Monday, June 15, 2009

Rapprochement between OLF factions: evidence of progress or cause for concern?

By Gumaa Guddaa

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better."~ Samuel Beckett

The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has been divided into two main factions for the past one decade due to ideological divergence - Oromia versus Ethiopia. The break-up came about on a backdrop of a series of failed diplomatic effort to produce a peaceful settlement of the dispute between the OLF and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF). You may recall that the mediation effort by the Eritrean government (1992), the former US President Jimmy Carter (2004), and the US Congressional Task Force led by Henry Johnston (2006) were all frustrated by the intransigence of the TPLF. Thereafter, any glimmer of hope to bring the OLF and the TPLF to a negotiating table fell up on the shoulders of some European NGOs.

Some time in 1997 a group within the OLF, the group that later on crystallized as the Asmara Group also known as Shanee, gave up and accepted the demand from the TPLF – to surrender. The TPLF ad infinitum ad nauseam demanded “The OLF to denounce armed resistance, put down guns, and accept the Ethiopian constitution” before any peace talks. Put simply to accept the TPLF/Wayane rule over Oromia. The OLF on the other hand had a clear policy on peaceful settlement and refused to yield to Wayane’s unreasonable demand. OLF proposed “Talks about peaceful resolution of the conflict must be without such or any form of precondition, in the presence of a third party, according to internationally accepted norms and standards of peace talks”. The TPLF’s position is and has been to resist the notion of peace at all cost.

Having exhausted all perceivable venues of peaceful settlement the defeatists wrote a falsified letter and submitted it to the group of NGOs that offered to be mediators. Shanee’s letter accepted what the TPLF demanded. They wrote “The OLF is ready to unilaterally abandon its armed resistance and accept the Ethiopian constitution as an existing reality” in preparation for peace talks with the Wayane regime. After it was already sent to the European NGOs their secrete letter of acceptance to surrender was to be known to Galaasa Dilbo. As the chairman of the organization he ordered the immediate withdrawal of the letter. But, the plotters refused and the Extra-Ordinary Congress of the OLF 1998 convened and removed some of the saboteurs from position of influence and power. As it transpires latter on remnants of the plotters and some tribalist elements in the organization cooperated in formalizing the Asmara Group in 1999 and issued the infamous peace agenda in 2000 in pursuit of their subversive ploy.

The group that succumbed to the relentless demand from the TPLF, it would appear, had come to the conclusion that their time was running out. It became clear that they had been somehow ambivalent towards the objective of the Oromo struggle for some time even before they came public as they later attested to. It would appear the collapse of any hope of peaceful resolution of the conflict between the OLF and TPLF was a tipping point for them. In order to justify their abandonment of Oromia the Asmara Group had to come up with a list of excuses. They said “Liberation in the era of globalization is impossible”. They also said “To insist upon the right to fight for freedom and self-determination will categorize the OLF to the list of terrorist”. They also preached “We cannot liberate our self”. Instead of liberation of Oromia they made the objective of “democratization” of Ethiopia a fundamental and central mission of their organization.

It is abundantly evident even today that the Shanee holds to the ideology of “democratization” of Ethiopia. The Asmara Group is now deeply infiltrated by ex-derg cadres, ex-OPDOs and true OPDOs. What is more, they are wholly dependent on Eritrea for their very existence. If one goes by what the Eritrean dictator Isayas Afewarki has been bubbling recently, the odds seem stuck against the Asmara Group ever liberating themselves let alone democratizing Ethiopia. Or else they share the Eritrean vision of “Ethiopian unity”. After all what is the purpose of the Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD)?

On the other hand, contrary to the Asmara Group, the genuine OLF continued with the ideology of liberation and formation of independent republic of Oromia. It seems that the quest for independent Oromia remains very popular and supported by the vast majority of the Oromo populous. The one simple fact no one can doubt is that the genuine OLF remains completely independent, self-reliant, and confident, supremely disciplined more than ever before and ideologically armed and organized. The doubters and the pretenders had gone. The last 10 years had been truly testing to the extreme. The relentless vile propaganda campaign by the enemies of the struggle against the OLF leaders, members and supporters has been so cruel you would not find a single sole in the genuine OLF that is a doubter as to the just cause of the Oromo people.

The Asmara Group has only succeeded, it could be argued, in weakening the OLF and dividing the Oromo people. You will not find any Oromo civic and religious organization that has not been divided by the Shanee. The Shanee in collaboration with the Eritrean security force even turned against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) resulting in bloodshed. The Asmara Group issued death sentence on some of the finest Oromo leaders and requested and was granted the means to execute the death penalty by the Eritrean security forces. The resilience and intelligence of the leaders and immense personal and organizational sacrifice paid by true sons and daughters of Oromia was what assured the survival of the OLF.

The transgression of the Asmara Group went beyond personal attack, character assassinations and demonizing Oromo heroes. The Asmara Group even instigated and fought an expensive absurd lawsuit in an American court against the OLF. It is interesting to note that close scrutiny of the court case and the verdict shows that the Asmara Group argued for “democratization” of Ethiopia whilst the OLF argued for independent Oromia. Yet again through hard work mounting a robust defense of the Kaayyoo the OLF triumphed in the court.

It is important to note at this point in time the Asmara Group itself is divided in two. Both factions confirm that their agenda is to “democratize” Ethiopia. They claim they are divided on how to achieve their objective rather than what to achieve. Therefore, it would be reasonable to see them as one. Their differences are of low significance and reconcilable. It is interesting to note that both are hosted and supported by Eritrea; the same country that colluded with them to kill off the OLF albeit spectacularly unsuccessful. It is also fascinating to note that the two factions of the Asmara Group ally with the two factions of Kinijjit - an Amhara political party.

Personalities matter in politics. The genuine OLF is led by Dhugaasa Bakakko who by all accounts is a selfless devoted leader of the highest integrity and resolve. He remains true to his people and their just cause. He is one of few trusted leaders who have provided much needed leadership to the organization and the nation during the past decade of turmoil within the organization. He is renowned for his fine judgment and strategic thinking under pressure, on the field, and leading by example. He is an inspiration to freedom fighters.

On the other hand, the two factions of the Asmara Group are led by Daud Ibsa and Kamal Galchu respectively. Daud Ibsa has been in the struggle almost as long as Dhugaasaa Bakakko. The difference between the two is that Daud opted for “democratization” of Ethiopia whilst Dhugaasa remains convinced the right path to lead the struggle is to continue with liberation struggle. Dhugaasa is a risk taker but Daud is risk aversive. Dhugaasa is the man at the forefront but Daud prefers to be a rear guard.

Kamal Galchu is different altogether. He joined the Asmara Group a little less than a couple of years ago. He has been an OPDO. Suspicion exists whether he is a genuine convert to the struggle to “democratization” of Ethiopia or he is a man who finds him self to be a wrong person at a wrong place but trying to make the most of what he can. He was an officer in the Wayane Army. He rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the TPLF/Wayane military; it is alleged, for his unquestionable loyalty to the regime. He maintains a strong link with the OPDO to this day and so is his faction. Nothing is wrong as such with changing side, if genuine. But he is simply an unknown quantity.

Having survived a decade long campaign against it by the enemy within and without, and having seen off the Asmara Group in the court of law, the OLF has now challenged the two factions of the Asmara Group to return to the original program of the organization – to struggle for independent Oromia. It did so by calling for a dialogue to all who call themselves OLF and former members who chose to be not her or there. Now then, is this good news or bad news

Taken prima facie you would think it is good news, wouldn’t you? BUT, can a leopard change its spots? I do not know. What is more, the sticking point one can see right from the outset is the question of Kaayyoo. The question that divided the organization remains ideological, irreconcilable for that matter. The question is simple and clear. Either the Asmara Group should forgo their dreams of “democratization” of Ethiopia or the OLF must abandon the vision of realization of independent Oromia. What matters is what is right. Unquestionably the right thing is to fight for independence.

The question for Oromo nationalists is whether it would not be better to take the matter to its logical conclusion. The logical conclusion surely would be to continue with the endeavor in strengthening the genuine OLF and promote the struggle and leave the disciples of the “democratization” of Ethiopia project all alone. Any progressive mind would think that it is better to be logical. Then again politics is anything but logical.

The theory of ‘association, dissociation and re-association’ in social dynamics might be our only hope for redemption. In other wards, friendship starts with associating with others we do not really know that much about. The initial stage of the association process is driven partly by the novelty of the exercise. Then again people would discover the true color of the people they associate with and decide to end the relationship. If at all the people who disassociate themselves decide to get back together then it would be thought that they now have insight into their differences and similarities and therefore their re-association stands a better chance of succeeding. The danger lies in rhetoric hyperboles like ‘united we stand divided we fall’, ‘nagaa Oromoo’ so and so forth without honest proper debate as to the root cause of the dissociation in the first place. In my views, a serious danger lies in simple re-association just for the sake of formality without ironing out the differences that are so fundamental that otherwise history will inevitably repeat itself.

One has to have a huge respect for the farsightedness and magnanimity of the genuine OLF. Their endeavor to bring back the astray to the fold of the struggle is truly admirable. It epitomizes the Oromo sprit. Such is an Oromo victor that they can resist being carried away with their moral and court victory. In spite of what had gone on for more than a decade that they are willing to entertain to appeal to human decency and do the honorable thing is commendable. Although previous efforts, including Shanacha Jaarsummaa, failed to produce the desired result in the past, in my opinion, we have to remain cautiously optimistic albeit the odds are stuck against us truly mending the rift.

Gumaa Guddaa can be reached via e-mail:


Fayyis said...

Dear sir,
did you think that the “split” of OLF in to three groups is a catastroph for Oromo liberation movement? I do have an other opinion. The “split” of OLF in to the following three groups is constructive, be it by default or by design:

- the Kemal group, who is “pro union” group like OFC and some OLF people doing their job in OPDO aka the left wing of our liberation movement at home, is trying to support Oromos who try their best in a “legal” way to achieve Bilisummaa,

- the Daud group aka the middle body of the liberation movement, who is working to revive the “pro self-determination” AFD in a new form is a very smart group who knows how to get support of other nations in the empire and that of international community and

- the Dhugaasa group who is now trying to merge the “pro independence” ULFO member organizations aka the right wing of the Oromo liberation movement is doing really good job in trying to bring the fragmented liberation forces under one strong structure.

Is this not MERDO for Weyane? Yes the “split” of OLF in to three since 1998 is a very smart move to survive under very difficult circumstances.

Oromo liberation movement is working basically on the principle of:
- decantonization of Oromia
- decenteralization of the empire and
- decolonization of Oromia

This movement is the opposite of the Abyssinians move to cantonize Oromia, centeralize the empire and colonize Oromia.

In 1991, OLF joined tactically the transitional government and achieved the decantonization of Oromia. Oromia which has been cantonized (devided) in to 9 regions was brought together (of course except Wallo). This decantonized status must be kept and OLF people in OPDO are doing it. Abbaabiyya group now joined this Oromos to strengthen them, so that Abyssinians will have no chance to recantonize Oromia.

In 2000, OLF founded the umberella Organization called ULFO to forge the unity of all Oromo forces struggling for the complete decolonization of Oromia. Now Kemal group seems to be assigned to reorganize and strengthen this.

In 2006, OLF forged an alliance called AFD to find a mechanism to get rid of the current obstacle in Oromo liberation movement aka Weyane. Now Daud group wants to revive such alliance to fight against Weyane efficiently and promote the further decenteralization of the empire.

I think OLF was in a conflict of the following three directions:
- negotiate with Weyane and go back home or
- forge an alliance with all opposition groups, specially with Amhara forces in diaspora or
- strengthen Oromo Independence forces under ULFO

Now it seems OLF is trying to solve this conflict by forging a division of labour among its three groups, instead of puting all its eggs in one basket:
- Kemal group to maintain its contact with OPDO, negotiate with Weyane, go home and keep the status of decantonization,
- Daud group to forge the necessary alliance with opposition groups of other nations in diaspora and to possibly promote the decenteralization and
- Dhugaasa group to strengthen the forces of decolonization by merging all ULFO member organizatuions.

Dear Blogger, isn’t OLF smarter than you ever thought?!

Ogina said...

I think it is nice measure if they do the rapprochment cautiously and genuinly. The Kayyoo is clear: freedom of Oromo people (Bilisummaa) with sovereignity of Oromo land (Walabummaa)!

Walfidaa said...

Aktually the two factions had no difference of Kaayyoo, but difference of Karaa. To my understanding, the concept Liberation has got two components:

- movement for Freedom of Oromo people (Bilisummaa)
- movement for Sovereignity/Independence of Oromo land (Walabummaa).

It is important for Oromos to comprehend the concept of these two components, for the general expression aka liberation is confusing. Even OPDO talks that it has already liberated us Oromos; OFC members tell us also they are struggling for Oromo liberation (actually they mean for freedom, not for sovereignity); it is OLF who is talking about both components, when it meanse liberation movement.

I personally say, it was a good move of OLF in 1991 to take a risk and achieve the present limited cultural freedom, about which OPDO is braging. With that measure OLF moved us from total slavery (metaphorically life in Djibouti) to Diredhawa (the status quo). OFC wants to achieve freedom of Oromo people in harmony with freedom of other nations in the empire including Amharas from Weyane tyranny. This is a move from Diredhawa to Adama for Oromos. No Oromo with sound mind can oppose this. That is why I do support OLF’s move to forge alliance with all democratic forces in the empire to achieve this freedom. Wether Oromos, after geting our freedom, will move further to Finfinne (achieving both freedom of our people and sovereignity of our land) will be decided by our people in due time. So thanks OLF for showing us the slow, but sure liberation journey from Djibouti (slavery) to Finfinne (Liberty).

The two OLF factions separated since 1998 regarding their Karaa to the same Kaayyoo. Shane's rhetoric about "democratization of Ethiopia" was a Karaa, not a Kaayyoo as the blogger here tried to show. The "genuine" OLF maintained "militarly decolonization of Oromia" as its Karaa.

Of course both the "Ethiopian democratization" way and the "militarily Oromian decolonization" way are not easy. Abyssinians never ever allow the empire be democratized for they know that Oromos will instrumentalize the democracy for their goal. At the same time both Abyssinians and their Western allies don't make the military way decolonization the easier option.

So now the two factions should come together and move in unison. I personally recommend them to use all inclusive methods of struggle including both the "Ethiopian democratization" and the "militarly Oromian decolonization" ways to acieve the Kaayyo aka freedom of Oromo people and sovereignity of Oromo land.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fayyis,

Did get this right? You said "the Daud group aka the middle body of the liberation movement, who is working to revive the “pro self-determination” AFD in a new form is a very smart group who knows how to get support of other nations in the empire and that of international community and".

Is there pro self-determination AFD? It seems to me to Alice in the Wonderland.

Have a good day.


Anonymous said...

Good question. I would argue that it is evidence of progress for many reasons the first and most important of which is the end of illusion of sharing power with TPLF on the part of the Dawud Ibsaa group. The only alternative is to defeat TPLF and the only way to do that is by force of arms. So they are joining, or at least talk about joining, those who have always known that fact. One huge evidence of progress.


Fayyis said...

Go back and read/listen all the arguements regarding AFD! Yes it has accepted the right of nations to self-determination. That was why Abesha conservatives were crying!!!

Lewux said...

".....Much time is wasted on past grievances that have no significance for the present. If they have to build a bright future nationalists have to build on achievements of the past putting aside past grudges. This requires selflessness as well as purposefulness. What is needed is action oriented, uniting, engaging and inspiring leadership not self dragging, divisive and despair sowing spineless individuals. For the sake of the nation all have to give up hate mongering past petty habits and come out to positively engage each other for the grand common cause, the national kaayyoo. The enemy is out there already, devastating the people without mercy alleging they are members of the OLF. If this does not weigh on ones conscience nothing would. It is not from where a leader comes but his/her genuineness, tested unflinching commitment to the nation and ability to deliver what he/she promises that has to be taken into consideration. For a freedom fighter loyalty to Oromummaa must supercede all other loyalties and relations. Only then can one be considered a pan-Oromo activist. Let us not give up on each other for time has much in store. Tomorrow is always expectant.

Long live one OLF
Long live Unity of Oromo liberation forces.

Ibsaa Guutama
January 2009"

Anonymous said...

I did not see any target or bit of persuasave argument except same old boogie boogie

Anonymous said...


Fayyaa sii hin kenniin Waaqii Lafti! Amaara hiree ofii ofiin murteeffannaa degeru eessatti argite?


Fayyis said...

na abaarteef dhugaa qabaatta seetee? Amaara duwaa otu hin ta'in, saboonni kaanuu, jaalatanis jibbanis akka AFDin dhaabbateen fudhataniiru. Ammas fudhachaa jiru. Jalatani miti, dirqamani malee!!

Anonymous said...

I think most of the suggestions here seems far from truth. Most people tried to present the division with-in OLF as tactical or some sort of division based on agreement among the so called "leaders". But that is not the case.
The main causes of the division are the following:
1/ Shanee/Shabiya or Asmara group/ and QC/Galasaa group disagreements are mainly the following:

A/ Galasaa was determined to continue the struggle according to the original Objectives of the OLF i.e. the independence of Oromia from abysinian colonialism. But shanee group led by Ato Firew Ibsa wanted to struggle only for the democratization of Ethiopia.
B/ There was also power struggle among the self-proclaimed "leaders" with-in OLF.

So the division was not based on mutual agreement.

2/ The division between Ato Firew Ibsa/Shanee and Kemal Galchu/Jijjiirama groups.

- Both are Messengers of Shabiya.
- Both give priority to Eritrean interest than Oromo interest.
- Both believe in Ethiopian Unity. they need to democratize Ethiopia, just like OPDO but they have a different holly Father Shabiya while the holly father of OPDO is Weyane.
Their Differences are:
- Kemal/Jijjiramaa group wants the Arsi Oromos to be politically dominant, and he has the support of Borana Oromos.
- Ato Firew Ibsa wants the supremacy of Wollegga Oromos, and he has the support of Showa and Harar.

So, these divisions have no use at all for Oromo people. But the real players of the game are benefiting a lot. All of them are gathering money from Oromo Diaspora by false promises, all of them are getting for their children, wives, brothers and sisters, etc by claiming to be political leaders.


Anonymous said...

Dear Walfidaa,

You said "The two OLF factions separated since 1998 regarding their Karaa to the same Kaayyoo." Any evidence for this claim?

I thought the two factions made it clear that they differ in their Kaayyoo. OLF = Oromia and Asmara Group = Ethiopia. Both have similar Karaa. Both say they employ deplomatic and military methods of struggle. Both have offices in Washington DC. Both believe in armed resistance, but for different purpose.

The choice is ours.

Nagaan buli.


Walfidaa said...

I heard such propaganda repeatedly! Leave alone OLF-Shane, even OFDM and OPC do have not Ethiopia at heart, but Oromia. To tell you MERDO, even genuine Oromos in OPDO are covertly for Independent Oromia.

SubboonaaOromos in OLF, OPC, OFDM and even in OPDO do fight for only one KAAYYOO aka freedom of Oromo people (Bilisummaa) and sovereignity of Oromo land (Walabummaa). They do differ in KARAA (tactic and strategy).

Regarding this for instance all OLF factions persue armed struggle, but the way they try to do it varies. I am sure Oromo enemies who try to pour oil to the fire of "conflict" among Oromo liberation organizations will desperately fail!

Anonymous said...

Historic and time less analysis that every understanding Oromo personality and sympitzer could need to know.

Seda said...

Thak you, this analysis is a historic one that evey Oromo needs to know.

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Anonymous said...

What you voiced is logical and full rationalizations, the problem is all the fertile conditon for our liberation is extremely excuded. theoretically I AGREE WITH YOU BUT PRACTICALLY DEMOCRATIZATION OF THAT COUNTRY AND LIBERATING OF OROMIA HAVE THE SAME COST EFFECTS( CONSUMATION OF RESOURCES AND ENERGY AND TIME.LOOK WHAT IS GOING IN PALESTIN , AFAGANSITAN, IRAQ.COULD you COMPARE OROMIA WITH SOUTH AFRICA WITH HIGHY DEVELOPED SOCITY ( quasi industrilzed society)agricultural societythat waits the handfs of some one to exsit?trust, loyality, genuinety , sinceity moreimportant in poletical is not yourcaoacity to lead but your loyaliy, sincerty, etc is important.

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