By: Bayisa Wak-Woya
15 May, 2017
With this personal letter of plea, I am addressing you all, wherever you are, requesting your undivided attention. I already sent similar plea note to ALL Oromo political organizations and political activists sharing with them my views on the need to intervene and stop the ongoing war of defamation, among the different Oromo groups. My advice was that they instruct or give orders to their members, followers and sympathizers that it is very un-Oromo to fight another Oromo simply because of diverging views, opinions and beliefs. Assuming that not ALL Oromo individuals are members of the political Organizations or the activists groups hence may not be affected by possible instructions from the concerned leaders, I found it necessary to write this separate note to ALL Oromo individuals, Community Leaders and leaders of Faith Groups to express my deepest concern and to subsequently plea to you to stop fighting one another.
Before I proceed with the custom tailored roles to be played by the individuals and leaders of the above groups, I would like to drop some basic thoughts, which I believe are fundamental to our interaction. Understanding these fundamental issues, in my opinion, is key to manage the way we treat each other and our day-to-day activities. Below are some of the issues which, I believe, we are not handling them properly:
- We seem to be frustrated with the never achieved UNITY among the Oromo political organizations. Relax! This is neither new nor abnormal in human history. Look around and analyze how politics is done in your respective countries of residence. In every democratic country, there are always opposition parties which are fighting for political power. They disagree with each other, of course not personally, but on the socio-political and economic agenda they propose for their country. So the fighting is regarding whose agenda is better for the country but not on who is behind the agenda itself. In other words, they don’t fight individuals behind certain agenda but the content of the agenda itself. The final verdict as to which agenda is the most suitable for the nation lies in the hands of the citizens who are the end-users of the proposed agenda. If that is the case, then what moral authority do we have to condemn these political organizations for their failure to unite when at the same time, we ourselves, as individuals or community, are not practicing something better? Just look around and see – how many Oromo communities and Oromo faith groups for example, do we have in one and the same city, because we failed to agree on something? Just imagine: people reading from the same script and worshiping the same Almighty cannot attend the same worshiping place. And compare that to our political organizations which by definition do not read from the same script and propose different means to achieve the goals they think is the best for the Oromo people. Remember: religion is the art of keeping the homogenous together whereas, Politics is the art of keeping together the heterogeneous. That is why it is difficult to form a coalition or unity among political organizations. And that is the way it has always been in human history and will continue to be as such.
- We seem not to be tolerant to views which are different from ours. In my view, this is the result of either ignorance or arrogance. Human beings, by nature, are different from one another. It is proven that there are no identical brains thinking exactly alike even with identical twins. So it is very natural that we all think different and it is un-natural to expect that we should all think alike. And with that individually tailored brain, we design our respective convictions and select the political organization’s objectives and activities that suits us most. That is why we have chosen to support the political agendas of leaders like Galasa, Daoud, Kamal or Lencho, Hailu or Bekele Gerba’s objectives and tools as the most suitable one and decided to follow them. That is perfectly right! And NO one has the right to tell us that we are wrong because we found, based on our personal judgment, something useful in the programs of these respective organizations. In any case, who are we to tell the others that his or her views are wrong?
- For unknown reasons, we tend to believe and promote the idea that Oromia belongs only to those who did fight or are fighting for her freedom. We seem to misunderstand that motherland, in this case, Oromia, is a mother to ALL of her children, the hero and the coward, the educated and illiterate, members of OPDO and OLF alike. No one has more share of her pie. Whether it is Lemma Magarssa or Daoud Ibssa, Jawar Mohamed or Galassa Dilbo, Abba Duula or Abba Chaala, Junedin Saado or Ali Abdo, Qananisa or Lelisa ….they all have the exact equal share in Oromia. The fact that we are born as Oromo qualifies us ALL to be equal heir of Oromia. The difference, as and when it happens, is that those who have committed common crimes or crimes against humanity will be brought to justice no matter when and will be held accountable individually for the crimes they have committed. But bear in mind – they will be judged not for their views about Oromia but for what they have done against the Oromos. Period!
- We perceive that and to address the prevailing problems in Oromia, we all have to be active in politics and do nothing else other than politics. All of us, especially in diaspora, regardless of our profession, seem to see no other means of helping our people back home or contribute to the efforts of others to advance the cause of Oromos except talking politics, and politics and politics. We don’t mind to spend every minute of our free time to write and post something political on Facebook or Youtube and drag everyone to that divisive argument. But we seem to forget that there are millions of other ways to help our people and to contribute to the Oromo cause. If instead of politicking, we all make an attempt to institute professional associations and design ways and means to help our people using the tools we know how better to apply, I am certain that we would have made huge difference in the lives of our people. We have all the luxury and means to use our respective communities to raise funds to build schools, health care centers etc in our respective villages of origin, instead of spending our times TALKING and LIVING politics. Let us decongest the political arena and leave politics for the politicians and limit ourselves to helping them succeed while doing something non-political but useful for our nation.
- We seem to have difficulties to separate politics from religion. By design or coincidence, we are slowly introducing a process of bringing religion to political podium. It started with the traditional blessings but nowadays, it reached a stage where we have to invite leaders of different faith groups to the opening ceremonies of every single conference or meeting we organize. In my view this is a very dangerous trend. It is not that I am against religion, any religion, but because one of the most dangerous mistakes politicians and activists make during struggle is, the failure to keep politics a secular activity. The reason is very simple: a) there are hundreds of thousands of religions and sects on this planet hence it is practically impossible to invite leaders of all of them to open our meetings; and, b) because religion is a state of mind, a belief, which for the believer is the one and only true faith, hence difficult to give priority to one of them. We started with inviting leaders of Islamic and Protestant (Christian) faith, then we added the Orthodox group and so on. But I am sure there are Oromos in diaspora who are members of Catholic faith group (even then, we have to ensure that we have to invite leaders of the Vatican and the Anglican), the Dalai Lama (because there are Oromos Buddhists) and download pictures of Karl Marx because there are Oromo Marxists as well. Where will it end? Who decides which one to invite as leaders of a faith group where Oromos are members? Believe me, you will never have wider enough podium to accommodate all the faith group leaders of the world in which Oromos are members.
- We spend too much of our time preaching to the converted - discussing the same subject and analyzing the same event over and over again with our fellow Oromos. In politics as they say, you have to bring your case to the others, the non-converted – in this case the non-Oromos. This has three phases: i) to leave our comfort zone and go out to learn from the way politics is run or how politicians entertain diverging views in the body-politics of the countries where we live and try to be part of it; and, ii) to encourage our children to be involved in body politics of the countries we live in hoping that one day they will be parliamentarians and senior officials through whom we can convey our messages to the authorities of our adoptive countries; iii) to remain alert to what others say and write about us and to challenge and engage them intellectually.
Now, my custom tailored advice to the different groups:
Oromo Community Leaders:
Your respective communities elected you, presumably democratically, to coordinate their activities in the countries they live in because they saw in you some qualities which others in the community did not have. In other words, you are respected, trustworthy and dedicated. Because you presumably have these qualities you are expected to project leadership and members are expected to be guided by your leadership. With that in mind, here is what we expect you to do while leading your community:
- guide them to excel in what they are good at and help them to jointly design non-political, development and educational projects which benefits our people back home - rehabilitating schools, libraries, roads, and supply books, organize sabbatical leave for experts, for example, medical personnel, to go back to their respective villages of origin, or designing projects to ensure Oromo girls’ equal access to education and so on and so on.
- Try to create some sort of self-help associations within your diaspora community where members are obliged to contribute certain amount of money per month to implement some of the above projects. If we all are willing to sacrifice at least ONE LUNCH per week, believe me, we can bring substantive changes in Oromia.
- Please advise your members strongly, NOT to be engaged in slandering, badmouthing and defaming other fellow Oromos no matter what. Please enlighten members of your community with one of the fundamental Gadda values - safuu.
Leaders of Activist groups:
I did send a personal PLEA to you all hence I am not going to repeat what I have said. In short you are responsible to:
- tell your supporters and followers that they should learn how to be politically correct i.e. to respect others’ views. Please don’t fall in to the temptation of being popular and therefore you elevate yourself to positions of “liberator” of our people. Keep in mind, activism is good only if it is carefully managed by an organized body, preferably political organization. Otherwise, we play a very dangerous game of intoxicating the youth with something which cannot be achieved. And failing to achieve a goal especially in struggle always results in disintegration of the followers. Yes we should demonstrate, campaign and be vocal but that should be a coordinated effort by an organized body. We should learn from the so called “Arab springs” how it started, who led it and what it achieved. I believe none of us want to go along that route.
Leaders of faith groups:
You are one of the few individuals in our society who enjoy such an enormous moral authority on your followers. Your respective followers are looking at you as sources of spiritual satisfaction and guidance regarding how to behave and how not harm others. Because all religions, and without exception, are meant to promote peace and harmony among human beings, your followers expect from you that you teach the prevalence of peace and harmony. As leaders of your respective groups:
- You have the duty to teach members of your congregation to stand up for justice and to condemn injustice. This has nothing to do with politics - it is just what your respective scripts tell you to do. Remember: religious scripts always advocate to protect the undefended and the underprivileged;
- Please remember that you are the exterior most defense line for the protection of our cultural values from intruders. What we are witnessing in the past few decades is the never-ending Abyssinian, Jewish and Arab cultural imperialism which is visibly eating in to our territory to the extent that, and if we don’t take serious corrective measures today, we may totally lose our identity in few decades from now. Please take Rev. Gudinia Tumssa as a reference and try to apply his methodology of preserving Oromo cultural values.
- As for yourself, please refrain from seeking a place in politics as spiritual leaders. I don’t mean that you should be neutral, we you should never be, but you should promote the idea that politics and religion are kept separate. You may be active as an individual Oromo but the moment you start involving your respective faith group in politics, you will definitely run in to problems for a simple reason that there are hundreds of thousands of religious groups out there and there is no way you can chose which one is good or bad. Faith is a state of mind and no one has the right to say or the power to convince the other that his/her religion is better. For a believer, his or her religion is the best. And as long as that does not infringe on the rights of others, that is perfect. But it should be kept far away from politics.
- Please recognize that we are among the very few lucky Oromos who happened to be where we are. Imagine the lives of our school mates, friends and neighbors who could not make it to where we are. Imagine how they are living under the tyranny of TPLF which is a non-stop 24/7 harassment, detention, arrest or even killing. Our fellow Oromos don’t have access to schools or medical treatment. Here in diaspora, we have access to almost everything. We don’t have to worry about our daily bread, clothing, health care or school for our children. So, please commit yourself to do something for your community in your own village of origin. If we all do something for our respective villages, it means that we did everything for Oromia.
- For most of us and unfortunately, the political achievements currently enjoyed by our people in Oromia is a given. No it is not! It is the result of the hard work of the older generation who, notwithstanding their excellent academic successes and higher position in the national civil service, gave up their luxury lives and decided to sacrifice everything, including their families, and started the armed struggle to free us from oppression. The political situation in Ethiopia during the imperial regime, which in my opinion is underestimated by the current generation, was such that we were not even allowed to speak afaan Oromo in public places, no single radio or TV programs in afaan Oromo, we could not secure access to universities because we achieved low grades in Amharic language etc. In those days, it was suicidal to talk about Oromia or national oppression in public. It was against all these odds that our older generation fought and today, thanks to them all, we the younger generation are enjoying the fruit of their labor. Oromia exists on the map with its defined boundaries, afaan Oromo is spoken everywhere in Oromia as official language, and written in the alphabet of our choice. This did not happen just like that or it is not given to us as a gift. Our older generation, deserve standing ovations and eternal praising because we are where we are today only because of them. They paid heavy prices including their dear lives so that we enjoy what we are enjoying today. So please stop complaining about the presumed mistakes this or that former or current leader of an Oromo political organization committed. Mistakes are natural, if they indeed were committed, and only those who are actively engaged in what they believe in, make mistakes. Mistakes are not bad as long as they are taken for lessons learned and not to be repeated. With that in mind, try to compare your activities with the activities of those selfless older generation Oromos and dare to ask yourself, what better have I done for Oromia at least during the past twenty-five years.
- Keep in mind, the different Oromo political organizations are still testing their respective means of struggles in the respective research laboratories. No one knows which one works better for Oromia because none of them are applied yet. Until such time when we apply the tested results in Oromia, we have no choice but to independently (although, in my view, spending our resources in one joint laboratory would have produced better result) continue researching to find the best tool to free our people. At the end of the day, the duty of political organizations is to bring the end–product to our people and the people are the ones to choose and buy the one they think suits them the most. So let each one of us continue rendering support to the organization we think is in possession of the best tool and method to free our people, without condemning other Oromos for supporting the others.