By Mulata Gudata
No politics is ever born new as the politics of tomorrow is the projection of what we have on our hands today. It is only that as a society the wisdom we deploy in handling our political moves makes the outcome of the projection to take a desirable course or a catastrophic one.
The civil right issues and the quest for social reform that we grapple with today after it has exploded out of control have started during the time of Emperor Haile Silasse. The outcome could have been sweeter and the process smoother had they been wisely dealt with at the time. Unfortunately the ruling class had remained at best insensitive at worst tried to manipulate it contrary to the interest of the majority due to the naive belief that power was their gift from God and it was theirs to keep.
Then heavy rain started to beat us when the rule of the monarchy had to come to an end unceremoniously and the whole process hijacked by the military dictatorship with a socialist ideology that presupposes one party rule at a time when Ethiopian politics was bustling with a number of divergent views and different political groupings that could have been better accommodated under a multiparty political system, hence the blood shade.
The Eritrean question has always been there for years before the emperor was deposed and so did the Oromo issues. Had an attempt been made to answer them wisely and timely we would not have been where we stand today. Yet the most unfortunate is even today, almost two decades later which is a little short of my age, we seem to have drawn little lesson from our failures of all these years as our country titters on the verge of disintegration. As our national bag of regret is overflowing for the missed opportunities, I strongly believe it is not too late for us to do the right thing that helps to save our country.
Democracy being a political system that presupposes the rule of the majority by way of a free and fair democratic process, a society that shirks from tackling issues related to the significant majority in its midst can only pretend to be democratic in order to keep in check the unsolved issues. Though the unrelenting efforts made by our elites in trying to inform and enlighten our people politically is commendable, I have so far seen one paper that has boldly aimed at the heart of the fundamental problem that holds back our country from becoming a real democracy.
It was a paper on Oromo issues which I came across in Ethiomedia web page at this link http://www.ethiomedia.com/2013report/4616.html (which to my dismay no other opposition website hosts have cared to post on their site including the Oromo affiliated ones as they would often happily do the most divisive and extreme oriented papers, though I am not sure whether the writer had ignored to give it to them or they decided to ignore it after receiving).
Many people believe that by resolving Oromo issues our country can claim to have settled by far more than half of our socio-political problems; however the challenge has remained on how to go about it. In order for us to become a truly democratic nation with no bones in the closet in the form of jails that are always full to the brim with political detainees, we should not shy away from any avenue that will take us to the most desired place – a truly democratic nation that is at peace with itself.
And that can only happen when, given what has been on the ground over the last two decades, we become ready and willing to accept anything that can help our people to march towards the platform of reconciliation as long as all Ethiopians as citizens of one nation can work and live anywhere in the country irrespective of their tribe or faith group. Whatever is ‘given to or rather recognised for’ a part of our society in the process of social reform is never taken away for it will be there for all of us in which we will become a rainbow nation that recognises and cherishes its diversity. It is with this frame of mind that we should approach issues of social and political reform with generous attitude and bold mentality far from begrudging and mean way of thinking since it would have an unprecedented effect in terms of healing and reconciliation to help our self put the ghost of tribalism to rest for ever.
It is also on this premises that I consider venturing into a territory where the devil dare not step as I am ready and willing to accept the condemnation it inevitably attracts to me from all sides. By refusing to ‘swallow the medicine that cures us,’ in political sense, we often prove to be Ethiopians for it has not been in our political tradition to swallow the bitter pill for our own good.
So here I go, as an individual and a fellow citizen if I were to be asked I would recommend the following as the best or nearly the best starting point when it comes to addressing Oromo issues:
1 – One could not help sympathizing with the argument that our three colour flag has flown for generations defended by the sacrifices made by our ancestors from all communities making no segment of our society able to lay claim of exclusive ownership to it. This is a true and fair argument which sounds highly convincing, yet with the proliferation of different flags for different communities came the clamour from each group to stick to its own and this very fact seems to have invigorated the necessity of reforming our flag with the view of making it attractive to all citizens equally as a national symbol which each and every citizen will be willing and ready to defend and die for.
In respect to this, given the size of the Oromo population and the land mass it represents, there should be a clear mark in our national symbol dedicated to Oromo identity. Put in also some stars or other things appropriate to recognise other minority tribes in the country. We should be able to acknowledge that a lot needs to be done to shore up the sense of pride in our bigger national identity in order to counter the undesirable trend of sense of patriotism as it stands eroded and dealt a severe blow when it comes to the younger generation as allegiance seems to have shifted to one’s own tribal enclave with its respective flag rather than the larger national identity and pride. If it takes reforming our flag for the sake of peace and reconciliation so be it and we should be more than willing to redesign our symbol in order to ‘save our soul.’
2- Accept Oromo language as the second national language with the preferred alphabet or Qubee as it has already been in use over the last two decades. We should be able to appreciate the fact that modern day information technologies such as computer keyboard, internet communication, mobile phone texting and other social media outlets such as face book make the use of Qubee inevitable even without legal enforcement.
And this fact renders irrelevant the argument against the use of Qubee as it seems to be the case with some segments of our elites. Understandably those who oppose the use of Qubee have their arguments based on maintaining our tradition of using Sava Alphabet as a symbol of our independence which is another fair opinion with credit to it but as things stand today this argument comes too late to resonate with the Oromo mass that has been writing with the alphabet for such a long time. All Ethiopians should begin to consider Qubee as a tool of convenience chosen by native speakers of the Oromo language rather than as a symbol of reversal of history for we still remain with Sava Alphabet using it to write Amharic and Tigrigna as ever.
Should there be any compelling reason beyond my imagination that calls for the use of Qubee to be abandoned, the right avenue towards that should be by asking the Oromo mass through a referendum as a way of genuine democratic process and respect for the people and their opinion.
Talking of language, we should work hard to avoid the risk of appearing to ignore the minority communities in the country as we understandably are focusing on the larger ones. For this reason, I believe, in the future there need be at least a government funded independent TV station dedicated to promoting the language and culture of the nearly 83 tribes in the country in which case each is assigned a designated air time of a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour every week or every three or four days in a week with the view of preserving it all as a national treasure of cultures that should not be left to die with time as was the case with the extinct Gaffat language in our history.
3- Come up with a formula of resource sharing with the express aim of some benefits for areas and regions from where resources are generated as national resources. The people from the areas where resources originate cannot be expected to be happy bystanders who enjoy the role of overseeing resources leaving their area destined to develop other parts of the country.
There need be a mechanism by which a percentage of it is spent on the development of the region in terms of health facilities, infrastructure and schools as a gesture of good will. We cannot lose sight of the globally recognised fact that the exploitation of resources comes with side effects such as environmental degradation, pollutions of air and water sources where by the people in the immediate locality are the direct victims of such undesirable effects making the consideration of compensating the locals fair and appropriate.
4- With this in place, restructure the country on a federal arrangement with provinces as a federal basis as we knew them before the 1991 charter which framed the country with an express purpose of free ride for TPLF without taking into consideration the negative impacts it would have on the country and all Ethiopian communities.
To cite an example Oromiya has been designed as Oromo region in spite of the fundamental flaws in it from the very inception since there are Oromos in all corners of the country that are left out of the arrangement not to mention the non-Oromo communities that had to fall within the region. This being the fact Oromiya cannot qualify as an Oromo region to sit comfortably in the Ethiopian union. Oromo elites should be ready to compromise on this particular issue as it stands on the way of negotiated solutions aimed at resolving our differences amicably since Oromiya finds its name in the history of the country only under the highly biased tyrannical rule of TPLF/EPRDF, simply recognised to help and ensure the divide and destroy policy in which Oromos are the most losers.
Considering the strong emotional association that has evolved in relation to Oromiya as the name of Oromo region among the Oromo mass over the last two decades one could also argue in favour of retaining the name in which case arrangements could be considered to create federal entities on the basis of East, West, South and central Oromiya as part of the federal arrangement.
Yet at the end of the day we formulate policies based on realistic need and practical applicability far from pandering to emotional appeasement. We should be able to accept the fact that the solution to our social woes lies in working together to put in place a dynamic system that accommodates all of us in which we will be able to count on each other as allies in the fight against poverty not as enemies who cannot see anything beyond widening the gap of them-and-us from which no one stands to benefit.
5- Put some arrangements in place to reflect the representation of other minorities in the government in terms of parliamentary and regional representations such that the minorities will be able to have their say when the majorities have their way in one-person one-vote democratic system whereby political parties should be required by law to be multinational without tribal affiliation.
With these provisions in place Oromos should run and compete for political power on equal footings with all other communities in the country as citizens of one state in which any person has the right to live and make a living anywhere in the country without limitations what so ever.
By Mulata Gudata