In a new book ("Ya Natsaannat Gohi Sii Qaddi") he wrote from Qaallitti prison, Dr. Berhanu Nega of Kinijit claims to have been forced to directly become involved in politics to save Ethiopia from disintegration.
Dr. Birahuu, a Gurage national, was a one time EPRP member who joined the armed wing of the organization as a young man over two decade ago. Accused of factionalism, disillusioned by lack of democracy and sick of the centralized control leaders wielded over the organization, he left EPRP and immigrated to USA via the Sudan. While in USA, he earned his PhD in Economics and taught for a while before moving back to Finfinne. While in Finfinne, he led an ordinary life working for himself and teaching part time at Finfinne University until he was detained (at Ma’ikelaawii) for a speech he made to University students about academic freedom. It was in Ma’ikelawwii that he became friends with Professor Mesfin WoldeMariam. It was also in Ma’ikelaawwi that he came face-to-face with the sufferings and feelings of the Oromo who constituted majority of the detainees.
Dr. Biraanuu traces the roots of his political career to a “shocking” encounter he had with Oromo detainees at Ma’ikelaawii. He admits, his “decision to directly become involved in politics was fermented while I was detained by EPRDF at Ma’ikelaawii …” (Nega, Berhanu (1998 E.C.) Ya Natsaannat Goh Sii Qaddi, p. 21)
What was the shocking encounter? Read on.
Dr. Berhanu: “What socked me and subjected me to many sleepless nights, even more than our detention, was the kind of individuals in detention, the reasons for which they were detained, and their opinions about their detention and the [Ethiopian] government. Most detainees were Oromo nationals suspected of supporting the OLF. They ranged from youth to seventy years of age. Most of them viewed Ethiopian politics through ethnic lenses. On the second day of our detention, while we were enjoying the sun, a middle aged Oromo man raised his voice and said to us in condescending tone: “You people continue to talk about human rights. You either don’t understand or you have deliberately closed your eyes to what is going on around you. What is going on is ethnic discrimination (Ya zar aggazaaz). It is blatant policy of ethnic oppression. It is futile to speak of human rights and equality while this government is in power.” He reminded me of the argument from Oromo university students who attended my speech on academic freedom but strongly argued that their most important issue was not lack of academic freedom but lack national freedom. When I heard elderly Oromo men in detention repeating almost the same words as the students, for the first time I became troubled about Ethiopia’s fate.” (ibid, p.22)
He goes on to say “As of that time, I became convinced of the fact that the Oromo issue is deeply rooted and that if such hateful feelings are allowed to continue unabated, unity of the country [Ethiopia] will be in grave danger.” (ibid, p. 199)
What can Oromo nationals learn from this?
Even the most educated habashas have to walk in our shoes before they can understand (not feel) our agony. If and when they do, and see our sufferings and pain, they are quick to accuse us of harboring “hateful feelings.” What troubles them, and calls them to action, is NOT the fact that Oromos are subjected to so much suffering and degradation by successive Ethiopian regimes. Their overriding preoccupation has always been the potential consequences of the Oromo struggle for unity and territorial integrity of the Ethiopian empire, namely the potential “disintegration of Ethiopia.” These people care more for the state than for human beings living in it. They only speak of Oromo oppression when it threatens “unity” of their empire. For a liberal democrat, which Dr. Berhanu claims to be, the paramount issue should be rights (individual and collective) NOT unity. Liberal democrats do not consider unity and territorial integrity of a state as overriding concerns over individual and collective rights of human beings living in that territory. For this “liberal democrat” however, unity comes before rights. When he speaks about lack of rights in the empire, it is not for the rights in and of themselves, but as a means of arresting their potential “negative” consequences for the system which is the root cause of lack of these rights in the first place– in this case the Ethiopian empire. No wonder “unity” comes before “democracy” in Coalition for Unity and Democracy – a coalition of habasha political parties of which Dr. Berhanu’s political party (Qasta Daammanaa) is a member. Democracy NOT for its own sake, but as a tool to maintain unity of the empire! This is a typical example of a habasha attitude. It is futile to expect them to sympathize with us let alone support the Oromo struggle for self-determination.
What can you learn from this? Have your say!