(Dachaassaa Hundaa)

[Previous: Jawar Mohammed: A Bull in a China Shop]

Since the onset of his political engagement, Jawar has been criticizing OLF and the Ethiopian government repeatedly in his pieces of writing. However, what makes Jawar famous in Oromo Diaspora is his bold criticism against OLF’s strategic collapse. Among his articles, a piece entitled “Failure to Deliver: The Journey of the Oromo Liberation Front in the Last Two Decades” is remarkable one. It is notable because Jawar’s major views and opinions on the Oromo politics in general and on OLF and OPDO/EPRDF in particular are reflected clearly in this piece of writing. Even the basic assumptions of his later commentaries via various media can be derived straightforwardly from this essay. Hence, I mainly cite it as an illustration for the subtopic under discussion.

In this article, Jawar has carried out a study on political organization. As far as the discipline of Political Science is concerned, one can use the ‘role’, ‘group’ and ‘organizational’ analysis in this kind of study. As significant as these analyses, the major determinants of party structure such as historical, socio-economic and ideological must be taken into consideration, too. Jawar in his article has studied OLF based on role and group analyses. Therefore, he totally avoids other analyses. According to his study, the failure of OLF lays on the behavioral aspect of its leadership (individuals and factions). For Jawar, OLF’s sin is its failure to keep its promise it gave so far. There should be caution on the fact that Jawar never question the political program of OLF. He accused the Front of being a source of Oromo shame and disappointment by facilitating disintegration, growth of regionalist sentiment and retardation of the movement in general. He further argued that because of weak, undisciplined and incompetent leadership, through exile politics and a cult-like outdated organizational tradition, the OLF could not produce any result over the past decade, therefore brought its own demise. He blamed the organization for its lack of action, breaking promises and fabricated accomplishments.[1] I somewhat agree with this.Photo - Jawar Mohammed

Yet, Jawar’s ‘role’ and ‘group’ analysis to study OLF’s failure, illustrated with a model, is noticeably partial. In his study, key determinants of political organization are not considered. Alas, he told us that the academic training he received at Stanford University helped him give theoretical and philosophical interpretation to the experiences and beliefs he already developed.[2] It is good to graduate from Stanford University and even to join Columbia University. But, did Stanford University teach Jawar that organizational study is limited only to role and group analyses? Is Jawar trained in Stanford University to disregard the relevance of historical, socio-economic and ideological determinants in a study of party organization? Are there no exogenous factors behind the bankruptcy of OLF, such as the success stories of OPDO/EPRDF at home?

Nonetheless, as I emphasised earlier, Jawar states that there is no question that OLF’s political program effectively reflects the just demand of Oromo people. OLF is “the beloved organization of our people” and the leaders are “honourable”.[3] To put it briefly, Jawar has no problem with the colonial thesis. In the study of party system, as mention is made in the above lines, history, socio-economic formation and ideology determine party structure. For Jawar, there is no link between ideology (the political program i.e., colonial thesis) of an organization and the structure of an organization. In short, his premise implies that ideology is not a determinant factor in party organization. He didn’t see or didn’t want to see the relation of OLF’s institutional disarray with its ideological crudeness due to the leader’s ignorance of Oromo history and culture. Indeed, though a student of political science in abroad, his knowledge of Oromo history is shallow.

He, supporting OLF’s ideology, assumed that the Oromo has been under the colony of Abyssinians for more than a century. Jawar at most ignores and at least downplays Oromo’s place in Ethiopian state formation since the 17th century. He didn’t consider the historic role of the Yeju rulers in Wallo and Gonder since the 18th century, the role of Oromo leaders and their numberless followers in the 19th and 20th century such as ras Mikael Ali, Lij Iyasu Mika’el, ras Gobana Dacee, fitawrari Habtegiorgis Dinegde, dajazmach Balcha Safo and plentiful Oromo patriots and their multitude army during the Italian Occupation such as dajazmach Geresu Dhuki, ras Ababa Aragai (grandson of ras Gobana), General Mulugeta Buli and General Jakama Kelo. In the last 40 years of OLF propaganda, these and many other powerful Oromo’s and nameless followers were insulted as enemies of the Oromo people. Gobenist is OLF’s favourite labelling against Oromo Ethiopians, and Jawar says that there is no question that OLF’s political program effectively reflects the just demand of Oromo people. Who is an Oromo? What is their role in Ethiopian history and state formation? When did the Oromo resist conquest against invaders? When did the Oromo themselves participate in the conquest against their kin and others as commanders as well as soldiers? Why?

For these questions, in fact, OLF has its own obsolete and rudimentary explanations. But its monotonous propaganda against ‘Abyssinian’ rule cannot explain the crucial role of the Oromo especially in the Ethiopian state formation. Jawar (the political analyst) could not understand how this ideology (as determinant factor) based on colonial thesis contributed to their strategic fall down. He didn’t notice the very fact that without developing clear and realist political tenet based on Oromo history and culture which encouraged accommodation for centuries, the OLF leadership were fascinated by colonial thesis (intoxicated by the 1960s and 1970s continental and global discourse of decolonization and anti-imperialism) to materialize their elitist ambition to be the founding fathers of a new African state.

Indeed, because of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution, too, the colonial thesis seems to be viable. During those two decades (1960s and 1970s), the ruling class of the imperial government of Ethiopia is disgraced and its nationalist impact was in decline. As a result of widespread opposition from many social groups, the Ethiopian state seemed to lose its rationale for survival. Due to this gloomy atmosphere in Ethiopia, the positive Oromo interaction with the rest of Ethiopian peoples, and even the contributions of the Oromo in the Ethiopian state formation were disregarded altogether with the imperial regime. Hence, owing to the humiliating effect of the Ethiopian Revolution against the imperial version of the Ethiopian nationalism, the menacing war from Somalia along with Eritrea, and the decolonization in Africa, OLF had benefited a lot in building its image without its meaningful endeavour. The context made OLF’s colonial thesis a legendary one temporarily. Let’s read Jawar:

Our elders, the generation that drew the program of the OLF, the generation that produced Qubee, the glorious youth of the 70’s who paid the ultimate price to free us from mental and physical bondage deserves our utmost respect. They will forever be remembered as the generation that saved the beautiful Oromo nation from complete destruction. We are their product, we are proud of being their successors.[4]

He could be their successor. But it is extremely important to consider the context. OLF’s ideology (the colonial thesis) is in some measure a result of contexts such as national (Ethiopian Revolution), regional (Somali war) continental (decolonization) and global (anti-imperialism). Similarly, the unionist thesis that belittles the subjugation of the Oromo is also the product of earlier national context i.e., the power of the Solomonic Dynasty during its apogee. With a sense of lamentation, yet, Jawar writes that it has been years since OLF has ceased to be the pride of the Oromo people and has transformed itself to a source of shame and disappointment by facilitating disintegration, growth of regionalist sentiment and retardation of the movement in general. However, seen from contextual perspective, OLF is as it was 40 years ago. It is the context that is transformed and exposed the image of OLF. Observers fear that Jawar and his fellows would repeat the mistake that OLF had done so far.

When Jawar, the “political analyst”, tried to agitate the Oromo opposition activists at Diaspora to a new organized struggle at home, he also states that today, Oromos are sending their kids to school in millions and are leaving none behind.[5] Bravo! Brilliant! I agree with that! But, who built the schools and the roads? Who established the economic and political system for the training of the teachers, medical personnel, public servants etc? OLF? Emperor Haile Sellassie? Jawar could not answer this question for ideological reasons. Let’s help him by reminding him of some success stories at home. The Oromiya National Regional State and the FDRE give access millions and tens of millions of the Oromo to education, health service, cultural and political empowerment, as well as job opportunities. Regrettably, Jawar and his “honourable OLF leaders” call upon the students for a protest just because they do not have a government position. Who would forget their recurrent “education after liberation” propaganda? What a selfish and shameful claim! The point here is that Disregarding the gradual success of OPDO/EPRDF at home in addressing the demands of the Oromo mass and even some euphoric elites is another shallowness of the “political analyst”.

Jawar, in examining the failure of the Front, has also mentioned the issue of factional politics among the OLF leadership as a problem. Dear political analyst, people became factional because of various reasons. Cliques develop when members lack common and clear goal. Division also prevail when difference emerge on strategic and even personal interests. In this regard, Jawar figured out regionalism along personalities, for instance, from Wallaga. It is important to understand this as a natural manifestation of such a broad people like the Oromo. Ecology and religion have their impacts on party structure. Political Science tells us that history is a determinant factor in party organization. Didn’t Jawar study this at Stanford University? But, regionalism is not only peculiar to the Oromo. There is regionalism among the Amhara, too. We have regionalism such as in Gojjam, Gondar, Wallo, and Shawa. Because he is a reductionist ‘political analyst’, Jawar didn’t examine the historical and cultural factors working on any organization. The point here is that OLF strategic failure should be examined vis-a-vis the ideological, historical and socio-economic determinant factors. Jawar missed this point absolutely. To sum up, conceptually, Jawar failed to see the link between the ideological, historical as well as socio-economic determinants and the organizational nature of a given political group. Furthermore, as a political analyst, he didn’t scrutinize the genesis of OLF with reference to the national, continental and international developments. He only attempted to understand OLF from role perspective (individuals and groups), thus, ended up with shallow interpretation and reductionist views.

Much more can be reflected on Jawar’s other commentaries, interviews and opinions on various pages of the social media as far as Oromo politics is concerned. Not less serious than his conceptual poverty is his factual mistakes as a result of excessive reliance on unverifiable gossips and fanciful sources. For instance, in his article on March 16, 2011 entitled “Meles Zenawi and OPDO Relations Enter A New Phase”, he stated that a massive purging campaign has hit the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the latest drama that slashed 120 senior and mid-level members, is by far the biggest ever. Reportedly, the same fate awaits the remaining leadership including the “Speaker of the House”, Abadula Gemeda.[6] Who are these 120 senior and mid level members? What are the evidences beyond the general number? Can we have at least the names of half of these members with their offices and positions? What about the fate of Oboo Abadula Gemeda even after four years since this “political analysis” is disseminated? Is there any evidence for the alleged personal relation among EPRDF member organizations? Or is it imaginary? Then, what makes a political analyst (like Jawar) an expert in comparison with an ordinary citizen? As there are many more questions, there will be also several more shames.

Jawar has also presented a “paper” on August, 2014 at the OSA conference. It was all about the recent “Oromo movement” and the topic is a timely one and seems to be a fantastic presentation. Sadly, except for the clichéd rhetoric which is full of emotional tenor, Jawar didn’t even define and conceptualize what social movement or protest movement is.[7] What is social movement? What is protest movement? What is the difference between directed and undirected movement? What kind of social movement is Oromo social movement that happened in May, 2014? What makes it different from other Oromo social movements since 1960s? What are the research questions and the hypothesis? Instead of addressing these basic issues, Jawar rushed into his habitual political propaganda. Not to mention the methodological scantiness and empirical shallowness of Jawar’s paper, it does lack the elementary components of any public speech: flow and coherence. Listening patiently to Jawar’s presentation, one automatically suspect whether this ‘political analyst’ knows what he is talking about. In fact, part of his superficiality can be attributed to his confused position as a student of political science and as a political activist. Besides, there is no doubt that he is extremely ambitious to be the leader of Oromo Diaspora opposition group. We will see this point in the last section of this commentary.

[Read the third part: Jawar Mohammed’s understanding of Ethiopian Muslims]

[1] Ibid
[2] Jawar Mohammed:“Oromo movement has achieved its objectives, but not concluded its journey” Interview,Gadaa.com March 12 , 2010
[3] Jawar Mohammed, “Failure to Deliver: The Journey of the Oromo Liberation Front in the Last Two Decades”, On July 27, 2009, p.1
[4]Ibid, p.10
[5] ibid,p.11
[6] Jawar Mohammed, “Meles Zenawi and OPDO Relations Enter A New Phase”, March, 16, 2011.
[7] Jawar Mohammed, Oromo Movement, August 14, 2014.

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