No Change Unless Old Ethiopia Mentality is Changed
8 April 2019
By Ibsaa Guutama
It seems we are now in a period like that of Ali Aluulaa, the last Oromo regent/guardian of the Ethiopian throne. He was true to his trusteeship and did not crown himself when Teedros came to disgracefully discarded him. But no one called Teedros “Zaranya” when he chased out Oromo from his kingdom. Ali’s fall did not affect him alone but the Oromo in the region were never able to raise their head since then. Political guardians were then like nannies who raise others children to be masters, never themselves being one. It was to get out of such situation that Oromo started liberation movement. From the beginning they were divided into ones that stand for independence and those that stand for democratization of Ethiopian Empire. Today both might have found a common way that leads to the supreme judge, the Oromo people, thanks to Oromo youth movement. The ones who started armed struggle in the name of independence under the vanguard organization OLF were able to make the world aware of the plight of their people and were able to take part in the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE). Even after OLF was purged from TGE independent Oromo organizations have tried to organize themselves for democratization of Ethiopia as loyal opposition. But they were rejected by the Ethiopians. Most of them were subjected to suffering alleged of being OLF. The time was a time when it was said, “If you scratch OPDO inside is OLF”. Difference between most of them was a matter of issue presentation. They similarly believed that at the end it will be the Oromo people that have to determine in a referendum what fits it. Many supported the change believing it will take them there. With change a new union is expected not repetition of oppressive old Ethiopia.
Oromummaa is not subservient to any other culture and Oromia to any other country. Founding of OLF was based on those facts. Since then it has achievements but did not reach its goal. Rather it was branded as terrorist and its name became a reason to subject independent minded Oromo national to untold sufferings for three decades. Some descendants of first settlers hate OLF not because it infringed on any nation’s rights, but because they cannot accept Oromia and Oromo that are not subservient to them. OLF for them represents all obstacles between them and their ambition of domination. By extension they hate the Oromo people they had contempt for, for demanding recognition of separate identity, equality, freedom and sovereignty over Oromia. Despite that the Oromo have dismantled old relations with great sacrifice and has reached at the get of freedom. The choice is theirs, to keep their hands off Oromia and push the transition to successful change or go to war for domination as usual. But real change is a panacea for our ills.
Whether the OLF is there or not the Oromo people are not going to quit their demand for their right of national self-determination enshrined in Ethiopian constitution to end the continuous conflict. Their question is about justice, equality and freedom for Oromia not the name Ethiopia, which may be negotiable if they decide to live together. In modern thinking no state is eternally ordained. It is created by humans and can be remodeled or dismantled by humans. Only those under spell of old Ethiopia refuse to negotiate any issue concerning Ethiopia. We are now in a situation nearer to anarchy, where no nation is in control of the other but the mentality shaped by false history narrated to brain wash followers by Ethiopian ruling class which had been in power for hundreds of years. Unless all the false inputs are erased from the minds of Ethiopians it will keep on affecting their relation with their past colonies. Trying to impose any group’s will on them will be termed sinful in many religions. What Oromo want can be determined only by the Oromo. Genuine companions for change will help the Oromo to determine their own fate rather than branding them as ‘Zaranyaa” and all other “nyaas”.
History of Itophiyaa of the past 150 years we are frequently lectured by Ethiopianist politicians and clerics do not include Oromo; if assumed to including it is misconstrued. Colonizer and colonized have different histories, though taking place at the same time. One is of defeat, shame, enslavement and suffering; the other is of victories, pride, slave driving and happiness. Telling both situations will make it true history and help us to alleviate one and correct the other rather than falsely telling sharing the glories of togetherness in building Ethiopia over and over. The Oromo say, “Fooling the wise is seeking hatred”.
In the last four years the suppressed grievance exploded. Oromo youth took to the streets in peaceful protest under slogans like, “Oromia belongs to Oromo” and “Oromo are sovereign over their country”. With that they shook the ruling party EPRDF from its base. With the change that took place in EPRDF Oromo nationalists that served the alien as its dependents were able to free themselves and capture power in the party and the empire. Going back home, they also formed what was called Team Lammaa and stood with the protesting youth and gave leadership to the protest. The Oromo people did not deny them the credit for disengaging from servitude their elders entered with Oromo name.
Though the OLF was not in a position to give leadership on the spot when expected, Kaayyoo (objectives) of the liberation movement that it laid down is still the leading outlook of the national struggle. With that Kaayyoo Oromummaa is subservient to no culture and Oromia not appendage to any country. Team Lammaa is not an answer to Oromo question. But is a means to change the old order and clear all backlogs. It may not be easy to slip through internal and external obstacles and complete the transition. Because there is no one better alternative than this Team for the task, all politicians have to support change it accomplish its transitional mission. It is hope of all good intentioned people that this Team will not be intoxicated with power and pressure from reactionary groups. The success of the transition means breaking all old shackles and creating new opportunities for new free relations the first time.
The new EPRDF promised to take the people-initiated change, across to democratic system, where supremacy of the law shall be observed. That was why organizations in the empire and abroad came to support it, in a peaceful transition, those armed by disarming themselves. All organizations were received by the government keeping their political programs. National self-determination is a right dear to the Oromo. They joined the transition taking it for granted that the Oromo people will have the opportunity for its realization when transition is over. This is hoped to reconcile the controversy between Oromo organizations mentioned above. The discourse among Oromo nationalists on this issue had consumed much time and energy to the extent of creating serious conflicts between them. Now one side has changed tactics without affecting its strategy. There are also among Ethiopian activists that declare unnegotiability of Ethiopia unity. This seems shared with Team Lammaa. As long as we believe in the change, democracy and supremacy of the law, we have to accept freedom of thought and expression for every one even the regents of power. But they have to keep it personal and do not use their state power to impose their regency thought on others. Though on our part we take their ideas as decadent that do not take into consideration the long-standing demands of other peoples and fails to understand objective situation around them, we have to give them benefit of the doubt that they will be genuine in their stand for democracy and supremacy of the law.
The conflict between those that aspire to restore old Ethiopia and those that hope to form a brand-new union is not going to be easy. It needs understanding what the other believes about itself and a change of mind of past victor and victims. The real difficulty in resolving problems in post empire Ethiopia is the assumption that all under it accept being Ethiopians without qualification. Actually, there are those proud of being Ethiopians and those for whom Ethiopia is enslaver. It is from this premise that solutions be sought if forgiveness, peace, unity and understanding among peoples is wanted. Otherwise anything that comes out from the mouths of Ethiopianist cadres will be as bitter as anything could be.
Nafxanyaa system hopefuls have put in the mouth of innocent Ethiopianists’ the word “Zaranyaa” in reference to nations and nationalities who demand for their birthrights. If that means “racist”, it will be a big mistake. The Oromo even do not have a word for it and had never been accused of discrimination against any human being in their history. Therefore, any one that accuses them for it is ignorant, insulting and contemptible. The Oromo believe that all Africans are of the same race and such insult doesn’t fit them. The Oromo were independent people and are proud of their past. If that makes them “Zaranyaa” let it be for it whispers independence to their ears. Let alone practicing the Oromo do not have word for it, those who call them with that know that they have never discriminated human beings. Because Africans are from the same root trying to divide them on that basis is shame. Oromo were once independent and are proud of their background. If that makes them “Zaranyaa” they say hurrah for it whispers in their ears, “independence”. However, what makes them one with Nafxanyaa system hopefuls is their being Africans. If they claim other difference and are calling us “Zaranyaa” we do not have other identity with them.
The present Ethiopian regime is replacement to old Ethiopian polity; that means it is one among the groups that have its own interest. It may have better dreams for Ethiopia than the past ones. But that does not mean it’s can represent dreams of all other peoples. It cannot be imagined that Oromo will give up the national Kaayyoo for representative of their enslaver, before they are given the opportunity to national self-determination; for which they have run bitter struggle for years. They are rather expecting to advance to the national goal in equality, peace and freedom. The Oromo say, if we reclaim what is taken from us by force, we have no problem to live with you in equality and freedom. The present generation is not that of Ali Aluulaa; hence the fall of the regent will not send their nation to oblivion. In spite of that, Habashaa elites are saying how can we abandon “qiny gizat” (colonial governorate) our forefathers left for us? Unless they are satisfied with their original domain, getting back the “qiny gizat” shall remain a dream never to be realized. They have to cooperate with their regent to find a better way out.
All the oppressed people have to determine their destiny without any fear or threat at the end of the transition. Until then everyone can organize, lay down their vision and express their views without breaking the laws. In the meantime, the government has to get supremacy of the law respected without discrimination and partiality. At the very moment, there is no better entity to provide leadership than that of Dr. Abiy for doing that. Those existing, lack readiness, capacity, capability and democratic stature. If they are wise, they could use the transition to overcome their shortcomings. Trying to lay obstacle to it will be inviting more ferocious beast than existed before probably more harmful for fans of old order. Let us move forward hoping result of the transition will have amicable answers to all questions. This is the time when all Oromo organizations have to get together fast and tackle issues they uphold in common. Focusing on survival of the people should get priority over individually outlooks on issues. Survival of the Oromo nation may serve survival of the region, which Nafxanyaa system hopefuls are working hard to dismantle it, if it does not go their way. On media, on platforms even in churches they are full of negative attitude and belligerence against others. That has to be corrected to bring about equalizing change.
Oromo revolution is to make the Oromo people free and sovereign over Oromia be it as independent or federated state. Any operation in Oromia state has to be governed by Oromo law and agreements made with other peoples. Then only can there be assurance for viable peace and happiness. Therefore, any declaration or statement by any one has to be consistent with this principle to be acceptable to the Oromo. It is up to settlers from the time of Nafxanyaa period to Wayyaanee to be part of the country they are in and no colonizer is allowed to get back taking them as a pretext. No one can dictate Oromia on how to be governed except according to constitution promulgated by their own Caffee and constitution they took part in its legislation and treaty signed with absolute willingness. Number of people that claim to be of alien origin will not affect sovereignty of Oromo over Oromia. All have to accept that they cannot be loyal to any external state laws but abide by rights and duties given them by Oromian law.
In a federal situation, federal government will have power to the extent the federated states have willed to give it from their sovereignty. As to human relations like movement of peoples and goods there are universal laws and customs, which all civilized nations have to abide by. That can also be reinforced by federal and state laws. The loud cry heard these days concerning Finfinnee is only a bubble from last kick of dawning colonialist mentality. Nafxanyaa hopefuls are taking Finfinnee as a bunker for the last battle of sabotaging the change and restoring the old order. Any question concerns no other regions but Finfinnee residents alone, through their elected representatives with one woman/man, one vote principle. Even all nations and nationalities willing to continue living together are going to choose their capital after discussion. If they choose Finfinnee it should not be as such as to deny Oromia’s sovereignty over it. This stand is what Oromo youth and elites have unequivocally asserted wherever they went without wavering.
It is mind boggling for Amaaraa state and Amaara organizations to claim interest in Finfinnee. Doing so they are not helping oppressed people to erase harsh memories of their past relations. It was from Finfinnee that the Nafxanyaa gun wielders were mobilized to colonize free nations and nationalities to the south signing treaties with European imperialists and enslaving other peoples in their style for more than a century. Despite that the colonized offered to forgive and forget the past and continue to live in a new union with equality freedom and dignity with no span of land remaining under alien rule. Some groups are not taking the change in good faith, ignoring the heavy sacrifices paid to bring it about.
Government led by Dr. Abiy is formed by Ethiopian party the EPRDF. The Oromo accepted it believing that the Ethiopians have agreed with it to be impartial for all peoples under the empire state. To the contrary, Nafxanyaa system hopefuls expected it to serve only their interest as they used to expect from regents. There is no word “nonalignment” with those reactionary groups. They say, “you are either with us or against us”, meaning with old Ethiopia or with Oromo and others. Old Ethiopians had never trusted aliens in their ranks unless fully assimilated. Losers of time of the king, Isaappaa and Wayyaanee are screeching in Amharic shamelessly defaming Team Lammaa despite their swearing in their name in public. Keeping their own crime in their armpits they spend their time cursing Oromo and Oromo Ethiopian leaders. One may say those hooligans do not represent Ethiopians but they had been there as prominent opinion makers uncontested by their compatriots.
Leaders of Lammaa Team are Oromo by birth, but have unequivocally declared their being Ethiopianists. Despite that, considering genuineness of their talks and their “safuu” background the Oromo have accepted them as transitional leaders of the dying empire hoping they will abide by supremacy of the law during their term. For all of us, friends and foes alike there is no alternative to them except chaos. They have at least the guns to maintain peace and order. Though progressives, these were PDOs under the most ruthless dictator. They joined people’s movement for change, liberating the Ethiopian organization EPRDF. Provoking any armed group could take us back to a situation we got rid of by heavy cost. Already in west and south of our country people are under military rule and we know what it means. Lack of consensus on how to handle our contradictions is subjecting our peasantry and youth to catastrophe. Instead of finding ways for peace and reconciliation there are those self-conceited crooks that cannot see beyond their nose and some that add straw to burning fire. Military personnel are not police. They are trained to kill. For this we hope Oromo elders, organization and government in power will find a way of stopping this madness and bringing about peace for our toiling masses. This is a challenge to Oromummaa capability. Wide ranging natural and manmade hunger and famine are in the corner. To avert it must be given priority over political competition.
Those same hooligans are defying the law and threatening other parties from canvasing in their area. It was also told that they were burning shops of Ethiopians that came to Bahir Dar from beyond the Abbayyaa river. In Dasee they even burned their own compatriots with boiling water, assumedly for having different outlooks and alien influence. Some were heard accusing OLF to be the culprit in both places. This shows that OLF or the Oromo have started to be used as the bogyman in Amaaraa region. These are groups that are working to keep Amaaraa and Oromoo peoples apart for unknown reasons. Those are the same group that fabricated from “faranjii” stories and fictions that Finfinnee was once up on a time Habashaa capital with another name. This writer has gone through Habashaa school and has never heard about this mysterious capital in history or language class when even where kings urinated was hardly spared. Even if that was true, we are not talking of hundreds of years but of the last hundred year, which have their marks even today in Eekkaa, Boolee, Gullallee, Galaan, etc. as witness for ownership of Finfinnee.
The Oromo will never again allow their land, Finfinnee to be a launching pad for greater invasion and eviction. For residents of Finfinnee it is a right to demand for democratic governance. They deserve better rights than before let alone being denied what they already have. The change is for them as it is for everyone in the empire. That does not deny sovereignty Oromia have over Finfinnee. Finfinnee thus belongs, to her residents, national and international organizations registered in her and the Oromo people as owners. Any person abiding by Oromian laws, from any part of the federal republic or the world can freely take residence and work in Finfinnee. Nafxanyaa hopefuls know that Finfinnee is geographically and historically part of Oromia but they have sinister motives that are driving them to this madness. Now there is tension in and around Finfinnee. It requires wisdom to take off the way these self-appointed “trustees” and their types and help discussion to begin between elected representatives of the residents and Oromia state. Oromo struggle did not start today; it will be naiveite to expect it will end until Finfinnee is fully recovered.
Oromo land curved out for the capital city Finfinnee is that which existed during the last emperor. All urban areas beyond that are not part of it but separate town centers in Oromia. There is no need for Oromia to maintain for her capital Finfinnee more than what it used to be then. Some try to compare Finfinnee to Washington DC (WDC). That seems comparing orange and apple. WDC is donated by two states (though one retroceded later) for Federal capital city and have no one particular state to claim it. The size of DC never changed since its formation. Oromia has never agreed to cede Finfinnee to Federal state of Ethiopia. Finfinnee have participated as voter in local and national elections since election started around there while WDC is limited to a locality. No wonder if WDC raise the ancient British colony slogan “Taxation without representation…”. This have no relevance for our beloved Finfinnee.
The memory that Finfinnee gives for southern peoples including Oromo should be different from what it gives for Nafxanyaa System hopefuls. For the first ones the building materials they carried to build her; the sweat they poured; steer, ram, honey etc. they brought to make her live are unforgettable. For the others the whips they carried to drive slaves, taxes they used to collect and undue remunerations they used to suck as well as the time they proudly looked down on the slaves still waters their mouths. Oromo in addition remember the killings and evictions that are still going on. For these reasons Finfinnee is memorial edifice for all sufferings of oppressed people and for “Xaj and coomaa” (mead and fat) by others that we have to take care for together, though with mixed fillings. Finfinnee cannot survive without sister villages surrounding her. Even her food, water, electric power, roads and garbage depot are all there. But Oromia can survive without Finfinnee though unwholesome. It will be impossible to curve out Finfinnee from Oromia without fracturing the other. The Oromo will not stop their struggle until all taken by force are reinstated. However, they will never transgress on others rights. Oromo regency of Ethiopia will end forming a new union based on free will of nations and nationalities or independent nations. It is up to old Ethiopia fans to choose. Oromian haa jiraattu!
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!