In an interview he gave to ESAT (Amhara Satellite TV program) lasting about 90 minutes, Dima Nego gave a lengthy account of the Oromo struggle, the OLF, his involvement in the front and in the transitional government of 1991 in which he served as the minister of information and his opinion on the way forward.
Much of what he told the Habshaa TV station was narration of what has been in the public domain for a long time except for a few pieces he dropped in the course of the interview. Two such information that stood out for many of us were Dima’s claim to first chairmanship of the OLF and his assertions about the “true” intentions of the founders of the organization when they included the realization of independent state of Oromia in their political program.
Dima informed his listeners that the founders of the OLF never meant “itoophiyan la maganxal” (to secede Oromia from Ethiopia). According to Dima, the inclusion of achieving independent state of Oromia in the political program was only for the purpose of using it as bargaining chip in future negotiations with the colonial state. (Listen at end of article)
Dima was introduced as the first Chairman of the OLF. The introduction and the fact that Dima referred to himself as such was a surprise to many longtime members of the front for they had never heard that Dima held that position in the organization at any time. However, further investigation revealed that Dima was truly the first chairman elected around the end of 1976. But his chairmanship was to be very short lived before he abandoned the organization and his post.
In early 1977 Dima applied for a scholarship with United Nations Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP) in Dakar, Senegal, and was accepted. Without informing his comrades, Dima abandons his position, boards the plane and leaves for Dakar, Senegal. Upon realizing what had happened, the executive committee members of the OLF got together, removed him from chairmanship and elected Jaal Magarsaa Barii to replace him. According to his contemporaries, Dima severed all contacts with the OLF until he completed his education and was about to return home in 1978. Unfortunately for Dima, “red terror” was in full swing and DERG (the military government at the time) was in the middle of herding off his former comrades to prisons on allegation of being OLF members. Afraid to go home to suffer a similar fate, Dima contacts his former comrades who had escaped the DERG onslaught and were in the middle of opening a second front in Western oromia – the first being in eastern Oromia. Upon being pardoned for abandoning the organization and his post, he was allowed to join them. Over the next 13 years, Dima rose to the position of a Politburo member in the organization.
No wonder this was one of the best kept secrets in the OLF until Dima himself revealed it to a Habashaa media very recently.
But why did Dima decide to claim first chairmanship of the front now in public – after sweeping it under the rug for the last 40 years? Could it be to lend some authority and believability to what he was speaking about? Why did he particularly stress his claim to his short lived chairmanship right when he was about to “reveal” the true intention of the founders of the OLF in relation to why independent Democratic Republic of Oromia was included in the political program? Is Dima credible?
While we are on the issue of credibility, here is what Dima told his sponsors about his activities in 1980s to obtain “Global Leaders Fellowship Program” scholarship: “In the 1980s, Dima was involved in relief work among refugees and internally displaced persons in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia. When the military government in Ethiopia collapsed in 1991, he became a member of the new government as a member of the transitional legislature and a cabinet minister in 1991-1992.” (Read Here)
As Dima himself admitted in this interview, the truth, however, is far from it. Contrary to what he told his sponsors, in the 1980s, Dima was NEVER “involved in relief work among refugees and internally displaced persons in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.” He was an active participant and, in fact, a politburo member of the OLF. It was as a high ranking officer of the OLF that he became Minister of Information for the Transitional government of Ethiopia (1991 – 1992) to which the OLF was a party. When the OLF withdrew from the transitional government, as he explained in this interview, Dima tendered a written resignation to the TPLF government as a true bureaucrat would do (no freedom fighter would do such a thing), left the country because TPLF “would not guarantee his safety” (no freedom fighter would expect guarantee of safety from his colonizers) and, once again, abandoned the OLF to return to school.
Independent state of Oromia, a bargaining chip?
According to Dima, the call for independence of Oromia was included in the OLF political program for two reasons none of which was “Itoophiyaan la maganxal” – [to truly secede [decolonize] Oromia from Ethiopia]. The first reason was for the purpose of using it as bargaining chip in future possible negotiations with the colonial government of Ethiopia while the second reason was for the sake of being different from EPRP and MEISON – two political organizations that had already accepted the question of nations to self-determination.
Dima’a answers to these questions were huge surprises to the rank and file members and all former leaders of the organization contacted by this writer. They all describe the sense of disbelief, astonishment and betrayal they felt upon listening to what Dima had to say on these issues.
In 1982, Dima gave a similar interview to “Horn of Africa” magazine in which he was asked to “summarize the program of the OLF and tell us how much of it has been put into practice.” His response at the time was “As I stated before, the main goal of the Oromo people’s struggle, led by the OLF, is to end foreign political domination and economic exploitation. In short, [it is] to end Amhara colonial administration of Oromia and to replace it with a democratic, progressive and popular Oromo government.” (Horn of Africa, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1982).
As one of Dima’s contemporaries said “What he [Dima] said on these two issues were absolute lies. As a co-founder of the front, I can tell you that no such points were raised nor considered much less agreed upon. Obbo Dima has the right to change his mind 40 years after he first agreed to Independent state of Oromia. However, to revise history to fit ones current political views in this case would be nothing less than the epitome of opportunism wrapped in dishonesty and lack of integrity.”
Another co-founder of the OLF begins an article he recently wrote in response to the same interview by saying “these days we are starting to twisted tales in foreign language about the OLF from irresponsible veterans, novices and the anonymous.” Defending his fallen comrades, the article goes on to say, “When the outlook of martyrs is being destorted and they connot rise to defende themselves, it is believed that this note may serve as an affidavit to some extent.” (Read Here)
But does Dima truly understand the implications of what he said?
Simply put, Dima is asserting that our fallen heroes, the likes of Elemo Qilxuu, Gen. Taddasaa Biruu, Magarsaa Barii, Muhe Abdo, Baaroo Tumsaa, Mullis Abbaa Gadaa and more lied to those selfless Oromo youth they put in harm’s way. Besides lying to all, these true sons of the Oromo people who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives never intended to bring about a liberated and decolonized Oromia into existence; never did they intend to dismantle the Ethiopian empire and the colonial administration. Dima would have us, and his Amhara audience, believe that the ones alive today, the likes of Jaarra Abba Gadaa, Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo, Galaasaa Dilboo, Ibsaa Guutamaa and more continue to lie to us even after 40 years. Our artisits, the likes of Ebbisa Addunyaa and Usumayyoo Muusaa paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives for a cause they were cheated into joining. The hundreds of thousands of our brethren who heeded the call of the OLF and joined the front, those who have fallen in the battle fields of Oromia to enemy fire, those who were murdered by consecutive Abyssinian governments, those who endured detention and torture for tens of years were all deceived. There is no other way of understanding Dima’s responses.
This may make Dima’s Amhara audience happy but it could not be further from the truth. If that were the case, there is no way Dima would be the sole custodian of such a “secret”. The only case in which Dima would be the lone keeper of such a “secret” would be if this has been an idea only in Dima Noggo Sarbo’s mind. Even that is doubtful given the various interviews he gave in the last 40 years in which he had given the opposite of his responses to ESAT questions.
I say, Dima’s credibility left much to be desired.
What do you say?!