What Dr. Negaso Gidada writes to Ato Girma Kassa

March 20, 2014

Dear Ato Girma Kassa,

Negaso Gidada

Negaso Gidada

Sorry, it took me long to be able to answer you. I hope that we are slowly coming to the point where we can identify our differences and agreements. I like the discussion. I wish that all recipients of our Ccs. comment. What are the media to whom we make Cc. of our e-mails doing with them?

1. Concerning my joining UDJ and Withdrawal

The views I have now are the views I had before I joined UDJ. If article 3.1.5 of the program of UDJ did not exist, I would not have joined UDJ. This was clear to the UDJ people who pleaded with me to join UDJ. Did the leaders and members of UDJ believe in article 3.1.5 of their program full heartedly then and reconsidered and changed their mind now? This is their right. But if they then did not believe in it and superficially accepted it then to woo me and Ato Seeye to join UDJ then, this is tantamount to treachery. unless they give an explanation on this matter. Why shouldn’t I have joined the UDJ if my stand was then clear, if the leaders and the members agreed, and adopted article 3.1.5 in their program.

I now left UDJ because article 3.1.5 has now been changed which means that UDJ has made it clear that it does not support the right of self determination of peoples through referendum in case the question secession comes up. The leaders of UDJ have made this clear when they further stated “they will not compromise on the unity of Ethiopia … (in Amharic= anideraderim).” For me this implies that such people would be ready to go to war against people who use their right to self determination including secession. To work in such an organization is for me to violate the right to self determination, a naturally given human right.
Yes it is right that I left the party.

2. On Your Criticisms and Your Call for My Resignation

I do remember that you asked me whether UDJ accepts the right of secession 9 months ago. Yes, I did not then answer you because it was clearly known that I, UDJ and MEDREK ARE opposed to secession. (Read the program of MEDREK in Which UDJ is member until its suspension). Why should I spend time on an issue which was publically obvious? Yes you did express a strong criticism against me and called for my resignation. This was after my interview with Radio Fana. What I then did was to clarify that I oppose secession but support the right to secession. You expressed opposed view in your criticism. This is your right. I also have right to have different view from you. I did not then heed to you call on me to resign. Why should I heed to you? Your call was a call from a citizen who has the right to say whatever he/she wants. You are not member of UDJ. There are procedures of the party through which questions are dealt with. I did not want to accept your call because I did not then see why. Even after the “evaluation of MEDREK” by UDJ, I as chairman of the executive committee did implement what the national council decided. I wanted to serve the party as long as the activities were in compliance with the program, the byelaw and as long as we working in MEDREK. I resigned from UDJ when it was decided that it is better not to spend time in coalitions and fronts and when article 3.1.5 was amended.
You say,

“I think the party did the right thing in clarifying confusions by cleaning out items in its program that may wrongfully be interpreted or spinned to say something they were not intended to.”

But what I know is that the issue of the right to self determination or the right to secession was never an issue on the meetings of the executive committee, the national council and the General Assembly of UDJ as long as was in UDJ and before Tahisas, 2006. I only remember that a member of the executive committee who was in the U.S.A. around the time when my interview with Radio Fana was heard, that some supporters of UDJ there (may be including you?) were furious against me. At another time latter, I and two members of the executive committee had discussion on this matter and the word “aanideraaderim” and we parted with difference. Also around this time a member of the national council was in my office and asked me that we take time some time and discuss on the national question. But both of us did not come back to each other to discuss on this matter. The last discussions were on the meeting of the national council about a week earlier than the last (December) General Assembly when discussing on the pre-merger agreement document forwarded by a joint committee of AEUP and UDJ which should have been signed by both parties on the 17th of Tahisas and when discussing on the amendment of the program both at the level of the national council and the General Assembly.

Thus I do not understand your statement that the party now clarified confusion. On “items in its program that may wrongfully be interpreted or spinned to say something they were not intended to.” Unless there was confusion with you and some others in the U.S.A., and may be, with one or two members who may have contacts with you, there was no confusion in UDJ until now. Whatever the case, the change in article 3.1.5 is an important reason for my withdrawal from UDJ. Added to this is the relation of UDJ with MEDREK.

It is interesting to hear from you now that you were “not familiar of this article. First of all we did not know if there was such article; and if there was, how it was added in the UDJ program.”

My question is why and how you could support UDJ if you did not know what is written in its program in the first place? I thought that the leaders of UDJ have made the program public after the General Assembly which was supposed to take place in Imperial Hotel but instead was held in the compound of the office of UDJ. (The change of place was because of the disturbance created as the result of the controversy between the group “zim anniloch/merih yikeber and UDJ members). I agree and even demand that the then leaders of UDJ, particularly, Eng. Gizachew, “ought to answer this question” as to “how it (article 3.1.5) was added in the UDJ program.”
You state: “It is amazing you do not know the constitution of the Oromia region”.

No, it is amazing that you say that I do not know the constitution of Oromia and this is an insulting statement from you. I was there when the founding Council of Oomia Stste met at Sidist Kiilo and I know well the contents of the constitution.

I think the problem is that you and I have difficulty to understand each other because we have difference in understanding Ethiopian history, because we have different picture of Ethiopia, because we have different attitudes and because we have different perspectives for a united, independent, sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Ethiopia. Our difference starts on whether genuinely and fully respect the right of the different peoples (nations/nationalities) to self determination or not.

If one accepts and respects the right to self determination one can understand, respect and accept the constitution of Oromia including is article 33. How can one serve the Oromo people if one does not know the Oromo language? Or should we go back to the old days when we were forced to be administrated, to appear in court and get sentenced in a language we did not understand, to be forced to learn in a foreign language, and to listen radio in a foreign language and read books and news papers and proclamations in a foreign language? No, No, that time is gone. We should not even dream of it that it should come back. When I recently hear that some people in the Diaspora attacking the “Qube Generation” it makes me sick.

To demand from people to learn Oromo language and that they must know the language if they want to work in Oromia State is neither RACIST NOR APARTHEUD. It is a question of right to self determination in own region and the question of how to serve the majority of people in that federal state, while respecting minority right for the non-Oromo speakers living in Oromia.

It is again insulting to trying to explain to me how many and where non-Oromo speakers live in Oromia. I recommend that you come back to Ethiopia and go around the country to find out the truth instead of misjudging me from abroad. It is an insult to say that I know only Dembi Dollo. It is good to know that your “mother mother speaks fluent Somali and Afan oromo.” I also envy her as you do because of her fluency in Somali. I know only such figures like 1, 2, 3, 8 and words like “nabad, abewaraqsan, and anan” from Somali language. I presume that your mother lives in an area where the people speak Somali and Oromo. This is how it should be. Respect for the people among whom you live and communicate with them if you want to serve them or want something from them, it is better to know their language. What about you? Do know Somali and Oromo. If not, why? You say: “You are better than me because you know afan oromo and Amharic.” As for me, yes I know Afana Oromo because it is my mother tongue and I am proud of it. I know Amharic, not because it is my mother tongue but because I had to forcefully learn it. Yet I am happy that I know Amharic because I can use it in federal administration, in the media and to communicate with people who do not know Oromo. Are you sure that your mother is better than me in Oromo language? How do you verify this?

You claim that more than 75% of people in Oromia could speak Amharic as their second language. What is your evidence for that?
And you say that I assert that “one cannot campaign in Oromia, because people do not understand other language other than afan oromo” and that this does not hold water.

But for the record the following is what I wrote you last time and I would like to request you to stop misquoting me: “It is true that large number of non Oromo people live in the towns of Oromia and some qebeles of some woredas in some zones of Oromia region. Minority rights, (political, economic, and social) must be fully respected for these minorities in Oromia. This right includes the right of representation at the different levels of councils/parliaments. I do not think that people who cannot speak Afaan Oromo are prohibited from candidacy in these constituencies during elections. But what one should realize is the fact that the working language in Oromia is Afaan Oromo and that it would be much better for non-Oromo speakers to know the language to effectively participate in the different structures of the region. Besides, how can a non-Oromo speaker campaign in a village where the people do not understand non-Oromo language? Such questions of respecting rights and technical procedures of administration, serving justice and schooling must be taken into account.”

Your assertion that the practice in Oromia is racist leads me to ask you if it was RACIST when the NAFXAGNA (my definition is the musket bearer and not Amhara) under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II carried out atrocious war in Oromia in the name of “unification” and “civilization” (maaknaat), when the NAFXAGNA FEUDAL ADMINSTARATION AND EXPLOITATION was imposed on the Oromo, when Oromo self administration was forcefully discontinued, and when Amharic language was forcefully imposed. All these happened not too long ago to be forgotten easily. One must read Atsme Giorgis at least to refresh one’s memory. I myself do not support Amharanization, or Oromization. I do not also support that neither the Amhara nor any other ethnic group dominates the Oromo, nor do I want to see that the Oromo dominate others. I want to see that all Ethiopians are equal and that their rights should equally be respected.

I do not agree with your following suggestion:
“I think Amharic must be the working language of Oromia as well. Whether as first language or as second language many people speak Amharic.”

Why should Amharic be the working language of Oromia? Do you support that Oromo becomes the working language in Amhara federal state? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be, if this happens? Would the administration there employ a non Amharic speaking Ethiopian in its institutions? What do you think the reaction of the Amhara would be if this happens?

But my view is that the right of all regions should be respected to choose their working languages. But at the federal level Amharic, Oromo and any other Ethiopian language which is spoken by large number of the Ethiopian population should be adopted as working language of the federal government. I also think that the alphabet which better fits a language should be used for writing in hat language. As for Oromo language, I personally prefer Latin, not because I do not like Geez, but because it does not fit for the Oromo language. By the way I am glad to know that you support that Afaan Oromo be adopted at the federal level. I also agree that the constitution be amended and the amended constitution be approved by the people through referendum.

Dear Ato Girma, the whole point revolves around the question of self determination, acceptance of the federal system and acceptance the right of the federal states to determine on the language of the states and how to internally administer their states without violating minority rights. We may have differences on these issues. These differences could be solved through amendments on the federal and federal states constitutions and which should be accepted or rejected through referendums for which we need an atmosphere of democracy.

Point 3:
On what you wrote about “The idea which some individuals propagate saying “Oromia is only for the Oromos. Somali region is for the Somali only” is wrong and unacceptable. It is, I think wrong to give a general judgment basing oneself on what some individuals express in pal talk rooms, interviews or articles.” You wrote. Again you wrote this without referring to the constitutions of the Oromia and Somali regions. Please refer to the link I posted above.” I think that I have said enough above expressing my attitudes and I stick to what I said earlier. I know the constitutions of Oromia and Somali. This is how they have decided to assert their right to self determination and short of secession. Respecting their right in what they have decided is the best way to keep Ethiopia united.

You say that I had high respect for Jawar Mohamed. Good, if that is the case. Unfortunately I do not know Jawar Mohamed much enough to be able to say I had high respect for him or not. In fact, I know you better than I know Jawar. I have high respect for you for your forwardness and for frankness. But again, I request you not to conclude about me based on what you hear from others. How do people you hear from know that I have high respect for Jawar or not. I hate politics which is based on hear-says. I have been recently reading articles about him in local news papers and magazines (for that matter, I also read your articles in Lomi) but have not taken them seriously. Now that you speak about Jawar, I will seriously try to find out what he wrote and said to make my own judgment on his ideas.

Point 4:
On your question who the Oromos are, the answer is they are one of the peoples (nation, nationality or whatever) in Ethiopia. The Oromo are, in accordance to the Ethiopian constitution article 39/5 “a group of people who have or share large measure of common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable, predominantly contiguous territory”. See also the Transitional
Yes, if there is a referendum voting cards would be given to voters. But one should ask on what kind of issues is the referendum going to take place. All citizens of Ethiopia would be given voting cards for voting on common national issues. Referendum concerning self-determination is specific to the people concerned leaving in a specific area and people who claim to belong to that specific ethnic group (living in the territory or outside the territory).

We have to learn from the experiences of Russia, Yugoslavia, Singapore, East Timor, Ireland, Bask, Belgium, Eritrea, and South Sudan, Scotland, Catalonia and now from Ukraine /Crimea and to prepare a technique of how we carry out referendum on self determination in the best way for our situation and for the best interest of the country and people.

Point 5:
Yes, I know that the OLF participated in the July 1991 “Peace Conference”. There is also evidence that a task force including Bereket Habte Sellasie was established by Isayas, Meles and Lencho to draft the Charter and agreed upon between Meles and Lencho at Tesenai/Eritrea.

This was after the London meeting in April 1991. (It would be correct to comment on the London meeting: AESM and EPRP were deliberately excluded from taking part. Contrary to what some say, the OLF was not partner in the negotiation. It was an on-looker (observer).) The draft Charter was presented at the “peace conference” from which AESM, EPRP and WEP were excluded. But there were many other organizations who participated on the conference, and actively for that matter. These were not just on-lookers. It is therefore not correct to undermine them as if they were babies fed by the EPRDF and OLF. Why don’t we ask the participants who still are alive to explain the situation instead of giving subjective judgment?

Whatever the case I like the charter. Part one speaks of democratic rights including the right to self determination (Article two) and conditions when the question of independence/secession may come up. Article 13 of Part four speaks about the program of decentralization. The Constitution of FDRE was guided by the Charter, yes, and I do not see any harm in this. As I said above, for me this decision was wise one so as to avoid the disintegration of Ethiopia. The only mistake I see is that the process of making the constitution was not participatory enough and that the constitution was not forwarded to the people so that the people could approve or reject it through referendum.

Point 6:
Yes, I hope that the OFC would publicly say something on its relation and attitude towards ODF. On the other hand it is not wise to take rumors seriously. The recent widely disseminated media coverage that Lencho was in Ethiopia should be a good warning against rumors. Yes, I know that Dr. Merera is a regular visitor of Minnesota. I was also there several years ago. Why not? If I meet the OLF people in Minnesota or elsewhere, I would advise them to abandon the armed struggle, come and work peacefully, legally, democratically accepting the laws and the constitution of the country. But I would not call on them to abandon the secession question. Unfortunately, this is what all Ethiopian Nationalists are demanding from OLF. The secession question is a question which could and should be answered by the Oromo people through a referendum, and not by EPRDF, OLF, ODF, OFC, Blue Party, UDJ, AEUP, EDP, and Ginbot 7 and so on. The correct way is that all organizations and citizens should work hard to bring about a democratic situation in which all organizations (including OLF with its secession question) present their options freely to the public.

Point 7:

  1. The current picture of opposition party’s constellations looks as follows:
  2. a) MEDREK, B) TIBIBIR, C) BLUE PARTY, D) UDJ, E) AEUP
  3. The position of UDJ in MEDREK and TIBIBIR is not clear. It is suspended for the time being from MEDREK and seems to go its own way. The same is true of AEUP in TIBIBIR. AEUP signed the agreement with 8 other parties (mostly ethnically based) to establish a coalition, but it acts as if it is working separately.
  4. MEDREK does exist with four member parties and has announced that it is going to hold a public meeting in Awasa on Megabit 20.
  5. Negotiations between Arena, ESDP-SEPUP and UDJ did not work because the two told to first complete the negotiations UDJ began with AEUP.
  6. The negotiation for merger of Arena and ESDP-SEPUP is dragging on. If they merge, the merger party, OFC and SLM will continue in MEDREK. This is not the same as the former UEDF.
  7. The negotiation for merger of UDJ and AEUP has so far failed because of differences on the question of chairmanship and because of the number of representation on the merger general assembly.
  8. It is an illusion to think about the unity between UDJ, AEUP, Blue Party and EDP and re-establish the dead Kinijit.

For all reasons, it would have been good that parties with similar ideologies and programs unite. If impossible they could work together in fronts or coalitions. If not possible, they could at least form a broad coalition for common interest: The CREATION OF AN ATMOSPHERE FOR a FREE, DEMOCRATIC AND FAIR ELECTION.

This is all I want to say for the time being. I wish you good health and greeting to all friends.
Negaso