Brotherly Advise to our Ethiopianist Friends
BY Jawar Mohammed*
You have engaged in renewed attack on the Oromo struggle in recent days which I missed for most part because I have been bogged down on an important project. I read some of the attacks last night and thought I should drop you few words of brotherly advise.
1. I know many of you in person, hence I know your love for the idea of Ethiopia is genuine one. I suggest you start loving the peoples of Ethiopia as much as you romanticize the idea of Ethiopia. If you are ready to do so, please show empathy and provide as much support as you can for real Ethiopian people facing daily massacre and mass incarceration in Oromia, Amhara, Konso and Gedeo. How about you speak up for the 15,000 and 35,000 young men and women languishing in concentration camps in Amhara and Oromia regions respectively? Or could you please raise some money to cover the funeral cost of mothers who lost their loved ones or to buy some medicine for thousands of injured protesters? My point is that I always see you come out with your big guns to defend the abstract ideas but no where to be seen when real people need real help.
2. I know you are smart folks who have keen understanding of history. Thus you know very well attacking resistance nationalism never works, in fact it backfires very badly. Had barrage of propaganda worked, Eritrean nationalism would not have given birth to an independent state. Had spreading Oromophobia worked, Hailesilassie and Mengistu would have put out Oromo nationalism before it took off. Eritrean independence is as much a result of Hailesialssie/ Mengistu’s ignorance & arrogance as it was achievement of Issaias Afewroki and the gallant Eritrean freedom fighters. Repression and overtly negative ideological attacks are like fertilizer for nationalist movement. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing again and again over, yet expecting different result. So using the same old tactic against new and even less favorable socio-political reality is tactically stupid move. ( Btw in such fight, the nationalists almost always win at the end. Eritreans did so by beating the largest army in Africa and the dirtiest propaganda war. And today those who wasted decades bombarding them with propaganda have surrendered unconditionally and begging for their support)
3. Do you want to know how to win over nationalists and moderate their position? Learn from the streets of Gonder and Bahr Dar. That slogan ‘the blood of our Oromo brothers is our blood’ had the most cooling effect on Oromo nationalists than any thing else ever. Why? Because it was unconditional message of solidarity sent out across the Abay river out of pure empathy ( not sympathy). It was received as unsolicited yet genuine message of solidarity that it had the ability to disarm the heart of even the most radical nationalist. In contrast your unwise overtly negative propaganda campaign contributes much more to the outcome you fear than any campaign by hard-line nationalists. Bottom line, your old and tired propaganda might irritate some nationalists, but it neither threaten nor persuade them. In fact it increases their personal resolve and internal cohesion.
4. Friends, you know that political rhetoric is nothing without ability to organize and mobilize. If you want to change attitude of a particular political group, you have to have the real organizational ability either to coerce or persuade. In today’s Ethiopia, the so called ‘Ethiopianist’ ( unitarist) camp is the most incoherent one with almost no tangible presence on the real ground. Even in Addis Ababa which is believed to be the ‘core constituency’, multiple calls for ground shaking rallies did not bring out even a bird. Therefore, in order for you to be taken seriously by nationalists, you have to emerge as either a real threat or dependable ally. For that you gotta get off your high horse and do the tiresome work of organizing whatever constituency of your ideology on the real ground. If you don’t or cant organize, then support the only two real political forces in today’s Ethiopia, the nationalist movements in Amhara & Oromia so that you can play a mediating role in their emerging solidarity. We know this renewed attack on Oromo activism is in part a tactic aimed at breaking up the emerging solidarity between Oromo & Amhara activists as you fear such solidarity would render your ideology obsolite. If you really care about Ethiopia, you should support this solidarity because it offers the only realistic hope to maintaining territorial unity of the Ethiopian state, which you seem to care for more than any thing else.
*Jawar Mohammed is an Executive Director of OMN who actively working on Oromo freedom struggle. He can be reached at Jawar Mohammed.