Dear Lencho Bati: Who are you uniting?

By Girma Tefera
Lencho Bati
Lencho Bati

The big speech given by ODF leader Lencho Bati in the Seattle Ethiopian convention has already sparked controversy among Ethiopians worldwide. Some Ethiopians in the diaspora think he is a visionary Oromo leader with idealism and hope for unity in Ethiopia. That is fine and we should engage with his moderate views; compared to some left wing separatists. Anytime groups come around a table for dialogue should be applauded. But most us are still left scratching our heads on what exactly is Mr. Lencho planning to unite?

Most of us who attended the event or watched the video of his speech seem to be mesmerized by his charisma and his populist rhetoric. Lencho got many laughs from the crowd with his references to Prof. Mesfin’s age and his jokes that Oromos wanted to “take Wallelign” if Amharas don’t want him. But, behind all this comedy is the same old ethnic politics that we have come to hate about Woyane.

For example, Lencho depicted the political battle as being between ethnic unionist and ethnic separatists. But let us pause for a second. That is the same two narrow choices offered to us by TPLF!  In 1991, Meles basically told us “hey look at those separatist OLF and ogadens, they want to destroy Ethiopia but we TPLF will save you from them.” 26 years later, Are we going to fall for this same old trick? Are we going to repeat history again? Are we going to settle for backward Marxist politics that divide and define people based on temporary languages, by ignoring our complex and holistic identity as multiethnic Ethiopians?

When Lencho said “we are unionists,” the question on most Ethiopians must be who exactly are you uniting? Oromos and Amaras? What about around half of Ethiopians who are born with both or many ethnolinguistic ancestry? What about millions of mixed and non-mixed Ethiopians who simply do NOT want to identify with a certain narrow tribal label?

Mr. Lencho, the main problem with the last transitional process in 1990s was not the lack of alphabet soup tribal labels sitting around the table. The problem was millions of Ethiopians were ignored and insulted when TPLF decided to exclude Ethiopians who are simply Ethiopians! That is why these Ethiopians rallied around Kinijit/Andinet in 2005 and voted out TPLF. We are not worried about replacing TPLF with another LF or ODF or a coalition. We want to remove the whole system that divides our people based on tribe.

Mr. Lencho, just think of Wollo province for a second, which is around 8-10 million and almost 10% of Ethiopia. If you are Wolloye, you will know that let alone ethnicity, even religions are mixed. Anywhere, you will find a person with a Christian first name and a Muslim father name or vise Versa. When TPLF re-drew our map, it was so confused that it had to put an “Oromo zone” in the middle of Wollo because people everywhere are mixed. After 25 years, woyane’s social engineering still has failed and many people in Wollo are proud of their mixed identity. Now, if you go in the middle of Wollo and shout “I am a unionist,” do you know how ridiculous you will sound? How can you ethnically unite a person who already has great-grand-parents from different ethnicity? Nature has already done the job for you sir. These people have been mixed for generations, way before your bogeyman Menelik was even born, perhaps even before 17th century, when Oromo speaking rulers reigned. For people in Wollo, it would make better sense, if you promise them to end this nightmare of ethnic politics that threatens to destroy their identity and divide their families. It is better if you promise them individual rights based on democracy and merit, instead of group rights that only benefits tribal elites.

I gave you only one example of Wollo, but you can go to every urban and other regions and you will find millions who are born mixed, some of them don’t even know it, thanks to being brainwashed by Woyane politics (and their OPDO and ANDM branches). These days even so-called “Amharas” have been brainwashed by woyane to think tribally. But you can tell how ridiculous these TPLF/ANDM Amaras are because they go to Welkait and wave the flag of Ethiopia and worship Menelik & Taytu. They are so amateur that they don’t realize their “Amhara hero” Taytu was Oromo and even Menelik’s mother was Oromo. This is how childish and confused the tribal politics has become.

Mr. Lencho, we need to end this ethnic politics nightmare and throw the whole woyane system in the garbage of history. We don’t need another ethnic unity formula. Yes, We realize some of your diaspora Oromo constituents are even more ridiculous and have dreams of independent Oromia nation. That is unfortunate that we have short-sighted and uneducated people. Let them try and die fighting for their mythical nation. Because we can not repeat history again and change the terms of our future. It is time we end our misery, bitterness and backwardness, and join the globalised modern world. The debate of Ethiopia’s future can NOT be between ethnic unionists vs ethnic separatist. The future debate is between ethnic unionists and non-tribal democratic forces, period.



  1. Well put and hopefully your short and precise description of of the people of Wollo will be a lesson and a wake up call to Mr.Lencho and alike the union does exist and their atempt to taint it with their narrow minded dogma will be marching with the same dram as what woyanee had been preaching in the last few decades. Unless, Mr Lencho’s defenation is of union is to use the play book of TPLF and anaxing part of Wollo using the pretxt of similarity in culture or languge, the future debate must and shoul be on how the so called democratic forces can come out of their shell , free them selves from the shackels of their forign masters of ethinc and tribal agenda to work together to rebuilding the Ethiopian union. Learning from the mistakes past, Perfecting the imperfection, agreeing to disagree and come to a common goel of not only of dismantling the current Bandits system of government but also fighting the wolves in a sheep skin who are poisning the new generation. To be honest, I was sick to my stomch to see the audiance laughing at a comment he made describing being “kaye” while looking Towards the dark skinned brother in the audiance. I am not sure if he was reflcting his Neftegna upbriging in Arusi or he was implying he is from a superior race within the Ormo,
    Mythough of Mr Lencho joke offer to “take Wallelign” Was a swipe to Dr. Azziz who Was the presidant of Woizero Sehin highschool students presidant in the 60s . A deciple of Walelgn and a captive of socialist ideas of none union advocate naive vivtim of Isayas afeworkis network of the time

  2. Big mistake here. If you think that it’s only weyane that wants ethnicity based politics you have not made enough support. Who is the strongest opposition in Ethiopia now? It’s Medrek. Weyane may have manipulated people’s willingness to organize in tribes and region but weyane didn’t invent or imposed it on anyone. Mr lencho is speaking on behalf of Oromos. Why were there thousands of people marching saying Oromiya less than a year ago in one day over a 100 cities across Oromiya. You may speak on behalf of urban areas of the country which makes less than 20% the population. But the vast majority is needed to establish a good alternative to yplf\eprdf. Not by going back ward but by making progress to a more inclusive, democratic and a countable system.

  3. I did listen to Lencho’s speech as well
    my conclusion is that he meant what he said, unity based on equality and despite diversity.
    what is wrong with that? What is really wrong with that?

    Remember that it is not easy for him to turn around, realise that the future of all Ethiopians is unity, and trying to contribute to this.
    If you keep pushing and antagonizing people who come to the table, and want to work together, you may end up dividing people. In fact there must be a moment that you should not be suspicious of anything that starts with ” O “.

  4. Leencho may be speaking for himself. Who really needs unity with such stone-headed people like Girma Tefera anyway. A person who does not recognize your existence can not respect you or your rights. How can one expect to live in peace and equality with such people who live only in thir own dream world.
    Poor Leencoo; Assedabi neh! We don’t need habesha underdogs like you. Unity comes only if there is reciprocal recognition. Habeshas have to learn that yet. Don’t think that Oromos are only those tail wagging dogs. F**ck you unity nonsense!


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