The Oromo issue on Al Jazeera. By Yilma Bekele

By Yilma Bekele
There was a half hour discussion on the Oromo issue in Ethiopia on Al Jazeera Television Network. It was one of those situations where you go ‘what just happened’ after an experience that leaves you confused and dumbfounded when it is over. As an Ethiopian I am familiar with the issue and as someone who was born and raised in Sidama I certainly have enough real experience to have a handle on the matter. Furthermore as an Ethiopian that has been exposed to the opinions presented by the OLF and other Oromo groups I thought this program will give me further insight to the grievances by the party’s concerned.
I am sad to say the discussion did not shine any new light on the issue, was not able to define the problem in a coherent manner and failed to present a solution that is well thought of and acceptable to all the parties involved. What is the point of appearing on a discussion program if the net result is to not being able to teach some, respond to difficult questions with rational and verifiable argument and show the world why your position is just and convince all peace loving people to support your cause.
I would like to say that the hosts of ‘The Stream’ show were very gracious and asked very important and probing questions and gave the participants plenty of opportunity to state their case. You can tell the interviewers were as confused as we the viewers based on the trend of their questions which was asking for specifics and some kind of solution as the program was coming to an end. In fact one of the hosts brought out her own experience belonging to a majority tribe in Nigeria trying to make sense of the confusing analysis made by the guests.
One thing for sure is that the subject is not an easy one to define and explain. What exactly is the Oromo question in our country is a good place to start. Some see it as a question of democracy and human right within the Ethiopian context. Others define it as a self-determination issue up to and including secession. We are talking about a new country with international boundary a flag and a seat in the UN.
I am not really well equipped to discuss the historical question as I have not versed myself in the issue to be able to give an in-depth analysis. I will leave that to historians. As a layman I am just interested by the arguments presented on this show and the end result achieved by the participation of my esteemed Ethiopian brethren whether they accept me as such or not.
What troubled me most was the wanton way statistics was thrown around, facts distorted to fit the argument and reality on the ground completely and absolutely ignored to make a feeble point. I am familiar with the way we Ethiopians use statistics. No one equals our current government with absolute disregard and unrivaled contempt to the science of statistics. It is with a straight face and somber look that they tell the whole world our economy is growing double digits and is the envy of every developing country. It is their cooked number and they are proud of it.
I was a little appalled when the same argument was brought out on ‘The Stream’ presentation. Here are some examples of the plethora of statistics thrown during the discussion – ‘there are twenty five thousand to thirty thousand Oromo political prisoners, nine out of ten political prisoners are Oromos jailed for speaking their language, in 2012 ninety thousand out of one hundred ten thousand (82%) refugees into Yemen were Oromos, Oromos contribute sixty to sixty five percent of Ethiopia’s GDP’ All I ask is credible citations for this pronouncements.
I am afraid I do not have direct experience under Meles/TPLF administration but most of the stuff that was said about our country during the Imperial era and the Derg regime does not seem to reflect the facts on the ground. We all agree there was national oppression in our country. We all understand the vast majority were marginalized and did not participate fully in the governance of their nation. On the other hand what we had was an old fashioned Imperial Kingdom that drew its legitimacy from tradition and the ‘will of God’. Logic says democracy and rule of law cannot be expected from such arrangement.
The military regime that followed with all credit due tried to right what was wrong in its own way. But due to its nature it did not succeed. Remember the Imperial regime failed by the sheer will and determination of the masses of people. The Derg circumvented the will of the people. Both systems failed because they did not fulfill the aspirations of their people. But we got to admit things did not stay the same as they were before. Claiming otherwise is a futile attempt to deny reality. The change brought about has not yet fulfilled our hopes. That is exactly why there is so much dissatisfaction in our country today. Our people deserve better is our general sentiment.
That is exactly why the host asked a very intelligent and deep question. She said ‘How do you see Ethiopia, how do you see Oromos reconciling so you all want Ethiopia rather than this major group, major ethnic group felling they have a lot of grievances –where do you go to now, what is the way forward?  This was the perfect opportunity for the guests to shine. To rise above the rhetoric, the blame game, the victim syndrome and use the program to be a teachable moment for their Oromo constituents and for the rest of Ethiopians. They failed miserably. Their purpose was to insistently talk about the past instead of what could be achieved in the future together with the rest of the oppressed masses of Ethiopia. They failed to recognize their dream is our dream, their liberation is our liberation and the future belongs to all of us together. It was a missed opportunity to help our people see beyond victimhood and paint a bright future in bold colors.

Our Ethiopian/Oromo guests were reluctant or unable to state what exactly they want but instead deluded the hosts with horror stories by traveling back in time and drawing a nightmarish Ethiopia of conquests, slavery and dark moments. You see the problem with that analysis is no country or nation on planet earth can claim immune from the untold horror stories that accompany nation building. China, Russia, France, England, USA, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Canada etc. etc. were all the outcome of conquest. It is not unique to our country. Just because the current Woyane regime intensifies the contradiction for its own narrow aims, just because they preach hate, just because they feed on our ignorance there is no reason we should repeat after them and take our country to hell.
Except for our northern cousins most of us in the south, center, east and west of our country are a very mixed blood people. We have lived together for eons, intermarried, and lived in harmony for a very long time. I remember when discussing lineage was frowned upon. The TPLF came and said everybody to your Kilil and a lot were unable to define themselves. Our Woyane masters were totally confused with this phenomenon. Twenty years into this game it is sad to see people singing the same old song.
Our guests seem to conveniently forget a certain part of history where the OLF leadership partnered with TPLF. The OLF was used by TPLF thugs to commit untold atrocity in certain parts of Ethiopia. The OLF leadership disarmed and abandoned their troops to be humiliated and massacred. We understand. We are the victims of TPLF policy too. We are familiar with ANDM that is betraying our people. We certainly recognize Bene Shangul Gumuz and SNNP that is carrying out ethnic cleansing fueled by TPLF, we are familiar with Afar and Gambela hired puppets that are displacing our brethren from their ancestral lands, we feel the pain of our Somali Ethiopians that are going thru hell on earth. All atrocities are committed by TPLF using local people as a front.
Well my friends, the Amhara and Tigrai peasant, the Oromo herder, the Afar pastoralist, the Sidama farmer, the Gambelan fisherman have one thing in common, they are all victims of a policy by the Tigrai based so called Ethiopian regime. It is only when these dispersed groups unite and challenge the heavily armed minority regime that real change can happen. This idea of confronting the enemy as bands of warriors is not going to work. This idea of going on a television program and reciting atrocities from hundred years back is a no brainer. It gives the speaker some tiny ego massage but it does the cause they stand for no good. It is a disservice to our people and a complete joke on our intelligence. We have come a long way, we have seen so much, we have experienced a lot and we should be treated with a little bit more respect.
On a recent lecture on crisis leadership, Nancy Koehn a Harvard Business school historian said what we need is wisdom, because ‘information …does not equal knowledge, and knowledge does not equal understanding, and understanding does not equal wisdom.’ It is not a good thing when some of our learned friends prey on the ignorance and weakness of our people to reduce grave problems into simplistic formulas of us against them. That road has been tried and it has not taken us anywhere. Leadership requires making the hard choices no mater unpopular. In the same lecture Professor Koehn quoted the novelist David Foster Wallace and his definition of leadership-‘effective leaders are individuals who help us overcome the limitations of our own selfishness and weakness and fears and get us to do harder, better, and more important things than we can get ourselves to do on our own’.
It is a beautiful definition and that is what is needed of those that aspire to be future leaders. Work hard to enhance our strength rather than magnify our weakness, strive to bring the best in us instead of catering to our worst instinct, show us the road to the Promised Land not dwell on what we left behind. It is never too late to change. We pray for change.


  1. Who cares what you discuss we know what you want to say. Just ignore, it is the first discussion towards bringing the world.

  2. A great piece, my brother. I appreciate you for the wisdom you showed as much as I despise the ignorance of those in the interview. Hatred can only breed hatred. They should have realized this more than anybody else. They only showed that they are anything but leaders, as those who lead towards the abyss are insane. As a proud Oromo, I cannot even ponder for a second to follow such blind individuals claiming leadership. Let them go to hell as this seems to be their choice. As to me, I know my destiny is no other than that of my 90 million brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and children living in what I proudly call ETHIOPIA. Period. The struggle to freedom, democracy and justice shall continue.

  3. Dear writer:
    I dont understand why your spent your golden time with out writing any thing. I read your article atleast three times and have not seen any fruits. It is old song with new rythem. You have accused them waying old song, victumhood poltics, intermarriage etc. You have told us that they failed to raise important issues on the way forward. I think you need to listen to them again. As young generation I feel they have hit tip of the nail, that is why you guys have been crying all over the media outlets. You are crtics of not giving the wayforward but what about you did you say any thing? You have been talking about intermarriage since last 21 years, you have been saying Minilk is oromo, Mengistu is oromo, Teferi is Oromo. But you forget to say Yilma is oromo. hoo you say am from SNNPR. For your information the oppresed nations and nationalities camp (Oromo, sidma, benishagul, afar , somali etc) are not in defensive position we are not not victiumhood but at offinsive position. You try to divided us through region and religion for 100 years, you have been dividing our icon organizaiton OLF. But now we have overcomed all your invain trial and at offinsive postion whether you like it or not.

  4. I think Ato Obang Metho shall lecture them how to deal with the past and reconcile for the future. I advice them to see how Obang answered Ato Hagos’s hateful questions with wisdom and love in israel.
    Obang metho is one of hopeful game changers hwo understands how to be inclusive.


  6. Heloow Oromos and friends, there is no Oromo issue. It is the question of the survival of Ethiopia. The Problem and the burden of Ethiopia is the bloody woyane/tplf. Istead of getting rid of this terrible ceatures people talk about the Oromos. Thos who tries to separate the issue are the people paid by the woyane/tplf.
    Jawar mohammad has nothing to do with neither the Oromos nor Ethiopia. He is paid by the enemies of Ethiopia. Oromos are pure Ethiopians and Ethiopia belongs to Oromos as well.

  7. Good job Mr, Yilma. Your article was written very clearly and vivdly so any
    person who has a brain will understand the issue you brought out to the reader.I never fell to read your previous. article You are very knowlegable and professional.
    keep the good work and feed us with ample information

  8. The author of the piece (article) could have used his time to tell us the smallest grain of truth in Ethiopian politics. We are tired of the old lies. We Ethiopians are different. We have never been the same in the past. We are not the same today. Swallow this truth. It is nature. Neither Jawar nor his colleges did anything wrong. They only exposed facts and truth. Please, stop lying and accept the facts of nature. We Ethiopians are different. We have never been the same. We shall remain different. Learn living with it.

  9. These bankrupt ethno fascists hiding behind ethnic liberation fronts such as olf have nothing worthwhile to talk about except moaning about oppression, victimisation, subjugation, colonialism etc etc by Menelik. Their motto is ‘revenge’ for the imagined colonialism, subjugation they suffered.
    As the writer says how is that these supporters of olf avoid telling the story as it is. olf was used as a pawn by Tigre people liberation front to commit the most heinous crimes in the history of Ethiopia. Tigre liberation front then disarmed and massacred olf once they use them to their dirty work.
    Why do olf avoid this side of their story, yet they are happy to bash the real victims the amhara population at every opportunity they get. The victim is always themselves.
    Any fascist can write his own version of story to justify massacre, eviction and displacement of innocent citizens. that is what that dead satan zenawi and the likes of him are and were doing. ”Ethiopia is 100 years old” is a story promoted by the ethno-fascists. This is the basis and justification for them to kill, displace and jail people.

  10. First they claim that Minilik is oromo, HIM oromo mengistu Oromo, Melese Oromo, that doesn’t work at all. As if they did not farted for the last 130 years that they are especial people, now whenever they right or make opinion, they are either Oromo,or Sidama, or Somali. The stuggle of subjugated people is fighting you neck to neck. The only chance you have is to accept the minimum agreement that these people you oppressed, that is FEDERALISM. Ortherwise just cry me river, there is no a country called Ethiopia in 2020. Ogaden and Oromo have already woke up, Sidama has already, Gamebela, Benishangul, Agew etc will soon be at you neck. No Gobena this time to save your crumbling empire.

  11. daa,
    you said there won’t be a country called Ethiopia in 2020. How did you work that out?
    Ethiopia has existed for mellinnnium and no ethno fascsit propaganda, hate campaign, can alter that. your wish might be to see Ethiopia disappearing into thin air.
    I will remind you that this wont happen. There are millions of Ethiopians who love this country – amharas, oromos, tigres, afari, ogadeni, gambella, guraghie, kembatta, hadiya, sidama, wolayta, etc etc and who are willing to die for it.
    I am ETHIOPIAN , a proud Ethiopian. do NOT you ever dare TO insult my country.

  12. Well its really sad to read some of the comment in 21 century.But i can tell you and every body knows that the truth in ethiopia.I dont want to write about(TPLF) the most ethnocentric,Mafia,Brutal and narrow minded org.I know for sure that about 80%of ethiopians are so proud to be ethiopians and they are proud of there 3000 years of grate History.Still ethiopians are trying to be nice and civilized and shows there respect for some of those who wish to see a disintegrated ethiopia.But you have to see the consequences that was followed by TPLF after they tok power and made the rest of the people in ethiopia second class citizen while they have stolen billions of dollars and Killed,arrested,Tortured,Evicted,Harassed,Terrorized the rest of the people.To be honest its really easy for OLF also to work and bring democracy in ethiopia which gives them the advantage to get more vote and the power legally if they make it because no body have said that some of the other ethnic group should get 2 votes while the others get one.Democracy is one mann one vote and period.We can even see how many of the ethiopians want to keep the national language in the country as well.But if you just want to go the hard way I can guaranty you the people of ethiopia will win,because we are 75million people who want to continue the grate history of this country.we should know Addis Abeba has close to 5 million people from every corner of the nation and dreaming to create a new nation on the cost of millions of people and different ethnic groups would be consider insane in 21st century and no nation on earth would allow for this kind of nightmare.Remember Bosnia Hercegovina it became an independence country because there were different types of ethnic groups there and they were surrounded by different small nations.Atleast to create a nation one of the most important things is location location location.I can count many of the ethnic groups in ethiopia they dont even have a single person who hate the unity of ethiopia let alone an organization.There for its wise and god to listen to the vast majority of ethiopians including the vast majority of Oromos.Long live ethiopia and Humanity before ethnicity.Death to TPLF and Hodams.

  13. Wendataw
    you are right ,ethiopians are proud of 3000 thousand history.But you forget to mention that these thousand history concern only abyssinia or ethiopia which was the amhara kilil and tigray killil .You share around 100 years with all the other nations conquerd by minilk. We have our own history and you have yours thousand years history.

  14. Why is it that they give us Oromos their dead or deposed leaders always. When Minilik or Haileselsassie was on power, no one said they were Oromos. When Mengistu was on power, he never claimed he was Oromo. He was acting Amhara. That always surprises me. But that is beyond the point. it’s not their blood that countsm but their act and what they claim to be. For that matter Stalin who acted more Russian than Russians was Georgian. And he massaccred his own Georgians for the benefit of Russian. This is common in history.

  15. I repeat!
    በ50 ዓመት ዕድሜው ኦነግ የሰራው አንድ ስራ ቢኖር ጃዋርን የመሰለ የዘርና የእምነት ፖለቲካ ጽንፈኛ ሰው ኮትኩቶ ማሳደጉ ነው::
    ኦነግ እንደ ድርጅት ግማሽ ምዕተ ዓመት ሙሉ እንደዝንጀሮ ቆንጥር ለቆንጥር ሲዘል ኖሮ ምንም ያልፈየደ፤ ዛሬ የኒውዮርክ አርበኛ ችግር ይፈጥራል ብሎ ማሰብ ጅልነት ነው::
    አልሰማ ብላችሁ እንጂ ጃዋር ማለት እንኳን ለኢትዮጵያ ለኦሮሞው ራሱ አደገኛ መርዝ መሆኑን ተነግሮን ነበር:: ዛሬ ራሱ ስላፈረጠው ያዙኝ ልቀቁኝ ይባልልኛል:: ኦሮሞውም ንቃ! የጃዋር አላማ ጽንፈኛ ኢስላሚዝምን ማራመድ ነው:: ያ ነው የጃዋር የሊበሬሽን ትርጉሙ:: በቅርብ ስለማውቀው ነው ይህን የምመሰክረው::
    ሞት ለጽንፈኞች!
    ጸሃፊው (ይልማ በቀለ) ቅንነትህን ይባርክልህ! ያጣነው ቅንነትን የሚሰብክ እንጂ እውቀት አልተቸገርንም:: እንኳን በቅኖቹ በጠማማ ልቦችም ዛሬ እውቀት መሽጓል:: እነሱ ለጥፋት ሳያውሉት በፊት የሚቀድማቸው ቅን ሰው ነው ያጣነው:: ቅን ሰው ጨምሮ ይስጠን! አሜን በሉ!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.