Oduu Haaraya

Can the Oromo speak for themselves? Ethiopianists say no

by Ayantu Tibeso

June 27, 2013 (OPride) – Oromo rights advocates and Ethiopian activists quarreled over Al Jazeera’s decision to address the plight of Oromo people during its flagship social media show, The Streamearlier this week.

The network’s announcement of the show, “Oromo seek justice in Ethiopia” on Monday evening drew a lot of applause, opposition, accusations, counter accusations, and denouncements on various social media networks.

Those who opposed the show questioned its timing amid Ethio-Egypt stalemate over the Nile; outright suggested that the Al Jazeera network was pulling for Egypt; decried that singling out the plight of Oromo foments ethnic division and violates Ethiopia’s sovereignty; and the list of accusations go on ad hominem.

On the other hand, Oromo activists welcomed the network’s decision to highlight their people’s untold story of injustice, historical and systematic marginalization, and their legitimate quest for self-determination.

The debate, while not new, continues even after the show in various forms, no less through a petition set up to demand official apology and explanation from Al Jazeera. However, even amid suffocating fear, suspicion, and attempts to silence the Oromo voice, the conversations generated are a testament to the fact that the plight of Oromo is not given due attention. Al Jazeera has barely scratched the surface.

It is important to note that on June 8 when journalist and OPride.com editor Mohammed Ademo pitched the story to Al Jazeera, even the Nigerian host Femi Oke had no prior knowledge about the Oromo. The notion that Al Jazeera was doing anti-Ethiopia PR for Egypt, when in fact the topic came from open editorial meeting with audiences, falls flat on its face.

Nevertheless, even for those who are familiar with the widespread refusal by most Ethiopians to acknowledge and discuss Oromo people’s continued plight, the outpouring of opposition to Al Jazeera’s coverage of Oromo people’s oppression was deeply disheartening and disturbing to witness.

–Full Report Opride

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