By Argan Beeko
Call me ‘Argan Beeko’ for the time being and my apologies for my failure to mention my real name due to some reasons. I was in Eritrea for more than 15 years as a member of OLF. I worked the whole years on many significant leadership positions of the organization, including military, media, and political affairs. In this long time I got some important Eritrean friends who are remained in touch to this date. What made us more connected with these friends is nothing but the discussion we have had on the bilateral interests of Eritrean and Oromo peoples’ wish to build a common home – democratized Horn of Africa.
Currently I am neither a member of OLF nor one of its leadership since I left Eritrea in the early 2015, however, I am still connected to my Eritrean activists in Asmara and in exile, who are helping me to snoop what the Eritrean government has in its store regarding Oromo struggle for freedom and democracy in Ethiopia. According to reliable information I obtained from these insiders, the Eritrean government higher officials are deeply divided in to two groups over how to consider the OLF and its objective of Oromo struggle for freedom and democracy. The sources made clear that a potentially dangerous group of the higher officials is dramatically mounting the interest to heat up the eskista dance with the diehard neo-Neftegna groups like Gimbot 7 in the name of boosting Habashanism relations, while the other feeble group is considering its normal relation with OLF and the Oromo struggle as a decades-long political intimacy.
In the recent years, the pro-Habeshanism group has been working hard to convince the whole government bodies to change their previous healthy attitude against the OLF and Oromo nationalism by relentlessly empowering the Habesha chauvinists’ political and military activities while systematically dismantling the unity of OLF in Asmara and its supporters in the diaspora. Providing Ginbot 7 force with financial and military assistance worth millions of dollars while Eritreans are terribly starving and impoverished is totally an acceptable to many Eritrean activists.
The Eritrean government is merging the Amhara-centric groups including the so called Arbegnoch, giving them better military trainings, arming them with expensive and sophisticated weapons and dispatching them with secret military intelligence to Ethiopia. These are some of the favors being done to these forces who are still dreaming to bring back to life the old Neftegna system in Ethiopia. All about the huff and puff we are observing with the Gimbot 7’s chairman recent invitation to Asmara is also a part of this development.
Dr. Berhanu’s presence in Asmara is not for a simple task. We have evidence that there are already dozens of innocent Oromo youth forcefully organized in the so called ‘Arbegnoch Ginbot 7’ force, who are brainwashed to fight for Amhara-favored Ethiopia, antagonizing Oromo nationalism. This is one of the attempts to rebuild the already decayed OLF faction led by B/G Kemal Gelchu that had joined Gimbot 7 in 2012 and consequently ended up with crisis of mushrooming factions after factions. The face-to-face meeting of Berhanu and Kemal for the first time after years of telephone conversations itself is one step forward to trade with this army general in the bid to make future OPDO for Neftegnas.
Berhanu, along with his stubborn colleague Dr. Getachew Begashaw is known for his clear anti Oromo and OLF address on many occasions. On one of the recent Ethiopian and Eritrean Friendship Forum events, Berhanu boasted how skilled he is to divide and clash Oromo elites to each other, just as his ancestors did in the past, while Dr. Getachew Begashaw made clear that he would rather accept Woyane’s 100 year rule than to see OLF seized the power. All these aggressions and contempt against the Oromo cause are going on by the firm support of the Eritrean officials who claim themselves as ‘old OLF ally’.
According to the insider sources, Dr. Berhanu Nega Bonger and his Gurage entourages are yearning to control areas such as Oromia’s Jimma zone and many woredas from Southern Nations and Nationalities Region. Very recent information obtained from Oromo patriots in Oromia unveils that on July 16, 2015 a truck heading from Jimma to Finfinne carrying 500 guns including some RPGs, thousands of ammunitions and several grenades was brought under control by Oromia Police in Sabbataa town. These sources also revealed that Berhanu’s Gonbot 7 seems active in Jimma town using Gurages and some other non Oromos who pretend to be local Oromo but fundamentally against the Oromo interest. The motto of their underground movement is exaggeratedly praising King Aba Jifar of Jimma for his peaceful relations with Emperor Menilik and other non-Oromos in the region. They claim him as the only wonderful person in the Oromo history, intentionally undermining those Oromo heroes who were fallen for the quest of Oromo freedom. They widely use this Aba Jifar thing trick to win the heart of Jimma Oromo.
Hence, this dangerous underground movement is cultivating many of the young generation of Jimma Oromo, particularly the urban citizens to consider themselves as merely Muslim Ethiopians with less Oromo identities, prefer to speak Amharic instead of Afan Oromo, having better relationship with non Oromos than their Oromo relatives from other regions of Oromia. However, Jimma is well known as the oldest OromoLand and its cultural songs such as Harka Fuune and Haadha Faaris Faaroo are the first songs in Oromo music history to be recorded by the king of Ethiopian music Tilahun Gesesse, almost half a century ago. Despite such facts, the Berhanu’s Ginbot 7 is abysmally paving the way to dismantling Oromo nationalism in places such as Jimma where the local Oromos are underestimated by non Oromos or pseudo Oromos.
While it is doing relentless favors to empower the Neftegna elements, the Eritrean government is again making another historical mistake on the Oromo struggle. It is not a forgotten phenomenon that the Asmara government had collaborated with the TPLF forces in 1992 in campaign to crash down OLF and its military wing OLA/WBO, which was the key reason for the weakness of Oromo struggle over the past couple of decades. The Eritrean government role was also significant in what happened to the OLF in 2008. On the one hand, they strongly encouraged the then military figures of OLF such as B/G Kemal Gelchu and B/G Hailu Gonfa to push coup-like activities in the organization in the name of seeking change, and on the other hand they influenced the OLF leadership to develop a zero-tolerance policy to anyone who seeks change in the organization.
Generally speaking, they widened all the gap of differences in the organization not to be reconciled in their early level. They contact separately many notable members of the OLF like the above mentioned army generals, Yonatan Dibisa, a former EC member of EPRDF, Colonel Abebe Geresu, and some of other OLA commanders in the field to stimulate disobedience and lack of organizational integrity. The Shabia guy called Colonel Fitsum has done a lot in this case.
The infamous action taken by Kemal Gelchu group in 2012 to join Gimbot 7 (a potentially more dangerous force to the Oromo than the current regime in Ethiopia) instead of being reconciled with its own Oromo nationalist camp was not a coincident but intentionally arranged by the Eritrean government, according to the insider sources. The number of Oromo youth who have defected the Ethiopian Defense Force and found their way to Eritrea to join OLF in the past 15 years has been in thousands as I myself witnessed. However, the Eritrean government has tried its best to emaciate OLA by pouring those defector Oromo youth into Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) instead of letting them join OLF. Thus, today the number of TPDM army is swelling dramatically to 50,000 strong. It is not also forgotten that few years ago one of Oromo young men who had suffered a lot in the hands of TPDM has released a note titled – JOURNEY IN THE DARK: Oromo’s Untold Story in Eritrea. (http://www.gadaa.com/Dark%20journey.pdf)
The Oromo people at home and in the diaspora have never had any idea on what is going on beyond the curtain in Asmara, so that they have been complaining when they failed to see any meaningful organizational advancement of the OLF over the past 17 years in its headquarters – Asmara. Within these long years we have witnessed so many endeavors by the OLF leadership to strengthen the Oromo struggle, but all of them were fruitless. In 2000 ULFO was established but soon turned into chaos. Many leaders of ULFO member organizations including the late General Waaqoo Guutu, Jaal Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa and others veterans who went to Asmara for a betterment of Oromo struggle were heard while they bitterly complained the unwanted intervention of Eritrean officials in the Oromo internal affairs.
In December 2004 the OLF held its congress in Eritrea, but ended up with untold organizational disaster which is still going on. In 2006 the news about historic defection of hundreds of Oromo soldiers led by two army generals, two colonels and many other army commanders was surfaced in Eritrea, but the consequence was unexpectedly deterioration, as we have observed since then. This great defection of higher army generals only paved the way for further bitter crisis that happened in the OLF after a couple of years in 2008 which resulted in losing many folks to Woyane and Gimbot 7. When all these crises happened to OLF the Eritrean higher officials have been there.
Furthermore, thousands of OLA members have been trained and dispatched to Oromia, so far, but most of the soldiers have been taken captives by the Ethiopian army immediately after they crossed the border to Oromia. Needless to doubt that the news of this military dispatch soon cabled by double standard officials from Asmara to Woyane security agents to make them ready to encircle those poor Oromo heroes.
Now the wrong tradition that everybody used to wait success from Asmara-based OLF should be come to an end. Now is the time to free the OLF leaders in Asmara, who spent 17 solid years with too little success, but held hostage by the Eritrean government. The time has come now to end the deadlock of Oromo struggle. The 17 years old Stockholm syndrome hasn’t worked and at least the OLF leadership bodies who are residing in the diaspora should now speak out on behalf of those badly treated in the hands of authorities in Asmara.
The Oromo people should only trust their political and military activities lead by OLF and other Oromo organizations in home country, not waiting some kind of miracle from Asmara. Urgent action is needed to shift the source of OLF leadership power from Asmara to Oromia. The Oromo diasporic community is also expected to be united themselves in order to unite and strengthen their vanguard organization OLF not in Eritrea but in the home country Oromia. It is our lack of unity and purpose that enabled our adversaries from every side dare to consider us as a toothless lion. No need of more years in Asmara for OLF leadership under Eritro-Neftegna descendants’ deplorable stranglehold!