ODP of Dr. Abiy in Eprdf vs OFC of Dr. Marara in Medrek*
I am one of the few Oromo, who used to advocate for Medrek struggling against the fascist TPLF. I wrote some articles in support of it; I tried to indicate that Medrek is a way forward. I noted that even Dr. Negasso’s move was not backward, but forward, as the party he joined, UDJ, and the alliance he helped build, Medrek, were promoters of genuine federation in Ethiopia (Great Oromia).
In one of my articles, I indicated why Medrek could be good for the Oromo to achieve our mid-goal in contrast to AFD, which was good to arrive at the end-goal, taking Medrek as a promoter of language-based federation. Even I went further and exalted Medrek’s Ethiopia with autonomous national areas including Oromia’s autonomy as a prototype for the future African federation. I took Medrek as a good compromise alliance, next to AFD, which really acted against the “divide and rule” game of the fascist regime. For that reason, I even recommended Birtukan “Mandela” to be formal chairperson of Medrek. Were these all “naive” assertions from me? I was also surprised by reservation of most Oromo nationalists regarding Medrek.
Oromo nation’s political interest is crystal clear: move from the status quo of domination towards realization of full national freedom. Any measure to be taken in supporting this move should be accepted by Oromo nationalists. The question now important is: can we consider that Medrek’s ambitions and actions do promote this liberation movement? I am asking this question after following Medrek’s meetings at home and in Diaspora for many years. As I repeatedly mentioned, the rhetoric of individuals and parties in Ethiopia regarding democracy, freedom, justice, development, peace, equality, prosperity, etc. is not important for Oromo people to judge who these forces are. These values are important, and no one denies them, even members of the fascist regime talk about such moral virtues.
The only important value to be taken by the Oromo as a factor to judge these politicians is their position on right of nations to self-determination, including independence and/or integration. It is clear that TPLF talks this virtue, but walks against it. Unfortunately, Medrek is not even talking about it, let alone walking it. I know OFC has got clear position on achieving and promoting Oromia's autonomy in Ethiopian context. But, Medrek leaders talked ambiguously in all the meetings they held till now, and they explicitly told us in a meeting they held once in Washington that there was no clear agreement between member parties of Medrek on the type of federation they want to forge, if they get government position.
I personally think that the only major difference among opposition parties in the empire is their position on type of federal structure. There are two types of federalists: the ethno-federalists, who believe in right of Oromia and other national areas to be autonomous, and the geo-federalists, who want to dismantle Oromia with a pretext of fostering geography-based federation. Parties like AEUP are clearly geo-federalists. Thanks to Waaqa, these parties do no more brag about bringing back a unitary state with only one official language (Amharic). Woyane’s Eprdf is at least ideologically ethno-federalist even though it is implementing a revolutionary centralism, through which it is promoting Tigean hegemony.
According to explanation given by Medrek leaders, it seems that some member parties insist on its anti-ethnic federation position and with that, they revealed their desire to dismantle Oromia. Dr. Negasso also showed clearly his political development as he tried to describe how bad it was for Oromo from Borana to come to Finfinne, and for Amhara from Debre-berihan to go to Bahir-Dar in order to settle their court cases. His explanation implies that he is ready to accept the division of Oromia. Actually, only an Oromo with high political confidence dare to take this position. I believe that an independent Gadaa Oromia was our goal of 1960s as we had low confidence and sow ourselves as minority at periphery; now, since the 1990s, our goal seem to be federal union in a form of ethnic federation for we already developed intermediate confidence due to our hitherto victories; of course an integrated Ethiopia (an integrative Great Oromia) will be our goal of 2020s, when we will have high confidence in ourselves and .
Interesting is also to observe that the known anti-ethnic scholars supporting this move of Medrek. Such scholars think that with their anti-ethnic rhetoric they fight against the TPLF. They still do not get the fact that ethno-federation is not only the will and wish of TPLF, but also that of some Oromo nationalists and other oppressed peoples. Specially clear is that Amhara nationalists hiding behind Ethiopiawinet do this move against Oromo’s right to self-administration. Trying to discredit ethnic-federation in favor of their alternative geo-federation is simply put a move against other people’s political will. Actually, both types of federations can serve Oromo interest as long as rule of the game will be freedom and democracy.
So, Medrek seems now not to be an alliance to promote Oromia's autonomy in Ethiopian context, which could be a good compromise solution for the conflict between Amhara nationalists, who hide behind the mask of Ethiopian nationalism and who are advocates for unity, and Oromo nationalists, who fight for Oromia’s independence. Medrek seems to be an alliance of both ethnic-federalists and geo-federalists against TPLF just to get rid of the regime without having common vision regarding federal arrangement. How long can such alliance of contradictory ideologies hold together wass a big challenge they needed to overcome; at last UDJ (the main geofederalist) left the alliance. Public verdict in the two types of federation could have been a remedy.
Surprisingly, I have seen one young hyper-active Oromo nationalist adoring this alliance even though the position of the alliance is not same to his position on the should-be compromise solution. According to his presentation on “Ethiopian and Horn of African conference”, which took place in Virginia, he is advocate of true “ethnic-federation” as moderate/liberal position between the two extreme poles of the right-extremist “reactionary Ethio-nationalists”, who want to dismantle Oromia and the left-extremist “revolutionary or radical Ethno-nationalists”, who want to dismember Ethiopia. Is he fooling himself or deceived by the referendum rhetoric given by Medrek leaders?
Medrek leaders said that the discussion among member parties on federal structure would go on and if they would not have any consensus, they would go for verdict of the public. If they are as such democrats to go for referendum to determine the type of federation we want to have, why couldn’t they be so democratic to accept also the right of nations to decide on the type of sovereignty they want to have (e.g Oromia’s autonomy within Ethiopian union vs. Oromia’s independence without a union) per referendum?
It seems that Habesha politicians in Medrek were playing very smart politics. They used method of elites’ consensus to make Oromo nationalists in OFC accept Ethiopian unity unconditionally (without Oromo public verdict) and they wanted to use the instrument, public referendum, to decide on structure of the federation. It seems that Oromo nationalists agreed to the game. Fair agreement would have actually been either to use consensus in both decision-making processes or to apply referendum in both cases. Looking at the harmless move of Oromo politicians in Medrek, it is not surprising that we read on Habesha websites how fair Oromo elites like Dr. Negasso and Obbo Bulcha are.
When we do observe sentiment of the geo-federalists, who are claiming that “Ethiopiawinet has won” and are declaring that “ethno-nationalism is loosing” as Medrek had come forward, we just can say it is a wake-up call for Oromo nationalists to check their position. No wonder that Oromo grass-root is so cautious in supporting the move of Medrek against Article-39 and so skeptical to accept its position against the right of nations to self-determination, including independence and integration. Medrek people should not be surprised if they see Oromo mass voting for ODP (Oromo Democratic Party; change the notorious name of OPDO, which served interest of TPLF to ODP now serving the Oromo) of Dr. Abiy rather than for OFC in the coming “election”. The principle “a known devil is better than unknown angle" can prevail.
It would have been better if Medrek leaders came out explicitly supporting true ethno-federation and get support of all Oromo, Tigrai, Somali, Afar, Southern, Benishangul and Gambella, even if the majority of Amharas are against such federal arrangement. Now they want to appease the anti-ethno-federation Amharas and at the same time to appeal to the pro-ethno-federation others – an approach which actually may not be helpful and productive. I am afraid that they lose anti-ethno-federation voters to unitarists and pro-ethno-federation voters to Eprdf.
As I tried to describe above, the rhetoric about only buzz words like freedom, democracy and justice is not sufficient. The important issue, which actually most politicians try to evade, is the issue of federal structure. Oromo federalists in OFC seem to be compelled or convinced to forge Oromia’s autonomy within Ethiopian unity, whereas specially Amhara elites are doing every thing possible to get rid of Oromia, because they fear that Oromo elites are not for unity per se.
It is fact that the hitherto so called Ethiopian unity was built partly by the sacrifice of known Oromo military men and politicians. Starting from Oromo “migration” in 16th century, through the “democratic” election of Ras Michael-I in Abyssinia in 1877, till the end of Mengistu regime in 1991, Oromo politicians played big roles in forming and maintaining present shape of the country. The convinced pro-unity Oromo nationalists believe that even the so called Habeshas (Amharas and Tigarus) are biologically either Oromo or Agew, nothing else, but differ only in speaking specific other language called Amharinya or Tigrinya. With this theory, they try to justify their pro-unity position. But it is absurd that now at this particular post modern 21st century, Habesha politicians try to dumb Oromo and other oppressed nations by being represented in politics of the country as “pan-Ethiopian parties” like AG7, instead of showing themselves honestly as Amharas or Tegarus. Oromo nationalists say: “stop to hide behind the name Ethiopia and come as Habesha (Amhara or Tegaru), then we can make genuine alliance against the fascist regime.” I hope Habesha elites, in general, and Amhara politicians, in particular, will gradually start to take off their masks (the name Ethiopia), and approach the Oromo people being who they really are, as Amhara and/or Tigaru so that we can build common home called Ethiopia or Great Oromia or Kushland. The move of Tegaru nationalists to put on the masks, by learning from their Amhara friends, as well as the ever increasing rhetoric and song of the TPLF about Ethiopiawinet also do not change the reality.
In the future political landscape of the country, either elites of both Habesha nations, specially Amhara elites, will learn to be honest and come up showing their true nature or the Oromo nationalists will learn to wear the mask called Ethiopia and play the same game played by Habesha elites. The million dollar question is: can Oromo liberation forces learn to wear this mask (name of Ethiopia), which is accepted and adored by Western world in order to promote Oromo cause they are fighting for? We have seen how TPLF put on the mask and got huge support of their masters in the West. The choice which the Western protectorates of the country give to Oromo politicians seems to be either to wear the mask and be promoted, or to stay honest and be “punished” by power players of the globe.
Simply put, our preferable next move in Oromo liberation journey is to change the fake ethno-federation under TPLF to the true one, where Oromia’s autonomy will be respected and consolidated. I know this is program of OFC, but I have started to doubt if this is the will and wish of Medrek. I know this conflict may help a bit for cadres of the hegemonist TPLF and supporters of geo-federalists to attack Medrek. Nevertheless, the truth should be told.
I do believe that the only solution for that troubled region is liberation of Oromo nation, be it within or without a union of peoples in the region. Liberated Oromo people will be the foundation for liberation of other nations like Ogadenis, Afars, as well as for those in Benishangul, Gambella and Southern region. These liberated nations can build union for common benefit, which in the long run can include also the non-hegemonic Amhara people and Tegaru people, be it in a form of confederation or federation based on public verdict of liberated nations in the region. It is clear that the goal of OFC is a mid-point solution, which can be good prerequisite for end-point solution envisioned by the OLF. Otherwise, the chanting and the rhetoric made by Medrek leaders and supporters about mythical Ethiopia of 3000 years and their attempt to make Oromo mass to rally behind their “Ethiopiawinet”, disregarding Oromummaa, will surely be doomed to fail.
So, Oromo nationalists, in particular, and Oromo people, in general, should check if Medrek of OFC is really better than Eprdf of ODP in promoting Oromo’s cause. As far as I am concerned, any force trying to dismantle Oromia now with a pretext of opposing “division” into “ethnic regions“, despite the ‘democracy’ rhetoric it might make, is worse than the TPLF. If the choice is between this two (anti-ethno-fedration and pro-ethno-federation) movements, disregarding the sermon they always give on democracy, freedom, justice, equality, and development, no wonder if Oromo people will choose the present fake-ethnic regions and rally behind ODP till the better forces than TPLF come to the political arena of non-divided Oromia, in particular, and to that of Ethiopia, in general, to forge and promote true ethno-federation. It seems the Oromo are not yet in a high political confidence to lose Gadaa Oromia and own the whole Ethiopia (Great Oromia).
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