The Oromo struggle versus OPDO’s blindness toward Oromo history
By Leenjiso Horo
January 28, 2018
This article is in reference to Lamma Magarsa’s speech in Bahir Dar conference held between OPDO and ANDM on November 4, 2017. Lamma Magarsa, the former intelligence operative and the spy ring leader in Oromia and the current “president” of Oromia has made a speech addressing the Amhara regional state public meeting. In his speech, he stated: “Ethiopiawinet is ‘suus’/ addiction”; “Ethiopiawinet is an identity.” And he went on to say: “I am not concerned about the past history.”
Note I put president under quotation mark because Lamma Magarsa is not elected by the Oromo people to the position of presidency. Hence, he has no moral and political legitimacy to claim to be the president of Oromia.
The fact is like all OPDO’s presidents before him, Lamma Magarsa too was appointed to be the president of OPDO by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) aka Woyane. Hence, he is president of OPDO, not the Oromo people. TPLF is an alien occupying force in Oromia and it is a creator and a mentor of the OPDO. OPDO is a puppet organization and its goals and aims are one and the same with that of the TPLF. It has proven this to be true for the last twenty-seven years. Its president, Lamma Magarsa being appointed by the alien occupying force does not have the mandate from the Oromo people to speak on their behalf.
Returning to the aforementioned Lama Magarsa’s speech, here questions may be raised include: Is really “Ethiopiawinet suus/addiction” to the Oromo people? Is “Ethiopiawinet an identity” for the Oromo people? Worst of all, why Lamma Magarsa choose to say, “I am not concerned about the past history?
Lamma Magarsa’s speech must be understood in the context of what the nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky warned one against. His warning was against a lie and it reads: “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.”
Lamma Magarsa’s statements “Ethiopiawinet is suus” and Ethiopiawinet is identity” do not reflect the opinion the Oromo people hold about Ethiopia and crimes committed against millions in the name of Ethiopia. He made misleading statements. He unashamedly told the audience that “Ethiopiawinet is suus.” This is a lie. He lied to himself and to the rest of the people. For this statement, he became “a hero” for the Naftanyas and for the OPDO leaders, members, supporters and its diaspora based apologists.
It is important to expose Lamma Magarsa’s willingness to turn a blind eye towards Oromo history. First and foremost, Oromia was violently conquered, occupied, incorporated and colonized in the last quarter of the 19th century by King Menelik II of Abyssinia. Hence, Ethiopia of today was created by King Menelik II of Abyssinia. The name Abyssinia is in English; in Turkish it is Habeşistan and in Arabic, it is called Al Habash meaning land of the Habesha people. The name Habesha, strictly refers only to the Amhara and Tigray-Tigrinya people. The country Abyssinia strictly refers only to Amhara, Tigray, and Eritrea together. Abyssinia is a country; Oromia is a country but Ethiopia is an empire. Lamma Magarsa has totally failed to tell this truth in his speech.
At the time of the war of conquest of Oromia, Menelik received modern military hardware along with military advisors from Britain, France, Italy, and Russia. By using this modern military hardware, Menelik committed mass liquidation of the Oromo people. Consequently, five million Oromo people were exterminated. Oromia was littered with the bones of its men, women, and children. This population slaughter left villages being depopulated. And this resulted in the reduction of the Oromo population by half. Not only this, after the conquest and occupation, war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed against the living. An example is the mutilation of right hands of men and right breasts of women at Anole. Plainly put, for the Oromo people, Emperor Menelik II symbolizes not only the conquest, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity but also he bears the responsibility of having participated in these crimes. Knowing these historical facts to say “Ethiopiawinet is suus”, is in a blunt term, it is a lie. For Lamma Magarsa, this history of crimes of the annihilation of the half of the Oromo population and the following war crimes and crimes against innocent Oromo people are not a concern. He has forgotten that our people are still bleeding in their hearts from those crimes committed against their predecessor generation. The memory of the past injustices committed against our people is still with us as the current ones.
Following the conquest, the first constitution of the Ethiopian empire was written by Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime in 1931. It was with this constitution the name Abyssinia has officially changed to Empire of Ethiopia and its first constitution states “The Imperial Constitutions of the Empire of Ethiopia.” And its 1955 revised version of Article I states, “The Ethiopian Empire and the succession to the throne.” And article 123 states that “The city of Addis Ababa is the capital city of the Empire.” Empire means many independent nations and nationalities conquered, occupied, incorporated and colonized. Ethiopia is such as an empire. In this Ethiopian empire, under Haile Selassie’s regime, the Oromo people were evicted from their lands and the lands were given to the military, royal families and Orthodox Church. With this, Oromo were turned into serfs and tenants in their own country on their own lands.
Having accomplished this, the next wave of war began. It was the War waged against the Oromo name, the Oromo history, language, culture, Waqeeffanna –the Oromo religious institution, and the Gada system-the Oromo socio-political and economic institution. The Oromo language was officially forbidden from being used in any mass media outlets, in government institutions, and in literature. This was the attempt to kill the living and vibrant language, culture and political and religious institutions. Oromo history was denigrated and made non-existent. Histories were written glorifying Habasha as a people of history while presenting the Oromo people as a people without history. As the African prover say, “Until Lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Now the lion-the Oromo people are writing their own history. In order to write their history, it took lives of millions of Oromo for over a century in the struggle. Sadly enough, Lamma Magarsa, the OPDO president, and the Ethiopian empire darling told the Habashas that he is not concerned about this history.
As it is well-known, those dark days from the conquest by King Menelik II to the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, over 90% of the Oromoo people were peasant farmers and herders and the land was confiscated by the colonial rulers. So, the question of land took the center stage of struggle at the time. This struggle led to the overthrow of the Emperor Haile Selassie feudal regime. The feudal administration lost its power. However, it was replaced with the military regime. But, the lands were not returned to the Oromo people. Instead, it became the property of the new military state. That is, the land was exchanged hands. Under this regime, thousands of Oromo men, women, elders, owners of the business, peasants, and students were incarcerated, persecuted, tortured, maimed and many were killed. This history of crimes committed against our people, Lamma Magarsa told his Abyssinian associates that past history does not worry him. He failed to understand that past history will never pass. It will never die. People carry their past history with them and so the Oromo people too. We do not discard the Oromo past history, as Lamma Magarsa wants us to do. The fact is, all nations build a bridge between the past and the present and the present and the future and so the Oromo nation too. It is the Oromo past history that gave us Oromo identity today. For this, the Oromo past history stays with each Oromo generations to come reminding each generation about Oromo past greatness, successes, and failures.
After years of struggle, finally, the military regime was overthrown by the forces of the combined struggle of the peoples in the empire. Sadly, the fruit of the struggle was snatched by hate-filled, xenophobic and the most notorious and cruelest fascist organization-the TPLF, by the help of Western powers and its cousin the Eritrean Liberation Front (EPLF). In 1989, prior to the fall of the military regime, TPLF created OPDO, a “Trojan horse”, from the Oromo military prisoners of war captured in Eritrea and Tigray. And then mentored its members. With this, the OPOD escorted TPLF to Oromia. The primary purpose of the creation of OPDP was to oppose and fight the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo struggle for self-determination. Hence, OPDO’s goal is totally intertwined with that of its creator and mentor-the TPLF. The goals, aim, and target of the TPLF is and has been to occupy Oromia and control its resources. It has accomplished this with the help of its collaborator, the OPDO. The obstacle to this goal is the numerical superiority of the Oromo people. Hence, it has fear of and hatred for the Oromo people. In order to achieve its goal, the TPLF has left with one major goal to achieve. Its goal is to make the Oromo population numerically a minority. It is to this effect, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has to say this: “majority can be made minority” in reference to Oromo people. To achieve this, TPLF/EPLF has set in motion a deliberate systematic killing of the entire Oromo nation. For this, the TPLF leadership established policies towards Oromo people. The policies are: (1) physical extermination (2) forcing into exile (3) sending to concentration camps (4) encouraging minority ethnic groups in Oromia to fight the Oromo people (5) instigating conflict between Oromo and people bordering Oromia; (6) poisoning rivers and lakes in Oromia (7) denying the Oromo people healthcare services (8) enforcing disappearance without trace (9) assimilating the remaining minority.
Since 1991 to date, OPDO has been helping the TPLF in this unholy scheme. So far under these policies, hundreds of thousands of the Oromo have been exterminated; hundreds of thousands have been incarcerated in concentration camps; tens of thousands have been disappeared without a trace and millions are exiled. Not only these, millions have been evicted from their homes and lands and exposed to heat, cold, hunger, starvation, and poverty. This is a policy of clearing the land of the Oromo population so as to open up land for the local and foreign land grabbers and “investors”. All in all, TPLF has been committing genocide against the Oromo people and looting Oromia with the aiding and abetting of OPDO.
Here, it should also be noted that the past 26 years also constitute the past history of the Oromo nation, albeit the darkest of all of our history. Lama Magarsa having being trained and practiced to lie through his teeth as a spy, is now saying “I am not concerned about the past history” partly to also absolve the TPLF and himself from charges of crimes against humanity that he himself participated in for the past 26 long years.
As it is clear from the above, crimes have been committed against the Oromo people since their conquest, occupation, and colonization over a century ago to date. With the full knowledge of this history, Lamma Magarsa being the “president” of Oromia told the Abyssinians that “Ethiopiawinet is ‘suus’/addiction.” Not only this, he followed this with “Ethiopiawinet is an identity.” Such statements amount to opportunism and self-deception. Again, making such statements are fabrications and distortive revisions of history. The fact is “Ethiopiawinet” is not an addiction/suus to the Oromo people. The Oromo are openly, clearly and unequivocally saying that “Ethiopiawinet is” not “suus/addiction” for them but Oromoness is. Again, for Oromo people, Oromoness is their identity not “Ethiopiawinet” as Lamma Magarsa and his associates claim it to be. The fact is what Goobana Daache was for the Abyssinia a century ago so is Lamma Magarsa and his associates today. As George Santayana’s famously put it, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This statement stands true today. It is an irrefutable statement. Goobana Daache was at the service of Abyssinia a century ago and so Lamma Magarsa and his associates are at the service of Abyssinia today. Goobana was instrumental in the conquest of Oromia and formation of Ethiopian empire by King Menelik II while Lamma Magarsa and his associates are instrumental in the new wave of the occupation of Oromia and in maintaining the empire that Goobana helped built.
Knowing the history that the Oromo people have been going through in the Ethiopian empire, it is insensitivity to the injustice committed against the Oromo people to say “Ethiopiawinet is a suus”/addictive to the colonized peoples. His words are painful to the living and nonliving Oromo-whose lives had been forever cut off. The path Lamma Magarsa and his OPDO activists are charting stands the ultimate enemy to the Oromo history. Here what is clear is that Lamma Magarsa, the “president” of Oromia has failed to relate himself to the living Oromo historical reality without doing it violence. He abandoned the real history of conquest, occupation, settlement, oppression, exploitation, dehumanization and domination of the Oromo people by the successive Ethiopian empire rulers for the fake Ethiopian history of unity. Lamma Magarsa’s commitment to “Ethiopiawinet suus” reminds us what Karl Marx has to say,” History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” While Goobana Daache’s action was a tragedy, Lamma Magarsa’s “Ethiopiawinet suus” to the Oromo people is a farce. The truth is “Ethiopiawinet” is neither “suus” nor an “identity” for the Oromo people.
A Way forward
We have seen the crimes committed against the Oromo people since the conquest of Oromia to date. These crimes have been committed with some Oromo collaborators direct participation. History has already registered the collaborators. Namely, Goobana Daache and his associates; then balabbats/Qoroos and followed by OPDO. The truth is, without internal collaborators, the external force cannot occupy Oromia. IF occupy, it cannot sustain its occupation. It cannot withstand the forces of liberation. TPLF cannot fight the Oromo people without the participation of the OPDO. Therefore, the Oromo struggle has to undermine the moral and cohesion of the collaborators and their support base within Oromia including in diaspora. It is important to oppose those who supporting Lamma Magarsa in this political game of “Ethiopiawinet suus.” His supporters are both Abyssinians and the diaspora based OPDO activists. These Oromo activists are the Oromo nationals who have little or no history in the national liberation struggle. Hence, it is unrealistic to expect these activists to wholeheartedly support the Oromo national liberation struggle for self-determination.
Needless to say, Oromia is a colonized sovereign, free and independent country. Therefore, the Oromo struggle is for liberation and democracy. Liberation from alien occupation and rule. And democracy can be achievable only under conditions where alien rule and occupation no longer exist and only among people who belong to the same nation. Here, a way forward is, to oppose OPDO’s and its activists’ “Ethiopiawinet suus/addictive to the Oromo; oppose the preaching of “Ethiopiawinet is an identity” of the Oromo people; oppose their advocacy for an abandonment of the “past history”. Instead, we have to seize this moment and be united like never before. The best way to achieve liberation and democracy is to be conscious, to be organized, to be armed and fight against colonial occupation. Needless to say, our struggle takes a form of military, political, diplomacy along with a radical popular nonviolent form of resistance. Now is the time that each of Oromo nationals to make a commitment to join the fight. It is not enough to say liberation. It is not enough to say unity. It is time to join and be on the train of liberation. Nothing short of collaborating in acts of militant resistance will be able to usher the hope of victory. It is only in the unified struggle we can achieve victory over the enemy. It is time to undo occupation and alien rule.
Oromia Shall be free!