By Leenjiso Horo
Since 1999 to the present, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo struggle have been suffering from the lack of competent leadership. Of those who claim the leadership, “Chairman” lives in Eritrea; the “commander” of OLA lives in Eritrea; “First Deputy chairman” lives in Uganda; “Second Deputy Chairman” lives in Australia and its “Political officer” lives in USA as if all these places are regions of Oromiyaa. The fact
is: this leadership opened the Oromiyaa’s gate for TPLF; handed Oromiyaa’s key and
Oromiyaa itself to it and then left for exile. All left Oromiyaa at a critical time for Oromiyaa, for the OLF, for the Oromo people and their struggle. This leadership’s abandonment of Oromiyaa for exile has become a national insult and humiliation. Hence, this leadership is not a legitimate political leadership of the OLF to lead the Oromo national liberation struggle. It does not represent the will and aspiration of the Oromo people. The fact is this: since 1999 to-date there is a legitimate political leadership vacuum in the Oromo national liberation struggle. Hence, the lack of
legitimate national political leadership is the greatest threat to the Oromo nation, the OLF
and Oromo national liberation struggle and national unity.
Many types of organizational leaderships have been identified. Among them are: trustworthy leadership, transitional leadership, and autocratic or toxic leadership and etc. The trustworthy leadership has been described as ones that put the goals of the organization and its people ahead of its own self-interest. On the other hand, transitional leadership is defined as a leadership that is concerned with the approval of others and its self-image as a leadership. On the contrary, toxic leadership has been described as being vindictive, maladjusted, malcontent, and often malevolent, even malicious. Such leadership succeeds by tearing other members of the organization down. It glories in turf protection; fights for self-interests, and controls rather than uplift members, the organization and the nation. The Toxic leadership undertakes adverse mission at the cost of the organization. Here, the focus is on a toxic style of leadership. This toxic leadership style was established in 1999 in the Oromo national liberation struggle.
The problems with this style of leadership
Here are the problems. If incompetent individual (individuals) is (are) allowed to climb to the top political position of an organization, that individual can become a toxic leader. Hence, a toxic leader is a person who has responsibility over an organization, and who abuses–members relationship by leading the members or organization to a worse-off condition than when he/she first assumed the position of leadership. Such person practices dysfunctional leadership styles. This leadership style is destructive to its organization and members. It subverts and destroys organizational structures. The usurpation of powers of the Executive Committee and National Council of the OLF by the Chairman of the OLF is an example. Toxic leadership exercises a tyrannical style of leadership, resulting in a climate of fear, mistrust and doubt within the members. It has no a clear vision. As a result, it leads the organization in a wrong direction. It is a negative leadership. The negative leadership and its toxic leadership style can be taught to the new generation, the future leaders of the organization. This creates the perpetual cycle of toxic leadership that has the potential to continually and adversely affect the members, the culture of the organization, and organizational work performance, and future of the nation.
Toxic leadership has self-centered attitudes, motivations and behaviors that have adverse effects on the members, on the organization, on the nation, and on its objective and mission. It lacks concern for the well-being of members and the organization. Consequently, it leads the organization to short- and long-term negative effects. The toxic leadership operates with inflated sense of self-worth, self-importance meaning arrogance and with acute self-interest. It consistently uses dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, bully, coerce, or unfairly threat members to get what it wants for itself. The OLF has been overtaken by such toxic leadership since 1999 to-date. Here, the Oromo people and the Oromo nationalists must be concerned that a prolonged use of toxic leadership may influence members, undermines their will, their initiative, and their potential and finally destroys their morale. In this way, toxic leadership makes its organization ineffective. Once this happened, an organization under such leadership does not fulfill its mission; does not achieve its goal or objective; and does not do what it claims it will do. With this in mind, it is not difficult to understand as to what has happened and still happening to the Oromo political organizations. The fact is the Oromo political organizations including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have been made ineffective since 1999 to-date. And so, all have been incapacitated and paralyzed from achieving their intended goal.
It was in 1999, for the first time, toxic individuals appeared as leadership of the Oromo national liberation struggle in the OLF. It constitutes of individuals whose behaviors have been driven by self-centered interests at the expense of Oromo unity, the members and organization, and at the cost of the objective of the organization. It is a moribund, stagnate, sterile, abusive and dictatorial leadership that promoted an unhealthy organizational environment. Leadership is about leading; about action; about vision; it is about setting priorities and directions. It is about unifying all elements of the society. Leadership is about protecting its organization, its country and its people. The best leadership helps its people work together and does its best to achieve the organization goal and mission. But, this leadership has failed to do so.
Since becoming the Chairman of the OLF in 1999, Dawud Ibsa provided the OLF and the Oromo struggle with a poor, incompetent and poisonous leadership. His leadership deliberately engaged in undermining, demeaning, bullying, intimidating, manipulating and misleading members, and maliciously setting members against each other. His style of leadership undermined the political cohesiveness and harmony within the members. Consequently, he has failed to lead. He has repeatedly failed to implement the recommended solutions to the recognized problems. He has consistently taken toxic decisions and actions that split and weaken the OLF. As a consequence, his leadership has been presiding over an endless divisions of the OLF.
In addition, ever since he became Chairman of the OLF, his leadership has been using external excuses when something goes wrong by his leadership’s bad decision-making. His leadership never takes blame; never accepts responsivity for what goes wrong. Making external excuses are simply to deny the facts. In so doing, his leadership destroyed the OLF and its army- the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Coupled with this, he has demonstrated autocratic leadership types of behavior (e.g., over-controlling, narcissistic, self-promoting, ego-inflating). He made himself a judge, a prosecutor, and legislative. He usurped the authorities of Executive and National Council of the OLF in order to serve his own personal interest. Moreover, being autocratic he and his Deputy scrapped the Constitution of the OLF that set term limit for office of General-Secretary and Deputy Secretary to four years at a time and to a total of eight years. In the OLF constitution neither General-Secretary nor Deputy Secretary is allowed to be elected to hold office more than twice. This means the General-Secretary and Deputy Secretary cannot seek re-election after serving two consecutive terms. Term limit is a law; it is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms a General-Secretary and Deputy Secretary may serve. Again, term limit serves as a means of bringing fresh blood into the leadership. It is an instrument for democracy. Dawud Ibsa and his Deputies have violated this legal restriction and so are illegally in office for over eighteen years.
After having usurped the authorities of Executive and National Council and the scrapped the constitution of the OLF, he divided the OLF members into in-group and out-group categories of members. In-group refers to inner-circle from his village and out-group refers to outer-circle from outside of his village. Information has been denied to out- group. Along with this cronyism, corruption, divisiveness and incompetence have been promoted. These were the methods Mohamed Siad Barre, the late president of Somalia, used in Somalia during his presidency. His leadership disabled the Somali institutions by implementing disharmony within Somali society. This actions brought upon the Somalia and its people disaster, disorder, division, dissolution of the organizations, institutions, and state and finally the death of the state itself.
Likewise, Dawud Ibsa as the Chairman of the OLF undermined the political cohesiveness and harmony within the OLF members. He has become a cause of the division of the
OLF into numerous factions. He rejects any solution to the problems. In addition, his leadership obstructed the Kampala Accord, the Berlin Agreement and the Roadmap for the universal unification of all Oromo political organizations with a similar political programs as agreed upon, adopted and signed in Kampala and Berlin respectively in
- Instead, his leadership opted for eclectically selecting individuals of its likes from those organizations. This action violated the intent, the purpose and the spirit of the
Berlin Agreement. In this way, his leadership burned down the bridge of unity built at
Berlin Conference. He consistently dismisses ideas for constructively resolving problems the OLF and the Oromo struggle have been facing. It is for such dismissal, since Dawud Ibsa assumed the Chairmanship of the OLF, the OLF has been dwindled, disabled; severely damaged, made dysfunctional and stagnate organization and its members have been factionalized and unity has been weakened. As a result, the Oromo Liberation
Army (OLA) has been weakened and unable to fight against the enemy that has been and still is committing genocide against the Oromo people. Now, the question remains as to what guarantee is there that Dawud Ibsa’s leadership will not lead Oromiyaa and the Oromo people into the catastrophic situation that befell upon Somalia and its people. As the history of his leadership since 1999 shows there is no guarantee. As a chief security officer (CSO) of the OLF, he was one of the architects in the encampment of the Oromo Liberation Army. Again, as he grabbed the opportunity of the Chairmanship of the OLF, he and his leadership packed up and left the country and the struggle for exile. Being in exile, his leadership dismantled the OLF and rejected the unity of the Oromo nationalists’ political organizations. And instead, his leadership organized the alien forces and made coalition or alliance with them (e.g. AFD, PAFD). No one in history, as a leadership of
an organization or state ever encamped its army, dismantled its organization, its institutions and make a unity, alliance or coalition with alien forces. Dawud Ibsa’s
leadership is the only exceptional. This is the first leadership in history that encamped its
defense army while the enemy occupying its territory, committing genocide against its people and pillaging, plundering and ransacking the resources of its country. Here, one may raise a question as to what is the mission of this leadership. At least one thing is clear. Both Dawud Ibsa and his two Deputies have obsessive desire for power for their own personal interests. They have no interest in the unity of the Oromo nationalist political organizations. If this leadership is allowed to continue and function, it will undermine the Oromo solidarity and the socio-economic and political fabric of the entire Oromo nation. Hence to avert such danger, the OLF needs a truly legitimate national collective political leadership; a leadership with determination, commitment and conviction to organize its people and lead them into the war of nation liberation; a leadership that reflects its people; a leadership that has its people’s values and aspirations; and a unity leadership with a clear objective, clear goal, clear purpose, and clear mission. If the Oromo nationalists do not act now, surely Oromiyaa and its people would be dragged by the current toxic leadership down the darkest road and shameful
situation that Somalia and its people have been dragged down into. In order to avoid this, it is time to act now to remove this leadership.
The Eritrea based Dawud Ibsa’s leadership is known as the Asmara based OLF group. It is a group that has been and still is endlessly oscillating between the democratization of Ethiopia and the liberation of Oromiyaa. It is a leadership that has surrounded itself with its own village based individuals who glorify, flatter, complement, and cajole it and its toxic leadership style. This group has been using its village individuals as a crutch to usurp the power of Executive Committee and National Council of the OLF. Recently, this toxic leadership is preaching about forming “transitional government of Ethiopia” with the genocidist regime of Tigray, the regime that has been committing genocide against the Oromo people; the regime that has blood of Oromo men, women, children, babies, pregnant women and elderly on its hands. It has already proselytized its unquestioning followers from its own village to accept the call for “transitional government of Ethiopia” with the genocidist fascist Tigran regime. For this purpose, it has trumped up fantasies and illusions about the importance of PAFD in the minds of its unquestioning passive followers masquerading PAFD as a noble achievement. In this way, this Asmara based group under the leadership of Dawud Ibsa has been deceiving everyone including the Oromo Medias about everything.
Not only this, since he assumed chairmanship of the OLF, his leadership has been using vague and shady politics of “Self-determination”. In the use of this phrase, his leadership always lapses into generalities to confuse the members, the public and the international community. It simply says our struggle is for want “self-determination.” As to what
kind of self-determination its wants, it does not say. It never distinguishes the difference between a claim of self-determination in the non-colonial context and a claim of self-
determination in the colonial context. The two are different and address different
problems and their solutions are different. A claim of Self-determination in the non- colonial context is a pursuit of one’s economic, social and cultural development, religious freedom, use of one’s own language, and individual autonomy within the framework of the existing state. On the contrary, a claim of self-determination in colonial context is a pursuit of territorial independence from colonial occupation and establishment of sovereign independent state. It is the right to existence as a separate state. Hence, calling for “Transitional government of Ethiopia,” “democratization of Ethiopia” and etc. by PAFD are euphemistic terms to mean Oromia is not a colony of Ethiopia and that the Oromo question will be resolved within the framework of Ethiopia. Here, the irony is PAFD an alien organization presented itself as a decider on the destiny of the Oromo people. Here it must be clear to friends and foe alike that the destiny of Oromo people whether to establish sovereign independent state of Oromiyaa or establish a new unity political order in Ethiopia with other nations and nationalities is the decision of the
Oromo people and the Oromo people alone. Even the Oromo political organizations cannot make such a decision. This is clearly articulated in the OLF political program in
Oromo Language in these terms: “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.”
Here what is clear is that Dawud Ibsa and his associates have been consistently undertaking contradictory goals and missions to the Oromo people’s political objective. For instance, Chairman Dawud Ibsa and his associates have been long involved in the encampment of the OLA in 1992, in the draft of Agenda for Peace of 2000, in the repeal of the OLF political program of 1998 and replacement of it with the Political program of
2004-the most divisive political program ever adapted in the history of national liberation struggle, in the formation of AFD in 2006, and in the abrogation of Kampala Accord and Berlin Agreement of 2014 followed with the formation of PAFD in 2015. All these were brought into being with the purpose and intention of weakening the OLF; split it and dismantle its organizational structure, its political program, and as the attack on its goal, its mission, and its ideals, and the struggle for liberation and independence of Oromiyaa through initiating political polarization and conflicts inside the OLF between the members. Finally, it defined the nature of the Oromo question as a question of “citizenship,” democracy” and establishment of “transitional government of Ethiopia” with a genocidist fascist regime of Ethiopian empire. His leadership has been and is characterized as a leadership of poor communication, bad decision-making, and bad judgment, manipulative and self-centered and as a “political leadership” uncommitted to the struggle for independence of Oromiyaa.
Moreover, his leadership has been unwilling to unite the Oromo patriotic, nationalists,
and revolutionaries forces in order to successfully lead the struggle to its final conclusion. Sadly enough, because of this leadership’s unwilling and incompetence to unify the Oromo nationalists to fight, the unified numerical minority Tigran fascist regime totally
controlled and dominated Oromiyaa, its people, its economic, and its political, and
military power in Oromiyaa. Not only this, this numerically inferior minority Tigran has forced the numerically superior majority-the Oromo people into behaving minority. It has already made the Oromo people politically, economically, militarily, organizationally, institutionally minority. Along with this, it has been and is committing genocide against all sectors of the Oromo people to reduce the Oromo population to numerical minority. In order to accomplish this, it has long implemented a policy of the genocidal mass slaughter, ethnic cleansing, and imprisonments of the Oromo political
leaders, business leaders, military offers, religion leaders, cultural and intellectual figures, women, children, youths and elderly. In addition, through forcible removal and eviction of farmers from their lands, it has sponsored external and internal displacement, poverty, famine, starvation and death in Oromiyaa. All of these befell upon our people, because the current leadership has miserably failed to organize the Oromo people to fight. At the same time, it has abandoned its people, its country, Oromo Liberation Army and the struggle itself and choose to be in exile. Here the fact is, the leadership of the OLF under Dawud Ibsa chairmanship has made a wrong choice, wrong judgment, wrong priority,
and wrong direction on a drive to political and organizational shameful failure.
Consequently, the OLF has been incapacitated and paralyzed from taking actions against the enemy. At the same time, it has failed to unite the Oromo nationalist political organizations in order to fight the genocidal fascist Tigran regime.
Beyond factional Leaderships: Looking for a collective national Leadership
Since 1999, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has no national leadership. It has fallen under various localized self-promoting factions with different political agendas. Among each factions’ agenda are: Ethiopian democratization; establishment of “transition government of Ethiopia,” “citizenship” of Ethiopia and federalization of Ethiopia. All of these factions abandoned the original political objective for the independence of Oromiyaa. Hence, all lack the goal, the mission, the vision, the spirit, the content and scope, the space and form of national leadership.
Our people have been suffering injustice, generation after generation since the last quarter of 19th-century to-date. Today, more than ever before genocide is being committed against the Oromo people. Villages have been razed to the ground. In order
to fight against this, the Oromo people need a national leadership; a leadership that leads; a leadership that sincerely state the purpose of the Oromo national struggle; a leadership that organizes and leads the nation into the struggle. The first condition of sincerity is to speak about political objective of the Oromo national liberation struggle with absolute clarity, without fear. The Oromo nation needs a trusted leadership; a true leadership, a leadership that unites all elements of the Oromo society; a leadership whose words are clear and precise with no ambiguity; and a leadership that speaks their minds and to their hearts. But claiming the leadership of the OLF from exile in Eritrea is simply a myth, resting on fiction. A leadership must be in its country among its people.
The second condition is to be united, to be organized, to be armed, and fight. In this fight, to achieve victory over the enemy, the organization has to have inner unity and inner strength. An organization with weakly-united members break into factions mainly through enemy intrigues. The reason for this is simply lack of truly national leadership. Without such leadership, the camaraderie- the spiritual strengthen, that unites all members in brotherhood and sisterhood cannot exist. Again without truly national
collective leadership, the discipline that harmonizes the wills, the ideas, and the devotions of the members to fight the enemy with a view to the realization of national goal cannot exist. Under this condition, it is common for individuals to find friends of the same village and declaring themselves as a leaders of Liberation Front. This is a madness. It is what has been happening to the OLF since 1999. It is important to understand that
village or local leadership does not represent the national interests and the nation itself. In this fight for the national liberation, the leadership must courageously declare the objective of Oromo struggle, define the organizational principles and express the organization’s intentions so that no one is deceived, neither friend nor foe.
What is to be do?
Here is what is to be done. Today, the new generation of Oromo has moved by ancestral aspirations for justice, freedom, liberty, democracy, liberation, and independence. They are ready to take leadership of the OLF and the struggle. For this, their faces are fully of hope and bright like the sun to assume this leadership and lead the struggle. Hence, our first obligation is to transfer leadership to this new generation. As it is clear, the Oromo youths have already injected panic and terror into the hearts of the enemy and paralyzing its action. The enemy’s hope to rule over Oromiyaa is already crippled. Here all Oromo nationalist political forces need unity. The soul of the success of national liberation struggle lies in the unity of the nationalists. Here unity means, unity in principle; unity in goal, unity in objective, unity in purpose, unity in mission and unity in the struggle. For this, leadership has to be the missionary of the unity, not disunity. The OLF is the Oromo people’s organization. It belongs to the Oromo people. It was established by the sons
and daughters of Oromiyaa. Its unity has been cemented by the blood of theirs sons and daughters in the struggle for the liberation of Oromiyaa. It represents the collective will and aspiration of the Oromo people. For this, it has been carrying the Oromo people’s agenda–independence of Oromiyaa. Because of this, the OLF from the day of its establishment until 1999, the composition of its membership and leadership at all levels had been reflecting the Oromo people and their values, aspirations and interests. And its leadership had been collective.
However, since 1999 to-date collective leadership has been abandoned for autocratic leadership and the unity of the members has been degraded to disunity and factions. This autocratic political leadership has undermined and weakened the spiritual strength or comradeship, mutual trust, and the spirit of unity of its members. Beginning with the
year 2000, Dawud Ibsa’s autocratic leadership introduced and set in motion a train of political polarization agenda i.e. democratization of Ethiopia that severely damaged the spirit of unity within the members of the OLF and led to the split of the OLF in 2001 between those who favored democratization of Ethiopia and those who favored independence of Oromiyaa. Here what has to be clear is that this autocratic leadership has damaged the OLF and the Oromo struggle. Autocratic or toxic leadership style is alien to the Oromo people. It is against the Oromo values, tradition, norms and culture.
It is a divisive form of leadership. And, therefore, it must be discarded into the dustbin of history. Hence, members of the Oromo political organizations must have the moral, the political and national courage to remove such incompetent and toxic leadership and replace it with a trustworthy national political leadership, a unity leadership; a new leadership of the new Oromo generation.
Oromiyaa Shall Be Free!