Political Profiteering: Why Remain sceptical about OPDO’s Moves?—The Hope and the Mirage
Tsegaye R Ararssa
07 May 2018.
It is increasingly becoming a habit for the new OPDO leaders and their supporters to blame their critics as fault finders who use the leaders’ mistakes for purposes of political profiteering. There is nothing unusual in this as their TPLF colleagues (whose imitators they are as the current place holders) also used to do the same. But it is really disingenuous for OPDO and its supporters to do so as they are actually the only ones who are using the Oromo grievance and their struggle thereof, quite literally, to wrest power (albeit hesitantly) from TPLF and to consolidate it to their own organizational advantage (as seen repeatedly in the words of President Lemma). And, perhaps to amass power (formal and informal, hard and soft) not for any other purpose outside of the palace but to enjoy it for its own sake (as the narcissistic self-congratulations of the PM suggest, almost insisting as if his is the call of destiny).
Quite often, these leaders (more loudly their blind supporters) claim that they have enabled the Oromo people to ‘capture’ power and restore Oromo ownership of their country (abbaa biyyummaa). They further argue that they have addressed peoples’ concerns by releasing prisoners, protecting the rights and political interests of the Oromo people, etc.
I think it is time for us to counter this bogus claim and call them back to the drawing board in order to become successful even within the confines of their own parameters.
In what follows, I will identify a few selected subjects the OPDO leaders claim to have handled well but didn’t. It is important to note, as I will do here, that on virtually all of the issues important to the Oromo public, OPDO got it wrong and stood on the wrong side of history. It is also important to note the further point that any change that has come about to the country has come about not because of, but rather IN SPITE OF, them. Needless to say, it is indubitable that all the changes were forced upon them by the Qeerroo.
2. THE CLAIMS AND THE FACT/TRUTH
2.1. Release of Political Prisoners
OPDO claims to have released political prisoners. Actually, it did not. If anything, they only collaborated in keeping the carceral system in Oromia and Ethiopia as it is. With regard to the political prisoners recently released, it is important to remember that these OPDO leaders (i.e. Dr Abiy Ahmed, Lemma Megerssa, Abbaa Dulaa Gammadaa, etc) refused even to appear in court as defence witnesses let alone advise that they be released. In this, they showed how utterly spineless they are as leaders. They failed to show courage to take a stand in court to bear witness to the truth they know. They will go down in history possibly as the last group of authoritarian leaders in Ethiopia who failed to honour a court order (despite their frequent invocation of rule of law). We should also remember that in the days preceding the release of the prisoners, these same leaders were saying that they were about to convince the TPLF gangsters to release them had it not been that the detainees (Bekele Gerba et al) raised their voice in protest to sing in court when the abuse became unbearable to them. Above all, we should remember that they released them eventually only after the market boycott called by Qeerroo threatened a complete regime collapse. So, did the OPDO release the political prisoners? No, not at all. In fact, they never released such prisoners. If they have the will to do so, or the power, then why don’t they release the remaining political prisoners languishing in the prisons of Oromia and the wider country?
2.2. The State of Emergency
The OPDO leaders claim that it is the Oromo public and their unruliness that necessitated the declaration of the State of Emergency (SOE). (President Lemma is on record saying that “we brought it upon ourselves”; and that we can still make it irrelevant without the need to lift it.) And yet, they insist that they tried to resist the imposition of the constitutionally illegitimate SOE. In actual fact, the leadership (e.g., Birhanu Tsegaye, Abbaa Duulaa) campaigned for its imposition and most of them voted for it (except the brave 88 members who voted against it). Prime Minister Abiy absented himself from the Parliament on the day it “was passed” without passing! So much about courage in the face of the truth! Abbaa Duulaa actually went further to disregard the number of votes against in order to make sure that the SOE passes. Did the Oromo public want the SOE to be imposed? No. Did the SOE serve the interests of (“feedhii fi faayidaa,”) Oromos? No! In fact, it was passed against Oromos and Oromia to protect TPLF’s proprietary and other criminal interests there. (The PM’s statements in Mekelle has reinforced this truth.) OPDO never prioritized the rights and political interests of Oromos and Oromia. The SOE is just an example of how their priorities have nothing to do with the interests of Oromos and Oromia.
2.3. The Border Attacks
OPDO leaders were not even willing, for a long time, to admit the fact that the Somali region’s Liyyu Police was invading Oromia and displacing a mass of people therefrom. (Addisu Arega was on record denying it for some time; Lemmaa denied it to the abbaa gadaaas at a certain point.) When they eventually admitted it, they said they are quietly working to bring about a lasting solution for it based on the results of the 2004/2005 referndum. What happened after they said this? What happened was an open war on Oromos and Oromia which resulted in the killing of thousands, the injury of thousands more, the displacement of close to at least a million people. To their credit, the Oromia Police and the local militia managed to halt the attacks until they were later stopped by the political leadership. To their credit, some of the leaders were also willing to mobilize resources to help the evicts (which resource is not yet fully utilized to help the displaced). However, the OPDO was wavering on this just as it always had wavered on Oromo interests. After Abiy became PM, he went to the Somali region and tried to appease Abdi Iley (signalling, perhaps unwittingly, that you can violate Oromia’s and Oromos’ constitutional rights with impunity). Since then, the war continues in Moyale. Neither PM Abiy’s Federal Government nor President Lemma’s Oromia Government is making a decisive effort to stop this act of aggression. Is this what a party that works for Oromos and Oromia looks like? Is this what such a party does?
2.4. The Massacre
Similarly, in the wake of the irreechaa massacre in 2016, how did the OPDO behave? Did they condemn the massacre? Did they take a position regarding the killings? No. Instead, they blamed the deaths on an “accident.” When, under public pressure, they built a statue to serve as a memorial, they referred to the tragedy as “a sudden accidental death (tasa)” thereby eliminating responsibility for the killings through obfuscating the cause (and the actor). By so doing, OPDO chose to bury the people’s truth. In response to the popular outrage at this, they only removed the word “tasa” and to date, they have done nothing in the direction of conducting an inquest to this massacre. In this, as in other things, OPDO remained true to character and stood on the side of the killers, not on the side of the Oromo and their rights and interests.
2.5. The ‘Special Interest’
Some supporters of OPDO claim that OPDO took measures to enforce Oromia’s constitutional ‘special interest’ over Finfinnee. The truth is OPDO reduced the ‘special interest’ to building a couple of schools operating in Afaan Oromoo in Finfinnee and stressing (unnecessarily in the light of the constitutional guarantee of) Oromos’ right of access to clinics and other amenities in Finfinnee, etc. The draft special interest legislation says as much. In the same vein, they were reluctant to oppose the Master Plan in 2014. It should be underscored that even during the height of the #Oromoprotest against the Master Plan, OPDO sought to salvage it through reformulating it as a Caffee Proclamation on Urban Development and Management thereby bringing the Master Plan through the back door. It is to be recalled that it was on the day this proclamation was passed that school children re-ignited the Oromo Protest in Giincii. (President Lemma Megerssa was the Speaker of the Caffee at this point in time.) As always, in this, too, OPDO stood on the side of Oromia’s tormentors.
2.6. Making Afaan Oromoo a Federal Working Language
Some supporters of the OPDO also claim that their party is pushing hard to make Afaan Oromoo the working language of the Federal Government. To the contrary, OPDO was the only Oromo political party that resisted this demand for a long time until, in an attempt to appease the Qeerroo, rather opportunistically, they budged to at least issue a statement on the matter in 2017. For years, they accused ONC (Merera’s), OFDM (Bulcha’s), and later OFC (and MEDREK) of using the language issue for purposes of political profiteering. They had also argued (at least during the election campaign of 2010) that Afaan Oromoo needs to be developed enough to serve as a Federal language (almost as if the language has some sort of “immaturity” or disability to overcome before becoming the language of the Federal Government). Ironically, they said this while they were using it as working language in their own region for decades). It was amusing to see them argue, in addition, that making Afaan Oromoo one of the federal working languages “violates the rights of other nations, nationalities, and peoples.” (This is on record on the televised campaign debates of Election 2010, and they are now available on youtube.) In my judgement, that was the most shameful moment of OPDO’s history. I think that was the moment they should have ceased to exist, by choice, as an Oromo party. But no, OPDO hardly knows shame. It is this same party that today clams that they are making efforts to make Afaan Oromoo a federal language. Nothing is farther from the truth.
2.7. The MIDROC Deal
In most recent days, the OPDO ignored the will and interest of the Oromo public when it went on to renew MIDROC’s Mining License. They made the wrong deal. Quietly. When people rose in protest, at first, they denied knowledge of the harm from the emissions. Throughout MIDROC’s tenure, they made no effort to make sure that the health, environmental, and work safety standards are heeded to. Nor did they look into these problems before renewing the license. They had no courage to stand in solidarity with the people who are victimized by the mining operations of MIDROC. Some even mocked the whole campaign against the MIDROC affairs by saying that the MIDROC issue is a speck in the constellation of issues the Government must pay attention to, and that the Gujii zone is just one local area that shouldn’t be presented as a prominent Oromo issue worth-campaigning about. If the deaths, injuries, miscarriages, deformities of people mean nothing; if the destruction of the soil, air, and water of a zone means nothing; if the plants and fauna, the forest and the wider environment, mean nothing; if the people’s right to health, environment, work, and development means negligible to the party; if the people’s collective right to their natural resource means little to nothing to OPDO; then one hardly knows what of Oromo rights and interests are meaningful to them.
Whichever way one looks, in regards to the inventory of Oromo issues worth-struggling for, OPDO has failed to stand on the side of the people. It is strange—and rather disingenuous—for OPDO to castigate others for raising issues merely for political profiteering. The fact is that OPDO is the biggest profiteer of the Oromo people’s grievance and their struggles thereof. The fact is that OPDO has consistently proved to be the enemy of the Oromo people in all but name.
Meanwhile, they let the generation down even as its new leaders continue speaking and acting as the beacons of hope, even the messianic messengers, of Oromo redemption. Already, they are upsetting the hope that, in the absence of any other well-organized Oromo political party to wrest power from TPLF, they will be the agents of transformation from within. And perhaps they were just not meant to be. Perhaps the hope of the generation was misplaced.
Misplaced or not, the hope of transformation from within is quickly proving to be a mirage as the all too transient Lemma Megerssa moment now retires into history rather unceremonially.
— Kichuu (@kichuu24) May 6, 2018
#Ethiopia: Fresh round of violence rocks Moyale town, leaving unknown number of causalities and fresh displacement in its wake – https://t.co/GORtaoM8Ht an uptick in the involvement of members of the Liyu Police have increased both the frequency & the intensity of these clashes pic.twitter.com/fJf3oNpEQC
— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) May 7, 2018