As separatists in Ethiopia disarm, a new chapter for D.C.’s Oromo community (Washington Post)

April 2nd, 2012 Print Print Email Email

On a windy Saturday afternoon at a small Petworth cafe, Taha Tuko orders a round of celebratory macchiatos for three of his countrymen and tells them their 38-year armed struggle for secession from Ethiopia is over — fighters back in Africa have laid down their arms.

The dream of an independent Oromia long cherished by Tuko and other Oromo Ethiopians might never be realized. Their revolution is being repurposed with a new goal: uniting with other Ethio­pian opposition parties in the Washington region against the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, which they all accuse of being autocratic and corrupt.

“The violence is over, and this is good news!” insists Tuko, the Washington region leader of the now retooled Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), one of the factions that fought for an independent Oromia. “But our mission is no longer for independence. We’ll be one with the Ethiopian community now. Both back home and here in Washington.”

Washington is home to an estimated 100,000 Ethio­pian immigrants — the largest concentration in the United States — including ethnic Oromos such as Tuko, from central and southern Ethi­o­pia, as well as a half-dozen other ethnic groups, such as the Amharas from the eastern and central highlands and the Tigrayans from the northern highlands.

But what happens to diasporas of this kind when a revolution or a political movement dies? Does everyone just go out for coffee, become friends, start working together? Sometimes. Older political factions from Washington’s Salvadoran diaspora, for example, still come together every year to honor the end of the Central American country’s civil war 20 years ago because it was so powerful in uniting the community here.

The Oromo countrymen, a cook, a cab driver and a teacher, pull off chunks of injera, Ethiopia’s crepelike flatbread, and use it to sop up a traditional lunch of goat and vegetables, washing it down with the customary glass of milk. The Georgia Avenue cafe is called A Land of Medicine, after an Oromo city. Grainy Oromo music videos play on a beat-up television — flashing images of Oromia’s lush barley- and coffee-growing regions — as each of Tuko’s guests share harrowing stories about friends and relatives hauled off to jail in the middle of dinner or found dead after being assaulted. Oromos, 50 percent of whom are Muslim, are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and the men and women talk about religious persecution and attempts to limit their political power in the majority Christian Ethio­pian Orthodox country.

The OLF, one of the world’s long-running insurgent groups, was so active in Washington that it had offices in a Takoma Park bungalow, a U Street rowhouse and a commercial building in Petworth that now has a “For Rent” sign out front. The group organized Howard University political rallies, functions at Oromo churches and mosques and high-level meetings with Congress — even a Miss Oromo-North America beauty pageant.

Those events will continue, Tuko promises the crowd, just with a different spin.

  1. yilma b.
    | #1

    It is a beautiful day.Love conquers all.Thank you Taha Tuko.

  2. anon
    | #2

    This is it,when people obey their conscious and do the right thing, there will not be any limit to how far we can go and to what we can accomplish.It is always love that holds the community as a glue together.Unity is always the right thing; Its absence is what affords the leader of TPLF to behavein the way he does towards our people.Let us forgive the worngs of the past.Today’s Ethiopians have no desire to go back to the old days.We just want to live in peace together as brothers and sisters as Ethiopians and Africans.

  3. Kaaroot
    | #3

    Actually, our mind-set of bilisummaa – the OLF (our David) – used to play both cards of Oromian independence within African union and Oromian autonomy within Ethiopian union (Ethiopian union card as a carrot, and Oromian independence card as a stick) in the national liberation struggle against the Abyssinian colonialists; so the pro-autonomy vs. pro-independence conflict among the Oromo polity could have been avoided by looking at this important approach of using both cards positively. When I read this in the following article, then no wonder that we do see Ethiopians dancing and jumping as the pro-autonomy OLF decided to abandon the independence agenda: Habeshas just got the nutritive carrot, but not the pain inflicting stick, which they really fear!

  4. aha!
    | #4

    I am surprised that Washington Post is the news media authoring this superficial change of part of OLF abandoning secessionism upto self determination, where the other half is still out there engaged armed struggle to secede, that has nothing to do with abandoning ethnic fedralism, secessionism and totaliarinism that OPDF/EDF/fdre is embracing it as the mainframe work of the constituion.

    What needs to be clear in the minds of of the opposition parties, which formed a coalition/front even after including OFF have not merged to form a party with the national agenda to engage in a peaceful struggle for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty and equality to have precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights, which are mutually exclusive.

    Having endorsed ethnic fedralism, secessionism and totaliarinism, which hinders free market capitalism, instead of state capitalism, democracy and individual freedom, liberty and equality as the bases for a truly democratic government OFF announces to have put down its arms and engages in a peacefull struggle the opposition parties meaning OPDF/EFDF/fdre that nothing more than a conglomerate of parties with ethnic agenda to remove the autocratic and corrupt regime, as if the current regime is ethnocratic nevertheless minority to replace with majority ethnocratic rule.

    All what is required of the opposition parties and liberation fronts by the silent majority of Ethiopians/tax payers, I firmely belive is to stand on the opposite of the spectrum with those of national agenda of the “Andinet Hayloch” by abandoning ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism based on bilaws drafted in a national convention, now before the fall of the current regime, if at all falls under the secenario followed by the leaders of OPDF/EFDF/fdre, where UDJP is hammering on the subset of the national agenda, “yekotun awerd billa yebibituan talech ayinet poletika”, and those with ethnic agenda including now OFF, have there eyes on ethnic fedreralism , less secessionism, which is what in essence which the regime wants, depite its blunder of granting ethnic secessionist rights in the constitution, and allowing Eritrean province to secede from Ethiopia, and denying the country of its ports. How does this coalition to save Ethiopia from the negative forces of disintegration, when the prelude to secession has already been set with forseable incidences of border disputes of which Eritrea is a living example, and the districts annexed to Tigrai Killil from Wollo and Gonder are living examples.

  5. tewbel
    | #5

    Better read carefully the above message, including that from the Gadaa page.

  6. ጉረኞች
    | #6

    The report states “…fighters back in Africa have laid down their arms.” This is strange. I thought their plan was to undertake all inclusive fight as postulated by Ginbot 7. Where did the fighters go? Good news though for our brothers to join all Ethiopians to fight the dictator Meles’ ethnic apartheid.

  7. Ethiopian from Minnesota, U.S.A
    | #7

    Ethiopia is a nation of more than eighty ethnic groups (nationalities or tribes, call it whatever you like) and more than 100 dilects (languages). It is impossible to agree on what is a better system to embrace the aspirations and imaginations of all as one. Human beings love to point out our differences more quickly than our similarities or things that bind us together. Let us give the devil the chance to prove itself what is said by OLF on the Washington Post that their fighters have laid down the arms and joined the rest of Ethiopians in search of common ground for ONE NATION OF ETHIOPIA. It is absurd to criticize one political organization on its long lasting struggle or pursuit of Secession from the Motherland (whether we agree or not) while the government in power endorses and implements this ugly rhetoric or propaganda of Separation up to Secession. Meles Zenawi has to feel ashamed (I doubt if he has a heartfelt love to one Nation of Ethiopia) of his tribal policy that has wedged unnecessary division among the peoples of Ethiopia. Was it really important to give priority to creation of seven (?) flags when part of the nation exists on food aid from other countries? I leave the “political theoretical analysis” to political scientists or professionals. But as a rational person I can argue and propose what is good for all people. What I wish for myself is good for others knowing that we all want the best what life provides us. I know that Meles Zenawi wishes the best for his children. But does he remember his beautiful children when he allows his security force torture or kill other parents’ children? Does he think or imagine how it feels to lose your child because of the action of the government? Does he think about his brothers or sisters or cousins or nephews or nieces when he fires people from their jobs because they oppose his policy and governance? How would he have felt if his father had been displaced from his family home by force? Meles Zenawi should be held responsible for state mandated Bantu-ism of Ethiopia. He might be opposing the OLF, but he was the collaborator and facilitator of this ugly segregationist movement. He may wiggle his political tail and try to weasel out of this terrible political reality, but he cannot escape from his own history, and cannot run away from the truth what Ethiopia is facing. Nobody forgets his blunder on the significance of the Ethiopian flag. His disrespect of the flag as piece of cloth still reverberates in my ears as well as all Ethiopians’ ears. Let us give the benefit of the doubt to all political organizations who aspire to unite and recognize the importance and benefit of united power than the divided one. We have to salute those who brave themselves for the unity of the Ethiopian Nation despite of their previous political attitude or stance. It is necessary to accept people for their presented value until they prove themselves untrustworthy. If we want to heal the political wounds of our Nation, it is important to change our own presumption of facts. If we want a real change in Ethiopia where the law of the land prevails, we have to accept any political organization or individual who is determined and dedicated to work for the unity of the peoples of Ethiopia without any stipulation. Nobody is more or less Ethiopian among Ethiopians. So I say to OLF, WELCOME HOME TO YOUR MOTHERLAND, ETHIOPIA.

  8. aha!
    | #8

    To begin with, eventhough there are 80 ethnic groups, the Ethiopian land mass is divided into seven ethnic zones/Killil mengistats, where the other two are multi-ethnic, mini Ethiopia, contrary to the the distribution of the ethnic groups in the 14 original provinces that could easily maintain autonomous states with individual freedom, liberty and equality to have precedence over ethnic rights and secessionist rights. The ethnic-based political agenda of the teletafi (ethnic federalist) parties and the loyalist (ethnic federalist) opposition parties are in the way to attain the vision that Ethiopian peoples live in harmoney, which they trying to live irrespective of the TPLF/eprdf ethnic agenda and the constituiton of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism, supported by the teletafi and loyalist oppostion parties directly and indirectley. The freedom of the silent majoriy of Ethiopians is in the hands of the teletafi parties, the loyalist opposition party leaders of which Andinet Hayloch have no part, to abandon ethnic federalism and ethnic secessionist federalism to abandon secessionism, upto self determination or merge with Ginbot 7 or EPPF, as the main stay of the multi-layer, hierarchical political model of TPLF/eprdf regime. What OFF is doing is abandoning secessionism and yet embracing ethnic federalism and totaliarinism and merging with OPDF/EFDF/fdfre with ethnic agenda, a mirror image of TPLF/eprdf political model. Unless this party merge among themselves and with the Andinet Hayloch under the national agenda with common strategies to achieve those goals and agree on the ratification of the constitution based base on individual freedom, liberty and equality to have precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights before hand, there will be skirmishes for ethnic rule between the minority and the majority ethnic rule, while leaving ethnic fedralism, secessionism and totaliarinism intact, by just removing the top leaders in the TPLF Polit Buerro.

  9. beyyu
    | #9

    Tigre people liberation front have been raping Ethiopia, evicting the citizens with their accomplices including Arabs, aid donors, chinese, indians, pakistanis, thailanees, etc and who ever bribed the TPLf, for decades. This happens because we let them do it.

    We, as Ethiopians, chose to be divided, we chose to fight among ourselves instead of focusing our fight on the real enemy, we chose to blame one another. Yet we suffered together with out exception in the hands of Tigre people liberation front, which in reality is a mercenary , ethno-fascist organisation created to dismember Ethiopia, to uproot and evict its poor citizens, to sell the land and make way for its foreign funders.

    It is time we all take a reality check. Who is benefiting from our division , from our infighting, from our lack of respect and courteousy for our fellow country men and women regardless of their ethnicity.

    Tigre people liberation front has been mocking us sitting on the side lines while they watch one ethnic group attacking the other, and playing the TPLF card. They have got us in their trap. the TPLF play the ethnic card to their advantage. When we do the same we have fallen victim with out realising it. TPLF survived for so long by inciting violence between the various ethnic groups in our country, by murdering , jailing and torturing opposition group members. Violence is the means of survival of TPLF. ONE ANNOT SEPARATE tplf FROM VIOLENCE.

    The statu quo has to change, entrenched views have to be reexamined if we are to be free from the TPLf mafia mercenary group.

    It is good news indeed to see our oromo liberation front members embracing Ethiopian unity

  10. abdisa aga
    | #10

    its great time to all ethiopians now the weyane relocating amharas ethnic
    when tigrai famine happened it was the oromo in greater part well come settlers now the tigrai twelaje weyane forget all that start revange my country man amhara i am not amhara but i defend all my country man.

    let me tale you we need to unit people to challenge weyane .
    its enough,enough,we live in diaspora freely people in their own country blive me you time is upp upp weyane have no hidding place,

    weke up oromo,weke up tigrai,wekeup amhara,weke up,gambela,weke up,debube,weke up somali,weke up afari. wekeup ethiopians!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Ethiopian from Minnesota, U.S.A
    | #11

    It is in our human nature to identify oneself to the neighborhood, village, town, or tribe we come from. We always play the intellect not to look like the ethnically aligned political individual. In our attempt of avoiding this narrow mindedness regarding our tribal or ethnic affiliation we are dragged back unexpectedly into the mud of tribalism through our commentaries. My brother Abdisa Aga, you seem to be a genuine Ethiopian. It does not matter which tribe or ethnicity or village you belong to. As an Ethiopian it is your God-given duty to defend any group of Ethiopians in the time of trial. It is enough for me that you are one of my Ethiopian brothers who can contribute to the betterment of our Ethiopia. When we see and focus on the biggest picture of One Nation of Ethiopia, we can overcome our tribal prejudices, and challenge the divide and rule policy of Meles Zenawi’s regime. When we raise the Green, Yellow, and Red colored flag of one Ethiopia in our Heart and Soul, we can defeat our own mental battle of our identity crisis, and march forward to the United Peoples of One Nation of Ethiopia. Some may think that I live in the La-LA world. Some may think what delusional I am to dream of One Nation of Ethiopia. Well nothing dreamed , nothing ventured, and nothing ventured, nothing gained. As Anatole France said, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” So if we believe that we can liberate ourselves from the chain of mental slaving tribalism and keep on talking in coherent voice of Ethiopianism, our dreams will be realized and Ethiopia will rise from the ashes of Meles’s bantu-ism. As Abdisa Aga said all Ethiopians will wake up one day and hold up the torch of Unity with its flame shining the new era of Ethiopian Nation. I have a dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. astra
    | #12

    One of the misinformation of TPLF is to say that the Amara population is less than the Oromo population. This is manifestly wrong. The Amara population is more than the Oromo, this has been established as a fact.The TPLF also says that the Amara population is steadily DECREASING FROM YEAR TO YEAR. No Ethiopian of good will and no Amara will ever accept both of these these TPLF fictions

  13. aha!
    | #13

    Beyyu, to resolve the humanitarian, economic, political and environmental crises perpetrated by TPLF/eprdf regime against the silent majority of Ethiopians, all the parties and factions have to fall under the national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians, where the last item refers to individual freedom, liberty, and equality to have precedence over ethnic and secessionist rights, with strategies to achieve those goals, as the logical and unifying path/concept to assume in order to save Ethiopia from disintegration, simply uniting to against the leaders at the top/TPLF does not amount to a change by dismantling ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism.

    To that effect, what read from you as well as from ENC indicating that OLF has abandoned secessionism and posing to form a “new federal democratic Ethiopia” and Washinton Post of the OLF disarming itself, and from the perspective of Ginbot 7, they formed and aaliance with G-7, and your proclamation of good news, that that “our oromo liberation front members embracing Ethiopian Unity are all misleading and bizzare information to comprehend and has nothing to do with saving Ethiopia from disintegration. It is ethnic -based looking into one own ethnic group than lookinto Ethiopiawinet first and ones ethnicity second, by accentuating on individual freedom, liberty and equality as the central piece of the new constitution

  14. aha!
    | #14

    This need to befollowed by ratification of the costitution free of ethnic and secessionist politics and policies and resort to the original provinces and let the ethnic groups in each of the autonomous states harmoneously in a cooperative and competetive manner for resources and oppotunities availble before them as Ethiopians without being confined to one own ethnic boundries, knowing the Ethiopian land mass belongs to all Ethiopians, irrespective of ones ethnic identity, or religion, much like the species populations of animals.

    The make up of TPLF/eprdf regime is to segregate the ethnic populations into ethnic enclaves, by way of creating a fanatacy land with ill defined boundries with a prelude for secession and future border disputes and ethnic cleansing of the Amahara ethnic group of those regions, which has been apparent in the last 21 years in addition demonising, mariginalising and undermining the Amahara ethnic group directly and indirectly through is puppet Killil Mengistats Administritators and security forces, along with granting ethnic secessionist rights upto self-determination. These policies adpted into the constitution that formed ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism have denied the silent majority of Ethiopians free maket capitalism including private property ownership, democracy, individual freedom and the rights of the Ethiopians to settle, own properties and live anywhere in Ethiopia outside their ethnic origion, the current admistration is setting the stage to feudal ethnic kingdoms of the seventh century, before Ethiopia became one nation with one flag and one official language with other cultures and languages developing side by side.

    It is wise to get out of the mined set of ethnic-based politics, with ill defined boundries of killil mengistats/balabats as puppet adminstative regions of TPLF/eprdf, driven with a leash by TPLF Polit Buerro in a divide and rule policy in a colonial and/or Appartheid system. It is time for the ethnic federalists of the teletafi and loyalist opposition parties to stand for the individual freedom, liberty and equality as result of which the group rights falls through, but not vice versa.

  15. weygud
    | #15

    It is such a sad fact that after seeing what we have seen for 19 years of trial of the secession of Eritrea, the so called secessionist still believe separation is the right thing. Eritrea is trying to prove so hard by itself that it is surviving safe and sound that it is Ethiopia who is stifling the progress of Eritrea. And yet, secretly they never tell you their struggle for survival and that without Ethiopia, its survival is bleak. that is why, Meles who is pro Eritrea may be uniting it under Greater Tigray. So, the struggle of Eritrea for over 30 years has been a pipe dream and they want to keep on lying to the world they are surviving in fact make Eritrea like Singapore. What a joke, even if it is proving that it has developed for the past 19 years, its continuing threat on the borders of badme is continuing. Yet, the so called Liberation Fronts such as OLF who are not doing their homework still believe secession will lead them toward peace after seeing Eritrea. Do they think after secession they will continue to live in peace? Do they think they will continue without any complexiting. Therefore, why are they arrogant to still deny the fact that whether they resent it or not, the past leaders have been correct all along that they have found the solution that under one Ethiopia, is the only way where the people of ALL ethnic groups are going to live? Past leaders have found the antidote of living in peace. What instead should have been was, to reform our nation toward full rights and equality and development and democracy of Ethiopia while identifying past problems and soling these problems instead of demonizing ethnic groups such as Amaras. It is past leaderships problems and systems that didn’t recognize equality which is THE PROBLEM, then solve our problem by implementing equality and move on towards the development of Ethiopia. Thanks to Mengistu and TPLF we have regressed 100 years back killing eachother and talking the most archaic backward thinking.

  16. Ethiopian from Minnesota, U.S.A
    | #16

    Regarding the comment of KAROOT it seems that our brother/sister (not knowing the gender of the commentator)aka karoot still lives in the dream world of the obsolete political alignment of tribalism which the vast majority of Ethiopians denounced as a system of backwardness, and the brave and realistic members of the OLF recognized it as the most reactionary political system that leads the people back to the 18th century. Please wake up. The world is moving forward to oneness because of the advancement of Technology and the economical dependence on each other. European Union is a very good example of importance of that illusive unity of peoples and nations. EU demonstrates that coming together as nations is paramount to the survival of all in this trying time. We come from the nation which cannot fulfill the basic needs of its people – food, health, clean water. But we want to have our own flag, national anthem while our people are dying for the last 40 years from starvation. If we aspire all tribes to be separate independent nations, first let educate equally all people, have a true democratic system, and then give the people the right to choose their own path of political freedom and decide genuinely their fate without any political imposition by outsiders or their surrogates. What the peoples of Ethiopia want, at this crucial moment when the existence of their nation is in question, when their freedom of expression and choice is taken away, when their brothers and sisters are being evicted and displaced from their birthplaces, is their human right to be respected. I can theorize that every person has the right to express his/her opinion. But realistically I consider the comment of Karoot irresponsible political dirty game. The Oromo Ethiopians have not benefited from the tribal (ethnic) movement that has caused inexcusable pain and suffering for generations. How many thousands of people have vanished or lost their lives? It is easy to propagate this kind of dividing and conflicting political propaganda from our comfortable homes in Europe or America or Australia far away from Ethiopia. All rational Ethiopians should welcome the decision of OLF to embrace Ethiopianism and their courage to join their Ethiopian brothers and sisters to fight the undemocratic and autocratic regime of Meles Zenawi. So Karoot nobody denies you to share the nutritious carrot of Ethiopia if you want. I do not think you want pain inflicting stick to yourself unless you are stick carrying member or supporter of the anti-Ethiopian wing of Meles’s regime which will be whipped by the brave united Ethiopians including the admirable realistic members of OLF. I again salute the wise decision of OLF to come home to Mommy Ethiopia!!!!!!!!

  17. Pra
    | #17

    People say ethiopian people is silent because they are coward. This thinking fails to find the right source of their silence. The reason why they are silent is that they are not sure of the future!!! The major ethenicities dont trust each other. Though it is late, it is good what some olf are doing. and it is surprising that there are still olf members who thinks the status quo is right and they still believe in their old agenda. do these people really feel the suffering of the ethiopians by the way?

    all ethiopians should be united before any attempt is made to engage the ruling party. as far as this is not fulfilled, the people will continue to be silent. how can u fight a government which is bad or good accept the country and give it to other moron 18 century minded people where the destination is obviously worst?

  18. Girum
    | #18

    How unpleasant to read it !full of peasants

  19. Ethiopian from Minnesota, U.S.A
    | #19

    How pity it is to call people moron and 18th century minded. I believe that you do not want to be called moron or 18th century minded. Insulting people or calling names does not make readers accept your view or opinion. You can comment on the the thinking that can reflect the 18th century political view, but calling people the way you put it demonstrates your insensitivity to the feelings of others. It is not to abuse or insult or degrade people that we participate on this kind of forum. It is to create understanding among us about the current situation of our country. We can disagree on issues and approaches to resolve the problems of Ethiopia. It is beyond the scope of this forum to call names. We should show respect to each other. I hate the political governance of Meles Zenawi. But I have respect for the person as human being. When I call Meles autocratic leader and cruel, I talk about his actions, not his creation as human being. Our words express our behavior. Hope I haven’t overstepped the boundary by expressing my view.

  20. Pra
    | #20

    @Ethiopian… thank you and sorry. But when i read what those olf people say(save the few ones who woke up lately). They talk of colonialism??? Do these people leave in ethiopia? Do they know the people on the ground from east to west north to south?? When i read what they write, i just think that EPRDF is the better evil and i feel sorry about few real ethiopians who works day and night to bring change that will beneift every one. I am sorry about the insult but i really hate them

  21. Ethiopian from Minnesota, U.S.A
    | #21

    Dear Pra, people are entitled to their opinion whether we agree or not with them. I understand your point and I do not support any segregationist movement in Africa because the priority of Africans should be how to alleviate the suffering of their peoples due to the lack of the basic necessities for their existence. How do you make people realize this? You gravitate people towards your view by being patient and tolerant, but not by hatred. It does not matter how much you disagree with a certain opinion or stand, but, please, never hate the person or persons. You can hate the idea or opinion or view or suggestions. Hatred breeds hatred, and there is no winner in that. I appreciate your understanding.

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