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Prof. Merera Gudina: An uncertain journey from Marxism to espousing Genocidal Ethnic Nationalism?

Merera _ Ethiopia _ politics
Merera Gudina in Ambo soon after his release from prison. He is seen struggling with tears surrounded by supporters of his ethnic Oromo Nationalist Party – Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) (Photo : File/SM)

By Solomon Gebreselasse

Merera Gudina is a well-known leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress that, as a stand-alone party, used to be the Oromo National Congress (ONC), a name most likely adapted from the progressive African National Congress. Prior to that during the Dirgue era, he was a member of the All- Ethiopian Socialist Movement, commonly known by its Ethiopic acronym, Meison. He was the chief cadre/commissar of Meison at Addis Abeba University.

In his 2005 (Eth.C) book titled, የኢትዮጵያ ፖለቲካ ምስቅልቅል ጉዞና ትዝታዎች – ከኢትዮጵያ ተማሪዎች ንቅናቄ እስከ ኢህአደግ፤ (he has authored at least three other books), he narrates how his political activism evolved from a high school student activist in Ambo to eventually a party stalwart in Meison. As a member of Meison, Merera had been jailed for nearly a decade and released while his less fortunate comrades perished at the hands of the Dirgue.

As a senior member of Meison, one can safely assume he was imbued with ethical and humanist Marxism. Existing socialism, such as the one existing in the USSR and its East European satellites, was stale and authoritarian. Thus, Merera’s party opposed the USSR’s autocratic behavior in general and its intervention in Ethiopia in particular. 

Some Background

With the downfall of the Mengistu regime that was propped up by the USSR, and the coming to power of EPRDF, Merera decided to form the ONC. During this time, he was known for his polemical Amharic articles in the private media where he boldly criticized the Oromo Liberation Front. (Later in the Abiy era, the OLF leader Daud Ibssa was asked by Dereje Haile in an interview on the program called “Benegerachin Lai” what Daoud thought of Merera’s criticisms. With a knowing smile, he said, “Merera would regret that now. You can ask him about it”). Daoud must have sensed the shift!

To his credit, Merera is perhaps the most known Oromo nationalist that worked across the aisle for a long time with Ethiopian opposition politicians for a united democratic and federal Ethiopia. Starting in 2003, he and Professor Beyene worked with Diaspora political organizations, such as EPRP, Meison, Medhin and Hibre-Hizb in preparation to contest the 2005 elections in a coalition called Union of Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF). Some years later, he jointly formed and was the first chairman of the MEDREK coalition.

In the book cited above, Merera discusses what was then or maybe still gnawing at his soul. On page 223, he says, 

“በሰኔ 1989 የመጀመሪያ የፖለቲካ ጉዞየ ሁለት ነገሮች በግልፅ አጋጥመዉኝ ነበር፡፡

 በኢትዮጵያ አንድነት ደጋፊዎች በኩል ኦሮሞን ለኢትዮጵያ አንድነት ሊያሰልፍልን የሚችል አዲስ ሰዉ፤ አዲስ ሃይል ይዞ መጣልን በሚል የተደረገልኝ አቀባበል እጅግ በጣም የሞቀ ነበር፡፡ በኔ በኩል ደግሞ የኦሮሞ ህዝብን የብሄርተኝነት ስሜት ከማጥፋት ይልቅ የተሻለ አቅጣጫ ማስያዝ ስለነበረ (what other direction is conceivable for the Oromo or other Ethiopians other than rallying behind a united, democratic and federal Ethiopia??) ፍቅራቸዉ እየቀነሰ ሄደ፡፡ በኦሮሞ ብሄርተኞች በኩል ደግሞ የኦሮሞ ህዝብ ትግልን የሚያኮላሽ ዳግማዊ ጎበና መጣብን የሚል ቅሬታ ይታይ ነበር፡፡”

Three pages later, on page 226, Merera rightly states, “በፍጥነት በኢትዮጵያ ማህበረሰቦች መካከል ያለዉን ግድግዳ ሰብረን አቅም በመገንባት አንድ ሰፊ ዴሞክራሲያዊ ሃይል ካልፈጠርን የአረቦች ፀደይ ቢመጣም (this was the time when talk about the Arab Spring coming to Ethiopia filled the air) የተፈለገዉ ዉጤት ላይመጣ ይችላል፡፡”

He then goes on listing non-Oromo Ethiopians, members of EPRP, Meison, Medhin and Hibre-Hizb that genuinely befriended him and facilitated his visit. Where is Merera today?

Criminal Ex-Communists

After the fall of communism, a few former Marxists have abandoned all that they believed in and preached and committed acts of monstrosity. No one comes close to the various leaders of the former Yugoslavia in this case. Let’s look at three of these monsters who at one time passed through the rites of Marxism, but with the fall of communism committed horrendous crimes;

According to the Internation Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ratke Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic, during the Yugoslav civil war that tore the country apart, engaged in genocide, extermination, persecution, inhuman acts including forcible people transfer- all crimes against humanity and war crimes. While the first received life imprisonment and the second 40 years jail, the Serbian former President died in his cell after being charged with the same crimes.

This potential crime is now staring in the eye of Merera Gudina. Since the coming to power of Abiy, he has manifestly distanced himself from the lofty goals of his erstwhile project which he described in 2012 (Eth):

And then some 30 pages later, this:

Where did this Merera Gudina disappear now? What really happened? 

Since the coming to political power of Abiy, Merera has steadily eaten his former words and seems to be in a rat race with the newly legalized Oromo parties. Has he come to the conclusion that he may be out of fashion and out of work unless he joins or upstages the parties he earlier vehemently opposed? Only he can answer that. However, the series of missteps he and his OFC took in the last 5 years attests to the fact that Merera is on a slippery slope of espousing genocidal nationalism. He joined forces with Bekele Gerba, the former OFC official known for his vitriolic hate speech. Not stopping there, he admitted Jawar Mohammed into the party high echelon after Jawar was calling for murdering non-Oromos with machetes and after he was responsible for the gruesome murder of over 80 citizens following his text message to his followers that said he was surrounded by security forces.

With these three at the top of the OFC ticket, they agitated in public meetings for civil war, for instance around the Debre Libanos monastery; they condoned young Oromo women talking at meetings about not marrying outside of their tribe, etc. Then the press releases followed. In one press release the OFC falsely reported that Moslems in Finote Selam were being killed and their mosque desecrated. The mayor of the city released a statement that the OFC report was blatantly false and was aimed at fomenting tension among the people. To date, OFC has not apologized nor has it stood by its false story. Furthermore, on the contentious issue of Oromo elites claiming Addis Abeba as theirs only, Merera in interviews has tried to adjudicate the case by saying that the city’s future status will be like of Jerusalem, implying perhaps just like Jews and Arabs, Oromos and other Ethiopians will continue to litigate the case.

Getting back to Merera’s coalition with the then firebrand Jawar, many hoped that the older man would have a calming influence on the young Jawar, and a moderate political leadership of the OFC would emerge. However, in one of the ironies of Ethiopian politics, while Jawar changed from a politician to a statesman in front of our eyes (despite his occasional outlandish statements), Merera sadly is stuck in a rut.

The Last Straw

On June 25, 2024 (Sene 18, 2016 Eth), OFC published a press release titled in Amharic, “ፅንፈኛ የፋኖ ታጣቂዎችም ሆኑ መሸሸጊያዎቻቸዉ አደብ ሊገዙ ይገባል” ፡፡ This release was triggered by a horrendous death of about 30 innocent civilians at a wedding party. While not any kind of investigation, independent or otherwise has taken place, OFC claimed that “it has been proven that FANO was responsible for the action. The press release further continued to demonize Amharas and FANO as quoted below.

“ጥቃቱን ያደረሱትም በሰላሙ ጊዜ የኦሮሞ ጉያ ዉስጥ ገብተዉ ሲኖሩ የነበሩ ፅንፈኛ የፋኖ ታጣቂዎች መሆናቸዉን ስናረጋግጥ ሃዘናችን ድርብርብ ይሆናል”፡፡ Just as “Neftegna” is being used as a code word to indict all Amharas by Oromo extremists, so is FANO now by OFC’s lexicon. When it is a well-known fact that FANO operates in the Amhara provinces of Gojjam, Gonder, North Shewa and Wollo, OFC falsely asserts that FANO is present in Nano Woreda where the crime was committed. OFC delegitimizes these Amharas by not recognizing that they are autonomous right bearers, both individually and as a group, with a right to live anywhere in Ethiopia, promote their culture, elect and be elected (Notwithstanding the last 4 years of persecution, forced displacement and genocide committed by the Abiy government and other auxiliary forces). Instead, OFC describes them as those living in the “embrace” of Oromos. The hate spewing press release continues:

OFC and Merera are using the sad event as a pretext to open a full scale war against FANO. Unashamed to use the regime’s “extremist” tag on FANO, they went further to “educate” the public how FANO procures weapons. Not satisfied with that, they blame the victims as victimizers by transferring responsibility on FANO for the unceasing genocide of Amharas in Oromia that was reported ad nauseum and recorded by domestic and international bodies. 

The parting shot?

There you have it. Denial after denial, after denial….Even the OLF/OLA that did not go through Marxist humanism have not said that. On the contrary, on a few occasions, both entities have blamed government terrorist groups (Kore Negeeyna and Gachena Serna, for attacking Amharas). Other Oromo intellectuals, like Dr. Henok Gabissa, while correctly condemning the barbaric act, have refrained from apportioning blame and called for an independent investigation, and have counseled for both communities to come together rather than use the incident for mutual destruction. (Horizon Free Media discussion of July 1, 2024). 

Merera, after a deafening silence of not even issuing a single condemnation over a 4-year period while Amharas were being massacred in Wollega, Arsi and Shashemene’, he came out of his cave to use a gruesome crime to spew out hate language in a guise of a press release that indirectly calls for genocide against Amharas. Incitement to genocide is a crime under international law which prohibits inciting (encouraging) the commission of genocide.

Conclusion

One hopes Merera would reclaim his democratic past and constructively contribute to his professed project of በማህበረሰቦች መካከል ያለዉን ግድግዳ ማፍረስና አንድ ጠንካራ ዴሞክራቲክ ሃይል መፍጠር፡፡ If there is anything redeemable from the press release, it is an afterthought that OFC added saying Amharas in Oromia need to be protected. Stooping to base instincts is so unbecoming to a one- time democratic champion. This is the time to ward off extremist thoughts coming from any direction, Amhara, Oromo, Somali, etc. and create a large and moderate center. One also hopes, despite the virus of hatred and division today’s youth have been infected with by people like Shimelis Abdissa, the youth of this generation would rise above the division and embrace each other and forge a common destiny in a united, democratic and federalist Ethiopia.

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com


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1 COMMENT

  1. ሁለታችሁም በተለያዬ መንገድ ሄዳችሁ፤ አንዱ በመኢሶን(መረራ)
    ለላኛው በኢህአፓ(ሰለሞን) ግን አንድ ቦታ ላይ ደረሳችሁ የብሔርተኝነት አቀንቃኝነት። ሰለሞን እንደአርእስት የስቀመጠከውን ጥያቀ መረራን ብቻ ሳይሆን አንተንም መጠየቅ ይገባል። አንተም የአማራ ላይ በምትፅፋቸው ጽሁፎች ስታቀነቅን ይታያል። ፅሁፎቹ ጃኖሳድ በመዋጋት ስም ቢቀርቡም ብሔርተኝነትን የሚያፋፍሙ ናቸው(gas light or stock genocide)
    በሁለታችሁም አዝኛለሁ የአንድ ብህር ተቀናቃኝ ብቻ በመሆናችሁ።

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