By Fayyis Oromia*
On February 5, 2013, Ethiopia’s only and publicly-funded television station, ETV, aired a controversial documentary during primetime in violation of an outstanding court injunction. Oddly subtitled “Boko Haram in Ethiopia,” Jihadawi Harakat (i.e. Arabic for “Jihadi movement”) – denounces leaders of Ethiopia’s yearlong protest movement for alleged links to foreign terrorists. That criminalization of the Ethiopian Muslims’ legitimate question of the right in exercising their religion without any interference from the government was not surprisingly the first fictitious “documentary film” produced by the regime to criminalize civic or political movements in the Ethiopian empire. Similar criminalization of the Oromo national liberation movement (the OLF) was undertaken some years ago.
Parallel to such malicious move of the ruling Tigrean elites, recently, the nostalgic Amhara elites, who do want to impose an assimilative Ethiopia and Ethiopianism on the Oromo in particular, and on all the other nations and nationalities of the empire in general, also produced and published a “documentary film” with a title “Jawar Mohammed – A Muslim OLF Radical – Ethiopians Out From Oromia” as shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rb7Xjo4hWs. Is this Jawarawi Harakat or a criminalization of the young Oromo nationalist, Jawar, for being Oromo? What an interesting parallel between both the rival Abyssinian elites of the Amhara and Tigrai, when it comes to the criminalization of any Oromo individual nationalist or any Oromo national liberation organization in order to silence this subjugated nation?!
The currently ongoing discussion regarding the controversal Oromo nationalist, Jawar Mohammed, started with the seemingly well-thought restructuring of the Oromo history by an Ethiopianist Oromo scholar, Dr Fikre Tolassa, who wrote an appeal open letter to one of the ODF (Oromo Democratic Front) leaders, Dr Bayan Asoba (http://www.gadaa.com/Beyana-Suba-1.pdf). This new version of the Oromo history and the demands directed to the ODF in order to reverse the use of Qubee (Afan Oromo alphabet), to adore the Ethiopian flag and to accept Ethiopian nationalism at the cost of Oromian nationalism ignited a series of responses and debates between the two contesting nationalists (Ethiopianists and Oromianists). One of the responses was the suggestion of fostering future common home, Great Oromia, instead of Ethiopia, which I forwarded: http://gadaa.com/oduu/20124/2013/06/06/the-common-home-great-oromia-as-a-win-win-solution-for-the-conflict-between-the-pro-independence-oromo-and-the-pro-unity-amhara/.
Then followed a well organized campaign and discussion in the Ethiopian as well as the Oromian media. The explicit intention of the campaign sounded “we want to promote a constructive dialogue between the Ethiopian nationalists and the Oromian nationalists, who do respectively pursue two diametrically opposite political goals, but have one common enemy, the Woyane, which is now hindering their move.” This debate and discussion were interesting, and it was very inviting at the beginning. Gradually, some protagonists from the Ethiopianist camp started to put a precondition for the discussion. They started to impose Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet on the Oromianists, who claim to have Oromia as a country and Oromummaa as their national identity, at the same time rejecting the demand of owning Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet.
Even some of the leading protagonists in the Ethiopian media started to take side and denigrate Oromia and Oromummaa to the extent of “intimidating” the Oromo nationalists, who wanted to assert Oromia as a future independent state, instead of envisioning a united Ethiopia. This conflict led to a hot discussion in which the Oromo nationalists vehemently rejected Ethiopia as their future land and Ethiopiawinet as their identity. On the contrary, they asked the Ethiopianists to arrange for the future common home, Great Oromia (naming the future democratic federal state as Oromia, instead of Ethiopia). Surprisingly, this counter attack has driven the Ethiopianists crazy; they were very angry; they asked “how dare you try to change the name of this holy-land given to us from God?” These right extremist Ethiopianists even started to bash and vilify the Oromo nationalists in the discussion forums. The intended dialogue between the Amhara and the Oromo at the Paltalk level changed into the confrontation between the two groups. Of course, the Woyane agents and cadres enjoyed this conflict and as usual poured a kerosene on the fire.
It was amidst this circumstance that the journalist in Al-Jazeera asked Jawar Mohammed a very good question: “are you an Oromo first or an Ethiopian first”? (http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201306102025-0022818). The answer to the question was crystal clear: “I am an Oromo first; Ethiopian identity is imposed on me.” This reply from Jawar made the already crazy Ethiopianists to take off their cloth and declare a cyber-war against him. They decided to invite him to an interview and persuade him to apologize. They did as they planned, and the answer they got in the interview was not what they expected, but the re-assertion of his firm position regarding Oromia and Oromummaa. What a liberating stand from Jawar! Oromo nationals were proud of him; Ethiopianists were more mad at him. They started a mission of character assassination, criminalization, denigration, and even went to the extent of collecting a petition against him.
Jawar, who was once seen as a young moderate intellectual and was respected by the Ethiopianists as he first started to criticize the OLF and spoke for the possible union of autonomous nations in the Ethiopian context as a better alternative to an independent republic of Oromia, is now regarded as “a naive young Oromo, who doesn’t have experience and insight” when it comes to the deep political problems in the empire. Overnight, the Ethiopianists changed him from an angel to a devil; they talked and wrote all negative things about him; the highlight being the video clip presented as a “documentary: Jawarawi Harakat” as I mentioned above. The malicious campaign against this brilliant Oromo talent is still going on.
But, is this approach of the Ethiopianist elites regarding the Oromo nationals a new phenomenon? Didn’t they, throughout their history, adore and use Oromo talents as long as the Oromo nationals served their institutions and their interests, just to discard the servants when they think the servants are no more working for them? Was it not like this during Minilik, Haile-Selassie, Mengistu and even Meles eras? Are they not still seeking Oromo talents whom they want to use? To have a look about Oromo talents in Habesha political club, read more: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=24770. Here, we can see how the Abyssinians got profit from the political game by the Oromo professionals, but played in the club of and for the interests of the ruling Habesha elites. Then, is it surprising when they wanted to use the modern day Oromo talents like Birtukan Midhagsa, Jawar Mohammed, etc. and get disappointed by facing the reality that some of these talents are not “their loyal servants” as they expected?
I think the era of getting Oromo political talents playing for Habesha club is slowly, but surely, dwindling. The Oromo are getting enough insight that Abyssinian nationalism, being masked with Ethiopiawinet, is the anti-thesis of Oromian nationalism (Oromummaa). The two nationalisms are competing to win the hearts and minds of the Oromo nationals. That is what nowadays going on in a very intensified form. The Abyssinian elites seem to have waged a coordinated campaign against Oromia and Oromummaa. To be effective, they are using few Oromo nationals with the Ethiopianist mentality as we hear in the following audio record: http://www.zehabesha.com/ethiopian-oromos-responded-angrily-to-jawar-mohammed-poisonous-statement/. Is this using an Oromo against another Oromo something new? When we see at the recent history of the Oromo subjugation and the hitherto rule by Abyssinian elites, there was no regime in the empire, which could win the struggle against the Oromo without using such Oromo collaborators. The same phenomenon is still going on.
Whatever the Abyssinian elites do try, the Oromo national liberation struggle is slowly, but surely, getting momentum; more and more Oromo are becoming assertive and radical to push for the freedom of the Oromo people and independence of Oromia. The least and minimum demand of the Oromo is self-rule of the Oromian state within a true Ethiopian union/federation; the main objective being an independent republic of core Oromia; of course, the best option is an independent Great Oromia or the transformation of the Ethiopian empire towards the Oromian union. There is nothing less than converting Ethiopia into this Great Oromia, which can be a guarantee for the unity and the territorial integrity sought by the Abyssinian elites. Now, the case of Jawar is an interesting phenomenon, in which the foes and the friends of the Oromo national liberation movement are clearly seen and separated. The foes are still doing their best to criminalize Jawar, and the friends are united more than ever to show a solidarity to his clear position on Oromia and Oromummaa. All Oromo nationalists are now singing together the same song of ‘no compromise on Oromia and Oromummaa.’ That is why I dared to ask: Jawarawi Harakat or an intentional criminalization of the Oromo nationalist? I think for the Oromo national liberation camp, it is the Harakat, whereas in the Abyssinian camp the usual criminalizazion of the genuine Oromo nationalists is going on. Jawar can capitalize on the support he got and play the card smartly to lead the Harakat towards a success. May Rabbi/Waaqa help us use this Harakat for the intensification of the Oromo national liberation struggle.
* Fayyis Oromia can be reached at email@example.com.