Yaada

The Impact of Slogan Change on the Oromo People’s Struggle for Independence

Deebitee Kootee Bilisoo

October 25, 2023 

   Note that a political slogan stands for a cause. When a cause changes, the slogan changes too. The cause of the Oromo struggle has been the independence of Oromia from the Ethiopian colonial empire. With the struggles’ aim change, the consequence could be the split of the organization. Such has been happening since the change of Oromia shall be free. Read this article with this in mind.

   First, one needs to define a slogan. A slogan is a word, statement, or phrase, a motto used to express a political or another different position, stand, or goal that needs to be achieved. Here, this article deals only with political slogans. Since the beginning of the history of struggle, political slogans have been used to motivate and convey political opinions, goals, and objectives of a cause. They have been used to encourage public actions; to galvanize, motivate, and inspire is at the heart of persuading the people. It is a rallying motto distinctly associated with liberation fronts or another political group.

   “In function,” as it is said, “the political slogan is typically a short statement of a single idea that is easy to remember and repeat.” Slogan characterizes the purpose or the goal of those who use it. A motto becomes a concise expression of a political goal or objective. It defines the goals and the actions that need to be taken. It simplifies complex political ideas or issues for people to easily understand. In a struggle against colonial occupation, the goal is independence, and steps to be taken are either armed struggle, nonviolent struggle, or both. Aristotelian analysis breaks down the statement or phrase into three pillars of characteristics: ethos- the credibility and character of the speaker; pathos- the emotion or sentiment of the message; and logos- the logic or rationality of the argument. These three interact to create persuasion or to convince the public audience to accept the motto. It means the public, first and foremost, evaluates the person or organization that introduces the slogan to either accept it or reject it. So, the person or organization that introduces the slogan must be a person of credibility in the eyes of the public. The slogan or motto does not change until the intended goal is realized.

   For example, The FRELIMO motto during its struggle for independence of Mozambique from Portuguese colonial occupation had the slogan, “Liberation or death, we will win!” The Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) had the saying, “It’s better to die standing than to live on your knees!” while fighting for independence from French colonial occupation. Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has the liberation slogan “Oromia shall be free!” since its formation in 1973. These slogans were adapted and owned by the respective nations since the slogans came into being. The respective peoples and nationalists fought and martyred under their adapted slogans. The Mozambican and Algerian slogans ceased to exist after they realized independence. However, the Oromo kept changing their slogan before the intended goal achieved the independence of Oromia. The changes to Oromo political struggle’s slogan are as follows:

  1. The Oroiginal “Oromia shall be free!” or in the Oromo language, “Oromiyaan ni bilisoomti!” was changes to “Victory to the Oromo people!”, in Oromiffaa, “Injifannoon Ummata Oromoof!”. This change is a copy of the “Victory to the Ethiopian people!” of The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) of the 1970s.
  2. Once again, “Victory to the Oromo people!”, in Oromiffaa, “Injifannoon Ummata Oromoof!”, was replaced by “Victory to the Masses!” Or in the Oromo language, “Injifannoo Ummata Bal’aaf!”. This change is also copy of “Victory to the Masses!” slogan Or in the Oromo language, “Injifannoo Ummata Bal’aaf!” of the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement popularly known by Amharic acronym as MEISON of the 1970.

   The question is why these changes were made? This article addresses this question.

   The OLF introduced its political slogan, “Oromia shall be free,” in 1973 by the highly respected revolutionaries. Among them were Baaroo Tumsaa, Muhee Abdoo, Goota Bobaas, Elemoo Qilxuu, et cetera. Elemoo Qilxuu, the greatest nationalist revolutionary, was the first in the leadership who martyred upholding the slogan “Oromia shall be free” in 1974. Then, in 1976, Oromo woman commander Saartuu Yusouf was martyred while fighting. April 15, 1980, holding this “Oromia shall be free!” at Shinninga Ogden Desert, the whole leadership of the OLF, including Magarsaa Barii, the chairperson, Gadaa Gammadaa, Abboomaa Mitikuu, Yiggazu Banti, Falmata, Fafamaa Doyyoo, Irrinaa Qacale, Dhadhachaa Mul’ataa, Dhadhachaa Boru and Marii Galan martyred. In 1984, Juukii Bareentoo, Oromo women commander, was martyred while fighting the colonial army. Since then, hundreds of thousands of patriotic Oromo revolutionaries sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Oromia. There should be no doubt that these revolutionaries have set a clear road to the independence of Oromia.

   These were the greatest Oromo revolutionary heroes and heroines who fought Amhara colonists and their colonial policies of owning Oromia, the country, and controlling Oromia resources. They brought a revolution of mind to the millions of our people to believe in the fight for freedom, justice, dignity, and liberation of the Oromo people.

Oromia shallBe Free!

These Oromo nationalists believed in the Oromo people and sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the independence of Oromia and the empowerment of the Oromo people to own and control Oromia and its resources. Never forget these great Oromo heroes and heroines, the icons of freedom and justice that we lost in the struggle for liberation and independence of Oromia that we are still fighting for. These freedom fighters fought while chanting, “Oromia shall be free!” In this struggle, so many heroes and heroines at the critical time were martyred for the cause of justice, dignity, and freedom of their people. We still do not know how every turn and twist of this liberation struggle will take us. Yet we understand the road to go ahead of us is long, our cause is just, and our ultimate victory, the realization of the independence of Oromia, may not be far off.

   Now, coming to the Oromo political struggle, the first ever political slogan came into being in 1973. It is Oromia shall be free! It singly specifies one issue- Oromia shall be free, independent from Ethiopian settler colonial occupation or Abyssinian settler colonialism. It means the land, Oromia, has been taken from under the Oromo people, and without Oromia being free, the Oromo people can never be free and independent. First, the land the people are standing on has to be free so that people are free to stand on. It is impossible and impractical to free people without first and foremost freeing the land- the country. So, the reverse slogan, Victory to the Oromo people, contrary to Oromia shall be free, does not hold water. It is illogical. For instance, the USA bought Louisiana from France and Alaska from Russia; it did not buy the people. It purchases the land and its resources. People who live on land can leave if they want to or stay. The colonizers come for the land and its resources, not for the people. The colonists killed the people to own the land. Such was what had happened to the Oromia. So, in a struggle, the country is to be liberated first.

   As it is known to all, the Oromo nationalists who adapted “Oromia shall be free” were nationalists of credibility and character, the trust. Their credibility is that they fought and sacrificed their lives for Oromia in the valleys and villages, hills and mountains, forest and desert, lowlands and highlands, in rainy, hot, and cold reasons. Their message of struggle is free Oromia, and it is a powerful message that the Oromo people wholeheartedly accepted and died for. The Oromo people have taken ownership of the slogan “Oromia shall be free!”. The logic and rationality of the argument they presented to the Oromo people have been as clear as daylight that Oromia was once an independent country, with its government and system of governance the Gadaa system before falling under Abyssinian colonial colonization, and they declared that now is the time to restore independence to Oromia. Under this condition, the slogan “Oromia shall be free!”. came into being in 1973; its purpose was to reinstate Oromia to its independence. With this, the armed struggle commenced. The first patriotic and great revolutionary leader who sacrificed under this slogan while fighting was Elemoo Qilxuu in 1974. In 1976, Saartuu Yusouf, the Oromo woman revolutionary fighter, was martyred. In 1980, at Shinninga Ogden Desert, the whole leadership of the OLF, including the Magarsaa Barii, was the chairperson. In 1984, Juukii Bareentoo, another Oromo woman freedom fighter, was martyred. Moreover, hundreds of thousands were martyred under this slogan until the new leadership of the OLF took over in 1999. With this, the slogan changed from “Oromia shall be free” to “victory to the Oromo people” under the leadership chairmanship of Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa.

   However, the new slogan “Victory to the Oromo people!” has never persuaded or convinced the Oromo people, despite the group sloganeering ceaselessly using SBO based in Eritrea and through its diaspora-based coteries. The reason is simple. The group who adapted this slogan has never had credibility in the Oromo struggle. They had never fought in the valleys and villages, hills and mountains, forest and desert, lowlands and highlands, in rainy, hot, and cold reasons in their lives in Oromia. 

   They are a group based in the diaspora, outside of Oromia proper. In 2006, after having the adapted slogan “Victory to the Oromo people,”, Daawud Ibsaa allied with the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) in forming the Alliance for Unity and Democracy (AFD) in adapting the democratization of Ethiopia. Here, one has to understand that CUD will never accept ABO-shanee into the AFD if ABO-shanee holds onto “Oromia shall be free.” The reason is that “Oromia shall be free!” is Oromia-centric, while “Victory to the Oromo people” is not.

The adatptation of a new slogan since 12018

Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa and his slogans playing cards need to be understood. First and foremost, he changed “Oromia Shall be free!” to “Victory to the Oromo people!” at the beginning of his betrayal of the Oromo national liberation struggle, and now followed by another change toVictory to the masses!”

Kun dhaadannoo galtuu fi gantuuti. Kan murna Oromoo gantee, Habashatti galteeti.

   Here, Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaana and his coteries of supporters of Agenda for Peace of 1999 of Ethiopian multinational colonial Empire democratization has become a symbol of Oromo political separation as what the Berlin Wall was as a symbol of the separation of a single German nation into East and West Germany in 1949. The Oromo political elites split into the Ethiopian Democratization Oromo group and the Independence of Oromia Oromo group. In this case, Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa and his cohorts have a twofold identity: one is the Oromo identity, and the other is the Abyssinian identity. Hence, they are believers and doubters at the same time in the independence of Oromia, as well as idealists and skeptics at the same time. They walk while putting one leg in Ethiopia and one leg in Oromia. The destructive nature of the 1999 Agenda for Peace of the then the Asmara Group, also known as ABO-Shanee of Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa, as a symbol of the split of a single political organization, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), marked the doomsday of the unity of the Oromo nationalists and undermined the Oromo struggle for independence of Oromia. Out of one OLF political organization under the leadership of Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa, over six organizations appeared despite him still claiming the organization’s leadership, and his cult followers celebrated him for this. They falsely claim the OLF while abandoning the OLF political program of 1974, 1976, and the 1998 revised version, wearing the OLF flag and chanting “Victory to the Masses” by stealing the MEISON slogan of the Socialist Movement of the 1970s in the Ethiopian unity. The fight to establish the independent democratic republic of Oromia was changed to the fight for the democratization of the colonial empire and in 2006 alliance was formed with the Coalition of Unity for Democracy (CUD), the settler colonizer Nafxanyaa political organization. Here below are the Political programs of the OLF that the former Asmara group, popularly known as ABO-shanee led by Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa deserted in favor of democratization of the Ethiopian colonial empire.

The OLF political program of 1974, as amended in 1976, reads as follows:

The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self-determination for the Oromo people and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through the successful consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, ant-colonial, and ant- imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the people’s democratic republic of Oromia (OLF programme for the struggle, A. Political objective).

The 1976 Political Program of the OLF, as revised in 1998, reads as follow in Oromiffaa:

Hundeen akeeka qabsoo kanaa mirga hiree murteeffannaa ummata Oromoo argamsiisuuf sirna Impaayera Itoophiyaa diiguudhaan, Oromiyaa kolonii, hacuuccaa fi saaminsa jelaa bilisa baasuun mootummaa walaba diimookraatika riippablika Oromiyaa dhaabee iggitii itti godhuu dha. Kunis kan mirkanaawu mirga qabutti dhimma bahee ummatni Oromoo mootummaa walaba isaa labsachuu yookaan ummatoota biraa wajjin tokkummaa politiikaa haaraa ijaarrachuuf murtii kennatuun ta’a (Adda Bilisummaa Oromoo Sagantaa Siyaasaa, V. Sagantaa Qabsoo, A. Akeeka siyaasaa, Ebla 18, 1998).

Roughly translated: The fundamental objective of this struggle is the realization of the right of national self-determination for the Oromo people by dismantling the Ethiopian empire system by liberating Oromia from colonization, oppression, and exploitation and by establishing and guaranteeing the independent democratic republic of Oromia state. This can be realized when the Oromo nation uses its right to declare its own independent government of Oromia or decides to establish a new political unity with other nations.

   Daawud Ibsaa Ayaanaa, the cult leader, and his local regionalist cult members abandoned “Oromia shall be free,” the motto of the OLF in the struggle. Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa and his cult members are not the true OLF but Abyssinianized Oromo, in the closet, wearing OLF clothing. Such groups have been and are in existence among the Oromo organizations. Because of this, no one is willing to go on media to speak out against it today, as the Amhara Paramilitary Extremist Fano and the Ethiopian Empire colonial regime have been and are committing genocide against the Oromo people.

   The change of the slogan from “Oromia Shall be free” to “Victory to the Masses” emanated from those who opposed the independence of Oromia. Eritrea, Tigray, and Amhara have been the known opponents of the Oromo struggle for independence. These Abyssinians found within Oromo nationals who agreed to surrender or abandon the motto “Oromia shall be free” in favor of “Victory to the masses.” The slogan “Victory to the masses” is the one that Amhara settler colonizers, the Oromo Federalists, Oromo pan-Ethiopianists, Oromo Ethiopian unity, and the Oromo for a transitional government in the Ethiopian all in support of or favor of. We need to understand that the notorious duplicity of these Oromo nationals today has overshadowed the heroic struggle of Oromo nationalists for the independence of Oromia in favoring the unity of the Ethiopian empire.

   In 2018, after many years of having failed to convince the Oromo people to accept its borrowed slogan, “Victory to the Oromo people,” which it previously copied from “Victory to the Ethiopian People” or in Amharic, “Saffii ye Iyoppya hizib ya shaniffaalli,” of Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) of the 1970s, now turned to the copying and pasting the slogan, “Victory to the Masses!,” in Amharic “Del le saffi Hizib” of the All-Ethiopian Socialist Movement in Amharic Mela Ityoppyan Soshalisit Nikinak’ē (MEISON). At this time, the ABO-shanee itself has split into different groupings. The question now is as to which group is holding this slogan. Such is a crisis of politics. This is a group in the diaspora with some connection in Oromia now, the former members of MEISON and EPRP who infiltrated the OLF. Among these groups are the diehard Nafxanyaa collaborators, the modern Oromo Quislings Dr. Asfaw Bayene and Dr. Shigut Geleta, Gashuu Lammeessaa, the former members of EPRP, and Daawud Ibsaa, et cetera, have been shading their crocodile tears in a vain attempt to divert the course of Oromo history in this Oromo national liberation struggle for independence of Oromia. These groups, including Leencoo Lataa and Diimaa Nagawoo, who changed the slogan “Oromo shall be Free” to “Victory to the Oromo people” and ever since have been instrumental in abandoning the political program of the 1998 OLF and the struggle for independence of Oromia in favor of democratization of Ethiopian colonial empire. The question one may ask is the reason why the former Asmara Group, also notoriously known as ABO-Shanee, then led by Daawud Ibsaa, Leencoo Lataa, and Diimaa Nagawoo, found it necessary to change “Oromia shall be free!” the revolutionary slogan of Oromo struggle for independence of Oromia. The change of the slogan was the genesis of a campaign against the liberation of Oromia from the Ethiopian colonial empire. It created a clear divide in the OLF on the principles of the goal of the struggle between the ABO-Transitional Authority, often referred to as ABO-Qaama Cehumasa, and the ABO Asmara Group, also often referred to as ABO-Shanee favoring democratization of Ethiopian empire. Hence, since ABO split in 2001, ABO-Shanee, from time to time, has been continuing to divide into factions up to and including the present day under the Chairmanship of Daawud Ibsaa. As of today, ABO-Shanee split into six since the first split in 2001. Now, the question is where this madness takes the Oromo struggle, the Oromo unity, and when it will stop. Of course, no one knows where this madness will take us and when it will stop. The fact is, the Oromo struggle ended up here, in this situation, not only because of Daawud Ibsaa alone but because of the illusion of his followers believing in the democratization of the Ethiopian colonial empire. It was the illusion of failure to understand that an empire can neither be democratized nor federalized. These illusionary Oromo nationals had been embedded for years within the OLF as members while patiently waiting for an opportune time to rise to slide back into Abyssinan armpits to accept the betrayal of the slogan “Oromia shall be free!

   Let alone, armed liberation struggle even nonviolence national movements had never changed the motto of struggle while still in struggle. Every nonviolent movement in history had slogans of struggle as violent armed liberation struggle. No such nonviolent movement ever changed their slogan of struggle. For instance, the Quit India National movement that was led by Mahatama Ghandh, had used during its nonviolence struggle for independence of India from the British Empire had the slogan, “Quit India!” and “We shall free India, or we shall die in the struggle.” The Quit India National Movement did not change its slogans while it was in struggle. Similarly, the Ghanaians nonviolence struggle against British colonial empire had this slogan of struggle: “Self-government now.” This slogan was not changed during the struggle.

   Regarding the armed National Liberation movement, the Algerian National Liberation Front (NLF), while fighting for independence from French colonial occupation, had the slogan, “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.” The Vietnamese Liberation Front had this slogan while fighting against French Colonialism, “Freedom Now in Vietnam!.”. All in all, none of them changed the slogan of struggle before the independence of their respective countries. Daawud Ibsa Ayyaana and his cliques are the only groups who changed the motto of the liberation struggle. 

   The group changed, “Oromo Shall be free.” This slogan has become the rallying motto of the Oromo struggle for independence since 1973 and motivated the youth of Oromia to participate in the freedom struggle and awakened their love of patriotism. The change made was from “Oromia shall be free” to “Victory to the Oromo people” and then to “Victory to the Masses.”  So, finally, the trip of Daawud Ibsaa ended up in the masses. Who are these masses? It is all the people in the Ethiopian empire. It is a move from the liberation of the Oromo people to the unity of the Ethiopian people.

   At this point, we may not lose sight of history. As it is well known, Oromia was independent until the last quarter of the 19th century before its colonization by King Menelik II of Abyssinia. After the colonization of Oromia, under the rule of Haile Selassie, the Oromo language, culture, and history were banned; the settler colonizers controlled the Oromo socio-cultural, economic, political, and spiritual life even up to and including today. Cruelty, violence, and complete disregard for the Oromo human life followed. The Oromo language was privately and publicly mocked as the language of tbirds ineligible to understand to help the Amhara culture, history, and language dominate the Oromo people. Even today, in the 21st century, the Oromo language is officially not recognized as the official working language of the Ethiopian colonial Empire as Amharic. The Abyssinian primary goal had been to swallow the Oromo people. To achieve this goal, Abyssinians used three methods- exterminations, assimilations, and amalgamations of the Oromo. Even today, in the 21st century, Oromo Media, like OMN Media, Keelloo Media, Shabbo Media recently promised to have Amharic program, and Kush Media, use the Amharic language program. When asked why they present the program in Amharic, the colonial language, they say many nationalities in Ethiopia do not know the Oromo language. And they say they prepare in Amharic to convince them. These Media have never been able to properly introduce or make known the Oromo question of struggle to the Oromo people, let alone the other peoples in the Ethiopian empire. The personalities on all these Media are still the victims of the mentality of Abyssinian colonialism. They do not take time to present the Oromo colonial question and the Oromo struggle for total independence from the Ethiopian colonial empire. They have been and are the followers and mouthpiece of revisionists like Jawar Mohammed, Daawud Ibsaa, et cetera. Media needs to be free from outside pressure to serve the public interest properly, but the Oromo media are not. It is a disgrace to the Oromo people.

   Back to the topic of the change of slogan, it is the assimilated and amalgamated Oromo nationals who today changed the Oromo nationalist slogan “Oromia shall be free” to the Abyssinian slogan “Victory to the masses.”  Ask a question as to who these masses are. The answer is simply the Ethiopian Empire people. The Abyssinians have been and are the representatives of its colonial empire. These Oromo individuals are those disconnected from the Oromo people because of their assimilation and amalgamation. Such individuals are Oromo in flesh or blood but baptized in the Abyssinian spirit, politics, and psychological makeup, all in all, baptized in Ethiopiawinat.

   As we all know, these assimilated and amalgamated Oromo nationals have been ripping the fruits of the revolutionary heroes and heroines and making them to themselves. Recently, they ripped off the gain of five to six thousand of the Oromo youths’ victory over the TPLF defeat and made their own. Not only this, in robbing history from the Oromo heroes and making themselves heroes, Baqalaa Garbaa, the Deputy Chairman of KFO, had written in his Facebook in the Spring of 2022 under the topic “Jawar Mohammed eenyu fakkaata?” He shamelessly falsely likened Jawar Mohammed, the die-hard Ethiopianist who does not believe in the sovereignty and independence of Oromia and armed struggle, to Leenjisoo Diigaa, Jaaraa Abbaa Gadaa, Elemoo Qilxuu, Magarsaa Barii, General Taddassee Birruu, General Waaqoo Guutuu, and Qeerroo Nageessoo, the greatest Oromo freedom fighters of all times. Obbo Baqalaa Garbaa engaged in the theft of the history of the Oromo heroes and heroines and committed the most unforgettable and unforgivable crimes in Oromo history. The cowardice is not heroism. Truth and falsehood are not alike, but Baqalaa Garbaa has been trying to make them the same. Jawar Mohammed is not a hero as those heroes Baqalaa Garbaa wanted him to liken to. The fact is, Jawar Mohammed publicly on the Media in front of sixty million Oromo people stated, “I do not believe the independence of Oromia” from the Ethiopian settler colonial empire during the Thank You Tour sitting on the same table with Baqalaa Garbaa.

   It is such groups like Abiy Ahmed, Shimelis Abdisa, Fiqaaduu Tasammaa, Daawud Ibsaa, Merara Guddinna, Baqalaa Garbaa, Jawar Mohammed, et cetera have been working for the unity of the Ethiopian settler colonial empire in opposition to the independence of Oromia, the restoration of sovereignty to Oromia. All these individuals have been fighting over political power in the name of the Oromo people. Yet they do not love the Oromo people but love political power in the name of the Oromo people; they do not love to see the independent republic of Oromia but love to control its resources within the Ethiopian empire; they have been and are for democratization, federalization, and the transitional government of the Ethiopian settler colonial empire; all in all, they are a web of axis of anti-Oromia independence and sovereignty. Today, it is clear more than ever before that these shadow assimilated and amalgamated Oromo nationals have clothed themselves in the Oromo names and are at the neck of the Oromo people, choking Oromo unity, and the Oromo struggle for the restoration of the lost independence to Oromia. They have been competing not to liberate Oromia from Ethiopian colonial occupation but in the Ethiopian colonial empire competing for the colonial imperial palace.

   Today, the unity of the Oromo people and nationalists is needed more than ever to reverse this dark cloud hovering over Oromia. The Oromo nationalists need to unite. It has to be unity in goal, in principle, and struggle. As Chilean people in their fighting chant against the Augusto Pinochet dictatorial regime, “The people united will never be defeated!” is as true to the Oromo struggle today as it was then for the Chilean people. The Oromo unity is the way to defeat the coalition of settler colonizers and their politically assimilated and amalgamated neo-Gobanas of all categories. 

   In the end, the Oromo nationalists needed to expose in unity the change of the revolutionary slogan “Oromia shall be free!” to the Ethiopianist anti-independence of Oromia slogan of the neo-Gobanists to “Victory to the Masses!” In the history of the national liberation struggle from colonial occupation, no Liberation Front or a national liberation movement for independence had ever changed the motto or slogan of struggle before achieving the intended goal. Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaana, the reactionary revisionist, and his gantuu fi galtuu coteries are the first in history. Despite this, the Oromo national struggle for independence continues. The motto “Oromia shall be free!” will stand as the motor of the Oromo national liberation struggle until the sovereign and independent democratic republic of Oromia comes to a realization. That is until the right of the Oromo nation to self-determination from colonial occupation is implemented and realized; this can only be achieved with Oromo unity alone.

Oromo unity is strength!

Oromia shall be free!

bilisummaa

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