By Urgessa G. Tura
It is a little over two decades since OPDO was assembled together by TPLF political engineers in Tigray and officially unveiled in Darraa District of Oromia’s North Shoa Zone. Since then OPDO’s rank and file members were squeezed between a rock and hard wall. On the one hand, Oromo nationalists charge them as Gobanists for colluding with the enemy and facilitating TPLF’s grip on power. I have no qualms with such characterization because most, if not all, OPDO members were/are the messenger boys of the Tigrayan ruling elites. On the other hand, core TPLF politicos have always been skeptical of the loyalty of OPDO members and keep an eye on them as an internal enemy. For instance, during the power struggle between MZ and Seeye et al in 2001, TPLF focused on dismantling OPDO and humiliating its leaders as compared to ANDM. Kuma and his senior crew were dismissed from leadership positions in Oromia while the mid-level and low-ranking cadres of the organization underwent similar fate under the veil of renewal. President Negaso Gidada was denigrated by the cadres of the regime loyal to MZ when he courageously stood against Zenawi’s growing dictatorship in the EPRDF. Dr. Negaso was later denied of all the privileges of an outgoing leader of the nation only because he had political differences with MZ.
The humiliation of OPDO leaders didn’t stop there. Similarly, Juneidi was removed from presidency of Oromia region after the 2005 national parliamentary election with a view to destabilize Oromia Government’s institutions and deny the region continuity of leadership. Few years later, when Abba Dula gained relatively fair political support from the public throughout the region and rank and file members of OPDO, TPLF hurried to oust him from Oromia’s chief executive office and the chairmanship of OPDO. Now it is Juneidi’s turn once again.
The vicious cycle of humiliating OPDO leaders has continued at the behest of TPLF leadership. When more than 100 Oromia public officials were detained en masse while attending state meetings at Galma Abba Gada in Adama last year, the reasons given were stamping out corruption and abuse of public office. The reality, however, is that the TPLF led regime itself has officially admitted that the most corruption-prone sectors are revenue collection, customs authority and land administration. Obviously, these vulnerable sectors are disproportionately occupied by TPLF and ANDM members though we haven’t heard of the necessity to hold them accountable. Hence, the double standard is unhidden.
Every time a political crisis is in the making in TPLF’s Ethiopia, the primary targets from within the system have been, and continue to be, the OPDO messenger boys. Now the question is how many more years do OPDO members need to mature politically and stand on their own feet. In legal parlance, OPDO has already attained the age of majority because Ethiopian law provides that anyone above 18 years old is presumed to be capable of doing things that bind him legally. Despite existing for over two decades OPDO still remains under the tutelage of TPLF. As OPDO’s guardian ad litem, TPLF makes literally every decision for the organization, including appointing, de-appointing and evaluating the performances of OPDO Central Committee members. Thus, unless OPDO breaks the political contract with TPLF and enters into new social contract with their real constituency – the Oromo political community – there is no chance to escape the political bullying from TPLF.
In a country characterized by rigid hierarchical authority it is unheard of when a sitting minister is humiliated by the media personnel. Rest assured that this can never happen to political heavyweights from TPLF. Juneidi’s recent row over his wife’s arrest with Mimi Sebhatu et al and the regime’s security machine is emblematic of TPLF’s domination and arrogance. It demonstrates the extent to which TPLF may go to eliminate potent leaders from its EPRDF satellite parties. The crime of Juneidi is speaking and writing his mind about his wife’s arrest as a private citizen. Every Ethiopian is entitled to expressing his opinion freely under the laws of the land, and this has nothing to do with interference with the legal process as trumpeted by Commander Abebe Zemikael of TPLF’s Federal Police Commission. Truth be told, how many times have Meles Zenawi and Bereket Simon indicted and convicted their political foes on the public electronics media while Commander Abebe’s investigative officers were handling the matter. The PR Office of Director General Werkeneh Gebeyehu’s Commission has never rebuked these individuals, who wield the real political power. In the first place, no public media would dare to air such rebuke vis-à-vis MZ and Bereket; in the second place, Commander Abebe would immediately be labeled a corrupt or a terrorist the next morning if he, let alone making such press release, but contemplates of making one against the ‘Minister of Miscommunication’ or MZ.
If OPDO members think for a micro-second that this saga is a personalized assault against Juneidi for his wife’s alleged support of the ‘Dimtsachin Yisema Movement’, I want to tell them that they are dead-wrong. This is part of the crisis management of TPLF to get rid of those who may pose a challenge to TPLF’s monopoly of political and economic power. If OPDO waits silently while its powerhouse is delegitimized by die-hard TPLF media patrons and the security machine, there is no chance for OPDO membership to emancipate themselves from humiliation under TPLF’s tutelage. And the other OPDO leaders are not safe and secure for Juneidi’s predicament would certainly be their fait accompli too. If OPDO calls itself a political organization, worth the designation, it has to stand for the tenure security of its leaders for the political risks they take. Otherwise the organization will lose the little support it has thereby dangerously heading toward its suicidal political bankruptcy. Stand for your leaders or disassemble the organization and get of the way so that our political community can put in place its true representatives.
Urgessa G. Tura was formerly a judge with Oromia Supreme Court. He is currently persuing an advanced degree at Harvard Law School. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org