By Leenjiso Horo | June 2013
Points to note:
One needs to understand the chain of events that gave rise to the hatching out of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF). It is the result of a silent and secret creeping of a group within the rank of OLF members in the Diaspora with the purpose in mind to dismantle the OLF and its political program. The Political Program of 2004 was a project laid out as a foundation for the formation of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF). It was written by those who are now in the leadership of the ODF. The project was conceived long ago by former members of OLF’s Foreign Relation Office based in Sudan. Suffice it to recall the various attempts that had been made on the part of the leadership of the ODF to divide members of the OLF, weaken nationalists unity so as to dismantle the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in order to organize ODF. The core members of the leadership of the ODF are the former participants in the London Conference of 1991. The London conference was a sellout of Oromiya and its independence. It was this group that later disarmed and encamped the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). After the OLF had left the Transitional Government Ethiopia and organized Extraordinary Congress/Kora Hatattamaa in 1998, this group refused or failed to attained the Congress and then worked to split the organization. And now, it is complaining that the Congress as the basis for the difference, conflict and hence the split of the OLF in 2001. Then, it organized the Bergen Conference of 2004. Following it, the same year it helped organize the 2004 ABO Shanee-Gumii Congress, where today’s ODF members forced the amendment of the Political Program of 1998. The group itself wrote the amendments to the Political Program of 1998. ABO Shanee became a victim of this group and its political scheme. Later on, when the nationalists within ABO Shanee-Gumii understood the dangerous and sinister political line of this group and confronted it, the group split from ABO Shanee-Gumii and formed Jijjiiramaa in 2008. However, Jijjiiramaa was rejected by the nationalists and the Oromo people. Consequently, Jijjiiramaa factionalized and fractured into various pieces of groupings. For this reason, the core group of Jijjiiramaa changed the name Jijjiiramaa to the Oromo Dialogue Forum (ODF)/Waltajjii Mariii Oromoo (WMO). Then, out of the womb of the Oromo Dialogue Forum (ODF), the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) hatched out. And now, finally, the cat is out of the bag: this was the secret plan that the group had been hatching over years. The formation of ODF is the result of years of secret underground organizing of an organization within the OLF.
The ODF’s political platform of struggle:
The political platform of the struggle of the ODF is for the Ethiopian empire “federalization,” for its citizenship and citizenship rights. Here is what ODF members and leadership have been saying in regard to self-determination. It says, “self-determination means citizenship.” It goes on, “We interpret the exercise of self-determination as a process that transforms all subjects into citizens.” Hence, it says that its political platform is to campaign for “citizenship” and to “advocate citizenship rights, not only for the Oromo, but also all other peoples inhabiting the empire, including those from which the present and past dominant elite arose.” It is, therefore, crystal clear that ODF has reduced the Oromo struggle for self-determination to “citizenship and citizenship rights” in the Ethiopian empire. It is from this wrong interpretation of self-determination the Oromo capitulationists gave the meaning of “bilisummaa/liberation to people and that of independence/walabummaa to a country.” But, in Oromo political parlance, the meaning, and understanding the of the word “bilisummaa” is equivalent to the word “walabummaa.” The group’s core political platform is the federalization of the Ethiopian empire, including the colonialist. This is a topic to be addressed in another paper. The Political Program of 2004 was the first move of this group as a first step to the formation of ODF. Here are two roads that are open to you for choice. One is the ODF way: empire federalization, and the other is the OLF way: the independence way. Hence, here you have a choice at this pivotal time of the Oromo national struggle. The choice is whether you retreat to the colonialist camp, and put your heart and soul into “federalization” of Ethiopian empire – the ODF way, and live in grief and humiliation and remain forever condemned by history as revisionist-capitulationist collaborators with those forces of anti-independence of Oromiyaa; or you join the Oromo nationalists camp, and put your heart and soul in the struggle for the independence of Oromiyaa – the OLF way, so as to be a participant in the struggle of your people for independence. ODF’s political line is irreconcilable with and in contradiction to that of the OLF. Now the question to you is: Which one will you choose?
The task of this article is to show the irreconcilable political objectives between the political programs of 1998 and of 2004. For this, the attempt here is to counter those Oromo individuals who have been engaged in intentional misinformation campaign aimed at misleading Oromo nationals to believe that the objectives in the two political programs are one and the same. These individuals haven been falsely claiming that the two political programs are the same, except that the political program of 2004 substituted self-determination for independence, knowing the very fact that the phrase self-determination means different things. In the context of political program of 2004, self-determination does not mean independence. It is, therefore, vitally important to separate the truth from the false claim. For this, it is essential to begin with the OLF political objective laid out in the Political Program of 1974/76, and in the Constitution of 1998 and political program of 1998. Then, using them as the basis, to compare and contrast the political objectives laid out in the two political programs in terms of right of nation to self-determination.
The OLF Constitution of 1998:
The Constitution (Boqonnaa II, Kaayyoo Masakkaa, Aangoo 1. Bilisummaa Oromiyaa) states in Oromo language as follow:
Hundeen Kaayyoo qabsoo teenyaa qabsoo farra sirna impaayera Itoophiyaa, murnoota farra mirga ilma namaa, dimokraasii fi nagaa oofuu dhaan fi Sagantaa Siyaasaa ABO fiixaan baasuu dhaan, bilisummaa sabaa argamisiisuu fi walabummaa Oromiyaa mirkaneessuu dha (Heera Adda Bilissummaa Oromoo, Ebla (May), 18, 1998, Dirree Kibba-Baha Oromiyaa).
Roughly translated as: The fundamental principle of our struggle is by struggling against Ethiopian empire system, against forces of anti-human rights, anti-democracy and peace and by the fulfilling the Political Program of the Oromo Liberation Front, for the realization of the liberation of the people and the establishment of independent state of Oromiyaa (translation mine).
Political Program of 1974/76:
The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of the national self-determination for the Oromo people and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through the successful consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, anti-colonial, and anti- imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the people’s democratic republic of Oromia (Political Program of 1974/76: VI. Programme for the Struggle, A. Political Objective)
Political Program of 1998:
V. Sagantaa Qabsoo (A. Akeeka Siyaasaa): Hundeen akeeka qabsoo kanaa mirga hiree murteeffannaa ummata Oromoo argamsiisuuf sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa diiguudhaan, Oromiyaa kolonii, hacuuccaa fi saaminsa jelaa bilisa baasuun mootummaa walaba Oromiyaa dhaabee iggitii itti godhuu dha. Kunis kan mirkanaawu mirga qabutti dhimma bahee ummatni Oromoo mootummaa walaba isaa labsachuu yookaan ummatoota biraa wajjin tokkummaa politiikaa haaraa ijaarrachuuf murtii kennatuun ta’a (Political Program of 1998, V. Sagantaa Qabsoo, A. Akeeka Siyaasaa).
Roughly translated as: The fundamental objective of this struggle is the realization of the right of national self-determination for the Oromo people by dismantling the Ethiopian empire system, by liberating Oromiyaa from colonization, oppression, and exploitation and by establishing and guarantee the independent state of Oromiyaa. This can only be realized when the Oromo nation uses its right in declaring its own independent government of Oromiyaa, or decide to establish a new political unity with other nations (translation mine).
Bergen Conference (Bergen, Norway, October 1, 2004):
Two months before its Congress of December 2004, a conference was organized with the help of its foreign sponsors, a conference known as the Bergen Conference. This conference treated the conflict in the Ethiopian empire as internal to Ethiopia. On this premises, the Conference accepted “free and fair election” in order to participate in Ethiopian Empire’s political and administrative governance to solve the conflict. Having accepted the so-called fair and free election, it stated “The Oromo people have nothing to lose and all to gain in participating in a free and fair election” in the Ethiopian empire. Acceptance of free and fair election is a clear indication of supplanting “non-violence and peaceful form of struggle” for armed struggle so as to play “political influence” to change internal problems. In following up this, at its congress of December 2004, the OLF political program of 1998 amended by dropping key principal components of the struggle from it so as to fit a newly founded political line. Following the amendment of the Constitution, the new political line of “Democratization” of Ethiopia and the formation of AFD (Alliance for Freedom and Democracy) was announced. This Bergen Conference laid out a political foundation for the Congress of 2004 to amend the political program of 1998.
While fair and free election, as it is promoted in the Bergen Conference, is one method of foreign influence on a leadership of an organization, other methods that can be utilized are the promotion of a negotiation settlement to be considered on the basis of cultural autonomy, regional autonomy, federation, confederation, power-sharing, coalition government, and proportionality of government appointment. All of these are traps. Need to be watched out. There are many who can fall in these traps, as they fall in ‘democratization’ of Ethiopia.
The Political Program of 2004:
1. Akeeka fi Galii Siyaasaa ABO
1.1 Hundeen akeeka qabsoo kanaa Mirga Hiree Murteeffannaa Ummata Oromoo guututti fiixa baasuu taha.
1.2 Kuniis, kan mirkanaawu murtii bilisa Ummata Oromootiin mootummaa walaba Oromiyaa ijaarratuu, yokiin tokkummaa siyaasaa haaraya fedhii, qixxummaa, kabajaa dantaa gama hundaa fi deemokraasummaa irratti hundaawe ummatoota ollaa Oromiyaa fi biraa wajjiin dhaabbachuu taha.
1.3 Galii kana bakkaan gahuufis ummatoota, humnoota mirga hiree murteeffannaatti amananii fi dimokraatawoo tahan waliin qabsoo qindeeffata.
Political Prorgam of December, 2004 (English version):
1. Political Objective
1.1 The fundamental objective of the liberation struggle is the fulfillment of national aspiration of the Oromo people to exercise its legitimate right of self-determination.
1.2 This may be realised by the establishment of independent Oromia through free expression of the will of Oromo people or by the formation of political union with Oromia’s neighbouring peoples based on equality, the common interest and democratic principles.
1.3 In carrying out these objectives the OLF shall co-ordinate the struggle with other democratic forces and peoples that uphold the right to self-determination.
Here are what have been dropped from the new political program of 2004:
1. sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa diiguu;
2. Oromiyaa kolonii … jalaa bilisa baasuu;
3. Mootummaa walaba Oromiyaa dhaabee iggitti itti godhuu;
4. waging … anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggle;
5. Republika Dimokrasii Oromiyaa ijaaruu;
6. People’s Democratic Republic of Oromiyaa.
All these phrases and words were embedded in the political objective of all the previous documents, except in the political program of 2004. In addition to these, Articles II and III were also dropped from Political program of 2004. The content of the two articles are the following:
Article (II. Diinoota Qabsoo Kanaa) – meaning the enemies of this struggle. It laid out three categories of the enemies of the Oromo national struggle. It states in Oromiffaa as:
Political Program of 1998:
1. Mootummootni Itoophiyaa kan sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa tiksan hunddi diina qabsoo bilisummaa ummata Oromoo ti.
Translation: All Ethiopian rulers who preside over, defend and protect the Ethiopian empire system are the enemy of the struggle of the Oromo people.
2. Humnootni Naftanyaa kan sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa turfachuu dharra’anii fi mirga hiree murteeffannaa ummatootaa dura dhaabatan, diina qabsoo Oromoo ti.
Roughly translated as: All forces of Naftanyaa or Abyssinian armed settlers who desire to maintain the Ethiopian empire system and hence oppose the right of nations to self-determination are the enemy of the Oromo struggle.
3. Oromoonni gantoonni murnaaniis ta’ee nam-tokkeen Impaayericha Itoophiyaa tikfamuu irraa dantaa qabaachuun bilisummaa/walabummaa Oromoo dura dhaabatan, diina qabsoo Oromoo ti.
Translated as: The Oromo traitors, whether a group or an individual, who has a vested personal self-interest in the maintenance of the Ethiopian empire and so opposes the liberation of Oromo people is an enemy of the Oromo struggle.
Article (III. Utubaa Qabsichaa) – meaning the Pillar of the struggle. The article reads as follow in Oromo language: Ummatni bal’aan Oromiyaa fi sab-boontootni Oromoo akeeka kan Sagantaa ABO fudhatanii Qabsichatti hiriiranii fi dirmatan utubaa qabsoo kanaa ti.
Translated as: The broad masses of the Oromia people and the Oromo nationalists who accepted the aim of the political program of the OLF and participate in the struggle, and support it are the pillar of the struggle.
Now ask yourself as to why these words, phrases and articles are dropped from the political objective of the Political Program of 2004. Again, ask yourself as to why the articles II and III of the Political Program of 1998 are removed from political program of 2004. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Think seriously about it. First, it means Oromiyaa is not a colony of Ethiopia. Secondly, it means there is no such empire called Ethiopian empire. Thirdly, it means the Oromo are an oppressed nation within Ethiopia, and hence the Oromo question is not a colonial question, but a question of oppressed nation. And finally, it means the Oromo question can find solution within Ethiopia. It is based on these that the political line of “Democratization of Ethiopia,” and “New Federal Republic of Ethiopia” have become the new political platforms of struggle for those who adopted the political program of 2004.
Moreover, having dropped the above political objectives from its political program, and having accepted “free and fair election” at the Bergen Conference, the participants stated this: “In carrying out these objectives, the OLF shall co-ordinate the struggle with other democratic forces … that uphold the right to self-determination.” Recall it for ODF self-determination means citizenship. It was on this basis that alliance was established with Kinijjit in forming AFD and then Jijjiirama, a former member of Shanee in forming AFD, has later established a new alliance of unity with Ginbot 7 to form a ‘New Federal Republic of Ethiopia.’ And the former Jijjiiramaa, and the now as the ODF, has officially declared its political platform of struggle as the “federalization of Ethiopian empire, for its citizenship and citizenship rights.” It is, therefore, crystal clear that ODF has reduced the Oromo question for independence to a question of “Ethiopian empire federalization, to its citizenship, to its citizenship rights, and to its constitutional patriotism.” Certainly, Kinijjit, Ginbot7 and the rest of other Abyssinian/Ethiopian political organizations did not recognize the right of self-determination then, do not recognize it now, and will not recognize it in the future, late alone to “uphold” it. The guiding principle (Kaayyoo Masakakaa) of the Oromo struggle as stated in the Constitution of the OLF is the Liberation of the People (Bilisummaa sabaa) and the establishment of the independent state of Oromiyaa (Mootummaa Walaba Oromiyaa). And the form of struggle is waging anti-colonialism struggle.
Again the Political Program of 1974/76 states that “The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self-determination … by waging anti-feudal, anti-colonial, and anti- imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the people’s democratic republic of Oromia.” Furthermore, its amended version, the 1998 political program once again explicitly states that the fundamental principle of this struggle is the realization of the right of self-determination for the Oromo nation by dismantling the Ethiopian empire system (sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa diguu), and liberating Oromiyaa from the colony (Oromiyaa kolonii … jalaa bilisa baasuudhaan) and by establishing independent Oromiyaa state. This amended political program made it clear that self-determination can be realized when and only when the Oromo people use the right they have as a free, sovereign, and independent people to decide whether to declare their own independent government of Oromiyaa or opt for to form a new political unity or solidarity with other nations.
It must be crystal clear to all that the right of self-determination can only be decided by a free and independent people, and free and independent government of free and independent state. Hence, sovereignty is pre-requisite for self-determination. By using their right, the right they recovered through their struggle, and by being sovereign, the Oromo people can decide as to the type of self-determination. This right is the exclusive right of the Oromo people, it is not a right of individuals, or of organizations, or of a state. This people’s right is free from external influences, pressures, or restrictions. This rests the question, oftentimes asked, as to which one is first: independence, or self-determination. In short, independence comes first and then issue of self-determination to be decided by the vote of free people comes next.
The differences of the two political Programs:
The two political programs are fundamentally different. The problems they intended to solve are also different. The 1998 political program is intended to solve, the colonial question, while the 2004 is intended to solve the national oppression. As it is shown above, the political program of 1998 and the 1974/76 squarely and without ambiguity put the Oromo question as a colonial question and the strategic objective of struggle as a struggle for independent state of Oromiyaa. Again, the political program of 1998 properly put Ethiopian Empire as an empire, an empire that was created without regard for the wishes and the aspirations of the nations that were violently forced into it; Oromo being one of them. It is for this it has included the phrase dismantling Ethiopian Empire system as the target of struggle. However, Waltajii Marii Oromoo/Oromo Dialogue Forum has dropped the independent state of Oromiyaa as well as the dismantling Ethiopian empire system from its political program of 2004. In this case, the question to be raised is this. Is the Oromo question a colonial question, or the question of an oppressed nation? The answer given to this questions determine as to a type of solution. The colonial question is a question of territory; a question of colonized people. The question of oppressed nation is not a colonial question, but a question of national oppression within a state. To seek an answer to the question, we turn to the concept of right of national self-determination.
The right of self-determination(mirga hiree-murteeffannaa)
The right of self-determination oftentimes taken as a synonym for political independence. However, the right of self-determination has multiple meanings. Of these, the important ones are the right of external self-determination and the right of internal self-determination. Of the two, only external self-determination implies political independence. Self-determination of either type can be achieved through armed struggle. Then, to secure realization of self-determination, the victor has to conduct a referendum for international legitimacy. Both differ from each other in their meanings and implementation. So, their meanings and implementation will be presented below.
1. External self-determination (mirga hiree-murteeffannaa alaa)
External self-determination refers to people’s right to the establishment of their independent state. It is a right to separate from a colonizer state and form an independent state of their own. Such right is limited to a colonized territories. The colonial question is a question for the establishment of complete political independence; a formation of new state. In this case, a nation, first and foremost, establishes its own independent state and its own independent government in its own right. And then, it conducts referendum/plebiscite for international legitimacy. The reason for this is simple. It is not enough to seize power, control territory, and regulate internal affairs. A new state also needs international legal sovereignty. This means the new state needs recognition by other states; it needs the right to sign treaties; the right to join international organizations and the right for its representatives to have diplomatic immunities and privileges. For these, it is important to show the international community the choices, the wishes, the desires, and the aspiration of the people of the new state by conducting referendum/plebiscite. Here, what has to be understood is that referendum is simply an instrument or a means to secure the realization of self-determination that had already achieved. Referendum is not the goal of the struggle. The goal of the struggle is political independence. Hence, the national organization that prepares referendum or plebiscite has to campaign for independence and agitate people to vote only for independence.
What should be asked in the referendum/plebiscite in this case?
The two principal choices are:
1. Independent state;
2. Internal self-determination
In this case, the public should be asked: Do you wish for Oromo independence or internal self-determination?
Here, the Oromo people may vote for independent state of their own, which they had already established, or vote for internal self-determination so as to re-join the existing state of Ethiopian empire to form a new political unity with other nations. It is important to remember that the establishment of independent Oromiyaa state and independent government of Oromiyaa are first to exist. That is, the establishment of people’s Democratic Republic of Oromiyaa is, in the first place, the realization of self-determination. It is this government and only this government that conducts referendum/plebiscite in the presence of international observers. This is simply a formal process for legitimacy. The purpose of the referendum is simply to secure the realization of self-determination in the eyes of international community. This is the intent of the 1998 OLF political program.
2. Internal self-determination (mirga hiree-murteeffannaa keessaa)
Internal self-determination refers to a people’s right to choose their own form of government – meaning self-government or self-rule within the boundary of the existing sovereign state. This right does not allow for secession, except in the case of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and denial of internal self-determination. Internal self-determination recognizes the territorial integrity of the existing state and its constitution. It allows for local autonomy which specifically means a management of own local or internal affairs within the boundary of the existing state, such as freely developing, without restriction, own national identity, language, culture, tradition, political, economic, and religion among others. It also includes free and fair election in local government and participation in the governance of state in the form of having representative in the central government. For this, it is oftentimes known as participatory democracy. In this case, this type of self-determination means citizenship and citizenship rights. This is the political platform of the so-called Oromo Democratic Front (ODF).
Under this scenario, local autonomy and hence local self-government or self-rule can only be granted after the referendum/plebiscite is conducted and people’s choice is affirmed to be for internal self-determination over the status quo. What should be asked in the referendum/plebiscite?
Here the two principal choices are:
1. Internal self-determination;
2. The status quo
In this regard, the public should be asked: Do you wish for Oromo internal self-determination or the status quo?
In this case, the Oromo people may vote for internal self-determination, or for the status quo. Under this scenario, if the Oromo people vote for internal self-determination, Oromiyaa can become locally autonomous state and form local self-government of Oromiyaa within the Ethiopian Empire. This is what the 2004 political program was intended to accomplish. It is for this reason that the now members and leadership of ODF, being as members of ABO Shanee, amended the political program of 1998 and accepted “free and fair” election at the Bergen Conference. However, if the Oromo vote for status quo, nothing will change. That is, no local autonomy, and they cannot form local self-government or local self-rule. In this case, all office holders will be appointed as in during Emperor Haile Selassie and colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam regimes. This is the political objectives of Kinijjit and Ginbot7, while the ODF’s is internal self-determination. This is their difference.
In summary, the Political Program of 2004 is inconsistent with the political objectives laid out in the previous political programs and documents. It dropped keywords or phrases like colony, colonialism, anti-colonial, independent state of Oromiyaa, and the dismantling the Ethiopian empire and etc. from political objective of the political program. This means Oromiyaa is not a colony, and its people are not a colonized people. ODF’s use of self-determination is to reflect this change. The phrase right of self-determination has at least two meanings: internal and external self-determination. The two have different meanings and implications. If a question is raised as a colonial question, self-determination implies to external self-determination because the colonial question is a question of territory, territorial independence, and international status. However, if a question is a question of national oppression, the use of self-determination implies to internal self-determination, because question of national oppression can find its solution within the existing borders of the oppressor state. It must, therefore, be clear that once the above mention words or phrases dropped from the political objective of the political program of 2004, the right of self-determination becomes the right of internal self-determination. The Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) has been using this meaning of the right of self-determination. With everything considered, the amended political objective as laid out in political program of 2004 conflicts with that of political program of 1998 and with all existing documents prior to the amendment.
Oromiyaa Shall BE Free!
* Leenjiso Horo can be reached at email@example.com