Sunday, February 17, 2008

Towards social Movement Proposal to strengthen Oromo Relations

Human undertakings are not limited to political activities but there are also social and economic ones, which can not be ignored. Since each of them is important, to swarm over one of them alone will not lead to a balanced societal development. Under normal situation political power is employed to control protect and develop all other activities. For this reason it could be a bone of contention between rival groups. A political movement that does not control a definite territory is in a state of evolution; it has to complete this evolution to claim control over other societal activities. It is now over a century since Oromo lost political power. They have a big country, large population, tremendous wealth and potential capabilities that do not have an equal in the region. That being so they are not yet able to snatch away their resources from the enemy or to deny the enemy from using it. They have come so far relaying on each other as extended family and members of a losing nation for problems facing them by making use of leftovers from daily plunder together. They started rebelling when life of subjugation became absolutely intolerable. Even if they rebel life has to continue, so eating to survive, buying and selling, pursuit of knowledge, protecting health, to console and to rejoice with each other and protect ones culture and pass it over to the next generation. For that reason it has been maintaining certain social relation and economic activities irrespective of super imposed political oppression.

It is now around five centuries since Oromo were dispersed from their center of power. Most of these time, even if they did not have one administration they all lead similar life, where ever they were. Majority lived under Gadaa system. They did not give up on their common culture, language and their tradition despite being far apart. While in the process of uniting to go back to the center they left long ago they fell under the same system of colonialism.

Until then they had never been ruled by aliens but lived in freedom where ever they were. Though they lost their freedom by the conquest they did not give up on Oromummaa. Majority had saved their language and the gist of their culture from perishing. Since the oppression they fell under was from the same center, the change that they were subjected to was similar.

There was no time passed without trying to regain freedom denied them by aliens. But it is only a little over forty years since they started to march under one organization with one political program. That Organization was the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Since then that has split into many groups. Most of them have not changed the initial principles by which OLF was launched except losing the momentum they started with.

here are also those who accepted the Ethiopian constitution and willed marching under the green, yellow and red banner. Those have willingly placed themselves under the mercy of colonial masters. Be it as it may no Habashaa regime has accepted them with open arms as equals, as they anticipated. They have run into danger which was not limited to them but more affected supporters they were able to woo. This trend has come down to this day.

Those Oromo that formed opposition parties to compete for Ethiopian power are being harassed and their supporter imprisoned, tortured and killed just like those that are fighting for independence. In Parliament their voices are muffled. They are wanted to adorn the rulers just like their slave ancestors, not to compete with them.

Among those who claim a common principle, line difference that has no clear demarcation is observable. Except for sulking and leering at each other the difference of principle they claim has no basis. It seems that they are looking the same thing from different positions, from up down, down upward and from sides and every one saying to each other that he has the correct view. They are unable to say, “come on folks, let us together look from all direction”. To seem different they present groundless complaint, compliant which is not real but enough to touch soft part of some of their listeners and win them sympathy. They focus on defaming each other rather than hammering out on issues they were created for.

In the Diaspora few civic organizations had been formed under Oromo name. But members mostly try to reflect the outlook of political organizations they belong to instead of abiding by social organizations’ byelaws. That rather put the proper functioning of such organization at risk and facilitated their demise than giving advantage to any one Oromo in particular. There also, problem came from looking at the same thing from different positions. Some political organizations had tried to take over civic organization but their attempt led to members quitting them. As a result their role is taken by many as intentionally dismantling any thing Oromo rather than taking them as inefficient and ineffective in organizational matters. For their sake social organizations were not able to thrive on their own. Even to the surprise of many, Shanacha Jaarsummaa, five elderly who volunteered to resolve the conflict between OLF groups, were in disarray before they concluded their mission. Oromo affair again became like Arroojjii’s ladder in Oromo folk literature. Effort by the Oromo to under take economic activities together was also not that significant. Trust and knowhow are lacking.

It is now over forty years since Oromo declared their liberation movement. They have paid for it immense sacrifices. It is now long since their organization started the down ward trend with no sign to pick up soon. They did not get the time to pause a while and ask themselves individually or collectively as to what was happening to them. Every time there are those who ignite fire on them and tell them to extinguish it themselves and no one came to put it out and rescue them. For this reason they did not get the time to verify if they were on the right track. Still they are in a hurry with no time to listen to each other.

In 1991, in the short time available it was possible to introduce OLF to a larger audience. There were jubilations all over Oromiyaa. People received the freedom fighters with never seen excitement. They were elated to see members of a platoon of Oromo army marching into Finfinnee waving their banner of struggle high, with rifles held tight to their side. They were proud to have an organization ready to defend their rights. Since then the people did not get it out of their hearts. Much could have been done during that year. But the enemy did not give them time. The whole year it kept on suspending them off the ground until it finally ejected them.

Governments of Ethiopia, let alone with aliens, have never shared power with their own groups. Until they were over thrown in the manner they came to power they used to cling to it. Oromo leaders knew this. But for lack of organization on their part, the enemy got the chance to deceive them. Instead of taking that situation as a common debacle and rally around it many started to throw stones at OLF.

After leaving the transitional Government the force that was left behind did not match that of its enemy. It was infested with infiltrators and so was routed. Some of those who were left from the carnage put down arms and went home but still they are burning inside. Those who went into exile and who were in the Diaspora started to shun each other. Some slowly pulled out of the organization one by one and finally it broke up into two. This is not different from the situation of other organizations in the empire. The source for the debacle seems similar for one of the tactics of “divide and rule” were used across the board. The hands of the enemy are several and long. It is stirring and dispersing all. For this reason every one left the enemy aside and turned against each other. It became like the Oromo saying, “when he was told go and bit whom you can, the silly went home and tried his wife”.

In that way misunderstandings spread through Oromo organizations in the Diaspora. The community that is in foreign land lives under the rule of law and so nothing to be afraid of as long as it respected the law of that land. Had it had harmony it could have benefited its nation a great lot. The struggle for liberation of ones people includes pulling its lot out of poverty, ignorance and decease. Therefore until we could regain political power much could have been done from the outside. But the way we see at things is skewed. We all have our eyes on grabbing power, which is yet out of reach. Even then we could lose much unless we move towards it with caution. For this reason we cannot afford to be divided before we win our country. It is said “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, we cannot expect to be different if we have to survive and stand against our enemy.

We have mentioned above how going to Finfinnee to join other organizations in forming a transitional administration helped OLF to get introduced to the majority Oromo. That brought out to the public an organization that was limited to two corners of Oromiyaa, Gobeellee and Begii. It did not have the capacity to fulfill the new obligation for the added territories and population. While staggering to reach all, it was thrown out of the transitional arrangement. The situations that accidentally befall OLF became strange to it from that accustomed in the field. Some say the additional obligations that extended it over its actual capacity may have been the cause for its ineffectiveness. Even those who were introduce to the struggle and much was expected from them to boost its capacity could not get ready before it was thrown out by militants.

The advancement in technology is shrinking the globe. Oromo as a people are marginalized in the global competition. The enemy is taking advantage on the Oromo. This shrinking world has offered freedom for so many people but Oromo were not ready to take it.

Otherwise no body could have denied them. That does not mean they were knocked out completely. They still have the potential to reassert their proper place in the competition. Therefore they can still affect the smooth flow of free trade. Conquering a country for global economy these days goes under the cover of law and with remote control. For this reason one who invests needs stability and clarity of laws. To take advantage of this need, those who have similar outlook are expected to move with coordinated tactics and cooperation commensurate with it. Oromiya have many resources that can attract investors. The Oromo know that unless they can deny the exploitation of their resources without their will they are going to cease as a people soon.

Then what must they do? It is imperative that they unite irrespective of difference in outlook. Probably social organizations could facilitate towards that end. People do not live with politics alone. The possible division of labor must be realized by activists in putting things where they belong. Economic and social activities must not be polluted by amateurish political maneuvers. Community, religious, age, gender, professional and intellectual organizations should be free from partisan activities. They should serve all Oromo irrespective of a party members belong to. It is demeaning those that adore them and being despised, for religious, artists and youth associations to alien with a particular group.

Oromiyaa needs contribution in the field of education, health, rehabilitation, art, sports and culture. They are not all in the Diaspora that are joyous for escaping the low life at home. There are those who have problem with their resettlement as well as those who could not adjust themselves to new way of life. Even those who seem adjusted are not free from homesickness. All are in the same boat and so need encouragement and support from those around when family and tribe are no more there. They all need healthy community relations that could give comfort when they are down. No body should be left to be tempted to give up on the kaayyoo and get down on their knees for the enemy for the sake of homesickness. That is one of the causes that are blaring OLF’s vision.

There are holidays they have in common and in groups, if they celebrate them together they are bringing home foreign land at least for a time. If a forum is arranged where Oromo knowledgeable and youth come together and practice their creativity they will have more attachment to their nation than to aliens. The status of women in the new setting is different from what we experienced back home. Men have to prove to them that they are changed before they lose them to alien liberty. They have to get involved on equal footing with their brothers to device the way out of Oromo calamity. In short there must be a purpose for cherishing belonging to the same nation and having common identity. If we, as a community stand together we can put pressure on governments we are under and reap benefits for our people and our community.

To mention what we know, one of the benefits Ethiopian community in Washington DC provides its members is government medical aid. Because they have no choice our people are forced to go there sponsored and get covered. For that they pay membership fee. For the Ethiopians it is a victory to lull back a runaway. That is what the Oromo says shame is heavier than death. Oromo in DC have a legally registered community. But not all Oromo are members; even those who were members are staying away for a cause every one can guess. Some are spread over Ethiopian communities. Oromo community is left paralyzed for years. That emanates from Oromo weakness. In the Diaspora they have made demonstrations that might have made governments notice their presence. Otherwise there were no significant returns registered except probably psychological satisfaction for pouring their hearts, whether they were heard or not. The Habashaa spends fortune to make use of every legal loophole in foreign systems not only vigils and demonstrations. Oromo did not bother even to learn about those loopholes let alone using them.

To change the situation those who participate in political organizations should put their ambitions to control all behind when they are in social organizations. Those should be left free for all Oromo. Oromo has to learn to live and enjoy together irrespective of difference in ideology. That is also what will be expected from them in free and democratic Oromiyaa. For this to be realized first start with community associations. A meeting of all those who believe in Oromummaa has to be summoned to map out the basic elements of Oromummaa that should not be disturbed for any other interest. Let the Oromo in Diaspora lists values that are safuu, those which cannot be defied under any circumstance. Breaking it will be contemptible may and lead to ostracizing. Ilaa fi ilaamee (dialogue) must be one among the list. For this reason to listen to each other and speak in turns is a right and a duty.

Lack of it has so far lead to discord among groups. For this reason the social association has to have it close to its heart. Things like backbiting also shakes Oromo organizations. Backbiting is an element of backwardness. That has to be safuu in the association to be formed. If there is complaint it is better to bring it to the front rather than spreading negative rumors or quitting silently.

A nation that has strong community can mobilize its members easily. Community association has first to build trust of its members. Those who are trusted with the duty of forming and running the association initially must be those who are committed to make it a success through personal sacrifices. Otherwise if they are ones who create doubts from the beginning the Oromo issue become hopeless.

Community in Diaspora shall be built from region to world level in turns. Ones built they can make miracles if left alone. They can help in arranging healthy political debates among groups and individuals. They can encourage economic association and business ventures that could help to develop national capacity. There will be no limit to what they can help as long as they are committed to serve all Oromo irrespective of to which group they belong.

A strong community in the Diaspora can keep national identity and aspirations alive in foreign land. It can also be a great support for movements back home. It will help generations born abroad not to blame their predecessors for not knowing their identity. In a land where every body proudly traces its ancestors Oromo born in foreign land should not be left to be considered as maggots in dung whose origins cannot be traced. They should be told that Oromo is a proud African people on its own right, with own culture, tradition and laws that the world can be proud of.

When the writer talks about organizing oneself he is not being ignorant of the difficulty this generation organizational matters. What is true today was not true yesterday and no reason why it should not change tomorrow. Ancient Oromo had organization that shook the region and even surprised foreigners that got the chance to witness their superb performance as fighters and law givers. For that reason the problem that is visible now is not inherited social genetics but something that situations imposed on them. One can reach no where without strong organization. Oromo had observed how politically bad they had become. Big cadres want to do things by themselves rather than following organizational guidelines. The few confidential they picked on their ways are known only to their briefcases. That means if they are lost that also will be lost with them. For those who have strong organization, losing an individual will not be detrimental to its functioning. Individuals are not given roles greater than the organization; they only perform what it assigns them.

Thus institution building should be at the center of Oromo movement. What ever is created today may be a model for now and for librated Oromiyaa. The movements must be all encompassing. For this reason women and youngsters should not be left out. They have to be encouraged to form their own association to deal with interests peculiar to their groups. That would help to build confidence and trust among the leaders of tomorrow, the youth and half of the population, the women. With that we may overcome the laziness we so far suffer from. Let them march organized in defense of their class interest and national independence with all the rest. Otherwise if experience is over emphasized we may return to the old crooked practices. We need fresh beginning with those who are committed to apply modern concepts of management. Oromo organization must be competitive with any community organization existing. That will mean building like ancient Oromo an air tight organization that can compete in world arena.

If Oromo could, together lay down elements of Oromummaa, it will be great victory. Those who love their country will come out with the banner of Oromummaa high above all other differences. Those who remain in enemy camp after all this must be regarded having declared themselves out voluntarily. Oromummaa is not blood alone it is as well a world outlook. There could be Oromo children who stayed away or might have been pushed away for not speaking their national language. Those under such situation are victims of colonialism. The struggle they make to come back home must be encouraged and helped. The purpose of a liberation struggle is not only regaining lost rights but also lost souls. No Oromo should be left in enemy camp without efforts being made to reclaim them.

Human activity is not only political but also includes social and economic activities. What is suggested here is the formation of social movement with the hope of bringing divided Oromo together. For the Oromo power has to be exercised by leaders in accordance with the law in whose making they have participated directly or through representatives. That is what all Oromo understand about Oromummaa. That is why they behave differently under aliens’ dictation and that of their own kind. They expect to be consulted by compatriot on matters concerning them. They love to reach agreement with ilaa fi ilaamee. Rule of law was the only dominant force of the nation. For that reason they take it as safuu to tolerate when the force of law is abused by a national.

These days there are so many that have interest in the matter of people’s power. It is essential to have the necessary capability and consciousness to pull out oneself from pressures of such interests. These pressures are among the causes for misunderstanding between nationals. Consultation and dialogue, the basis of Oromummaa, are made irrelevant under such pressures. While trying to overcome the difficulties in political struggle we have to take care of healthy development of civic organizations. It may take time but it can be done. The Oromo says, “Sissiqa goobana” (it becomes full moon creeping), so start trying. We could survive as a people only if together we uphold Oromummaa.

Differences in political outlook are dividing the Oromo in all aspects of its life. What ever they tried so far to bridge the gap did not materialize. Because of that no other non political association under Oromo name is being free from such divisions. The unseen hands of the enemy are also contributing to the escalation of dissentions. Any organized Oromo interest could be a source of human, material and psychological boost for Oromo struggle. Oromo political organizations want to monopolize this source. The enemy is against Oromo having any thing that increases their capacity. For this reason it is better to curb ones desire than incidentally contributing to that of the enemy. All genuine Oromo political organizations should leave civic association to develop freely for all Oromo benefit. They should defend them against enemy machination and internal divisive elements.

If community associations become successful, they can move to the more difficult and next problem. They can be instrumental for development of other sectors. Oromo living abroad with money and entrepreneurial capacity can be brought together for investment and consultancy. Such association could also facilitate for free debates between Oromo that have different political visions for their nation. Let them bring what they claim to be their difference from others to the open and give the audience a chance to judge for itself. Probably they may discover that they have no differences of principles but ego.

For the people to survive and struggle in unison, they have to eat, they have to advance knowledge, they have to look after their health, they have to console each other and feast together, they have to protect their culture and pass to the next generation. How to get this realized must be studied. Let us learn how to maintain our difference without affecting our unity. Modern Oromo are heirs of Gadaa civilization the inventor of “ilaa fi ilaamee”. For this reason they have to revive it not kill it. They have to use it to move towards creating a common ground where Oromummaa have the upper hand, a social movement. Social movements are not rivals to but supplements for the nation’s political struggle. Blessed be all those that are trying to bring the Oromo together.

Let Oromummaa Sprout!

Difference in political outlook will not destroy our basic unity!

Mr. Ibsaa Guutama December 2007


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