1. Introduction, the overall situation in Oromia
The Oromo people have been waging a continuous struggle with immense sacrifices for over a century to regain natural rights it has been denied, to free itself from subjugation, and to ultimately secure the right to self-determination. The human and material cost of the struggle for freedom, even after the birth of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that rendered modern organizational and political shape to the Oromo people’s quest for freedom by mobilizing a unified course of action, was immense. With the unprecedented level of mobilization of the Oromo youth organized under the Oromo Qeerroo/Qarree (youth) and the Oromo populace in general around 2015, the human casualties and material costs of the struggle had skyrocketed to a tipping point. Thousands have paid the ultimate price with their precious lives while many more were left with permanent disabilities. Even though the human and material loss in this mass mobilization was concluded with a bitter-sweet victory, the fruits of the sacrifices paid by the Oromo Qeerroo were hijacked by visibly and invisibly conspired hands. The much awaited and hoped for victory was reversed taking an unintended course, leaving the sacrifices in vain.
The anticipated political reforms, resumption of dialogue around the institutionalization of true democratic order that would respect the rights of peoples to self-determination within the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) failed miserably, – before moving an inch forward. Some cautious organizations that were skeptical of the reformists’ potential to effect a fundamental change in Ethiopia proposed an all-inclusive transitional government that could lay foundations for the said reform to bring about a lasting change as a point of departure from the outgoing old order. One among such political forces was the Peoples’ Alliance for Freedom & Democracy (PAFD), a coalition of many political organizations to which the OLF belonged as a senior founding member. When the call for a transitional arrangement of the alliance fell on deaf ears, ambitious political organizations, disenfranchised activists, and foreign powers with vested interests in Ethiopia commenced rallying around a group that sprang out of the embattled Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The new group, disguised as a dynamic force for change, headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed placed itself at the helm of an undefined transitional terrain. It was amid such confusion that the country headed for the 6th national election in 2020. This chaos allowed the same functionaries of the old ruling party, the EPRDF, as legitimate rulers of the country without reaching at any fundamental consensus among the major political forces whose consent should have been vital to offer the slightest legitimacy to the new oligarchy.
Nevertheless, the repressive, alienating, and disenfranchising policies that Dr. Abiy Ahmed’s administration embarked on for the last three years as a tool to dismember genuine political forces so they can not partake in the election. This has completely dashed the hope of many including those who adored him at one point.
The COVID-19 pandemic was perceived as a blessing in disguise for Abiy’s regime that was already fan-fairing for pretexts to extend the election timetable while the country was grappling with political uncertainty. As a result, Abiy was able to postpone the national elections to 2021 without the consent of the political forces and stakeholders, thereby, ensuing a constitutional crisis that was already underway. Subsequently, the ruling party whose mandate has expired illegally extended its illegitimate rule to this date. The OLF, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), and some of their allies protested the illegal extension of the incumbent’s mandate as unconstitutional, but to no avail.
Even though a much-needed reform was hoped for to transition the country to democracy, peace and stability, things went from bad to worse. Popular demands were neglected, projects to resurrect imperial Ethiopia’s glorious old order under the guise of Ethiopia’s unity began to emerge as a strategy to dilute what had been accomplished by years of popular demands and generational sacrifices. Civil discourse is impossible because the incumbent ruling clique is heavily corrupted, full of conscious liars, and opportunists.
The OLF and OFC have reiterated, time and again, that the illegal practices by the ruling party are against the law of the land which would exacerbate the conflict between citizens and the regime as well as the overall communal relations between the diverse constituencies of the Ethiopian state. The regime’s reactions to such genuine pleas for freedom and democracy were only limited to the usual lip service of hollow promises.
Currently the State of Oromia and its citizens are in a dire situation. There is no administrative or state structure that can provide meaningful services to citizens. A war has been declared on Oromia and people are paying with the lives of their own sons and daughters daily. In addition to the Ethiopian armed forces, local militias, the Amhara region’s special forces, and a foreign force – the Eritrean army are operative in the war against Oromia. It should be noted here that the war was waged with full consent of Abiy who also invited the Eritrean army to occupy Oromia. Substantial territory of Oromia is now a war zone, resulting in massive displacement and death. People are fleeing their villages leaving their belongings behind. The invading army is inflicting untold misery to Oromo farmers and pastoralists. Houses are burned into ashes, their cattle confiscated, properties looted, and women raped. Men are being executed, beaten to death, or will be taken prisoners for no apparent reason. Many of the able-bodied Oromo men and women who were unable to endure such atrocities have joined the fighting forces of the Oromo Liberation Army. There is no rule of law in Ethiopia; there is no accountability. The regime’s henchmen are acting so arbitrarily and erratically simply because they have enough resources at their disposal to do whatever they want to. Simply stated, there is no government in Oromia in the true sense of the term.
The self-appointed ruling clique that operates under the name Prosperity Party (PP) has successfully put a dictatorial regime in place. As stated above, the new rulers of Ethiopia were members of the old regime that had been inflicting untold miseries on the citizens of Oromia and other peoples of Ethiopia, emerged with a new name disguised as a reformer. The regime has shown its resolve to dissolve Ethiopia’s multi-nation federalism and reinstitute old Ethiopia of one nation, one language, and one culture, validated by a weird narrative that group rights, if granted to Ethiopia’s nations and nationalities, would be a menace to Ethiopia as they see it. As a result, the regime is diligently working to dismantle the Oromia Regional State and divide the Oromo people by depriving them of a unified Oromia federal state territory. To this end, it has recruited individuals believed to be loyal to the ruling clique, whose key task is cutting the basic and essential services from Oromia, services that a regional administration needs to establish itself as a regional government.
We view the 6th national election null and void since it does not meet criteria of an election by any standard. It was conducted without contending political parties, the two major political organizations that very well represented the interests of the citizens of Oromia, OLF & OFC, were forced to withdraw from the race. The election was conducted at a time when leaders, members, and supporters of these two organizations were languishing in prisons throughout the country. Almost all offices of both organizations were either raided or forced to close.
The OLF and OFC had shown their commitments to democratic principles and have done their best to make this election free and fair for all. They have been calling for constructive dialogues on different platforms for a return to the right course even after they sensed that the election process was getting off track. Mindful of the fraudulent election that did not resolve the country’s grave socio-political problems, the OLF and OFC made a national call to all stakeholders for the establishment of a government of national salvation in Ethiopia.
To guard its sovereignty and exercise self-rule, make a firm stride towards freedom and democratic rights, allow rays of peace to shine and end the misery of decades, and safeguard its national interests, it has become imperative for Oromia to establish a transitional government that operates until it is replaced by a democratically elected government. The OLF and OFC, as two major stakeholders, are taking upon the duty of shouldering the aspirations of the Oromo people in this historic effort and forming such a transitional government. Thus, after a thorough analysis of the ongoing political situation in the country, in consultation with Oromo intellectuals, professionals, and leaders of the Oromo civic society, the OLF and OFC hereby declare the establishment of the Oromia Regional National Transitional Government of Oromia (ORNTG) on this day of July 1, 2021, to serve for three years within which time a legitimate government of the people by the people is established. The ORNTG is being inaugurated at a very critical time in our region’s history, at a time when the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front is regaining its control over Tigray following a bloody war against the Federal forces, and at a time when the entire country is increasingly engulfed by chaos and unrest. These developments and the political deteriorations discussed above make the creation of the ORNTG imperative – to protect all the citizens of Oromia and better serve its people.
2. Oromia Regional National Transitional Government guiding principle
ORNTG accepts all International Human Rights Declarations that Ethiopia signed and in addition, during the transitional period, ORNTG:
2.1 Recognizes and sees to it that the ultimate power rests in the hands of the people of Oromia.
2.2 Respects and protects the rights of all citizens of Oromia.
2.3 Respects and defends equality between men and women.
2.4 Assures that Oromia Reginal State constitutions uder Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are the supreme laws of Oromia. ORNTG shall not pass any laws contrary to these supreme laws.
2.5 Recognizes the separation of State and Religion in Oromia. There is no state religion. ORNTG respects freedom of religion.
2.6 Protects and respects the rights of other nationalities in Oromia.
2.7 Assures that the judiciary system is independent from the other branches of ORNTG.
2.8 Provides basic services and other duties as outlined by the law.
2.9 Collaborates with other regional governments and share responsibility with the federal government.
2.10 Works diligently to bring democracy, peace, stability, and economic development to the Horn of Africa.
3. Organizational Structure of Oromia Regional National Transitional Government
3.1 ORNTG shall have a Council composed of 337 members selected from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), civic society, religious institutions, Gadaa institution, youth organizations, and women organizations.
3.2 ORNTG serves as a transitional government of Oromia until a government elected by the people takes over. The term of ORNTG shall not exceed three years.
3.3 ORNTG council shall have a speaker and a vice speaker. The council establishes necessary committees to carry out its duties. The speaker of the council presides over the council’s meetings and is responsible for the governance of the council.
3.4 ORNTG has structures at different administrative levels. The ORNTG can have administrative structures at any level it wishes to.
3.5 ORNTG Council shall be the law-making body of ORNTG.
3.6 The responsibility for implementing and enforcing the laws rests with the president of ORNTG. The president reports to the ORNTG Council.
3.7 The President of ORNTG shall be the head of the executive branch of the ORNTG. The president shall represent ORNTG, and he shall nominate vice presidents and heads of executive departments to the ORNTG Council for approval. The president shall oversee and give directives to the executive departments.
3.8 During the transition period, existing government structures that are providing basic services to the people will continue to function. The ORNTG shall facilitate the completion of development projects that are underway.
3.9 ORNTG shall work closely with international organizations such as the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), Diplomatic Mission Groups, Human Rights Groups, Non-Governmental Organizations, and any organizations that have interests in Oromia.
3.10 The ORNTG shall work with other regional/ state governments to create a genuine and all-inclusive transitional agreement at the federal level in the presence of third party such as the African Union, European Union, influential individuals, and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch to ensure that it is open, genuine, and free.
3.11 The ORNTG shall work with interested groups and organizations including international media to build a transparent and democratic system, to promote good governance, and launch upon expedited development.
4. Transitional Period Program
ORNTG shall work on security, political, economy, and social services of all Oromian citizens during the transitional period as listed below.
4.1. To establish peace and security that has been lacking in recent years in Oromia, ORNTG will:
a. Work with local communities to identify potential elements which can affect peace and security of the people and security forces will be immediately deployed to places where problems emerge to protect local communities to maintain peace.
b. Encourage discussions with neighboring leaders and other nationalities about shared values towards building peace and stability based on friendly relationships.
c. Work on repatriating families and displaced communities back to their homes and properties as soon as conditions permit.
d. Establish strategies to support communities who were either displaced or forced to leave their homes and lands because of their vulnerability to socio-economic challenges.
4.2 ORNTG shall establish a Commission on Reconciliation and Transitional Justice responsible to investigate and prosecute all crimes by previous regimes against citizens of Oromia.
4.3 ORNTG shall establish a special committee to collect data on all martyrs of Oromia and recommend appropriate commemoration for them.
4.4 In order to impose the rule of law, ORNTG will,
a. Reaffirm the independence of the judiaciary system and respect for the court’s decision.
b. Work to prevent illegal detentions and human right violations against anyone.
c. Persecute individuals or groups involved in illegal activities.
d. Protect properties of all citizens and residents of Oromia that were obtained legally.
e. Hold government officials at all levels accountable for any crimes or illegal activities they commit.
4.5 ORNTG shall facilitate a fair, free, and transparent election to establish a legitimate and legal government, and transfer power to the winning party(s).
4.6 Based on the policies of the ORNTG, all political prisoners will be released.
4.7 On economic growth, ORTNG will work to:
a. Identify all factors that resulted in low income and implement policies to improve living standards of the people.
b. Encourage everyone to build wealth but only through fair and legal practices.
c. Increase productivity and capacity in agriculture, animal breeding, business, and industrial sectors for national economic growth as well as to improve the living standards of the people.
d. Implement policies to expand transportation and communication as vital for economic growth.
4.8 On social justice, ORNTG shall work to,
a. Expand education, public health services, basic development infrastructures, and the likes, towards sufficient capacity for public services.
b. Create the environment for all social segments to participate and play their expected political, social, and economic roles while benefiting from them.
c. Maximize the contributions and involvements of women and children by recognizing their essential roles in today’s living conditions as well as for the future of the nation.
d. Strengthen the involvements of the youth and women in national political, economic, and social activities by recognizing their roles as a wealth of productive manpower for the nation.
e. Give special focuses to work on setting up government services for different disabled citizens.
We, members of the Transitional Council of ORNTG, unanimously approve and hereby declare the establishment of Oromia Regional Transitional Government.
Transitional Council of Oromia Regional National Transitional Government
June 30, 2021