The missing part of the OLF story – free Oromo country
Knowing is good but knowing everything is better. Imagine a small but free Oromo country where every available human resource is converted into a military force. In this free land, everything is owned commonly, life is standardized, hence, no one has a house, a car, fancy shoes or clothing, there are no sign of envy, jealousy, tribe, region, differences of opinions, differences of accent or religion. The only property one has in this free Oromo country is the military uniform and the Barabaasoo sandals. The only visible neighborhoods are those structures made of straw and rug roof surrounded with rock walls built by the military. The bedrooms that thousands share is the burning desert land stretched across the unknown place, which it’s roof is the open dark sky from where trillion starts are shining down in dim light.
By imaging this free but small hidden Oromo country, you just put yourself into the life of thousands of young, middle aged Oromo men, woman, boys and girls who are constantly practicing target shooting and physical fitness at this desolate and burning desert where temperature never changes day or night. If you happen to be a visitor of this scorching hidden world, the clear water that rains out of the entire body the Oromo fighters will constantly remind you the faces of the liberation fighters whom you and their families have written off as if they are a bad debt.
Most interestingly, none of these brave men and women complain about the bad food they eat or the salty water they drink although they get irritated by the hate propaganda that the Facebook heroes stage on daily bases. Some of the youngest fighters question why don’t those who deny their existence come and visit them so that they would know that they exist. Although I couldn’t speak on others behalf, I explained to them that things have been so abstract and confusing even for myself as my own doubts and ignorance kept pushing me into the corner of complex confusion. I told them that, by and large, I was swimming in the ocean of simplified understanding of the process of building a set of military, social and political institution. I told them that I was thinking that things are as easy as writing one or two pages of critical essay.
Upon visiting this free land where the OLF flag flies high all over, I got seriously sick and all I was thinking at that moment was to find a way of getting out of that heat, avoid drinking that salty water, and eating what the liberation fighters are eating. I wanted to drink cold water, sleep in a nice bed and avoid the snoring that left me sleepless for weeks. I hated to sleep under an open sky among hundreds of men and women whose snoring drove me crazy.
Walking away from where we were sleeping, holes are dug down for toilet and buckets of water set out for us to bath with but wasting such a precious commodity equvellent to blood made me feel guilty. Here, one must understand that the place where the conference was held is different from the military training camp.
The place where the conference was held has better service relatively. Tents, mobile toilets, small beds, mattresses, drinking water and cooked foods were abundantly available, where as the military base is limited to what I have described above. Basically, the military base is a desolate desert where the ground beneath is nothing but hot lava rock and sand, no human, insect or animal exist there. Around me and away at the distance, bold, ugly drought stricken hills can be visible, but there are no trees, no houses, no parcel of land being tilled, sowed or harvested. Basically, there is no sign of life, be it is of the bird, the insect or of the rat. Because there are no sound or noise, the place felt like a different planet located outside of our galaxy. What kept me going was the humility and the shame I felt for not being able to eat, drink and sleep for few weeks at the place where men like Dr. Fido Ebbaa, Dawud Ibsa, Dr. Dagafaa, Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo and many other OLF seniors have been living for the past 40 years. I felt so ashamed of my weakness as Abdi Ragasaa narrated to me the story of those who scummed to drinking their urine after walking for 8 hours in this scorching heat. While talking, Abdi laughed at the behavior of these weak individuals. Similarly, when commander Motummaa told me that he walks 30 kilometers with his army every day for practice and to go and collect firewood, I couldn’t stand my weak attitude and inability to walk few steps away from where I lied or stood. If there was a good news, I got accustomed to the place after I recovered from my sickness. In fact, if I had a proper equipment such as Barabaasoo and a military clothing, I believe I could perform most of what had been done over there with an exception of jumping over those extremely hot military obstacles set out for training purposes.
Gradually, as I became increasingly interested in the role of the military training, I made numerous interviews with the trainees and their commanders and found the entire process to be fascinating. How did the OLF managed to integrate each Oromo sub-identity into one master identity in a short period of time? Did the experience of 40 plus years helped them to accomplish this? Why the diaspora Oromos remain behind when it comes to the promotion of the Oromo master identity?
At the conference place where the diaspora Oromos were more visible, hearing borrowed names such as Abraham, Husien, Tesfaye etc was so common but at the training site, no one had borrowed name or different accent. Surprisingly, all the soldiers spoke the same accent and they all have Oromo names. What a liberated land and mind indeed!
Thanks to the OLF leaders, respect for Oromummaa was encoded in the minds of this liberated citizens who have been trained in this small but free Oromo land. That alone made my remaining days.
Abraham Lincoln once said “It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. … Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us.” (Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, 11 Sept. 1858, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1968, p. 636.)
There are, of course, those who, in bitterness and disbelief, have rejected the idea of an independent spirit that is capable of free will and choice and true liberty. But the fact that the OLF leaders declared that there is bright and glorious future in restoring OROMUMMAA, I felt so reassured that the free, noble, and progressing spirit of every free Oromo exists and will continue to exist as long as humanity exists. Those who want to be a white man, an Arab or Habasha may think that such ideas are a new thought, but the truth will remain eternal stretching back before the existence of the Arabs and the Europeans, and ahead.
My take on the 4th OLF general congress
Being in the middle of the multitude of Oromians who arrived from all over the world, it wasn’t that difficult to feel the sense of unity, love and acceptance. They all seem to have one heart and one soul, although neither of them spoke outrightly that they possess all things in common. Interestingly, the central themes of the general conference was unity, equality and oneness that prevailed as soon as debates and elections started. Although there were no sever disputations on any issue as there have hitherto been, the participants aired their concerns so freely until the concerns were fully addressed and approved by majority vote. Most importantly, the issues of free Oromia, citizenship, OLF internal and external policies, the Oromo relationship with other people, matters related to the appropriate term related to the OLF organs, such as “Shanachaa or Shanee” debated upon albeit some ambivalence toward this term. Most importantly, the fact that Oromia is the colony of the Tigre tribe led empire Ethiopia was discussed and unanimously agreed that as long as the Oromo people have no say in the political, military and economic direction of the empire, the OLF will fight for the freedom and for the liberation of Oromia. Further, issues revolved around terms “Bilisummaa and Walabummaa” was discussed and was decided that both terms should be used exchangeably since both terms express the same concept.
In order to create vacancy for the new generation, Dr. Fidoo Eebbaa, Dr. Dagafaa, Col. Gammachuu Ayaanaa declined the notion of being re-elected so their positions were filled by young OLA members. As a result, 21 sits were won by Qeerroo members and 31 more positions were filled by members who live in Oromia. About 50 plus sits went to the members whose regional compositions vary fulfilling the diversity requirements. When it comes to the general election results, Obboo Araarsoo Biqila won first position followed by Obboo Dawud Ibsa. Once the election was over, the elected individuals met and assigned each other to position that they felt have more experience with.
Overall, as a none voting observer, I have witnessed the process of building ethical Oromo institution and I hope it will continue to develop into meaningful national institution clean of corruption forward going. On the other hand, I have also witnessed as growing out of our pastoral society attitudes into developed society and hope to see us converting our diversity into a resource and win our freedom. I also feel that the essential meaning that has been lost in the confusion we have created is no longer a mystery because it is just a mere matter of bringing our potentials together.