Union Oromia (Federal Ethiopia) of Dr. Abiy as Common Home is Win-Win Solution for the Conflict Between Pro-Independence Oromo and Pro-Integration Amhara
This article is based on the discussion among different political groups in the hitherto Tigrean empire, which was ignited by one open letter written by Dr. Fikre Tolassa and directed to Dr. Bayan Asoba. The letter was containing a different, but relatively new, version of Amhara-Oromo “history”. It motivated us to think about the possible win-win solution for the hitherto conflict between elites of the two big nations of Oromia (Ethiopia) – the Amhara and the Oromo, so that they can find a common ground to cooperate against the currently ruling fascist and racist TPLF regime. Because of the short opinion I forwarded as a response to Dr. Fikre’s open letter, I was asked by many readers per e-mail to elaborate a bit more about what I mean by “Union Oromia as common home”. Thus, I try in this piece of essay. First of all, to make clear to my readers, I am not historian, geologist, politician, anthropologist or ethnologist to falsify or verify Dr. Fikre’s version of history. I am simple Oromo individual interested in Oromo cause and try to dig deep about the Oromo. Let me then try to describe the two interesting Oromo perspectives regarding our history as well as our destiny and look at the variety regarding their implication.
As I read and understood till now, there is one perspective, which tries to show us how the Oromo are related to Egypt, to an origin of Cushitic civilization, to the city of Meroe, and it tries to figure out how Oromo destiny should include a possible Oromo (Cush) renaissance. It teaches us how the Oromo-proper is a “stalk” for all Cushitic nations in the North-East Africa. I think Dr. Fikre’s view belongs here. The other perspective seems to be a view of genuine Oromo nationalists striving to achieve freedom of the Oromo, including liberation of Gadaa Oromia (OLF’s Oromia) from the current Tigrean subjugation, whatever history of the Oromo could be, even though it concentrates on the colonial narrative, including the very different origins of Amhara (“Semetic”) and Oromo (Cushitic). The other area of difference between the two perspectives seems to be that the first one is more history-oriented whereas the second one is highly destiny-oriented. The first one is digging into history of the Oromo from different perspectives whereas the second one is doing its best to promote liberation of Gadaa Oromia at any cost.
To me, very interesting is an implication of the two positions: implication of the first perspective is to design our final goal as the desired RENAISSANCE of Great Oromia, defining the Oromo as people to include Oromo-proper (who now identify themselves as the Oromo) and Oromo-progeny (all nations which seem to have emerged from Oromo-proper). That means Oromo is inclusive of all Cushitic nations, even including the Semitized Cush nations – the Habesh, i.e. inclusive of most nations in the empire and some in the neighboring countries. Implication of the second position is that it concentrates on an importance of the imperative LIBERATION of Oromo-proper or an independence of the presently demarcated Gadaa Oromia by any means from the subjugation and suppression it is suffering since the last 3000 years. This time span, which is usually adored by the Ethiopianists as time of Ethiopian freedom, is actually time of Oromia’s gradual shrinkage and Oromo’s continuous assimilation so that a lot of its parts lost their original Oromo identity (Oromummaa) and were Abeshanized, bantunized or Arabanized.
I personally can look at the move of the first perspective as a support for the ongoing liberation movement, and I would like to call its move and its supporters as part of the ODF (Oromo Democratic Front including the ODP of Dr. Abiy), a movement which seems now to fight for Oromo liberation within a union of free peoples, and which then may try to influence the other progeny nations to look at their Oromo roots. Even though this movement strives for a union (true federation), it only needs a simple change of the name Ethiopia to Oromia in order to see the suggested Union Oromia within the United Nations (UN). Very clear is that the political stand of the second perspective seems to be position of the OLF, i.e self-determination per referendum of Oromo public on the issue of an independent Gadaa Oromia (map now demarcated by the OLF). If the ODF will push further for such Union Oromia and this will be accepted by Amhara and other nations, then seeking Gadaa Oromia within the UN is just unnecessary. Surely, Oromo nationals will be satisfied with such union Oromia in the UN, and Amhara as well other patriots just need to swallow this change of the name as a compromise, if they are really interested in territorial integrity of the country they seem to love.
Accepting Oromo’s modern history at face value, which suggests that Oromo is an indigenous nation in the region and it is an origin for most other nations, I can say that the Oromo till now used to exercise self-destruction under the influence of different forces from the Middle-East and from the West. As an example, the Axumite Oromos (Abeshanized ones) destroyed the traditional Oromo of Meroe, and the Amharanized Oromos like Emperors Theodros, Minilik, H/Sillasie and dictator Mengistu as well as the Tigranized Oromo individuals like Emperor Yohannes and tyrant Melles Zenawi destroyed the well preserved cultural identity and attacked the heroic resistance and resilience of the Oromo-proper. Here, it is important to mention that Oromo-proper is the most dissent which resisted an influence from the outside world and kept its indigenous religion and language. Some scholars even tend to say, this is a reason why the name “Gaallaa” is given to this NAY-sayer nation. The word seems to have been driven from an Arab word “Qallaa,” which means “said NO.” I can say that Arabs gave Oromo people this name for they resisted accepting Islam at the cost of Waaqeffaannaa (traditional Oromo religion). Then, Habesha elites (Habeshanized Oromo-progeny) further gave it more negative connotations.
The question to be raised and to be answered now is: how can we, Oromo-proper, who are now fighting for our liberation from domination by the “ignorantly arrogant” TPLF elites, achieve this goal? What is the implication of having these two positions (pro-ODF and pro-OLF perspectives) in Oromo society? Are the two positions irreconcilable? Is position of ODF a prerequisite to promote position of the OLF or vice versa? I write this opinion and ask these question to provoke thinking and to stimulate an action in Oromo community. My political stand here is not necessarily the last well thought and not the most important one.
As far as I am concerned, the two perspectives and positions are complementary, not contradictory, to each other. Fact on the ground is that now Oromo nation (Oromo-proper) is suffering under subjugation by the TPLF, and we have to be liberated unconditionally. To be successful in this struggle, we need both the ODF and the OLF with theirs noble positions on human and national rights of Oromo-proper to self-determination. This ensures our national liberation at any cost without any compromise. As long as there is Habesha domination (mind you Habesha are Oromo progenies) over the Oromo-proper, there will be Oromo liberation movement, and surely, there will be a viable front to fight for freedom. After dismantling the existing empire system and achieving transitional goal for both the ODF and the OLF (Ethiopian union, i.e true federation), we can opt further for either Great Oromia; i.e integrared Ethiopia named as Oromia (if Amhara and other nations agree) or Gadaa Oromia (if Amhara and other nations refuse to live under the name Oromia, but insist on the name Ethiopia).
I think Ethiopian union as transitional solution to independent Gadaa Oromia is a reason for the fact that also the OLF wrote in its programme not only the necessity of independence, but also the possibility of a union. So shortly put, the Oromo do have yet three optional post-freedom goals to achieve, based on the objective realities in the future. The next stop of our liberation journey, which started in Djibouti (colony), passing through Ayisha (status quo of a limited cultural autonomy), will be Diredhawa (true federation); that is why we need to support ODF with all our power. Then, true federation can lead us to either goal of the OLF, i.e. Adama (an independence of Gadaa Oromia) or to the common goal of both fronts – Finfinne (union of free peoples called Union Oromia), which is a necessary step to achieve the required Oromian/Ethiopian (Cush) renaissance.
Sure is that if there will be true freedom and democracy in the future, at last we will achieve final common goal (Great Oromian renaissance), in which both the Oromo-proper and the different Oromo progenies, including the other nations in the Horn (which might not have emerged from the Oromo) will grow together. Here again, without an imperative liberation of Oromo-proper, it is fact on the ground that the whole region will continue to suffer under the present poverty and tyranny. So, the key to prosperity in that cursed region is liberation of Oromo-proper, be it within or without the desired Union Oromia. In short, let’s all Oromo nations (the proper one and the progenies) move now from our hitherto self-destruction to the future self-determination. Let’s continue to be NAY-sayers to subjugation, injustice and tyranny.
To emphasize again, it seems there were always, and there are still today, the above mentioned two views and two perspectives among Oromo nationalists. The cause of these two perspectives seems to be the version of Oromo history we do have in mind and variety of our own individual biography. According to the discussion I had with many fellow Oromo individuals, there are also some who swim and paddle between the two blocks of ideas. What are these blocks and how can we accommodate them in our liberation journey? We can classify our fellow Oromo individuals into two in respect to their view about our history and their wish regarding our destiny:
– Oromo individuals, who seem to accept the history version that we are original Cush nation and even that we are the “stalk” for other Cush nations. The implication of such history is that this group tends to believe and accept the usual demand towards the Oromo people: should stay together with Abyssinians, who are also “our siblings” from the same origin. It is clear, this group tends to advocate for liberated Oromo people within Union Oromia and, if possible, struggle for Oromo renaissance (here Oromo being both Oromo-proper, who now identify themselves as Oromo, and Oromo-progenies, who “lost their Oromummaa gradually in the last 3000 years history”). This is the reason why some Oromo politicians started to speak about necessity of change of philosophy in the Oromo liberation movement, which up to now concentrated only on liberating Gadaa Oromia.
– Oromo nationals, who seem to accept that there can be historical relations between Habesha and Oromo, but believe that the most important is the colonial relation, which started to develop after Habesha rulers invaded and subjugated Gadaa Oromia at the end of the nineteenth century in connection with European colonizers’ movement of the Scramble for Africa. No question, this group thinks that the only destiny of the Oromo is a complete liberation of Gadaa Oromia from the colonization or domination of our neighboring Abyssinia. Of course, this group also sees possibility of a union of nations, after independence of Gadaa Oromia, for possible common benefit of all peoples in the empire.
Some Oromo nationalists wrote to me about the concern they had because of the position like that of Dr. Fikre, which try to tell us that the Oromo are the common origin for most of Ethiopian nations and, as a consequence, the Oromo must take responsibility, not only to liberate Oromo-proper, but also other nations, including the Habeshas. This position, of course, seems to be detrimental to Oromo liberation movement, unless the Habeshas are ready to accept the renaming of Ethiopia as Oromia. That is why also some ODF supporters, who nowadays started to say “we are Ethiopians” need to correct their rhetoric and boldly assert that they do belong to Oromia, so that even Habeshas can start to say “we are Oromians.” Simply put, the concern is that if we believe Abyssinians are Oromos, who lost their Oromummaa in the last 3000 years, it will be difficult to make a radical liberation struggle against our “own.” But this concern is only legitimate if we are ready to be enslaved by “our own” and if we further call the future union of free peoples as Ethiopia. Otherwise, if we agree to rename the union as Oromia and if Afaan Oromo will be the primary working language of the union, no need to have such concern.
I do personally share this concern if we accept to live under colony now and as liberated Ethiopians in the future, disregarding our identity as Oromo and giving up the name of our land – Oromia. The reasons for this concern are firstly, the so called “modern Oromo history” is not yet verified exactly; secondly, Habesha elites, as crooked they always are, try to use this “modern Oromo history” as an instrument against Oromo liberation movement. That is actually what we could observe in the cyberworld in the past many years and in the move of Dr. Fikre. Habesha elites always try to dilute Oromo’s radical step towards freedom and sovereignty by telling us that we, the Oromo people, are part of them as “Ethiopians,” and they actually used such history to try to convince us. They untiredly told us that both Amhara and Tegaru are from the Oromo origin, so liberation of Gadaa Oromia from Habesha subjugators, who also “are Oromo” themselves, is as such “not logical.”
But, let’s leave history for historians. We don’t need either to believe it or deny it. We just start from the status quo. No question that at moment the Oromo are already enslaved by Tegaru elites; so we need to be liberated from this domination unconditionally. Just in front of our eyes, a lot of Oromo nationalists have been killed for they are Oromo nationalists and still a lot are languishing in jails. During this time of tribulations, Habesha elites (“our progeny”) did not look at the Oromo as their own. Why should then the Oromo look at this barbaric tyrants as our own? Let alone the Oromo, even the oppressed Habeshas and other nations should fight against them. To decide our destiny, we need own public verdict; that is why our goal is self-determination. Whatever our history is, we have to stick to this goal.
Disregarding the different versions of our history and our biological origin, we can agree that our nationalism (Oromummaa) depends on the view we do have on our national (Oromo) interest. Those of us, who do support and serve this national interest, are the ones with genuine Oromummaa. Oromummaa is not only about biological origin, but more about psychological make-up and political interest. To that matter, we have seen a lot of biological Oromo individuals who do identify themselves with our foes. I personally think that beyond our origin and beyond the language we do speak, an Oromo with sound mind of Oromummaa is the one who identifies himself (or herself) with being Oromo, Afaan Oromo, our liberation cause and with the Oromo way of life, including Oromo culture. Do the so called Oromo-progeny have such mentality to be part and parcel of the Oromo? Do they in general and Dr. Fikre in particular accept and respect Union (Great) Oromia as suggested here?
In short, I must say that, whatever our history might be or our status quo is, we should push together for our final destiny of freedom and sovereignty, be it in the form of an independent Gadaa Oromia or an integrative Great Oromia. What matters is the Oromo nation we want to build in the future, i.e. an independent and prosperous Oromia, and an emancipated Oromo people (including both the Oromo-proper and the Oromo-progeny). That means, freedom of the Oromo and sovereignty of Oromia, be it within or without a union). Are the Amhara and other nations ready to accept Union Oromia as a means to achieve their highly desired UNITY? If they are really concerned about unity of the country, the better way is to accept and respect our independence in form of this Great Oromia. If they fail to do so, an independent Gadaa Oromia is inevitable. After all, just as the city they called Addisaba is our Finfinne, the country they named Ethiopia is our Oromia. Now, it is up to them to choose either to live in Great Oromia (New Ethiopia) or to be the future good neighbours of an independent Gadaa Oromia. We like it or not, we are leading to Gadaa Oromia of Ob. Galasaa or Union Oromia (true ethnic federation) of Dr. Abiy or Great Oromia (geo-federation) of Ob. Andargachew. May Waaqa give us wisdom to choose the better one!