Response to Ato Girma Kassa’s Response
Point 1 – On “Trying to have back the dead Kinijit is an illusion?”
Dr.Negaso Gidada former president of Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJ),
Yes, I am sure that we are speaking of the same Kanji as the organization which was a coalition of four parties which was legally registered and participated in the 2005 election but which disintegrated latter. As an organization, it was born then and has died since.
For some Ethiopians Kinijit may be a symbol of a movement, as you say, “the movement of democracy, justice and Ethiopiawinet. It was a symbol of the ever growing thirst and hunger of the people to have its dignity, respect and freedom.” But I cannot exclude other Ethiopian organizations and movements which do have similar aims and goals. The Ethiopian people have been struggling for democracy, justice, to have their dignity and freedom respected. Different movements and organizations have taken up this aim and have struggled in their own way and are continuing to do so. I do recognize that there may be differences on the term “ETHIOPIAWINET” a term which is perceived differently as we observe in the current political debate.(I shiver and fear for the future of Ethiopia when observing the heated propaganda war now raging between the “ETHIOPIAWINET” and “OROMUMMAA” nationalists in the Diaspora and the social media)For some “ETHIOPIAWINET” means simply being an Ethiopian citizen enjoying the rights endowed to him/her by the constitution and obeying the laws and regulations of the country. For some however it means being born and living in the territory under the control of the Ethiopian state. (Some may live outside but still having some kind of emotional attachment to Ethiopia. Some may think that the physical outlook of the people who originate from this area is unique from others and have different culture, values, and history which are unique to them only and define this as “ETHIOPIANISM”. Some people have the wish that the different ethnic groups living under the rule of the Ethiopian state have the same origin, or are intermingled for centuries and the same identity and should keep and cultivate “ETHIOPIAWINET” AND UNITY. Still for some, “ETHIOPIAWINET” is brand of nationalism, which if not democratized could mean racist in relation to other Africans (for that matter to dark skinned people also living in Ethiopia) and white skinned people. (“Arab” or “Faranj”). Some people think that this identity, “ETHIOPIAWINET” is artificial and is propagated to deny and destroy the ethnic and linguistic identities objectively present in Ethiopia. Again for some “ETHIOPIAWINET” is the slogan of expansionists and restorationists. Not only that, some take “ETHIOPIAWINET” movement as a movement to restructure the Ethiopian state and recreate a centralized administration as opposed to t the federal decentralized administration.
Thus, I am not sure if all the supporters for Kinijit included “ETHIOPIAWINET” as their motto. Yet I know that UDJ, Semayawi, Arana, Mebers of Medrek and Tibibir, AEUP and other democratic parties struggle for democracy, justice, for the dignity and respect of freedom of the people. This aim is the moving spirit which behind the aborted success of the Kinijit of 2005. As I said in my last e-mail I hoped that the merger negotiation between AEUP and UDJ was near and it was my hope that some of the spirit of Kinijit would revive. Unfortunately this did not happen.
Whatever the case, it seems that it would be good if the term “ETHIOPIAWINET” (and “Oromummaa” for that matter) is clarified and explained in a way which would be acceptable to all citizens of Ethiopia.
As for the coming together of AEUP, EDP, Semay awi, and UDJ, I am not opposed to their coming together. However, from my knowledge of these organizations and my very recent experience (I have had contacts with at least two leaders last week) and from what I read in few issues of “Negere Ethiopia” I still find it an illusion that they will come together in the near future. Egoism is still very strong. People do not seem to have learnt from the mistakes of 9 years ago. It is good to wish “to have merged party out of Semayawi/AEUP/UDJ/EDP and very possibly Arena”. Wishing and working to achieve the aim and goal of the wish is good to keep in mind always is good. But one has to see the objective reality also. By the way, the objective reality shows that the parties are not even cooperating even in matters which concern all of them in common and which do not need formal agreement, leave alone merger. You do not need coalition, front or merger to cooperate on the question freedom for the media, free election, and respect for human rights. On the other hand even merger would not help unless all leaders and all members do not accept and respect the common program and byelaw, if their attitude is not similar, if they do not have an effective structure from top to bottom and if they are not united from to bottom in action. Sorry to say, EPRDF is affective because it works in this line and this is lacking by the opposition parties in accordance to my observation.
You say “The merger with AEUP is 95% complete.” Dear Ato Girma, I do not know from whom you get your information. I am very sorry that there are people who, for some reason or another, do not give you the whole picture. I can assure you that the merger question between AEUP and UDJ is dead at the moment formally. What I do not know exactly, but what I suspect is that both parties, particularly UDJ, is trying to woo members of the Lailay Mikirbet, the members of the General Assembly and other members and supporters of AEUP to its side. Are people telling you that this kind of work has progressed 95%?
As for UDJ and Semayawi, I know that there are “excellent relationships between Semayawi and UDJ young leaders.” even while I was in UDJ beginning from the time of Andualem. I know who these “young leaders” are too. I am however very sorry that these “young leaders” are not daring to bring the issue of ending the war between the two parties, formal cooperation and the question of reconciliation and merger to open discussion at the levels of the General Assemblies, National Councils and the Executive Committee of UDJ and Semayaqwi parties.
Yes, that Semayveawi is featuring UDJ’s millions of vices movement and news of other activities of UDJ in Negere Ethiopia is positive. For that matter, the private media is also doing the same. I know that the members of UDJ have participated on the meetings and demonstrations organized by Semayawi and its members are also participating on UDJ activities. This is positive. I hope that such cooperation will grow to formal level, which is not there at the moment. I agree with the writer in the last Negere Ethiopia who said “Ke megaabaat; Kemewaahaad: Mewaaded Biiqedim!?” This is it should go and not by saying “merger or nothing!” as we have been hearing recently. I would not give 75% to the possibility of the merger of Semayawi, AEUP and UDJ.
As for the merger between Arena and UDJ, it is true that there is good cooperation at the grass root level in Tigray since the time when we went to Mekele to open UDJ office. I also know that there is frequent communication between some leaders of UDJ and Arena. I also read articles by some leaders and members of Arena in the private media. But these communications and statements do not depict the official line. My information (the last information I have is from last Sunday and Tuesday). According to my reliable information Arena has clearly told UDJ officials who have contact with Arena officials that UDJ must first clear its relation with AEUP and complete the merger negotiation with AEUP. Besides, there seem to be some programmatic points on which there are differences which demand serious discussion and compromise from the two organizations. If compromise is impossible, one of them may have to give up its stand. If this is impossible the question of merger is out of the question. I would not give that 50% to the possibility. Like Ato Abrha Desta, I and all Ethiopian Citizens have Ethiopia as their country (Biheer). We are not Sudanese, German, American, Chinese or Kenyan.
I agree with your view about EDP which you expressed as follows: “Though we have heard from EDP officials the willingness to work with other oppositions, I believe in view of the unfortunate negative politics and misunderstandings of the past 4, 5 years, it may be challenging to accomplish any merger with EDP in the next 2,3, 4 months. If parties put aside the past, focus on the future and start talking in good faith, I believe it might be possible to narrow the gap with EDP as well. Though I would encourage it, I think it may be a long shot. Though not merged, if EDP and others at least find common grounds and work together on items they can agree with, it would be a good thing…” But when I observe some leaders who even shun greeting Ato Lidetu Ayalew whenever there is opportunity of meetings and receptions, I am afraid point of even agreeing to tolerate each other will take much more than 5 months. But events may prove me wrong as one cannot judge the time span of political events basing one on what observes on the attitudes and activities some individuals.
Whatever differences I may have with AEUP, EDP, UDJ and Semayawi and as a neutral person I am not opposed to their merger to become one of the strong parties in Ethiopia. I am always ready to give them my thoughts and even try to take concrete steps when approached. The last concrete step was last week, but failed. Few parties at country wide level and few in each federal state are enough I think. Te question for me is not the inflaming the Kinijit spirit, but inflaming the spirit of struggle for democracy, justice and freedom which is the burning issue now and for few years to come until we have a democratic Ethiopia.
Point 2: – On “Oromia only for Oromos?”
My fear on this point is that you overlook the base of the Oromia constitution. The base is the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. If one is not against the constitution of FDRE it would then be easy to understand the constitution of Oromia. Article 8/1 reads “All sovereign power resides in the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia”. Article 5/3 reads: “Members of the Federation may by law determine their respective working language”. Article 39/3 adds : Every Nation, Nationality and Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments.” Does one accept and respect the constitution of FDRE then one would a accept and respect the constitution of Oromia. I see no discrepancy in what the Constitution of the FDRE says with article 8 of the Oromia constitution which says ‘“የኦሮሞ ሕዝብ የክልሉ የበላይ ስልጣን ባለቤት ሲሆን፣ የሕዝቡ የበላይነትም የሚገለጸው በሚመርጣቸው ተወካዮችና ራሱ በቀጥታ በሚያደርገውዴሞክራሲያዊ ተሳትፎ ነው”’ as you quoted. This, as you see, is dived from the constitution of FDRE. You and others may oppose this. I respect and defend your right to have different stand. The question is as to how we solve the differences. For me, the correct way is to amend the constitutions in a peaceful democratic way that is through referendums in which the people freely decide.
The non-Oromo living in Oromia are minorities who should have full social, economic and political rights equal to Oromos and no less. Their human rights must fully be respected. Of course everyone, Oromo or non-Oromo, should abide by the laws and regulations stipulated by the government of that region which should conform to the constitutions.
The recent incident in Ambo area reminds me of two occasions when I was member of OPDO and President of FDRE which I would touch upon in number 3 below.
The 1989 (Eth. Calander) “Gimgama” of OPDO
The conflict between the Amhara settlers and the Oromo of Eastern Wallaggaa around 1990/1991 (Eth. Calander) Your view and statement which say “This is due to the “Oromia only for the Oromos” radical, racist, medieval and backward politics that is embedded in the Oromia constitution.” does not give any chance to come to understanding each other at all and may even be dangerous for Ethiopia, I am afraid.
Point 3 – On “Right of “Non Oromos” in Oromia”
First of all it would be good if do not quarrel on data. The fact is that the majority of the people in Oromia are the Oromo people. I do know that the Oromo who had the chance to go to school and who live in towns and the neighboring do understand Amharic. The other fact is that there are many non-Oromo who live in the towns in Oromia. They went there as servants of the state. (Administrative, army, scurrility and police).Others went for employment and trade. All these people have brought their relatives and have reproduced by establishing families. Another fact is that thousands from other regions have been resettled in Oromia in rural areas through government (previous governments and EPRDF). Still others have by their own initiatives in “forest and fertile land” in Oromia. All in all many non-Oromo live in Oromia although we are not sure how many millions.
I have dealt with the constitution of Oromia and for me; it is based on the constitution of FDRE which guarantees the right to self determination. The Oromia constitution does not say, “ non-Oromos or those who do not speak Afan Oromo, have no rights. They are second citizens.” This is your interpretation, I fear, and is based, may be on your not accepting the constitution of FDRE, particularly Article 39. On the other hand, I do know that there are Oromo individuals who do say “ non-Oromos or those who do not speak Afan Oromo, have no rights. They are second citizens.” I have expressed already that I am against such people. This brings me back to the OPDO “Gimgama” of 1989. OPDO was then confronted with serious problems of human rights violation, corruption and anti-democratic Oromo nationalism. We evaluated the leadership, the cadres and members of OPDO under the motto “Clean OPDO from OLF attitude (anti-democratic/narrow) and Naftagna (please note that Naftagna is not equal to Amhara) practices (violation of democratic and human rights including corruption). The result of the “Gimgama” was that thousands were found out to have anti-democratic attitudes and carried out Naftagna practices. 189 cadres were imprisoned so that they are brought to justice because of high corruption and serious human rights violation. Thousands were expelled because of their bad attitudes and bad practices. Only about 300 were kept after receiving warnings. Among these were Alemayehu Atomsa and Muktar Kadir. Anyway, what was going on then was really very sad. Non-Oromo Ethiopian investors and traders were not welcome. Documents for bids for land were leaked out to Oromos so that they could win against non Oromo (for example against the 7 rich Gurage in Jimma). Shops were closed down. Boards to guide people were written only Qube (no Amharic and English translation). Appeal documents written in Amharic were rejected. Schools refused to give lessons in Amharic. (With silly arguments “we were formally forced to learn in Amharic, now it is their turn to be forced to learn in Afan Oromo.) We will not pay money for Amharic teachers and books”). Unfortunately, I hear that the attitude and practice still lingers. But this is not because of he constitution.
Arround 1990/1991 (Eth. Calander), there was serious conflict in East Wollegga around Anger Gutin. Property was destroyed and burnt. There were many deaths. Thousands were uprooted and chased away. We had to delegate leaders from the center and engaged elders from both communities to mediate and reconcile the communities. Compensation for the destroyed property was paid. People who committed crime were punished. What was the cause of the conflict? a) People from Amhara region were settled on the state farm. Oromo people who were in need of land were refused land on the state farm. b) People from Amhara region privately and spontaneously settled illegally on the “forest land” across Abay. Many were illegally armed. c) The settlers refuse to be administered by the local administration. They established their own kabale administration, 15 of them, which they called “Debir” and demanded that they form their own Woreda administration which should be responsible to the Zonal adminstration of East Gojjam across Abay. Some ANDM crossed over to these “debers” and led the movement and even demanded that the Amhara region sends Militia from Gojjam to protect this new administration. I remember that even some high leaders of ANDM brought the demand to higher level. For some, this kind of activity is example of typical processes of settler colonialism. What happened in North America and Canada, in Latin America, in Southern Africa and what happened and is happening in Palestine could explain to us what settler colonialism means. Our own history of the past (Read Taddesse Tamrat: “Church and State in Ethiopia” for example) also show that such processes is not new to us.
Dear Ato Girma. I think such attitudinal and practical problems would live with us for some time. The root causes are complicated and need patient, wise, correct administrative and democratic solutions. The expansion of investment, the need of land for industry and residence around the towns, the need of land by the landless, the need for water and grassland, the problem of erosion and lose of fertility of land may aggravate the problem of which we witness in recent days.
From my line of argument, you can see that I support that the majority of the people living in a kabala, a Woreda, a zone or a region should be able to use their language for administration, judiciary, legislative and social service such as school. But the right of the minority (political, social, economic, linguistic, and cultural) must be respected and protected. We can learn much from the experience in Switzerland for example. I do not know the practice in Quebec/Canada.
Please do not misquote me. I did not say Oromia is homogeneous. But the fact that the Oromo are the majority in Oromia is undeniable. I do not know why you bring “Kelem Wellga” into the picture again? I think you want to know more about me and the area. Yes, I am from an Oromo family of Dembi Dollo town, of Sayyo/Dembi Dollo Woreda, of Kellem Wallagga Zone, of Oromia and of Ethiopia If you want to know deeper, my mother is from Kure clan and my father is from Halaqaa-Damota clan of Dhae group of Sayyo tribe of Macha-Oromo group of Western Oromia.The area was subdued by Meneliks Neftagna, conquered and was for first time integrated into the state of Ethiopia in 1886.The neighbors of the Sayyo were then the Mao, Busaasee, Majanjir, Anyuak, in the west and the Leeqaa and Tum’ee branches of Macha Oromo groups south of Abayya and west of Ambo who were also subdued, conquered by Menelik and integrated ). In Dembi Dollo, there are Gurags; Anuaks; Majanjirs; Mao, Busase; Tigre; (including Eritreans); Amhara from Gondar, Wallo, and Gojjam; Sudanese, Grees, Italians and Americans. The administrative, judiciary, education language is Oromo. Oromo is Lingua Franka. Non-Oromo use Afan Oromo and the Oromo can speak Amharic, and some speak English, Arabic and Italian.
Point 4 – ON “Teaching Amharic in Oromia”
When did I oppose the teaching of Amharic in Oromia? If you could refer to our last communications I was oppssed to your idea that Amharic becomes the working language in Oromia. I agree with you 100% that “Afan Oromo, Amharic, English are all languages, communication tools. There is no problem if people learn as many languages as possible.” I hope you would not doubt that. Yes Amharic is the dominant language as Afan Oromo is the second dominant languge in Ethiopia. I agree with you that “Had situation been different German, or French could have been the dominant languages. In fact had Napoleon not lost the battle of Waterloo, French could have been the first international language over English. In the US many States from Louisiana to Minnesota would have been still speaking French. In Ethiopia, had the reign of Gragn and his descendants continued, Somali or Arabic would have been in place of Amharic.” To add to your examples, according to my own research in western Oromia, at least, Afan Oromo became dominant in that part of Oromia after the 16th Century. People like the Mucucoo, Gabato, Agadi, Kaza, Damota, Warago, Gaanqaa, Konchii/Kaanchii, Mao/Busaase, Kwegu, Kwama, and Majanjir had different language but today speak Afan Oromo. I do not have interest “to fight about the past.” as you say. But we have to put history correctly learn from the past wrongs and find out ways on how we build the future. Yes Amharic is important in Ethiopia. Afan Oromo is important too. If accept this reality, we can then find a way on how could we solve the problem to make life easier for our citizens. You say “Therefore, knowing Amharic would surely give economic and social advantage to the Oromos . Learning and knowing Amharic will in no way affect negatively Afan Oromo and the promotion of Oromo culture. IT IS POSSIBLE AND DOABLE TO ACCOMMODATE BOTH LANGUAGES in Oromia.” First of all I would be very careful to judge what is good or bad for some one. I would only suggest what I feel is good for him/her. Whether the person accepts or rejects my suggestion is his own decision. To accept your view, “knowing Amharic would surely give economic and social advantage to the Oromos”. This may be, or not. In the same way Knowing Afan Oromo would surely give economic and social advantages for the Amhara. It is not “Learning and knowing Amharic will in no way affect negatively Afan Oromo and the promotion of Oromo culture.” As you said in this e-mail, language is a means of communication. It is good to learn as many languages as possible to be able to communicate with people and work with in Ethiopia and outside Ethiopia. Learning languages voluntarily from one’s interest and wish is different from being forced to learn a language. It is the attitude and aim of dominance which has not yet died out and which is subtitle which will in somehow affect negatively. We have experienced and are experiencing subtlety in many ways from the old and new ruling class. You say “IT IS POSSIBLE AND DOABLE TO ACCOMMODATE BOTH LANGUAGES in Oromia.” Why is it not possible and Doable to teach the major languages such as Amharic and Afan Oromo in all regions which find the idea good.
Your examples about the judge, OPDO/OLF leaders and Aba Dulla are reminder of the fact that the ruling class do not care about the masses. Yet I think that your suggestion and my reply to it must be subject for open public discussion and final amendment of the constitution and its approval or rejection by the people. In this way, a regulation would be on the ground which all should abide by. It is because of such matters that we need to struggle for the establishment of a democratic atmosphere. Not only the rich and the ruling class which should enjoy what is advantageous for the well being of all our citizens.
Point 5 – On “Amharic working languages in Oromia”
As I repeatedly indicated the FDRE constitution respects and guarantees the right of all Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia to determine their fate. Different regions may formulate their constitutions in the ways fit to their conditions and their wish. Of course regions would learn from each other about the positive experiences of the others. As to whether the constitutions of Amhara and Southern regions are progressive and inclusive, this is your view. Do they have problems now and would they have problems in the future? Thorough collection of information about their present situation will be needed. But the important question is if the people are satisfied and are pleased. If the situation in Kamisie Zone in Amhara region is positive as you think, that is well and good. But my stand on this issue is clear. The Constitution of the FDRE must be respected. The right of the regions to decide their fate must be respected. Free public discussions must take place. Amendments must be looked for. The People should decide on the amendments through referendums. The principle of the UN which demands the respect of the rights of minorities must be respected in Ethiopia in general and in the regions in particular.
Point 6 – On “Amharic as a foreign language ?”
I thought you said that we should not fight on the past. But you are forcing me to go back into the past to make myself clear. The fact, whether some accept it or not, is that the modern Ethiopian state was born at the end of the 19th Century during the colonial expansion (direct and indirect) of the imperial powers. It was at this time that areas south of the Abay River and northern Shawa were subdued, conquered and integrated into the Ethiopian State. These areas were not under the administration of the Ethiopian State for more than 300 years. (Yes, there were occasional raids to get human and material resources in some areas by the Christian Emperos). The people in the areas conquered after towards the end of the 19th Century had their own languages and Amharic was new to them then. How do you explain the situation of experiencing some thing you did not know before? “new?”. “alien?” or “foreign?”. Yes, you can say that Tigrigna, Amharic, Agaw, Afan Oromo in Wallo and some others were languages of the pre-end of 19th Century Ethiopia (Part of North Shoa, Wallo, Gojjam, Bagemidir, Tigre). After the formation of the modern Ethiopian State after Menelik’s conquest, many other languages speakers were added to the Ethiopian State. Although Amharic was “new”, “alien” or “foreign” to them their languages became languages of Ethiopia. Therefore all the languages existing in the domain of the Ethiopian State are Ethiopian languages. Naturally, Amharic is one of these Ethiopian languages and it is no more “foreign” language as well as Afan Oromo and others.
Your mention of the refusal of Negassa Dilbo ( I think you are talking of Galaasaa Dilboo), Issayas Afeworki and Lencho to use Amharic when, for you, the “Shameful Charter” was being discussed, may look funny/silly to the “Ethiopian Nationalists” who consider only Amharic as the only Ethiopian language. (This may be one of the reasons why some people attach camouflaged Amhara nationalism to the call of “Unity” under “ETIOPIAWINET” and consider some Ethiopian parties as nothing else than Amhara parties.). On the other hand, I myself many negative experiences with some Oromos who although they knew Amharic would not read Amharic press, would not listen or see to Amharic broadcasts and who even would not greet people in Amharic. They considered Oromos who did this as traitors and excommunicated them. Even then I try to understand why people act this way. I think it is a matter of self awareness and self assertion, which, if it is democratically and wisely handled is something acceptable until all side accept each other on fair and equal bases. Lencho’s interviews in Amharic is for me positive and wise as it shows that it is important to convey your massage in as many languages as possible to the Ethiopian and international public.
I think I have said enough on the language policy for future democratic Ethiopia. My view is: Let the people in a regions chose their working languages, the right of the minority should be strictly respected and implemented in all its aspects. It would be good if all Ethiopian children in all regions the important languages of Ethiopia in addition to their mother and working language in their regions. As for Afan Oromo to be accepted as the second working language of the federal state, this calls for the amendment of the constitution and referendum. Whatever the case, I agree with your statement which says “I believe there are many creative and forward-looking ways that can be used to promote Afan Oromo way beyond Oromia as well. By the way if people are to learn Afan Oromo, it will not be please or appease hateful, racist radicals but because it was the right thing.” But your view which says “It is very embarrassing for instance, Addis Ababa residents do not be able to communicate with their own people, farmers few kilometers away from Addis, because they don’t know Afan Oromo !!! That needs to change.” calls for a small comment. Is it not also embarrassing if a person approaches an Oromo farmer who knows only Afan Oromo and demands from him to speak in a language he does not know to explain how much few eggs will coast, how old a sheep, a goat or a cow is. I rather think that both should learn the languages of each other and communicate in whatever way convenient for the moment of buying and selling. I hope that the change will be in a way that creates an atmosphere of equal recognition and respect for each other.
Point 7 – On “The right of cessation”
I repeat what I said the last time and stick to my stand even if you may be trying to say that I have OLF attitude, as even some top officials of ANDM think.
‘If I meet the OLF people in Minnesota or elsewhere, I would advise them to abandon the armed struggle, come and work peacefully, legally, democratically accepting the laws and the constitution of the country. But I would not call on them to abandon the secession question. Unfortunately, this is what all Ethiopian Nationalists are demanding from OLF. The secession question is a question which could and should be answered by the Oromo people through a referendum, and not by EPRDF, OLF, ODF, OFC, Blue Party, UDJ, AEUP, EDP, and Ginbot 7 and so on’
You say “With all due respect, Dr Negasso, I suggest you look around. The position you have now is the position of the old OLF. It did not work. It failed.” First of all, which is the old OLF? Is it the OLF of 1974/1976 OLF or the OLF of 2004? If it is the 1974/ 1976, its political objective says “The fundamental objective of the struggle the realization self-determination for the Oromo people and the liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the people’s democratic republic of Oromia.”
My friend Ato Girma, where and how is the position I now have becomes the position of the old OLF? OLF speaks about the establishment of people’s democratic republic of Oromia. I have said many times that I stand for the unity of Ethiopia. The old OLF speaks of the realization of self-determination for the Oromo people which would be realized by the establishment of the people’s democratic republic of Oromia. But I say that “. ‘The secession question is a question which could and should be answered by the Oromo people through a referendum, and not by EPRDF, OLF, ODF, OFC, Blue Party, UDJ, AEUP, EDP, and Ginbot 7 and so on’ ” I think you owe me an explanation. But the problem is that we do not know exactly know if the Oromo people support the idea of OLF or not, because the Oromo people’s democratic right is not respected where in the Oromo people would decide what their fate should be. I for example, argue that the Oromo people remain united with other people in Ethiopia. How would I know if the Oromo people support my idea or not if they do not have the chance to express their wish freely?
I know that the OLF of 2004 has a somewhat different stand from its earlier position. It says that the question of future status of Oromia would be decided by the people. It does not clearly say whether it stands for unity or secession. For which position would it argue if there is going to be a referendum and if parties and individuals would be free to democratically teach their position to the people before the referendum? This is where I make my position clear and call on the OLF to clear its position. Of course I would be very happy if the OLF would take up my position.
I also know that “Many of the OLF folks have abandoned this position” including Lencho and Dima, the founders of the OLF have abandoned the old position. This is good. You ask : “Why are you trying to bring up this degenerate politics ?” But I am not the one who is trying to bring up “this degenerate politics”. It is rather some followers of the nationalist ideology of “ETHIOPIAWINET” who want to deny the right of peoples to self determination and resurrect the dead empire by any means (“anideraderm”) which I smell in the programs of some “democratic” parties, who have brought up the “this degenerate politics”. Has the UDJ not change the article 3.1.5 of its program? What about the negative attitude some people have against Medrek? Is the question of the right to self-determination behind all these? Is the right to self-determination a democratic issue? Is it not one of the political questions which are not yet answered? Is not the National Question one of the hot issues at the moment? Look at the discussions going on now around Jawar Mohammed, Lencho/ODF, the 100th anniversary of the death of Menelik, Anole Statue case, Bedele Bier case, the statement of Ato Alemnew Mekonin and Prof. Getachew Haile. What about the displacement of peoples in different parts of Ethiopia and the last week’s conflict in Awasa? All these seem to revolve around the National Question which is not yet solvd. Why do we shun away from the objective reality? Your statement which reads: “ Oromo is Ethiopia. Oromo is the trunk of Ethiopia. Branches and leaves can leave but not the trunk” reminds me of a stamen of Ato Bulcha . I am also against the secession of Oromia from Ethiopia. But that is for the people to decide, whether they are the trunk, branches or the leaves. The right to self-determination up to and including secession must be respected. This is a democratic principle. You say “If there is a referendum, it is the whole people of Ethiopia that need to be part of. All citizens !!! You just cannot allow the few to decide for the many.” If the issue specifically concerns the Oromo why then should the whole people be allowed to decide on the fate of the Oromo if there is a referendum? I hope you are a defendant of the liberal ideology which stands for the right of the individual. Thus, in the case of the individual, why should others decide for her/him? The individual or the group which is concerned decides for self on own matters and does not decide for others. I have different view from you on the question of Eritrea. On the other hand, I also hope that democracy would reign in Eritrea and Ethiopia so that all individuals and groups could freely decide on their fate.
Point 8 – On “The Latin alphabet”
Yes, I am not a linguist. I respect the views of linguists such as Dr. Fikre Tolessa. But I still think that Geez Alphabet as it stands today does not fit for the Oromo language. By the way, did you by chance follow a program on ESAT last week? The program was politicians and artists from Wallagga. There were some poems written in Geez and the program presenter was trying to read the poems. Oh!!! It was terrible listening to the reading of the presenter. I sat there and asked myself why he should bother himself. Why didn’t he leave it? I asked myself, because the way he was reading sounded as if he was reading another language and not Afan Oromo. What can I say? Was it insulting, teasing or embarrassing? But I appreciate the effort of the presenters to try to reach the Oromo also. The problem is not that some people can say “Le”. They say “Re” instead. When they are told to say “Re”, they say “Le” instead. In the same way some people “Le” instead of “Ne” and “Ne” instead of “Le”. I have experienced this in a district in Ethiopia. I heard that the same situation exists in some parts of Africa. The problem about Geez and Afan Oromo is the problem of writing the vowels and consonants. But as long as the problem around this issue is solved, I do not mind if Geez is adopted instead of Latin or Qube. Actually Qube means alphabet. It can also be Latin Qube. Why not? Let there be an open debate too. Your conclusion which says that “The sole reason the OLF imposed Qube in 1991, is not because Geez is bad for Afan Oromo, but because it wants to create a different Oromo identity. The decision of Qube had nothing to do with linguistics but with hate of anything that they consider “Abyssinian”.” is subjective and you forget that it is not only OLF that decided to use Latin. You are wrong in assuming that the OLF imposed Qube on the Oromo people. Yes the Oromo should decide for and by themselves, not only about the Qube. It is interesting that you support the right of self-determination on Qube and not on the full right.
By the way, Latin was used by the Austrian missionary named Krapf in the 1840s when he traveled in Shawa. Haile Fida and his group used Latin alphabet when they wrote the first Oromo grammar in Hamburg University before 1974. The Union of Oromo Students in Germany and latter the Union of Oromo Students in Europe began to use Latin alphabet for publication of its organs beginning in 1975. Berlin Mission had nothing to do with this. Yes, Onesimos Nesibu used Geez to write the Bible in Afan Oromo. But the problem of presenting the vowels and consonants is a big problem unless you learn reading the Bible over many years and try to assume what a word means when you read in Geez.
Point 9 –On “ the politics of Oromization”
I mean what I mean and I do not support those who want to Oromize others. But I still respect and defend the constitution of Oromia and the FDRE. I am aware that they need some amendments, but according to the procedures set in the constitution. That is why I cry that the issue at steak at present in Ethiopia is the issue of democratization of Ethiopia for which all parties and citizens should work together.
On your “Conclusion”
You concluded by writing: “Dear Dr Negasso, I sensed that we have HUGE differences on many issues. I strongly believe that my positions are better for the Oromos that yours. I am for the integration of Oromos into the economic fabric of Ethiopia. I am for more investment in Oromia. I am for the Oromos to prosper, live and work in all regions. I am for Oromos to know Afan Oromo and Amharic and be productive everywhere. I want Afan Oromo and Oromo culture to be expanded and promoted not only in isolated Oromia but all over ETHIOPIA. I believe Oromo is Ethiopia; Afan Oromo is Ethiopiawinet (minus of course the Latin).”
It is clear that there are huge differences between our views and attitudes. Why not? “Long Live Differences” It is through discussing on differences that positive ideas and ways as to how we solve problems can be found. I respect your views and stands. But I doubt that your position is better of the Oromos. The attitude itself (“I am better”, “My position is better”) is very dangerous and this kind of attitude is what has and is hindering us from being able to solve the many problems of Ethiopia. The genuineness of your good wishes for Oromia comes into question because of such an attitude. There is also the question of respecting the right to self-determination up to and including cessation or not. Your statement which says “I am for Oromos to know Afan Oromo and Amharic and be productive everywhere. I want Afan Oromo and Oromo culture to be expanded and promoted not only in isolated Oromia but all over ETHIOPIA.” But by saying “Afan Oromo is Ethiopiawinet (minus of course the Latin).” you already limit the right to self-determination. This reminds me of the old chauvinistic socialists and communists in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia who “was willing to endow linguistic and cultural autonomy to the brotherly oppressed peoples” but were doing the opposite in practice which led to the crumbling of both the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Stalin developed the theory of the National Question but did the opposite in practice. Do you also remember that the French Communist party sided with the colonial government during its war against the independence movement of the Algerian people? EPRP, AESM, Dergue, EWP were not saying something different from what you are saying now. EPRDF is showing us what this means in practice. It has given linguistic and cultural autonomy to the peoples Ethiopia. It even holds grandiose Nationalities Day celebration every year. But democratic rights are refused which includes the right to sovereign power and the right full self determination in practice. I hope and wish that you change such an attitude and position so that listening and understanding of each other can develop for the well being of Ethiopia.
Good bye for now,