The Diaspora-based Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has been struggling for ethnic Oromo freedom since 1973, but in 2014 most of its leaders officially renamed it Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) with a new manifesto. Last week, the ODF announced that some of its US/Europe-based leadership is now moving back into Ethiopia; including its President Leenco Lata, and the new focus is on democracy and equal rights.
These developments have brought new hope for the Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. “OLF has longer history and more credibility nationwide than these new Oromo parties,” said Debela, an Oromo elder from Addis Ababa who praised the ODF.
Most home based opposition parties like OFDM are relatively new to the scene compared to OLF/ODF.
Many Oromos lament that western embassies in Addis Ababa embrace ethnic Amhara peaceful opposition parties, while OLF activities were virtually nonexistant inside Ethiopia the last decade. The ODF move is expected to bring change and unite homegrown Oromo voice.
“This might reduce the government’s excuse to harass our people,” complained another Oromo man from Adama city who wished to remain anonymous, but welcomed that OLF will become a legal party inside the country. Since OLF began its armed struggle in the 1970s, thousands of innocent Oromos have been imprisoned and some killed just on the suspicion that they support the outlawed OLF group.
“OPDO has no credibility to lead Oromia and TPLF has no mandate to lead Ethiopia. We need national consensus first,” said Musa Wako, an Oromo political science student. “TPLF must stop building statues for past crimes while killing Oromos today,” he added.
Former OLF spokesman Dr. Beyan Asoba, now an ODF official, said his new party wants self-rule for Oromos, and the ethnic federalism on paper, to be implemented in practice. However he said he is pessimistic that the ruling party will change, but supports peaceful struggle as the best way forward.
His ODF group accuses the Ethiopian ruling party of abuses against ethnic Oromos and for not implementing the constitution.