The #OromoProtests of 2015-16 constitute a milestone in the recent history of the Oromo nation. More importantly, they are a continuation of a century of resistance the Oromo have mounted against a succession of ruling elites in Ethiopia who have denied Oromo nationhood, dismissed Oromo nationalism as an elite conspiracy and denigrated the Oromo people’s capacity for self-government. The #OromoProtests have proved that the Oromo are a nation unified in a common national purpose and able to pursue political goals through sophisticated civil action against a heavily armed military.
Furthermore, the heroic #OromoProtests have shown that Oromia is the epicenter of the struggle against totalitarian rule in Ethiopia. They have earned respect within and without for the young generation of Oromo and reaffirmed the longstanding observation that Oromo is a great African nation.
What has already been achieved bodes well for the challenges of the future. The Oromo people have embraced their national heritage and championed Oromummaa as a marker of dignity. The foundation of Oromo nationhood has been reestablished and the struggle for national liberation has advanced onto a higher plane.
We are now witnessing epochal events unfolding. The ancient Oromo nation is being reborn in our time in the womb of the historic #OromoProtests. A new generation of Oromo has risen with unprecedented heroism affirming the unity of the nation and in defense of Oromo national pride, heritage and civilization. The Oromo people have clearly expressed their demands for self-determination, popular sovereignty, democratic order, peace and respect for human dignity.
Oromo realize and embrace national unity as a sense of belonging and consciousness about their common values, knowledge, modes of thinking, aspirations, feelings, and behavior that bind people together. The Oromo people inherited longstanding patterns from the gadaa civilization and are reclaiming them through an inexorable rise of national consciousness. The realization of sacred values has led to contemporary expressions of the Oromo national struggle that have united the Oromo people in Oromia to the stage that they have been able to mount a historic protest movement.
The Oromo nation has rebelled against a century-old experience of political exclusion, economic exploitation and cultural domination carried out by successive regimes. They have risen against the rule of violence with which a cabal springing from a minority group captured state power and suffocated them for many decades. The unity that was forged at the crucible of the Oromo struggle against tyranny must now be sustained by unity held together through common heritage, common purpose and common destiny. The paradigm of Oromo nationalism is now shifting from articulating grievances to presenting forward-looking principles and demands for forming independent institutions that will become the foundation of a democratic state.
Therefore it has become imperative to call for an Oromo leadership convention. We expect the convention as a single gathering or a series of meetings of Oromos from all walks of life to gather and deliberate and issue foundational documents that will affirm the Oromo nation’s commitment to both Oromo gadaa principles of national unity and to the core precepts of gadaa governance, values and institutions in a free, democratic and self-reliant Oromia. The following outcomes are expected.
1. Declaration Affirming Principles of Oromo Unity and a National Consensus on Oromo Rights and Interests
This document will articulate the principles that have held the Oromo nation together in the face of colonial tyranny and a century of concerted effort to divide the Oromo along lines of region, religion and lineage. It will affirm the ways that Oromo unity is rooted in the Oromo heritage of gadaa systems-complex. This will ensure that the emergent Oromo nation is reborn of gadaaprinciples of the rule of law, commitment to equality and right of free expression for all persons, communal solidarity, collective land ownership, peacemaking and respect for human rights.
The document will articulate the Oromo nation’s commitment to the goals of democracy, sustainable and inclusive development, social peace and harmony, and fundamental human rights. Recalling that Ethiopian imperial conquests against the Oromo nation and the subsequent colonial subjugation were facilitated by Western support and technologies of coercion, the document will uphold and proclaim the Oromo nation’s self-sufficiency in terms of ideas and practices of governance and social cohesion. The Oromo national vision will exemplify our national heritage of gadaa principles of democratic governance, human development, peacemaking, and human rights.
2.The Oromo National Charter of Freedom, Justice and Human Rights
Affirming gadaa values as a guide for a common future, the second document will restate the core demands expressed in the Oromo protest movement. In effect, it will operationalize the consensus of the Declaration in light of the current demands of the#OromoProtests. These demands include restoration of the practice of popular sovereignty, equality of individual and group rights, freedom of participation in work, industry and development, equal and unencumbered access to resources, equality before the law, freedom from oppressive rule by arbitrary decree, entitlement to personal security, protection of cultural rights and symbols, and adequate access to land, housing, education and standard of living.
3.Grand Strategyfor a CoordinatedHumanitarian and Diplomatic Effort
The diaspora plays a critical supporting role for the watershed events that have now unfolded in Oromia. The Oromo in the diaspora have stood in solidarity with the Oromo protestors. Members of the diaspora have helped in making the voices of the protestors heard around the globe. The humanitarian support effort and the diplomatic work conducted so far are an encouraging measure of solidarity and shared purpose with the protests themselves. The work on all fronts needs to go forward with equal determination but in a much more coordinated network of groups and efforts. The Convention attendees will deliberate on how to build on best practices to cultivate Oromo national organizational capacity for liberation and democratic state building.
The Convention will be a gathering composed of leaders of Oromo community associations, civic, business and professional organizations, youth and women groups, artists, faith-based groups, liberation fronts and political parties, and notable individuals. The goal is to have as broad a representation as possible. Delegates will receive the documents ahead of the gathering. At the Convention, they will consider the documents, debate, provide recommendations, amend and take decisions. All delegates will have enough time to deliver remarks to contribute to shaping the yaa’ii’s final deliberations and resolutions.
The leadership convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, November 11-13, 2016.
Oromo Leadership Convention Organizers