By Teshome M. Borago
As the ruling party plans to elect a new Prime Minister in a few days; more shocking information is coming out on the identity of lead Oromo candidate Dr. Abiy Ahmed; including some that has sent the whole current TPLF system of ethnic-federalism upside down.
Several renowned Oromo journalists and Oromo activists have already praised Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the new leader of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO).
Oromo activist Dr. Awol Kassim Allo labelled Dr. Abiy as “the only Oromo candidate for PM.”
The Editor of popular Oromo website Opride.com, Mohammed Ademo, gave Dr. Abiy his full support, predicting that “appointing Ethiopia’s first Oromo prime minister could appease protesters.”
Many Oromos on social media also view Dr. Abiy as their future leader, with some calling him “Oromo liberator.” Even the renowned Oromo activist Jawar Mohammed told his 1 million+ Facebook followers to forgive Abiy’s surprising absence during the State of Emergency voting session last week, because Abiy is Oromo.
Virtually millions of Oromos and foreign observers have openly advocated for the premiership of Dr. Abiy Ahmed; as a way “to give a voice and representation to OROMO people.”
As expected, after several years of ethnic-politics being institutionalized in Ethiopia by the TPLF regime, nobody is surprised that so many Ethiopians have adopted such an ethnocentric and narrow world view.
But the big surprise is that OPDO’s Dr. Abiy might actually be more of an AMHARA.
According to his official profile and background info, Dr. Abiy is reported to have Amhara ancestors, with his mother described online as “Amhara Christian.” His name “Abiy” (also spelled Abey) is an Amharic name; and some of his former colleagues have reportedly suggested that he sees himself as an Amhara culturally, but as an Oromo politically in order to join the OPDO. In reality, based on his ancestry, Dr. Abiy seems to be no more Oromo than Emperor Menelik (whose mother was also Oromo.) In fact, Emperor Haile Selassie (whose father was half-Oromo and whose mother was full-Oromo from Wollo) is actually more Oromo than Dr. Abiy Ahmed will ever be.
This is not a new dilemma inside OPDO, because Oromo extremists have for years complained about the genuine “Oromoness” of most members of OPDO, including OPDO co-founder Aba Dulla. In the early 1990s, many Oromo hardliners often said OPDO is filled with half-Oromos (including those with Amara, southern, Somali and Tigrean ancestry.) This was a big problem for OPDO for two decades.
However, in this historic year of rising Oromo nationalism and Oromo revolution, it is truly ironic that Oromo activists worldwide want to give the KEYS to their movement to an Amhara.
After so many innocent Oromos died in the streets of Oromia the last two years; if the best leader that Oromo nationalism can produce is an Amhara: then what does this really say about where we are as a nation? What does this say about the concepts of ethnic self-rule and ethnic self-determination? What does this say about the useless ethnic boundary referendums that have caused endless ethnic bloodshed between OPDO-led Oromia and regional states like Somali and SNNPR?
After-all, one of the reasons why hundreds of Oromos and Somalis died last year, and millions became internally displaced refugees was because of the tribalization of land since the 1997 referendum. After that land redistribution scheme, 340 zones out of 420 zones were awarded to Oromia, leading to the homelessness and disenfranchisement of Somali-Ethiopians. Similar ethnicization of land has brought so much suffering to millions and divided our country. If all these crisis and ideological bankruptcy of ethnic elites do not convince them to lower their divisive ethnic-nationalism rhetoric, then, what will?
Sooner or later, diaspora Oromos and other vocal Oromo elites might turn their backs on Dr. Abiy and Lemma; just like they defamed and turned their backs on OLF founders like Lencho Lata. Oromo nationalists are infamous for blaming each other and attacking personalities; instead of soul searching or self-reflection on their ideological shortcomings.
For those of us Ethiopians who have exposed the gravity, backwardness, impracticality and incompatibility of the current tribal-federalism structure with modern democracy in the 21st century: this is a huge ideological and political victory. If the future leader of OPDO and the #Oromoprotests is a half-Amhara like Dr. Abiy, maybe it will reduce ethnic tensions. Maybe then, we can all see each other as Ethiopians first and foremost.
But too many people have already perished in Ethiopia for the sake of tribalism and it must stop. Sooner or later, ethnic apartheid federalism and dangerous tribal-nationalism must be replaced with regional federalism and civic nationalism. One of the best ways to mitigate tribal conflict and lower ethnic tensions is to detach tribal ownership of any land and recognize mixed-Ethiopians as a separate group in our population.
Dr. Abiy Ahmed is one of millions of Ethiopians with mixed ancestry. Unfortunately, mixed-ethnicity is not emphasized in our national Census and this should be one of the main agenda of our future government.
The TPLF dictatorship is on its last legs, but we should not focus on the ethnic label of the next government, we should focus on developing democratic institutions. All Ethiopians must unite to establish a new non-tribal government. We should not try to replace the Tigray-led regime with an Oromo-led one. It is important that Ethiopia transitions into a new system of government for all the people, in which leaders are picked based on merit, and where all Ethiopians are represented as individuals, no matter which tribe (or mix of tribes) they belong to.
Contact the writer at [email protected]
By Teshome M. Borago