Ethnic Oromo parties to form coalition ahead of general election

How to work with other “Federalist parties” said to be among agenda item of three Oromo parties partnership talk that is said to be aiming for coalition. There nearly ten ethnic Oromo parties operating in Oromo region of Ethiopia including the ruling Oromo Democratic Party (ODP)

Oromo parties _ Ethiopia
The meeting between the three ethnic Parties. Photo: Jawar Mohammed shared it for the public on Facebook.

January 3, 2020

Three Oromo ethnic nationalist parties have reportedly reached an agreement to form a coalition ahead of the General election. Leaders of the parties reportedly met at Elilly Hotel in Addis Ababa.

Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Oromo National Party (ONP) are the three parties that agreed to work together.  Details of the agreement are undisclosed.

Tsedale Lemma, owner of Addis Standard, who is believed to have insider information is cited by her own media as saying “based on the information I have, the dialogues [ between the parties] are of three types… cooperation before the election after election and  how to work with other ‘Federalist bloc’ .”

Oromo Federalist Congress, under the chairmanship of prominent University professor and former member All Ethiopian Socialist Movement (AESM) in the years after the 1974’s Ethiopian Revolution, is known to many Ethiopians as a moderate ethnic Oromo nationalist party with a considerably big support base in Oromo region of Ethiopia.  

However, recent reports claim that the party is actually registered as a national party, not a region-based party, which means that it has a presence, and claims so, in other ethnic-based regions of Ethiopia.  Last week, a radical ethnic Oromo nationalist activist and former director of Oromo Media Network (ONM), Jawar Mohammed announced that he has joined Oromo Federalist Congress. Based on a picture he shared on his Facebook page, he was present during the conversation between the three parties. Some politicized Ethiopians speculate that with Jawar playing in the center stage, Merera Gudia’s party is likely to take radicalization path.

Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) is the oldest ethnic Oromo nationalist party and the party is known to be a radical one and toiled for the most part of its life to secede the Oromo region of Ethiopia from the rest of the country. It was a party with the narrative that “Ethiopia colonized Oromia.” 

The party partnered with Tigray People’s Liberation Front soon after the fall of Colonel Mengistu’s government in 1991 but had to leave the country after the partnership turned to enmity after a year or so of working together. Then the party operated mostly, especially the leadership, outside of the country as it was outlawed. It returned to Ethiopia again in September of 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed invited armed opposition to return to the country and operate peacefully. Later, the party had a lot of controversy with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration on the issue of disarming about 1500 combatants who returned from Eritrea.

The party has gone through significant leadership changes so much so that individuals who pioneered (like Lencho Letta and Dima Negao -among others) it had to abandon it and form a moderate political party (Oromo Democratic Front) that advocated that secession is no longer tenable.

Leader of Oromo National Party (ONP), one of the parties that are part of the ongoing deal, Kemal Gelchu, used to be part of OLF until he fell out with them during his stay in Eritrea as a rebel after he defected as a military commander with several hundred soldiers during the heyday of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

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