Ethiopians in Transformation: Becoming People of Action! – Mr. Obang O. Metho
Part I of a report on the Ethiopian movement for peace, justice and freedom in Europe. (more…)
Part I of a report on the Ethiopian movement for peace, justice and freedom in Europe.
In May, I received an invitation from the European Parliament to speak at the 13th Session of the African-Caribbean-Pacific- European Union (ACP-EU) Joint Parliamentarian Assembly that would be held in
I was told that it would be a very strategic meeting where approximately 200 parliamentarians from Africa, the
Even though others may be able to speak about the crisis of democracy and human rights problems in
The main topics to be covered at the assembly would include the Millennium Development goals, good governance, transparency and accountability in relation to the exploitation of natural resources in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and human rights and conflicts—such as in
I said I would come if we could find funding for the travel expenses. We then started searching for funding. We had sent a letter and word out to the Ethiopian community, seeking funds for the European trip. The letter was even posted on some of the major websites, such as Ethio-media, but the response was very disappointing as it resulted in less than $600 being given. After a number of Ethiopians in
The morning of June 22nd, a friend of mine in
I met Clay when he called me one day last September. He had been “googling” for information on
He told me that he and his wife already had a biological child, but that they wanted to adopt a child to make a difference in the child’s life, a child who would otherwise be neglected or have no opportunity. As we talked, I learned what an excellent man he was. He was a devout Christian, very compassionate, a loving husband and father and also a good business person. He was very interested in learning more about
On June 22 when Clay and I met for coffee, he asked me for an update of what was going on in
A few hours later, Clay called and said he had talked to his wife and they both agreed that even though they did not have a lot of money, that they felt that God was telling them to pay for the $1800 airline ticket. I told him it was too much, but he insisted and said he wanted to put the ticket on his credit card and told me to go ahead and make arrangements. When the travel agent located a ticket to leave the next day, Clay and his wife paid for it in full! I later received an E-mail from him that said, “If I can contribute to making things better in the country, it will be better for that child I want to adopt.” He went on to say that the children of
When I arrived in Frankfurt, five Ethiopians greeted me, one of them, Mr. Abebe Bogale, the Coordinator Diplomatic affair of the CUD Support Chapters in Europe, Judge Wolde Michael Meshesha, from the Commission of Inquiry, currently living in the
The next morning, the first thing I saw as we were driving up to the building for the meeting was an Ethiopian flag and lots of Ethiopians waving other flags. I could hear them shouting and holding placards with slogans such as: “Justice to
When I looked at these committed people, I was very moved because I saw no one else demonstrating for freedom and justice other than our fellow Ethiopians. The German police were present in the area. From looking at them, they appeared to be very relaxed and comfortable, seemingly very comfortable with the peaceful and respectful way the demonstration was being carried out, yet I was really taken by the fact that they could be killed or arrested in
I could see their love for their country and their love for justice. This I saw as a sign of hope for their country—like torchbearers for freedom! They knew their rights and were calling attention to the lack of those universal rights in their motherland. I felt so proud of these Ethiopians for standing up in this way, especially because I know that although injustice and killing is occurring in many countries represented at the assembly—in fact, all over Africa—regrettably, I saw no other people demonstrating. We hear about the horrors in
These Ethiopians are not only my team workers and partners, but most of all, they are my Ethiopian family—my brothers and sisters. I am encouraged by them and am convinced that with God’s help—combined with their courage, commitment and sacrifice—anything is possible. We can reclaim our human dignity and self respect as we work towards our goal of living in peace and harmony with other human beings. It is only then that we can have any assurance that there is a future to this country—that the image of Ethiopia known to the world can change from being one of dead cows and skinny children with big bellies and flies in their faces to one that would reflect the beauty of the people and richness of the land and culture. We, as a country known to be the poorest of the poor, will then be able to change our direction and to utilize our abundant natural resources, the greatest being our people!
Because I would not be addressing those at the rally until later, we entered the assembly hall where I was amazed at how many influential people were present—people like Mr. Horst Kohler, the President of the Republic of German, Mr. Hans-Gert Pottering, the President of the European Parliament, Ms. Glenys Kinnock, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentarian Assembly, Ms. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Louis Michel, a member of the European Commission with the special responsibility for development and humanitarian aid. There were many others there I cannot take time to mention.
As the meetings began, Mr. Abebe pointed out the Ethiopian Speaker of the House and the Ethiopian Ambassador to the EU. They were sitting together way at the back of the auditorium while great speeches were being given. They appeared to be napping—opening and closing their eyes—not paying attention to the speakers. I thought—here they are, not really listening to the speeches about how the world should be—and yet they represent the second biggest country in Africa and one in the midst of a deepening crisis! Understandably, the speakers’ words of freedom and democracy might be difficult to hear when one is practicing active policies of oppression, ethnic hatred and division. In fact, it is exactly under such conditions, that the guilty and complicit would naturally lower the eyes in shame at the sting of such words on their consciences.
After the speeches, I was very moved by the words and ideas, but part of me was in doubt because, if this world could be improved by words alone, it would have become a better world a long time ago. What I mean is, there would not be children dying because of water-bourn diseases—there would be no children left out without schooling—there would not be children going to bed without food—there would be no suppliers of arms meant to kill your fellow human beings. We would live in a world where people could obtain liberty and where development and opportunity would not be given as a political favor based on one’s blind loyalty to the power holders.
It would be a world where women would be respected and the disabled and vulnerable would be cared for. If development could be accomplished by words, we would not be living in a world where every minute, ten children die from hunger. We would not be in world where 80 million children would not see a classroom or hold a pencil. Right now, we live in a world where with our new technology, we can map out human genomes, yet more than half a million women die each year due to pregnancy related problems. These are just examples of what could happen if things were done with words, but unfortunately, we live in a world where many words have been said, but little action has followed. Words of promise come easily and such promises are easily broken.
At , I came out to address the Ethiopian community at the rally. I immediately was struck with the presence of three Ethiopian Orthodox priests in their priest’s clothes, who were there among those rallying. I was glad to see them because I believe it is the duty of the religious leaders to speak out against injustice, oppression and the killing of innocent civilians, but regrettably, many of those in most churches, synagogues and mosques of Ethiopia have been largely silent, so seeing them there was inspiring. Some Ethiopians say religion and politics don’t go together, but injustice and oppression are not political issues. Instead, we need people of faith to take a high moral stand, speaking out against evil acts when it threatens to destroy a nation. We need such moral leaders to call the people to embrace truth, love, justice, peace and righteous living as children created by God who will ultimately judge us all.
The priests spoke first, followed by Mr. Abebe Bogale and Wolde Michael Meshesha, the judge from the Commission of Inquiry and an Ethiopian hero. He broke away from the Woyanne and carried all the documents from the Commission of Inquiry with him as traveled to the border of
When my time came to speak, I told them that I was there to tell the parliamentarians about the injustice going on in Ethiopia, not only to the Anuak, but to all Ethiopians because I strongly believe that justice can never come to the Anuak—or any other single ethnic group—unless justice comes to all Ethiopians. Peace will never come to the Anuak unless peace comes to all Ethiopians. I told them that this was the reason I was there and that I was happy to be representing all Ethiopians. I reminded them of what Mahatma Ghandi told his people many years ago. He had told them to never rest—to keep protesting—daily, weekly and monthly until they achieved the goal of freedom.
In other words, I told them that even though Woyanne are killing the people and suppressing the truth, never let them rest, but instead keep fighting until we are all free—protest until we are all free—speak up until we are all free.
I told them that the action they had taken by rallying, would make the Woyanne not rest. I noted that all of them standing there, coming from different parts of Europe were only unified by one thing—that is their Ethiopian-ness along with the infliction of injustice on all Ethiopians throughout the country. By them coming to the rally, I could see that they were showing they had a powerful weapon with them and that weapon was their voices, their unity and their love of one another. This is the only way they or we can defeat the Woyanne.
I went on to tell them:
You (Ethiopian Europeans) have accomplished a great amount of work and are heroes in the effort. Through your actions, you have mobilized those in the EU to pass some resolutions related to
You must keep on fighting. You must keep protesting and you must keep speaking. Only speak words of love, respect and care for one another. We cannot build a better
Continue to be dedicated and committed to a long struggle to get the victory as it does not come easily and it takes time. This is the time. Keep on fighting even if some people call the Diaspora extremists. Is it extreme to ask for one’s basic rights? Is it extreme to tell the truth about what is going on? Is it extreme to expect life and justice? Do not give up as long as you are an extremist for love. Remember, even Jesus was accused of being an extremist. Keep on moving and struggling and I will be here with you by your side.
After finishing my talk to those rallying for
For now, I urge all Ethiopians to keep the momentum of our movement for freedom and justice going. Many Ethiopians in
In addition to them, three Ethiopian friends each sent me $100 for my expenses and other Ethiopians in
I also heard from Ethiopians in Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Bonn and Copenhagen who would have done the same had I had more time. For your information, I will also be reporting on a discussion I had while in
All of what happened was made possible because some Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians were willing to take responsibility for the related expenses. Justice is not cheap at all and requires widespread participation in covering the costs. If Meles can spend four million US to try to kill HR#2003 as well as on other lobbying efforts to stay in power, we cannot expect to fight against that kind of effort with no resources. But think about that amount of money for a minute. How many children could have used such funds to prevent many children from dying from hunger or disease? Think about how many schools, clinics or hospitals could have been built with these funds!
Right now, we receive many calls asking for the AJC to act as a mediator in bringing all the factions of Ethiopian ethnic groups and organizations together to form a common front to confront the government regarding the human rights violations that are being directed against every ethnic group and taking place in every corner of Ethiopia, but we are limited because we don’t have adequate funding, nor do we have time to fundraise, something that requires much time or more staff. If you support the work of the AJC, you can help raise funds for furthering the work beyond what is possible now. For instance, if we had enough funding, we could hire others to help.
One example might be a person like Mr. Abebe Bogale who is working fulltime on advancing the cause of freedom in
If you can help, send an email to the AJC or whichever organization you want to support, like HR#2003, a radio station, a website, a blog or some civic or political group. With it, note how much you will commit to a certain amount of support every month and then follow up with doing it! You might be able to contribute to more than one group.
The momentum is mounting, but it will require us to follow up our words with concrete action as well as financial contributions, both of which can ultimately help break the chains of injustice and end the suffering and horror of our people. There have been dark clouds of misery hanging over our ancient land for a thousand years. Rays of the sun are finding small openings in the clouds and we are starting to see some light shine through our present darkness. Our actions will demonstrate if we are those rays of light capable of burning off the clouds until we have full sunlight or if we are mere illusions that disappear like empty words and empty promises—like clouds hiding the sun, but also clouds that produce no rain for a parched land.
Are we any different from those in the international community or western countries who say such words with their mouths while they do nothing or even worse, while their hands provide the Woyanne funds to buy the military equipment and the military training so the Meles army can continue to terrorize our own people? Even if we would never support the Woyanne with arms, are we passively doing so as we fail to provide concrete support to this movement for freedom, justice and peace? Will we be guilty for killing the movement by refusing to give our money in support of the work? Do not be confused, the money for the work is really money being given to pay for the freedom of your families.
Many Ethiopians speak the beautiful words of democracy, rule of law, development and freedom, but do not realize that all of these will not “magically drop out of the sky!” If Meles needs funding to keep tormenting us, so do we in order to stop it even though I am certain we need not spend anywhere close to what he is spending because we have truth on our side. It costs a lot more to suppress the truth because truth has life within itself that empowers it!
You don’t have to do what Clay has done, but commit some monthly amount to this effort, even if it is a direct deposit from your check of $5, $10 or $100 per month for the next year. One Ethiopian Mr. Woudeh Worku in
Just this past week, one Ethiopian told me about his phone call back home to his mother and sister. His family members described conditions that were terribly difficult even though they made 500 birr a month. His sister said that even the cost of just one onion can now be set at most any price and many people can no longer afford an onion. She kept asking him to please tell her, ‘”How long before this ends?” He then called me and asked, “Obang, how long before this ends?’’ I could not answer him because that answer has much to do with what each one of us Ethiopians is willing to do to bring this misery, suffering and oppression to an end.
Following this call, another Ethiopian called me to tell me that he had just talked to his mother who was also living under difficult conditions in the country. She told him, “’If this goes on another couple of years, our country will be gone and there will be nothing left of
So I ask each of you—what are you willing to do to bring this tyranny to an end? I urge you to do your share “DIRSHA” in whatever way you can. This is a call. This is what your family in
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed; but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
For additional information, please contact: Mr. Obang O. Metho, The Director of International Advocacy:
Phone (306) 933-4346 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org