Captured Political Space vs. Donated Political Space: On Resignation of Abba Dulla

Captured Political Space vs. Donated Political Space: On Resignation Abba Dulla and Claims about OPDO Strength and Path to Change

Abba Dulla
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (L) and Speaker of House of Representative, Abba Dulla Gemeda – time is running out

By Abbayi Babbo

The widespread Oromo resistance has initiated a process of liberating OPDO members with a slow-moving change that soon evolves into a cascade, any behind the scenes bargaining will fail  because of the Oromo resistance will link up with similar resistance in Amhara, Sidama, Konso etc regions.

The Oromo resistance movement is approaching a critical juncture to dismantle the EPRDF regime and restructure state-society relations. In the current stage of Oromo resistance Abba Dulla’s resignation has become a topic of conversation in many circles with misleading interjections about the rising strength of OPDO. Oromo resistance movement since the Ambo-Ginchi uprising has confidently captured political space for Oromo rejecting the TPLF regime. In this regard the missive about the growing strength of the OPDO circulating among the Diaspora is inaccurate. The strength and sacrifice of Oromo resistance dismantled the dense TPLF administrative web. The imposition of emergency rule through the command posts sidelined the OPDO. This strength of Oromo resistance influenced some OPDO leaders to speak boldly, giving the impression of gathering strength.

Under any undemocratic regimes there are inner elites and subsidiary elites. In our case the TPLF is the inner elite and the OPDO is the subsidiary. Members of the subsidiary elite are recruited and trained by the inner elites to act on donated political space, which is usually behind closed doors. Confused OPDO members considered these behind the scenes debates as a democracy; but it is a venue for camouflaged OPDO members to continually assess the loyalty of the confused and careerist OPDOs. Based on these periodic assessments the inner elite tamed, removed, demoted, and imprisoned or keep suspended individual OPDOs at any time. The inner elite can do all these because they control the deep state. Like all inner elites, TPLF crafted a constitution and created a chimera of rule of law whereas the reality is laws on paper only. The inner elites set all political agenda and see to it that the laws are embedded in politics. For instance, to regain the captured political space the TPLF ruthlessly massacred over 700 peaceful Oromo during last year’s Ireecha celebration.  As subsidiary elite the OPDO members could not demand for an inquest into this brutal political crime. Additionally the OPDO could not end the killing, the evictions, and imprisonment of the Oromo at this very moment in southeastern and southern Oromia. Thus it is wrong to suggest OPDO is getting stronger now. The continued Oromo resistance provided a relatively free moment for the OPDO to partially enjoy the Oromo resistance-generated political space. This same strength of Oromo resistance also showed a novel exit ramp for Abba Dulla to tender his resignation from speakership of the EPRDF parliament but remain in the same parliament.

Before and even after the Ambo-Ginchi uprising Abba Dulla operated to tame, pacify, and ride the growing Oromo resistance. Initially he positively redressed Oromo demands for justice in minor cases, occasionally restrained daily humiliations of the Oromo in the hands of TPLF spies and cadres, thereby gaining respect and adulation. Buoyed upon this popularity and respect, Abba Dulla increasingly associated himself with the common Oromo unlike the other OPDO leaders. In heaping adulation on Abba Dulla the Oromo at home and abroad were trying to make the best out of the worst situations under the TPLF. With these admiration acts they were also pushing the boundaries of their inalienable rights by subconsciously appealing to him to do more. Yet Abba Dulla confused the personal with the institutional; he believed that his good personal relationship with leading TPLF members will solve all institutional problems gradually. He seemed to have felt the daily struggles and tribulations of the Oromo caused by TPLF institutions, but missed the goals of Oromo resistance aimed at ending the source of injustice: TPLF’s institutional rule. With the new height of resistance, millions of Oromo contributed daily multiple millions of Birr to aid Oromo evictees in the south and southeastern Oromiya while condemning the TPLF. In such occasion what will Abba Dulla who stood tall in front of cheering Oromo crowd do when he saw the limit of his influence? Resignation from speakership is a gesture toward the Oromo growing resistance while remaining in the parliament is an attempt to continue serving with influence.

Some are offended about the wider news coverage of Abba Dulla’s resignation, itself a passe attitude towards the Oromo in general, while others comment that Abba Dulla’s resignation is to bargain with the TPLF for himself and the OPDO, a reasonable assumption. But behind the scenes bargaining will fail because rank and file OPDO members are closer to the Oromo. Furthermore, the captured political space is not limited to Oromo areas. Oromo protest has not been lonely. A widespread resistance is going on in Amhara region expanding zones of captured political space due to gross TPLF injustices combined with the worst case of surreptitiously transferring historically Amhara lands to Tigray and Tigrifying the population. Furthermore, the Konso, Gedeo and Sidama are smoldering from TPLF violence against their peaceful protests. These combined fiery protests will soon cascade, like tributary rivers joining each other, to abort any possible secret bargaining. TPLF will be removed by a combination of peaceful protests and non-peaceful but non-violent means. TPLF responses to these protest  will determine if there will be some combination of violent means.

The frail TPLF official state might play a unity card, folding federalism, to divide the opposition. Since the unity card is a cover for the consolidation of direct rule and Tigrification of population on erstwhile fertile Amhara lands it will fail. The resistance movement in Amhara or Oromo areas will catch on like a revolutionary fervor. Alternatively the junta face of the deep state might opt for the re-imposition of emergency rule and continued violence. In this case the course of the resistance changes but the goal of removing the last vestiges of TPLF rule will continue. The resistance-actions planned and performed on captured and expanded political spaces will bring the Oromo and the majority of the Amhara closer to restructure state society relations for a democratic platform.

Finally Abba Dulla’s resignation heralds the approaching critical juncture for the Oromo and Amhara to restructure the state. Abba Dulla’s resignation and the claimed OPDO strength is the result of the growing Oromo resistance against the TPLF. The combined force of the growing resistance from Oromo, Amhara, and others will overcome TPLF’s divide and rule machinations for new era.