Oromo Democratic Party responds to mounting political criticism over Shimeles’ speech

Oromo Democratic Party did not apologize but it went on to reiterate its understanding of Ethiopian history when it comes to “oppressive rulers”

Oromo Democratic Party

October 9, 2019

As Oromo Democratic Party organized what appeared to be a politically motivated jubilant celebration of ethnic Oromo traditional religious festival in the capital Addis Ababa, for the first time in history, the acting president of Oromo regional state, Shimeles Abdissa spoke something that appeals to radical Ethnic Oromo nationalists.

What he said in his Oromo language translates to “Where the Neftegna broke our knee, we broke their knee and brought the celebration of our cultural heritage to the heart of the nation- finfine.”

His speech made no sense even to ethnic Oromos who seem to be moderate. And most Ethiopians who are non-ethnic Oromo were not only unhappy about his speech but they were very critical of him.

As the party was vying for an alliance with what is now Amhara Democratic Party in the quest to end Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) domination over the ruling coalition sometime in early 2018, ODP’s political rhetoric emphasized the view that the narrative that paints ethnic oppression in Ethiopian history is wrong, and mounted the narrative that oppression in the past was rather class-based. The implication in that political position is that different ethnic groups were part of the ruling class in the past.

As well, OPDO vowed to fight ethnic-radicalism and at one point undertook massive purge of members who were believed to be advancing radical Oromo ethnic nationalism from within administrative structures in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.

However, the political activities and rhetorics of the governing ethnic Oromo party have changed over the course of the past one year as it, apparently, believed that it has firmly controlled power in the Federal government.

For many politicized Ethiopians, Shimeles Abdissa use of the term neftegna during his Irreechaa speech in Addis Ababa was provocative. It has also demonstrated, as many seem to believe, political power takeover turn that radical Oromo ethnic nationalists are claiming.

On Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Oromo Democratic Party has issued a statement in an apparent move to explain the Oromo region’s acting president speech at Meskel Square.

“Positive attributes that bind us together outweigh those mistakes committed in our history,” is the title given to the statement that the party issued.

It went on to enlist what it says are three core principles of the party.  “Respecting victories and continuing positive values we have in history,” “Identifying mistakes and rectifying them,” and “Avoiding mistakes of the past and build on our victories and pass them to the next generation.”

To that end, said the statement, ODP believes that rhetorics and actions need to bring about “unity, peace, and love”

As a key explanation to Shimeles Abdissa’s speech on Friday, which many Ethiopians believe was deliberate and politically motivated, ODP said: “We strongly believe oppressive rulers represent their interest, not the part [of Ethiopian people] from which they came.”

It also said that the struggle in the past was against the oppressive ruling class not against the people.

As well, ODP made references to the relation between ethnic Amhara and ethnic Oromo people: “the string that holds the brotherhood of Oromo and Amhara is not one that breaks easily”

Political observers accuse ODP of the inability to walk the talk.  Despite its claim of determination to fight ethnic radicalism, ODP has demonstrated patterns of heeding to entities that espouse radical ethnic Oromo nationalism.

It remains to be seen if Ethiopians will take its statement seriously this time around.

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