By Boruu Barraaqaa*
It is obvious that both supporters and opponents of the Oromian independence in Ethiopia are watching carefully what is going on in the UK. Both political entities have their own reasons for their respective wishes. Some Abyssinian elites could ridiculously try to resemble their cause to that of English elites, who were in the forefront of building the great nation, UK. However, there is no factual resemblance between the savage invaders from Abyssinia, and the most civilized, prosperous and the leading democratic nation in the world. In spite of the fact that the British were once the brutal colonialist rulers in the world history, I don’t judge them by their history of yesterday in this context, but by who they are and what they are contributing for the betterment of our world today.
Therefore, our comparison should not be based on the past history, but on what is going on today. I am happy to see a historical test that is happening in a leading democratic nation, UK, but I will not have a cause to rejoice if I see the Scottish independence or to be sad by their possible defeat simply because of I am from a fellow suppressed nation in Africa. The encouraging event for the colonized peoples like the Oromo is just to witness such kind of referendums around the world and grabbing some experiences for their own future. Feelings that could spark from any result of the referendum should be left for the stakeholders.
Before I try to shed some light on the prospective result of the referendum, let me contrast the politico-historical background of Scotland and Oromia.
First and foremost, Scotland is a nation in the long civilized Europe, particularly part of the state whose flag remembered in history as ‘No sunset over the Union Jack’, while Oromia has suffered under a barbaric African feudo-dictatorial system.
Oromia and Scotland share some similarities in their political, historical, religious, social, and many other features, however, their differences are much greater than their similarities in contrasting with the typical figure they have in their respective unions (empire in the Oromian-Ethiopian case). To start with the population number comparison, out of 60.6 million (2006 estimate, now approximately 63 million) of the UK population, England constitutes the majority number (around 83 per cent) while Scotland is a third minority with under 9 per cent of total population, followed by the least minorities of Wales (5 per cent) and Northern Ireland (3 per cent). However, being a home to the single largest national group, Oromia constitutes the majority number in Ethiopia with approximately 50% of the total population (including Amharic, Tigrigna and other language speaking Oromos). So in the case of the population number, land mass and economic significance, Oromia resembles to England, not to Scotland.
The other significant point of difference between the two nations is historical backgrounds. The kingdom of Great Britain was formed by the Act of Union of 1707 between England and Scotland (emphasis add). England (including the principality of Wales, annexed in the 14th century and legally unified with England in the 16th century) and Scotland had been separate kingdoms since the early Middle Ages (emphasis added). Despite being part of the Union, Scotland has retained its own legal system, its own Church (Church of Scotland), a substantially different education system, and the right to issue its own bank notes. However, Oromia and Ethiopia have never signed such acts of union in history. Abyssinia invaded Oromia in the second half of 19th century, which led to the creation of modern (not the Kushite great antiquity) Ethiopia as an empire. Retaining its own legal egalitarian system (the Gadaa System), its own religion (Waaqeffannaa), its own education system (Gadaa classes), and issuing its own bank notes were definitely inconceivable rights in the Ethiopian empire system.
In case of politics also, we find an edifice difference between UK’s Scotland and Ethiopia’s Oromia. Scotland is represented by 59 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons (prior to the 2005 general election, the number was 72). With the parliamentary elections of May 6, 1999, Scotland gained its own Scottish Parliament for the first time in nearly 300 years. There are 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) today. In Ethiopia, however, there were no such representation systems even for a symbol, until very recent time. Even in the Woyane’s federal administration system, members of parliament are ‘elected’ by their allegiance to the ruling EPRDF core party – TPLF, not by the will of the constituencies. Those who are said to have represented the Oromo people have no courage, right or the capacity to argue for the Oromo cause in their rubber stamp parliament.
There has been an astonishing development in the Scotland politics of recent times. The people of Scotland have shown an interesting growing of nationalism in the last few decades, particularly from the 1980s. Two leading British parties, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, shared the majority of Scottish seats in Parliament from the 1920s until the late 1970s. Since then, however, the Conservative Party, although the party of government for the United Kingdom as a whole from 1979 to 1997, increasingly became a minority party in Scotland. By the 1990s, it had become less popular than the Scottish National Party (SNP), which was founded in 1934 in order to press for complete self-government.
In the case of Oromia-Ethiopia, however, the fact is quite a reverse one. The vanguard organization that represents the majority’s cause of the nation (the Oromo Liberation Front), was forced to leave the system as soon as the regime took power, and later has been banned for more than the last two decades. The two opposition parties in Oromia (OPC and OFDM, currently merged as OFC) have never had the right to strengthen their influence over the ruling party in the region. Despite their later merger, the new united party is showing more emaciation to death, due to the ongoing deliberate harassment by the ruling party cadres.
The only point which resembles both nations, the Oromo and the Scots, could be roughly the political inferiority. However, even here the difference is greater. Scotland is a country in an outstanding world democracy that can fulfil its every demand in a peaceful and negotiable way, whereas Oromia is under one of the Third World notorious dictatorship systems – which deceives the world under the guise of ‘on the process to build a democratic system.’
Let’s turn to the essence of Scottish upcoming referendum. Even though they have a legally recognized self rule system, the Scots are still never satisfied by the rights they have obtained so far. In 2012 election, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won the majority seats of Scotland’s parliament and proclaimed that it will hold a referendum in September 2014. Accordingly, now on the verge of possible secession after seven months, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron is reacting to the approaching concern. In one of his previous interviews with BBC, Mr. Cameroon said “Centuries of history hang in the balance; a question mark hangs over the future of United Kingdom.” In his speech, he mentioned that there were four compelling reasons to save the Union: the economic benefits of being a bigger country, greater international clout, connection between people, and the cultural impact of the UK. I personally share the four truths about the UK that the Prime Minister mentioned. However, in Ethiopia, if the Oromo gained such right to hold a referendum, the truths Mr. Cameron mentioned for the UK do not work for it. As he reminded, the UK is both economically and politically one of the leading nations in the world. But Ethiopia is one of the poorest, starved and backward empires in the world – which has never shown any meaningful progress despite tens of billions of dollars it has earned from governments like the UK itself. The reason is crystal clear. Its government is among the most brutal, suppressive and corrupt states on the globe. These are some of our shining differences. So no need to surprise if, in case, the majority of Scot population vote in favour of saving the Union or the referendum fails to win independence.
As I have mentioned above, all member states of the UK have a good devolved power to their respected countries. Scotland, which is one of these benefited countries, could neither lose much because of its voting for Yes nor gain much for voting No. Mr. Cameron also urged people in Scotland who wanted to see further devolution to vote No in the referendum. From the promise of more devolution by the UK government, Scotland could benefit more weather it votes for the No Independence or otherwise.
When we back to the fact in Ethiopia, the Oromo can see a huge deference in voting for Ethiopian unity or for Oromian independence. Constituting the majority portion of the total population with the significance economy, the Oromo have lost most of their political, economic, social and cultural benefits to the alien regimes who have ruled them with iron and fist for more than a century. To end the unjust system, there must be significant power devolution to Oromia level. Only after then, the need for stay in a possible new and just union or to go could be determined by holding a referendum.
As an Oromo, it is not my interest to see a torn apart UK. I don’t believe my nation would benefit from UK’s decline in any way. Though I am not against the rights of the Scottish people, I believe that it is a stronger, a prosperous, an exemplary and a united Great Britain which can contribute much in assisting genuine world democratisations. I don’t wish to see their national failure in tit for tat of what they have contributed in supporting brutal regimes like that of Ethiopia. It is my wish to see them remain as a strong and peaceful nation as they are and set the record straight by playing a leading role in taking major actions against the repressive regimes around the world, particularly Ethiopia’s EPRDF.
* The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org