Why we must support Oromo students by Admasu Belay
For many years, we have always condemned ethnic politics. It is a fact that any form of tribal politics is divisive, undemocratic and opposes individual rights. However, we must also support people whose culture and rights have been marginalized. Group rights is just as vital as individual rights. And we all know the Ethiopian Oromo people are one of the most marginalized group of people. Especially their economic and linguistic rights have been oppressed for centuries. The Amharic speaking population in Ethiopia (amaras, gurage, tigre, mixed and probably half of the south & Oromo) is around 80% of the country. But just because we are the majority, we should never oppress the minority languages.
First, Let us set the records straight briefly when it comes to the Oromo people. Since the Oromo people expanded north into Shewa and Wollo in the 1500s, they have been part and parcel of Abyssinia for centuries. History books also show us that the original native people of Addis Ababa were the ancient Gurage people, not the Oromo. We also know that the Oromo secession ideology is a fantasy that is rejected by most Oromos. (Even the first OLF chairman Mr Dima Noggo Sarbo himself opposed secession).
But despite all of the above facts, we should not forget that the Oromo people have endured oppression and cultural domination for many decades. We can never ignore this fact.
And it is from this lense that we should view the Oromo student protests the last few days. The oromos know that Amharic language, society and culture dominates Addis Ababa. So they feel like TPLF’s expansion “master plan” for Addis Ababa will harm the development of Oromo culture and society inside Oromia villages neighboring Addis ababa.
Here are five reasons why we should support Oromo students:
1.While the idea of more urbanization is good in principle, we should ask why is TPLF doing this today? Why now? I believe this is a divide & rule strategy by TPLF because there is an election next year. Before the next election in 2015, TPLF is once again inciting tension between Oromos and Amaras. It wasn’t long ago that TPLF built a breast statue in Arsi as a symbol of hate and bitterness about the past. We should see this latest TPLF “master plan” as another woyane tactic to divide our people.
2.When is the last time DC, los angeles or New york declared a “master plan” for territorial expansion? Big city governments do not need to declare to get bigger. This should happen naturally. Towns neighboring a city should benefit, not be harmed. Commercial intergration should happen naturally, not artificially or by force. Also Big cities usually grow up vertically, not horizontally. Knowing all of this, we should stand on the side of oromo students.
3.Another concern for Oromos is that they have no big city to develop their language and culture without having to learn a foreign language. For example, Tigray has Mekelle, whose demography is over 95% Tigre. And Amhara region also has big cities like Bahir Dar which is also over 95% Amhara. But Oromia does not have any big city with majority Oromo population. For example among Oromia cities: Addis Ababa is only 19% Oromo, Nazret/Adama is only 38% Oromo, debre zeit/bishoftu is 44% Oromo and even in Jimma Oromos are not real majority. So where do the businessmen, affluent and educated urban Oromos advance their language and culture? Where do rural Oromos who want to “make it” in the big city go to, without having to learn a non-Oromo language? They have no where. If that is not bad enough, the towns adjacent to the capital city are now about to be absorbed into Addis Ababa if TPLF’s plan is successful.
So when we look at the anger of Oromo students, we must put ourselves in their position. We must have dialogue as a country so that every group in Ethiopia feels the benefits of its Ethiopian citizenship, especially the Oromos who are the largest in number.
4.Another reason why we should support Oromo students is because the current dispute about Addis “master plan” has actually divided EPRDF. According to many sources, some mid-level OPDO members are openly criticizing the TPLF about this master plan. We can be assured that TPLF affiliated businesses will benefit the most from this “master plan.” So The fact that some OPDO members are opposing the TPLF is a good sign that EPRDF is getting weak. The faster that TPLF/EPRDF falls, the faster democracy prevails in Ethiopia.
5.The last reason why we should support Oromo students is because we are all one people, no matter our differences. We all have a common destiny. Real unity or genuine unity is when we support each other in times of need. The Oromo students’ voice should be heard even if we disagree with them. Remember: When over 200 Kinijit supporters were killed by TPLF during the 2005 election in Addis Ababa, it was Ambo oromos who went out to protest and many of them were killed. Even though they called us “Neftegna,” the Ambo oromos still went to the streets in solidarity with Kinijit supporters. This is true unity.
So when we demonstrate against the TPLF regime, let us remember the Oromo students who paid the ultimate price this week.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!