by Fayyis Oromia
Few years ago, the well-known historian Prof. Laphiso Delebo disclosed the presence of 23 million Agaw in Oromia (aka Ethiopia). That means the Agaw are the second biggest nation, next to the Oromo (most of them nowadays being Amharinya-speakers and Tigirinya-speakers); if this figure is true, where are they living now? In Axum, Adwa, Tembien, Abergele, Welqayit, Tsegede, Enderta, Adigrat, Semien, Quara, Metema, Lasta, Wag, Awi,…. etc? In general, are they not the owners of the most areas of Tigrai, part of Gondar, half of Gojjam and the whole Lasta? Illustrative Map: http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2015/01/fayyis-oromia-can-the-two-biggest-nations-the-oromo-and-the-agaw-cooperate-against-the-system-of-domination-in-oromia-aka-formerly-ethiopia/
There is a very troubling question in minds of many people from Oromia (aka formerly ‘Ethiopia’: http://finfinnetribune.com/Gadaa/2014/12/fayyis-oromia-why-not-the-union-state-of-oromia-as-an-optimal-solution-for-the-majority-at-the-center/ ), which didn’t get adequate answer till now: why was it easy for the Tigirinya-speaking Neo-Nafxanya (the NN) to rule over the Oromians since 1991? Why even may it be easier for this group to dominate all nations in Oromia for further many decades? I think, it is mainly because of the misguided elites of the two big nations – the Oromo and the Agaw. Note that here, Nafxanya is defined as a force of a certain nation being led by its warlords to invade, exploit and oppress neighbouring nations by using nefx (gun).
For the last 24 years, the NN managed to corner both the Amharinya-speaking Agaw, who are the majority in the so-called multinational organizations, and the Oromo elites, most of whom are the proponents of nations’ right to self-determination, because of their struggle for the unconditional unitary country and the unconditional independence of the Oromo state, respectively. The NN could reserve the ideological middle ground, i.e. a union of free nations or the language-based federalism, as its own position, and accuse the Agaw elites as centralists and the Oromo nationalists as separatists. I did appreciate the position of the visionary leaders from these two big nations, who repeatedly tried to foster an alliance against the NN; especially in 2006 they tried to take a necessary step to tackle the NN’s tactic of divide and rule. The historical face-off between the Habeshanized and the non-Habeshanized Cushites was a unique historical advantage for the NN to perpetuate its rule limitlessly. That is why the hitherto dialogue between the Agaw forces and the Oromo fronts was a good start, even though it was described by the NN leaders as a marriage between fire and straw (isat ina ciid). Unfortunately, the forged alliances didn’t last long, and the elites of these two big nations are not yet in a position to cooperate. It is really pity that these elites still live in a conflict against each other. The effect of their inability to solve the conflict is, of course, the ongoing subjugation of all nations in Oromia (aka ‘Ethiopia’) by the NN.
Disregarding the past and present criminal ruling class in Oromia (formerly ‘Ethiopia’), actually both the Agaw and the Oromo peoples were victims of the European colonizers. The main conflict and imbalance of power between the Habeshanized Cushites and the non-Habeshanized ones started at the end of 19th century, at which time the Europeans had their program of Scramble for Africa. It was said that the French colonizers used to move horizontal between Dakar and Djibouti, whereas the British colonizers’ move was vertical between Cape Town and Cairo. The two forces were about to confront each other in the Horn of Africa. To avoid the confrontation, the colonizers had to do their usual manipulation in Africa: choose one ethnic group as “superior,” and use it to suppress the others which they consider as “inferior.” They told the Habeshanized Cushites that they were “culturally superiors and they must civilize the inferior animist” Oromo and other nations. They provided weapons and helped the Habeshanized Cushites (aka the Amhara) by giving military advice; thus, they controlled indirectly the area without confronting each other. With such manipulation, both the Agaw and the Oromo nations became victims. Even though the rulers of the country were servants of the European colonizers, both the Agaw and the Oromo peoples always lacked freedom since then.
Nowadays, the Tigirinya-speaking NNs are the neo-servants of the Western neo-colonizers, who are instrumentalized to suppress the Oromo, the Amharinya-speaking Agaw and the other oppressed nations. For they are in almost the same situation, there is nothing which can hinder the alliance of the Agaw democratic forces and the Oromo pro-liberty fronts to fight in unison for our freedom, but still there are practical problems, which have to be addressed. The elites from both sides yet need to learn how to tone down their respective striving for mere “unconditional unity” and mere “unconditional independence without union.” The Agaw forces pushing for unconditional unity makes the Oromo to be skeptical for we know what the Agaw elites want to achieve with this pretext. At the same time, the attempt of some Oromo elites to achieve independence of the Oromo national area – without giving any chance for a union and without valuing its benefit – makes the Agaw forces to panic for they fear a sort of discrimination in the future free Oromo region. Such move of both camps is counter-productive in the struggle for freedom. The NN manipulates this difference between the elites of the two big nations in order to create more discord and take advantage of their conflict. To deal with such mischief of the NN, very important now for the elites of the two nations is to concentrate on the common agenda: freedom and democracy. If both sides come to their senses and rally behind these two ideals, a free Oromo state and a free Agaw state in an integrated Oromia (aka ‘Ethiopia’) as a compromise solution can be fulfilled. This is possible if all nations in the Empire will be free from the ongoing tyranny, killing, and looting under the NN rule and in case they decide to foster a union named Oromia. Above all, the victims from the two big nations need to wake up and say in unison – NO to the status quo under the fascist regime!
For the durable alliance of the two forces against the NN, by default or by design, to be realized, I do endorse the common goal – union of free nations as a result of self-determination exercised by each nation. Till now, it was very difficult to get such a common purpose, hence unity of purpose was impossible. The Oromo elites argue that the Oromo must get first our national independence by any means, and then build a union based on free will. Some Agaw forces argue that “the so called Habesha are simply the converted and assimilated Cushites, who are speaking Amharinya and Tigrinya; so the Oromo don’t have to separate from their own people, but should bring these Habeshanized Cushites back to their lost root, and, of course, then have a leading role in the politics of the country.” The mistrust between the Agaw and the Oromo elites is a God-given opportunity that the NNs are enjoying to rule over the country as long as they can. Unless the elites of these two big nations come to terms and cooperate, all nations in the Empire have to settle for the rule of the NN, not only for few years, but possibly for many decades. For the necessary cooperation, union of free nations as a result of their respective self-determination and even union, including others in the Horn (based on free will), can be taken as the noble cause for which we all can fight together. Not accepting this model means unconditional separations of independent nations as the alternative.
Till now, certain steps have been taken by the Oromo elites to forge the common ground with the Agaw forces just to discredit the NN in the Oromian [aka formerly ‘Ethiopian’] political history. The short sighted NNs, who are good at winning battles, but can never win the war, thought that they can control the Oromo struggle. Actually the oppressive actions of the NN boosted the struggle, for it is getting even more Oromo support. Further interesting is the fact that the Oromo elites in a long run could take away the card, which the NN needed for further existence in Oromia. They did this with two very important steps: 1. in 1992 they denied the NN a sort of legitimacy it desperately needed in Oromia; thus the NN became the eternal enemy of the Oromo people; the TPLF could have made the OLF its partner and would have enjoyed support of all Oromo, but it formed the OPDO and made itself alien to the Oromo; 2. in 2006 the formation of an alliance with the “multinational” Agaw parties dismissed (at least temporarily) the very important instrument the NN used to rule over the Oromians – i.e. antagonizing the Agaw forces as “centeralist chauvinists” and the Oromo fighters as “narrow separatists.” Unfortunately, being in the polarizing trap of the NN, these two groups couldn’t persistently struggle in unison against the tyrants. Now, the time should come, when this instrument starts to die slowly, but surely, and the NN be under attack from both the Agaw and the Oromo nations. Take it only 1 year or as long as 10 years, the NN should pass away like the Derg. After losing power, the NN will be remembered in Oromia as the German Naizi is now; the future Tigrinya-speaking generation will definitely distance itself from the NN and be ashamed of its history just like the people of Germany are doing.
In order to understand what the Agaw elites do advocate, let’s look at the difference between unity, empire and union. Putting the difference in short, empire is always established “per force” and union results “per free will.” If the Agaw forces are the believers of the second premise, they, of course, risk that the free will of people can lead to an independence of nations without a union, not to their wished unconditional unity. Concerning the difference between unity and union, the first is pre-modern, whereas the second is post-modern. A certain British scholar classified countries in the world in to three: 1- pre-modern chaotic states like the artificial constructs/countries of Africa; 2- modern nation-states like some mono-national-states in Asia and Latine America; 3- post-modern union of free nations like those in the European Union. The Agaw elites need to see that African nations, including those in the Empire, are kept as pre-modern due to the arrangement made by the European colonizers, and this situation is now perpetuated by the AU [African Union] dictators. Africans need to leave these artificial nations behind and forge natural nation-states, if we want to be transformed from our present pre-modern position, passing through the stage of modern status to the post-modern condition like an independent Oromo state and an independent Agaw state in an Oromian [aka formerly ‘Ethiopian’] union – the most beneficial status which the Europeans themselves are enjoying.
Some Agaw elites, at least theoretically, do believe that the destiny of the Oromo should be decided by only the Oromo people. The question to be asked is: what will happen if the Oromo decide against the unity which the Agaw want and opt to build an independent Oromo state without a union? Do the Agaw accept and move on, or will they fight against the decision? They also should have a clear position on the type of unity they want to forge: union based on free will, or unity based on forced wish? Those who do advocate unity by force have their own argument; especially, it is interesting to hear them trying to instrumentalize the present American politics. They narrate “just as American union was saved by force, we will struggle to save our union.” Can’t they grasp the difference between the two “unions”? America is the land of immigrants melted together to accept the American identity and speak only English. Do they want all the native nationalities in Oromia [aka formerly ‘Ethiopia’] be melted to have such uniformity and speak only Amharinya? Why do they forget that even they are the worst victims of such assimilative melting, so they lost their Agaw identity and chose to hide behind the mask of Ethiopiawinet with the content of Habeshawinet. As far as I know, even the most liberal Agaw movements advocate unconditional unity, which is not the goal of the Oromo nationalists and not the wish of other oppressed peoples. If the Agaw elites want a unity of purpose with the Oromo fighters and get rid of the NN, I would like to repeat that they accept a union based on self-determination of nations as a common denominator, instead of pushing for unconditional unity.
As I understood till now, Oromian [aka formerly ‘Ethiopian’] politics is kept in balance due to the struggle between the following three blocs: 1- the bloc of the governing NN force; 2- the bloc of the so called unity forces dominated by Agaw elites; 3- the bloc of all oppressed nations, which do first want to be liberated from the system of domination before fostering a union. When the Agaw elites talk about alliance against the NN, do they mean alliance of only political and civic organizations in the second bloc, or do they also want to include those in the third block? I think, they already put a precondition for the alliance to be forged: accept unity unconditionally! With this precondition, they seem to exclude those in the third bloc. If they want to include the third bloc in to the alliance against the NN, they need to change this precondition and try to find a common denominator with the third bloc: nations have to decide on their own destiny based on free will, be it for an independence within a union or for an independence without a union. Does their rhetoric about democracy include such demand of peoples to decide on their destiny? I hope, at least the democratic Agaw elites will start to think and act independently from the chauvinist conservatives.
The two positions, i.e. the position of the Agaw forces (unconditional unity) vs. the position of the Oromo fronts (union based on free will), should be discussed and debated further. Even when nations give their vote to independence within a union, yet it is mandatory to decide secondly on which type of federal arrangement. The Agaw forces are advocators of the geography-based federalism in contrast to the language-based federalism, which is preferred by most of the freedom fighters. As “democrats,” all of them have to live by accepting the winner per the public verdict. But, can they extend this principle of referendum to the argument: independence within a union vs. independence without a union? As I heard and read till now, some Agaw elites didn’t even decide on the issue regarding which type of federation to support. Concerning the benefit-cost discussion in cmparing the two types of sovereignty, all the stakeholders, of course, can try to convince the public before voting. Regarding the Oromo people, both types of federations are not bad, as long as all nations agree to name the union – ‘Oromia'; otherwise, the language-based federation is the minimal acceptable solution. Optimally, the Agaw elites can advertise for the advantage of unity and the Oromo fronts preach about the importance of independence, then live according to the public verdict. Alternatively, of course, the compromise and the common ground for both groups can only be national freedom within a regional union, which may be supported by both sides; the alliance of both forces together can try to convince the public about the importance and benefit of this common goal – a union of free nations (Union State of Oromia).
Yet, interesting to observe is that some Agaw elites fear “the fact that peoples can be brainwashed and vote against their own interest.” What a concern! It is simply wrong to think that peoples decide against their own interest. If they even do mistakenly vote against their own interest like the “Americans elected Mr. Bush,” let it be. That is also part of democracy. During elections, informing the public before coming to a decision is good; taking away such a possibility of the decision making process from people is undemocratic. Why should we call it brainwashing, instead of “convincing”? It is, after all, about influencing people. In America, the evangelicals were convinced and were successful with Mr. Bush and the quasi-socialists were successful with Mr. Obama. Where is brainwashing? It is about convincing the majority; the ones who won the hearts and minds of the majority were the victors. In the free and fair competition, for the Agaw forces – which struggle for unity, there is the same chance to that of the Oromo fronts (advocators of a union). Their freedom of choice must be mutually respected. Regarding the dictatorial unifiers, who advocate unconditional unity without the option for a public verdict, it should be known that they deny freedom of the Oromo and other nations. For example, when they say “be andinet lay anideraderim!” – they send a message: “you either accept this andinet or we will deal with you.” They don’t dare to say, “we advocate for unity and then let the public decide.” Their approach is arrogant, dictatorial and uncompromising! To such people, the Oromo fronts also should say: “be netsanet lay anideraderim.” Now how can the two groups who do say “anideraderim” deal with each other democratically? The only solution for such dictatorial mentality will be bullet, as it has been. Up to now, the dictatorial forces won for the last 150 years and they “united us” by force. The Oromo nationals call this as colonization, for it is not a union based on free will. Some with similar dictatorial ideology, like the NN, now want to continue the status quo at gun point. Hopefully, the democratic Agaw elites will do the business otherwise.
I think an alliance of all anti-NN forces, by default or by design, is still the best way to come to the position of self-determination for the Agaw, the Oromo and the other nations as well as to promote the democratization and integration of the future union of all nations in the region (a national freedom within a regional union). The result will be a free Oromo state, a free Agaw state and other nations’ free states within an integrated Oromian [aka formerly ‘Ethiopian’] union. But, can the two big nations yet cooperate for such a compromising solution or should we allow the NNs to play their card of divide-and-rule? The win-win solution suggested here is not just fancy, but fact, which can be realized. In summary, I would like to say: no empire in history has ever changed through reforms. For a democratic Agaw state and an Oromo state in a union of nations to be realized, the Empire’s system of domination must end and an Oromian [aka formerly ‘Ethiopian’] union be forged. Sovereignty of Oromians [aka formerly ‘Ethiopians’] over their country should be promoted; all nations – big or small – need to have an equal right to national self-determination. It is only if they are free that they can decide on their destiny. At the end of the day, even many more nations in the Horn can join the union voluntarily. There should be no nation to decide on the fate of the others, as the Habesha elites (the Habeshanized Cushites) did till today. The same is true for all nations in the whole Africa; there is a possibility for the United Sate of Africa to be established in a long run based on the free will of its entire nations and peoples. Even the Habesha mass, who have never had a say in their lives, will get the opportunity to exercise their own self-determination and elect leaders of their own choice freely. As long as national domination persists, the struggle for liberation will continue. That is why I would like to say the solution for the current problem in the whole Oromia [aka formerly ‘Ethiopia’] is the cooperation of the Agaw pro-democracy forces, the Oromo freedom fighters and the other nations on a common denominator of fostering a genuine language-based federalism (the Union State of Oromia [aka formerly ‘Ethiopia’]). May Waaqa help, especially, the elites of the two big nations to come to our senses!