By Birhanemeskel Abebe Segni
There are three issues that the TPLF is likely to use for its sinister and divisive purposes to divide the Oromo and Amhara alliances unless the OPDO and ANDM immediately own those issues and decide both the timing and the strategy of addressing them. These are 1) issue of political prisoners, 2) the issue of Addis Ababa, and 3) the issue of making Afaan Oromo federal working language.
The TPLF can easily frame these three issues in divisive manners unless the Oromo and Amhara people immediately own these issues and decides to address them jointly; and the OPDO and ANDM provide the requisite leadership both at the Federal, Addis Ababa and Regional levels.
Let’s see each of them one by one.
1. The Issue of Political Prisoners.
99.9% of political prisoners in Ethiopia are Oromo and Amhara nationals. TPLF arrested them wholesale and in mass. These arrests were made by political decision of the TPLF and carried out by the security apparatus run by the TPLF. As the result of the mounting pressure from the Oromo protests and the Amhara resistance, the TPLF is now forced to release them. Yet, the retail release of these political prisoners who were arrested wholesale is being used in such a way that the TPLF will get some political divided both nationally and internationally. For instance, the release of Dr. Merera Gudina, a prominent Oromo politician, yesterday without releasing an Amhara politician of similar stature was a political decision made by the TPLF. Had they released Dr. Merera with an Amhara politician, imagine their joint appearance in Addis Ababa and the popular joy and unity that would have brought all over the world. Add to that the Demitsechin Yisema Group. That would have unified the country and mobilized the people from east to west and from north to south. Now, as the Oromo people rejoice, the Amhara people are waiting. When the Amhara people rejoice at the release of some Amhara politicians, the Oromo people will be waiting for the release of the next cluster. The same holds true of the Muslim community. In this way, the TPLF is not only denying joint celebration but also is using it divide the victims of the same repression. The OPDO and the ANDM should have negotiated the manners of the unconditional release of all political prisoners in details to deny the TPLF this divisive role. The issues of political prisoners are a unifying and cross-cutting issue among all Ethiopians. Yet, it could also be used to divide the victims by playing one victim against the other. The Oromo and Amhara people must understand this fact and act in unison to deny the TPLF its desired goals by jointly celebrating when political prisoners are released, as well as by jointly calling for the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners.
2. The issue of Addis Ababa
The project of separating Addis Ababa from the former Shewa Province was introduced by the TPLF as part of breaking the political and economic influence of Shewa Oromo and Shewa Amhara alliance in Ethiopia. The stated goal of the TPLF was to end the Shewan dominance in Ethiopia. As part of that TPLF project to break Shewa, Emperor Menelik and Ras Gobana, the two leaders one should have credited for the creation Ethiopia as we know it today, are painted as twin evils and symbols of all the ills in Ethiopia. As part of the same project, the former Shewa province was divided into seven small parts in order to make it powerless. Again, this divide and rule policy were sold as the divide between Oromo and Amhara with the TPLF as the peacemaker. This is pure TPLF poly. The Oromo and Amhara people should take the issue of Addis Ababa away from the TPLF. TPLF cannot be both the creator of the problem and the solution provider. The TPLF and other groups may have an auxiliary role in matters of Addis Ababa, but providing p a permanent solution in settling the issue of Addis Ababa rests with the Oromo and Amhara people. The Oromo and Amhara people must own this issue and solve it in a way that will protect the best interests of both people and other Ethiopians living in Addis Ababa by providing visionary leadership. OPDO and ANDM should take the lead in setting the strategy and the timetable for settling this issue instead of running on the timetable of the TPLF. TPLF could easily use the issue of Addis Ababa to divide the Oromo and Amhara people to prolong its lifeline. And that lifeline will neither benefit the Oromo nor the Amhara except the TPLF.
3. The issue of making Afaan Oromo federal working language.
Again this is one of the key issues for the Oromo people. As long as the wall of exclusion and marginalization of the Oromo people from the economic, political and social life of Ethiopia by using language remains in place, the situation of the Oromo people will continue to be precarious every passing day. This is an issue that needs an immediate solution. Afaan Oromo must be made federal working language alongside with Amharic immediately. Here again, the TPLF could easily play Afaan Oromo against Amharic unless the Oromo and Amhara people own the issue and skillfully handle it. The OPDO and ANDM leadership must make the issue of making Afaan Oromo federal working language a joint agenda of the Oromo and Amhara people. The TPLF should not be allowed to use this critical issue as a tool of political division and infighting between the Oromo and Amhara people. In fact, I would suggest that the OPDO and the ANDM make Afaan Oromo one of the key joint agenda of the Oromo and Amhara collaboration. That is good for Ethiopia, and it is good to strengthen the fraternity and brotherhood of the Oromo and the Amhara people.
Therefore, it is critically important for the Oromo and Amhara people, politicians, activists, and scholars to understand the importance and implications of these issues and own them and provide leadership on them. Progressive elements within the OPDO and ANDM should also seriously consider their moves both in terms of timing, priority, and strategy in solving those issues without being derailed or fall into the trap the TPLF might set for them.