The US exclusion of Oromo political organisations from the Congressional Hearing on ‘Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Right ” held on June 20, 2013 has offended Oromos and stirred up Oromos’ inconsolable rage. While such a hearing is a positive step worthy of recognition, the absence of Oromo representatives renders it meaningless and less productive. We do not know and we may never know the criteria on which only two panellists were invited to testify on Ethiopian human right situation. It is extremely annoying to see such infuriating indifference of the US to the plight of our people.
I was exasperated to witness US discrimination against us Oromos while they were so gaga about Ethiopia and its survival. Ordinarily, I would have thought that Oromo factor should have been the centrepiece of any discourse or hearing on the future of Ethiopia. The world knows that the Oromos are the largest Ethnic group in Ethiopia constituting at least 40 percent of the population in the Ethiopian empire. Consequently, they are the main targets of ongoing TPLF political witch hunt and repression. Similarly, I am enraged by the eerie silence of the Oromos not taking immediate action to express our outrage at the exclusion. Personally, it came as something of a shock to me. For reasons best known to himself, Congressman Chris Smith had either deliberately excluded the Oromo organisations or had known little or nothing about the severity of genocidal repressions against Oromos.
On the other hand, there should be no excuse by the US, as worsening human right violations against the Oromos have been regularly reported by the Amnesty International, the Human Right Watch and the US State Department itself. To be fair to the Congressman, he might have been misled by the likes of Birhanu Nega or Oromo leader’s incompetence in failing to bring our issues to his attention. The OLF, in particular, owes us an explanation as it has an office in Washington DC, whose real purpose should be to undertake diplomatic works. If the OLF thinks that it can escape responsibility for mishandling this whole affair, such an act will be treated as juvenile and stupid. Where are those other Oromo organisations that are good at casting aspersions and heaping maledictions upon one another?
While it is a well known fact that the OLF is the oldest and the most popular Oromo opposition group in Ethiopia, it is the young unionist neo-Amhara Ginbot 7 that was represented by its leader Birhanu Nega instead. Derided by the Oromos for his anti-Oromo remarks and also accused of conspiring in the breakup of the OLF, his presence as a lead testifier with no one present to speak for the Oromos made us felt inadequate and unrepresented. So we were convinced right from the beginning that such exclusionist hearing built upon Mr Birhanu’s monologue will do nothing in easing our suffering.
Yet again, to appear balanced and alley Oromos’ fear of his anti-Oromo stance, he could have at least mentioned the plight of our people more than 20,000 of whom are languishing in TPLF prisons. He was aware of the famous description of Ethiopian prisons as speaking Afaan Oromo by none other than Siye Abraha who himself found it morally repugnant to target only Oromos in such a huge number. Instead, Mr Birhanu chose only to focus on the already resolved issue of the Amharas displaced from the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, once again confirming his disregard and hatred for the Oromos. It was laughable to witness him imploring the Congressman to take heed and work on saving Ethiopia from impending civil war brushing aside the critical elements that might contribute to his prognosis. Though it was a calculated and deliberate decision taken by Mr Birhanu to deny Oromos having bearing on one of the most important discussions on the future of Ethiopia, it has also exposed the man as short-sighted and incapable of pragmatic, inclusive and prudent policy decisions.
Furthermore, Nega’s neglect of Oromo plight has made it crystal clear that General Kemal Gelchu’s alliance with Ginbot 7 is nothing less than treasonous act that doesn’t serve Oromos’ interest. In the past, despite the overwhelming mistrust of Ginbot 7, some Oromos seemed to have been snookered by its empty talk of “justice, freedom and democracy.” Ginbot 7 groomed Kemal’s splinter group known as “Jijirama Group” to be its mascot and jointly toured around the world to amuse their audience largely of Amhara and some misguided Oromos. The Jijirama Group used the fanfare of its alliance with Ginbot 7 to trick naive Oromos into thinking that their “paradigm shift” will endear Oromos to the likes of unionist elites like Birhanu Naga and Ginbot 7, giving us strong presence in the Ethiopian political dynamics. So, where is the Jijiram Group now given the non-representation and complete exclusion of Oromos issues at the said hearing where its buddy Ginbot 7 was the lead actor? The so-called Jijirama Group should be ashamed of its betrayal of Oromo cause and for sleeping with the enemy that wants nothing short of annihilation of Oromummaa. At this juncture, it should be pointed out that not only has Ginbot 7 failed to garner significant Oromo support through its unholy alliance with the Jijirama Group, it has also faced condemnation from the extremist Amhara groups such as EPRP for dilly dallying with what they called “anti-Ethiopian OLF” These extremist Amharas, guided only by their blind hatred of the Oromos and despite the ex-General pleading with them to accept him as he had brought the “misguided Oromos to the fold of Ethiopiawinet” dismissed it as unacceptable unless he had renounced the name Oromo Liberation Front and that infamous flag. Anyway, one might ponder why are the Oromos so suspicious of Birhanu Nega from the beginning? The litanies of accusations against him by the Oromos are many. But please spare a thought for just two of them: He was known for publicly confessing that he was forced to join politics to fight Oromos whom he insinuated as wrongly believing that they were colonised and were putting Ethiopia’s unity in danger. In addition, his inflammatory remarks during the Ethio-Eritrean boarder war at the gathering at the Finfinne University, in which he implored the TPLF military to march on Asmara to destroy the OLF for collaborating with Ethiopia’s arch enemy Shaebia” drew fierce Oromo anger. Being such a charlatan and an imposter, devoid of moral and intellectual value, he was recently caught while admitting receiving $500,000 from the same Shaebia he denounced the OLF of having relation with. Dr Birhanu remains a controversial and divisive figure even in the eyes of the Amahara elites who dismiss his pretensions of being a champion of Ethiopian unity as not representing their interest enough since he is a gurage. On top of that he was accused of turning Gibot 7 into his dominion acting like a dictator himself by excluding the Amharas from the top positions.
Finally, you may ask, so what is the fuss all about and may even accuse me of overreacting; but nothing could be further from the truth. It is remiss of me or of any responsible Oromo to neglect such an important issue to be disregarded without proper response. I’m not good on pep talks but just trying my best to call up on Oromos to galvanise their collective efforts and put the honourable Congressman Chris Smith on notice and express our outrage and anger at Oromos exclusion from the hearing on the Ethiopian human right situation. We should make abundantly clear to the US policy makers that their continued disregard of the suffering of our people and in this particular case avoiding any reference to our people’s suffering will be counterproductive and any discussion on Ethiopia’s future that didn’t include the Oromo interest is an exercise in futility. And equally seek explanation from Dr Birhanu Nega and Obang Meto for covering up the worsening human right situation of our people and the fate of 20,000 Oromo prisoners. By this action we also demand an immediate explanation from the Oromo political organisations, particularly the OLF both Jijiirama (because of its affiliation with Ginbot 7) and Shane (since it has a diplomatic office in Washington) to explain why they had failed to represent the Oromo issues during the testimony.
In conclusion, I cannot force anybody to do anything on this important issue but suggest organising a petition protesting the exclusion of our representatives from the hearing. People can suggest who could organise and lead such an effort or volunteer themselves. If Ayyaantuu editors are happy to handle this worthy effort, I commend them. In the face of what seems to be a total paralysis of Oromo national liberation struggle and the worsening situation of our people, not doing small but worthy efforts such as this one will remains as blight on our collective consciousness. Doing nothing cannot be an option.
Oromia Shall Be Free!!!
By Dany Gaaraa