I will respond to these charges but, first, let me say that I understand scholarship is a matter of bread and butter for some. But, not to the Oromo people. In the name of scholarship, Oromos should not be expected to refrain from raising legitimate questions about those who claim to know what is best for the Oromo people. Their questions should not be construed as intending to cause hostility just because those to whom these questions are directed find them difficult to answer.
Secondly, I would like to remind the reader that whatever was attributed to Berhanu Nega in my blog was taken from his book (Ya Nasaannat Gohi Sii Qaddi) and can be verified for accuracy.
Contrary to Jawar’s assertion, it is important to note that many individuals whose political views are in divergence with what Obbo Jawar called “assumed mainstream Oromo opinion” have at different times presented at OSA conferences without any “negative reactions” from the public. Obbo Bulcha Damaksa, Dr. Marera Gudina, Dr. Bayene Petros, Dr. Negasoo Gidaadaa, Ambassador David Shinn, to mention but a few, have all appeared at OSA conferences without so much as a pip from the Oromo public. But their opinions are hardly main stream as far the Oromo, both back home and in the Diaspora, are concerned. This is evident from the negligible level of support political views of these personalities garner from the Oromo public. Obbo Jawar, as an aspiring researcher, should get his facts straight before making statements such as “ We often see negative reactions towards the participation of those whose political views differ …”
To my recollection, the only person whose appearance at an OSA conference was canceled because of public outrage was that of Col. Goshu Welde who took part in the decimation and great suffering of our people as a member of the military junta – the DERG. The then OSA president, Asfaw Beyene, had the audacity to invite him to the 20th anniversary of OSA. Mind you, Goshu Welde was neither a scholar nor a researcher by any stretch of the imagination. His qualification for speaking at OSA conference was being Ethiopianist politician – plain and simple. OSA had no business organizing meetings for politicians to assist them in dissemination of their political views.
I would argue that the reason for Berhanu’s invitation to OSA conference is no different from that for Goshu Welde. Again, I maintain that OSA has no business assisting dissemination of political views particularly those against Oromo aspirations like that Of Berhanu Nega’s.
Berhanu’s presentation at OSA 2010 must be opposed on a couple of grounds.
First, contrary to what Jawar would have us believe, Berhanu’s, not only opinion but also, political actions have been fundamentally hostile to aspirations of the Oromo people.
Why do I say that?
Let me remind the reader that Berhanu Nega was a leader of Kinijit. Regardless of what it claimed to be, Kinijit was a party of Amhara elites bent on regaining state power they had lost to their northern cousins in 1991. Had they succeeded, and Berhanu and his friends attained power, what they would have done with the state power they so much desired to achieve is a public secret. One passing look at their leadership composition and another passing look at their manifesto, there is no mistaking what they had in store for non-Amharas. In a nutshell, they planned to roll back all achievements made by oppressed nations and nationalities in that empire to take the country back to the Haile Sellasie era. To mention but a few, article 39 of the TPLF constitution, which ”allows” (on paper only I might add) nations and nationalities the option of seceding from the empire would have been the first victim of Kinjit. Then, as they promised in their manifesto, they would have re-drawn state boundaries so as to take the empire back to the old “Kifle Hagar” configuration. The name Oromia would have been a thing of the recent past. Re-imposition of Amharic as language of instruction in schools and language of work in other areas would have followed as soon as Kinijit surrounded itself with its own PDO of assimilated Oromos. These assimilated Oromos would have been the ones to spear head Kinijit’s effort to do away with Afaan Oromoo as official language in Oromo region. It is this force, Berhanu Nega’s former party, that Obbo Bulcha Damaksa – a believer in democratization of Ethiopia - was referring to in his press conference of May 20, 2005 when he said, “While a genuine federal system has not been implemented in Ethiopia, there are forces which want to even abolish the theoretical federalism which remains only in the book.“ All this would have been executed by an organization in which Berhanu Nega was not only a member but a leader. This is the man Jawar Mehammed Siraj would have us believe “Many have testified to [his] integrity, genuine concern and commitment to the goal of social justice.”
As far as the Oromo question and aspirations are concerned, there is no difference of views between Males Zenawi and Berhanu Nega. They only differ in how they go about implementing their solutions – the former by making a promise it does not intend to keep, the later refusing to even acknowledge our rights.
Let me also remind the reader that Kinijit, Berhanu Nega’s former party, was made up of many unitarist parties. Membership was open only to those parties that were not affiliated with ethnic groups. Oromo federalist parties like Bulcha Damaksa’s WAFIDO and Marara Gudina’s ONC were not welcomed by Kinijit.
To my knowledge, Berhanu has never repented for these serious offences against our people’s aspirations.
Second, to make a scholarly presentation on a subject, one must have gained mastery of that discipline through years of study and must be able to speak with authority and clarity on the subject. As one can see from the title, Berhanu’s presentation has nothing to do with his field of expertise which happens to be Economics. Berhanu will be presenting “Ethnic Identity and Political Developments of the Last Two Decades” which is not his area of scholarship. By his own admission, he got interested in understanding ethnicity in the Ethiopian empire as a result of meeting Oromo detainees in TPLF dungeons. Even then, what struck him was not the suffering they were undergoing but their “hateful feelings” against his immiyyee Ethiopia.
Plain and simple, Berhanu will be speaking at OSA conference as a politician, not as scholar. His appearance at OSA conference at this time is a continuation the dialogue currently underway between Berhanu’s Ginbot 7 and the Dawud Ibsaa faction of the OLF in which OSA, a purportedly scholarly organization, should have no part.
It is a public secret that disappointed by the death of Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD), to which Berhanu’s former party Kinijit and Dawud Ibsaas faction of the OLF were parties, Eritrea has been working hard on resurrecting it in some form. Many meetings have taken place between these two Ethiopian opposition parties. Here in the USA Shanee representatives and Berhanu Nega have met many times to discuss how to democratize Ethiopia. Andargachedw Tsigie of Ginbot 7 has travelled “multiple times” to Asmara to meet with Obbo Dawud Ibsaa and his faction hosted by the Eritrean government. Reliable sources have informed this blogger that the two Ethiopian opposition groups have agreed on many issues and are very close to forming an alliance.
Wouldn’t it be nice to acquaint the Oromo public with Berhanu Nega and Bayan Asoba sitting side by side and addressing audiences beginning now? That may be, but OSA is hardly the appropriate venue for such political events.
Finally, Obbo Jawar informs us of his “various strategic disagreements” with his protégé, Berhanu Nega, without informing us what these disagreements are. I only know of one: that Jawar advocates for dismantling, and doing away with, the OLF whereas Berhanu Nega is at least talking with a faction of that organization. A “strategic disagreement” indeed!
Have your say!
Berhanu Nega’s Shocking Encounter with Oromo Detainees Led to his Politcal Career