Participating in a ‘Meddemer’ Principle or Perpetrating a Reign of Terror in Oromia?
By Imiru Itana, December 16, 2019
It is well known that the Oromo were practising the Gadaa democracy in their land Oromia before falling into the hands of Emperor Menelik II in the second half of the 19th Century. Lack of communication due to the vast Oromo land and the absence of information as to know what was happening in each part of Oromia in those days when Menelik occupied Oromia, could prevent the Oromo from coming together to defend their land jointly. When one part of Oromia was attacked the other parts took either long time to hear about it or did not know about it all. Not only distance and communication barriers, but lack of modern weapons was also a serious problem that hindered the Oromo from continuous fighting against enemy combatants. Traditional weapons like spear and shield supported by horseback were the only means used in the battle fields. These were not effective compared to the one bullet firing gun or ‘andi goraash’ that Menelik had in abundance inherited from his predecessors Tewodros and Yohanes IV and also received from foreign supporters. They were able to accumulate weapons they got from foreigners because the two seaports, Massawa and Assab were accessible to them.
The Habesha ruled Oromia for nearly one hundred and fifty years. They occupied and dominated Oromia, subjugating the Oromo people. They plundered the properties of Oromo. Thousands were taken to prison and tortured and killed whereas the whereabouts of thousands remained unknown. Our forefathers perished in the hands of the brutal enemies; our fathers followed their footsteps and now our children too are paying heavy sacrifices of life in front of our own eyes in broad day light. What crime did the Oromo people commit to face such a suffrage? Are we cursed by who it may concern? No! It cannot be like that when still we are the most worshipers of different faiths. So, what is a problem? We have the tradition of easily forgetting enemy atrocities committed against us. We show too much sympathy towards those who hurt us because that is how we are. We do not follow the principle of zero tolerance unanimously when things go against our interest one after the other. We rush to accept deal wherever there is an offer of deal or no deal before testing it. Where does this lead us to, then?
There was no time when the Oromo halted revolting against the neftenya occupiers of any type to gain back our rights. However long it took to overthrow the occupiers, finally the Oromo youngsters carried out fierce battle through peaceful means to topple the TPLF government from power. Amhara elites speculate the Oromo are in power and the majority in the bureaucracy and that they are left out. This is far from the truth. Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed in the speech he addressed a crowd in Wollo once said, ”It is not true.” The Amharas have in mind that the Menelik Palace has now been occupied by the Oromo, which they claim they are the ones who are entitled to inherit.
When the Amhara rulers were in power for over a hundred years, they were in control of everything. The TPLF too consolidated its power and controlled Ethiopia for 27 years. Both benefited a lot from their periods in power. Inevitably both were defeated by the people however long it had taken. Their aspiration now is to bring back the luxurious lives they used to live in the past by coming to power once again. But are they remorseful for the atrocities they committed against the Oromo and other nationalities of Ethiopia during their times in power? No, instead leaving the palace of Menelik and the absence of their harsh rule over other nations and nationalities is what they regret at the moment. Many Oromo families are in trauma as a result of the oppressions they had suffered under Abyssinians. Oromo mothers are grieving for losing their love ones which is a never-ending process. The Amharas, the ‘True Ethiopians’, as they prefer to call themselves do not have remorse for the crimes of humanity they or their forefathers had committed against the Oromo and other nationalities. Instead, they are spreading hate through their media outlets against all others, including the Oromo. They do not have remorse for what had happened before and is happening now.
After a bloody struggle for three consecutive years from 2 November 2015, the Qarree and Qeerroo being vanguard, the TPLF government was overthrown in 2018 and Dr Abiy Ahmed from the OPDO now ODP, a wing of the EPRDF came to power. He declared, “Change has come to Ethiopia” and promised so many reforms would be introduced. Speeches were delivered advocating reform in which everybody should take part. The slogans ‘Meddemer’, ‘Love’, and ‘Togetherness’ became the watchwords of the widely preached Ethiopian reform. It was said democracy would prevail practically in Federal Ethiopia where the equality of nations and nationalities would be observed, all states managing self-determination peacefully. The Ethiopian Constitution of which article 39 is enshrined and a guarantee for the oppressed nations and nationalities of Ethiopia, was explained would be respected without question. So, when the ‘philosophy of Meddemer’ was introduced by Dr Abiy Ahmed it was understood as all inclusive, although many people had doubts about the very concept. This was the understanding of the freedom fighters like the OLF too, when negotiations were held with the new leadership before returning to Ethiopia. They did not negotiate over rights of the Oromo people. They never compromised on the Oromo cause of self-determination. Neither Obbo Galaasaa Dilboo nor Obbo Daawud Ibsaa or other Oromo leaders have negotiated in betrayal of the objectives of the Oromo Liberation Front. It was agreed to carry out political struggle legally in accordance with their political programs peacefully. They also have the principle of appreciating and supporting the government in time of good achievements and also to positively criticise it when it works outside the interest of the Oromo people for which they sacrificed most of their times.
It is appalling that the Amhara elites do not want to acknowledge the essence of ‘Meddemer’ but are meddling in the Ethiopian bureaucracy wherever they get loophole hoping to bring back the rhetoric of their ancient regimes of one country, one party, one religion, one language, one flag etc. If ‘Meddemer’ is all inclusive as declared by Dr Abiy Ahmed, all nations and nationalities would benefit from it including the Amharic people. Amhara state is one of the states of Ethiopia whereby they have full control over its administration; speak their own language and practice their own culture without any intervention of others in their own administrative affairs. They can travel elsewhere and live, work and buy properties if they want to as they are doing now but they have to respect the law of the states they live in.
Those who can speak Afaan Oromoo also do have the opportunity to work in Oromia state offices depending on their skills and qualifications. But because they do not want to learn Afaan Oromo, they cannot speak it and therefore find it difficult even in buying their own foodstuff from Oromoo traders. Instead of learning Afaan Oromoo or other languages their tradition is to try to teach others Amharic and when people can’t speak it properly, they abuse them. The neftenyas cannot even properly pronounce Oromo names even after living in Oromia from the time of Menelik. They changed names of people and places to their own language to make life easy for themselves. This does not suit the Oromo people and other non-Amharic speaking peoples of Ethiopia anymore.
Now change has come in which all nations and nationalities of Ethiopia have the freedom of determining their own fate. The recent Sidama people’s referendum is an example of practising self-determination in Ethiopia a result of Article 39 and we congratulate the Sidama people for this golden achievement of becoming an additional state. Members of the Amharic speaking group have to understand from this what Ethiopia is going to look like if true federal system will be in place.
The Amhara are simply amongst the 84 nationalities of Ethiopia; they have their own territory similar to others and can govern themselves according to the Ethiopian Constitution. Like the other nationalities they too have the right to determine their own fate if they want. Hereafter they cannot meddle with the affairs of other states wherever they happen to live. It will have consequence if they do not stop dishonesty and opportunistic claiming for any part of Oromia or other states in the name of Ethiopia. They can migrate and work anywhere but crying over others’ indigenous lands is what could lead all others to zero tolerance.
The Amhara ruling elements are currently instigating civil war in Ethiopia, particularly in Oromia using their media outlets such as ESAT, Ethio 360 etc. They spread hate against Oromo individuals in the government, Oromo political organisations like the OLF and its leaders, the Oromo Media Network – OMN, Oromo political activists such as Jewar Mohamed, Professor Ezkel Gabisa, Dr Tsegaye Araarsaa, Dr Etana Habte and the Oromo youth Qeerroo. They organise Amhara lumpen elements in the countryside of the Amhara region and transport them to Oromia as killing squads.
Their intention to cause a violent disorder in Oromia was broadcast on the US-based Ethio 360 and ESAT media outlets continuously. They propagate to start civil war in Ethiopia, particularly in Oromia. The Ethiopian government does not seem to take action against this destructive propaganda through its Embassy in the USA. Oromo students in the universities of the Amhara State are stranded by Amhara students in their dormitories and they cannot even go to the university canteens for food let alone attending classes at present. Four students were killed in Woldiya University and one student in Debre Berhan University. Those injured and were admitted to hospitals for treatment had also been reported had died. Neither the Federal government nor the Amhara State took any action to mitigate the problem or fulfil the Oromo students’ demands to leave the campuses for their homes in Oromia. They fear for their lives and cannot pursue their education in the Amhara region. Oromia State also did not take any action to resolve the problem. Hence, sending their sons and daughters to Amhara universities will not be advisable for Oromo parents in the future since it seems a deliberate sabotage is going on in rescuing those who are there now. They must be sent to their families to save their lives.
It is this kind of malice that was accustomed by the Amhara elites as good civilisation which they think would put pressure on the Oromo to go back from their objectives. They are claiming Orthodox churches were burned down and priests were killed by Qarree and Qeerroo Oromos. But they failed to produce evidence when asked as to where these atrocities had happened. It does not seem that churches were burnt down and priests killed as they say day and night. They do not like the current government of Ethiopia because the Prime Minister is an Oromo. They are not recognising the constitution of Ethiopia because Article 39 which endorses the rights of nations and nationalities of Ethiopia is enshrined in it. They are not happy with strengthening the Ethiopian federal arrangement because it does not give them the opportunity of administering the different regional states of Ethiopia as before. They are not happy with the policy that all nations use their own languages for work, education etc. because it would not allow the imposition of the Amharic language on them. They are not happy with the current regional states structure because the real devolvement of power in that country in the future will be against the unitary and authoritarian system of government they favour. In such circumstances therefore, all they are dreaming for is to break out of a ‘revolution’ to bring back a system that favours them. The chaos they are causing in Oromia at the moment is to change reality to their own wishful way of thinking. Thus, they do not want to accept the principle of ‘Meddemer’ Dr Abiy Ahmed is talking about but to perpetrate a reign of terror in Oromia. They think they would come back to power again by daunting the ODP as it was their tradition in the past.
We reiterate that the Oromo goal is self-determination and not the eviction of Amhara elites from Oromia if that is their fear. But they are trying to reverse the achievements of the Oromo people and come back to power. The Amhara elites comment the Oromo are not capable for administration and not fit for power. To prove capability of administration and in order to satisfy the neftenya cliques, it is not wisdom for those in power to try to oppress the Oromo similar to what the neftenya used to do. We should not forget why the Oromo Qarree and Qeerroo sacrificed their lives and are still sacrificing. No single person is allowed to build his/her own personal history by sacrificing the Oromo struggle for self-determination. History hitherto is the history of the oppressed people and not of individuals. Therefore, anyone bought to work against the interest of the Oromo undercover or openly in order to satisfy the interests of enemies of the Oromo is betraying the Oromo cause for self-determination and should know that the Oromo people have no tolerance for that.
Anybody in power in the name of the Oromo people should know that the Oromo struggle for over one hundred and fifty years was not without reason. There is no joke against the right of the Oromo people and the effort to restore the Amhara to power once again is not the demand of Oromo. No hither and thither is expected of individuals or groups in the government outside the reality of respecting and strengthening ethnic based federalism in Ethiopia which is in place at present. The government must keep law and order when thugs transported from the Amhara region are deployed in Oromia to kill Oromos. There is no war going on in Ethiopia but many Oromos are being killed in Oromia. Why is the army in Oromia now in large numbers more than anywhere else in Ethiopia, if not defending the people? It seems the Mengistu Hailemariam era of white and red terror that sacrificed the lives of thousands of Oromos in the 1970s has come back. If that is a case the Amhara elites are not promoting ‘Meddemer’ but are perpetrating the reign of terror in Oromia that should be halted as quickly as possible.
Despite the fact that the Oromo have been striving to co-exist with them the resentment of the Amhara has been growing against the Oromo more than ever now. Mercenary groups have been deployed to kill Oromos who they think are obstacles for their cause of unitary government of Ethiopia but stronger in the Oromo cause for self-determination. They want ODP to surrender by spreading fake news against them internationally. They are waging war against Oromo. We should not expect love from our oppressors because they cannot have love for their subordinates.
It is time for all Oromos regardless of political or religious outlooks or any other reasons to hold hand in hand and stand up together and continue with their struggle for the right of the Oromo people. The Oromo umbrella political organisation should work tirelessly now for the people they are struggling for. The Qarree and Qeerroo should also be vigilant more than ever because the neftenya elites’ agenda is to eliminate the Qeerroo by labelling them ‘Menga’ because they know they are staunch supporters and loyal to the Oromo people and also to Oromia. The OLF parties should also come together, solve their minor differences and combine their forces in order to become a strong force for social change in Oromia. They should not forget the mischiefs that happened to them in 1992 and not to commit similar mistake again in any negotiations they intend to deal with other parties.