By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
FOR ME, reading Prof Ezekiel Gebissa‘s response to Dr. Tedla Yohannes’s plea for clarity is a fulfilling engagement in a crisp and kosher dialogue with history on one hand, whose revelatory compass on the other is focussed on the present and future.
Note that in the last two weeks or so Ethiopians have been drowned by the suspicion evoked by the Oromos utilizing the word ‘charter’ and the phrase a ‘free Oromia’ – not independent Oromia. This was immediately interpreted as part of their scheme to create an independent Oromia.
In that regard, I recall writing early this month – aware of the meaning of ‘charter’ – my disagreement with such a notion and pointing out the origin of the Oromo separation idea this time around was fanned by TPLF operatives, among others, Daniel Berhane.
Evidently, Ethiopia’s major conundrum and concerns the TPLF has exploited to the hilt today is the unanswered Oromo question. Instead of the TPLF correcting past mistakes, it shamelessly sought to make out of it its political fortunes. It, therefore, made its duty to preach to non-Oromo citizens in particular portraying the Oromos, not the TPLF, as the boogeymen or a hobgoblin – the sole and scariest danger to Ethiopia’s continued existence at this point.
This is done more so now with TPLF allegations that the Oromos are headed to breaking up Ethiopia at this dangerous time, taking advantage of the country’s instability in the hour of its rare political tumults the nation is lurched in. We know where the truth lies.
When blaming the past or the present, nonetheless, it should be recognized that the role of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in the past half century cannot escape scrutiny. In turn, the Ethiopian students’ movement and all those that have participated in it have to accept our responsibilities and atone for that by preparing ourselves to build the New Ethiopia. Neither is it panacea to our problems passing time blaming one group or another. In fact, it hampers the search for solutions.
That is why I agree with Prof Ezekiel Gebissa “no one Ethiopian group has the moral authority to administer the litmus test of loyalty to Ethiopia.” The only justifiable course of action now is endeavoring to build the free and democratic Ethiopia, where the voice of its citizens must have a rightful place.
The time now demands, irrespective whoever it is, to avail oneself to be out, open and fully transparent. Showing interest in forging alliances and exploring fresh and newer avenues is another very healthy indicator of the interests of individuals and groups in Ethiopia’s future and our people’s wellbeing.
Consequently, in what is considered the ‘Oromo response’, issued before their Atlanta convention next month, the professor’s article makes huge contributions to better understanding between citizens in just four pages (A4). It offers clarity to and the antidote against the longstanding mutual suspicions, recriminations and confusions amongst Ethiopians. All along, for several decades what has been lurking at the center of our Ethiopianess, especially attitudes toward and the uncertain Oromo motive toward Ethiopia in some seem to be in the process of being exorcised through the struggle of ideas.
In that respect, I for one, have found comfort in Prof. Gebissa’s article; it has reassured me of the great promises and possibilities that reside in Ethiopia’s future. Let’s not delude ourselves, ethnicity alone cannot build a nation. It may offer us the platforms for our people to ensure their rights up to a point, given the low level of development of our country’s political economy.
In other words, Prof. Ezekiel Gebissa addresses in the article with openness and courage, whether the “D” word (divorce/separation) is lurking somewhere in the Oromo plan. For me, it is an honest diagnosis of the Oromo problem, for which he has provided upfront and to-the-point reply, as can be seen in his conclusion, quoted below.
That’s why I like the accompaniment to his conclusion. Therein he has added timely advice and invitation to other Ethiopian ethnic groups and their members to seize the moment and brace up to build the free democratic Ethiopia. He is saying that by their free associations and the pact they make as citizens, people are bound together by a common goal- This enables them to foster a new nation, where equality, human dignity and the coming together of citizens is the governing principle. Here is what he has signed off:
“Within the Oromo community, there are different political positions. We would like to arrive at an overall consensus regarding the future of the Oromo nation. Other political communities in Ethiopia should also do the same. For those who despise “ethnic politics,” what the Oromo are trying to do for themselves as a political community is quite deplorable. They view these efforts as an active engagement in breaking up Ethiopia. On that issue, we disagree. Oromos have always been affirmative builders. That is the next level of consensus that Ethiopians need to have.”
I am encouraged to follow suit and venture to suggest that let the Amharas, Konso, Gambella, Afar, etc., follow suit. Use your respective charters to solicit the views of your ethnic members. By so doing, you would break past tradition of the governance modality of the Ethiopian state being top down.
What this transformation does is that the will of the people would form foundation of the new democratic Ethiopia, on the basis of which its constitution would be drafted and adopted. This would help our country to traverse into democracy that no longer is a gimmick of elites, but the creed and reality of ordinary citizens.
Every political organization and party activist must recognize that Ethiopia is not only the bunching of ethnic groups: Afars, Tigreans, Amharas, Benishangul-gumuz, Gurage, Oromos, etc. There are also millions of hyphenated Ethiopians – Amhara-Tigre extraction, Amhara-Oromo, Amhara-Gurage, Oromo-Tigre, extractions of all sorts.
It is imperative that the political and constitutional dispensations in the new federal democratic Ethiopia these substantial millions of Ethiopians, mostly highly educated and interlinked, are accommodated not as an afterthought, but in the appropriate manner, be it in the federal entity or the constituent part of the federal state.
In raising the right of these bona fide Ethiopians, I am not in any form or shape suggesting that they have no right to be part of the ethnic organization of either parent. Still parties need to prepare themselves to accept these people without inhibition or attempts to isolate them or view them with suspicion.
Let me finally respond to an article that prompted me this morning into writing this. I receive lots of mails and articles. TEO publishes those that address the issues at hand.
One such latest source is includes the authors at ስለ ኢትዮጵያ/On Ethiopia. I receive messages and pieces of article, including on Thursday. Unfortunately, the piece in his latest article: The Oromo Nation – A Fait Accompli? has not gone beyond sounding doubts. While there are firm indication of support to the idea of working together, its ambivalence is louder. As a person who is seized with the issue, I only hope he would complete the journey, before it is too late!
Prof Ezekiel Gebissa has made it abundantly clear where the Oromos are and their commitment lies. To the best of my understanding, most are determined to work within themselves toward that same goal, we all wish and hope within Ethiopia. Each of us now have a task.
Let’s not lose the opportunity of working together – the over eighty ethnic group members of our nation.
The only enemy now is the TPLF. Democratic and stable Ethiopia’s future demands that this criminal organization is permanently banned and prosecuted for its cruelest crimes in Ethiopia and against the Ethiopian people. This is not saying anything about Tigrean Ethiopians, although I would be delighted to see them joining the struggle before it is too late. The TPLF belongs to yesterday, not to Ethiopia’s today and tomorrow.
Ethiopians who wish and think of the best for our country, it’s time to think of how to go about building our united nation with the tools of our consensus!