The collective interest and aspiration of the Oromo people is and has been the independence of Oromiyaa.
Source: Sudan Tribune
By Yaadasaa Dafaa
Understanding the difference between the concepts of democracy and self-determination is important. Conflating the two concepts together is problematical and that leads to bafflement and confusion. Some Oromo nationals have already become a victim of this and unable to differentiate the two concepts, one from the other. To begin with, self-determination, as historically defined, does not oppose democracy. That is, though democracy and self-determination are not conceptually the same, they are not exclusive to each other. It is for this, John Stuart Mill recognized that democracy can function only where the nationalist principle that every nation ought to have its own state is realized. The implication of this is that there cannot be democracy in an empire where nations and peoples are forced to live together in an empire. In order not to fall into conceptual trap, one should distinguish the difference between the concept of self-determination and democracy. Since 2001, a few elements within Oromo nationals have chosen to follow a political line of democratization of Ethiopia. Since then, these elements have been trying to twist, bastardize, and distort the two concepts in order to fuse the two together as one and the same, so as to confuse and mislead the public.
To be on the safe side, first and foremost, one should understand that democracy means a system of government or rule of the people. Abraham Lincoln defined it as government of the people, for the people, by the people. Therefore, the struggle for democracy should be understood as a struggle for the government or rule of the people, by the people, and for the people within a nation state. Its functions are the guarantee of rights and freedom of free expression of opinion, including rights and freedom of speech, of press and of religion; the rights and freedom of assembly, of association, and of organization among others. It is a system of rule of law whereby equality before the law is respected. And it is a system by which people choose and replace officers of the government through fair and free election, by one-man one-vote. In this way, the majority vote decides the out come of an election. It is for this; democracy is said to be the rule of majority, whereby the rights of minority are guaranteed, respected and protected. This is not new to the Oromo society, for democracy is built in the Oromo culture, in their cultural habits and in their way of life. Gada system of governance was based on this culture of Oromo, the culture of justice, tolerance, cooperation, understanding, and compromise. But this is not the type of tolerance, cooperation and compromise that the capitulationists (galtuus) have been engaged in since the war of conquest of Oromiyaa and ever since. A nation under colonial occupation, as that of Oromo, fight for the life of the nation and to reclaim its lost national sovereignty. Under this condition, it is not Oromo way to tolerate, to cooperate and to compromise with the occupiers of Oromiyaa and its supporters or its alliance. Therefore, one should not fall into the pit hole of the capitulationists’ or gantuus’ interpretation of the right of nation to self-determination.
With colonization of Oromiyaa, the Abyssinian rulers replaced the Oromo democracy with Abyssinian authoritarian rule. It is for this, the struggle for self-determination of the Oromo is not only the struggle for independence but it is also the struggle for reclaiming of our democracy. So, democracy cannot be given to a society as manna from the sky by a heavenly or an earthly kingdom or by a benevolent self-appointed leader or dictator. But it is internal to a society; it grows, develops, and flourishes through history within the culture of a society. On the contrary, a mimic of democratization based on foreign models to be enforced on a society amounts to failure; it does not work. Suffice to say, democracy cannot be imported or exported or it cannot be imposed by external force upon a society. If one seeks it from outside to be imposed on a society by the help of external powers that democracy will perish. History has proven, time and time again, this to be true both in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By and large, the struggle for democracy is within the existing sovereign nation-state, not empire. History teaches that Empires are born by wars, growth and rise by wars, and maintained by force, by terror and repression. As they born by wars, so they die by wars; as they grow, so they stagnate; as they rise, so they decline and as they stand tall and so they finally fall. That is, these are the laws, the rules, and fates that governed all empires so far known to man. Hence Empires have never known to stand tall for all times. It is not as some turncoat (gantuu) elements want us believe that "the failure of the empires to be democratized is because the system excludes the participation of the majority." On the contrary, empires failed to be democratized, because of their innate formation, their character and their nature. Empires are not meant to be democratized but to be dismantled and dissolved. Hence, Ethiopia is an empire and it cannot be democratized. To this effect, the Oromo’s struggle is not for the democratization of Ethiopia, as some Oromo turncoats wish us to believe. In another word, the struggle for the right to self-determination is not conditional on the absence of democracy, or on the grievances of injustice as a result of national oppression, subjugation, and exploitation, though they contribute to the struggle, but it is a struggle of the people for polity, for politically independent separate sovereign state. It is, therefore, neither a struggle for fair and free elections, nor a struggle for freedom of speech, nor a struggle for equality, nor for freedom of assembly, or association in an empire, as Oromo capitulationist elements want us to believe. Here we must be reminding ourselves, the struggle for self-determination is not the same as the struggle for a mere democracy alone. In the case of colonized people, the struggle for self-determination is part and parcel of the struggle for independence as well as for reclaiming their lost democracy- their system of government, the rule of people. However, the struggle for democracy does not by any means be translated to imply as a struggle to establish sovereign and independent state.
As aforementioned, the Asmara group also known as Shanee (the splinter faction from the OLF who still fraudulently and deceitfully call itself the OLF) has recently turned to the re-defined version of right to self-determination which is the internal self-determination or sometimes referred to as internal decolonization, as it turned to the appeal of settler colonialism. The purpose has been to confuse the people. The given reason is: the world has changed and that change made the traditional concept of right to self-determination dead, obsolete, archaic, and so not applicable. In the understanding and in the interpretation of this group, the concept of self-determination as historical defined and understood has outlived its useful days and has lost its relevance in international community. And so it has turned to, accepted and owned a new concept of internal self-determination, for the purpose of serving its political end goal and its foreign supporters. Nowadays, such phrase has become tools for opportunists to rationalize their failures as success. Again phrases such as self-determination, Ethiopian democratization, free and fair election have become rhetorical veils of the group to mask its unrestrained pursuit of its narrow self-interest in its scramble to capture foreign financial handouts. In this, Shanee interprets the right of the Oromo to self-determination in terms of internal self-determination meaning democracy in Ethiopia. As mentioned above, internal self-determination means the collective rights of national groups within a given state. And the people have to remain within the national boundaries of the specific existing state. According to the advocators of this concept, Shanee included, the collective rights of Oromo people are to be determined within the Ethiopian colonial empire. This is what the slogan democratization of Ethiopia is all about. That right to internal self-determination refers to cultural, linguistic, identity, and to political (as to free speech, right to vote, right to elect and to be elected), and to local legislative and local administrative bodies. In general, it refers to the right to local autonomous status, but its concept and implementation does not refer to sovereignty and to free and independent Oromiyaa state. In Shanee’s political view, internal self-determination is applicable and fits the Oromo struggle, while external self-determination or self-determination as traditionally defined to mean sovereignty, separate statehood and independent nation-state does not.
Shanee’s argument is that European colonialism was an external colonialism to Africa and Asia whereby the colonizers came across ocean, from far distant lands. Ethiopian colonialism, the group believes, is settler colonialism and so it does not fit the concept and character of European colonialism. Hence in Shanee’s political lingua, Abyssinians are the settler colonizers while Oromo is internally colonized people. On the basis of this, it rejected the Oromo quest for independence. Shanee sought a solution for the Oromo quest within the framework of the democratization of Ethiopian empire. Such is tantamount to make Oromiyaa an integral part of Ethiopia and that it means Ethiopia has sovereignty over Oromiyaa. This is Shanee’s and its associates’ rejection of independence of Oromiyaa. One should understand that colonialism is an international phenomenon. Oromiyaa is a colonized country. As such, it is an occupied territory without the consent of its people. To this effect, the Hague Convention of 1907 states "The occupying power does not, through occupation, gain sovereignty over the occupied territory." Hence it is clear; Ethiopia does not have sovereignty over Oromiyaa. Again M. Van Walt Van Praag of Peace Action Council’s words, "a state that oppresses, destroys or unduly exploits a people or community instead of protecting it or representing its interest has no legitimate right to invoke the principle of territorial integrity against that people or community." Indeed, Ethiopia is colonialist state. Being a colonialist state, Ethiopian state does not represent the interest of the colonized Oromo people. Its purpose is and has been for the exploitation of the Oromo people and their resources. Over a century down to today, the successive empire rulers have been slaughtering the Oromo people. The collective interest and aspiration of the Oromo people is and has been the independence of Oromiyaa. Ethiopian colonial state does not represent the Oromo interest, their hope, and their aspiration. And so, the solution to the Oromo question does not rest within the domain of the colonizer, the Ethiopian empire, but it rests within the jurisdiction of international community.
Colonialism is not about skin color or about the distance as to the closeness or nearness from where the colonizer comes. That is, colonialism is not monolithic to a place of its origin or it is not monolithic to white people as Europeans colonialism or to yellow people as Japanese colonialism. It was happened by historical accident but not by design. That is, it is not predestined for the Europeans or Japanese to colonize others. Africa could have been a colonizer of the rest of world. That is colonialism could have come from black people, but it did not. This cannot justify that colonialism is only monolithic to Europeans or Japanese. In fact, Abyssinians are a black colonizer. Hence, Oromiyaa fell under Abyssinian colonialism. The system does not have color. Colonialism is a system. In colonial case, a call for self-determination is a call for right to sovereignty. The right to sovereignty as universally defined means, among other things, the right to ones territorial integrity, the right to noninterference in the internal affairs of ones state, and the right to promulgate, adjudicate, and enforce ones legal rules and laws within ones territory. It is the right to make defensive war and also it entails the power to make treaties, alliances, and trade agreements with other states. In this case, the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) "upholds the right to self-determination of peoples which remain under colonial domination and foreign occupation." While outside of colonial case self-determination is turned into a principle of human rights within the territory of each state.
Strangely enough, from the coined twin concepts of internal self-determination and settler colonization Shanee came with a solution to colonial question. The solution it came with is the colonial question can be solved within the colonial empire. For the how question, Shanee’s response is through democratization of the empire. The proponents of empire democratization are those persons who joined the OLF during Darg era and later deserted the OLF, and those Darg’s party members and its cadres who joined the OLF after the fall of Darg. These are the political chameleons that can change their skin color and their political views at any convince to them.
LIBERATION VERSUS INDEPENDENCE: IS THERE A DICHOTOMOUS MEANING OR CONCEPT?
The point here is to establish that there is no difference between the word liberation and independence in their meanings and concepts. One can use them interchangeably. However recently, as in self-determination, attempts have been made to eschew the meaning of liberation, suggesting that it is different from independence. The story has been told to convince public that liberation is applicable to people while independence is to country. It seems that this is an attempt to twist, to reinterpret, and to rewrite its meaning. But, to my knowledge, no nationalists have ever assigned liberation to people and independence to country. That is, there is no dichotomous meaning or concepts between liberation and independence that suggest one for the people and the other for a country. If one looks at national liberation struggles, use of these two words do not have mutually exclusive or contradictory meaning to suggest one to be used for the people and the other for country. And in fact, there meanings and concepts overlap. One can say national liberation or national independence. Both have the same meaning and the same connotation. For instance, there were and are many liberation fronts and organizations that adopted the name liberation or independence. For instance, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), Popular Front for Liberation of Angola (MPLA), National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), and the Algerian Front for National Liberation (FNL), National Liberation Front of Vietnam (NLF), and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) are and were among many. Here some organizations added liberation to their name and others used independence. All means the same thing: liberation or independence of the country and the people. The story that liberation is for the people and independence is for a country is a false one. The term national liberation in its natural meaning denotes the liberation of national territory and the people of that territory from colonial occupation. To put it even more simply, liberation struggle against colonial occupation is a struggle for restoring the independence and sovereignty of a colonized nation and nationalities. Hence when we say liberation of Oromiyaa, we mean a free Oromiyaa and a free Oromo people- -in other words, the establishment of independent people’s Democratic Republic of Oromiyaa. This means, people are independent; the state is independent; it is people’s state; it is a republic; it is a democratic, and hence the democratic state means the empowerment of the people. This means, the state and its government belongs to the people. That is, people are the government and they own the state. Here one must understand the individuals put in office are not the government; they are put in the office to serve the government: the people. Hence Oromo national struggle for liberation or Oromo national struggle for independence against Ethiopian colonialism is to restore the sovereignty of our people over Oromiyaa and over its resources and their freedom and human dignity. Liberation is a very powerful concept. It is a negation of colonialism and hence a negation of the platform of colonial empire democratization. Empire democratization is a concept alien to history. The term liberation really answers the question as to what kind of Oromiyaa do we want and what kind of governance we wish to have. In its core meaning, liberation encapsulates, among other things, self-determination, self-reliance, democracy, freedom, social justice, human dignity, national pride, and peace, and it includes the liberation of mind and body, the world over. It also encapsulates the ideas of getting rid of foreign imposed harmful cultures, ideas, and influence as well as getting ride of ones own bad cultures and ideas. That is, cultures and ideas that impede human and material progress. It promotes the idea of release of human energy, resources and capabilities. It embodies the totality of what are good and noble in humans. Hence, the meaning and concept of liberation captures the hopes and aspirations of the Oromo people. It is for this, our people continue on calling for liberation (bilisummaa). The founders of the OLF understood the concept of liberation from the very beginning as at the heart of Oromo question. Hence, liberation or bilisummaa does not have any other meaning than what we mean it means.
OLF struggles for the liberation of Oromiyaa and its people. This liberation is to end Oromiyaa’s political position as a colony and to this effect to drive the colonizer from Oromiyaa. Hence the Oromo national liberation struggle seeks to force the withdrawal of colonial military occupation from Oromiyaa, and with that the destruction of the local pro-colonialist loyalist armed forces and with that the wiping out the harmful colonial political and cultural influence from Oromiyaa and winning back the lost national sovereignty with the establishment of free, democratic, and independent Oromiyaa. In this case, it must be understood that our struggle is not simply for the Oromiyaanization of the Ethiopian Empire’s existing colonial institutions but for the destruction and abolition of them and replace them with true Oromo institutions that reflect the Oromo culture, identity, history, and the Oromo worldview, their philosophy, and their vision. To this effect the target of Oromo national struggle is the Ethiopian colonialism, its institutions as represented by its police force, its security apparatus, its military installations and facilities, and its bureaucracy, and its local Oromo pro-colonialist loyalists, but not by means the civilians. It is for this the OLF, its leadership, and its rank-and files members, from the very inception, truly understood and distinguished the difference between the real meaning of the liberation or independence from fictitious or phony independence. It is from this understanding that the OLF, its leadership, and its members firmly and resolutely stood alone with determination opposing and fighting against Shanee’s political platform of Ethiopian empire democratization, the platform that advocates for the abandoning of the independence of Oromiyaa. We opposed it at the time when Shanee (the Asmara group) received a support of large number of Diaspora based Oromo nationals and even when all Oromo political organizations were confused and went along with it. This was the time when Shanee asked the Oromo people and the OLF to kneel down with it in humiliation before the Ethiopian colonial rulers and in front of the World community in accepting its political platform of the democratization of the Ethiopian empire, telling us that one day in the distant future, Oromiyaa will get its independence without sacrifice. It again asked the OLF leadership to lay down their arms and to disarm and disband the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). This was at a time when Shanee boasted to have had a support of America, Norway, and Eritrea for its platform of Ethiopian empire democratization. We refused to accept it because we know the true meaning of the liberation of Oromiyaa. We perfectly understand that the Oromo struggle is anti-colonial national liberation struggle. And so as all previous anti-colonial liberation struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the focus of the Oromo struggle is and has been on the demand or on the question for national self-determination or national sovereignty, which embodies the institutions of popular sovereignty.
The Oromo nationalists should not borrow the meanings or concepts of liberation or independence from the opponents of the Oromo independence. We should not borrow the meaning or the connotation that OPDO and its likes attached to liberation (bilisummaa). That is, we should refrain from interpreting the meaning of liberation following in the footsteps of the Oromo local pro-colonialist loyalist forces, as represented by OPDO and its alliances. Let the opponents of Oromo national struggle say whatever they want to say about liberation. Our job is to expose that misleading meaning and interpretation attached to it. And also it is our responsibility to give a correct meaning, interpretation and concept of it. However, it is unwise and wrong on the part of nationalists to run away from the true and original meaning or concept of liberation, in the hope to create and re-write another meaning for it, simply because OPDO and its alliance distorted its interpretation. Hence one should not fall prey to the meaning, the OPDO and its alliance attached to it. It is equally wrong to spine, to massage, to turn and twist so as to distort the original meaning of liberation and give it another interpretation simply to be different from the meaning given to it by the opponents of Oromo independence. To do so is to confuse the public. And it is our responsibility not to confuse the public. It is wise to stick to its original meaning and concepts as all nationalists used it in their struggles throughout history. As we have seen OPDO, its supporters, and its masters have been intentionally trying to distort its meaning so as to fit their political line. Nationalists should expose this. The issue really boils down to this. The interpretation of liberation by some Oromo nationals is based on the world outside of the purpose, the goal, the understanding, and interpretation of its historical meaning and concept and also it is outside of our understanding of its meaning and concepts, in our struggle. Hence the recent attempt to interpret and reinterpret liberation to mean differently from what its meaning was, from what its meaning is and from what its meaning and concept has been is outside the scope of what was originally meant by the concept, liberation. It is based on the interpretation outside of what we mean by it. Hence, to argue that liberation is for the people and independence is for the country is a flawed argument and hence such meaning is a distortion of its original and true meaning and it should be avoided".
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