By Fayyis Oromia*
In case we decide for the Union State of Oromia (U.S.O.) in the future, then through the Oromo national liberation struggle, we shall promote: 1. Afan Oromo to be the primary language of the Union; 2. the Cushitic black-red-white to be the flag of the Union; and 3. Oromia, instead of Ethiopia, to be the name of the Union. This is the ongoing slogan of some Oromo nationals in the current discourse we have listened and read. It is a known fact that the Oromo national liberation movement has got the objective of two alternative types of Oromian sovereignty, which we will foster after achieving freedom from the present Abyssinian system of domination. The objectives are the “Independent State of Oromia (I.S.O.)” as planned by the OLF and the “Union State of Ethiopia (U.S.E.) with self-rule of Oromia in it” as recently opted by the ODF. Even though this is the simplistic way of attributing the two objectives to these two organizations, respectively, we also do read in the mission statement of the OLF:
“The fundamental objective of the Oromo liberation movement is to exercise the Oromo people’s inalienable right to national self-determination to terminate a century of oppression and exploitation, and to form, where possible, a political union with other nations on the basis of equality, respect for mutual interests and the principle of voluntary associations. … OLF’s commitment to this objective is based on a democratic principle, that the Oromo people are endowed with the right to decide the type of sovereignty they want to live under and the type of political union they want to form with other peoples. … In fact, the OLF and the Oromo people are committed to the noble cause of laying a foundation for union of free peoples on the basis of their freely expressed will.”
As shown in the statement, even the OLF is committed to forge “a political union where possible.” The ODF already put in its program that it struggles for the “multi-national federation within Ethiopia.” The difference I do see between the two approaches is that the ODF gave the name Ethiopia to the union it will build and specified the type of union being multi-national federation, whereas the OLF kept the possible name of the union and the type of the union open for future decisions. Just looking at the last sentence of OLF’s mission statement, is it possible to consider that the ODF is an agent to fulfill the message in the sentence? If yes, then why should we be as such worried about the two different approaches to the same goal of freedom. For the ODF and the OLF to be explicitly on the same page, it is necessary that the OLF name the future possible union as Oromia and that the ODF change the name of the union it wants to foster from Ethiopia to Oromia.
Ob. Ibsaa Guutama put in one of his articles that it is already written in the original program of the OLF that the objective of its struggle is “….where possible to foster a political union with the other neighbouring nations.” This same expression is still in the mission statement of the Front. When we look at the statements of all Oromo organizations, there are two main principles in the Oromo national liberation struggle: (1) concerning the means of struggle: where possible nonviolent struggle – otherwise, armed struggle for freedom; (2) regarding the end of the struggle: where possible political union – otherwise, national independence after freedom. Based on this principle, the ODF chose nonviolent struggle and political union; the Jijjiirama combined armed struggle with political union; whereas the OLF opted for the armed struggle and national independence. But, as a nation, the Oromo should combine both armed struggle and nonviolent struggle to achieve our freedom. The question of independence vs. union will be answered per a referendum after freedom.
Based on the programs of the two lines of thought, a possible union with free neighbouring nations of Oromia is not excluded. The goal of exclusive Independent State is an appropriate solution for certain minority at the periphery – like the Tigrai nation, and an autonomous state within the Ethiopian union is usually optimal for the minority at the center – for example, the Gurage nation. Parallel to this, the Independent State of Oromia (I.S.O.) is the solution, which, by default, considers the Oromo nation as a minority at the periphery, whereas the Oromian autonomy within the Union State of Ethiopia (U.S.E.) puts the Oromo in the category of a minority at the center. These two solutions seem to be not optimal for the Oromo nation, which is the majority at the center of the current empire and the possible future union. Oromo’s condition as a colonized majority at the political center of the country is a unique situation – which needs a correspondingly unique solution. Finfinne being the brain and heart of the present empire as well as the future union, the lasting and proper solution for the Oromo can better be the “Union State of Oromia (U.S.O.).” What does this concept mean?
The Union State of Oromia (U.S.O.) is a modified Indian model of sovereignty: the Hindi people liberated all nations and nationalities in their region, and named the whole country as India, made Hindi the working language of the Indian federation and, of course, they divided the national area of Hindi into multiple federal regions. Why not we, the Oromo people, liberate the whole nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian empire, call the whole country the ‘Union State of Oromia’ and promote Afan Oromo to be the working language of the federation, with the historical local Odaa’s of Oromia (Odaa-Bisil, -Bultum, -Gaarres, -Makodi, -Nabee and -Roobaa) being the future separate federal regions of the country? I think it will be almost impractical to divide the currently nominally existing Oromia into such Odaa’s, but it is possible to have this Oromo national area as an autonomous “Oromo Regiona State” within the future U.S.O. That is why the concept U.S.O. is said to be a modified form of Indian model sovereignty.
This idea of U.S.O. is a synthesis of the two existing post-freedom sovereignty – that of the I.S.O. and U.S.E. Why is this synthesis necessary now? I think the aim I.S.O. has got a sort of international obstacle from most neighbouring nations as well as from the international community, and the objective U.S.E. is facing internal objection from Oromo nationalists. That is why our leaders are getting difficulty to openly sell the idea of I.S.O. to the diplomatic community so that they usually speak about self-determination or about freedom and democracy, instead of clearly telling that “we want to foster an I.S.O.” At the same time, the unionist Oromo nationalists are facing a problem in getting support from the Oromo, who have been told for the last 40 years that “Ethiopia is the system to be dismantled, thus we need to reject also the name Ethiopia.”
Accordingly, those with the agenda of U.S.E. are usually labelled by the pro-independence nationalists as “enemy of the Oromo struggle.” Can we change the name Ethiopia from U.S.E. and replace the independence goal in the I.S.O. by a union and just synthesize from the two goals the “Union State of Oromia”? In this synthesis, clearly Oromia will be in the U.N. in the form of inclusive union, instead of “exclusive independence.” Such combination of the two objectives into one synthesis can help us reduce the internal Oromo conflicts and the international concern about the fate of the region. Just as U.S.O. is the good synthesis of both the I.S.O. and U.S.E., the attempt of keeping the status quo – the Imperial State of Ethiopia (I.S.E.) – by the Abyssinian elites from both the Amhara and Tigrai nations, is the anti-thesis of the two.
In short, I.S.E. =====> U.S.E. vs I.S.O. ——-> U.S.O.
I once wrote an article showing the importance of naming, which is the main factor of identifying a certain nation: http://gadaa.com/oduu/20240/2013/06/15/the-wonderful-cushitic-oromia-naming-is-identifying/. Such naming of the future union as U.S.O. solves the conflict between the pro-independence forces and the pro-unity forces: we will have both the desired independence and the required unity, if the other nations accept this recommendation as a compromise solution. As far as the Oromo-proper is concerned, we renamed our nation to Oromo and our capital city from Addisaba to Finfinne without waiting for any permission or recognition from anyone else. So why not we rename the country from their Ethiopia to our Oromia? Anybody can call the country as either Abyssinia or Ethiopia, but the Oromo people should unanimously agree to call it from now on as Oromia. That country is neither the land of the mixed (Abyssinia) as the Portuguese called it nor the land of the burnt face (Ethiopia) as the Greeks named it, but it is the land of the brave (Oromia) as both the Oromo-proper and the Oromo-progeny (other Cushitic nations as offshots from the Oromo) call ourselves. Such Cushitic Oromia, in which freedom of citizens, liberty of nations, genuine democracy, justice and human rights are respected, will be our future common home, if the other nations in the empire voluntarily accept and endorse this suggestion.
If the the Oromo neighbours are not ready to accept U.S.O., they are the ones who should seek an aknowledgemnet from the Oromo or Oromia and ask a recognition from the international community to get their own independence. The Oromo national liberation struggle of both the ODF and the OLF lines need to focus on how to get state power in Finfinne by giving such offer of U.S.O. for the others to stay with us, if they want. This is a union of our own terms, which can benefit the Oromo and the others. It is a bit similar to the opinion of Ob. Baaroo Tumsaa, given 40 years ago, where he suggested: “we, the Oromo nationalists, must capture state power by any means necessary. In order to do this, we must clandestinely organize all sectors of our society. It is the responsibility of the young educated Oromo like you, to disseminate the spirit of Oromo nationalism when you return to your respective communities. We can only change the deplorable condition of our people by being tolerant to one another and reestablishing a necessary Oromo national unity. In this way, we can build a strong organization, capture state power and take actions that facilitate fundamental social transformation.”
I would like to suggest the implementation of the following five points during the taking of actions that will facilitate transformation: (1) freedom of citizens and nations in the union; (2) Afan Oromo as a primary language of the union; (3) democracy as the rule of the game in the union; (4) Oromia as the name of the union; and (5) black-red-white as the flag of the union. If all our neighbouring nations are interested in living with the Oromo in a common home (union), they have to take this offer seriously; otherwise, I think the birth of I.S.O. is inevitable and this surely will divide the present empire at least into four: North Ethiopia, Ogadenia, Oromia and South Ethiopia. As far as the Oromo is concerned, and putting it metaphorically, U.S.O. is the same as a gross salary, while I.S.O. is similar to the net salary of a certain professional. In case the other nations reject this offer from the Oromo and go their way to be our neighbour states, we will have our I.S.O. with its capital city Finfinne, just like Russia with its Moscow left behind as the other states of the Soviet Union decided for their independence as well as like Serbia and its Belgrade had the same fate during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
In short, both the pro-union and the pro-independence Oromo nationalists can consider U.S.O. as common synthetic objective to be told boldly and clearly both internally to our people as well as internationally to others, so that we can unanimously struggle per nonviolent struggle and/or armed struggle to liberate our nation from the 130 years of subjugation. This approach of the Oromo as a majority at the center can have a lesser obstacle from the internal national friction and milder rejection from the international stakeholders of the Horn region. Is this synthesis helpful to promote the indispensable unity of purpose among the Oromo nationalists and the important alliance with the other anti-Woyane forces, so that we can have effective and efficient force against our main foe – the currently ruling regime of the Abyssinian empire? I hope this attempt of seeking a common focus for all Oromo liberation forces will be developed further by others with better ideas. The writer of this short opinion is ready to hear and read possible – both negative and positive – feedback. May Rabbi/Waaqa help us all in the empire/region to foster the common home as suggested here – the Union State of Oromia (U.S.O.)!
* Fayyis Oromia: firstname.lastname@example.org