The Reform, the Philosopher King, and the Oromo Struggle
(By Najat Hamza)
Ethiopian political reform was the product of the youth movement that was able to shake the roots of the authoritarian regime. The Oromo youth movement or the Qeerroo movement championed this change with their blood, limbs and lives. The establishment who hijacked the fruit of this struggle will even go as far as discrediting and criminalizing the Oromo youth. This is not a new phenomenon, the successive Ethiopian regimes have perfected the art of denial of Oromo lived history, contribution and significance. The attempt to discredit and discredit Qeerroo movement validates our point of historical denials of past atrocities, injustices and our collective subjugation. They are trying to minimize, deny and put away the Qeerroo movement legacy while the world was witnessing it from the front seats. The revolution was televised, tweeted, shared and collectively documented by Oromos and Western world combined.
The question then becomes, if they can try to deny and discredit this movement that took the world by storm and shook one of the most notorious authoritarian regimes in Africa, how can we argue with them about what happened a hundred or more years ago? The answer is we do not. History is written with freedom; we must focus on liberation. Liberated people have the means and the power to write their own stories, create a to pass it down to future generations and so on. The Qeeroo movement was to bring lasting change for all justice loving people and the Oromo in particular. However, the desired change showed up as reform instead of dismantlement of the regime. This option was taken to avoid chaos and mayhem in Ethiopia but was it worth it to us? This is another example of how Ethiopia as a country was saved in the expense the Oromo question. We were all hopeful at the beginning of the reform, even though it was a system perpetuating harm trying to be the savior all at the same time. However, no one has anticipated the birth and the glorification of the philosopher king, Abiy Ahmed.
He shows up stroking the egos of the past regimes in a nostalgic sense and vowed to return us to those glorious days. That was the day most Oromos understood our aspiration and goals were under a threat non other than the philosopher king himself. What makes this complicated for our people was that he claims his identity as Oromo while every policy, ideology and practice run in the opposite direction. Today, Oromia is under a threat, violence the language of communication, prisons started to fill up with Oromo leaders again, harassment and war is ongoing. The philosophy of synergy (medemer) for Oromos is like trying to divide a number with 0, undefined.
The philosopher king is attempting to brainwash, indoctrinate and force this ideology on people. What he does not understand is that the philosophy of Oromo nationalism is written in blood and bones. Oromo nationalism will stay forever ingrained in our hearts, minds and every action we take. This thirst can only be quenched when our people have the right to choose their own leaders, make their own policies regarding identity, language, land and resources. The snake oil salesmen you have collected around you cannot and will not fool the Oromo people because they know what kind of life they are living. It is simple everyone on earth want the same thing, a good life. A good life is not possible if your safety, your identity, your resources and your livelihood is danger. That is what has guided us to continue the fight for equality and freedom, not a baseless and merit-less philosophy.
The continent of Africa and especially Ethiopia cannot move towards Democracy as long as the strong man syndrome is in effect. The philosopher king, Abiy Ahmed is aspiring to be the next strong man of Ethiopia, the system of one man. Democracy requires checks and balances. Democracy requires respecting the voice and the aspiration of the people. The power belongs to the people. The strong man syndrome is antithesis to Democracy, they want to fluff their feathers and seem mightier than they are, smarter than everyone else, experts in every field and the judge and the jury. If Ethiopia can have a chance, building an institution and systems that can withstand any regime change is the way to go.
What do we do now? We must fight with everything we have got. We must make sure the sovereignty of Oromia is intact, and we must get ready for all possible outcomes. The opposition parties need to stand on their own, create their own agenda and execute than reacting to the frivolous regime non-agenda thrown their way. It is the job of the opposition to inform our people, to keep our people’s unity and chart a clear pathway. I understand it is a very dark time and it seems hopeless at time; however, we have faced worse. This is just a set back and something we can learn from as people. We cannot be discouraged or falter we owe it to our brothers and sisters who gave their lives for what they thought was the change we needed. We need to put our heads together and resist.