Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Court Battle in the Making over OLF Name, Logo & Flag?

Another winds of war between two OLF factions is blowing in the form of litigation in USA courts over the use of OLF name, logo and flag and is threatening to, once again, waste Oromo time, money and energy. Shanee’s (AKA The Dawud Ibsaa Group or the Asmara Group) sabre-rattling against TA-OLF (AKA the Dhugaasaa Bakakkoo Group or the QC Group) should be worrisome to all patriotic Oromos, to say the least, and could, indeed, end in a court room showdown.

It is to be recalled that, in July 2007, the Shanee Group of OLF took the TA-OLF group to a Minnesota court over the use of the OLF name, logo and flag. The lawsuit alleged that TA-OLF violated “Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act” and that it interfered with the Shanee Group’s “prospective economic advantage” by using the OLF name, logo and flag - (Read Here).

In August 2007, after two court appearances, the court dismissed the Shanee lawsuit without prejudice. In other words, while the Shanee case was dismissed for the time being, they were allowed to re-file if they so wished.

Undeterred by the dismissal and bent on winning the case, the Shanee Group re-filled and launched a second lawsuit over the same issue in September of the same year. After 14 months in the court system and after $50,000.00 (by a conservative estimate) of Oromo hard earned money was squandered on both sides to prosecute and defend this ridiculous charge, the court decided in favor of the defendant and awarded TA-OLF cost and disbursements which the Shanee Group was forced to pay up.

In dismissing the case in November 2008, the judge observed:

“The OLF began in Ethiopia in 1973 with the objective of establishing an independent [state of] Oromia for the Oromo people. Some individual Defendants have been members of the OLF since its inception in 1973. Beginning in 1999 and through approximately 2001, the OLF members began disputing the methods of accomplishing their mission. In 2001, the [Plaintiff or the Asmara Group] OLF began supporting the policy of recognizing the Ethiopian government. There were members who did not agree with this policy. The Plaintiffs continued operating under the name OLF in Minnesota (“Plaintiff OLF”). The Defendants rejected the authority of the [Plaintiff or the Asmara Group] OLF, but also continued operating under the name OLF in Minnesota (“Defendant OLF”)” - (Read Here).

In regards to the flag under dispute, the Shanee complaint asked TA-OLF to cease using the flag. However, Shanee members summoned for deposition (question and answer sessions between a possible witness and attorney of opposing side) all asserted that the flag is a national symbol and not just OLF’s which prompted the judge to observe:

“The OLF uses a flag. It is disputed whether the symbol on the flag was created for, and solely represents, the OLF or whether it is a symbol used by the Oromo people regardless of their affiliation with the OLF.”

With that, the judge dismissed the case for the second time and ordered Shanee to pay cost and disbursements to TA-OLF.

If you thought this would be the end of this madness, think again.

The Shanee Group took over three years to prepare for another possible court battle. Having learned from their previous two failures that the courts are not likely to consider this dispute a commercial one, the Shanee Group went about preparing the ground work for the next battle.

On Nov. 17, 2008, a mere nine days after losing the case for the second time, the Shanee group applied to the US Patents & Trademarks Office (USPTO) to register the OLF name and logo in the Advertising, Business & Retail Services category - (Read Here).

Having succeeded in registering the OLF logo with the USPTO as Advertising, Business & Retail Services logo in June 2009, Shanee has now put TA-OLF on notice. In a letter written on Dec. 15, 2011 - (Read Here) - Shanee has accused TA-OLF of infringing on Shanee’s copy right and trade mark privileges. The letter asked TA-OLF to desist from further using the OLF “logo, flag and other materials.” Soon after, Shanee also issued a statement today on its web site (Read Here), warning the use of OLF name and logo by any other group but itself would be illegal and immoral thereby threatening lawsuit(s) against TA-OLF and perhaps also the Kemal Gelchu group of OLF.

If history is any guide, and from what we already know about the TA-OLF group, it seems unlikely that they will even dignify this letter with a response much less desisting from using what they consider rightfully belongs to the oromo people and their fallen comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to free their people and realize an independent state of Oromia. Given TA-OLF’s attitude towards the OLF name, flag and logo, it seems inevitable that another (third) round of litigation will be launched by Shanee with the inevitable consequence of squandering tens of thousands Oromo hard earned money on American lawyers once again.


Why would Shanee spend Oromo hard earned money that can be put to a better use, say to take Meles Zenawi to World Court rather than targeting another Oromo group? Or even use the money to maintain their Washington DC office for which they were unable to afford rental fee and therefore downgraded to a smaller office recently? Why not use the money to help our refugee brothers and sisters suffering around the world or our brethren dying of famine in Oromia? While NGOs and benevolent governments feed our starving people, why would an Oromo group (Shanee) purportedly struggling for Oromo freedom waste thousands of dollars on a dispute which will not advance an inch, but retard, the Oromo struggle?

It is no secret that the Oromo camp is fragmented, disunited and disorganized as it is. Nationalist Oromos everywhere are demanding unity based on clarity of purpose for the struggle. Having given up on their leaders, they are beginning to organize grass root Oromo unity movements. For Shanee to threaten a lawsuit at this particular time, after having lost twice before on the same issue – would be to pour gasoline on fire and frustrate the call for unity.

A Call to Action

This blogger continues to appeal to the Shanee Group in general and Obbo Dawud Ibsaa in particular, as he had done during the first and second Shanee Lawsuits, to stop this madness.

Obbo Dawud: What you are engaged in is an inter-Oromo political fight for the hearts and minds of the Oromo people. The Oromo people and them alone can and should render the final verdict as to which group deserves to call itself the OLF or not. Given time, one of you factions will die a natural death from lack of support from the Oromo people or thrive because of it. No amount of positive verdict from a foreign court will earn you Oromo love and support or acceptance from them. In fact, what you are doing is sending the wrong message to the Oromo. And that message seems to be that you lack confidence in the Oromo people’s ability to render this verdict which prompts you to appeal to foreign courts for help. I urge you to reflect on your group’s actions, the adverse reactions it can generate and their overall impact on the Oromo struggle.

This blogger calls on all Oromo compatriots, particularly Shanee members and Oromo elders everywhere, to do everything they can to stop Shanee from wasting money they collect in the name of Oromo struggle on something that will not advance the Oromo struggle one inch.

This blogger explicitly calls on Oromo elders to not turn a blind eye to this madness this time around, as they did in the two previous litigations where they chose to silently watch from the sideline while the Oromo movement was made a laughing stock of the world as a result of Shanee intiated litigations.

Related articles:

OLF Legal Woes
The Asmara Group Lawsuit Dismissed Without Prejudice
Nuro Dedefo Defebds the Asmara group's lawsuit
The Asmara Group of OLF Takes TA-OLF Back to Minnesota Court

Have your say!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The inherent danger of Abyssinian extremism and bigotry

By Gumaa Guddaa

Combination of racism and ideology is a very dangerous cocktail. In the case of the Abyssinians, the combination of their hatred for any human being other than ‘Habesha’ and their fervent cult like belief in the Coptic Orthodox church is unfortunately at the root of all evils in that dying empire.

Listen to the following poem in the Amhara language:

The above Abyssinian war cry in the form of extreme hatred and religious fundamentalism directed against nations that have done nothing to them other than asserting their national identity and claiming their rights to self-determination seems to be not an isolated incident. What is the civilized world to make of this hateful racist agitation against the Oromo and the Somali nations? But, can the world ignore it as an abrasion or should the world look deeper and wider to look for evidence indicating a deeper rooted malaise? Is it an isolated work of someone with twisted mind or a reflection of a culture?

It is nothing more than a rhetoric one may argue. Nonetheless, it is important for every living Oromo and Somali to understand that hatred for their cultures and identities seems to be deeply ingrained in the soul of every Habesha –Tigre and Amhara alike. It appears that anti-Oromo and anti- Somali sentiment is deeply woven into the Abyssinian psyche. Look no further than how they demonised the Oromo Qubee when the Oromo decided to utilize the Latin alphabet and rejected the Ge’ez script which the Abyssinians use to write their languages – Amhara and Tigre languages. The Ethiopian Orthodox church called on all Oromos who learned Qubee to confess their “mortal sin” of attending Qubee classes and seek redemption. Such is the Habasha extremism and bigotry.

The Amhara have been out of power for over two decades. They, however, still dream to return. Whilst we should not be sleepless about Amhara hegemony returning anytime soon, we must be concerned as to what their cousins are doing right now. The Tigre regime in Ethiopia is perpetrating what the above war cry is calling for in a systematic way. I would argue that the ethnic cleansing, in the name of farmland sale, economic and political persecution and extermination of the Oromo people is already happening. The only difference between what is on the ground and what the above propaganda material is agitating for seems only to be the gusto and the speed of the ‘final solution’ to the “Ethiopian problem” – the Oromo and the Somali nations, the two nations to which the above audio makes frequent references.

Who is Habesha? The etymology of the term Habesha is not certain. However, the widely accepted theory is that the term Habesha comes from the Arabic word al-Habash. The Amhara and Tigre peoples constitute Abyssinians. One thing is clear thus far. History indicates that the people known as Habesha immigrated to Africa from Arabia. Axum was in the hands of the indigenous African people at the time of the arrival of the Habesha.

Geography also tells as a lot. They are sandwiched between the Beja people in the north and the Oromo people in the south since their arrival from Arabia, sometime in the first millennia. These two peoples had a common language known as Ge’ez. They now speak Amharic and Tigre languages, derived from Ge’ez. They share similar cultural heritage. They are both warlike. Listen to the author(s) of the above audio and read their history. There is no mistaking their prejudice in the superiority of their ethnic group and their culture, and their contempt for all non-Habasha peoples in that empire and beyond. Why do we not hear this sort of intolerance from Ogaden, Afar, Gurage, Oromo, etc. nations? Simply, it is because, unlike the Habasha, they are tolerant of other ethnic groups and their cultures.

The Oromo are peace-loving people. They have no problems with other peoples such as Agaw, Afar and Somali to mention but a few. They have peacefully co-existed with them except for the Habasha. But, unfortunately, they find themselves in a hostile terrain. Their relationship with their northern neighbours has so far been acrimonious to put it mildly.

Written history indicates that there has been ongoing struggle between the Oromo and their northern neighbours – Abyssinians - since time immemorial. I would like to hypothesize that the animosity even dates back to the first millennia when the immigrant Abyssinians arrived in Africa. It is easy to understand that the new arrivals would have to negotiate or even fight with the indigenous Africans including the Oromo in order to eke out a living.

Throughout out the long history of mankind conflict on resources has shaped the relationship between neighbouring communities. Therefore, the conflict between Oromia and Abyssinia is no different. The difficulty emanates from the fact that the Oromo live in Oromia and only Oromia. The Abyssinians mainly live in their homeland Abyssinia but some segments of the Abyssinian society occupy Oromia to have access to the riches of Oromia. The Oromo have shown their card i.e. quest for sovereign Oromia. The Abyssinians have become aware of this fact. The power balance at the present is with the Abyssinians. This imbalance has placed the Oromo nation at a disadvantage, an imbalance in need of urgent attention.

I have to admit I was taken aback by the depth of the knowledge of the composer of the above Abyssinian call for the extermination of the Oromo. The author of the lyric seems to have done his/her homework. I wonder how many Oromos are well versed with the efforts of our forefathers, mentioned in the negative propaganda poem, including the Raya Oromo, Anole, Calanqo, the Western Oromo Confederacy declaration of independence, etc. The Oromo need to learn history. The old adage says “those who refuse to learn from history will be punished by repeating it”. Especially Oromos in Tinsa’e Ethiopia, Ethiopian Patriotic Front, AFD, and coalition with G7, OPDO etc. political organizations must re-appraise their stand. By the way, do not forget that the Eritreans are Habesha too.

So that you will have a balanced view I would like to offer you the opportunity to tune in to what the Oromo sing and what their aspiration is:

Simply put, the Oromo claim what is theirs. Unlike the Amhara in the aforementioned war cry, they never call for the elimination of nations. What motivates someone to call for the killing of the entire nation requires a leap of imagination to fathom. Perhaps it is the Oromo dream for peace and prosperity that threatens the evil spirit in others. But, do not be deceived by the lack of reason for such hatred. Hitler did not have a reason either.

Finally, one has to think if we could cleanse Abyssinians from their contempt for the Oromo nation. The short answer is may be never. It seems to be a matter of world-view for them. It is actually how they define themselves. So for anyone to be nice to them or force them to change it will mean changing the Abyssinian make up literally in terms of identity and world-view. I truly believe that the only solution to stop this nonsense and spare the coming generation from listening to this sort of venomous dehumanizing and potentially genocidal propaganda is by bringing forward the liberation of Oromia. What ever the Abyssinians think about us will then be limited to their territory- Abyssinia and their sphere of influence. Surely, that can only be a good thing!

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