By Tullu Liban
It is unfortunate that our mind is preoccupied now and then with TPLF generated ridicules. It seems we are yet to be overwhelmed much by such anecdotes. However, incumbent on us to fight it back. Intrigues after intrigues are designed by the regime to constrict its grip on our fate, though we can’t afford to concede, no matter what it takes.
A month ago, authorities in Finfinnee dispatched a draft document meant to provide for a “Special Interest of Oromia over Finfinnee”( to check the heartbeat of our people?). When they learned, they were bombarded with a storm of criticism, they denied that they were the source of the document. OPDOs could have benefited from the discussions Oromo intellectuals made if they were smart enough. Their failure to stand up to this very perilous draft act is a litmus paper for OPDOs to prove whether their true masters are the Oromo people or the TPLF oligarchies.
Having said so, let’s look at the so-called draft law. Even though a comprehensive account of the so-called “Special Interest” proclamation is yet to emerge, summary of the draft law has already been presented in the statement of the Council of Ministers and the points raised here are based on the statement released to the media. The following fundamental points are clear indicators that the said draft law is useless and unacceptable as far as Oromia interest over Finfinnee is concerned.
1. Finfinnee is a legitimate land of Oromia; thus, it should be solely or jointly governed by the Oromia state. This enables Oromia to design and execute whatever comes thereof as its benefit. There is no mention of this crucial point.
2. Oromia should get a share from revenues generated from its land. The draft law doesn’t guarantee this essential right.
3. From the very outset, the draft proclamation presupposes that eviction of Oromo farmers will continue under a pretext of development. Who will define the so-called development? Is investment synonymous with development? Why the farmers can’t be shareholders in the investment ventures as providers of the major component for investment-their land? Who are the developers after all? Settler Evictors? When and where does Finfinnee stop growing horizontally? Why does it still yawn to swallow the surrounding farm lands?
4. Where is the demarcation between Finfinnee and Oromia? How can the two administrations talk about delimiting their territories when the law fails to provide for border delimitation?
5. Finfinnee is surrounded by Oromia farmlands. Therefore, it should stop damping garbage on Oromo land and polluting blood vein water sources of the Oromo farmers. The so-called draft law, envisages to continue with this sore practice albeit containing calming verbose. Who decides, what when how and where to dispose Finfinnee waste? Due to these 5 main reasons among others, the draft law is distasteful and trash.
Unless theses fundamental questions are answered, there will be no Oromia interest is served in Finfinnee and the deadlock will continue between Oromia and the capital city. The fight will not stop and it will be hardly possible for the capital city to uphold its violent, expansionist, exclusionist and segregationist bearing on the Oromo people under the guise of “Oromia’s Special Interest”. The so-called draft law is offensive and problematic instead of a solution.
These questions in mind, let us yet raise few points to reveal other shortfalls. We will challenge the draft law both in its substantive values and implications.
Some issues in the “Social Service” paragraphs in the statement
a. According to the statement of Council of Ministers, Finfinnee administration will arrange primary schools for farmers in Finfinnee and citizens who want their children to learn in Afan Oromo.
• Are there farmers in the city currently or the Finfinnee is planning to annex Oromo farming lands?
• Why Afan Oromo is limited to elementary schools? What if parents or students want Afan Oromo beyond elementary classes?
b. The statement pronounces that Finfinnee will consider Oromo natives in its hospital service plan. What does it mean? Oromos are not getting health services in hospitals in Finfinnee now? In what sense, does Finfinnee plan hospitals for Oromos? Will it be a discount of service fee? Will Finfinnee assign Afan Oromo speaking health professionals? Will it allocate additional resources for Oromo farmers? We will see it.
c. Here is another funny clause in the statement “Oromia Special Zone is established around Finfinnee to tailor services”. Is this not wired? We know for sure that the Finfinnee Environ Special Zone has been in place since 2006. In what terms the Special Zone could serve a special interest of Oromia now?
d. Another baffling phrase reads “to provide services for Oromo nationals who use their language, Afan Oromo will serve as a working language of the city”.
e. This is a very elusive and deceptive statement. When examined carefully, this statement doesn’t present Afan Oromo as a working language of the city. The language is used only when Oromos are interested to get service in their language. This is simply a translation service, may be in court and hospital settings. It is normally limited to official services. The service wouldn’t include transactions in a public sphere. The working language of the city, continues to be Amharic. The statement doesn’t indicate that Afan Oromo will be a parallel working language alongside Amharic. If Afan Oromo becomes the second language of the city, there will be a lot of changes. For instance, signboards throughout the city, bus and taxi tags, formal speeches in the city administration, city government parliament working language, documents, etc. must be presented Afan Oromo together with Amharic. Afan Oromo speaking personnel should be in public service in key sectors like transport, banks, market centers, malls, and city government institutions. Unfortunately, that is not the spirit of the draft law. It is about simple translation service for Oromos who don’t communicate in Amharic. That a thinly service. It serves no special interest. Shame on OPDO braggadocios who open their wide mouth as if Afan Oromo has become the language of the city. They believe so may be out of ignorance, because they seem to understand little of the illusions they live in.
f. Moreover, we heard that foot prints that reflect Oromo identity and historical events, memorials, roundabouts, avenues and neighborhood names will bear Oromo identity “as deems necessary”. Who will decide the necessity of these stuff then? Who will decide where and when the said provisions be executed? Who will monitor the implementation? In fact, this is a mask, empty mask. There are several such laws, regulations, and directives that are on shelf for years because making a law is not an end by itself.
g. It is also mentioned that conditions will be facilitated for the establishment of Oromo cultural centers, recreational sites and theatre. We raise the same question here? Who decides? The questions we raise here directly relate to the fundamental point we raised in item 1 of this piece.
h. The statement clearly defined that Addis Ababa will continue to be used as a designated name for the city at international, national and city level. Who cares? Did you laugh like me to read a phrase that says, the name Finfinnee is equal with Addis Ababa before the law? What is this? Excuse my ignorance that I was not aware the name Finfinnee was inferior to Addis Ababa. A special right? Yeah?
Regarding Oromia’s economic interest on Finfinnee
All the economic issues on “a special interest” bowel down to question #2 we raised earlier. Unless Oromia is able to appropriate the revenue that Finfinnee generates (in whatever arrangement) the talk of economic benefits is a groundless rhetoric and useless as well. Just let’s unveil the essence of some heavy but empty words in the economic benefits section.
a. The statement articulates that Oromia will benefit from services like water supply, liquid and solid waste disposal, transport services, employment opportunity and condominium houses built by government expense, market center facilities and adequate compensation when farmers are evicted for “development” purposes. Look at this joke, who will determine the amount of services Oromia should get? Why does Finfinnee predetermine that farmers will be evicted? Why doesn’t Finfinnee plan its waste disposal within its own boundary? Condos: Is the law referring to condos that will be built in future? When? Can’t Oromos be eligible as citizens for condos without a special interest? By the way there are endless yet untold shams around Finfinnee condos. I may write about it some other time. Just to throw a little light on the impracticality of the condo issue, let us mention two key points. Condominium house is not a charity project. You have to pay in hundreds thousands. Would it be really a level walk for the Oromo farmer? Back in 2004, when Arkebe Equbay was appointed mayor of the city, he pledged to construct 100,000 house units in 5 years and some 400,000 people were registered to own condos. However, the city was able to satisfy only some 80,000 expectants in ten years (up to 2014). If the construction continues with same pace, even in the next 30, years the first-round registers will not own condos let alone a newcomer Oromo farmer.
b. The statement also mentions that Oromia will benefit from transport networks that the city provides. What a joke? Finfinnee is not mandated to construct roads in Oromia. Highway roads are constructed by central government and regions are mandated to construct gravel roads in their respective territories. So Finfinne will not provide the infrastructure. The current relation is based on transport service that is purely guided by market drives. Oromos pay the fare like any citizen and go back and forth to Finfinnee for business. As we know Anbessa city bus and taxies travel as far as Teji, in the south west, Chancho in the north, Sandafa in the north east, Bishoftu in the east and Holota in the west. So, where is the point that Oromia special interest is served? Will there be a special fare for Oromos?
c. The so-called law discusses that Oromo youth will get job opportunity in the enterprises undertaken by Finfinnee administration in the surrounding areas. Here there is a big question, what is Finfinnee’s business in the surrounding areas? By default, the meddling of Finfinnee administration in the surrounding areas, means another version of the “Integrated Addis Ababa Master Plan” we rejected and died to reject.
d. In the economic benefit camouflage, there is one clear position designated to the Oromo people. They are not mall owners, they are not wholesalers, they are not building owners, they are not merchants. They are poor farmers who bring agricultural products to the market and feed dwellers of the city most of whom are settlers. There is no affirmative action that provides for the Oromo people to become modern business owners and dwellers in their own city in a modern fashion of the day. They are grossly supposed to remain as farmers forever, no matter how fast the city encroaches to their dooryard.