OPDO on Crossroads: What Comes Next?

Tullu Libban

It is a public knowledge that Oromia has been fully under the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) control over the last 26 years, in a camouflage of Ethiopian Peoples’ Democratic Front (EPRDF). In the EPRDF coalition, OPDO has served only TPLF as a tool to cash Oromia. There has no time when OPDO acted as a responsible party to represent the Oromo people because the system never wanted OPDO to play an active role in the entire tenure of EPRDF regime. We don’t need to go into the details of why TPLF created OPDO and why it kept it truncated for so long time. It seems, now the time has changed.
At this moment, it is a question whether TPLF can maintain its control over OPDO, by extension on Oromia, given the dynamics taking place in the political arena in the Ethiopian empire. It is less likely that TPLF could use OPDO as a manipulative political object anymore. In the recent months, OPDO has shown bold resistance towards the humiliating master-slave relationship it has undergone over a quarter a century.
The question is yet, how far this resistance can last and what will be the end result. For both TPLF and OPDO (the father and the child) the Oromo struggle posed undesired challenges. Can TPLF control Oromia without OPDO? Or can OPDO survive without TPLF? No for the father; yes for the child, in my opinion. Therefore, I guess, TPLF must have gone a mile ahead to prepare a plan on how to handle OPDO and maintain its lust for power and control for resources in Oromia. How about OPDO? Does it have any strategy on how to escape being swallowed by the yawing beast (TPLF)?
I believe, OPDO cannot continue to rule Oromia, (at least theatrically), providing a liaising service for TPLF against the interest of the Oromo people. Certainly, TPLF will never enjoy that cheap service from OPDO in the years ahead. However, there will be a lot of headache for the current leadership of OPDO to continue standing up to TPLF’s arrogance. TPLF will try its best to bring to power loyalists from within the OPDO to the higher echelon by removing the current populist figures like Lemma Megerssa, Abiy Ahmed, Addisu Arega, Worqineh Gebeyou etc.
What can TPLF do?
Assumption and scenarios
1. Engaging OPDO in routine rings: TPLF will continue to keep the current leadership busy (creating conflicts here and there, inciting uprisings in schools, industries, neighborhoods, encouraging havoc in Oromia). Then popular demands would remain unanswered in the region, development activities would be halted and resentments escalate to blame the current leadership.
2. Infiltration and sellouts: TPLF may prepare splinters, buy some betrayers to divide OPDO and manipulate internal strife to weaken the emerging force from the OPDO camp
3. Self-criticism and Confession (Gimgema): One of the instruments that TPLF deploys to tame its surrogates and control them with chains on the neck is the so-called gimgama. The masters stuff their subordinates in a hall and demand them to make confessions about perceived or committed “crimes”. The confession session may take a month or a couple of months. There is a character assassination camp known as EPRDF Training Center led by Addisu Legesse, Abay Tsegaye etc. and all top-level officials from all regions and federal government agencies are required to participate in the “training” at least for 2-3 months. Core TPLF circle reps “evaluate” each one of their prey and make a decision about whether the prey would go back to their position or fired and jailed.
4. Democratic Centralism: TPLF has effectively utilized the Stalinist method of democratic centralism, which allows dictators to impose their hegemony on party members, where members have no voice, right and choice to reject whatever percolates from above. They are expected to endorse whatever a small circle in the highest leadership decides. That is the kind of “democracy” in place even in the TPLF rubberstamp parliament, where laws are unanimously enacted without any objection or abstention. Therefore, OPDO members are required to heed to this practice and they would lose ground to hold an independent position on matters affecting their interest and that of the people they represent.
5. Marginalizing OPDO in the EPRDF: The formidable force to challenge TPLF at this moment is OPDO. Recent developments that brought about the alliance of the Oromo people with OPDO is a big blow to TPLF’s governance model. Therefore, TPLF would try its level best to mobilize ANDM and SEPDM against OPDO in a bid to diminish OPDO’s role in decision making on matters of national interest and that of the Oromia region. That would make matters difficult for the OPDO leadership to keep its public promises and pledges.

What should OPDO do then?
I would like to recommend the following points for OPDO to keep the momentum, ensure its relevance, credibility and very survival.
1. Stick to your motto of “Our people, our masters”, depend entirely on the Oromo people and listen to them attentively. Consult with Oromo intellectuals, pause and think over your plans before putting them into actions. That will spare you from committing ridiculous mistakes like erecting a thoughtless monument for Irrecha massacre martyrs and preparing a useless document for Oromia special interest over Finfinnee.
2. Act collectively and ensure profound bond among your members from top to down and stand together. Never let betrayers work against you and the interest of the Oromo people
3. Denounce the labeling of Oromo children as narrow nationalists and terrorists, as you are well aware of why these demeaning terms are used against the self-conscious and self-respecting Oromos
4. Get rid of the so-called democratic centralism and developmental government theories because both are unconstitutional party tools to restrict your free thoughts, actions and decisions
5. Say no to TPLF “gimgema” which is conducted in a master-servant relation manner. Why do Bereket, Abay, Addisu, Debretsion etc. gauge you and decide your fate, course of action and political life. Reverse this practice upside down and criticize them and make them accountable for the atrocities, corruptions, and vandalism in the country.
6. Say no to EPRDF rules and regulations, which are mainly developed by the late Meles Zenawi to serve the interest of TPLF dwarfing OPDO’s role and thereby that of the Oromo people in the political realm
7. Demand to have fair and proportional representation in the EPRDF executive committee and its council as well as in the Federation Council etc. so that you can influence decisions and discussions as per the contribution of Oromia to the national economy and well-being.
8. Calculate what Oromia would lose if OPDO is not part of EPRDF (for instance is there any benefit for Oromia to be in EPRDF coalition better than Gambella or Afar?). Withdrawal from EPRDF is a possibility without, withdrawing from the federation.
In conclusion, if OPDO remains to be controlled by the same tools designed by TPLF and abides by the unfair laws unchanged, it will never achieve any remarkable success. There is no a level playing field. The rules of the game are prepared by TPLF. Therefore, to play on the field where TPLF is both a player and a referee, OPDO will continue to be a loser. It will be trapped in the same vicious circle and remain to host the parasitic TPLF being consumed, of course, letting the Oromo people down as usual.

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