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ULFO’s Statement On The Founding and Declaration of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF)

April 1st, 2013

The Oromo national liberation struggle has gone through unprecedented upheaval through its recent history, particularly over the last forty years. Through out the years, despite limping and appearing to have lost a propelling energy, the struggle has come through in many ways.

A notably overarching way in which the Oromo liberation struggle has survived is that it has accrued a ballooning political capital over the years. True enough, despite long-drawn-out yearning of the Oromo nation, the liberation struggle has not yet registered its ultimate goal – the liberation of the Oromo nation and the establishment of the independent republic of Oromiyaa. However, short of the independence of Oromiyaa, the liberation struggle has secured considerable gains and reached irreversible political sphere and in due course attaining its goal is inevitable. One resounding fact that attests to this inevitability is that the aspiration for bilisummaa/walabummaa is intrinsically anchored in the heart and mind of the Oromo people. Therefore, the struggle that enjoys such a consummate backing of the Oromo mass will remain to endure the political war of annihilation from within or without.

Expectedly, the external war waged by the arch enemy of the Oromo nation and its struggle, the Abyssinian-led colonial order, is bent on derailing the struggle from its course. We have witnessed that the Abyssinian-led regimes of all political stripes, the past and present, have left no stone unturned to eclipse the Oromo struggle to oblivion. Yet, years of Stalinist political gag and machination, economic marginalization, discrimination-laden social policies, and policies of genocidal intent that they have instituted failed to stamp out the Oromo struggle. If anything, the Oromo issue has remained the most daunting political task for the existing regime and aspirants in the opposition camp drooling to seize the political power of the empire state of Ethiopia.

While externally weathering through the apocalyptic political avalanche of the Ethiopian state, the Oromo liberation struggle has been sustaining internal blows from time to time and reeling and yet thrusting forward. Without overly dwelling on historical accounts, three examples should suffice to illuminate the extent in which internal scuffle has stunted the development of the liberation struggle of the Oromo people.

First, the Oromo liberation struggle has been deprived of a genuinely nationalist leadership with unflinching commitment of liberating Oromiyaa. Within the rank of the OLF leadership, some have worked in stifling such a leadership not to emerge. For two decades, from early 1970s when the Oromo movement culminated in the formation of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to 1991 when the front joined the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Force (EPRDF) and formed the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), the OLF leadership barely renewed itself. Visionary and vibrant rank-and-file members were kept at bay from assuming the leadership. With the benefit of a hind sight coupled with anecdotal evidences, it wouldn’t be farfetched to state that some elements in the OLF leadership had no ideological conviction in the liberation of Oromiyaa and so had to deny those with competing political persuasion a space in the leadership.

During this early epoch, had it not been for lack of a solid ideological conviction on the part of the leadership of the front, the Oromo liberation struggle could have taken a qualitative leap.  The struggle was dwarfed during this era mainly due to the fact that the OLF leadership was suffering from the bout of ideological bipolar disorder and/or infusion of the Ethiopianist agenda via embedded elements in the front.  The leadership hardly gave its full heart and mind to the liberation cause and industriously worked to mobilize the mass to achieve the objective clearly set out in the political program of the front. If there was no two-tier ideological stance and lack of seriousness of purpose in the struggle on the part of the OLF leadership, just as its peer fronts that left the Ethiopian political scene in early 1970s and raised arms in their respective backyards eventually succeeded, the OLF too could have undoubtedly succeeded in achieving its goal.

Second, the OLF leadership in the high echelon began tampering with the OLF political program. Under the pretext of the change of the world political order following the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc and ‘the uniquely evolving post-1991 political dynamics within the empire state of Ethiopia’, a campaign of revising the OLF program has been launched. For well over a decade, from the time spanning when the OLF left TGE in 1992 up to the year 2004, the campaign was extraordinarily intense. All this time the OLF was shackled and minimally running its organizational work due to unsettled ideological wrangling within the front. Although not substantively altered as adherents of the revision sought, the program was eventually tweaked. It was made to subtly reflect duality in its goal – self-determination was stated to mean either seeking political accommodation within the Ethiopian political context or attaining the independence of Oromiyaa. Such a duality in turn brought havoc within the front and its supporters. Ultimately disintegration of the front became the order of the day which further arrested the liberation struggle from making any major stride.

Third, the ‘founding fathers of the OLF’ exhausted their cool and went on vendetta for the debacle of the front. Contrary to the work of retiring hayyuus in the Oromo Gadaa tradition who advise on the progress and well-being of the nation, when a complete watering down of the original OLF program was not possible, the retired  ‘OLF founding fathers’ dispatched their political progenies to embark on further eroding and disintegrating the OLF. As a result, since 2004, factions of the OLF have preposterously mushroomed and filled the Oromo political arena.  With the OLF as such internally hemorrhaging profusely, the national liberation struggle has sustained yet again a major blow.

While we leave the rest to history to deliver the true account of what has transpired in the course of the Oromo national liberation struggle over the last 40 year, we would like to state that the birth and declaration of the Oromo Democratic Front is a consummation (ODF) of the four decade work of adulterating the OLF political objective and the aspiration the Oromo nation for bilisumma/walabumma at large. It was the introduction of ideological divide at the outset that has hindered the struggle of our people to this date. We believe that the birth and declaration of the ODF will further fortify the division and delay the fruition of our national struggle.

In the face of public demand for brining all nationalist political forces in to one camp and elevating the liberation struggle to a renewed state, much to the chagrin of the Oromo public, creating a new organization is an insult to injury. The underlying problem of the Oromo struggle is not lack of political organizations. We have enough of them. What we lack is a settled and winning ideology backed with a firm commitment of getting into the trench and securing tangible deliverables.

Many had already pursued the path that ODF charted for itself. Yet all have failed to secure what they have set out to achieve. In the early 1970s, Oromo intellectuals who had rejected the liberation agenda, joined in drown the Ethiopian political organizations, and attempted to seek a political redress mechanism for the Oromo nation perished in vain in the hand of the military regime of Ethiopia. The Oromo People’s Congress (OPC), ardent supporter of the Ethiopian unitary state and fighter for the emergence of democratic polity in Ethiopia, has been frustrated since the day of its inception in 1996. The TPLF-led regime of Ethiopia has literally strangulated the organization leaving merely handful of its leadership to breathe. With its members killed, rounded up and jailed, and fled the country, the OPC has been incapacitated. Similarly, the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), which in many ways shares the vision and mission of the ODF, has paid hefty price in the hand of the TPLF regime. It has been reduced to fight, not for the Oromo people, but for its own survival in the corridors of the TPLF kangaroo court.

Given this substantial experience, we find it utterly difficult to fathom how the ODF can implement its ‘new-found vision’. It remains to be seen the unique political calculus it would employ to succeed in its mission. Yes, it stated in its declaration that unlike the Oromo political organizations ‘seeking self-determination in exclusivist and statist sense’, it would inclusively and radically address the self-determination issue of the ethno-national multitudes in Ethiopia.  However, this political venture needs partners to tango with. As far as we know, the political landscape in Ethiopia is barren to find ideal partners, particularly partners of Abyssinian-led political organizations. Ideal as it may look, given what history has attested, pursing this path is futile.

Therefore, only bridging ideological chasms, mending the fracture within the Oromo polity, and working on the ‘liberation platform’ with determination will set free the Oromo people from the colonial bondage of the Ethiopian empire state. With the Oromo nation freed from the bondage, the prison gate of the empire will be wide open for ethno-national multitudes who share similar fate with Oromo to escape. It has such a cascading effect that the freedom for Oromo means the freedom for all.  When we know all too well that there is no democracy in Ethiopia and the present rulers would not open up for a democratic order to emerge, begging for democratic change alone would prolong the misery of our people. We should not expect the liberation of the Oromo people through the ballot box. The regime that came to power through violence is bent to remain in power with all what it takes. It is only when we close rank and stand in unison against the TPLF-led regime that we set our people free.

A call to all Oromo liberation forces

We call upon all OLF factions and groups to look into the urgency of reconstituting all forces within the liberation camp and make a pragmatic move as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. Dragging feet and failing to pass the test of time at this crucial period will lead us all to the dust bin of history. We urge all stakeholders to pitch in constructively in the pursuit of consolidating the liberation camp.

A call to the Oromo people

Acknowledging that you have been paying ultimate sacrifices for the cause of your liberation;

Cognizant of the fact that your aspiration for liberation is still at all time high, despite repeated setbacks our national struggle has experienced over the years;  

Realizing that your active participation in the struggle ultimately decides the course of the liberation struggle:

We call upon you to exert pressure on all organizations to come together and work for the collective good of the nation and its liberation.

Unity is strength!!!

Oromiyaa Shall be Free!!!

United Liberation Forces of Oromiyaa (ULFO)    April 1st, 2013