By: Oromia Confidential
The widely publicized reconciliation between the OLF factions, namely Qaama Cheumsaa (QC), Shanee Gumii (SG), Gurmuu Qabsawotaa (GQ), and Koree Yeroo (KY) has been one good news item in many years. There were also behind the scenes talks and agreements between different OLF factions and ULFO. It was hoped that all will reunite and this would in turn create conducive environment in which the national struggle could be rehabilitated for the OLF to be reinstated as a wholesome body once again. The whole purpose of reuniting is to revitalize the struggle. There is no doubt that this is a golden opportunity. However, sources close to the entire process are worried that all is not well.
As is expected, reuniting organizations after a long period of separation will not be an easy thing to accomplish. There are profound differences to be hammered out and confidence and trust rebuilt. What is troubling is though that the old divisions appear to be worsening with ominous consequences for the Oromo national project.
The evidence so far indicates that there are on-going negotiations between those who are determined to keep the status quo and those who dream to shake the OLF out of its deep sleep to comprehend the current calamitous situation in Oromia and do something about it. This too is to be expected.
So, what has been achieved so far? There have been a number of promising press releases over the past 2 years or so proclaiming reconciliations and reunifications. First, Qaama Chehumsaa and Gurmuu Qabsawotaa issued press release in which they declared their unity. Later, Qaama Chehumsaa and Shanee Gummii also declared they have agreed to reunite. Following this, Gurmuu Qabsawotaa and Shanee Gumii issued similar statement confirming that they have united. Since the declarations, members and supporters of different competing factions have managed to tolerate each other and in some instances have come together. The Oromo diapora public seems to be at peace with itself. These things have been achieved with great ease and it is great to see bridges being built and we all need to be proud of our nation’s ability to heal itself.
However, there is no one united OLF yet. It needs explaining albeit not easy. They have all reached bilateral agreements but there is no all-encompassing multilateral agreement reached whereby the representative of all the four groups signed one single document to unite them. Nor is there a collective membership at the grassroots level. It is bizarre that they have failed to reach all- inclusive agreement if they have all agreed separately. But, such is life. It can only be deduced from the shenanigan that someone somewhere has been not totally committed or there is a phenomenon unique to the Oromo that needs to be studied seriously.
Coming back to the reasons why the whole project is in trouble and menacingly close to stalling all together or end up being less than satisfactory, one pleads to the almighty to grant the leaders of OLF factions wisdom in abundance. Failing to reunite and rebuilding is not a luxury but rather an existential struggle.
Confidential sources reveal that substantial road blocks, that have come to light in the process of negotiations between SG and QC factions, may at worst derail the process all together or at best will render the reunification completely meaningless and leave the OLF factions partially united leaving the door wide open for new factions to be created paralysing it for another decade.
The issues of differences include:
- 1. QC advocates uniting all the OLF factions as a priority but SG does not like to see GQ join the union and hence blocked their entry. This has disappointed members of QC and they started to doubt SG commitment to true unity.
- 2. SG is profoundly wedded to staying in Asmara. For SG this is non-negotiable. QC is deeply suspicious of Eritrea’s intention and would like to distance the OLF from Eritrea’s influence.
- 3. SG insists on dominating the new structure to be agreed upon to reunite the two entities. SG is adamant that it should take control of key posts for itself at all levels, including regional (Kutaa) and local (Konyaa) committees to exercise unfair control.
- 4. SG insists to continue appointing officers to committees at regional and local levels but QC insists to continue the practice of local and regional committees be elected by the local and regional OLF members (dictatorship v democracy institutional cultural clash).
- 5. QC proposes to prioritize rebuilding of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) but SG is against this. The issue of armed struggle or not was at the core of the division in 2001 and in this regard nothing has changed.
- 6. SG is eager to start negotiation with the Ethiopian regime even before the reunification is completed and proposed to form a joint negotiating committee. Whereas QC neither believes there is anything to talk nor is it the right time. Negotiations with the Ethiopian state were the prime cause of the split in 2001 and therefore this sensitive issue has raised serious doubts in QC quarters regarding genuineness of SG’s commitment to the struggle.
These differences are substantial by any standard. Above all, SG electing to resist the unity of all of the OLF factions (GQ, KY, QC and SG) and ULFO instead electing to forge ahead with just the QC is the most serious. QC’s apparent inability to convince SG to change its mind on such an important principle of unity beggars believes.
It is clear from public opinion that the Oromo people demand true unity of purpose between genuine Oromo organizations claiming to fight for independence. Why is it only two of the factions are trying to reunite leaving three others outside? What sort of unity is it going to be?
The second equally significant challenge is the issue of recommencing talks with the TPLF. OLF is in a worryingly weak position at the moment. The TPLF is conducting genocide and crimes against humanity. How come SG is unable to sort out its difference with GQ but impatient to talk to the TPLF?
Resistance to change is to a mortal enemy. If the unity is meant to sustain what we already have is almost agreeing to escort the OLF to its deathbed with people who hang on to power at any cost. It is only natural that leaders age and eventually die. Organizations need to be renewed by reforming. The on-going reunification efforts offer perfect opportunity to renew the OLF.
There are early warning signs that all is not what it appears to be. There is a chance of sorting out differences and building genuine unity of the groups and salvage the situation. But, time is running out. Members and supporters as well as the public should demand honest unity. Building a sham unity will not survive long enough to benefit anyone. The sooner the groups come to their senses the better. Otherwise, the Oromo people will run out of patience for them.
One must think soberly and search for solutions. It is tempting to sweep everything under the carpet and wishing it away. But, it is better to acknowledge limitations and work to overcome them. If left unresolved differences may die down for the time being. The only thing that happens is the difficulties will become much more entrenched and more destructive down the line.
It is also easy to dismiss these claims using conspiracy theories for explanation. This will not solve the difficulties either. This self- defeating strategy has been tried for many years and look where it brought us. Even some of our renowned historians and educated elites have explained away the differences of ideology as conspiracy theory in the past decade. It did not stop factions being created along ideological lines. There is no evidence of self- correcting reflection from those who used active denial as a strategy of coping with bad news rather than working through difficulties and come out the other end strong.
Inability to find solution to our differences and garnering our resources to empower our nation during our darkest hour is alarming. Being threatened by extinction must bring people together. The Oromo must get rid of the invisible but yet near impossible to shake off shackle that is hampering true unity as a matter of priority.
First and foremost the Oromo public must demand progress and qualitative change. We must be result orientated. Demand to see things done and move beyond gathering once or twice a year but develop activism, especially the young generation. The collective shortfall from Oromo media in being softly-softly in their stance in pushing to find out the truth is unbelievable. Lack of proper debate is shocking. Holding into account should be the primary goal for a purposeful media organization. Most of all, do not compromise on fairness and justice.
The whole purpose of making the difficulties public at this time is to concentrate minds and encourage public pressure while there is still time to rescue the process of reunification in order to avert regret before it is too late. Denying its existence or facing reality is entirely the choice of the reader. There is no question, however, that there is a case for overriding Oromo national interest which tramps the issue of ‘confidentiality’ in this case. The OLF belongs to the Oromo nation. The nation deserves to know what is happening, in order to guarantee its success, since it is being exterminated for what the OLF stands for – independence of Oromia.
Finally, the whole OLF reunification project has reached a crucial stage of its life as it is at a crossroads. There are two options. One is to do the honourable thing by accepting reality to create genuine unity of purpose according to common consent. The second choice is cosmetic unity, which leads to more divisions. The second option will kill the OLF. Surely, the choice of the Oromo nation is clear – no more deception please!