What we Oromo’s can learn from the South Sudan People’s liberation struggle
By Bakalcho Barii | July 29, 2013
Over one point five millions South Sudanese died in the long and protracted civil war with their Northern Arab rulers and millions more were displaced and made refugee around the globe before they finally freed themselves as an independent nation in July of 2011, and stood tall among the one hundred and ninety six independent nations of the world.
One might argue that South Sudanese achieved their independence with all round supports rendered to them by Western countries, particularly the United States and Britain. Many would also argue that Britain provided them material, diplomatic and other needed logistics to compensate for their wrong doing by merging the Southern Sudanese, who have little or no connections with their Northern counter parts during their occupation of the Sudan.
On the other hand, many regional and international political observers of the region argue that the United States, provided an all-round support to the Southern Sudanese liberation movements to get un-feted access to the huge oil wealth discovered in the south plus to weaken the Northern Arabs, who for a long time harboured Islamist extremisms (Osama Bin Laden used to have a base in Northern Sudan in the 90s), and to weaken the anti-Israel Palestinians Organizations such as Hamas and other pan-Arab movements, who were supported and trained by the Northern Arab Sudanese.
On the contrary, the three regional powers, namely Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea supported both South Sudan Liberation Organization and the central Sudanese state for their own strategic goals. For example, the Egyptians supported their then central Sudanese state for fear of dealing alone or with little support in any future deals with the sources of the Nile river countries of the region. The Ethiopians and the Eritreans, on the other hand, gave tacit support to the South Sudanese movements while maintaining some form of good relationship with the North to weaken and eliminate their opponents both in the South and Northern Sudan.
However, the discovery of oil and the geo-politics of the region alone did not bolstered the South Sudanese liberation movements, but their unity, determinations and sustained guerrilla war under the umbrella organization of the South Sudan Liberation Organization changed the power shift in their favour and gain sympathy and support from the International community.
Here, what is incredibly important for the people of the South of the Ethiopian empire, including the Oromo’s is, despite their many tribal differences (more than fifty six tribes exist in current South Sudan), the South Sudanese put these differences aside and fought as one people against their common enemy, the Northern Sudanese Arabs, who viewed them as sub-human.
We could also mention the case of the Eritrean’s liberation struggle against Ethiopian colonialism, where the Central Tigre speaking Christians stood together with their northern Muslims, the Kunama, and the Afar speaking groups in the South, all of them together viewed Ethiopian colonialism as their strategic enemy that must be defeated and became an independent nation in 1993 by a popular referendum.
As Oromo’s, it is high time to learn from the experiences of the South Sudanese and many nations, and put their minor differences aside for the common good of their nation and confront and defeat the common enemy, the Abyssinian colonialism, which is doing anything to undermine and destroy the Oromo people and its natural resources.
The Southern Sudanese armed struggle was headed by those who served in the then Central Sudanese army, who attempted to change their people’s livelihood and acceptance as a citizen within one Sudan but realized that such change or acceptance will never happen within the socio-political, economic and power structure on which the former Sudan was established. The realization of this reality convinced the likes of John Garang and many high and low ranking military officers in the national army to defect and establish a guerrilla army to fight the injustices against their people. Though, at the out-set scattered and uncoordinated due to tribal fault-lines that exists among the many South Sudanese, it did not take them long to come to a conclusion that their common enemy can only be defeated in union than alone.
There were tens of thousands of intelligent Oromo military officers and civil servants in the Ethiopian empire state, who attempted to tackle the state sanctioned injustices against their nation by successive Abyssinian regimes hoping the Ethiopian empire, will democratize and treats its subjects in the South and the Oromo’s as citizens. The peaceful demands of these Oromo intellectuals and military officers for the equal treatments of their people within the empire made them traitors and enemy of the state, and as a consequence were sent to the gallows.
The fate of many brave and innocent Oromo’s who served the empire with much distinction and dedications were to suffer in the hands of the Abyssinians, who felt threatened by these Oromo’s, their only crime being raising the mistreatment and exploitation of their people. Here, we can mention a few such as, the likes of Mamo Mezemer (who many claim the birth father of Oromo struggle), General Tadesse Biru, who until the Abysinians discovered his Oromo blood and imprisoned him and finally killed, Haile Fida and Senai Liki, who were the intellectual power house of their generations, and many more perished in the hands of Abyssinian rulers.
The Oromo struggle for liberation is at critical juncture. The empire is on its last leg and last breadth. As a result, there are many voices from within and external forces whispering to our ears to abandon our God given rights to be free but rather opt to remain within the Ethiopian empire state. These forces even go as far as trying to convince us that remaining within the union is more beneficial to Oromo’s than separation. When asked how? These forces can not substantiate how living within the Ethiopian empire state favours the Oromo’s. Ethiopian empire is and has been the living hell for Oromo’s over the last on hundred years. Abyssinians never cared or care for the rights of the Oromo’s and the southern peoples but rather they care how much they can exploit their resources.
My message to my Oromo compatriots and those who advocate union with an empire (internal and external), is this; there is no single empire in the history of nations that was democratized and lived in peace with its subjects. The opposite is true in human history, meaning when the subjects were free, the empire itself was also set free from its own shackles.
Oromo’s have to look to their neighbours, which includes the likes of South Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti as an example. Eritrea and Djibouti with different nationalities have had opted for independence rather than living with the Ethiopian empire.
For example, the population of Djibouti is closer to half a million and that of Eritrea is four million. The Oromo people, on the other hand, coupled with abundant natural resources and with the population size of over 40 million with common history, geography, language, culture, deserve to be free from their Abyssinian colonizers and live in peace with all its neighbours and practice their democratic Gada system to govern themselves.
In conclusion, like the Southern Sudanese inside and in the diasporas who spoke the freedom of their nation with one voice to the International Community, and to their enemies, Oromo’s inside Oromia and in the diasporas must speak loudly with one voice more than ever and demand the total independence of Oromia and the freedom of their people. Always remember that famous quotes “Power Never Gives up by its own Will but need to be confronted with determination and defeated”.
Finally, Jawar Mohammed, a regional political analyst recently put it in the following way in his recent radio interview, quote “writing or having beautiful political programme will not liberate oneself or a nation but standing together in unity and deeds and speaking with one clear and loud voice to one’s enemy will strengthen and transform a nation’s struggle for peace, democracy and justices”” in that part of East Africa, where Oromia belongs.
May Waqa Bless those who died for the diginity, respect and freedom the Oromo Nation.