Ethiopia Post-Meles and the Oromo Agenda
by Magarsa Mukhtar
No dictator rules for a lifetime. Not in the new millennium. With the wave of domestic anti-government sentiments and the rapid trends of change across the region, Meles Zenawi’s days as prime minister of Ethiopia were always numbered.
Zenawi was fortunate to get a dignified exit from politics and this world, a luxury many of his African counterparts didn’t enjoy. However, his “untimely demise” has opened a new can of worms for his successors. As the state-run ETV replays a scene of government officials’ casting votes, the social web is awash with rumors of power struggle.
Now that the ruthless dictator is gone, is there a cause for celebration for Oromos?
Celebration alludes to some sort of victory and that is certainly not the case. Yes, Meles’ departure provides more leeway for the Oromos to flex their muscles against an extremely repressive political elite but it seems like the head of the snake falling off hasn’t quite led to its death.
Nevertheless, the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) has found itself in a critical state with discouraging prognosis. The Oromos could help expedite the demise of the party that has been a scourge to our existence if we take a lesson from the history book of post-1991 politics in Ethiopia.
The implications of Dergue’s downfall and the demise of Meles Zenawi are strikingly similar. Enormous sacrifices led to that momentous occasion when Mengistu Hailemariam ran for his life. Many hoped, the transitional government of Ethiopia would usher in a new beginning – an era of hope, equality and freedom. Early signs were encouraging.
An ethnic-based federal structure was put in place, the brainchild of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). A relatively autonomous self-rule was envisaged. Ethnic regions were to develop their culture and language. Afan Oromo became the official language of Oromia regional state.
Alas, we soon learned, Ethiopia’s sad saga of oppression, tyranny and ethnic disparity was simply given a new lease of life. The new and enchanting Ethiopia belied the truth that this was a ploy to placate Oromo separatist sentiment, and Meles was the architect of it all. Meles’ Machiavellianism and OLF’s belief that he was not a trustworthy partner led to the latter being pushed out of the transitional government. This not only precipitated the ostracization of the OLF, but also emboldened the OPDO – a political outfit designed by TPLF to serve as an agent of the state rather than the voice of Oromos.
Two decades later, the OLF has become weaker than ever and fragmented as a result of both Meles’ machinations and OLF’s own grave political miscalculations. The most unfortunate victims of all these has been the Oromo people. However, Oromos cannot be beholden to the past. Dwelling on the past, especially at this critical juncture, is not the right way forward. So which way forward? Here are some suggestions.
Pragmatism Over Idealism
Oromo politics suffered from severe paralysis in the last 20 years. It was stuck in a state of debilitating immobility and Oromo political protagonists are guilty of this gross incompetence. Even when strides were made, it seemed to be leading us on a wild goose chase of ever-elusive principles. The OLF was caught between dichotomous principles of secession from Ethiopia versus entering into union with others in a truly federal Ethiopia. This polarizing issue has pitted what should have been a united, 40-million-strong people against one another along ideological lines. Even today, the notion of realpolitik remains beyond the comprehension of hardliner ideologues.
In my view, the first step forward is to do away with our pie-in-the-sky notions that lack realism. Whether we want an independent state of Oromia or an autonomous region in Ethiopia, the priority should be realizing what is achievable and whether it is in the interests of the Oromo nation. Read more at Opride.com