At a Peace Forum, Seeking Solutions to a Holocaust in the Horn – The McGill Report

December 10th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – It was a peaceful peace conference, which in itself was a kind of miracle. (more…)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – It was a peaceful peace conference, which in itself was a kind of miracle.

It was a miracle because the countries represented at the conference – the “Africa Peace Forum” held last Friday at the Hubert Humphrey Institute in Minneapolis — are all in one way or another at war today, either with each other or in a state of civil war.

Filling the auditorium were immigrants from the Horn of Africa including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti. On the podium, the four main conference speakers – academic experts and human rights activists — painted a picture of crisis that was not only tragic, but practically apocalyptic.

“Can Somalis survive their own political death?” asked Ahmed Samatar, a professor of international studies at Macalester College. “I’m not so sure. One never gives up on others who are still alive, but I’m not sure.” Nearly half of Somalis living today in the Horn of Africa are malnourished, Samatar said, adding that Somalia today “is now objectively speaking the worst country in the world.”

In Ethiopia, the government uses genocide and ethnic cleansing to stay in power, according to Obang Metho, the executive director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia. His own tribe, the Anuak of western Ethiopia, have been targeted for elimination by the Ethiopian government, Metho said, and an even larger-scale massacre, of Somali-speaking Ethiopians in the eastern Ogaden region, is also underway.

Unfolding Holocaust

In eastern Sudan, a refugee crisis virtually hidden from the world’s view is worsening by the day where thousands of refugees are fleeing from Eritrea into 35 camps in Sudan, according to a documentary film shown at the conference and prepared by the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa (ARAHA).

A drought and famine of several years in the making is also now sweeping across the Horn of Africa, massively intensifying the ravages of war and repression.

“It makes you wonder whether life is worth living” to fully absorb all these crises, said Bereket Habte Selassie, the key speaker at the forum and the chief architect of the Eritrean Constitution. The constitution was presented in 1997 but was never ratified because the country’s President, Isaias Afwerki, assumed dictatorial power by cancelling national elections, shutting down the national press and jailing his opponents.

The four speakers each offered a different angle on the unfolding holocaust.

Bereket’s key question was “In the Horn of Africa, what is ailing us? How has our region become a kind of metaphor for disaster?” His answer was a lack of democracy. “Our governments have failed us,” he said. “What is democracy if not accountability? We have to have governments that are accountable to the people.”

Islamist Project

In Somalia, Samatar suggested, the key problem is not so much an unaccountable or even a corrupt government as the complete lack of a functioning government.

“As we speak there is a vicious war going on between an incompetent and legless transitional federal government, with no capacity and no competence, against a very vicious Islamist project, who social purpose is to force the Somali people to surrender. This is the drama that’s unfolding on the streets of Mogadishu.”

Seyoum Tesfaye, an Atlanta-based journalist and human rights activist from Eritrea, struck a resonant theme for Horn of Africa immigrants now living in the U.S.

What role should the African diaspora play in trying to bring peace to the countries in the Horn?

“Should the diaspora focus on finding ways of becoming part of the grand American experiment?” Tesfaye asked. “Or, should people stay consumed by cascading events from their countries of origin?”

Pouring oneself into helping one’s homeland before assimilating to America, Tesfaye warned, came with a cost, since it would take longer to reach high positions in society, such as elected public office, where immigrants could make a real difference.

“When we choose to engage in noble efforts to bring peace in the Horn of Africa, we do so as American citizens,” Tesfaye said. “In this sense we help America in a profound way. We become immigrants turned into grassroots ambassadors for our nation, which has overriding strategic interests in the region moving forward from 9/11.”

Spiritual Renewal

Obang Metho, whose coalition represents the many ethnic groups in Ethiopia, was the Martin Luther King of the conference, speaking to the need for spiritual self-renewal among all the people of the Horn, people on whom “the world has lost all hope.”

The endless intramural wars in the Horn of Africa must be put aside, Metho said, in recognition that the crisis has reached a point that unless they are, only death will rule.

“We need to put our humanity above our ethnicity,” Metho said. “Today in Africa we seem to value our ethnicity above our humanity, our language above our humanity, our religion above humanity. But hatreds will get us nowhere. Something we all have in common is our humanity. We have lost that today in the Horn of Africa.”

Metho swept his arm across the audience of immigrants in the audience from the Horn of Africa – men and women who might be fighting each other if they still lived there.

“It can be done in Minnesota,” Metho said. “Why can’t it be done in Africa?”

Copyright @ 2009 The McGill Report

  1. AFDist
    | #1

    National liberty preceds multinational (regional) democracy!
    This short essay and of course my hitherto contributions are my x-mass gift to all my readers and at the same time this one is a good-bye message. Thank you all for reading my opinions till now, be it they are constructive or not to the pragmatic move of Oromo liberation and the liberation movement of all oppressed nations in Ethiopian empire. I have tried to do my contribution using different nick-names for the last many years. One of the fruits I am now enjoying is the current tendency of all Oromo nationalists to preach and practice Oromo uniy for liberty (Tokkummaa for Bilisummaa). This is one of the results of our efforts for many years, thanks Waaqayyoo/Rabbii, we could silence to some extent Weyane cadres and “naive Oromos”, who used to sow a discord among different Oromo groups based on region, party and religion as well as using the division parameters like leaders vs followers, young generation vs old generation, etc.

    Now it seems that all Oromo nationalists in the ruling party of Oromia, in the opposition parties aka Oromo democratic federalists, and in the rebel fronts like Oromo Liberation Front do agree on the necessity of Oromo unity as a source of our power to liberate Oromo and Oromia from domination, exploitation and tyranny. Oromo nation being the third big native nation in Africa (next to Berber and Hausa), our liberation will definitely be a precedence and an example for the future self-determination of all national groups in Africa, be it they are big or small and have their autonomy at different levels (state, province, district or county) of adminstrative arrangement of the future African federation.

    The coming five months are, the time of “struggle for democracy per election” in the Ethiopian empire. The ruling TPLF wants this election for legitimacy in front of international community (not necessarily in front of Ethiopian nations and peoples) to rule further for the next five years. It prepared its self in the last five years after the defeat it experienced in the election of 2005. The final preparation it undertook is the code of conduct it agreed on with three unitarist parties, which it desparately needed for the legitimacy and as the binding procedure to secure its winning of the next election. All the three “opposition” parties who made this agreement of the code of conduct with the encumbent are the sympathizers of the ex-nefxenya Ethiopia, so that they chose to give the neo-nefxenya Ethiopia to survive further instead of being challenged and transformed by democratic unionists like Medrek at home and AFD in diaspora. Why did this alliance of the ex-nefxenya admirers and the neo-nefxenyas happen now? Is the movemnt of Oromo people and other oppressed nations for liberty endangering the existence of the Abyssinian domination system, which the two nefxenyas try to save?

    It is clear that all the oppressed nations in the Ethiopian empire in general and the Oromo nation in particular are fighting for their liberty for the last more than one century. The two nefxenyas in the contrary still sing and dance about the necessity of “unity and democracy”. Unfortunately, there can never be unity of nations and democracy of the empire without first accepting and respecting the God-given right of citizens as individual and the liberty of nations as group. That is why political organizations like AFD and G-7 used to advocate for freedom to be achieved before establishing democracy in the region called Ethiopia. Liberty from exploitation, tyranny and oppression under both the ex-nefxenyas and the neo-nefxenya Weyanes should come to end. If there is such liberty (freedom) of citizens and nations, Oromo people is the last to fear the propagated unity and democracy, which are untiringly preached by those who want to keep the empire’s domination system by any means.

    We all know that liberty is a concept of political philosophy and identifies the condition in which an individual or a group has the right to act according to his or her own will. So the question we all need to ask is, do individual citizens and collective nations as a group in Ethiopian empire have such the right to act according to their will? The answer is a big NO!. That is why before preachig about democracy, unity and peace, all the concerned stakeholders need to fight for such liberty together. The attempt of pro-liberty forces to come together like what they did in Medrek and AFD is very encouraging to say the least. If such alliances fight first for freedom (liberty) from Weyane tyranny and achieve it, then the probability of forging both democracy and unity based on their free-will can be high.

    The attempt of Weyane to tell us that we do have already achieved freedom, unity based on free will and democracy under their rule is the 21st century big LIE we ever heared in the world. Weyane talks freedom and walks tyranny; talks unity, but walks devide and rule method; talks peace, but walks state terrorism; talks democracy, but walks dictatorship. What the neo-nefxenyas talk and walk are diametrically opposite. What about the opposition? Here we should differentiate the unitarists like AEUP and EDP from the unionists like Medrek and AFD. The unitarists being the nostalgical admirers of the ex-nefxenya just emulate the neo-nefxenyas in their hypocrasy. They talk democracy, but walk to achieve Amhara elite’s dictatorship; they talk unity, but want to keep the empire with its domination system…etc. The unionists are the only genuine opposition group struggling for both freedom and democracy as a precondition for the union of liberated nations in the empire/region to forge a possible united states of Ethiopia as a base for the future United States of Africa.

    Of course, democracy is a political government either carried out by the people (direct democracy), or the power to govern is granted to elected representatives (representative democracy). In this sense, the democracy, which was tried by the monarchy of T. Mekonnen, by military dictatorship of Mengistu and now by ethnocratic dictatorship of Meles are the pseudo-democracies we had in the empire. Actually it is practically impossible to democratize an empire, where there is a sort of domination system. For the empire to be democratized, the domination system of both the ex- and neo-nefxenyas must be destroyed. This shows us that first comes national liberty, then follows regional (empire’s) democracy. Democrcy under national slavery (unity without liberty) such us what we do see in the Ethiopian empire system is only a dream, which can never be realized. Oromo nation in particular and all other oppressed nations in general need to fight for our libery by any means now. We can realize democracy only in a liberated Oromia and in the other liberated national areas, that is why democratization of the Ethiopian empire is a futile excercise, even though it is one of the means leading us to our Kaayyoo (the END-goal). To achieve the liberty we do want, we need to be well-armed (empowered). Empowering Oromo nation and other oppressed nations can only come through Tokkummaa for Bilisummaa (unity for liberty) of all national liberation fronts. So let’s unite first to achieve liberty from Weyane’s tyranny and then forge a democracy in a multinational union of the region callled Ethiopia. Democratization of such a NEW Ethiopia is possible on the contrary to the attempt of democratizing the empire Ethiopia..

    Regarding the unity we do talk about, there are two types of unity: the one required to achieve liberty, which is the unity of the freedom movements of all nations (unity for liberty), and the other one is which we need after liberty, that is a union of nations in the region/empire. To have the first one (unity for liberty), it is good to have a common ground for all opposition freedom fighters regarding what to achieve after liberty. The common ground can only be to have a union of liberated nations in the empire/region. The two nefxenyas (wolves in a sheep clothing), including those which want to dismantle Oromia (the wish of the ex-nefxenya) and those which want to keep the status quo of the de-autonomized Oromia (the wish of the neo-nefxenya), must be dealt with by the cooperation and the coordination of the two parts of the unionist opposition, i.e by the working together of those, for instance, who want to achieve only Oromian autonomy in Ethiopian federation, like what OFC of Medrek is trying and those who do fight for Oromian independence in a possible union of nations in the empire/region like for what OLF struggles.

    So let us the unionist opposition groups at home in the form of Medrek and groups in diaspora in the form of AFD which does now include OLF, ONLF, SLF, BPLM and GPLM cooperate and coordinate our efforts. I hope the other ‘quasi-unionists’ like G-7, EPPF, EPRP and UEDF-diaspora will join the AFD group or we will see in the near future if they are part and parcel of the unitarist admirers of the ex-nefxenyas. I know that specially G-7 already made an acceptance of unconditional Ethiopian unity as a precondition to forge any sort of alliance with AFD member organizations. With such arrogant position, G-7 just showed its color of a tendency to long for the unitarist Ethiopia. I just recommend G-7 and the likes to make the right of citizens and the wish of nations for liberty as a common ground, not their mantra about unconditional unity. Only free citzens and free nations can decide on the issue of Yes vs No to a union of nations in the empire/region, in which we can forge democracy of multi-national Ethiopia, of course after securing our individual and national liberty. That is why we tend to say: national liberty such as Oromian liberty preceds regional democracy like that of Ethiopian democracy!

    Galatoomaa and nagaan ta’a!!

  2. Wochayo
    | #2

    AFDist, Ethiopia is a Nation what we need is idividual right. It is because of you and your likes we couldn’t unite and fight for democracy. stop your dream of becoming a leader of this or that ethnic group and work for democracy with others.

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