Oromo Uprising: Danger and Opportunity

By Messay Kebede

Regarding the present situation of unrest in Oromo towns and villages, many activists and observers repeatedly ask the question of knowing why other regions of Ethiopia where the discontent is no less general, especially the Amhara region, are not joining the ongoing protest. The consensus is that, unless the uprising extends to other regions, including Addis Ababa and other major towns, the TPLF will have no difficulty in crushing the Oromo protests. Generalized uprising is the sine qua non of success. The TPLF perfectly knows this.

That is why we see here and there attempts to divide ethnic groups, notably to incite clashes between the two major Amhara and Oromo ethnic groups. Confrontations between these two groups are a sure way for the TPLF to disable definitively the Oromo rebellion. Even though the game of setting the two ethnic groups against each other is a very dangerous one in that it can easily deteriorate into a mutually destructive and uncontrollable civil war from which Ethiopia will never recover, the TPLF is quite willing to take such a risk to protect its hegemonic power in Ethiopia. Its motto being death to Ethiopia if the TPLF does not rule it, it is ready to plunge the country into a terrible war that will benefit no one, including Tigreans whom it claims to represent.

What this means is that unity of all ethnic groups is by far the best alternative for everybody. Inter-ethnic divisions can only lead to two equally detestable alternatives. Either the TPLF will crush the Oromo uprising and remain in power indefinitely, given that another situation of uprising will be unlikely for a long time; or it will see no other way to defeat the Oromo uprising than to incite ethnic clashes, thereby precipitating the whole country into a dangerous and unpredictable path. Clearly, the situation offers unity and solidarity of all ethnic groups as the only and safest way to remove a common enemy.

Awareness of the looming danger and of the unique opportunity to put an end to a hideous dictatorial and divisive rule should give opposition leaders the courage to come out in favor of unity and solidarity. Oromo political leaders and activists, including those of the OLF, should openly state that the uprising is not only about Oromo land, Oromo peasants, and Oromia, but that it is also a democratic movement that includes and speaks for other ethnic groups as well. With few exceptions, the word “Ethiopia” is not mentioned even once in the numerous declarations made by Oromo leaders and activists. The Oromo leadership must understand that there is no point for other ethnic groups to rise and support the uprising if the whole concept of a common country is removed from the political horizon. Without unity, the removal presages chaos, which is enough to stifle the will to show solidarity with the Oromo revolt.

On the other hand, the Amhara and other ethnic groups must understand that their non-participation in the ongoing uprising can only give the Oromo the impression that they are abandoned to the repressive madness of the TPLF. Unless there is some demonstration of solidarity, the Oromo will increasingly feel alienated and betrayed to the great delight of the Woyanne. I hasten to add that the lack of solidarity will seal the fate of all other ethnic groups, since a victorious TPLF means the further tightening of its power and, hence, the worsening of repression and exploitation on other groups. The choice for them is either solidarity or a reinforced TPLF dictatorial rule.

Whichever way we look at the present situation, it presents the two faces of danger and opportunity. The danger lies in the exclusive ethnic interpretation of the Oromo uprising; opportunity appears when the uprising is directed toward a democratic and all-inclusive movement. Ethiopians have all the reason in the world to engage in the path of unity and solidarity: it avoids the danger because it is a win-win for everybody. It is high time for leaders to step up and work to bring about an inclusive movement, for all interests converge when they look toward Ethiopia.