Saturday, April 5, 2014

Proliferation of Political Organizations Does Not Address the Sidama National Question

Press Release | April 4, 2014
United Sidama Parties fro Freedom and Justice (USPFJ) 
sidamaEver since humans established the first form of states in the four fertile river valleys: The Tigris-Euphrates valley, the Nile valley, the Indus valley and the Huanghe valley, political organizations evolved in various forms and shapes. History has it that the Sumerians were the first to organize into a city-state system of administration in southern Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE, followed soon by the Egyptians in the Nile valley and the Harappans at Indus valley at around 3000 BCE. The main objectives of the political organization of these ancient societies were to develop their culture and language primarily through invention of scripts that were used for accounting, poetry and literature for political propaganda. Equally important were trade among other societies, in particular exchange of goods, domesticated crops and animals as well as ideas with other societies at similar stages of development. The initial stages of the development of these ancient political systems (states) were less despotic and less violent. Nonetheless, with the rise in accumulation wealth, competition over control of resources gave rise to conflicts among various groups within and outside of the early states leading to domestic political dictatorships and external conquest and subsequent subjugation of weaker societies by stronger ones.
Although political systems and institutions evolved tremendously across the globe over the 5 and a half millennia since humans first formed states, their fundamental tenets still remain invariably intact today.  The stronger and powerful states or societies or ethnic groups continue to suppress and exploit the weaker and the less powerful societies within and outside of certain political boundaries. The response of the suppressed groups have accordingly taken various forms and shapes ranging from passive resistance and disobedience to the rules of the oppressors to armed uprisings and confrontations with varying degrees of success.
During the heyday of the Sidama civilization, political, social and economic affairs of the society were managed through an indigenous African, pluralist and egalitarian political system. These systems comprised of the Songo (supreme legislative council of political, economic and social governance) under the leadership of Moote (Kings). The Kings were supported by the institutions of Woma and Luwa (an age-grade administrative and cultural system similar to the Gada system of the sisterly Oromo society), which anchor the administrative, cultural and defense structures of the society.  This nonetheless came to an abrupt end in 1891 when Sidama was for the first time conquered and forcefully incorporated into the modern day Ethiopia by the invading army of King Minelik II.
Since the conquest and forced annexation by the new Ethiopian empire, the Sidama people have relentlessly resisted the occupation, the wanton economic exploitation and social and cultural denigration through armed confrontation of the successive oppressive systems. In the early 1970s, the armed resistance hitherto scattered across the Sidama nation took was reorganized under a unified political structure, which in late 1970s evolved into the Sidama Liberation Movement. The Sidama Liberation Movement mobilized the Sidama people in the scale hitherto unknown in the history of the Sidama nation and waged overt armed struggle against the militarily regime for over 7 years liberating a number of highland districts. The struggle for self-determination by the gallant Sidama heroes and heroines cost the Sidama society over 30,000 lives from both sides who were obliged to take arm against each other during this period alone. The Sidama people made enormous contributions in Ethiopia’s struggle to overthrow the socialist -cum-military dictatorship and therefore had high hopes that their age old demand for regional self-determination would be addressed when revolutionary forces finally over threw the military regime in 1991.  But that was not to be. Instead, the Sidama people for the first time since 1891, lost their nominal regional identify and were once more forcefully subsumed under the Southern Region comprising of over 50 small ethnic groups.
In the wake of what one would regard as the nation’s second political tragedy in a century, patriotic Sidamas demanded unwavering leadership form the Sidama Liberation Movement.  Unfortunately this was not to be either. The leadership of   the movement became effectively feckless.  Various attempts to reform the movement fell on deaf ears of its key leaders. At that historic juncture, the patriotic Sidamas had only two choices. Either abandon the age old struggle for self-determination for which thousands of lives have been sacrificed or form alternative political arrangements that could resuscitate the national struggle.  That gave birth to the Sidama Liberation Front (SLF) and later the Sidama National Liberation Organization (SNLO). These organizations had not only rejuvenated and sustained the Sidama struggle for self-determination until today but also succeeded in reintegrating the veteran political organization, the Sidama Liberation Movement in a land mark political deal to create the United Sidama Parties for Freedom and Justice (USPFJ, for short) in 2012.
At the time when political opposition of the oppressed nations has been significantly weakened in Ethiopia due to disagreements over political objectives, the union of the three independent Sidama political institutions under one umbrella was indeed a significant success and was an envy of many. Nonetheless, to the shock and dismay of many Sidama compatriots, we have witnessed in this last two months an attempt by certain individuals to create a new political organization in the name of the Sidama people: the “Sidama National Democratic Movement”. In a modern democratic system individuals are free to express their own opinions. We are not against the freedom of individuals to do whatever they want. This is fundamental human freedom for which our gallant Sidama heroes have spilt their blood for decades. Nonetheless, this freedom should not be misconstrued to mean the use of the name of a society to advance individual interests without a clear alternative vision to change the plight of that society.  We have ascertained this from two vivid evidences. First, the website of the so called democratic movement has contained information plagiarized from the websites of the Sidama National Liberation Organization, and the Sidama Liberation Front, without due permission of the institutions who possess copy rights to these reports. A little manipulation of and additions and deductions of the phrases of these reports does not make them the original ideas and thoughts of the individuals who committed these appalling acts. If the individuals do not have their own ideas and thoughts about their new political structure, what alternative vision do they have for the Sidama society? Secondly and most shockingly the plagiarized copy of the overview of the Sidama Resistance Movement in the web sites of our political organizations mentioned above is posted as the political program of the so called “democratic movement.”  We hope the Sidama people and the readers would understand what we mean when individuals should desist from abusing the name of a society to promote self-interests.
This is not the time for duplication of political organizations in the name of the Sidama society. This is the time for consolidation of efforts to galvanize the limited resources to harness the struggle of our society for self-determination.  We warn the individuals behind the botched attempt to form a new political organization NOT to use the name of the Sidama society to form alliances with right wing chauvinist organizations that are hell bent to reverse the democratic gains made during the past two decades. Rest assured that the Sidama people will gallantly guard, as they have done time and again in history, the democratic gains achieved through their precious lives.
And finally, we demand that the reports unduly and unethically plagiarized from our websites be removed from the websites of the “Sidama National Democratic Movement”, your website, as immediately as possible!
United Sidama Parties for Freedom and Justice (USPFJ)

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