The Interview: “We Think We Will Win a Majority in Oromia and Win Significant Seats in the Federal Parliament,” Dawud Ibsa
Source: Addis Standard, December 3, 3019
Born in 1952 in Abuna village, Horro Guduru District in the then Wollega province, present day western Oromia, Dawud Ibsa Ayana’s actual name was Firew Ibsa Ayana. Dawud started his political journey when he took part in the Ethiopian Student Movement in the early years of 1970s when he was a student at the then Haile Selassie I University (Present day AAU), where he joined the Association of Oromo University Students. He was elected to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) Central Committee in the party’s earlier days and had to endure prison during the Derg regime from October 1977 to December 1979. Undeterred, he went back to AAU between 1979 and 1980. But before finishing his studies at the department of statistics, in 1981 Dawud fled to Sudan and joined the OLF armed unit operating from there. In April of the same year, using his short basic military training he took in present day Eritrea, Dawud went on to command the OLF unit that started the armed struggle in his hometown in Wollega province. But he would soon be re-imprisoned by the Derg where he was tortured and kept in the infamous Kerchele prison without charges until December 1986 when he escaped from prison. In 1988, he was reelected to the OLF’s central and executive committees, eventually becoming the rebel movement’s Chairman in 1999. Dawud remains OLF’s Chairman even after the group’s severe fracture in 2008. And in 2018, following a peace deal signed with the Ethiopian government, Dawud returned home leading one of the OLF factions to pursue his political ambition. Recently, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) issued a certificate of registration for OLF paving ways for the party to participate in Ethiopia’s 2020 general elections.
ADDIS STANDARD’S EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TSEDALE LEMMA, AND EDITOR, EPHREAM SILESHI, SAT DOWN WITH DAWUD IN HIS OFFICE IN GULELE, IN ADDIS ABEBA, FOR THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW.
Interview Excerpts below
Addis Standard: Thank you for agreeing to sit with us. Let us use this opportunity to congratulate you for having your party legally recognized and re-registered by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE).
Dawud Ibsa: Thank you.
What did you make out of the news that OLF is now re-registered as a legal party after so many years of absence from the political space in Ethiopia?
We hope it is the beginning of justice being served, and that the 1992 episode will not be repeated. So justice is finally being served.
Do you think it is a bit late for the party to make the necessary preparations to take part in the upcoming election? Do you think it will affect your ambitions vis a vis the election?
Yes, of course, it has taken time. It was not supposed to take this long. The process has been very tiresome, very painful for us. We came into the country to operate peacefully, but things were not good. We are going to have to rush now in the remaining time. We could have done a lot in this one year – could have prepared ourselves better. But we will try to make it. What we want is for the election to go peacefully.
“ WE WERE TOTALLY ATTACKED FOR ONE YEAR. TWENTY THOUSAND OF OUR SUPPORTERS WERE IN AND OUT OF CONCENTRATION CAMPS, OUR MOVEMENT WAS CURTAILED, AND OUR OFFICES WERE CLOSED.
What made the last one year painful? And don’t you think you have a part in that?
No, the OLF does not have a part in that. We were totally attacked for one year. Twenty thousand of our supporters were in and out of concentration camps, our movement was curtailed, and our offices were closed. That has passed now, but that was bad.
But what does having the name OLF registered as a political party in itself mean, especially from the point of view that the name OLF is more than a political party for the Oromo people? Do you feel the weight of its responsibility? I am asking this because the name is beyond politics for the Oromo people, it is, in fact, an identity. Do you think you could deliver to such expectations?
Yes, right you are. It’s a big duty and the expectation is very, very high; we know this. But the burden should not be only that of the OLF’s, as the burden was partially divided among the people. The carrier of the burden was the Oromo people, we hope we will do it together with the Oromo people. Yes, of course it is big and it is more than a party; it is an identity, as you rightly said. It is a spirit, if I may add. So the return has to be marching to the cause that was paid for, and we hope together with the Oromo people this will be achieved. We know the challenges; there are a lot of challenges; financial and also the time constraint. Despite that there is nothing that these young people could not achieve. They can achieve anything. The youth are the base of this duty that demands energy and so we are banking on our youth and our people to achieve it. But we know the challenge is big.
Speaking of banking on your youth, the ONLF, for example, which came back home around pretty much the same time, has gone through a rather fast process of transforming itself from a militant group into a political party in the last few months and has brought in a leadership shift, moving towards including more and more young people into the rank and file of the party. Is there a lesson for you on that?
Well, that is inevitably the duty that has to be delivered. But I don’t think comparing the OLF with the ONLF in light of the situations we went through this last year is fair; they were received by their regional government and there was a very amicable and normal relations between the ONLF and the regional government, and maybe the federal government. What we feel is that we were not received by our brothers. We have been telling them repeatedly to please receive us, let us receive each other, let us embrace each other. But it has taken time. It has dragged us. So, in any way and in any form we have to register and postpone the restructuring; this, we are very much conscious of it. Our members, our supporters are very conscious of it. The first thing was to achieve the registration, so we had to do it without restructuring. The restructuring is the duty that has to be delivered.
So is it going to happen in the future?
It’s upcoming, but it cannot be done with the election. But after the election there is an already set time and date that we are going to do it.
Are you saying you will be going into the election with the current party structure and the leadership that you have?
No alternative because we have no time to prepare for both restructuring and election. It will be too big a duty for us.
Let’s move to what you have in stokes for your constituencies in terms of policy alternatives and campaign materials that you will probably be using as we get closer to the election. What is the policy alternative that the OLF is going to provide to its core constituency: the Oromo people that you think would make you stand up tall as opposed to other parties vying for the same constituency?
The policy issue is very secondary for the Oromo people to our knowledge. We have been discussing with our people. For our people, the first essential and most important issue is to elect their own representatives. To take the government into their own hands by their own representatives in a very secure, fair, free and genuine election. This is what we are going to prepare our people for.
Isn’t that the cart before the horse? In the absence of a clear policy what would the people vote for?
The organization and the preparation of our people is a priority for us. The second is the security of our people. Security of life and the economy, this is going to be delivered by the OLF if the election goes well and they elect their people. As to the economic, education and other policies, the OLF policy is a social democratic policy that we have been teaching our people and our members for a long time and that is set. We are going to empower the poor in all aspects. That’s our policy which has never been achieved in this country.
THE ORGANIZATION AND THE PREPARATION OF OUR PEOPLE IS A PRIORITY FOR US. THE SECOND IS THE SECURITY OF OUR PEOPLE. SECURITY OF LIFE AND THE ECONOMY, THIS IS GOING TO BE DELIVERED BY THE OLF IF THE ELECTION GOES WELL AND THEY ELECT THEIR PEOPLE.
Staying on course this election we know that the OLF has strongholds in areas such as Western Oromia, Borana, Guji, and in Eastern part of Ethiopia, among others. But all these are areas which are still going through a military engagement between members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which separated itself from your party, and the federal armed members. As we speak now there are continued hostilities in these areas, despite the lack of transparency from both sides. How are you planning to participate in an election where there are active, ongoing military engagements? What is the solution forward?
First of all, you will be surprised to know that OLF has strongholds throughout the country, not just in these areas you have mentioned. Second, the command post area is a challenge for all, not only for the OLF; for Oromia and as a country for Ethiopia. That’s not a challenge only for us. But the OLF base, it will be everywhere in Oromia. In the center, in southern, south-eastern Oromia, and even in Wollo and in Metekel; all those will be our bases. People might think these [what you mentioned] are the bases of the OLF, but we are everywhere.
That did not answer my question of how you can participate in the election in the first place.
Well, it is a challenge of the government and it’s our challenge and we have been talking and discussing how to, at least, resolve this issue; we will assist the government in resolving that.
You mean talking and discussing with the government?
With the government, I mean if there is any area that we can be supporting them. But the issue is that the government has to resolve its problem with those in the bushes.
In terms of results, what are your electoral ambitions as the OLF?
We think we will win a majority in Oromia and win significant seats in the federal parliament. That’s our ambition. But with our partners it will be very significant even in the federal parliament.
Does that mean you are fielding candidates for both regional and federal parliament?
Do you have the capacity to field as many candidates as are required in all electoral districts? Oromia alone has 178 seats up for grabs in the national parliament. Do you think you have the organizational structure and capacity necessary to field these many candidates as of right now?
We have many candidates. Enough for this and the structure too. We can do it. We already have, but it is just to check it. We have no problem with that.
Recently political parties operating in Oromia have come together and signed a memorandum of understanding to work towards the greater goal of achieving or supporting the Oromo people. A consortium of a sort called Gaddissaa Hongganssa Oromoo (Oromo Leadership Council) was subsequently formed. I understand you are a part of it. I want know what it means that such a Council exists and what has been going on since it was established in October this year, particularly considering the governing party ODP is a part of it?
First, we agreed on working together for the very fundamental interests of the Oromo people. These are the issues of, say, the land question. How to avert the big land grab in Oromia, and securing land as a property to the land owners. What format should we follow, and the rules etc, which have to be worked together and which are very important to the population. The rest is the Finfinnee [Addis Abeba] issue, of course and how best to solve the issue of, for example, border with Oromia regional state. The question of the youth is also among them. The unemployment rate of the youth, how to assist each other on the policy of how to create employment opportunity for the youth and to empower them economically. So on all those issues we agreed we will work together. These are common issues that we have no differences over. The other thing is the relationship between political organizations. There was a problem for longer than a year because of the nature of the struggle and which always comes with a lot of problems. As of now there should be some sort of normal relationship based on internal rules and regulations that govern all the parties. There will not be any sort of squabbles, for example. This, we have resolved and it is going well and it has started, which is also a new development in Oromo politics. The rest is, of course, the election issue, which has to be discussed in terms of what we can do together and what we can give each other. This has to be worked out. We have started it, but we need to work on it and we have time for that.
One of the assumptions is that you are entering what is known as in political science consociationalism, whereby you discuss and bargain about electoral districts, for example, in which you avoid instances where you step on each other’s feet, if you will. Has there been something like this, concrete or a promise for that matter, where you agree to participate in the election but you don’t really necessarily push one another off the cliff but work together?
Yes, we have started discussing on this issue. But the ODP is really busy and is engaged in these party meetings to form the new party. There is also the national issue of security and they are very busy with that. So it needs to be worked out and we need time for this, but we have already started. Well, of course, you have to discuss for days and for weeks to come to a conclusion and it will be done.
Are you saying it is on an active path?
It needs negotiation, of course, but the issue has to come up and we hope we will reach a win-win position. That’s what everybody is open for and we are open for it.
IT IS VERY PUZZLING, OF COURSE. WE HAVE TO SPEAK WITH THEM ON HOW THEY ARE GOING TO CONTINUE WITH US. IT IS ALSO A QUESTION FOR US BECAUSE THE NAME ODP MIGHT NOT BE THERE AND AS PP, CAN THEY TALK TO US AS OROMO ORGANIZATIONS? THIS IS A QUESTION RUNNING IN OUR HEADS, IN OUR MINDS.
Speaking of the ODP, its chairman Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ambition of the new party, Prosperity Party (PP), has been born. That to me is a big shift, not only in terms of the relationship between EPRDF member parties, but with parties such as yours. What is your reading of it as someone who is close to the local politics? And how do you see ODP’s relationship with the Oromo people under this new arrangement?
This is a very important question. It is very puzzling, of course. We have to speak with them on how they are going to continue with us. It is also a question for us because the name ODP might not be there and as PP, can they talk to us as Oromo organizations? This is a question running in our heads, in our minds. We don’t know what they are going to arrange for us in terms of future negotiations, but we will continue to engage them in one form or another. Even as PP we have to engage them, albeit differently from ODP.
Do you think this is going to affect the ongoing discussions under the Oromo Leadership Council?
Yes, it might be difficult to enter into negotiations as PP, we being a collective of Oromo-centered organizations and they being a different entity than when we first entered into the agreement. We don’t know. That’s why I am saying it’s puzzling.
How do you think the Oromo people, ODP’s main constituency, would react to that? Do you engage in gauging public opinions from Oromia? What about your personal opinion? The prime minister is assuring the public that PP would usher in an opportunity for a true federalism.
They have to explain this and there are a lot of hurdles for them that we see on the ground. It has manifested itself in several places. People are very much disillusioned about ODP because they know it claiming to be a representative of the Oromo people and one of the Oromo political organizations. It is also a ruling party. So how are they going to represent the Oromo interest in this new form when this new form is not well understood among the Oromo? They have to work out how to explain that, but that is a dilemma within the Oromo. So, I don’t know. We have to see it and I see difficulties because it is just a new approach. I don’t know. We have to see.
What about in relation to the Ethiopian people in general? One of the strong points mentioned time and again is that it has incorporated the five parties which were previously kept at the periphery, such as the Somali Democratic Party and the Harari National League. How do you see their inclusion in this big umbrella now? Do you think it serves the bigger purpose of holding Ethiopia together, as is very much appraised by its proponents?
Still that needs very, very hard work on the part of the PP because to start with there are some problems within the former EPRDF. A sector of it has gone left. That, by itself, has an impact on them and we don’t know how they are going to handle it. On this issue of the marginalized people like the Benishangul, Gambela, Harari and others, being included in this new form, we don’t know why they were marginalized in the first place. They were just taken as allied parties even though they had the chance to empower them, to include them even before. Now that they are included that might be a change for them, a positive change; of course if they are part of the whole setup of the party, they have to have equal rights, equal opportunities within the party. That might be a new approach, but it could have been done before and we don’t understand why they were marginalized. As to the Ethiopian people in general, yes of course – the complication within the EPRDF might hang over and might be difficult for us all to figure out on how to continue with the new party government. We will have to wait and see how the party is going to normalize and move forward positively without problems because if there is a problem within the ruling party, it is going to affect all of us. So, we hope they will be smart and handle it. Of course, it will be difficult to talk negatively about a new party developing. We want to be positive.
Let me provoke you with the following question. The return home of the OLF, a party traditionally influenced and shaped by what was remaining of the Ethiopian left and follows the left’s ideology of, for example, the right to self-determination of nations and nationalities, has coincided with the rise of a rather assertive narrative of the right in Ethiopia, which is completely dismissive of such notions. Several literature attest that Oromo people’s struggle for equality has always been better defined and explained by the ideologies of the left and, historically, the OLF embodies that. And yet, you came home to a more hostile narrative, including fear mongering of secessionism, or the denial of the existence of the question of nations and nationalities. How did that affect you, and your public image as the leader of OLF (or what is left of it), as well as its political operations? How hard is it to cling onto your core principles as a political party in the face of such hostilities?
Well, for us that is the problem of Ethiopia, the problem of Ethiopia from its formation. They started building a nation attacking the biggest nation, the Oromo – suppressing its culture, its identity, its language and its way of life, among others. That’s where the problem starts. All regimes, be it Menelik II, be it Haileselassie, be it Derg, or the left TPLF, all have blackmailed and attacked the Oromo struggle for equality. With the OLF carrying a legitimate question of the biggest nation for more than half a century, they were supposed to think three, four times before attacking this nation. So, Ethiopia was left without being stable for such a long time partly because of that; that’s what we claim. So, it is not being left or right it is being an Oromo. That’s why we continued being blackmailed and attacked.
THEY STARTED BUILDING A NATION ATTACKING THE BIGGEST NATION, THE OROMO – SUPPRESSING ITS CULTURE, ITS IDENTITY, ITS LANGUAGE AND ITS WAY OF LIFE, AMONG OTHERS. THAT’S WHERE THE PROBLEM STARTS.
But we are at a political stage where what you described above in itself is being dismissed as a falsely choreographed political narrative. In light of that, how do you see yourself, or your party articulating the purpose of your existence as a political party and say ‘this is what we are fighting for’?
We as Oromo started out fighting and struggling for the independence of Oromia. There is no question. The issue of independence is similar with the question of self-determination. The Oromo people have to be safe and Ethiopia has to embrace this question and make itself ready to answer it at any level. As we stand here, we are now part of the process. We want to contribute like we started in 1992 in the democratization and this long standing question of the Oromo and other oppressed nations should be accommodated and we believe and think that this multinational federation set-up in the constitution is a bridge for all of us. We want to be a part of it. We want to contribute. We want the Oromo to be empowered on its territory and the others on their territory. Any political settlement have to respect this for the Oromo and for others. That will be what will take us to normalizing our relationship. The hope for unity will start shaping itself and the state formation if we create it together. It has never worked before. We can create the Ethiopian nation together. The Oromos under this set up of the federal system, should be able to arrange their lives within this territory. They have to respect and accept that if we are to go forward. This is the fundamental question that we ask of them. If not, the conflict is going to continue and we do not want that. We want this thing to work.
What would be your response to calls of ‘dismantling Oromia’ as a precondition for a stable Ethiopia? I must say that has become the mainstream narrative now and is pretty much the opposite of what you stated above: i.e: the right to self-administration. How do you reconcile these two and hope to stay a political party unaffected by the outcomes of such contradicting narratives? Where do you meet this narrative and what is the compromise?
There is no middle ground. They have to accept these and embrace it and respect this for the Oromo and other people. If they want Ethiopia to survive within the territory they always claim, this is the only road. There is no middle ground. If they don’t accept this, the result is repeating the Eritrean path. They are going to create that path. We are saying, “Don’t. Accept this. Don’t create three, four, five Eritrean cases here again”. That’s what we say. That is the only choice.
But are you willing to sit down and talk with these elites, so to say, who do not believe that the question of nationalities ever existed in the country? Are you willing to consider them a formidable constituency in their own right?
We have already started engaging some of them, some of the reasonable ones. But we need to broaden it and work fast. We deal with government and the government has the responsibility to contain such groups that might cause a problem for the peace of the country. But we, on our part, we don’t want to remain in conflict with any group. So, we want to talk and engage. For this, there is a platform of political organizations in which we are going to engage, where you debate politics, you debate issues, where you present yourself to be understood. We hope that platform will work. We have signed for it. The EPRDF is part of it now and other political parties are also part of it. But that platform has not worked so far, has not functioned. It’s under the election board. We hope they will work out the problem and start functioning. That’s one of the platforms where we have to debate and create an atmosphere of starting to understand each other.
The other is some conferences in which we are participating. Then we will start the other which, if they continue on it, is the recent engagement that the prime minister’s office started with Oromo and the Amhara political parties talking to each other. That’s going to be another platform and we hope it is going to continue. So, there is hope. But we will make them understand that these are fundamental, universal rights that everybody has to respect and gradually our relationship will be normalized. That’s what we are hoping for and working for.
Let me add another controversial question here which is that, most of the time I see the negative reaction to the OLF or anything associated with the OLF due to the fact that sometimes there are maps that alarm people covering the entire Wollo as belonging to Oromia region, for example. The use of that sort of map is perhaps what alarms some people to keep OLF – its narrative and its struggle at bay. Do you see that rhetoric, or the use of that kind of map as problematic? Or as a factor contributing to this zero sum game?
No, we don’t believe that. Because you can claim any territory in Oromia. We can claim any territory in other areas. The settlement will be negotiation and referendum. Referendum can be done in Wollo too. They can choose Tigray if Tigray claims it, or Amhara if Amhara claims it. The right to choose has to be given to the people. It is not going to be a problem; that is how borders are settled in this world. So, what is the problem? It shouldn’t lead us to war and conflict and fighting; there are mechanisms to resolve such issues. But we claim it because, naturally, they are Oromos related to the main part of Oromo. That’s what we claim. They have been occupied by force. That’s what we claim. They can prove the other way and say they are Amharas and that our claim is wrong. The settlement should only be by peaceful negotiation and referendum.
REFERENDUM CAN BE DONE IN WOLLO TOO. THEY CAN CHOOSE TIGRAY IF TIGRAY CLAIMS IT, OR AMHARA IF AMHARA CLAIMS IT. THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE HAS TO BE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE. IT IS NOT GOING TO BE A PROBLEM; THAT IS HOW BORDERS ARE SETTLED IN THIS WORLD. SO, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
One of the issues that is always associated with the name OLF, almost as a synonym, is secessionism, although some of the founding members of the party have, every now and then, said ‘no, we have never had secessionism as a party manifesto’. What do you think will take to disassociate this synonym of secessionism and OLF so OLF can become an integral part of the body politics of the Ethiopian state? You think you will get to that part after participating in the next election?
In Ethiopia branding negative names, (if secessionism is a negative name, I don’t know), is not new because it has been going on for decades. The regime gives it to you when you are asking for your rights. This is part of the blackmailing so that you back off from your struggle – your fight for your freedom. This is part of the political weapons they have been using as a psychological warfare on the population and those who struggle for the right of self-determination. So, for us it is not a problem. We have never taken it as a problem. We understand they are doing this for blackmailing. It is not our problem, it is their problem. They have to liberate themselves from such thinking that puts them at odds with their partners like the OLF. We have never claimed that they are Nazis, for examples, but we could have said this. We have refrained ourselves from saying such things that distance forces, parties and the government. We use a very decent language. That is what we advise them to do. If we have to normalize our relationship, that’s what we say. As to the issue of secession, it is in the constitution. If it is in the constitution, it is very legal. There is no reason that somebody criminalizes it. We don’t trouble ourselves with such things. That’s the case.
THE ETHIOPIAN ELITE AS AN ORGANIZATION, THEIR NARRATIVES, VIEWS, THEIR IDEOLOGY, IS STILL UNCHANGED AS IT HAS BEEN FROM THE VERY BEGINNING WHEN OROMO WAS OCCUPIED INTO THE ETHIOPIAN TERRITORY. THAT’S THE MAIN CHALLENGE NOT ONLY FOR US BUT TO BRING PEACE TO THIS COUNTRY.
What, do you think, is the biggest challenge facing the Oromo people from exercising their right to self-determination today?
The Ethiopian elite as an organization, their narratives, views, their ideology, is still unchanged as it has been from the very beginning when Oromo was occupied into the Ethiopian territory. That’s the main challenge not only for us but to bring peace to this country. It remains a fundamental problem. That’s how we see it. They have never convinced themselves to consider that these people have rights and their rights have to be respected. We don’t see any group and any individual considering this. That’s going to be a problem.
Coming back to the upcoming election, earlier you mentioned partners and that you would have a significant presence in the federal parliament with your partners. Who are these partners?
We have a lot of relations with other parties. Say for example, ONLF, the Sidama Liberation Movement, the Agew, the Qemant and other political organizations. We are talking to them all, but the agreement and negotiations need to be finalized. We will be part of it and it has to be sorted out. But since we came, we have a lot of broad relationships with many of them and we are discussing these issues with all. Before that we formed an alliance called People’s Alliance for Freedom and Democracy that is going to be the basis for all this. We are going to shape our alliance in the process of going to the elections with Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which is also part of Medrek. So, we have a lot of opportunities.
Is that something of a grand alliance?
That’s what we are thinking, but it has to be finalized.
There are times when media report insist you may be working with TPLF to create possible alliances. What is your response to that?
In the relationship between the TPLF and the OLF we have not resolved the issues between us for such a long time. It’s very early to talk about an alliance between the OLF and TPLF before resolving this sour relationship that has never been resolved between us. Even though they are not at the forefront of the party holding the government now, they are part of it. But we have not resolved the sour relationship between us. We are not on talking terms even today. That has to be resolved before going to an alliance.
TPLF is being characterized as one of the few remaining so-called federalist forces in the country, but one that is untenable because of the history it has. Is that an assessment you agree with?
We don’t know. You cannot continue with conflict. That’s the OLF policy. We want to resolve our conflicts with everybody. That’s our wish. But practically how it will be and how we can do this remains to be worked out. It might take time, but we don’t want to remain in conflict with any entity. We want to resolve it.
What role, do you think, will the OLF play in an Ethiopian government provided you achieve your electoral ambitions?
It is very early to talk about it and we better reserve ourselves. Because you have to make a bargain with your partners and it is going to involve the representatives of the people to work it out.
In a recent referendum, the Sidama people have overwhelmingly voted in favor of their own state. What are your views on that? Do you think the result is going to galvanize the movements of other peoples throughout the southern Ethiopian region?
We have addressed the Sidama referendum in a statement. They have the right and their rights have to be respected. It is good that we see it is being exercised now and we are ready to respect it for them and that’s our position. As to others following that lead, some of them have already started. But how they go about it is their right and we’re going to respect that for anybody, big or small. But it seems that it will, at least, start shaking Ethiopia in such a way that its nations and nationalities want, and it will reduce conflict. So, we have to take this as normal and handle it accordingly. There is no need to confront these demands and to push them into confrontation and conflict, but handle them the way the nations want. That will bring lasting peace to Ethiopia. That’s how we view it.
So you think getting different nationalities of Ethiopia to have their say in the way they would like to be administered is the way forward?
That’s our core policy and our belief and is the basis for peace among Ethiopia and its people.
OROMO NATIONALISM HAS ALREADY HAD ITS IMPACT ON THIS REGION. ETHIOPIAN POLITICS IS FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS INFLUENCED BY THE OROMO POLITICS; THAT IS WHAT MAINLY OVERTHREW THE EMPEROR, FOR EXAMPLE; AND BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T HANDLE IT WELL EPRDF WAS ALSO THROWN OUT OF POWER.
What do you see the role of the Oromo, Oromia and Oromo nationalism in Ethiopia and the greater horn region?
The Oromo, of course, its number is big, its landmass in Oromia is big and it’s at the center of Ethiopia, neighboring many nationalities. But handling the Oromo nationalism and its rights have always been considered problematic. Because of this Ethiopia remained with its problems for a long time. This is because of how Oromos, the Oromo person and the Oromo people were not given due consideration and respect. But Oromo nationalism has already had its impact on this region. Ethiopian politics is for almost 50 years influenced by the Oromo politics; that is what mainly overthrew the emperor, for example; and because they didn’t handle it well EPRDF was also thrown out of power. So, if Oromo is given due respect and its demand for equality is answered, then Oromo nationalism will stabilize others and give development and peace and the relationship with others will be normalized. The vice-versa if the Oromo issue is not handled; the conflict broadens and it will have its impact on other regions and the horn of Africa. It has already spilled over with issues of the internally displaced. If Oromo and Ethiopia is stabilized it will have its impact on neighboring Somalia, and Kenya for example. That’s how we see it and every regional government knows this, but they have not contributed to this so far. They know that if Oromo politics is stabilized, it will bring stability to the horn region. They talk about it, but they have never given it due consideration for it to materialize. This has to change.