Oduu Haaraya

A Proposal To Establish A Legal Defense Fund

 Malkaa Guutuu 

This piece is going to be brief: It is the first of two articles intended to jump-start a swift, deliberative and democratic process that will lead to the formation of a desperately needed Oromo institution, which, if launched successfully, can become a powerful tool we can utilize to avert the looming disaster we are currently facing as a nation.  The disaster is nothing other than the so-called Integrated Urban Development Master Plan of Addis Ababa (IUDMPA) that the entity occupying our land is about to implement, in defiance of its own so-called constitution, gunning down innocent Oromo youth for taking to the streets to peacefully protest the plan, signifying its great contempt for the Oromo people. Make no mistake about it, the IUDMPA is designed with the objective of setting in motion an irreversible process that would ultimately destroy the emerging Oromo identity. If this plan gets implemented somehow, we might as well forget about a common homeland we call Oromia, for which countless of our brave brothers and sisters have paid the ultimate price. The obvious, direct and immediate damage this plan is going to cause – the cleansing of Oromo farmers from around Finfinnee – alone ought to motivate every Oromo with some sense of self-preservation to get mobilized and fight it vigorously.

The Qeerroo are on the frontline and doing their best to defeat this vicious plan at great risk to their lives and limbs; some have been slaughtered by the mafia that has turned our people into shooting targets, with no international media covering the tragedy as of this writing. Facing down a brutal killing machine armed to the teeth, our brothers and sisters in the homeland are putting up courageous resistance against this insidious project. What can the Diaspora Oromo do to assist these valiant efforts by Qeerroo back home? There are a number of things we can do to answer the call of history, and I believe that our plight at this particular juncture calls for the establishment of a Legal Defense Fund – a missing tool in our arsenal to reclaim our country.

The proposed idea seeks to hold to account certain individuals and organizations (foreign or local; small or large) that are benefitting directly and substantially from the plan, which is causing incalculable and perhaps irreparable damage to the Oromo nation. These individuals and institutions must be held responsible, both criminally and civilly, for every Oromo farmer that is robbed of his land, hence livelihood, existence and dignity; for every Oromo life that is lost while opposing the plan; for the likely havoc that the scheme is going to cause, and the ensuing loss of human lives and destruction of property; for the cost on human health and welfare due to the policy’s direct adverse impact on the environment; and for the other quantifiable direct and indirect costs this treacherous undertaking is going to engender.

Cleansing Oromo farmers from their ancestral land – which has been going on for some time at a smaller scale – has been very lucrative for some in the TPLF/EPRDF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front/the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front) and the so-called local and foreign “investors”. The affiliates of TPLF/EPRDF, along with their unaccountable and at large “business partners”, would back-off, if they face a credible threat to their liberty and ill-acquired bounty – a bounty they are reaping by effectively becoming agents of ethnocide. They would abort their imperial dreams, if we did our due-diligence and fought them by using all legal means available to us here in the west. We must identify the criminal ones who are terrorizing our people and charge them with crimes against humanity. We have to target their accomplices (the so-called investors) where it hurts them the most – in their pockets.

Hence the need for a Legal Defense Fund, whose short-term and paramount objectives are to lead the way in our efforts to halt the IUDMPA from becoming a reality, and to bring those responsible for the unfolding disaster to justice. The Fund is anticipated to be managed by our elected representatives, commissioned principally with the objectives of putting together and overseeing a team of world-class legal experts, who will present a compelling case on our behalf to independent tribunals. To make a strong case to a court of justice that deals with these matters (such as the International Criminal Court), we need to properly and carefully document the unfolding crimes the TPLF/EPRDF regime is committing against our humanity, turning our land into the killing field of this era.

I don’t believe we should waste our time and energy appealing to politicians in the west, who are still operating under an international system that values borders and territories more than human beings. It is telling that TPLF/EPRDF regime is butchering our children, while hosting the US Secretary of State – John Kerry. Even the few career politicians driven by humanistic ideals cannot escape the fickle *interest-driven political environment* with which they work. Fortunately, the age in which we live affords us certain opportunities that holds perpetrators of *crimes offensive to human conscience and dignity* accountable, if we get our act together and make our case. There are precedents we can follow: we might even take a page from the Jewish Diaspora’s successful use of similar mechanisms to overcome extreme brutality.

By conservative estimates – based on the latest American Community Survey and certain plausible assumptions – if just half of the Oromo people in the US alone (not including dependents and the likely unemployed adults of working age) contributed $10 a month on average, we can establish a Fund strong enough to take on our tormentors and their accomplices, and make them pay for their crimes. Some of the resources we mobilize for this project initially, could be used to gather evidences showing the extent of TPLF/EPRDF’s brutality against our people; to compile an exhaustive list of the persons and organizations directly involved with, and benefitting from, the IUDMPA; to employ a salaried and competent public relations person to liaise with the public, the media and other entities on behalf of the Fund (hence the Oromo people); and to conduct the other essential functions of the organization.

We should call urgent meetings of all Oromo communities in the Diaspora in the same week – preferably in the next week or so – to deliberate on this crucial matter and elect a committee of prominent and respectable people that would preside over the establishment of the Legal Defense Fund. It turns out that others have already called for meetings of Oromo communities all over the world. But, we must use these forums not just to vent our fleeting anger and frustrations, but also to start the process of forming the proposed institution.

I am calling upon every Oromo with similarly situated ideas and concerns, particularly those with some legal expertise on the issue motivating this article, to offer their feedback and suggestions to perfect this idea, so that it will become a sound platform we may use to defeat the IUDMPA, and save our people from further humiliation. Any Oromo who believes that I am not overstating the risks associated with this plan, has a national obligation to participate in the democratic conversation being solicited. Based on the feedback obtained on this general idea, I will offer my initial detailed proposals re: the specific mandates and objectives of the Legal Fund, and the process guiding its formation and operation, in the next article.

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