Psychology of Persuasion: The current Oromo case

By: Najat Hamza
November 27, 2017

We reminisce about our political calculations of the past and point fingers to the leadership of those days. It is not a hidden truth history is here to lend us lessons so that our horrible pasts are not repeated as well as celebrate our honorable deeds of the past. The challenges and opportunities we face now is significant in way that either addresses or paralyses our quest for freedom and justice. The Oromo question is posed in a way that attracted the worlds’ attention by the Oromo youth movement (Qeerroo) and it has been and still is an undeniable force. The movement is grounded in the core principles of the Oromo resistance and final the goal. There were gains along the way in both significant and small ways. However, I am not here to talk about the resistance that shook the Ethiopian empire and crushed the TPLF regimes power structure. As the ghost of TPLF is trying to collect souls to revive itself to no avail.

The assessment is the that, this peaceful resistance not only shook the enemy but also Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO) from it is long dormant existence. I will grant this assessment to be true for the sake of the argument I will present throughout this writing. How did the OPDO persuade the Oromo people to accept the supposed new transformation? What significant steps have they taken to continue to sale this ideology? What are their biggest challenges? Opportunities? What expectation do the people have from their leadership if any? Can they deliver without cutting the umbilical cord of TPLF still attached to their own? The most pressing issues we are facing as a nation is border security, Oromo refugee crisis, addressing Oromo grievances, insuring the release of Oromo prisoners and securing the goals of the resistance. However, these issues are left unanswered and everyday we see little actions being celebrated out of proportion to sugarcoat the shortcomings of the new dream team. The go to answer to the critics has been “you need to be patient” and let them address these issue as they can because Tome is not built in one day. However, the problem is that the mechanism in which they need to address both the political and security crises are not even in place as far as we know independent of the main frame of power structure. The main apparatus of power is still under the control of the main party, TPLF.

Instead, we have figures that immerged deploying the art of persuasion to perfection (#TeamLemma). These point of persuasion is simple and powerful, and it affects us all. They are, reciprocation, Consistency, Social proof, Liking, authority and Scarcity. Reciprocation works when “one does something nice and expect to cash in the points later” in our situation, political gain for OPDO and the accomplishment of insignificant tasks on our behalf. In this instance, we see OPDO coming out wrapping themselves in the agenda of Oromo Nationalism from head to toe appealing to the young and old alike but also creating a cloud of doubt. How they can fan these rhetoric in public without repercussion from the enemy is point of contention. When we know for a fact people have paid dearly and still paying dearly for far less. They play to the visceral reaction of the Freedom thirsty Oromo people both at home and abroad. What is the “cash in points” for them in doing this? It is simple, legitimacy, pacification of the burning resistance, narrative control and creating confusion by calm. The other side of the coin is, they can deliver on their new found supposed voice in real terms. However, We have yet to see the drastic delivery of real issues affecting our people and our country in realistic and measurable ways. We have seen a lot of external changes while keeping the power structure of the regime intact.

“Consistency” in the psychology of persuasion making people state their priorities and goals and then aligning your proposals with theirs making it hard for the population to say “No” to their intention good or bad. It is like fighting against your own goals and demands of the resistance, remember they agree that these demands are right and just. They would even make themselves the agents of change who would fight along side you to make them a reality. How can one negate that? You do not and that is the point.

The third principle of psychological persuasion is “Social Proof”, this is the simple phenomenon of people will likely say yes when they see other people doing so. The lack of visible and strong opposition leadership made the exploration of even looking at leadership within the regime we are fighting to eliminate a viable choice. Some came out and argues they could be an alternative if given the right tools and direction and many bought that idea without reservation while some waiting to see what if anything comes out of it. Social proofs’ effect is amplified in times of uncertainty where we look to others for guidance. The only problem with this approach is that by examining others reaction to resolve uncertainty while those we are observing are also searching for cues with us. Thus, the current confusion of where we are heading as people.

The fourth principles of psychology of persuasion is “Liking” this is simple, you must make the people like you to be persuader in chief. The likability factor, is major point in persuading people toward your ideologies. The fifth principles of phycology of persuasion is “Authority” we have the affinity towards people who posses’ certain skill sets, knowledge, confidence and credibility. That is human nature and the way our societies are set up. The OPDO leadership is seen showcasing their educational background, speaking on and airing their academic thesis to show these credentials there for portray “Authority.” However, in the history of Oromo resistance we know that educated and uneducated alike fought and still fight alongside one another. We have had cases where the educated have sold out to the enemy where those who cannot even read the letter of their own assassination wrote a legacy for generations to be remembered. The point is, it is great that some of us had a chance to be educated if we use our education to bring betterment to those less fortunate among us and not exploit them using our privilege.

The final principle in psychology of persuasion is “Scarcity” and this principle plays to the argument that “OPDO” is the only viable alternative to answer the demand of the Oromo people. “Scarcity” of leadership or no other entity can do what they will be able to deliver and, so we should all get behind them and wait. The only problem with this argument is that there is another legitimate Oromo opposition party right there in the county. The Oromo Federalist Congress has been there with leadership and structure to lead the way. What we see instead is that, their leadership is still all kept in jails all over the country and with no definite answers as to if they can gain their freedom or if they will be invited to the negotiation tables. Time will tell.

In the meantime, border security is still an issue and Oromo people along the boarder cities being gun down almost daily. There are no significant steps taken to address these issues. The elephant in the room is the uprooted Oromo people in Oromia still living in makeshift shelters and camps across the place. There is an amazing outpouring of support from the Oromo civilians both in the diaspora and Oromia. Nevertheless It cannot address the long-term solution or even the short-term issues controlling communicable diseases, health issues, disrupted learning process for the kids and stabilizing their livelihoods. At the end, is reform what we want or to uproot TPLF power structure? I will leave the answers to you all.

In conclusion: I support those who want to fight from inside the system and those who fight from the outside as long as the end result is the same. What I would not do is to put all my eggs in one basket. It is wise to watch everything with skepticism while entertaining the idea of what possibilities are before us and if those possibilities can help our predicament. There is no single answer to the Oromo cause, as such everyone, every entity should be held accountable as long as our people continue to endure unspeakable horror. The era of rhetoric but no action needs to end from outside and inside of Oromia, current situation demands it. Otherwise, we will be serenaded to accept reformed oppression as the twin sibling of freedom while we continue to pay the price in blood and bones.

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