There has been much chatter from all directions over the last several days since Jawar Mohammed conducted his first ever interviews after his release from jail (with Ubuntu and OMN TVs).
I am not interested in weighing and discussing hatred and judgments of those who are always known to criticize Jawar and the cause he fights for.
But can’t hide my dismay regarding the attempts made by a few fellow Oromo activists to label and mischaracterize Jawar as-a traitor, rescuer of Abiy’s regime, defender of empire Ethiopia, name what not. Some have gone further to the extent of portraying him as an anti-freedom fighter (OLA). Most of these campaigners are people who settled overseas in a comfort zone. They can’t also feel the blaze on Oromia’s soil as participant players.
I observe two kinds of confusion surrounding Jawar’s interviews:
With regard to the misreading part, people seem to misjudge the difference between activism and political leadership.
Bob Kerrey who was once a governor of Nebraska and a Democratic member of the United States Senate, describes the difference between an activist and a politician as follows.
“An activist is someone who organizes and acts for the purpose of changing a public policy or law. A politician is someone who seeks election to a public office on behalf of a general ideology and/or a specific agenda on which they promise to act”.
Kerry says “So when an activist becomes a politician, society loses the former to gain the latter. The reverse is also true. There are exceptions but they are rare”.
He adds that a politician must compromise to get results, while a good activist must be uncompromising and does not have to worry about offending large numbers of people when using forceful language. Rather, stridency can increase the odds that the activist will gain the public’s attention
In other words, activists often make bold, defiant, and resounding cases for change. That was how Jawar behaved previously.
To add more rationales why Jawar is not expected to behave like an activist, Jawar can’t speak like before because he is a leader of a political organization registered to operate peacefully within the framework of laws and rules in place-whatsoever. He is also governed by the code of conduct of his organization in order not to risk the party.
A point to be noted still is that Jawar hasn’t changed his position. He has been known for peaceful struggle all his life. He has never believed in armed struggle and he was in the forefront of the Oromo protest, a non-violent struggle, which removed a dictatorial regime from power without a gunpoint. The peaceful struggle he has in mind may not be blocking roads, demonstrating on the streets, etc. There are hundreds of forms of peaceful struggle. So, what is a surprise that Jawar appealed to all warring parties for a cease-fire?
The cynicism part is a syndrome that our struggle has been suffering from. Someone who deviated from your belief or your version of reality immediately becomes a victim of branding. Do your job and let others do theirs!
The comic part of the current attack against Jawar is that those who puff from afar haven’t dared to face the glare on the ground. Jawar made a bold decision to leave his comfort zone, went home, and was almost killed twice. Those who want to continue with the armed struggle can simply travel to Kenya and join OLA. As simple as that!
By the way, I do have high regard for OLA which is fighting for a just cause and paying a huge price. The gallant young boys and girls are sacrificing their precious lives each day.
Jawar also didn’t undermine their role. He didn’t say they should be disarmed. He called for cease fire and sit down for discussion. He never suggested the modalities as to who should moderate, the discussion, who should drive the hanging bus on the cliff, and whether PP should hinge on power or not. People made their own interpretations to accuse him.
To conclude, my take is that armed struggle and peaceful struggle are not mutually exclusive in our situation. Rather they complement each other. All forms of struggle: armed, peaceful, diplomatic, advocacy, and propaganda combined will force the regime in power either to relinquish or negotiate to share power. I don’t ascribe to only one form of struggle to fight tyranny.
Let all who believe in change exert their part, instead of crucifying each other.