Ethiopia Ethiopian News

MY RESPONSE TO DR NEGASSO (Girma Kassa)

March 31, 20014

 

Dr. Negaso

Dr Negasso Gidada

Dear Dr Negasso:

Again, thank you for your elaborate and educational answers.  You raised some interesting points that I would like to discuss further.

 

Point 1 – Trying to have the dead Kinijit is an illusion?

 

It is an illusion to think about the unity between UDJ, AEUP, Blue Party and EDP and re-establish the dead Kinijit” you wrote.

 

First of all let me say few things about the word “Kinijit” . It had so many meanings. If you are talking about the Kinijit that was recognized by the National Board of Election and was a coalition of 4 parties, yes that Kinijit died.

 

However for many, “Kinijit” was more than a political party; it was a symbol of a movement, the movement of democracy, justice and Ethiopiawinet. It was a symbol of the ever growing thirst and hunger of the people to have its dignity, respect and freedom. This movement has not died. To the contrary it has grown as is been manifested in many peaceful popular activities of the UDJ, Semayawi and Arena.

 

In the second place, the political programs of AEUP, EDP, Semayawi and UDJ are similar. I don’t understand why looking for the coming together of these groups is considered by you as an illusion ?

 

In fact what the UDJ and others are trying to accomplish is even much bigger that Kinijit. Kinijit was coalition of parties. They run together in 1997 as a coalition and when the election was over, parties went their own way.

 

This time, learning from the mistakes of 9 years ago ,  I think the plan is to have a unified, merged party out of Semayawi/AEUP/UDJ/EDP and very possibly Arena. This way if some leaders are not happy, they will leave on their own and will not have a chance to dismember  the party.

 

The merger with AEUP is 95% complete.  Yes there were some bumps in the road , but I believe ultimately,  they will reach to the finish line. Regarding Semayawi, there are excellent relationships between Semayawi and UDJ young leaders. Semayawi even show solidarity to the UDJ’s millions voice movement by featuring it,  on its weekly Negere Ethiopia newspaper. So the merger of Semayawi, AEUP and UDJ is very probable. I would give it a 75% chance.

 

Regarding Arena, things may be a bit fluid. Arena members and UDJ members in Tigray are buddies that work together at the grass root level.  Many of Arena leaders (particularly the young ones) are publicly positioning themselves to the Ethiopiawinet politics. I recently read an article by one of the Arena leader, Ato Abraha Desta.  “የምታምኑበትን ዛሬ ምረጡ፤ እኔና ቤቴ ግን ብሄረ-ኢትዮጵያን መርጠናል!” is what he wrote. There is a good possibility,  Arena may end up also merging with the UDJ.  I would give it a 50% chance.

 

Though we have heard from EDP officials the willingness to work with other oppositions, I believe in view of the unfortunate negative politics  and misunderstandings of the past 4, 5 years, it may be challenging to accomplish any merger with EDP in the next 2,3, 4 months.  If parties put aside the past, focus on the future and start talking in good faith, I believe it might be possible to narrow the gap with EDP as well.  Though I would encourage it,  I think it may be a long shot. Though not merged, if EDP and others at least find common grounds and work together on items they can agree with, it would be a good thing.

 

If for various reason and due to time limitation before the next national election, parties cannot merge together,  it will not be the end of the world, nor can it be considered as a failure. As long as parties in their own way inflame the Kinijit spirit, the spirit of democracy, justice, freedom and Ethiopiawinet, that can also bring positive change in our country and can be seen as bringing Kinijit, the movement again in  a big way.

 

Point 2:  Oromia only for Oromos?

 

It is amazing that you say that I do not know the constitution of Oromia and this is an insulting statement from you. I was there when the founding Council of Oromia State met at Sidist Kilo and I know well the contents of the constitution”, you wrote.

 

If you remember, in some of your prior emails,  you stated that the idea which some individuals propagate saying “Oromia is only for the Oromos. Somali region is for the Somali only” is wrong and unacceptable.

 

As a result, I felt that you have not read the Oromia constitution, for in the Oromia constitution it explicitly states that Oromia belongs to the “Oromos ”.  As you said if you were one of the architects of, and support this constitution, then how come you forgot to mention about Article 8 of the Oromia constitution?

 

Article 8 of the Oromia constitution says as follows:

 

የኦሮሞ ሕዝብ የክልሉ የበላይ ስልጣን ባለቤት  ሲሆን፣ የሕዝቡ የበላይነትም የሚገለጸው በሚመርጣቸው ተወካዮችና ራሱ በቀጥታ በሚያደርገውዴሞክራሲያዊ ተሳትፎ ነው”

 

Per this article, millions who are called non-Oromos are aliens in Oromia. They are second citizens. Sovereignty of Oromia belongs to the Oromos.

 

By the way, I am sure you followed the news where many non-Oromos were forced and intimidated in Ambo area. They were told that the areas where they used to live,  were Oromo lands and that they had to leave. This is due to the “Oromia only for the Oromos” radical, racist, medieval and backward politics that is embedded in the Oromia constitution.

 

Point 3:  Right of “Non Oromos” in Oromia

 

“It is again insulting to trying to explain to me how many and where non-Oromo speakers live in Oromia. I recommend that you come back to Ethiopia and go around the country to find out the truth instead of misjudging me from abroad”,  you wrote.

 

I am not trying to lecture you or misjudge you. I do apologize you felt that way. I do not have also to travel Ethiopia to know how many non-Oromos are living in Oromia. I got my data from the report of the national census. I assume they travel all over the place to gather data for us.

 

Currently under the Oromia constitution,  non-Oromos  or those who do not speak Afan Oromo,  have no rights. They are second citizens.

 

If there are weredas or zones in Oromia with majority Amharic speakers, what is wrong if they are allowed to administer themselves in the language they are comfortable with ? Take for instance Adama. The municipality there,  represents only Adama. The population there is about 80% Amharic speakers. Why is the municipality not allowed to operate also in Amharic ? I want to hear what you have to say regarding this ?   You see, Oromia is not 100% full of “Oromos ” and “Oromo speakers”. Oromia is not homogenous;  so you just cannot assume that the whole Oromia are like, Kelem Wellega (where you are from), where Afan Oromo is the first language of 97% of the residents.

 

Point 4 – Teaching Amharic in Oromia

 

Afan Oromo, Amharic, English are all languages,  communication tools. There is no problem if people learn as many languages as possible. Whether you like it or not, because of history Amharic has been dominant in Ethiopia, as English is in the world. Had situation been different German, or French could have been the dominant languages. In fact had Napoleon not lost the battle of Waterloo, French could have been the first international language over English. In the US many States from Louisiana to Minnesota would have been still speaking French. In Ethiopia, had the reign of Gragn and his descendants continued, Somali or Arabic would have been in place of Amharic.

 

You see,  history is history. Our role is not to fight about the past but to deal with the present. At this time, there is no denial that Amharic is important in Ethiopia. Therefore, knowing Amharic would surely give economic and social advantage to the Oromos . Learning and knowing Amharic will in no way affect negatively Afan Oromo and the promotion of Oromo culture. IT IS POSSIBLE AND DOABLE TO ACCOMMODATE BOTH LANGUAGES in Oromia.

 

I recently discussed with some former judge of Oromia by email. He has similar views like yours. I complained to him about the Oromia constitution and he became defensive.  “Why don’t you want to learn Afan Oromo ? “ he responded. He said that his daughter lives in Addis Ababa and speaks fluent Afan Oromo;  indirectly implicating that those Addis Ababeans who do not speak Afan Oromo are not speaking because we do not want to.  I wish we were taught in Addis and  had known Afan Oromo I explained.  “As judge,  why have you tolerated the systematic OPDO/OLF decision not to teach Amharic to the millions of Oromos, when you allowed your own daughter to know both Amharic and Afan Oromo ?” I asked.  He had no answer.

 

Many of OPDP/OLF leaders do have double standards when it comes to their own children  and the rest of Oromo kids. WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR OWN CHILDREN, Amharic is good; when it comes to the poor millions others , AMHARIC is evil, the language of the “oppressors”.

 

Take the speaker of the House , Aba Dulla;  do you know which school his children are going to ? I have heard that his kids are going to the great and prestigious St Joseph School in Addis Ababa. He has done what a good father ought  to for his kids, give them good education and position them economically for many possibilities. I respect him for being a good father.

 

However, it is troubling and very sad, to see millions of Oromos  DENIED the chance  and opportunities Aba Dulla, the Oromia judge and other OPDO/OLF/OFC officials’ kids were given to. What is wrong if students in Oromia are also taught in Amharic ? Why are OPDO/OLF/OFC leaders continue reluctant and  dismissive to give to millions of Oromo students what they gave to their own children ? Why are you, as a former Ethiopian president not pushing for this ?

 

Point 5 – Amharic working languages in Oromia

 

“Why should Amharic be the working language of Oromia? Do you support that Oromo becomes the working language in Amhara federal state? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be, if this happens? Would the administration there employ a non Amharic speaking Ethiopian in its institutions? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be if this happens?” you wrote.

 

For your review, the people who speak Afan Oromo as their first language are less than 5% in the Amhara region. In one zone , called Oromia zone of the Amhara region, Oromos  are the majority. Guess what ?  Within their own zone , they are allowed to administer themselves  in Afan Oromo. The Amhara region constitution , as is the case in Oromia, is not excluding other ethnic groups. There is no article that says that the Amharic region is only for the Amharas. To be honest with you, the Amhara and southern region constitutions, are progressive and inclusive constitutions, which may need to be replicated in Oromia.

 

If Amharic becomes the working language of Oromia, it will be good for Oromia. First the rights of minorities shall be respected. Second, more and more investment can come to the region. Many people there would be bilingual like you.

 

Point 6 – Amharic as a foreign language ?

 

“If one accepts and respects the right to self determination one can understand, respect and accept the constitution of Oromia including is article 33. How can one serve the Oromo people if one does not know the Oromo language?  Or should we go back to the old days when we were forced to be administrated, to appear in court and get sentenced in a language we did not understand, to be forced to learn in a foreign language, and to listen radio in a foreign language and read books and news papers and proclamations in a foreign language? No, No, that time is gone. We should not even dream of it that it should come back. When I recently hear that some people in the Diaspora attacking the “Qube Generation” it makes me sick” you wrote.

 

This really blew me off. To be honest with you, I am surprised you consider Amharic as a foreign language ? I remember Negassa Dilbo and Lencho Letta refusing to speak Amharic in 1991, during the time when the shameful charter was being discussed. Negassa Dilbo was talking in Afan Oromo; at least it is an Ethiopian language; but Lencho , seemed to be so disgusted in expressing himself in Amharic that he decided to talk in  English,  like Issayas Afeworki. Well, it makes me laugh when I hear now Lencho, being interviewed all over the place in Amharic.

 

Let me ask you this … When about 20% of Oromia students, whose mother tongue is non-Afan Oromo are taught in school Afan Oromo,  are they being forced to learn a foreign language ? Afan Oromo is an Ethiopian language.  I for one support mandatory second Ethiopian language be given in schools in all regions, in addition to Amharic and English.

 

I believe many in Addis Ababa, Gojam, Wello , Northern Shewa would end up learning Afan Oromo. Possibly those in Gonder may decide to learn Tigrigna as their second Ethiopia language due to their proximity to Tigray.

 

I believe there are many creative and forward-looking ways that can be used to promote Afan Oromo way beyond Oromia as well. By the way if people are to learn Afan Oromo, it will not be please or appease hateful, racist radicals but because it was the right thing. It is very embarrassing for instance, Addis Ababa residents do not be able to communicate with their own people, farmers few kilometers away from Addis, because they don’t know Afan Oromo !!!  That needs to change.

 

Point 7 – The right of cessation

 

“ If I meet the OLF people in Minnesota or elsewhere, I would advise them to abandon the armed struggle, come and work peacefully, legally, democratically accepting the laws and the constitution of the country. But I would not call on them to abandon the secession question. Unfortunately, this is what all Ethiopian Nationalists are demanding from OLF. The secession question is a question which could and should be answered by the Oromo people through a referendum, and not by EPRDF, OLF, ODF, OFC, Blue Party, UDJ, AEUP, EDP, and Ginbot 7 and so on”,  you also said.

 

With all due respect, Dr Negasso, I suggest you look around. The position you have now is the position of the old OLF. It did not work. It failed. It has no support by the “Oromos ”. If the majority Oromos  supported it, believe me,  by now Oromia would have become independent, for no-one can stop the wish of the people.

 

Many of the OLF folks have abandoned this position.  Why are you trying to bring up this degenerate politics ? Oromo is Ethiopia. Oromo is the trunk of Ethiopia. Branches and leaves can leave but not the trunk. If there is a referendum, it is the whole people of Ethiopia that need to be part of. All citizens !!!  You just cannot allow the few to decide for the many. What happened in Eritrea were a farce and a joke, which happened because guns are pointed at us. It will surely be reversed as soon as tyrants are removed peacefully in both Asmara and Addis Ababa.

 

Point 8 – The Latin alphabet

 

“ I also think that the alphabet which better fits a language should be used for writing in hat language. As for Oromo language, I personally prefer Latin, not because I do not like Geez, but because it does not fit for the Oromo language. By the way I am glad to know that you support that Afan Oromo be adopted at the federal level. I also agree that the constitution be amended and the amended constitution be approved by the people through referendum”, you wrote.

 

I  respect  your choice of Latin. You say that geez does not fit the Oromo language. With all due respect from what I know you are not a linguist. There are many people like Dr Fikre Tolessa and others , who are linguists that have been arguing otherwise. Let there be an open debate. The sole reason the OLF imposed Qube in 1991, is not because Geez is bad for Afan Oromo, but because it wants to create a different Oromo identity. The decision of Qube had nothing to do with linguistics but with hate of anything that they consider “Abyssinian”.

 

By the way, I have heard that Qube is developed in Berlin by missionaries, about 30, 40 years ago. However , I am sure you know , way before the birth of Qube,  the Holy Bible was translated to Afan Oromo with Geez. Am I wrong ?

 

I think the best thing to do is give the two options to the people. Currently Latin is IMPOSED BY FORCE. Let both be made available. Would it not that be fair ? Let the people of each zone for instance, decide for themselves. How about that ?

 

Point 9 – the politics of Oromization

 

“I myself do not support Amharanization, or Oromization. I do not also support that neither the Amhara nor any other ethnic group dominates the Oromo, nor do I want to see that the Oromo dominate others. I want to see that all Ethiopians are equal and that their rights should equally be respected”,  you wrote.

 

This is it …This is what we want to see.  My disgust towards the Oromia constitution and the politics of some so called Oromo leaders is that their politics is the politics of “oromization”. They want to see everyone speak ONLY Afan Oromo (of course except their own children)

 

With all due respect, if you meant what you said here, then you should not have defended the Oromia constitution.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Dear Dr Negasso, I sensed that we have HUGE differences on many issues.  I strongly believe that my positions are better for the Oromos that yours. I am for the integration of Oromos into the economic fabric of Ethiopia.  I am for more investment in Oromia. I am for the Oromos to prosper, live and work in all regions. I am for Oromos to know Afan Oromo and Amharic and be productive everywhere. I want Afan Oromo and Oromo culture to be expanded and promoted not only in isolated Oromia but all over ETHIOPIA. I believe Oromo is Ethiopia; Afan Oromo is Ethiopiawinet (minus of course the Latin).

 

Regards

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