Letter to Dr Negasso from Girma Kassa

(In this email when I refer “Oromos” and “Amharas” , I meant those whose first language is Afar Oromo and Amharic respectively)

Dear Dr Negasso:

Greetings. How are you doing? I followed the event you had at NED. Had I been there, I would have surely attended. I would like to thank you for coming forward with a plan to amend the Ethiopian constitution. If the regime listens, it would have been good, to at least bring everyone together and have some honest discussion about the future of our country.

As we communicated before, I do have some serious disagreements with you, on what you refer to “nations and nationalities” issue. I understand things have changed for the last 24 years. Some of the accomplishments that were achieved when it comes to the right of Oromos and other ethnic groups may not easily be reversed. I do not think we can go back to where we were prior to 1991.

However there are serious problems we are currently facing. Human rights are violated in the name of Ethnic rights. In some places we have even witnessed reverse discriminations and some sort of ethnic cleansings.  Particularly Amharic speaking Ethiopians are selectively targeted. The so called ethnic rights have gone over the limit.

I think the current ethnic federal structure is the primary reason for the ethnic tensions. I believe it ought to be reshaped in such away to reflect the wish not only of the few but of all peoples, and guarantee stability in Ethiopia as well as the regime.  Here are some items I think may help:

  • The current state of Oromia cannot be sustained. It needs to be dismembered in many smaller regions. The same with Amhara and Southern regions.
  • Amharic must be a working language of all regions with more than 10% of minorities.
  • Afan Oromo must be an official language of the federal government together with Amharic. If prospects of having economic and political integration with Eritrea, Djibouti and Somaliland are there, Somali and Tigrigna languages can be added also as working language of the federal government of Ethiopia.
  • All schools in Ethiopia must learn English and Amharic and a third Ethiopian language. The third language can be decided by regional or zonal or wereda governments. For instance regions that came out from Oromia, regions in Wello, Gojam, as well as the city of Addis Ababa may learn Afan Oromo. Regions in Gonder may choose Tigrigna as their third language due to their proximity to Tigray.

In French curriculum, students must learn French and English and a third language of their choice. Many learn Spanish, some German, some Italian, some Latin … So learning three languages in Ethiopia can easily be achieved.   Languages cannot be a barriers and obstacles for stability and peace.

Having Afan Oromo as a federal language as well as teaching it in schools in some regions like, all over Addis Ababa, Shewa, Gojam, Wello .. will help expand the language and culture of the Oromos. I think such approach can be considered as a genuine pro-Oromo approach.

Some who have aspirations to have an Oromia republic in the future, may not like the dismemberment of Oromia. However they must know that the reality on the ground is different. If we look for instance the four Oromia’s zones of Shewa and Addis Ababa, for about 44% of the peoples Afan Oromo is not their first language. This number goes down to 3% in western Wellega. Because of the ethnic discrimination, people are leaving places like western Wellega and coming to Shewa and Addis Ababa areas as refugees. So the demography itself will automatically divide Oromia in half. Already Adama and Addis have merged.

By the way in Addis Ababa only 10% are “Oromos”. In Adama the capital of Oromia 80% are non-Oromos. In Jimma the other largest city of Oromia 60% are non-Oromos.

It is for this reason that we say Oromia cannot be sustained. We need to be practical. On top of that one must not forget that Oromia has nothing to do with Oromo heritage. It is a creation of OLF, an organization which has basically splintered in many groups and rendered itself irrelevant.

I think those Oromia republic advocate better give up on their fantasies and focus on the right of Oromos in the bigger context.

Regards

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