It is obvious that, for the last twenty-five years, in most instances politically active Oromos were known for distancing themselves from any activities related to Ethiopia. Thanks to the farsighted approaches of prominent Oromo leaders, that frustrating and worrisome situation is in the process of being changed. All concerned Ethiopians from all ethnic, social, cultural and political backgrounds should be able to strengthen this promising beginning by trying to understand and also accommodate the feeling of their Oromo brothers and sisters. I would like to underline that what may make the Oromo people active part of the efforts to establish a new Federal Democratic Ethiopia will be the unreserved respect and recognition of their identity, language, culture, social values and self-governance without any kind of unnecessary interferences. In this process, the Oromo camp should be able to publicly see the official use of their language and be able to display the very popular symbol of their life and death struggle for freedom. That simple measure is among the factors that may make Oromos to play their fair share in the struggle for the formation of a new democratic country that its entire peoples will commonly call “our Ethiopia”. Any measure that might be contrary to this will definitely lead to the destruction of Ethiopia that most of us would not like to see.
In my opinion, the Oromo language and freedom flag issues are very important issues that did not get the proper understanding they deserve from the so called “Ethiopian Unity” camp. As a proud OromoEthiopian my suggestion to fellow Ethiopians, therefore, is to follow what was done in Washington, DC Metropolitan Area on October 30, 2016 to announce the formation of ENM at all future public events where Oromos may take part. Irrespective of all kinds of emotional comments against what was done at the public meeting of October 30, 2016, the organizers had valid reasons when they were insisting the inclusion of Afaan Oromoo as one of the medium of communication of the meeting and also when they decided to put Alaabaa Oromoo on the stage next to the Ethiopian flag. That approach had significant political value/advantage for both sides. For the simple reason that Afaan Oromoo was used as part of the medium of communication and Alaabaa Oromoo was on the stage, people in the Oromo side considered the event as their own event in which they have clearly seen themselves. On the other hand, the rational elements of the Ethiopian Unity camp also concluded that their Oromo brothers and sisters are part of the Ethiopian activities and there will not be any worry about future separation of Oromia from Ethiopia.
This approach will negatively affect only the TPLF brutal rulers. Because, they do not like this action as it leads to the unshakable unity of the Oromo people with other Ethiopians in general and with the Amhara people in particular. On the contrary, when we are denying the use of Afaan Oromoo and the display of their freedom flag, we are knowingly or unknowingly, helping TPLF’s divide and rule policy.
Still the proponents of “Ethiopian Unity” are questioning why Afaan Oromoo was used and why the Alaabaa Oromoo was placed next to the “Ethiopian Flag”. For the Oromo, myself included, Alaabaa Oromoo and Afaan Oromoo are among the reflectors of Oromo identity that the Oromo people would like to see at official status in tomorrow’s Federal Democratic Ethiopia. Today’s measures are to facilitate conditions for tomorrow’s results. Any action against this approach will directly mean pushing aside the very rational, reasonable and farsighted Oromos that would like to call themselves Oromo-Ethiopians. I don’t think none of us would like to see the consequence of this action.
Any approach that is against what I have tried to explain above, will lead to the scenario that caused Eritrea to become an independent country and resulted in making Ethiopia a landlocked country of more than hundred million people. If I am not mistaken, it was the blind move and lack of patience of the Ethiopian politicians of that time that pushed Eritrean nationalists to start a freedom struggle after the federation system was scrapped. According to what have been written in some historical documents, the UN had tried to mediate between the Haile-Selassie regime and the Eritrean forces in order to make Eritrea remain part of Ethiopia under genuine arrangement of a federal system. These documents show that the lowlanders that were known to be followers of Islamic religion preferred to join the Sudan and the highlanders that were followers of Orthodox Christianity preferred the federal arrangement with Ethiopia.
According to historical evidences, the highlanders (Christian Eritreans) convinced the lowlanders to be united with Ethiopia through federal arrangement. The lowlanders accepted the idea of federation provided that their language will be Arabic and Tigrigna and also they will be allowed to display their own flag as Eritreans. The then Ethiopian politicians that surrounded Haile-Selassie’s throne became so emotional and said that no language other than Amharic and no flag other than the tricolor (green, yellow and red) Ethiopian flag. So, the Haile-Selassie regime annexed Eritrea as the 14th region (Teqlay Gizat) of Ethiopia without the will and full agreement of the large majority of Eritreans. In fact, there were Eritreans that were members of the then “Hager Fikir Mahiber”. They were somehow in agreement with HaileSelassie’s regime. As we learned from history, those in the Hager Fikir Mahiber were few in number and couldn’t dominate the side that supported Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. The important point I would like to underline here is that the impatient Ethiopian nationalists refused the requests of Eritreans and pushed them towards the struggle for independence. As all of us have witnessed, in 1991 Eritrea declared its independence and Ethiopia became a landlocked country thanks to the blind love of Ethiopians for the empty slogan – ANDIT ETHIOPIA, ANID HIZIB, ANID KUWANKUWA, ANID SANDAK ALAMA, etc. I hope our generation of Ethiopians will not repeat that historical mistake in the technology dominated 21st century and push the Oromo camp towards the formation of “Independent Republic of Oromia”.
Two important points should be clear regarding the display of the Ormo freedom flag alongside with the Ethiopian tricolor national flag: (1) In tomorrow’s Federal Democratic Ethiopia, the two flags either hang together or they will be forced to hang separately. It is no more possible to erase the Oromo flag from the hearts of a generation of Oromos that have died and suffered in its defense. (2) We have the choice of accepting these two flags are representing struggles at two levels – on the one hand, the tricolor Ethiopian national flag represents the life and death struggle to defend Ethiopia in which Oromos have also played significant role. On the other hand, the Oromo flag represents the Oromo resistance against internal injustice. If we fail to deploy both flags in this complementary fashion they will definitely end up standing on their own.
The unbelievable sacrifices of the Oromo people for the last more than one year clearly showed that nothing beyond freedom from TPLF’s rule will stop the life and death struggle that still continued by courageous and determined Oromos in general and the Oromo youth in particular. The fundamental solutions we should find for the diversified problems of our country, therefore, should be the kind of solutions that have very carefully taken the Oromo questions into proper consideration. Recognizing the Oromo language and Oromo’s symbol of freedom struggle is among the very minimum measures that rationally thinking leaders of the Ethiopian political organizations as well as Ethiopian individuals should agree upon. Whether we like it or not, fundamental solutions for the multi-faceted problems of Ethiopia are unthinkable without active participation and strong leadership of the Oromo people.
The Oromo and Amhara people’s struggle for freedom have forced the minority regime in power to arrive at the final stage of depending on a military rule in the name of the state of emergency. The peoples’ struggle is still going on in different forms and shapes. The freedom struggle will not stop until it gets rid of TPLF rule. That day will definitely come how long it may take. Until the arrival of that day, let us not squander the ray of hope that is radiating in the horizons of Ethiopia today. The new language of solidarity between the Oromo and Amhara youth and the new engagement between the Oromo and pro-unity politicians is very promising and unprecedented compared to what prevailed over the last 25 years.
For the continuation of Ethiopian Unity the blind move of all or nothing strategy does not help anyone. My call is – let us be meek enough to listen to and understand the heart-beat of Oromos vis-à-vis their language and symbols of their struggle for freedom: let’s be smart, open-minded and creative enough to preserve the unity of our country. The time to challenge our long-held beliefs and question our own views on all sides is now, not tomorrow.
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