The Case for a Sovereign & Independent Oromia

Sunday, September 26, 2010 | comments

By Gumaa Guddaa


Oromia is one of the richest in natural resources in the world. There is a huge potential in energy supply from its rivers and natural gas reserves. Billions of dollars worth of minerals is being exploited. Laga Dambi, southern Oromia, alone produces 5,000kg gold/year. The rivers, hydroelectric power, lakes, farmlands and forests of Oromia can improve the economic development of the entire Horn of Africa. The Oromo population, estimated to be 40 million, one of the fastest growing populations in the world, has huge potential for economic development.

Nearly 90% of Ethiopia’s hard currency earning comes from agricultural and mining sectors of the state of Oromia. According to official statistics from the Ethiopian Trade and Industry Ministry, last year (2009) alone, export of coffee raised $288.8 million, gold $282 million, and jimaa/khat/ $194.74 million in hard currency for the Ethiopian regime. Sheik Mohammed Hussein Ali Al-Amoudi’s Midroc Gold exported 5,000kg of gold, has pocketed $160 million.

The gold price has increased five-fold over the past 10 years, reaching a record high of $1,300 US an ounce ($41,686/kg) for the first time in September 2010. The latest rise was sparked by caution over global economy, as well as weakness in the US dollar. The precious metal has always been a stabilizer of world economy as a safe currency but also a reserve against which all the governments around the world hold bonds and the value of their currency. The Ethiopian state is the most secretive regime and subsequently it is impossible to find out the true gold trade figure. It can, however, be safely estimated that the truth is much higher than the official figure. For example, there is a daily chartered plane flight, exclusively ferrying Oromo gold, from Finfinne to the international London Bullion gold market, uninterrupted since the time of Haile Selassie.

Oromia’s livestock population is one of the largest in Africa. Livestock export accounts for about 10% of Ethiopia’s export income.

Furthermore, Meles and co. are busy making billions of dollars from illegal Oromo farmland sale since the global scramble for farmland began in 2008. Driven from their farms, the Oromo have to farm for the foreign investors, and it is in the “wealthy” Oromia that the highest human and natural price is being paid, by the indigenous Oromo people, through toil and blood, poverty, acute starvation and Ethiopian state-terrorism, thanks to alien rule and lack of independent state.

The entire economy of Oromia is controlled by the Endowment Fund for Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), conglomerate of 13 different “private limited” companies, exclusively owned by the central committee of the TPLF. Some estimate that EFFORT controls half of the Ethiopian economy. The author actually thinks they control nearly the whole of the Ethiopian economy as well as aid money. Everything is for Tigray and the Tigreans do not seem to care to understand its implication for the future. The Tigray ruling class seem to feel they deserve it since they fought for it and Oromia is their colonial territory to be exploited to the maximum and sold to the highest bidder. However difficult it may be to believe, the TPLF even takes top soil from fertile lands of Oromia and transplant it, by truckloads, to Tigray and creating new farming fields.

In the meanwhile, Oromia is creaking under the heavy burden of neo-colonialism superimposed on classic colonization. The status quo is not sustainable any longer. It is simply not acceptable. Most of all, there is a serious pressing concern for the ecosystem of Oromia.

On the other hand, realization of an independent Oromia is within the grasp of the current generation. It requires the small matter of putting our own house in order first – unite under a strong leadership that believes in independent Oromia and we can shorten our people’s suffering.

The Oromo must stand together and defend what we have won so far and march forward to consolidate the final victory by claiming what is rightfully ours. It is a must that we consider an end game to the century old struggle as the enemy is contemplating the ‘final solution’.

A people sharing a common geographical space, history, language and culture is a common definition of what we normally think as a nation. In these aspects Oromia clearly qualifies with its established boundaries, language and shared history for thousands of years, above all by a shared sense of national identity.

Far from killing national aspiration for independence of nations, as some argued few years back, globalization has led to increased demand for protection by nations. After the recent credit crisis nations have become not only powerful in taming globalization but also the only way forward in preventing global economic meltdown.
A great majority of the Oromo populous support independence. It is the preferred option and declared position by the OLF. The first stage of our struggle, the re-establishment of our national identity has already been accomplished through immense sacrifice. The second phase is the struggle for the formation of an independent state of Oromia with co-operative outlook to the rest of the globalized world. To this end, the following are advantages of independent Oromia.

Liberated Oromia

“For an Oromo worthy of the name, there is one and only one way to dignity, security, liberty and freedom. That single and sure way is to hold common front against his oppressors and their instruments of subjugation. In this, s/he is ready and willing to join hands in spirit of brotherhood, equality, and mutual respect, with oppressed nationalities and all persons and institutions of good will, s/he is equally ready and prepared to pay any sacrifice and oppose any person or groups that in any way hinder her/his mission for liberation from all forms of oppression and subjugation. An Oromo has no empire to build but a mission to break an imperial yoke, and that makes this mission sacred and his sacrifices never too dear.” (The Oromo: Voice Against Tyranny, 1971:23). This declaration is four decades old. It is even more relevant today than when it was written. It is a mission yet to be accomplished. No doubt, accomplished it will be.

The Oromo people lost more than their land. They are robbed of their souls and declaration of independent Republic of Oromia will be the only befitting way of the realization of liberation from all forms of operation and subjugation. Imagine the euphoria that will be felt when we raise our flag over Maskel Square, in the heart of Finfinne.

When people have lived under total subjugation, as the Oromo people have been subjected to, the word liberation takes totally different meaning altogether. Liberation means something more than what words can describe in this situation. Liberation of Oromia will mean freeing a beautiful people and land from the worst ugly colonization mankind has ever seen. It will not only mean setting free the people physically but liberating Ayyaana Oromoo/the Oromo spirit/ – setting the land and the spirit of the people free.

Liberation after a total humiliation and collective trauma will set free the people mentally as well as physically and will release a tremendous positive energy, creativity and self-belief much needed to be harnessed to transform the society for good. For a dehumanized and demonized people, only total liberation and independence will be the way to regaining dignity, security and liberty. Once they have gained their independence, it will be up to them as to what they will do with their freedom. They will collectively decide to determine their future and the future of the coming generations through the system they replace the old order with. The author is confident that liberated Oromia will make the right decision.

Safer Oromia

The primary purpose of an independent sovereign state is to safeguard the security of its people. The Oromo experience, over the past one century, has been nothing but a collective trauma of lack of security. An independent state of Oromia will be the surest way of ensuring the collective security of its people. Living in a safe country, where people can live in peace and are able to bring up their children, is a basic human need. The alternative, continuing to sustain the forced unity of Oromia and Ethiopia, is recipe for disaster. You cannot expect safety from a system that is inflicting the trauma in the first place.

The Abyssinians and their overseas supporters, it seems, from their strategic point of view, at least for the time being, have chosen to ignore the plight of Oromia. Becoming an independent country will save the Oromos from torture, harassment, imprisonment, exile, extra-judiciary killings, famine, and poverty and above all from becoming victims of genocide.

After so many wars – Anole, Calanqo, Raya, Bale, and the ongoing war of independence led by the OLF for the past 35 years – hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in the resistance not to speak of the incalculable damage to Oromia’s natural resources. The Oromo must reinstate free and democratic Oromia to ensure total freedom from fear of being attacked for your identity - not only for Oromos but for anyone who chooses to live in Oromia,

Sustaining Ethiopia will always be a high risk strategy for Oromia. Ethiopia will inevitablly be a failed state in a not too distant future. Declaration of independent Oromia will be the safest option in order to create stable governance for the Oromo nation as well as stabilizing the whole region. If we attempt to patch up some sort of agreement with the Abyssinians before the sovereignty and independence of Oromia is a reality, you will quickly be back to where you started as we witnessed it in 1992. Oromia has to stand on its own as a sovereign and independent nation before any agreement with Abyssinians can be entertained.

Wealthier Oromia

That the empire heavily depends on Oromia’s wealth does not justify the current situation or any future economic ties between Oromia and Ethiopia. Over the past one hundred years, especially the last 2 decades, it has become abundantly clear that the enemy is well prepared to destroy us, through war, manmade famine, and severe economic exploitation. Even if Ethiopia became a fledgling democracy, by some unique miracle, from economic point of view, the Oromo would still be much more prosperous by going it alone.

The greatest enemy of development opportunity in Oromia is Ethiopia/Abyssinia/. As long as the Ethiopian system exists, the Abyssinians will be supported by the West. Love it or loath it, the Western powers recognize only Abyssinia as Ethiopia. For them Oromia is there just to be blundered and exploited. The evidence for this was clearly demonstrated when the Americans conspired with the TPLF in 1991-92, after the fall of the military regime, and subverted a golden opportunity for the Ethiopian empire to end peacefully or set itself on another course of history.

Would independent Oromia dissolve Ethiopia? It is unclear whether an independent Oromia would simply make Ethiopia smaller or terminate its existence altogether. The author’s best guess would be that Oromia and Ethiopia will live side by side as respectful and good neighbors. Both would greatly benefit from the peace, stability and economic co-operation as the byproduct of being good neighbors. Both become wealthier separately than they would ever be together. The reasons why unity would mean poverty are obvious for all to see. With the above mentioned wealth and natural resources of Oromia and other parts of the empire, Ethiopia is one the poorest African countries who top the list of world poverty ranking. The majority of the population lives below poverty line. This is not for lack of resources but because of the colonial relationship between the Abyssinians (the colonialists) and the other nations and nationalities in the empire including Oromia. This relationship is one of exploitation and subjugation which the colonized are justifiably resisting by any means necessary including wars of liberation. The result has been state sponsored terrorism by the colonizer and resistance by the colonized which creates instability in the region even beyond the empire’s borders. It is universally accepted that there is no worse enemy of development and economic progress than instability. A de-colonized Oromia, separate from Ethiopia/Abyssinia/, will contribute immensely towards peace and stability in the region thereby making development and economic progress in the region possible.

Today, there are about 13 million acutely starved people in Ethiopia totally reliant on food aid, whereas the Ethiopian regime has sold 3 million hectares of fertile farmland since 2008. The irresponsible land sale policy of Ethiopia has not only created a famine of huge proportion but also a total environmental disaster. Notwithstanding this, adding insult to injury, the West has appointed Meles Zenawi, unashamedly, an African spokesperson on the environment. So, there you have it.

Greener Oromia

Talking about the environment, the Oromo are green through and through. They plant trees. They respect nature. The Oromo believe that ‘nagaa’/peace/ must be maintained not only between God and man but also between man and nature. When the Abyssinians have been busy cutting down trees and destroying their environment over the past one hundred years, the Oromo have maintained a perfect harmony between nature and man.

The Oromo have customary and legislative Gada laws that govern land use. They allocate pastoral land, farm land, forests for bee farming, and forests for wildlife and building materials. The Oromo way of farming and land use is scientific. Practices such as crop rotation and using natural fertilizers are common. Oromia is the most bio-diverse country on earth. The Oromo farm several unique species of crops and plants. They introduced coffee and jimaa/khat/ to the world for example.

The Tigrean ruling class (TPLF) think that the beautifully balanced land use practiced by the Oromo is just God’s blessing. Not so. The beautiful countryside, is not by chance but a systematic advanced land use tradition and resource allocation that the Oromo have perfected through several generations.

The Tigrean ruling class are the worst enemy of the environment compared to their Amhara counterparts. Between 1990 and 2005, Oromia lost 14% of its forest cover or 2.1 million hectares. Change in deforestation rate since the 1990s has increased by 10.4% according, a charity considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world’s top ecologists and conservationists. What has been happening to the remaining forest in Oromia since extensive land lease began in 2008 is anybody’s guess.

Millions of hectares of Oromo land are under the cover of greenhouse for the purpose of cut flower farming. Punjab farmers are flocking to Oromia in their droves. China, India, Arab states etc. are taking the lion share of Oromia as we speak. There is no consideration for the environment. The Tigrean ruling calss behave like robbers who ransack a building after taking any item considered valuable.

Independent Oromia will have to work hard to rescue the environment. The combination of nationalism and Oromo wisdom about the care of the environment will offer Oromia the only chance of becoming green again. This is possible only in Sovereign and independent Oromia.

Democratic Oromia

Democracy is a culture of attitudes, expectations and norms which takes time and effort to take root. When one makes such a statement in reference to democratizing the Ethiopian empire, it is important to understand that one is speaking of the Abyssinians, not the Oromo. The Oromo have developed such a complex democratic system of political governance called “Gadaa” through hundreds of years of practice. Independent Oromia will benefit greatly from its proud heritage of democracy. There will be no difficulty in reviving Gada. It still exists and is functional in many regions of Oromia. Thus, Oromia will not waste time training or learning the values of democracy.

On the other hand, the concept of democracy is new to Abyssinians not to speak of its practice. It would take at least another hundred years for it to take root in their society. For Oromos to attempt to democratize Ethiopia is tantamount to another hundred years of subjugation and instability for the region including for Abyssinians which is not in their best interest. Having a deeply rooted culture and own democratic institution of Gada is a huge advantage for Oromia. To combine Oromia with Ethiopia and endeavor to democratize it will be a formidable task. Creating nationalism and identity is a condition sin qua non for establishing a democratic system acceptable to the great majority of the subjects of a territory. Forming a single Ethiopian nationalism and identity would be a never ending project. Subsequently, creating democratic Ethiopia remains a long slog, which may take several hundred years, if not impossible.

There is no known agreed upon form of democracy that will practically be applicable to Ethiopia. It will be costly and may yet be unachievable. The Oromo have tried and failed to democratize Ethiopia for more than a century albeit from a non dominant position. Ethiopia is an empire and it will never democratize. It will eventually surely disintegrate; the question is how - big bang or slowly.

Look at the supports and opponents of Meles Zenawi and his regime. Just for the record, there were three groups out there. The Tigreans naturally support him because they are not only free but now own a vast empire at their disposal. The Tigreans are jubilant and euphoric. The rest are tearful hugging pictures of massacred relatives and national heroines. The Amahra oppose him because they lost the empire to the Tigreans. The Oromo and other southerners oppose him because he enslaved them [WATCH HERE]. How can you create uniting nationalism and identity for these diametrically opposing groups and interests?

Finally, whether you are for or against an independent Oromia, or maybe not entirely convinced either way, the author will be keen to see a mature informed debate instead of name calling and the usual technique used by some to dodge the issue by focusing on few lines rather than the topic in its entirety.

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