromia), Ethiopian Empire, North East African countries including Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Egypt,  Uganda; and western powers  like USA, UK and EU, Canada; Asia Pacific countries like Japan, China ,Australia etc. It runs in Oromia’s histories that Oromos have ever been fighting to get back independence and sovereignty it lost after heavy bloodshed. Needless to mention the role of America in keeping the freedom thirst Nations in the empire state in status quo, foreign countries including Britain, France, Russia, and Yugoslavia have played paramount role in subjugation of Oromia and other Nations in Ethiopian empire. Elderly Oromos who might have got the chance to hear the fresh stories from ancestors clearly mention the fact that the invading Abyssinians had got significant machine guns in support from France and from Britain. It is also mentioned mercenaries were bought from these European countries and from Russia in the effort to subjugate Oromia.

As a matter of this historical fact of involvement of the West and world powers in the subjugation and continuation of status quo of Oromia, they must also participate in the struggle of Oromia for independence. It is widely known that US, UN and the West have responded with support to public uprisings in North Africa taking place since middle of December, 2010 5 which are meant to bring end to dictatorial rules and public miseries. Ethiopia is not an exception to dictatorial rule, and exploitation by single man rule, who is dedicated to his (Meles Zenawi’s) family circle and his minority tribe (Tigre). If the whole world aspires to ensure respect for human rights, to end exploitation of the majority by armed minority and to up hold the basic democratic values for which millions have paid their precious and irreplaceable lives, they should support the struggle of Oromia for independence from Abyssinian (Ethiopian) colonial rule.


Today all major developed Nations give out billions of tax payer’s money, supposedly to support developments, to the dictatorial rule in Ethiopian empire, which unfortunately is also reported to have been manipulated to force the poor in support of the unpopular despots.
6

This lump sum of money is spent on building modern defense army, in an empire where millions starve to death merely due to poor leadership. The fact that direct military support and trainings, rendered to TPLF led EPRDF by the West for the purpose of guarding regional security against terrorists, end in squashing internal freedom fighters like OLF & ONLF should not be overlooked. If US, UN and EU support the protesters in Libya who are getting armed to oust dictatorial rule, they are equally required to side with the people and vanguards of the people like OLF & ONLF in Ethiopian empire.


Similarly neighboring countries like Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Uganda and the Middle East also can play great role in supporting the struggle of peoples in Ethiopian empire. To the contrary some of these countries have often committed historical crimes against humanity by siding with the brutal despots in Ethiopia, arresting and extraditing fugitives who are then sentenced to death or life in prison. Since Asia pacific countries have significant interests in African countries and Oromia is one of the nearest and strategically located regions in Africa, they can also play tremendous role in supporting the struggle of people for independence and development.

The Role of World Powers on the Oromia’s Liberation Struggle

It is obvious that the world is interconnected and prevailing condition in one community or country most often affects others in the surrounding or in any part of the world. Due to this and other reasons the world powers and International Organizations are observed involving in the politics of nations throughout the world. Such include the mega powers like North America (US & Canada), Europe, Asia Pacific Countries like Japan, China, Australia and Koreas; UN, AU and EGAD. This involvement though usually meant to be positive can have both positive and negative outcomes when looked at from different perspectives. To mention few of interventions of my interest: UN is involved in assisting East Timor gain Independence, US has assisted Kosovo get independence, US has assisted SPLM financially, and recently US, EU, UN and NATO have expressed their concerns for the Civilians on protest in North Africa including in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In many of these cases they have even called the dictators to step down and give power to the public and in the case of Libya military Embargoes, Asset freezes and No-Fly-Zones are being considered. The Arab League has already supported No-fly-zone on Libya. But that is not the only case where external powers intervene in “internal” affairs, needless to mention the fact that US offers direct military training and billions of dollars to EPDRF which uses this lump sum of money to squash rebels and oppositions. 7HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan_People%27s_Liberation_Army/Movement",8 . China and EU are also pumping thousands of billions of dollars to EPDRF, which uses significant proportion of that money to fight rebels and the opposition in one way or the other. At the same time, it limited the amount of foreign funds the civil society organizations including those who work on human right can receive from abroad and systematically banned them 9.  

Having said that about the role of external powers and forces on internal affairs of communities, countries and empires, let me express the expectation of Oromia and Oromo’s politicians from these powers. Due to the historical involvement of external forces for the initial failure of Oromia as a sovereign country at the end of 19th C and beginning of 20th C and due to the continued involvement in the current political equation of the region by these forces, Oromos and Oromo political organizations expect these powerful institutions and countries to be on the side of the liberation struggle of Oromia, which is home to more than 40 million Oromo population in Ethiopian empire of about 85 million population and over 72 ethnic groups. They can side with the liberation struggle in many ways including through: direct financial and military support, pushing for the realization of meaningful democracy and respect for human right including self determination of nations, freedom of political prisoners and indirect ones like stopping the military and financial support to ERDF in any form, holding Ethiopian government human right criminals accountable for the crimes they commit against humanity, and pushing for meaningful negotiations in presence of third parties including UNPF for the realization thereof. Giving recognition to OLF as a freedom fighter by the world powers will also affect how it is seen by countries in the region and will have positive impact on the nation’s struggle. Since freedom and human right are the fundamental rights and extremely crucial for the development of any nation, Oromia desperately needs the assistance of the world in realization of this goal that has cost it millions of human lives and billions of properties since the inclusion in the Abyssinian empire (Ethiopia).

By Daniel T. Dibaba

bonyak@hotmail.com

 

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