Comments on NTV and OLF "army" in Ethiopia
Gemeda Humnasa 08/12/09
The OLF has become so weak and insignificant in the Oromo nation, that it did not deserve this article. But after over 15 years since we last heard of OLF "in action," this week the Kenyan Media NTV reported on it and i decided to give some comments about it.
As an Oromo, I felt sorry for the NTV journalist who appeared to know very little basic facts and current events in the Oromo community. Some of NTV journalist Yassin Juma's funny comments include saying Oromos are over 40 Million in population and over 50% of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, He missed the facts by over 10 million. Mr. Yassin also implied Oromos don't have or get education and the chance to speak their language in Ethiopia, from his "interviews" in the video. Once again, facts were not his side. Ironically, Oromos make up the largest student population in Ethiopia today and as we have also seen the drastic growth in new colleges and universities, the Meles Zenawi governent has built over 8 times more state universities than all previous Ethiopian governments combined. Again ironically, the Meles Zenawi government is the first government in history to promote Afan Oromo language, literature, culture, with thousands of new books published in Qubee Afan Oromo under Meles era.
The NTV journalists made many mistakes collecting information about Ethiopia but the NTV documentary has more meaning to all of us than we think. Even though, Mr. Yassin Juma made many factual mistakes about Ethiopia during his NTV "documentary," his videos actually hurted OLF more than it helped it.
OLF on its dying bed
Even though, the NTV documentary made a mistake by advertising about a terrorist organization the way it did, the NTV videos also exposed 3 important facts about the OLF.
1) With around 36-fighters left, the OLF has the smallest "army" in world history
2) OLF has become a criminal organization with records of killings, massacres (even inside Kenya)
3) OLF's leadership is divided and broken beyond repair.
Looking at the video, if i was Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, i would have written a THANK YOU letter to NTV. Why? The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a movement that once had tens of thousands of men and wome fighters, have been left with one woman and about 35 men. This is one of the most embarassing videos for the OLF. But it also shows the achievements of Meles Zenawi, his ethnic federalism system and the improving economic policies. It shows that under the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) leadership, Oromo people have gained autonomy, self-rule and progress even if many challenges remain.
After over 36 years of fighting in the forest and desert, the OLF has been left with about 36 fighters. This translates to one fighter per a year to an organization claiming to represent around 30 million Oromo population worldwide. If we calculate these numbers to see the percentage of Oromos fighting for OLF ( 36 divided by 30 Million) we are looking at less than 0.00012% of the global Oromo population actually working on the ground for the OLF. This is what the OLF has achieved after almost 40 years now. If anyone that is reading my article is interested, i would ask you to please contact the Guinness book of World Records because the OLF might have actually broken the world record with this above ratio of population to a "liberation movement" [Qabsoo bilisummaa Oromoo (QBO)]
The second fact the NTV unintentionally exposed is how criminal the OLF has become over the years. In its videos, the NTV broadcasted about the massacres committed by the OLF terrorists even in northern Kenya. The OLF has always attempted to deny these accusations by diverting attention to the TPLF, but this time, the accusations come from Kenya and OLF has no credible answer. The OLF has been responsible for many other massacres over the years, including the Bagalla massacre, Arba Guugu massacre, Asosa massacre and Bodeno massacre. Desperate groups take desperate measures.
In the NTV film, the naive journalist asked one of the OLF commanders about the massacres and as expected he did not know about it. That was no surprise since the OLF has a leadership crisis while the foot soldiers on the ground die in mass. The OLF chairman is Dawud Ibsa, not Kemal Gelchu as the NTV journalist said. In fact, the Diaspora-based Dawud Ibsa OLF group did not even like the NTV broadcasting about the OLF because of the power struggle inside the OLF leadership. Obviously, if you ask a pro-Kemal Gelchu commander on the ground about a massacre committed by OLF many years ago when Dawud Ibsa was a top leader, the commander is not going to know anything what happened at that time.
But whatever the case, the NTV exposed once again the crimes of the OLF leaders and its gunmen in the horn of Africa over the years. Will the OLF leaders face justice for their crimes? Will pro-OLF Oromos condemn these crimes by OLF or are pro-OLF Oromos hypocrites about human rights? Will the international community hold responsible leaders of violent armed groups (like OLF) in exile? These are the questions we are left with.
This also brings us to the third fact about the OLF, which is that it has been broken apart into pieces and it is beyond repair. Go to the "official" OLF website of Dawud Ibsa and you would not see the NTV documentary that talks about OLF movement in the Kenya-Ethiopia border.
If the fact that OLF has just a few dozen fighters left on the ground was not embarrassing enough, the OLF leaders are even worse by fighting eachother to get their hands on the "throne" for the leftovers (terefrafi.)
Somali Pattern in foreign media
Knowing who the journalists and their backers are, often tells us what motivated them to take up on unusual projects (like this NTV documentary on OLF.) The NTV journalist Yassin Juma is from the Somali ethnic group and he claimed Ethiopia is also fighting the ONLF due to the "colonial history." According to the Germany media DPA, the Somali Mr. Yassin Juma is "a Kenyan journalist who covers Somalia and the Somali community in Kenya."
Most of us Oromos know about some of the expansionist Somali armed groups like the Somali Abbo Liberation Front (SALF) which tried to annex Oromia into "GREATER SOMALIA" in the 1980s. Due to their patriotic efforts, many Oromos were killed trying to defend their territories in Bale and Arsi from the invading Somalis. Oromo Ethiopians defeated the SALF in many occassions but reminants of the Somali invasion are still visible in Somali conquered lands as Somali gunmen still target innocent Oromo civilians today.
In general, the Somali journalist Mr. Yassin is likely to have been motivated by his personal agenda against Ethiopia and if the independent and much respected Kenyan managers inside the NTV did not block Yassin, he could have actually used the media in other destructive ways.
It is not the first time that a Somali journalist with political agenda tried to use foreign and international media to attack Ethiopia. The Somali Mr. Mohammed Adow of Al Jazeera program also used his journalist job to pursue his political agenda and reported on the ONLF terrorists labeling them as liberators from colonization and comparing Ogaden to Darfur. To add insult to injury, Mr. Mohammed spoke of abuses by Ethiopian government after the ONLF terrorists massacred dozens of Ethiopians and Chinese. Thus, we patriotic Ethiopians should be aware of such political use of the media against our country.
In the video, the NTV journalist reveals how the Eritrean government actually communicated with him and guided him, even giving the Kenyan journalist old videos of OLF rebels training in Eritrea. So we all know these propaganda videos were part of the Eritrean one-party government scheme. The Eritrean "ambassador" in Nairobi was left speechless after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exposed the Asmara regime to the world and then he tried to coverup Eritrea's indirect role in the NTV documentary despite the naive NTV journalists themselves mentioning Eritrea's role in the OLF training camps in Eritrea seen in the videos. All of us remember those repetitious videos of OLF in Eritrea from the propaganda films on Eri-TV, the Asmara based TV station.
For those foreign people who don't know about Eri-TV, it is one of the least informative state-run television channels in the world, that has bored Eritreans to death. I would not be surprised if some of the hundreds of Eritreans fleeing out of Eritrea every month was because they couldn't stand another minute of Eri-TV and were just having enough of it. But on a serious note, Eri-TV is very famous for "mocking" the Ethiopian government every day by using video clips of Ethiopian opposition parliamentarians criticizing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. That is always ironic because the Eritrean dictator Isayas allows no parliament, no opposition party, no elections, no constitution and certainly no Eritrean there to criticize him. The Eri-TV is also famous for broadcasting funny videos of fighters in Eritrean desert to appear as if they are in Ethiopia, conquering regions after regions in Ethiopia and so, according to this Eritrean TV station, "woyane is almost finished" everyday the last 10 years. (Woyane=nickname for Ethiopian ruling party branch)
So It is not surprising that Eritrea helped the NTV journalist Yassin Juma and the Eritrean version of OLF led by "Chairman" Kemal Gelchu was promoted in the NTV documentary while the real OLF "leader" Dawud Ibsa was ignored. The ill-informed NTV journalist said he "finally" got a reply from the OLF after "three years" of trying to reach them. Little did he know that the OLF he was contacted by three years ago is actually different from the OLF he was contacted by this year.
Today, the Eritrean regime is facing a bipartisan condemnation from Washington D.C. as the new Obama administration has rebuked the state-sponsored terrorism of Asmara, even more than the Bush administration did. Having failed to win with the al Shabab and ONLF, the Eritrean dictatorship is trying to stay alive using the "army" of the 36-men "strong" OLF terrorists. But even most Diaspora supporters of OLF are staying away from the Eritrean regime because of its connections with the al Shabaab terrorists wanted by the CIA. But dictator Isayas is working overtime many hours a day to survive, as all his neighbors, most Eritreans and the international community continue to rebuke him. The Eritrean Eri-TV is the remaining weapon dictator Isayas has to keep some diehard OLF supporters brainwashed. Ironically, the Eri-TV entertains its OLF Oromo guests in Asmara by illegally copying videos of our Oromo singers and videos from Ethiopia (ETV). Why would Eri-TV advertise the successes of Meles Zenawi government by showing Oromo cultural and music videos from Ethiopia? Nobody knows. But in general, the resources for OLF members in Eritrea are drying up quickly as the Eritrean regime (worst economic performer in Africa) continues to suffer under economic crisis while trying to hide the starvation in Eritrea. (United Nations(UN) previously reported that around 67% of Eritreans face severe starvation but most NGOs are not allowed there) *
The NTV documentary about the OLF fighters on the ground have been a big boost to OPDO in the Diaspora. With just 0.00012% of Oromos actually fighting for the OLF cause, the OLF has actually provided a new extreme definition of the word "minority." It appears that the OLF has been rejected by Oromos more than we originally thought.
After nearly 40 years, OLF can only show us a few dozen fighters stranded along the Kenya-Ethiopia open border, singing in Oromo language and drinking camel blood in the desert.
Meanwhile, millions of Oromos are living their lives peacefully in Ethiopia, enjoying a young democracy, running in world stages winning gold medals, protecting our country, working hard to build Ethiopia's economy from scratch and enjoying diverse cultures, singing the same Oromo songs in the big stages of Adama & Finfinne (Addis Ababa.)
Thanks to the NTV, the world and Oromos worldwide have witnessed OLF at its lowest form, too weak, too small and with little support.** Yes, there are still some Oromos in the Diaspora who support the dying OLF with their hard earned money. All of us Oromos know this. In fact, over the last almost 40 years since OLF was formed, its wealthy Diaspora Oromo financers have wasted an estimated 250 Million Dollars to fund its "Armed struggle" in Ethiopia. Most of these Oromos have now regretted for wasting so much money on nothing, but more Oromos need to wake up. Where could we better use our hard earned money? How much development could we have financed with all of that $250,000,000 over the years? These are important questions all of the remaining few pro-OLF Oromo Diaspora should ask. People have suffered enough in the name of OLF. Enough bloodshed has occured. Now it is time for peace and development. Oromo people in Ethiopia have spoken loud and clear.
* The statistic above on Eritrea starvation comes from the WFP division of the UN.
** I send a request or an appeal to Ethiopian Television (ETV) to re-broadcast the NTV documentary about OLF so that urban Oromos can see the reality of the "battle field."