By Kennaa Bortola | July 06, 2018

In his book, Cameron (1963) famously writes “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Two terms (“counts” and “counted”) and two phrases (“Not everything that can be counted counts” and “Not everything that counts can be counted”) make the sentence interesting. Changes in the position of the two key terms in the respective phrases make them appear to give us completely different impressions; however, the two phrases have stronger ties than we might consider on the surface.


To make it clear to the readers, I will use an economics example. The second, the phrase “not everything that counts can be counted” is equivalent to the economists’ saying, “Although it must be counted, money is not what really counts”. In an average person’s language, this means that although one may tend to say, “I am rich” just by counting how much money they have, it is not really the amount of money that we have that makes us rich, but how much that money can buy. The first phraseNot everything that can be counted counts” implies that counting sounds easy until we actually attempt it, and discover that we often fail to recognize what we ought to count. This brings us full circle back to the second phrase itself, meaning that numbers are no substitute for clear definitions as not everything that can be counted counts.


I am not writing to educate the readers of this article about philosophical interpretations of some abstract concepts. I use the phrases as their meaning has a strong relevance to the current state of reality shaping up the return of numerous Oromo political organizations to Ethiopia (Oromia) 27 years after the TPLF forced the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) formally known as Adda Bilisummaa Oromo (ABO) out of transitional government. In the process of returning, many of these organizations have started shamelessly presenting themselves as OLF. In some cases, they bear fancy prefixes or suffixes (e.g., “ABO Tokkoome—the Hailu Gonfa group”; “Kallacha Walabummaa Oromiyaa (KWO)—the Kemal Gelchu group”. In other cases, they have new names (e.g., ODF—the Lencoo Lata group). Interestingly, there are also cases where they do not even have names (e.g., the Jawar Mohammed Group). All of them, however, hold the one and unique rallying seal and emblem of the Oromo cause, the OLF flag ( ).


Both the very existence of the Ethiopian empire and the EPRDF is at a critical road. Thanks to the many generations of Oromo gallants who sacrificed themselves, and the “Hiree ofii ofiin murteefachuu” torch fueled by the lives and resources of OLF members, the Qerroo Billisuma Oromo, and the Oromo populous at large, the EPRDF is observing its rotten pillars crumbling beneath itself. Having seen the trend, even the opportunist old guards have started to creep up with their usual logo “Ethiopia First”. In its quest to reconstitute its dying self, the EPRDF has also recruited two young members of the OPDO, Dr. Abiy Ahmed and Obbo Lamma Magarsa, anointing the former as the PM and the later as president of Oromia. Both of them are acting to usher “true democracy” in the empire. To this end, over the last two months, the PM has embarked on releasing selected political prisoners from the notorious cells, even publically acknowledging that the party and the government that anointed him have engaged in gross human right violations  involving killing, torturing and maiming) citizens of the country. He is preaching peaceful co-existence with neighboring countries such as Eritrea going to the extent of calling international borders “artificial”. He has shepherded the repeal of the law that labels the OLF and a few other political organizations as “terrorist.”  More importantly, he has called upon opposition leaders to return to the country and engage in peaceful political dialogue while mocking armed struggle as “old fashioned.”


Heeding the call, a number of individuals (some prominent, and others unto be known) including officials from the “Derg” regime, and most importantly, several Oromo political organizations have started to return or declared their intensions to do so. Included among these are the Oromo Dialogue Front (ODF), led by Lenco Lata, the “ABO Tokkoomee,” led by Hailu Gonfa, the “Kallacha Walabummaa Oromiyaa (KWO),” led by Kemal Galchu; the nameless, Jawar Mohammad group.  I have no qualms about the so-called Oromo political organizations nor individuals with shinny baggage; however, my “Oromummaa” forces me to state unequivocally that most of these groups (individuals) with the exception of Jawar Mohammed were indeed members of the OLF at one point. In addition, they all unashamedly carry the unique seal and emblem of the OLF (i.e., the flag, ). However, all Oromos know fully well that not everything that glitters is gold, particularly when it comes the Oromo politics.


As stated earlier, again using the economists’ presentation I would like to say that in measuring how rich we are it is not how much money we have, but what that money can buy that really matters. In the context of Oromo political organizations lining up to return home and presenting themselves as OLF, it may take a book length to detail how each of the organization has abandoned the Oromo cause, and hence, why what they may do going forward, barely counts.  For brevity, I will make my point by stressing a few instances about each them and their leaders.

On ODF, the Lenco Lata Group:

Fate has it that I have had the opportunity to host Obbo Lenco Lata in 2009, when the institution I work for paid for his travel from Norway to the US. As a result, in the privacy of my own home, I had a lengthy one-on-one discussion with him for three lengthy days and nights. I was in the audience with my colleagues and students when he gave a speech about East Africa that garnered him a standing ovation. A fruit of a project supported by the Norwegian government that was also earning him a living, he argued, “to bring peace and stability in Africa, particularly in the troubled Horn, it is sign-qua-non to take international borders among the countries in the region as artificial.”  He unashamedly warned us “to the surprise of many of you who know me, I have taken a position contradictory to the very reason I helped create the OLF.”  While it was a shock to many, to me hearing him declare the formation of the Oromo Dialogue Front (ODF) a few years later was nor more than re-living the moment he gave the speech. Those who die for the Oromo cause do not make a living for themselves. Since that eventful day, I have come to know that Lenco has simply been working against the very existence of the OLF just to make a living for himself. A week after he returned to Ethiopia, his notion of “artificial borders among the East African nations” has also sprinkled all over Dr. Abiy’s regular speech, though without acknowledgment. This might be an indication of the offer the PM is likely to make him down the road, or a calculated strategy that is in the works to merge the OPDO with the ODF. Thus, while he might still be waving the flag that we all know is the seal of the OLF, it is clear that today’s Lenco signifies a goal far removed from the Oromo cause; hence, why he and his party should not count.

On Kallacha Walabummaa Oromiyaa (KWO), the Kamal Galchu Group:

We all know that Kamal is a spineless General, who served the EPRDF regime, betrayed them to join the OLF leadership in Eritrea, and again betrayed the OLF to form a new organization called the Koree Jijjiramaa, eventually culminating with the “Kallacha Walabummaa Oromiyaa (KWO).” The damage he has done to the KWO, his poor leadership qualities and dictatorial actions finally brought him down. Finally, no Oromo forgets how many brave Oromos lives he helped destroy that led to his eventual expulsion from Eritrea. Today, there is strong evidence indicating that he has been working in close cooperation with the OPDO to haul more 200 Oromo refugees have been living in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa with a promise of providing each returnee with $2000 dollars cash, a plot of land to build a house, and a job guarantee up on their return. Again, I have no qualms on his return; however, I want to note that history and the Oromo people will one day judge his actions of selling out the Oromo cause.

On the Nameless group, the Jawar Mohammed Group:

Jawar Mohammed, who famously describes himself as an “Oromo activist” and student, has no affiliation with the OLF. Most Oromos who live in Minnesota and California know that Jawar had stronger affiliation with those who are for “Greater Ethiopia” than the Oromo community when he first arrived in the USA. The Oromo community in the diaspora came to his rescue only after his Amhara media friends turned on him for saying “I am Oromo first” during his appearance on Al Jazeera TV Interview with two other young Oromo activists. The irony is that although he despises the OLF and its leadership, knowing fully well, how receptive the Oromo are to OLF flag, he routinely keeps it close to his chest on all his TV and public appearances. Yes, he directs the Oromo Media Network (OMN), on which a number of programs touching the Oromo cause air. However, all members of the Board of Directors of the Network and astute observers know well that the network rarely airs developments that the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) makes in Oromia. Finally, Jawar has recently announced his planned return date to Ethiopia. Yet there are reports indicating that he has been touring Kenya to help finance Kamal Galchu’s effort to hauling Oromo refugees who live there with a plan of presenting them to the OPDO as the returning members of the OLF solders, a clear indication of why he exemplifies the adage “not all that is counted counts.”

On ABO Tokkoomee, the Hailu Gonfa Group:

Like Kamal Galchu, Hailu Gonfa was also an EPRDF general who served the regime before he defected to Eritrea and joined OLF. Hailu is among the individuals who orchestrated the 2008 OLF split, along with his then colleagues Kemal Galchu, the ODF central committee members Lencho Bati and Hasan Husen to form the so-called “Koree Jijjirama.” Later, they all fell apart ending up in three different groups.  Although Hailu and Kamal stayed in the same group for a while, Hailu and his group left Kamal and formed ABO-Tokkomee. When surrendering to EPRDF along with his colleague Aba Nega Jara, Hailu shamelessly said, “As Ethiopia’s politics has changed, armed struggle is not the right way to gain the liberation of Oromos.” The question that every Oromo should pose to him is “what has changed in Ethiopia regarding the Oromo cause for which he and his team in fact left the camp a decade ago?” To this date, the Oromo people including their animals are suffering from systematic harassment, killing and disappearances in daylight by the same institution, the EPRDF. We recall that Waaqoo, a colleague of Hailu Gonfa speaking at the London conference held in February 2018 said, “the Oromos can regain their liberation only if the Ethiopian political system is destroyed”, which in fact outraged, at the time, many Ethiopianinsts. Thus, what has changed in the Ethiopian political system that made Jara’s mind change within five months? Again, while I have no qualms about their return, it forces me to question whether they have a standing political agenda for Oromo cause, or whether they have all along been seeking a position for themselves. Again, it is for this reason that I say, in the current political reality of Oromia, not all that is counted counts.


So far, I have focused on the first phrase, not everything that can be counted counts. I want to sum up this article talking the significance of Cameron’s (1963) second phrase, “Not everything that counts can be counted,” in today’s Oromo political organizational lineup that includes the original OLF- the Dawud Ibsa group. As the phrase clearly informs us, it is practically impossible to count all that Dawud and his group has done to revive the Oromo struggle to where it is today. Again, for the sake of brevity, I will focus on a few significant events and make my case. Imagine the OLF devoid of its army just a few months after Lenco Leta ordered them into encampment, leading to their demise. Think of the number of OLF trainees that who lost their lives because of the actions of Kamal Galchu, Hailu Gonfa and Hassan Hussen in both Eritrea and various parts of Oromia. Recall the Oromo youth butchered in daylight by the TPLF security machinery when Jawar Mohammed leaked their planned rally date and place. Against all these odds, Dawud single handedly reconstituted the OLF from extinction to where it is today. I have seen firsthand, how much members of the OLA (WBO) adore him for his never wavering stand behind their cause. Put simply, he has a spine. His intransigence on the core of the Oromo struggle “hiree ofii ofiin murteefachuu” not only led to the emergence of Qeerroo Bilisumma Oromo (QBO), but also to the revival of an organization to with training camps to which thousands of Oromo youth trickle every day, and an army that roams in various parts of Oromia. Beyond revitalizing OLF to a level that every Oromo yearns, no doubt, his perseverance and determination has even paved the way for the OPDOs to stand their ground against the TPLF. The scramble we are observing today among the chorus of Oromo political camps who have been dreaming for the demise of the OLF led by Dawud Ibsa, therefore, should not be surprising.

 As the Oromo saying goes “Barihuu dura dimimisa’a,” meaning that it gets darker before dawn; the political situation in Oromia these days looks blurry. Fully recognizing its downfall, the TPLF is trying to hug all branches it finds, and several Oromo political parties and once prominent individuals tired of living in exile are revealing their true self and showing up at Bole international airport with their empty luggage. In the end, what matters a great deal for the Oromo people is whether the PM’s call for peace and reconciliation is genuine, the EPRDF’s willingness to engage in open dialogue with OLF –led by the man (Dawud) with a spin, and the avenues the dialogue presents to the Oromo people for affirming their rights to their own land. Thus, knowing that not everything that glitters is gold, the Oromo public must carefully sieve through those that are already in the country, or on their way back to the country.

Kennaa Bortola

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Cameron, William B. (1963). Informal Sociology. A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking.  Page 13. Random House, New York.

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