As expected, Haile Hirpa defended his action of inviting Berhanu Nega to present at OSA 2010. This much is expected and no surprise there. He talked about how Berhanu Nega, who said very little at the conference besides blaming “identity politics” for the empire’s maladies, is now a changed man. What is the evidence for Berhanu’s change of heart? “He said he was born in Bushoofttu, Oromia.” Amen!
Be that as it may, the subject of my posting for today is not OSA, nor Berhanu Nega. I have said my piece on those two and leave the judgment to my readers.
My subject for today is a factual error Haile Hirpa made in this interview. In this interview, he said something that I believe requires correction and he actually asked to be educated on the subject. I will let you hear it from the “horse’s mouth”, as the English say, a few lines down but let me translate and transcribe it for you.
Question to Haile Hirpa from a PalTalk participant: “You have repeatedly said in your speech that Oromo wants “bilisummaa” and nothing else. As we understand from the Oromo people, what they want is not “bilisummaa” only. … What we want is “walabummaa Oromiyaa ti.” An independent state of Oromia. … So when you say Oromos want “Bilisummaa”, do you mean the Oromo people can be free and live with in Ethiopia or you are substituting “bilisuummaa” for “Walabummaa”? …” (translation mine)
Dr. Haile Hirpa’s response: “The objective of the OLF that I know since 1973/74 is the same one it is sticking to today – regardless of the various difference existing among them today - which is “bilisummaa”. However, to transform this objective from “bilisummaa” to “walabummaa” [independence], those who lead the organization have to come together and establish [walabummaa] as OLF’s objective. [Walabummaa] has never been the objective of the OLF. But, I am willing to be educated on this. However, for as long as I have been part of this struggle and the OLF, the objective of the OLF is “bilisummaa”, nothing else. I think we can agree on this.” (translation mine)
Dr. Haile is correct in asking to be educated. It is also clear from his response that in his book "bilisummaa" does NOT include "walabummaa." What he asserted about the objective of the OLF is absolutely incorrect. For the founding fathers of the OLF, "bilisummaa" included "Walabummaa". Any other interpretation would be a revisionist interpretation.
Listen to the Q & A
OLF political programs:
The 1973 OLF political program (VI. Programme for the Struggle, A. Political Objective) States:
“The fundamental objective of the struggle is the realization of national self-determination for the Oromo people and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all their forms. This can only be realized through the successful consummation of the new democratic revolution by waging anti-feudal, ant-colonial, and ant- imperialist struggle, and by the establishment of the people's democratic republic of Oromia.”
The 1998 OLF constitution (Boqonnaa II, “Kaayyoo Masakaa”, Aangoo 1, “Bilisummaa Oromiyaa”) states:
“Hundeen kaayyoo keenyaa qabsoo farra impaayera Itoophiyaa, humnnoota farra mirga dhala namaa, dimookraasii fi nagaa oofuun fi sagantaa ABO fiixa baasuun, bilisummaa sabaa fi walabummaa Oromiyaa mirkaneessuu dha”
Roughly translated, it says, “Our objective is to ensure our people’s freedom and Oromia’s independence by realizing OLF’s program and waging struggle against the Ethiopian empire and anti human rights, anti democracy and anti peace forces." (Translation mine)
For anyone who has read these programs or constitutions, much less for members like Dr. Haile, it would be very difficult to miss that the OLF has always advocated for an independent state of Oromia. In fact, the two constitutions go on to talk about the future independent Oromia state’s defence, economic, health, international relations and other objectives. I urge Dr. Haile to read or re-read these documents.
To try and change the OLF political program is every member's right. However, a revisionist interpretation will not be a usefull route for the mere reason that the founding fathers were crystal clear in what they meant by "bilisummaa". I hope this is now clear to everyone, including Dr. Haile.
Have your say.