July 04, 2013

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Jawarawi Harekat Or an Intentional Criminalization Of the Oromo Nationalist? (Fayyis Oromia)

Jawarawi Harekat Or an Intentional Criminalization Of the Oromo Nationalist?

Fayyis Oromia

On February 5, 2013, Ethiopia’s only and publicly funded Television Station, ETV, aired a controversial documentary during prime time in violation of an outstanding court injunction. Oddly subtitled “Boko Haram in Ethiopia”, Jihadawi Harekat – Arabic for “jihadi movement” – ­denounces leaders of Ethiopia’s year-long protest movement for alleged links to foreign terrorists. That criminalization of the Ethiopian Muslims’ legitimate question of right in excercising their religion without any interference from the government was not surprisingly the first fictious “documentary film” produced by the regime to criminalize civic or political movements in the Ethiopian empire. Similar criminalization of the Oromo national liberation movement (the OLF) was undertaken some years back.

Parallel to such malicious move of the ruling Tigrean elites, recently the nostalgic Amhara elites, who do want to impose an assimilative Ethiopia and Ethiopianism on the Oromo in particular, and on all the other nations and nationalities of the empire in general, also produced and published a “documentary film” with a title “Jawar Mohammed- A Muslim OLF Radical – Ethiopians Out From Oromia” as shown here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rb7Xjo4hWs . Is this Jawarawi harekat or a criminalization of the young Oromo nationalist, Jawar? What an interesting parallel between both the rival Abyssinian elites of the Amhara and Tigrai, when it comes to the criminalization of any Oromo individual nationalist or any Oromo national liberation organization in order to silence this subjugated nation.

The currently ongoing discussion regarding the controversal Oromo nationalist, Jawar Mohammed, started with the seemingly well thought restructuring of the Oromo hisory by an Ethiopianist Oromo scholar, Dr Fikre Tolassa, who wrote an appeal open letter to one of the ODF (Oromo Democratic Front) leaders, Dr Bayan Asoba (  http://www.gadaa.com/Beyana-Suba-1.pdf ). This new version of the Oromo history and the demands directed to the ODF in order to reverse the use of Qubee (Afaan Oromo alphabet), to adore the Ethiopian flag and to accept Ethiopian nationalism at the cost of Oromian nationalism ignited a series of responses and debates between the two contesting nationalists (Ethiopianists and Oromianists). One of the responses was the suggestion of fostering future common home, Great Oromia, instead of Ethiopia, which I forwarded: http://gadaa.com/oduu/20124/2013/06/06/the-common-home-great-oromia-as-a-win-win-solution-for-the-conflict-between-the-pro-independence-oromo-and-the-pro-unity-amhara/ .

Then followed a well organized campaign and discussion in the Ethiopian as well as the Oromian medias. The explicit intention of the campaign sounded “we want to promote a constructive dialogue between the Ethiopian nationalists and the Oromian nationalists, who do respectively persue two diametrically opposite politcal goals, but have one common enemy, the Woyane, which is now hindering their move”. This debate and discussion was interesting and it was very inviting at the beginning. Gradually some protagonists from the Ethiopianist camp started to put a precondition for the discussion. They started to impose Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet on the Oromianists, who claim to have Oromia as a country and Oromiummaa as their national identity, at the same time rejecting the demand of owning Ethiopia and Ethiopiawinet.

Even some of the protagonists in the Ethiopian medias started to take side and denigerate Oromia and Oromiummaa to the extent of intimidating the Oromo nationalists, who wanted to assert Oromia as a future independent state, instead of envisioning a united Ethiopia. This conflict lead to a hot discussion in which the Oromo nationalists vehemently rejected Ethiopia as their future land and Ethiopiawinet as their identity. On the contrary they asked the Ethiopianists to arrange for the future common home, Great Oromia (naming the future democratic federal state as Oromia, instead of Ethiopia). Surprisingly this counter attack has driven the Ethiopiansts crazy; they were very angry; they asked “how dare you try to change the name of this holy land given to us from God?” These right extremist Ethiopianists even strated to ”intimidate” the Oromo nationalists in the discussion forums. The intended dialogue between the Amhara and the Oromo at the paltalk level changed into the confrontation between the two groups. Of course the Woyane agents and cadres enjoyed this conflict and as usual poured a kerosine on the fire.

It was amidst this circumstance that the journalist in Aljazira asked Jawar Mohammed a very good question: “are you Oromo first or Ethiopian first”? http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201306102025-0022818 . The answer to the question was cristal clear: “I am Oromo first; Ethiopian identity is imposed on me” This reply from Jawar made the already crazy Ethiopianists to take off their cloth and declare a cyber war against him. They decided to invite him to an interview and persuade him to apologize. They did as they planned and the answer they got in the interview was not what they expected, but the re-assertion of his firm position regarding Oromia and Oromiummaa. What a liberating stand from Jawar! Oromo nationals were proud of him; Ethiopianists were more mad at him. They started a charachter assasination, criminalization, denigeration and even went to the extent of collecting a petition against him.

Jawar, who was once seen as a young moderate intellectual and was respected by the Ethiopianists as he first started to criticize the OLF and spoke for the possible union of autonomous nations in the Ethiopian context as a better alternative to an independent republic of Oromia, is now regarded as “a naive young Oromo, who doesn’t have experinece and insight” when it comes to the deep political problems in the empire. Overnight, the Ethiopianists changed him from an angel to a devil; they talked and wrote all negative things about him; the highlight being the video clip presented as a “documentary: Jawarawi Harekat” as I mentioned above. The malicious campaign against this brilliant Oromo talent is still going on.

But, is this approach of the Ethiopianst elites regarding the Oromo nationals a new phenomen? Didn’t they, throughout their history, adore and use Oromo talents as long as the Oromo nationals served their institutions and their interest, just to discard the servants, when they think the serevants are no more working for them? Was it not like this during Minilk, H/Sillasie, Mengistu and even Meles era? Are they not still seaking Oromo talents, whom they want to use? To have a look about Oromo talents in Habesha political club, read more: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=24770 . Here we can see, how the Abyssinians got profit from the politcal game by the Oromo professionals, but played in the club of and for the interest of the ruling Habesha elites. Then, is it surprisng when they wanted to use the modern day Oromo talents like Birtukan Midhagsa, Jawar Mohammed….etc and get disappointed by facing the reality that these talents are not “their loyal servants” as they expectred?

I think the era of getting Oromo political talents playing for Habesha club is slowly, but surely, dwindling. The Oromo are getting enough insight that Abyssinian nationalism, being masked with Ethiopiawinet, is the anti-thesis of Oromian nationalism (Oromiummaa). The two nationalisms are competing to win the hearts and minds of the Oromo nationals. That is what nowadays going on in a very intensified form. The Abyssinian elites seem to have waged a coordinated campaign against Oromia and Oromiummaa. To be effective, they are using few Oromo natioanls with the Ethiopianist mentality as we hear in the following audio record: http://www.zehabesha.com/ethiopian-oromos-responded-angrily-to-jawar-mohammed-poisonous-statement/ . Is this using an Oromo against another Oromo something new? When we see at the recent history of the Oromo subjugation and the hitherto rule by Abyssinian elites, there was no regime in the empire, who could win the struggle against the Oromo without using such Oromo collaborators. The same phenomena is still going on.

What ever the Abyssinian elites do try, the Oromo national liberation struggle is slowly, but surely, getting momentum; more and more Oromo are becoming assertive and radical to push for free Oromo people and an independent Oromia. The least and minimum demand of the Oromo is self-rule of the Oromian state within a true Ethiopian union/federation; the main objective being an independent republic of core Oromia; of course the best option is an independent Great Oromia or the transformation of the Ethiopian empire towards the Oromian union. There is nothing less than converting Ethiopia into this Great Oromia, which can be a guarantee for the unity and the territorial integrity seeked by the Abyssinain elites. Now the case of Jawar is an interesting phenomen, in which the foes and the friends of the Oromo national liberation movement are clearly seen and separated. The foes are still doing their best to criminalize Jawar and the friends are united more than ever to show a solidarity to his clear position on Oromia and Oromiumma. All Oromo nationalists are now singing together the same song of ‘no compromise on Oromia and Oromiummaa’. That is why I dared to ask: Jawarawi harekat or an intentional criminalization of the Oromo nationalist? I think for the Oromo national liberation camp, it is the harekat, whereas in the Abyssinian camp the usual criminalizazion of the genuine Oromo nationalists is going on. Jawar can capitalize on the support he got and play the card smartly to lead the harekat towards a success. May Rabbi/Waaqa help us use this harekat for the intensification of the Oromo national liberation struggle.


June 19, 2012

Ethiopia: Journalists Live in Fear of 'Terror' Law

Ethiopia: Journalists Live in Fear of 'Terror' Law

guest column

Nowhere across Africa is the message that its people want a way out of what I call "the four Ds" - death, disease, disaster and despair - more resounding than among the continent's journalists.

In nation after nation, they are attempting to inform their people of their rights and encourage them to hold their governments accountable. For that, many of them are being held accountable in the most draconian ways.

I have seen this first hand in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe's regime has long attempted to conceal the repression of its people. Journalists have fought back and continue to yell truth to power, although they still face the prospect of jail as a consequence.

And most recently, I have seen it in Ethiopia, where Eskinder Nega, a journalist I visited seven years ago in Kalati Prison, along with his pregnant wife, Serkalem Fasil (who gave birth in prison) is back there on charges of terrorism. What appears to have been his crime is that he also continues to tell, if not yell, truth to power, although the government is actually prosecuting him for what they say is his membership in a terrorist network that advocates violence. As proof, during his trial they showed a video in which he questioned whether an Arab Spring-type uprising could ever happen in Ethiopia.

The government has empowered itself to prosecute what they see as dissent like this with a sweeping anti-terrorism law that is, effectively, a weapon that can be used against anyone daring to criticize the government in a way the government doesn't like.

One journalist who published Eskinder's statement in court was also convicted, but got a suspended four-month sentence. Dozens of journalists have fled into exile and six have been charged with terrorism in absentia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

When I visited Ethiopia earlier this month with a colleague from the CPJ and the continent-wide project called the African Media Initiative, journalists we met with told us they all live in fear, calling the terrorism law a "game changer." One foreigner working in Ethiopia told me: "There is a red line. The problem is, we don't know where it is."

When we met Simon Bereket, Ethiopia's Minister of Information, he defended the incarceration of Eskinder and the seven other journalists locked up with him on the grounds that they were involved in terrorism. In a polite but firm dissent, he said neither Eskinder nor any of the other journalists were in prison for what they wrote.

When we asked to see Eskinder and the others in prison, we were told that it was not likely and that turned out to be the case. But his wife, Serkalem, who was recently in New York receiving on Eskinder's behalf a prestigious freedom of the press award from PEN America, told us when we met her in Addis that Eskinder had asked her to tell us that he was in no way connected with any terrorist group-there or in the United States.

She also told us that he said that if the price of telling the truth was imprisonment, he could live with that. Of course, when the verdict is handed down - which is scheduled to happen Thursday - Eskinder could be sentenced to life in prison or death.

Part of the reason for my involvement with journalists and their issues in Ethiopia and other parts of the continent is to try to present a much-maligned continent in a light different to that in which it is often portrayed elsewhere in the world: in a light that makes it clear that Africans want as much as anyone else to make choices about themselves and their children in an informed way, and that they have the same hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families and their communities as do people in democracies the world over.

Imperfect as many democracies are, their governments do not put people in jail for words that come out of their mouths and the freedom-loving desires that live in their hearts. That's why, as an American, I hope that my countrymen and women who have that right should get on Ethiopia's case. They should insist that a U.S. government which is pledged to ensure those rights in America should also help ensure them in Ethiopia. And I hope they will be joined by freedom-loving people all over the world, including on the African continent.

But Ethiopia stands as a partner with the United States, in particular, in fighting REAL terrorists, including Al Qaeda, in a strategic part of the world. Surely the economic assistance the U.S. has provided Ethiopia in the past and the $350 million in assistance it is asking for in 2013 gives it some weight in pressing Addis Ababa to live up to the same principles enshrined in their constitution as in ours?

Freedom of speech is a crucial cornerstone of democracy. It should not be a death sentence.