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Oromo Organizations

Part of the difficulty for Oromo nationalists wishing to unite a unified Oromo people is the great number of cultural differences among Oromo speaking peoples. In 1973 Oromo dissidents formed the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an organization dedicated to the "total liberation of the entire Oromo nation from Ethiopian colonialism". The OLF had been fighting for self-determination for more than 40 years. Most political parties remain primarily ethnically based, although the ruling party and one of the largest opposition parties are coalitions of ethnically based parties. The government used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). to suppress criticism. Journalists feared covering five groups designated by parliament as terrorist organizations in 2011 (Ginbot 7, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), al-Qaida, and al-Shabaab), citing ambiguity on whether reporting on these groups might be punishable under the law.

The OPDO, or Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization, is an Oromo political organization considered by many Oromo to be a puppet of the Zenawi regime. The Oromo Federalist Congress [OFC] is one of four parties that make up the Medrek opposition coalition. The Oromo People's Congress (OPC) and the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) formed a coalition in 2008 which would allow them to combine resources, increase their strength, and better withstand government pressure in the run-up to the 2010 elections. The decision to join forces came from pressure from their Oromo supporters to unite.

The parties claimed to share a common history and similar vision for the future, and their strategy was to use "quiet resistance" and civil rights awareness-raising activities to gain support. The OPC and OFDM decided to form a coalition, vice a merger, for two reasons. First, they feared that the Ethiopian Government (GoE) would feel threatened by the merger and attempt to intervene and manipulate the party, so they are first testing the waters with a coalition. This assumption was based on the experience of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party around the 2005 elections. When the CUD formed a coalition the GoE let them be, but when they started planning a merger the GoE promptly began to recruit and bribe non-committed individuals within the party essentially to gut the party from the inside. The OPC and OFDM leadership felt it would be wise to move cautiously. Also, because of the political party registration process, a merger would result in both parties permanently losing their names and emblems. If the merger didn't work out, it would be very difficult to return to the status quo ante.

Second, there was not yet a sufficient level of trust between the two Chairmen. OPC Chairman Merera Gudina said that OFDM Chairman Bulcha Demeksa has drifted away from the consensus of the opposition on a few occasions (i.e. Bulcha sided with the EPRDF in the debate over whether the nomination list for the National Election Board should be limited) and is "not always predictable." Though mutual respect does exist between the two, caution is being taken to avoid mistakes. The OPC's membership in the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) coalition would not be affected by the formation of the OPC/OFDM coalition.



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