Thursday, January 31, 2008

Deception: The Oromo tragedy

By Gumaa Guddaa

Tragedy involves the vulnerability of human beings whose suffering is brought on by a combination of human and divine actions, but is generally undeserved with regard to its harshness. In classic Greek tragedy it is said that the actors in were hired and paid by the state and assigned to the tragic poets probably by lot. By the middle of the fifth century three actors were required for the performance of a tragedy. In descending order of importance of the roles they assumed they were called the protagonist 'first actor', (a term also applied in modern literary criticism to the central character of a play), deuteragonist 'second actor' and tritagonist 'third actor'. The protagonist took the role of the most important character in the play while the other two actors played the lesser roles.

The playing of multiple roles, both male and female, was made possible by the use of masks, which prevented the audience from identifying the face of any actor with one specific character in the play and helped eliminate the physical incongruity of men impersonating women. The fact that the chorus remained in the orchestra throughout the play and sang and danced choral songs between the episodes allowed the actors to exit after an episode in order to change mask and costume and assume a new role in the next episode without any illusion-destroying interruption in the play.

You may wonder why on earth I bother you with the description of actors in old the Greek drama from the fifth century. I will attempt to answer this question towards the end of this article. However, I would also like to clarify, at this point, that I am not going to employ the philosophy of tragedy as a model in this article in the classic sense of the drama. For example, in the classic dram it was the actors who suffer from the tragedy but in the Oromo case it is the Oromo public more than the actors who suffers the most. First, let me explain why I think we the Oromo are experiencing a tragedy of an epic proportion at the point in our history. The reason is two folds. Firstly, the Oromo nation is exposed to genocide by the actions of our arch enemy – the Abyssinians. Secondly, our very own liberation front – the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – which is expected to defend the nation in the face of a naked aggression is in unprecedented great difficulty at the very precise moment when we need it most. In fact, it can be argued that the enemy is punishing our people with the full knowledge that it can get away with it without retribution. The central point of this article is to shade some light on the contribution of the challenges the OLF is facing towards our predicaments.

It is public knowledge that the OLF has been officially divided in to two since the summer of 2001. As a matter of fact the root cause of the 2001 public schism in the organization dates back to the mid 90s which culminated in the conduction of the extra-ordinary congress of the 1998. That congress only delayed the inevitable. It is also the perceived wisdom that the split occurred as the result of ideological differences. To be exact, the independenist camp (a.k.a. TA-OLF) and Ethiopianist camp (a.k.a. Asmara Group). The split was not unexpected per se but what was unprecedented has been the amount of deception that the Ethiopianist camp employed right through until this very day. You may think that this sort of deception is quintessentially Ethiopian. One would not argue against that notion. I will not go into the details of the lies and deception tactics that the Ethiopianist camp had employed over the past 7 painful years, as I think it had been debated elsewhere. To mention but a few, the 1999 coup d’etat, the peace agenda in 2000, the Eritrean sponsored attack on OLA southern command in 2002, Bergen 2004, and AFD in 2006 and the ongoing infamous Asmara Group’s lawsuit are some examples of such deceptive tactics by the Asmara Group.

The Asmara Group claims it is committed to democratization of Ethiopia. The deception amidst the confusion is their covert attempt to reduce the Oromo aspiration for statehood to a movement concerned with regime change in Ethiopia. By so doing, the group endeavors to ride on the back of the Oromo people and gain power and wealth in the state structures of the Ethiopian empire. Never mind the deception in that, but pause just for one moment and ask them what sort of democracy they advocate for, they have no answer. The fact of the matter is the whole purpose of the slogan of democratization of Ethiopia is two folds. First and foremost it was designed to confuse the Oromo public. Second, it was to gain the attention and ultimately assistance from the American neo-conservatives, who have been proselytizing the world with their own version of democracy. The Asmara Group has in truth forgone collective bargain but deceptively still calls itself OLF, which is meant to lead the collective Oromo demand for liberation – collective self-determination as people of a nation known as Oromia. Perhaps the most heinous deception of them all is the molestation of the ‘kaayyoo Oromoo’ by the Asmara Group. The good news is the project of democratization of Ethiopia of the Asmara Group has already failed spectacularly before it even stated.

Having said this, I would like to turn to the expensive lawsuit as a case in point of the innumerable deceptive acts of the Asmara Group. The lawsuit needs to be placed under the microscope not from the legal argument point of view since that remains the domain of the court of law. But, it is in the Oromo public interest to examine the merit and demerit of the legal proceeding, as the case is fought in the name of the Oromo people. Or is it actually in the name of the Oromo people at all? I doubt it. If it was in the best interest of the Oromo nation, I fail to see the point of wasting public money on expensive lawyers. One would have thought the issue would be resolved through our own conflict resolution methods according to Gada principles. The Oromo do not even utilize Abyssinian ‘court’ when it comes to conflicts between Oromo brothers and sisters. We have our own Gada court called ‘jaarsummaa’. To be fair the wider Oromo public had prescribed this solution to the conflict between the two parties in dispute by creating and funding ‘Shanachaa Jaarsumma’, as you may recall. Then again, the deception by the Ethiopianist camp not only astounded the elders but had brought the process to an end without avail.

Now, we need to place the merit of spending astronomical sums of Oromo money on lawyers under the microscope through the prism of the protagonists. On one side, the people who instigated and actively perusing the ongoing court case – the Asmara Group, consist of all the three groups of actors (i.e. protagonist, deuteragonist and tritagonist). The protagonists (first actors) are individuals who had been mentored and trained by the Derg regime and the TPLF. This group has been actively pursuing the goal of eliminating Oromo nationalists since ever. Some of them were actively involved in the imprisoning and torturing of Oromo nationalists and freedom fighters in the 80s. Members of this group are spearheading the court case as the central characters. This group is motivated by the desire to eliminate the Oromo from the global political map. The irony of it is, however, that before they were in the enemy camp but they are now committing all sorts of crime against the Oromo nation in the name of the OLF. These chaps are quite crafty, like the opera actors in the Greek tragedy. They changed mask and costume and assumed a new role in different Oromo institutions and communities. How unlucky could you get to be victimized in the hands of people who claim your name?

The Asmara Group’s deuteragonist actors (‘second actors’) include some Oromos who simply aid and abet the protagonist actors. This group considers the end justifies the means. The end for them is to go back to the Ethiopian empire and share some power with their Abyssinian masters. This group of actors consists of opportunists who have lost their sense of justice and are by and large devoid of humanity. They provide cover for the truly anti-Oromo elements. They, in fact, recruited these dark shadowy elements to positions of influence to simply outnumber true Oromo nationalists within the organization after the split. Now that the protagonist actors of the Asmara Group camp are so entrenched within the rank and files of the camp the deuteragonist actors have no alternative but to comply with whatsoever the protagonists demand.

The third and final set of actors in the saga of the court case is the tritagonist (third actors). This group includes ordinary members and supporters of the Asmara Group who are not aware of the tragedy. They provide the protagonist actors with morale and material support, including shouldering the financial burden that the court process will eventually incur.

On the other hand, it is fair to say I have not heard or known of the indepedenist camp of the OLF being deceptive in their dealing with their dispute with the Asmara Group. It is also fair to say, at this stage, that the TA-OLF group has made it abundantly clear that it does not support the conflict being taken to the court of law but prefers the public court, as the issue is a political disagreement rather than business dealings. Having said that, let us look at the protagonist actors on the side of the TA-OLF. The protagonist actors of the movement of the TA-OLF on the other side of the divide happen to be those Oromo nationalists who had been taken to ‘court’, albeit kangaroo court, by successive Ethiopian regimes. Some of them had been in Emperor Hailesilase’s ‘court’ accused of being involved in Oromo nationalist movement and later also faced the might of the brutality of the Derg regime. This group remains steadfast with steely determination to the original objective of the OLF – formation of independent republic of Oromia. Therefore, one senses that it is actually the just cause of the nation that has been put on trial.

In the final analysis, it is the Oromo nation that is bound to loose the most from this tragedy. It is a tragedy in the true sense of the word that an Oromo is working day and night to victimize an Oromo at the time when others are working day and night in order to exterminate us. It is truly such a senseless act for a liberation front to waste precious resource on lawyers rather than buying medicine for the wounded and boots for the freedom fighters. Alas it is a disaster that we were not able to prevent but it is up to us the Oromo people now to redouble our efforts to remedy the situation. In my view, it is only once you have identified the principal players in the tragedy that you would be able to understand why things have gone so horribly wrong. Therefore, I hope I have shone some light on the actors (‘first actors’, ‘second actors’ and ‘third actors’) in the Asmara Group so that we can begin to think about the solution to the challenge facing us.

Have your say.

Opinions expressed here are that of the author and not necessarily that of the blogger.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Paltalk-aided Gada: revolution or bubble?

By Gumaa Guddaa

Paltalk-aided social, religious, political and business conferences are thriving around the world. As far as the Oromo diaspora is concerned, by and large, paltalk-aided conferences concern political debates. Nonetheless, there are religious based gatherings underway, but in the minority.

Does the advent of paltalk-aided discourses among the Oromo herald a revolution in strengthening the Oromo national movement for liberation, or is its rosy promise a bubble about to burst?

Most serious politicians still prefer face-to-face meetings rather than web chat. I do not blame them. Experts on communication estimate around 60-70% of information exchange takes place through body language. When you are communicating using telephone, paltalk or even written materials, you will have to read between the lines to enhance your perception of the real message. In particular, such difficulties must be considered in light of the fact that people, when discussing sensitive issues, might as a matter of fact say the opposite of what they really would like to say or believe. In these scenarios the real message could be gathered from the body language. Another potential problem with the latest technology appears to be ensuring confidentiality when running open public debate.

Nevertheless, advances in technology have, undoubtedly, made it possible for efficient and economically sensible net-working. On the other hand, another positive benefit of web based chat might be that people may say more than they are prepared to say in a face-to-face situation for fear of embarrassing themselves, in case they say something different. In this era of global warming, paltalk-aided meetings are also attractive to those who would like to make a head start in reducing their carbon foot-prints and do their bit to the good of mankind and the generations to come by helping the survival of the planet.

I am not sure about how many of you are aware of the efforts by some Oromos to bring Oromos from around the globe together to deliberate about the difficulties our national movement has been and is facing using the power of this latest technology. What prompted me to write this comment was witnessing the attempts by some to reorganize the Oromo into 5 Gada groups, including, for instance, Gadaa Michillee in Europe in paltalk rooms on the net.
Picture this, if you may. The Oromo practised Gada since time immemorial. Now, in the 21st century, their progeny are experimenting to emulate their forefathers, albeit in name only. Still it requires a fit of imagination to endeavour to hybridize the invention of the 21st century with the concept of the grand old Oromo philosophy. The effort itself is admirable in itself. But, what is paltalk-aided discussion? What is paltalk-aided organization? Does it work? Or is it right to invoke Gada whenever we consider it to aid our ambition without asking these questions? If so we run the risk of demeaning Gada, if the project fails, not because of Gada but because of the environment where we have attempted to implement it and not least because of lack of knowledge of Gada practice.

I for one do not consider such a project unworthy of the effort. Nor do I think it is God sent magic bullet that will resolve our apathy. At least, it can be a catalyst for something positive. These days some professionals are first trained in virtual reality, including pilots, surgeons etc. Then they will take their skills to the real world and test it. Similarly, if the young Oromos treat the paltalk rooms for what they are - virtual world, and take the initiative forward and come together in the real world, we may benefit from the technology to some extent. I would very much hope that the motivation from the paltalk rooms translates itself positively in Oromo communities around the world.

The fact of the matter is that paltalk rooms are mushrooming around the world in the same way that facsimile transmissions, computers, long distance telephone calls, satellite phones, and electronic mail spread towards the end of the 20th century – now it is hard to remember how we ever managed without them. The question for us now is how we can make it beneficial to promote our just cause of liberation.

In conclusion, technological advances are opening up new possibilities for mass mobilization at grass roots level for a growing number of social problems. For instance, human rights and other social movements are exploring cost-effective ways to employ this new approach to benefit their campaigns. Overall, it is encouraging to see our struggle is arming itself with modern technology. But, it must be said in a controlled environment paltalk-aided mass movement can be beneficial. Nevertheless, whether it can revolutionize our quest for independence or it is just the flavour of the month remains to be seen in the fullest of time. Be it (organizing Oromos in the diaspora in Gada grades) a revolution or a bubble waiting to burst the roadmap needs to be worked out, lest it becomes out of hand.

Have your say.



View blog authority