by Zewdie G. Muleta
Stating that Ethiopia at this time is at a crossroad may sound like a cliché but it is literally true. I heartily believe that this time is a watershed moment for this generation of Ethiopians. TPLF’s rule is weakening albeit it is still strong enough to kill; a new generation of Ethiopians hungry for freedom and true people power is rising; many veteran politicians from the Oromo freedom struggle and from the “Ethiopian Unity” camp are taking a leap of faith and charting a new and open-minded path; many prominent Oromo Ethiopians who grew up learning the good, the bad, and the ugly of our country’s history who also, may I say, still speak Amharic are alive although becoming fewer and fewer. Now is the time, to use the timeless words of Martin Luther King, to think twice regarding our country’s future.
This is the time to start thinking out of our old and failed boxes on all sides of the political paradigm. As many writers and commentators have said on different forums, the formation of the Ethiopian National Movement (ENM) is an encouraging beginning to save Ethiopia from being disintegrated as a result of the blind measures of TPLF’s leaders. ENM’s success as an umbrella organization that may facilitate conditions for a peaceful transitional system after the unquestionable downfall of TPLF depends on the active role all of the founders as well as future members of the Movement will play.
From what we have seen so far, it looks very clear that the mutual understanding and strong solidarity between the two larger peoples of our country (Oromos and Amharas) in the life and death struggle against TPLF gangs clearly showed the responsibilities these two pillars of our country have to shoulder not only to get rid of the TPLF rule but also to establish a true federal democratic system in postTPLF Ethiopia. However, some issues that may look minor to non-Oromos but very basic issues for the Oromo camp may negatively affect the success of the Movement as well as the solidarity and brotherhood we have practically seen between Oromos and Amharas. These issues should be given proper attention by all parties that really want to see strong and united multi-national Federal Democratic Ethiopia.
These issues are: (1) the official use of Afaan Ormoo and (2) the display of the Oromo freedom flag at all Ethiopian events where the Oromo people and Oromo political organizations are taking part. It should be understood that the Oromo freedom flag is no longer the logo of a single Oromo political Organization. It became a symbol of the beliefs, aspirations, interests and identifications of Oromos of all walks of life – irrespective of affiliations to any political groups. That is why the use of the Oromo freedom flag as well as Afaan Oromoo alongside the tricolor Ethiopian national flag and the Amharic language have been successfully practiced in the public demonstrations held by all Ethiopians against the TPLF rule in different major cities of USA and Europe. These approaches were very smart and encouraging for bringing the Oromo people towards closely working with their Ethiopian brothers and sisters. Nothing negative has happened as a result of either the use of Afaan Oromoo or the display of the Oromo freedom flag at the anti-TPLF demonstrations held in Minnesota, Washington State (Seattle), Germany, Sweden, etc. These practices of solidarity rather sent shocking messages and signals to TPLF as they have practically demonstrated the true unity of the Ethiopian peoples.
It has been repeatedly explained that what the founders of ENM would like to achieve is to facilitate a transitional system that will lead to the establishment of a united, sovereign, developed, and very strong Federal Democratic Ethiopia in which all its peoples see themselves as equal citizens. It is based on the strong belief of establishing a new democratic country that the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) managed to arrive at the stage of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Patriotic Ginbot-7 for Unity and Democracy (PG-7) and also arrived at the historical stage of playing very significant role in the processes of the formation of the Ethiopian National Movement. However, the ODF agenda for the future united multinational Federal Democratic Ethiopia doesn’t look clear to many people, especially to the people at the side of the “Ethiopian Unity” camp. I am saying this based on the different comments that I have noticed on some Ethiopian websites, different media outlets including ESAT and also based on some emotional comments posted in social media regarding the official use of Afaan Oromoo and the display of the Oromo freedom flag at public meetings.
At this historical time when the Ethiopian National Movement (ENM) is getting ready to work towards the achievement of its major goals, I wanted to write this piece to very sincerely and honestly underline that Ethiopians of all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds have to think twice before taking unnecessary actions that may negatively affect the unity of the country. It will be a historical mistake if we may not give attention to the critical importance of the Oromo language as a uniting factor and the Oromo people’s meaningful symbol of struggle for freedom, justice, equality and democracy in all the events that are going to be organized to free Ethiopia from TPLF brutal rulers.
When I say we have to draw people’s attention to the critical importance of Afaan Oromoo and the Oromo Freedom Flag, I am not only trying to appeal to the better angles of our brothers and sisters in the “Ethiopian Unity“ camp but also warning the danger that would follow from failing to seize this opportune moment.
I do hope that most of the readers of this piece know that Afaan Oromoo is a language spoken by more than half the total population of Ethiopia. So, the Oromo language also belongs to very large number of people that are not Oromos by blood. The Oromo freedom flag also represents the freedom struggle that has consumed millions of precious Oromo lives as it continues to do to date. The Oromo freedom flag contains a respected symbol of the Oromo culture and value – the Odaa Tree. For the Oromo people, therefore, any action against the official use of their language and the display of the freedom flag are not only unacceptable, but also potentially damaging factors that may negatively affect the very existence of our country as a united Ethiopia.
As a prominent Ethiopian intellectual who gave a brief speech at the public meeting that was held to announce the formation of ENM has clearly said, Ethiopians shouldn’t be scared of the display of an Oromo flag that contains Oda Tree on any Ethiopian events. It shouldn’t be seen as something negative; instead it should be embraced. That same prominent Ethiopian intellectual also said that the image of a large tree at the center of the Oromo freedom flag displays a symbol that our peoples back in Ethiopia have been using as a place of gathering to discuss their social, political, economic, cultural, etc., issues. He has specifically mentioned a huge tree that he was familiar with during his young age in the historical city of Gonder. I personally believe that the above mentioned genuine approach of a well-known Ethiopian intellectual is the reasonable approach that all Ethiopians should have for our freedom flag as well as for the use of our language – Afaan Oromo. (Continue on page 2)