Oduu Haaraya

The Oromo Struggle: Unfinished Mission and Unintended Consequences

September 26, 2023

Deebitee Kootee Billisoo

During the Abyssinian War of the conquest of Oromia, the Oromo patriots fought with determination and commitment to defend Oromia. Following the occupation of Oromia, patriotic Oromo heroes and heroines continued fighting to liberate Oromia from the Abyssinian settler colonialist occupation for over a century and a half now.

In this Oromo liberation struggle, many great revolutionary nationalist leaders from Leenjisoo Diigaa, Bakar Waaree, Maammoo Mazair, Elemoo Qilxuu, Baroo Tumsaa, Haile Fidaa, Sheik Bakrii Saphaloo, General Taddesse Biru, General Waaqoo Guutuu, Jaaraa Abbaa Gadaa, Guutamaa Hawaas, Goota Bobaas, Magarsaa Barii, Abboomaa Mittikkuu, Nadhii Gammadaa, Mul’is Abbaa Gadaa, Galaasaa Dilboo, Damisee Sardaa et cetera and to millions of patriotic freedom fighters-sacrificed their lives fighting against colonialism and for the independence of Oromia. It is crucial to remember and honor the invaluable contributions of the generation past who laid the foundation for struggle for a free Oromo nation and the sovereignty and democratic independence of Oromia. They had done their share in the Oromo struggle.

Despite all these sacrifices, the mission of the struggle is still unfinished. So far, it has met a failure. The Oromo nationalists have failed to live up to the goal of the mission set by the great Oromo nationalist revolutionaries. Now is the time to look back and look forward to understanding the problem and to continue the struggle to accomplish the goal.

This article focuses on the unintended consequences following Daawud Ibsaa’s Chairmanship of the OLF since 1999. With the change of leadership, one can expect the change to continue at the same pace it had been going on or take a positive leap forward action or negatively take a leap backward. Put differently, the consequences of leadership change can be neutral, progressive, or retrogress. However, my focus here is mainly on the negative unintended consequences because they are the most harmful to the Oromo national liberation struggle, the Oromo people, the notion of independence of Oromia from settler colonial occupation, and the Oromo Liberation Front.

   Regarding this topic, one may ask questions about the unfinished mission, the method to achieve it, and the unintended consequences that prevent it from its attainment. The mission or aim is the path to achieving the set goal. The goal set should influence the action performed and the strategies followed. In this Oromo struggle, the goal is the liberation of Oromia from settler colonial occupation.

  In this regard, the unfinished mission means the path to achieving the goal did not bring the desired conclusion. The reason is that the message of struggle is being replaced or changed. Here, the pseudo-nationalist Oromo opportunist pan-Ethiopianist revisionists substituted Ethiopian Empire democratization, a dangerous political poison to the Oromo body politics, for the independence of Oromia. This replacement of the goal changed the mission, too. The Change of the mission directed the method of struggle away from the set goal- independence of Oromia to the Ethiopian settler colonial empire democratization.

   The struggle the Oromo great generation had fought for in the late 19th century in defense of Oromia, and another following great generation had fought for liberation in the 20th century. Contrary to the previous two generations, in the 21st century, since the 1999, leadership change, specifically with Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa taking over the Chairmanship of the OLF, the new generation has failed to unite on a common goal of independence of Oromia. This 21st generation, for this purpose, has been and is unable today to fight against the recycle of settler colonial genocidal empire that came to a climax in successive genocidal regimes of the Ethiopian empire that began with a brutal genocidal empire established with the conquest, occupation, and colonization of Oromia by King Menelik of Abyssinia. This failure is the consequence of the change of mission of struggle from the independence of Oromia to the democratization of the Ethiopian settler colonial empire. Hence, the outcome is the unfinished mission of the Oromo struggle.

   Over the years, many Oromo nationalists have been and still are talking about the obstacles to the political mission of the Oromo struggle from reaching its intended goal. They were talked about over and over again. I need not repeat them here. Yet, I would note, however, some of them here. To begin with, since the beginning of the struggle, the Oromo struggle has had members and leaders with opposing political tendencies or centripetal and centrifugal political tendencies. The concepts of centripetal and centrifugal forces are from Newton’s third law of motion that states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Such has been happening to the Oromo struggle ever since 1999; for every action the Oromo nationalists take in this struggle, there has been a counteraction by the Oromo pseudo-nationalists. The political centrifugal force, the revisionist force, came into being with the Daawud Ibsaa’s election to the Chairman of the OLF in 1999. Here, I used the centripetal and centrifugal words in a political context. A centripetal force in politics is any action that unites the people of a nation or members of the organizations as one singular political unit and, at the same time, any action that may create division or pushes one people or nationalists of organizations of a nation away from one another referred to as a centrifugal force. Here, centripetal force is an action, while centrifugal force is a counteraction. In this case, centripetal force pushes inward to the center, to unity, while centrifugal force pushes outward away from the center. In natural science, both are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction. Here, I am only using it in the context of the Oromo political struggle. However, in social science, both cannot be equal but opposite in direction. Both pull each other to the opposite side. It means pseudo-nationalists of Centrifugal forces pull people apart or divide them, factionalize them, and nationalists of centripetal forces bring people together or unite them.

   Since 1999, the Oromo struggle for liberation has been facing this problem of politics of centripetal and centrifugal tendencies. In this Oromo struggle, the center is the independence of Oromia and the Oromo unity. The members with centrifugal tendencies, the pseudo-nationalists, preferred the democratization of the Ethiopian empire, whereas members with centripetal tendencies, the nationalists, preferred the sovereignty and independence of Oromia.

   The conflict is one pulling to the center and the other pulling away from the center. In the Oromo struggle, the center is independence and Oromo unity. The two political tendencies have become worse over time and further drifted away from each other, putting the struggle in dangerous political positions. Here, the centripetal political inclination has been and is the main Oromo unifying one, uniting the Oromo people to struggle for their cause, the independence of Oromia, while the centrifugal political tendency has been and is the Oromo nationalists disunifying one. It pushes the nationalists and the people away from uniting to fight for independence. This Oromo disunifying political forces focus away from the Oromo struggle and have been and still are eating the Oromo struggle and unity from the inside out from achieving the intended mission and goal. As the saying goes, “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” Hence, it goes without saying that when the enemy is from within, the enemy from without can hurt. So, Since the Abyssinian campaign of war of conquest and colonization of Oromia, the Oromo struggle for independence has been meeting enemies from within and without. Currently, the within enemy is the neo-Gobanaas, and the without one is the settler colonizer; both have been in alliance, attacking the Oromo struggle for independence. These are the conditions that time and again tested truths in the Oromo resistance against the Abyssinian successive colonial regimes since the conquest of Oromia. For example, Menelk of Amhara could never have conquered Oromia without some Oromo collaborators, and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) could never have occupied and administered Oromia from 1991 to 2018 without OPDO collaborationists. It is clear to all, since 1999, in the Oromo struggle, the centrifugal political forces that have been fighting against the independence of Oromia are more united and stronger than centripetal political forces, those forces of liberation of Oromia. These reaction forces are delaying the independence of Oromia. Again, this is another reason for the unfinished mission of the goal of the Oromo struggle.

The difference and division among the members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) following the year 1999, with Daawud Ibsaa holding the leadership position of the OLF, exponentially exploded, bringing the struggle for the right of the Oromo nation to self-determination practically to a standing stagnant. Daawud Ibsaa has become energy for the Abyssinians. The Oromo Mass Media, like OMN, Shabo, et cetera, participated in shoring up and glorifying Daawud Ibsaa as Jaal Daawud, the man who is responsible for standing stagnation of the Oromo struggle and for sponsoring the murder of Guutamaa Hawaas, Nadhii Gammadaa, Mul’is Abbaa Gadaa, Laggasee Waggi as an agent of EPLF and TPLF when they rejected to go to exile choosing not to abandon their people to the TPLF instead choose to remain in the country to fight. Daawud Ibsaa was envious of the great Oromo freedom fighters. He has done little or nothing and has no achievement to claim to match those of Guutamaa Hawaas, Nadhii Gammadaa, Mul’is Abbaa Gadaa, Laggasee Waggi, Galaasaa Dilboo, Jaaraa Abbaa Gadaa, General Waaqoo Guutuu, et cetera, who had fought gallantly for independence in the Mountains, Hills, Valleys, Villages, lowlands, and highlands of Oromia in rainy, hot and cold seasons. Paradoxically, the two Mass Media Networks appreciated Daawud Ibsaa despite crimes committed against the Oromo struggle and Oromo nationalists and despite his politics of democratization of the Ethiopian empire and his alliance with the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). As a security chief of OLF, Daawud Ibsaa, along with the then Deputy Chairman of the OLF Leencoo Lataa, was responsible for encamping over 30,000 OLA  slaughtered by the EPLF and TPLF in 1992. It is a moral and logical fallacy to support and call Daawud Ibsaa, Jaal Daawud, and the chairman of OLF, as Shabo Media has been doing for years.

   The Oromo people and nationalists need to unite and organize to defeat the within and without opponent forces. The united, organized, and armed Oromo people can strike at the hearts of Nafxanyaas and their coalition, the neo-Gobanists. Here, it must be clear to all that the unifying forces are the true Oromo nationalists.

   Conversely, disunifying forces are the pseudo-nationalists, the modern neo-Gobanists- those who reject the independence of Oromia in favor of the democratization of the Ethiopian settler colonial empire. Neo-Gobanaas are puppets of the Ethiopian Empire; they do not want the Oromo right to national self-determination. Today, the struggle is between these two forces. The centrifugal forces fail to understand that an empire can neither be democratized nor federalized, renewed, or reformed. Its option is to break up or disintegrate. Neo-Gobanists are the apostles or evangelists of the transitional government of Oromia within the Ethiopian settler colonial empire by abandoning the goal of struggle, fighting for the legitimate right to self-determination of the Oromo people.

   Under this condition, the Oromo struggle has continued to face unintended consequences since its inception half a century ago until to date. The first unintended consequence was the formation of Oromo political force in favor of “Ethiopia or death, Ethiopia First” Oromo group as the Military regime came to power in 1974 in contrast to the Oromo struggle. The second unintended consequence of the Oromo struggle was the joining of large numbers of Oromo nationals in the TPLF in 1991, as millions of the Oromo people stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Oromo Liberation Front for the liberation of Oromia. The worst of the unintended consequences was the leadership’s abandonment of Oromia and the OLA for exile in Eritrea in 1999, along with the secret invasion or infiltration of the Oromo liberation leadership at the top level, followed by infiltration of the members, both in the diaspora and in Oromia and the making of coalition with The Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) in Amharic Qinijit-the anti-Oromia independence settler colonizers political organization. Because of this invasion or infiltration and the formation of a coalition with Qinijit, the OLF has suffered from division, factionalization, and political polarization. Not only this, but the infiltration also incapacitated and prevented the OLF from achieving its political mission and goal. Not only these, but the third wave and the worst negative unintended consequence of the Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaanaa’s centrifugal political action was also, since 2018, turned his back on Oromo unity and rejected to reunite the OLF political faction while the Oromo people were asking for it. 

   The group, the pseudo-nationalist, revisionist Oromo nationals, those with divided hearts, minds, and souls, overtook the leadership of the OLF. Then, they replaced the mission to struggle for the independence of Oromia with that of democratization of the imperial Ethiopian settler colonial empire state. With this, the following unintended consequences followed. The change in the mission led to the unfinished original one.

Here, the replaced mission led to unintended negative consequences within the Oromo struggle; the Oromo nationalists, especially those who sacrificed their precious lives at Shinniggaa in 1980, never imagined these negative unintended consequences to happen to the OLF and its leadership and members. Because of these negative unintended consequences, the Oromo struggle failed to achieve its intended goal, the goal being the independence of Oromia. The following are the negative unintended consequences that deeply impeded the liberation struggle since the day Daawud Ibsaa became chairman of the OLF that paralyzed the OLF itself and its liberation struggle.

  • The encampment of OLA in 1992, in the name of the fair and the free election, led to the extermination of 30,000 OLA members; this was while Daawud Ibsaa was Security Chief and Leencoo Lataa was Deputy Chairman;

Daawud Ibsaa’s chairmanship of the OLF was responsible for the unintended catastrophic consequences that followed his Agenda for Peace of 1999. During his time of leadership, the following happened:

  • The pseudo-nationalists infiltration of the OLF;
  • The election of pseudo-nationalists to the position of the OLF leadership in 1999;
  • The exiling itself of this pseudo-nationalist leadership to Eritrea, a country that opposes the independence of Oromia, abandoning the struggle, the country, and the people;
  • Agenda for Peace of 1999, in opposition to the existing political principle and program of OLF, came as a new political position. It came with political differences and conflicts. The senior members of the OLF had strongly voiced direct opposition to it.
  • The split of the OLF in 2001 over abandoning the objective of the OLF;
  • The total change of the OLF political program in 2004;
  • Formation of alliance with the arch enemy of the Oromo people CUD, the organization of Amhara settler colonizer in 2006;
  • It filed a lawsuit in 2008 at a foreign court against the OLF members because of political differences. Such is unknown in history and is the first one in history.

The cause of all these has been the lunacy of Daawud Ibsaa. All these happened under his leadership. His purpose has been and still is to cripple the OLF. In this way, Daawud Ibsaa Ayyaana and his cohorts brought the Oromo struggle to today’s dangerous condition. Not the enemy, the Nafxanyaa settler colonizer did it to Oromo, but Oromo nationals. Concerning this issue, the 5th century BCE philosopher Plato had this phrase, “Better a good enemy than a bad friend.” It means a good enemy openly tells what harm it intends to do to the opponent. Now, the opponent knows what is coming to it. At this time, it only depends on that opponent to prepare to defend itself. On the contrary, a bad friend conceals from a friend a harmful thing it intends to do to the friend and destroys its friend from within.

   Now, coming to Oromo, their Nafxanyaa settler colonizers, and the pan-Ethiopianist neo-Gobanas, the settlers have been openly telling the Oromo people that they want to destroy the Oromo people stating clearly in speeches and writings, “Oromummaa must be destroyed” and “Oromummaa is a metastasizing cancer,” and “Oromummaa is a Nazification movement” need to be exterminated from Ethiopia, and go on stating that the Oromo are the invaders of Ethiopia and need to be removed or expelled. So, the Oromo people know the genocidal declaration the Nafxanyaas have been and still are making against them.

   Now, despite all this genocidal declaration against the Oromo people, neo-Gobanists denied the Oromo people defense against this looming genocide by weakening the Oromo nationalists from within, dividing them, factionalizing them, and splitting them based on regions, religions, neighborhoods, clans, and sub clans. On this basis, the neo-Gobanas destroyed the OLF from within. In this way, it denied the Oromo people collective leadership to lead the national struggle to its conclusion. Consequently, the Oromo people are without defense and are at risk of total extermination than ever in their history under the colonial occupation of Abyssinia. The Amhara have never been as united as today since their colonization of Oromia to commit genocide on the Oromo people to exterminate them once and for all. They have been and are taking advantage of the weaknesses of the Oromo elites. It is clear that Amhara mass media, social media, different scholarly organizations, youth organizations, political parties, Fanno, farmers, and business enterprises have been and are waging simultaneously armed wars and wars of words today in supporting genocide against the Oromo people. The weaknesses of the Oromo elites have created opportunities for the Nafxanyaas to undertake genocidal attacks against the Oromo people.

   The Oromo nationalists need more than ever before to fight to recover from the trauma and wounds inflicted by the Agenda for Peace of 1999 of Daawud Ibsaa and to continue the national liberation struggle for independence. This Agenda for Peace resuscitated the dying empire by giving it new life while at the same time weakening the Oromo nationalists and the Oromo struggle.

   In the colonial case, the National Liberation Movements, nationalism, iconic national heroes and heroines, and the decolonization idea of the empire provide political centripetal unity forces because people unite in the fight against the colonial occupation for freedom, sovereignty, and independence. Daawud Ibsaa weakened all those who unify the Oromo nationalists and the Oromo people. With the formation of the United Liberation Forces of Oromia (ULFO), Daawud Ibsaa was elected second deputy chairman of ULFO. Even though he is the second he is the second deputy chairman, he intensely mistrusted and suspicious of the great revolutionary leaders of ULFO Chairman General Waaqoo Guutuu, Deputy Chairman Jaaraa Abaa Gadaa, and Secretary Galaasaa Dilboo. Wrongly believing that they may remove him from the chairmanship of the OLF, he got paranoid and turned to his sponsor, Isaias Afwerki, the Eritrean president for help. With the assistance of Isaias Afwerki, Daawud Ibsaa undermined the ULFO, threatened its leaderships’ lives, subverted the Oromo Nationalism, and opposed the decolonization of the Ethiopian Empire in favor of its democratization. Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) formed in Eritrea was a coalition partner of Daawid Ibsaa Ayyaana’s ABO-shanee against the Oromo struggle for independence. Throughout Daawud Ibsaa’s stay in Eritrea, that country served as a base for splitting the OLF and causing it to incapacitate in action. The CUD was his base support against the Oromo right to self-determination and Oromo unity. From all these, the Oromo struggle arrived where it is today, dysfunctional.

   Here, the inescapable fact is that the election of Daawud Ibsaa to the chairmanship of the OLF brought with him unintended destructive consequences to the members, the OLF, and the Oromo struggle. As these events unfolded, the members were unprepared for the gravity of the betrayal of the national struggle for independence. The dreams of freedom, justice, and liberation turned into a nightmare. It is a result of his failed leadership. The Oromo unity and struggle for independence is at a critical time; it now seems dysfunctional beyond no return.

   Now, it is time for this generation to look back at history to look forward. One has to learn lessons from the past to overcome the present problem or obstacle to address the future. So, it is time to take a lesson from the crisis of 1980, when the whole leadership of OLF, including the Secretary-General, Magarsaa Barii, was martyred at Shinniggaa in the Ogaden desert. After that incident, the OLF was about to disintegrate and dissolve, but it found a great revolutionary to save it. It found Galaasaa Dilboo, the great revolutionary, nationalist, the man of centripetal force, a unifier, and his comrades who exhibited great courage, commitment, perseverance, and readiness to die for their convictions to continue the struggle and to save the OLF and its liberation struggle from disintegration. They had saved the OLF from total dissolution. Today, the Oromo struggle and the OLF need a committed unifier leader. Finishing the unfinished mission of the liberation struggle demands great leaders like Jaaraa Abbaa Gadaa, General Waaqoo Guutuu, and Galaasaa Dilboo, the leaders of unity and the leaders of unparalleled courage, determination, and commitment, able and willing to take any risk for the sake of the cause of their people. Today’s Oromo generation needs to be such leaders to continue the struggle to fulfill its historical mission and responsibility.

   From the 1960s to the 1990s, the Oromo Consciousness Movement enabled the formation of Oromo organizations such as the Baalee armed resistance, the Maccaa Tuulamaa Association, and later the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The movement in bringing people together to work for a common goal utilized propaganda, mass mobilization, and active organization based on Oromummaa. The Oromo freedom fighters went through pain, courage, commitment, and patriotism during these periods. It followed a clear objective goal, the goal being the independence of Oromia. Still today, this is the way to go. Any other option has already failed. It is wise not to follow the failed politics of empire federalization or empire democratization.

In conclusion, the article has gone through the unfinished mission of the Oromo struggle and the unintended consequences that hindered the mission from reaching the intended goal of the Oromo struggle. It has addressed the conflict between the unifying and disunifying political factors within Oromo nationals in the Oromo struggle. That is the struggle between the forces of independence of Oromia and the democratization of the Ethiopian empire, the neo-Gobanists of the modern era. The neo-Gobanists have been in coalition with the settler colonizers of Oromia in attacking the Oromo people and their struggle for independence. All attempts to avert these negative unintended consequences have failed until now. The forces of the federalization of the Ethiopian colonial empire, the Oromo neo-Gobanists, in contrast to the independence of Oromia, have been the most dangerous to the Oromo unity and the struggle for the liberation of Oromia. Hence, to avert this danger, Oromo nationalists must have an unwavering or resolute political goal, a unifying collective leadership, a leadership of the people with a clear political mission to lead the nation into the struggle to accomplish the intended objective, and a well-built political and military organization. Furthermore, Oromo nationalism has to have a strong love of and loyalty and allegiance to Oromia, the Oromo people, and the independence of Oromia. The love for one’s people and country and clear and determined and unshaken political goal to lead the people are the only ones that hold the nationalists and the people together against the danger coming from neo-Gobanaas, the collaborationist and money-hunter traders both based in the diaspora and the Ethiopian empire and ultimately, only the united nationalists and their unreserved determination and commitment to struggle for liberation can lead to freedom, justice, sovereignty, and free and the independent democratic republic of Oromia.

The Struggle Continues Until Victory!

Oromia shall be free!

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