I received the draft documents (baseline study and proclamation) on Oromia special interest on Finfine from a friend and read with great interest. The following is my short and very general reflection on the content, strength and weaknesses of the documents. As many friends are writing on this topic in Afaan Oromo and Amharic, I decided to present my commentary in English.
About the Baseline Study Document
The baseline study document is very rich in content. However, its Amharic version is written in a typical EBC political rhetoric magnifying the historical injustices and downplaying the current practical problems and unfulfilled promises. I said the “amharic version” because the document seems is taken from Betru Dibaba`s thesis entitled “Constitutional Special Interest of ONRS in AA: Present Status & Future Challenges”. The document details the historical injustice inflicted by the settlement on indigenous people. It started from the 19th century and came all the way to the establishment of Oromia special zone around Finfine. However, the document failed to mention the infamous Addis Ababa Master plan and the #OromoProtests that forced its own birth. This may also relate to the fact that Betru`s study was conducted before the announcement of the master plan and the #OromoProtests.
Note 1: There is no a single statement that talks about the infamous Addis Ababa master plan and the #OromoProtests in the baseline study document. This could be one evidence that the regional government is still not ready to recognize the just demands of the Oromo people.
The document rather mention development induced dissatisfactions that the EPRDF is determined to address through Oromia special interest on Finfine. In general the baseline study document states about many historical matters that needs to be addressed and compensated. Although the document looks bold enough on certain fraction of rights the framing is very problematic. It is this same framing that delayed the special interest by creating new guest boss in the home.
For instance the historical facts documented in the baseline study and the draft proclamation states that Finfine is located in Oromo. It also adds that Finfine is the umbilical-cord of Oromia (metaphorically very strong description). However the document is inconsistent on the relationship between Finfine and Oromia regional state. Inconsistency on the relationship between an individual and his/her umbilical-cord is the most weird thing to observe. Somewhere it states that Finfine is the capital city of Oromia national regional state. In others, it says Finfine is the seat of the Oromia national regional state. This two have been used interchangeably in the document. I will leave the detail for our legal experts (Betru Dibaba can chip in). But I believe these two has different legal and administrative implications and needs to be corrected.
Therefore, the farming considered to consistent throughout the document as “Finfine is the capital city of Oromia National Regional State”. I believe this fully speaks about the rights of the Oromia national regional state over the administration of the city and about the benefits that could gained from its own capital city. This being said it is also very important to recognize the fact that Finfine is the seat of the federal state. Again leaving the details for our legal experts, I believe the federal state has no its own independent existence in Ethiopia. It is an institution that is created by the regional states including Oromia and exist only until the regional states agree to sustain it. In this sense the Regional state of Oromia offered to host the federal state (at least temporarily). It is through this way that Finfine became the seat of the federal state and Oromia national regional state offered for joint administration of the city. In this joint administration however the region must have ensured at least 40% (% of Oromo People in the country) representation in city administration. Afaan Oromo must have also been used as the working language of the capital city (in every organization in the city) together with Amharic, the working language of the federal state. This has been already implemented in other places with similar status (i.e Dire Dawa and Harari region).
It is after this matter gets sustainable solution that the regional government can move to the long overdue matters of the special interest. The special interest is very much about the rights of the people living around Finfine. As it is detailed in the baseline study document Finfine is a curse for the Tuulama Oromos who can only get evicted with urbanization, impoverished with development and left in darkness with expansion of education. Although the regional government needs to work hard to restore the evicted Tuulamas to their qe`e and protect those living on the peripheries of the capital city, the focus on the special interest shouldn’t by any means ignore the fact that Finfine is located within the jurisdiction of the region and most importantly that it is the capital city of the region.
The Special Interest Proclamation
The special interest proclamation in most part repeats the baseline study document but in a narrow way and sometimes diverting the target of the special interest. For instance the baseline study document state that the Tuulama Oromos are the forefront victim of the historical injustice inflicted by settlement in Finfine. However, the draft proclamation gave most of its fraction rights to the Oromos currently residing in the capital city. The Tuulama Oromos and the Oromos currently residing in Finfine are not necessary the same. The question who are the Oromos residing in Finfine today is equally important. The special interest that follow the baseline study document should ideally encourage a broad based development program that can reinstate and benefits the Oromo people evicted from the area as well as those pushed to the periphery. However, the special interest proclamation talks about the right to self-rule for people living in the city, being the member of city administration, the right of acquiring meeting places, getting housing for people currently living in city at 15%, free housing land for the employee of the regional government, school in city for their kids, getting media coverage, selling natural resources to city residents to generate income etc. This is a political trade.The OPDOs and employees of the government can benefit from this scheme but not the people as mentioned in the study document.
Most critical here is that most people residing in the capital city today, including most Oromos come to the city under similar historical injustice when seen from the indigenous people`s perspective. Eviction from their land has been a chronicle problem for Tuulamas. Who evicted them make no difference. The fact that the draft special interest proclamation focuses on people currently residing in the capital city speak volumes about who is the target of the benefits. This is entitling the member of the political party and employees of the regional government to certain fraction of interests at the cost of indigenous people who have been suffering from eviction and outmigration for over 100 years.
Note 3: The Tuulama Oromo who have been the forefront victim of the settlement in Finfine and still victim of urban induced eviction should be compensated for the historical losses they incurred and incurring.