OSFNA day one wrap: Unity and Reconciliation Forum


On the opening day of Oromo Week, a reconciliation forum organized by Oromo Artists Association (OAA) in collaboration with many other civic organizations was held at the Oromo Community Center. The last such attempt according to some, the forum sought to bring rival OLF factions to one camp. At the outset, it appeared the meeting will be poorly attended. There was also an open call by KFAI’s “Oromo Community” radio for the public to boycott the meeting.

With the youth visibly absent, the first participants were mostly elders. However, attendance improved noticeably as the meeting went on. The youth later walked-in in large numbers, infusing the meeting with a booster shot of energy and making it livelier. At the opening the meeting, the outgoing OAA Chairperson, Mr. Amin Jundi remarked that his organization is “proud of creating a free forum where different opinions are entertained, undeterred by agitation to sabotage the meeting.” He added that “I am stepping down as OAA chairman to set a precedent for those who overstay their tenure.”

Speakers at the event included, among many others, Lencho Lata, Ahmed Hussein, and representatives of the two main OLF factions. At the demand of the public, Mr. Kassim Abba Nasha representing the change group and Tumsa seating in for ShaneG traded blames as to why the reconciliation efforts headed by elders and veterans of the organization failed to materialize.

The elders on their part reiterated the importance of unity and the reconciliation’s success to the Oromo peoples struggle. An emotional, Lencho Lata, underscored the changing geo-political situation and the movements inability to adapt. “We are busy fighting and undermining each other while the geo-political situation has gotten more complicated than ever before,” he said.

Mr. Lencho maintained that “our so-called freedom fighters are becoming politicians” while the two are diametrically opposite. He repeated his infamous call that the tactics and strategies of the Oromo struggle must be re-evaluated taking into account the major shifts in international system. The Oromo polity must transition from “condition-seekers to condition-setters…chart our own course and make other political actors in the country respond to our ideas,” Mr. Lenco said.

Underscoring his group’s view on the reunion, Mr. Kassim A/Nasha indicated his faction paid a hefty price in the names of unity and reconciliation including loss of supporters, members, and even leaders. Without mentioning ShG by name, Mr. Kassim rebuked the other group for dwarfing the elder’s efforts at implementation stage after an agreement to unite was signed in September 2010.

In a more energetic tone, Tumsa noted the 2008 split as the worst in the organization’s long history. Referring to the other group simply as a “transitional committee” (Koree Yeroo), he repeatedly insisted the leaking of a certain manifesto, the change group’s last election and naming their chairman a Hayyu Duree instead of Dura Deemaa as the chief culprits in obstructing the reconciliation. Despite the setback, he indicated his faction is ready to move forward, provided they get answers to those issues from the other camp.

Speakers representing the civic forum appealed to Oromo leaders to be responsible and act cognizant of the responsibility incumbent upon them. “Unity is the demand of the time as well as the wish of the Oromo people. Listen to this call,” Tsehai Wodajo of OSA said.

In a spirited speech delivered with a lot of passion, Hashim Adam, the President of IOYA, echoed a similar sentiment arguing the “Oromo people are far more powerful than political organizations. The factions cannot determine the fate of the Oromo people.” The Oromo has become “increasingly defenseless as a result of this conflict,” he added. He said, “I left school along with other students to fight for my freedoms and could not find a leadership that would lead me…[referring to OLF leaders] you failed those young Oromos that were, and still are, ready to die for the cause of liberating the Oromo nation from tyranny. You are responsible for failing the Oromo people in history.”

In a statement endorsed by the public, the civic forum called on both sides to conclude reconciliation and harmony within three months heeding the people’s demand. OPride.com’s attempt to stream the event live, in partnership with Hegeree Media, failed due to layers of technical difficulties. The entire video from the event will be available in coming few days.

Q & A – Round One – unedited note from Buri Wodesso of OPride.com:

*H/ Birka:

  • For Tumsaa: Jila Qabsayoota (JQ) godhachuuf akka deeman isinitti himanii?
  • Kassim: JQ godhachuuf akka deemtan ShG beeksiftanii?
  • Panel of Elders: dubbiin bakka itti badde ummataaf ifa baasa himaa!

* Gizaw: dhaaba kana qofa walitti araarsinee rakkoo Oromoo furuu dandeenya?

*Jawar: gaaffiin araaraa sun hagam isiniif jabduudha? Gareen keessan
araara kanaan alatti jiraachuu dandayaa? “If you really want and need
it, you could reconcile in a day.” Araara yoo hin barbaadne do not waste your time.

Answers, [non-answers]:

*Tumsa: JQ godhachuu miti ka rakkoo fide itti-baya isaa ti. Hooggana
waliin tolfachuuf waliigallee kophatti hooggana tolfachuu isaanii ti.
Nu hin beeksifne.  Tokkummaan murteessaa dha. Tokkummaan qofti Oromoo
hin bilisoomsu. Tokkummaa malee qabsoon hin jirtu hin jennu.

* Kassim: akka walgahii sanirraa baaneen ibsa kenninee jira. Murtii JQ
tokkummaan kuni akka hin hanqanne dhaamate. Reediyoo irratti
gaafatamnee JQ tokkummaa akka hin hanqifne ibsine. DD fi HD jechuun
sababa ta’uu hin qabu; hin danda’us. Manifeston bahe wixineedha. JQ
irratti dhiyaate irratti hin mari’atamne. Hooggannuu irratti hin
mari’atne. Abbaan ufii ufitti hin araaramu: araarri fedhii gama lamaa barbaada.

*Gaaffii fi Deebii: Round Two

*H/ A/ Jabbaar: manguddoon abbaa balleesse nutti himaa? Nu tokkummaa barbaadna.

*Unknown person Q for Tumsa: erga tokkummaan kaayoo keenna jettanii laaltanii maalif JQ isaan
godhan irra tarkaanfachuu dadhaban?

*Abdalla : jaarsa iddoo eda’adhaatii dubbii tana nurraa guduunfaa!

*Another unknown speaker: why do you not clarify the confusion between
walabummaa and dimokraatummaa? Lenco Lata is blamed for the problem, he added.

*Marartu: maalif mana kanatti dhiirri heddummaatee dubartiin xiqqaatte?

*Tumsa: rakkoon tun akka nutti hin deebine waan barbaadnuuf, waa hunda
qulqulleeffachuu feena. Wanni ta’es waan salphaa miti. Manifeston
faallaa Sagantaa Siyaasaa ABO ti. Kana miseensota isaanii barsiisaa jiran.

*Kassim: wixineen kanarratti odeessi jaalli ibse soba. Miseensa
barsiisuun hafee hooggannuu quba hin qabu. Dhugaan jiru kana. Wixineef
jecha araarri faalla’uu hin qabu.

* OPride Fact Check: the manifesto is indeed only a draft and was not
presented to JQ for adoption.

Discussion: Round Three

Speaker after speaker from the audience took turns strongly urging the two factions to put aside their differences and make reconciliation possible. Some went even further and suggested that it is about time that the Oromo people begin considering alternatives to a leadership that has failed not only to deliver but also refused to the demands of the public for unity and reconciliation, which is a must if OLF is to be reinvigorated.

Additional reporting by Buri Wodesso.