THE MAKING OF OPDO OUT OF OLF

Journey in the dark Oromo’s untold story in Eritrea


Oromo Liberation Front rebels fighters

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The aim of this bulletin is not in any way to black mail any organization, but only to share my own ordeal and also send a message to my fellow Oromo youths. It is better to identify myself to all readers than to deeply tell my past back ground. Few years ago, I was a student at Jima University. While in university, I actively participated and contributed my share of expectation to the cause of Oromo students’ movement protesting against the plunder and brutality of the Habesha regime. Starting from high school education, recruited to an Oromo liberation front (OLF) underground cell, I spent my school time as an activist fulfilling my responsibility of a generation. When I was at university I didn’t completely went to study, but also shared my time for the cause of the Oromo peoples’ struggle. I just couldn’t isolate myself from any movement that stands for justice and equality of the Oromo people.
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I was grown up in a family brutalized by their political attitude. Since I was young my father spent most of his life in prison framed as an OLF member. Mercilessly and cruelly tortured by the tyrant government regime, my father became disabled and mentally unstable to look after his children. It was our mother, who fends for our survival while looking after our father in prison and bearing the responsibility of the whole family on her shoulder. Having this kind of deep human inflicted scar in my mind, I developed the wish and the ambition to join the OLF, the organization I yearn to be a member one day since my childhood. This is what I believe in, live for and die for, for OLF is a stamp on my body and a stream running in my blood. Limiting words to tell about myself let me take you with me on a journey to the ordeal I was through as a young Oromo student activist. As I said, while at university I was spotted by the regimes spies and marked as dangerous daily followed wherever I move. Later the twist turned to a fiasco. Oromo student activists were unjustly arrested and detained by the authoritarian government of Tigray. I was lucky enough to evade an arrest.

However, life was not going to be the same again. Failing to visit my family, I spent some few weeks in Addis Ababa hiding from the piranhas totally disconnected from friends. I also lost connection with the OLF and that made me unstable. Life started boring in Addis. I have to make decision soon or later. The soon the better I thought. I made my decision and cut a line to fully join OLF. It wasn’t like an adventure but a life risking start, but I set on a journey to find OLF and wholly submit myself to the cause of the struggle.Long way from Addis Ababa to Eritrea I don’t have any clue since when was OLF residing in Eritrea but the Tigrayan regimes media puts it as it was since the end of 1990s. Nevertheless, it is a known secret that OLF is based in Eritrea. As a person evading arrest, I passed so many challenges on my way to Eritrea. But before making the final attempt to cross to Eritrea, I spent some few months in Humera, on the side of Ethiopia as a daily laborer; not to earn a living but taking my time to know how it should be done and reach successfully the other side of the border. Fortunately I found a government military escapee person from south Showa who is also working as a daily laborer for coverage but tacitly he was engaged in human trafficking across the border. Knowing him very well I let the cat out of the bag by telling him the secret I was holding. At first he was skeptical of my decision, but at last he let it go and guide me to my final destiny. It was Thursday night. My refereIIInce was the information I got from the escapee. Though difficult and risky I Friday morning I was on the side of the other border on Eritrean soil on the hands’ of Eritrean soldiers. Uncertain about tomorrow,but I was certain that I am not in the brutal hands of the Ethiopian regime.

The night mare ordeals soon I was in Eritrea No sooner I surrender to the Eritrean defense forces, I told them what I was looking for. I want to join the OLF, I cried. They told me I should rest a moment and I will be granted my wish. Even though my yearnings of many years is now about to burst as though I didn’t spent many passing times for this opportunity, I couldn’t hold my excitement of this time for another few moment. But here things are different. It was not as smooth as I wished it should be. Two weeks had gone, and I was under scrutiny. What went wrong? Was I suspected as an agent? I don’t know. Two weeks later a logistic car came and I was on board to Afabet, a small town where soldiers surrendered to Eritrea, escaping from Ethiopia are kept. Interrogated again my wish was one and only one. Joining the OLF! Forget the OLF! I was told, you better stop thinking about OLF and I suggest you join the Tigray people’s democratic movement (TPDM), groaned Eritrean military personnel. I felt a cold blood flows in my body. It all felt like a night mare. I stood my ground. I repeatedly told the man that I will only participate in Oromo political cause and join only the OLF. I knew my request failed on a deaf ear only when I was taken to a place called Harena, where I saw myself in a big military barrack. Only Tigrinya is spoken here. It is a TPDM military camp. Before they left I asked the Eritrean defense force members who brought me to the camp, why should I be brought here against my will? Yet I want to join the OLF. They told me from now on it is the TPDM I should deal with and my case doesn’t concern the government of Eritrea. What a malevolent act! Is the OLF not in Eritrea? Is the government of Eritrea not sheltering OLF in a safe haven as it was claimed?

Or OLF and TPDM are one organization I didn’t know yet? Life with tpdm Two days after in their camp, a TPDM leader came and asked me few questions. I answered his questions honestly and told him my intention. He told me I should stop fooling myself and better think about my future. The mood between us was as uncomfortable us I expected. He came back again two days later. His face was uninviting and my decision was irreversible. What have you decided? He roared. I knew things are going to be bitter, but I told him I will never be his front’s member as long as I am conscious. No deal was struck between us. Removing my shoes I was straightly taken to a prison. Home sweet home; I laughed burningly. Escaping a prison to a prison I murmured. I wasn’t alone at least. There were some 16 Oromo youths handed over to the TPDM by the Eritrean government. Most of them spent more than six months and they are in a bad shape. One of them from western Oromia region, Dembi Dollo, was inhumanely beaten and lost one eye completely. It doesn’t need one to look for evidence to know these youths were tortured, for a foul smell coming from their maimed wound tells it all. Three month has gone. Torture, interrogations, malicious damages and mental degradation was the fate one is destined to achieve in this prison. We were told leave alone thinking joining OLF dreaming about the name by itself is a crime. What is this all about? My daily stay with the Oromo prisoners has an answer. TPDM is trying to make an organization like people’s democratic organizations incepted by the former Tigray people’s liberation front (TPLF.) a daughter learns from her mother is the case here. The 16 I was detained with strongly opposed TPDM’s dream of turning them in to a tool.

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But TPDM’s attempt was not in vain. They created an Oromo wing organization like the TPLF did by creating the Oromo people’s democratic organization (OPDO). Their members were those Oromo youths who were coordinated by force, failing to stand the brute’s daily torture. As days were passing I reached on one undeniable fact. TPDM has succeeded in creating a

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