Kassim Sheimo:- Leenco Lata’s Half a Century Old Deception

News broke out recently that Obbo/Mr. Leenco Lata, and his ODF [Oromo Democratic Front] members and associates are heading to Finfinne for another power-sharing dilemma with the TPLF government. It looks like the long and exhausting mediation effort by Obbo Abba Biyya Jobir and Prof. Ephraim Isaac resulted in some sort of road map transition with the regime in the Ethiopian Empire. Mr. Leenco’s political history has not been easy one. It is a complicated one that has created misery for millions of Oromo people, and I am afraid he is still repeating the same without hesitation. In the history of the Oromo struggle, he is a very controversial figure.

Well before joining the Transitional Government (TGE) in 1991, there were some credible sources that indicated that he was actually one of the few who caused the OLF split and orchestrated the blood shade between OLF and IFLO that consumed the lives of thousands of Oromo gallant fighters from both sides in 1978. It was a mysterious division that weakened and hindered the progress of the OLF organizationally, strategically, politically and militarily a decade before the fall of the Dergu regime.

As a defecto leader of the organization, he played a major role in the negotiation that took place in London in 1991. He and his team went to the mediation drama with empty hands and came out empty hands. When TPLF army marched from Tigray down to the South, and was able to take the land piece by piece from the falling Dergu regime and control the entire empire, the organization Obbo Leenco led refused to come out of some of the pocket area of the bush where they were hiding and failed to take that advantage. As a OLF leader at the time, he could have come out and led his fighters to use that golden and favorable opportunity to control much of Oromia. He and many (who are still in the Oromo political leadership with different factional names) defied the plea of many Oromos and some top commanders of the Dergu military (who did not like the influence of the advancing TPLF army) for the OLF to come out and take the Dergu military hardware, land, and even manpower. For unknown reasons, they decided to stay away in some pockets of the bush where they were hiding. That was not only a tragic mistake, but it was also a calculated conspiracy implanted by Obbo Leenco and some innocents bought to his influences.

Right after the London Conference, they grumbled about not having been given enough seats within the TPLF government when they had not liberated a single piece of land. As soon as they entered Finfinne, one of TPLF strategy was to destroy OLF fighters. Through some of the powerful countries in the West, pressures were exerted on Obbo Leenco to dismantle the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) or place it in concentration camps under the pretext of “two powers can not run the country.” Obbo Leenco, being the supreme leader of the OLF at the time, without proper discussions, debates or consensuses with other leaders, the OLF Chairman Ob. Galaasaa Dilboo, and the OLA field commanders, pulled the fighters and put them in the camps – a decision that took many of us by surprise. Those true Oromo children, some who had just joined the OLA from colleges and universities were surrounded and massacred by the TPLF army. Some who survived that tragic cataclysms were hunted and executed while some of them were thrown into jails where they are still suffering from the tortures and inhumane treatments by the TPLF regime. Hundreds of thousands ordinary Oromos who were considered OLF members, sympathizers and donors were hunted in every corner of the country while Obbo Leenco and some of his comrades took the backdoor through the Bole Airport and ran for safety to Europe and America.

Many of us were stunted with the radical twist and development inside of the organization. It was a gimmick and an outrageous act that many still vividly remember as an forgettable dream, and many still wonder why he took such ill-advised actions in 1992. As a prominent politician that he was, he has left us with many unanswered questions whether he was/is working for the Oromo cause as he claims or he is just a selfish and crook politician that does not care about his actions and their consequences. Many of us – who live in America, and else where in Europe and Australia, are among the few have survived, and others are still refugees in the neighboring countries like Kenya, Djibouti and the Sudan. We are living witnesses of that tragic event of Obbo Leenco’s doing. Some determined leaders left behind and fought until their last breath and sacrificed their precious lives. They paid the ultimate sacrifices for the cause they believed in.

Can we ask a fundamental question whether his motivation is going to benefit the Oromo cause or is it going to hurt us this time around again? We, the ordinary Oromos, probably have failed to understand his true intentions – instead brand him as an unpatriotic figure, who knows? Whether we support or act against his actions, we need to debate and discuss so that we will be able to clear the clouds of confusions. I have nothing against Obbo Leenco if he leaves (abandons) politics and goes back to the country, and live whatever life he wishes. As long he is still trying to play an active political role in my name (i.e. Oromo), I have decided to put out this piece of words for discussion because as an Oromo, it concerns me and you – and all of us. After a half century of his political failures, do we have any reason to believe him now this time around that his intentions will fundamentally change the political dynamics in favor of the Oromo people and bring the rule of law in the country that has been dominated and ruled by the minority Tigre elites, or is this another idiosyncrasies in the making? To me, the first impression is utterly wrong. Mr. Leenco, I am afraid he does not have a good legacy, and his political resume is full of craps and great mysteries.

The political reality of the country in the past 24 years will tell us that the TPLF regime has no intention to peacefully accommodate political dissidents; it has not shown any tendency to a meaningful political commitment that will create peace, stability, the rule of law and respect for human rights in the Horn of Africa. What we are witnessing is contrary to these basic ideas. TPLF is increasingly maintaining its grip on power; it is still sending thousands of Oromo and non-Oromo journalists, activists, politicians and ordinary people to prison; it is still executing dissidents in medieval-era barbaric styles and shocking the entire world. We have witnessed the gruesome brutal murders of those two Oromo individuals – beyond human dimensions, at least in 21st century – in Central Oromia in Salale area about a few week ago; it is banning political parties from operating in the country and from participating in the upcoming election. We have not even reached the one-year anniversary since the brutal Oromo students massacres of April and May 2014 by TPLF. Mothers and fathers of those vanished kids have not cried enough – and their eyes are still full of tears. At this time, the Oromo people are sending revolutionary waves across the country at an unprecedented level that the regime forces cannot contain them any more – even if we lack a viable political leadership, inside and outside of the country, to lead the revolution. Then, why has this peculiar and ambiguous politician decided to march to Finfinne at this very crucial time in the history of the empire? One thing is obvious and true. This desperate regime will use Mr. Leenco’s appearance in Finfinne to confuse Oromo nationalists inside and outside of the country, create more divisions and cracks and use this event as a leverage for its political maneuvers and advantages, and legitimatize its brutality and prolong its life on power.

What about the issue of the Ethiopian Empire? Our politicians are Ethiopians by heart even though they do not disclosed to us officially. ODF, Shanee-OLF, QC-OLF and Jijiirama-OLF leaders are all have Ethiopian tendencies, except a few of them. I actually appreciate Mr. Leenco for taking a bold action, and clear himself even though I disagree with his policies. My question to all of you, my readers, is – is there anything we, as members of the Oromo public, have failed to understand about the Ethiopian Empire? Is creating an independent Oromia with demarcated boundaries a viable and an achievable goal? Can the Oromo question be resolved inside the Ethiopian Empire? Can we live in peace and harmony and become the owners of Oromo land and its resources – and at the same time, live with other nations and nationalities side by side in an Empire run by Habesha elites on mutual understandings and benefits? I urge Oromo politicians, activists and the general public with access to ONA or the social network come out and discuss about this burning issue. By doing so, I believe we can clear lots of hurdles erected in front of us while marching towards freedom.

Thank you (Galatooma),

  • The author, Kassim Sheimo, can be reached at kibrole@gmail.com
    Kassim Sheimo2015