Oromo Studies Association at the World Social Forum (24-28 March 2015)

Two members of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), Prof. Asafa Jalata and Aad. Zeituna Kalil, organized a workshop entitled, “The Oromo Students Protest Movement and the Tigre-led Ethiopian Government’s Repression,” at the World Social Forum, held from March 24 to 28, 2015, in Tunis, Tunisia. This workshop was organized under the themes of equality, dignity and rights. The central themes of this global forum included the crossroads of citizenship; beyond borders crossroads; the planet neighborhood; the square of social justice; the neighborhood of equality, dignity and rights; and the square of economy and alternative to neo-liberal globalization. At the same time, different social, political, cultural and economic movements organized events and activities in open spaces and in tents demonstrating their agendas through slogans, flags, dancing, singing, and the distribution and exchanging of information. The slogan of the forum was “Another World is Possible.” This slogan reflects the political aspiration of the Oromo people in general, and the Oromo students in particular – who are struggling and sacrificing their precious lives to create a free and democratic Oromia, which will be liberated from of all forms of oppression, exploitation, murder, terrorism and gross human rights violations. This does not mean that the Oromo only care for themselves; but their struggle is an integral part of the struggles of all colonized peoples, particularly those groups that have been brutalized and have suffered under the yoke of Ethiopian colonialism. So while struggling to liberate their country, the Oromo also aspire to build a multinational democracy with peoples who are also struggling for liberation, sovereignty, democracy and social justice.

Members of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), Aad. Zeituna Kalil and Prof. Asafa Jalata, at the World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia

Members of the Oromo Studies Association (OSA), Aad. Zeituna Kalil and Prof. Asafa Jalata, at the World Social Forum in Tunis, Tunisia

Despite the fact that we were very delighted to be part of this progressive global forum, and the aspiration of our people goes with the aspirations of these progressive global social forces, we were also disappointed and frustrated because, as a people, our actions are lagging behind that of others. We are allowing our precious time consumed by internal fighting rather than taking our national struggle to the global stage. Today, millions of Oromos are in the Diaspora, but at the same time, they are disconnected from the world. The main responsibility of the Oromo Diaspora should be to form global networks and establish global solidarity for the Oromo national movement in Oromia and beyond. Because of the lack of a global Oromo organization, solidarity, and networks, the Oromo in the Diaspora are not effectively exposing the barbarism or fascism of the Tigre government. The Tigre government has been imprisoning, torturing, and killing Oromo nationalists, particularly our young people, while transferring Oromo lands and other resources to Tigre elites, and their regional and global supporters. Also, the Oromo Diaspora is not effectively supporting the Oromo national struggle morally, financially, ideologically and diplomatically in Oromia and beyond. The absence of the Oromo voice from this global forum for so many years demonstrates that we are not fulfilling our national obligations. We cannot continue to blame our enemies forever for our disconnection from the world. In fact, the sad thing is the Tigre government and its puppet organization, the so-called Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, are trying to organize the Oromo Diaspora to fight against the Oromo national movement. The nation that fights against itself cannot liberate itself.

Our workshop attracted individuals from Ghana, Switzerland, Italy, Burundi, Afar (Djibouti), France and other countries; these participants criticized Oromo activists for not building regional and global alliances with progressive forces. Peter Niggli, one of the participants from Switzerland and a long time friend of the Oromo, stated that he was aware that the Tigre government is engaging in land grabbing by evicting the Oromo and other peoples. But he then noted that if the Oromo only focus on their own struggle, they will miss opportunities to engage with and connect with fellow African societies facing similar crises. He suggested that, if the Oromo movement establishes solidarity with anti-land grabbing movements, it can more easily expose the criminal activities of the Tigre regime. A participant from Ghana who was once in Finfinnee and had never heard about the Oromo before he met us in Tunis advised us that we must vigorously teach other peoples about the Oromo and create solidarity groups for the Oromo struggle. He mentioned that Palestinians and Western Sahara have created solidarity groups in Ghana. He promised us that he would participate in an effort to create an Oromo solidarity group in Ghana. A gentleman from Afar emphasized the responsibility of the Oromo people in the Horn of Africa because of their numerical strength, economic resources and their geographical location. He also mentioned that the Oromo should not use distorted ideologies of “socialism” and “democracy” as the Tigre elite has done to brutalize, dominate and exploit other peoples. He asserted that the Oromo should not only focus on themselves and should build alliances with various peoples in the Horn of Africa on genuine principles of self-determination and multinational democracy.

The World Social Forum was first held in 2001 in Brazil as an annual meeting of global civil societies interested in developing an alternative future to neo-liberal globalization. They brought together nongovernmental organizations and social movements around the world to create international solidarity and to struggle for global social justice. Today, this forum still strives to create global solidarity amongst progressive social forces pushing for a democratic and fair world. We recommend that the Oromo national movement in general, and OSA in particular, begin to actively participate in this global forum and in other global opportunities. OSA should send large numbers of delegates to introduce the Oromo people to the world community, thereby creating global solidarity for the Oromo struggle for national self-determination, sovereignty and democracy.