Are supporters and sympathizers of the extremist Oromuma ideology seeing any positive outcomes?

By Habtamu Kebede: In my previous article, titled “The Devastating Effects of Abiy Ahmed’s Senseless War on the Amhara People,” I discussed the concept of Oromuma. This term was coined by a small group of extremists to further their own political agenda by exploiting the people of the Oromia region. It is important to note that there is a clear distinction between political Oromuma and the Oromo people. By understanding this distinction, we can avoid perpetuating the manipulation of the Oromo community for political gain. Despite the claims of these extremists, it is imperative to recognize these terms as separate entities and avoid using them interchangeably. Therefore, when I use the term Oromuma, I am specifically referring to the small group of political elites who manipulate the emotions and vulnerability of the Oromo people for their own political interests.

Since Abiy Ahmed became the prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, there has been a significant shift in power dynamics within the country. The Oromuma group now holds control over financial institutions, the military, and intelligence agencies. This group has strategically placed its members in key positions within various departments. In rare instances where they did not appoint their own members as heads of institutions, they assigned opportunistic elites to fill these roles.

The Oromuma officials at both the federal and regional levels hold significant power and control over critical resources in the nation. This includes access to valuable assets such as natural resources, land, political and legislative power, finance, and the media. Unfortunately, these resources are often used as propaganda tools to justify their actions. Despite public claims of being a government for the people, the needs of the Oromo people have been neglected and marginalized. In reality, they have been disadvantaged and denied the benefits of government policies.

Last year, news broke of the shooting and execution-style killing of Oromo elders in Eastern Shoa. The regime initially blamed the rebels for the attack, but it was later confirmed by locals that the armed men associated with the regime were responsible. Arbitrary killings and kidnappings have become a common occurrence across the Oromia region. Although the victims are predominantly ethnic Amharas and others who have lived there for decades, and in some cases their entire lives, independent Oromos are also targeted by the Oromuma movement. Similarly, the lack of freedom of expression and assembly in Oromia has led to the exclusion of political parties from the last election. As a result, Abiy Ahmed, representing the Prosperity (Oromuma) party, emerged as the winner. However, his victory was marred by allegations of fraud and voter intimidation.

Oromuma possesses unique characteristics that set it apart from previous rulers. It is driven by an unyielding pursuit of wealth and power, without regard for the consequences. This includes exploiting its own supporters in a carefully planned scheme. As a result, many former extremist voices are now in a state of shock and despair, struggling to come to terms with the betrayal of Oromuma. This is what motivated and inspired me to write this piece.

It is evident that Shimeles Abdissa, the current President of Oromia, serves as the spokesperson for Oromuma. In various political and cultural settings, he has made inflammatory and offensive statements, such as “the backbone of Neftegna has been shattered and is now permanently buried, with no chance of revival.” Additionally, he has announced plans to create separate districts around the city in an effort to assert Oromuma’s autonomy and reduce the influence of Addis Ababa. However, it is clear that these plans were not his own, but rather those of the regime. This is how Sheger City was created, which Abiy applauded as the greatest accomplishment of his regime.

Once Sheger became a reality, thousands of homes were demolished by the regime and its inhabitants were displaced without the possibility of renting in its vicinity. The newly appointed Mayor, who claimed to hold a PhD, referred to the displaced people as “legal and poor,” asserting that their rights to the land had made them “illegals.” He and his staff were assisting them in becoming legal, while leading them into poverty. This is truly astounding, but it is a fact that under the Oromuma ideology, specific actions and statements are allowed. It is important to note that the Oromuma ideology is a belief system that allows for such actions and statements.

The establishment of the City was viewed as a significant achievement by the Oromuma camp, as it presented an opportunity to alter the demographic composition of the city. Overseas Oromuma members with financial resources were personally approached and encouraged to purchase land at extremely low prices. They were also promised low-interest loans from Oromuma-affiliated and other banks. The excitement was palpable and the offer seemed highly appealing, resulting in many unsuspecting individuals falling prey to the deceitful and manipulative tactics of the scammers. What is particularly concerning about this unfortunate situation is that the scammers were not anonymous cyber criminals or hackers, but rather members of the Oromuma movement who held positions in ministerial offices.

In one instance, a group of former Oromuma supporters had planned to invest in real estate and raised a significant amount of money to travel to Ethiopia. Upon their arrival, they were greeted with preferential treatment and hospitality. The next day, they were enticed to a large governmental institution and convinced to make a substantial payment in hard currency for plots of land. They were given a receipt that appeared legitimate, as well as a deed showing their ownership of the land. However, their excitement and euphoria quickly turned to disappointment and shock when they traveled to Sheger to see the land and found that it did not match the map they had been provided. To make matters worse, local authorities informed them that their purchase was illegal and fraudulent. The group was devastated by this deceitful scheme and struggled to come to terms with what had happened to them. It is worth noting that all of the transactions were conducted at the governmental institution by individuals who claimed to be government officials, specifically Oromos.

In another case, a young single mother, known for her offensive comments on social media, became a victim of Oromuma scammers. She was approached with a similar story about a plot of land available for purchase at a cheap price. Despite being unable to travel to Ethiopia, she transferred tens of thousands of dollars to her uncle’s account without notifying him. When she finally contacted her uncle a day later to inform him of her plans and the money she had transferred, he was upset and surprised by her decision. He had not been informed beforehand and had also heard about the fraudulent transaction from others. Despite her uncle’s concerns, the young woman, a die-hard Oromuma supporter, insisted on proceeding with her plans. Shortly after, her uncle received a call from a federal government official, instructing him to appear in their office. Upon arrival, he was surrounded by three muscular men and taken to an empty room where he was interrogated about the money and coerced into making the purchase. He was given a receipt and a deed showing ownership of the land. A few days later, the young woman encouraged her uncle to go to Sheger and see the land. However, upon arrival, they discovered that the land did not exist and the transaction was fraudulent. The uncle is now afraid to report the matter to authorities, fearing for his life, and the young woman is heartbroken and shattered by the fact that the scheme was committed by Oromuma.

The incidents mentioned above, such as the exploitation of their supporters for financial gain, raise concerns about the reliability of Oromuma as an agency for its own support base. This is the main focus of my article. It is evident that the ambitious and greedy individuals in Oromuma prioritize their own power and wealth over the genuine social and political support their supporters deserve.