The Ethiopian People’s Forum first historic meeting in Seattle was completed with a stunning success. By Kirubel Bekele

November 13th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Seattle had its first Forum meeting last Saturday November 12, 2011. This meeting was highly anticipated mainly due to its unique nature of trying something new that has never been tried before. It brought three different political organizations that may have differences but are willing to sit together and if possible resolve their disagreements. Or at least talk about them in a civilized manner and agree to disagree without resorting to the usual cheap shots, name calling, and character assassinations that has tormented the opposition for so long.

Dr. Berhanu Nega of Ginbot 7, Ato Amin Jundi of OLF, and Dr. Aregawi Berhe of Hibret presented their positions in some detail to the public that came to the meeting in great numbers. It is followed by an exciting and sometimes tasty and humorous question-and-answer session. This is the first time Seattle has attracted such a big audience since the days of Kinijit. The expectation and the aura of optimism were very contagious. It seem like people drove to the meeting hall with a sense of hope to ignite the momentum of unity they displayed during and just before the 2005 election in Ethiopia.

Dr. Berhanu argued to accept our differences in ethnic heritage and refrain from imposing our will on others who may disagree with us. He asked for respect, understanding, and dialogue to get to some compromise that is mutually beneficial. He recommended patience and tolerance to work on this difficult process of building trust between ethnic and political organizations as we strive to change the prevailing absolute and racist dictatorship that exists in Ethiopia today into a one-man-one-vote democracy.

Ato Amin Jundi, secretary of OLF, asked all of us to respect each other. He also argued that the Oromo people in Ethiopia, like all the other ethnic groups, have the freedom to exercise their rights as they deem necessary without any unacceptable imposition from any one. By the same token, he also described how we can affect each other’s destiny in a profound way and even possibly disagree as we pursue goals that may go in different or even opposite directions. But he said this is not the end of the world. We can always come to the table and hammer out our differences without giving up our identity. Ato Amin Jundi said that the only way a united Ethiopia will exist is only if we respect each other genuinely expressing it in our daily political actions and practices. And he stressed the fact that is the only way a truly United Ethiopia can be established is when a truly democratic Ethiopia exists where the rights of all ethnic groups are respected not only in speech but in practice. And OLF is working to achieve that goal by coming to the table and discuss with all parties who have a stake in this critical issue.

For Dr. Aregawi, a united Ethiopia is a very important and critical matter to his organization which is true to Ginbot 7 as well. But unlike the so-called unity forces, Hibret does not seem to put Ethiopian unity as a precondition to start a dialogue with those parties like OLF who may be suspicious of unity without democracy based on their perceived experiences in their history.

All the three political leaders asked the audience in the Seattle meeting as well as the Diaspora to start to actively supporting the Ethiopian People’s Forum in Seattle and elsewhere to be established in other areas. They strongly argued this kind of forum is now our best vehicle to communicate, discuss and hammer out our points of disagreements which may gradually lead to some form of a common front. If this front is able to withstand the test of the challenges it is going to face, it may even lead to some form of unity that will form the bases for a united and democratic Ethiopia waiting to be built in the future.

Blaming the political leaders and using them as a scapegoat whenever we get a chance will not solve anything. Responsibility is a two way street. Before blaming politicians, we should ask ourselves if we are doing anything to solve the problem. Are we financially supporting any organization of our choice? Do we come to meetings and demonstrations? How many of us are approaching our community members and ask them to participate in this difficult process of bringing democracy in Ethiopia? How many us contact our city and government representatives on behalf of Ethiopia and the difficulties our people are going through?

If our answers to all these questions are in the affirmatives, then we have every right to challenge these political leaders. If not, then the problem is ours as well. We can’t hide behind the political figures and blame them when we ourselves have not met our obligations. God forbid, if Ethiopia becomes like Somalia, not only politicians but we will all be responsible. Blaming the politicians every time is a cheap trick to avoid responsibility. Let us avoid it and come clean. Let us become responsible citizens to meet our obligations and avoid excuses. An excuse is a lie no matter how you slice and dice it. We should be honest ourselves before we demand integrity and honesty from our leaders.

Seattle patriots are proud to successfully complete this first meeting of its kind that has gotten so much attention in the Diaspora. It was a courageous and risky undertaking. It was a lot of work that cost us a considerable amount of time, money and some heartache. The price was not cheap but it was all worth it. The Ethiopian People’s Forum in Seattle has pioneered such an ambitious and challenging but highly rewarding adventure. It may be still premature to speculate but this type of Forum may be the only panacea we are looking for to solve our forty years old problem- lack of unity and purpose.

  1. Deere
    | #1

    Well! Well! well! Let me say this, “No Pain No Gain”. Where there is a will there is a way! After I read the article from the three speakers, I learn that “respect of each other is one important aspect to bring our country to a solid democracy and to build a strong nation. Another important issue to be resolve is also to ask “forgiveness” of each other.

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    I hope the Seattle meeting will lead to the formulation of a genuine opposition party, which Ethiopia was earnestly looking for: that upholds the rule of law, disregards violent (most expensive & out of vogue) forms of struggle, that respects all nationalities/nations/, tolerates divergent views, – such as the ones we see daily in civilized societies such as that of USA & the UK.

  3. aha!
    | #3

    Seatle was the breeding ground for ethnic division outside of Ethiopia and it has been accentuated in this forum after 20 years, where the the group from the armed struggle of Dr. Berhanu Nega and Amin Jundi of OLF and Aregawi Berhe of Hibret, perhaps meaning Medrek, are singining to same tune as TPLF/eprdf regime and/or party but as better alternative to to it. With ethnic feralism, secessionism and totalirianism under their sleeves, they have nothing to show towards the national agenda for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians to save Ethiopia from disintegration.

    There is nothing to debate in a forum, other than those with ethnic agenda in the opposition parties to coalesce around the same goals of the national agenda of Andinet Hayloch that are not even represented in this form let alone it is not a national convention to sign an accord to be on the opposite spectrum of TPLF/eprdf regime in the most contentious ideologies of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism to regain the freedom, liberty and equality of individuals to supercede ethnic and secessionist rights, to restore Ethiopian Nationalism and the Sovereignity of Ethipia and Ethiopian National Interests in a non-violent uprising to freedom from authocratic rule, ethnocratic rule (minority now or the impending majority) ethnic rule does not a change make, especially when OLF is posturing on its ethnic agenda, like TPLF/eprdf, rather than coalescing/merging with those with national agenda, not represented in this forum.

    What is more ridiculous is the so called Seattle patriots patting themselves on the back. Are you trying to tell us ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalirianism are resolved through the dibate among these three individuals delivering their ideas of maintaining the status quo of ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalirianism.

    The current regime is there to uphold the constitution of the above mentioned ideologies, and maintain a non-independent braches of government, and has constituted ethnic feralism rather state federalism to entice etnic federalists of self rule, sparate but unequal development as divide and rule strategy, secessionism to entice separatists to engage in war skirmishes to secede upto self deteermination, not to free the silent majority of Ethiopians, and totalirinsm leaves Ethiopians without private ownership of land and properties as one of the means of production in a capitalistic and democratic society like North America and Western Europe.

    All what is needed is relflective thinking or reviaval of Ethiopians in the Diaspora particulary in North America to show loyality to Ethiopian taxpayers, rather than their parties, to think of Ethiopiawinet first and ones ethnicity second to save Ethiopia from the negative forces of disintegration and develop Ethiopia as one nation with one flag accross ecologial regions, not Killil Mengistats/regions, not even states as Rift Valley Proper, the Central and Northern Highlands, the Eastern Highlands and lowlands, and the subtrpical Savana of West and the South west and the laguage culture and the ethnic populations thrive in a competive and cooperative manner like species populations of anomals in the Ethiopian ecosystems. Do not get a hang on the oppression of nations and nationalities with marxisit ideology form the liberation movements era spearheaded by TPLF, which materialized int into ethnic federalism, secessionism and totaliarinism. These ideologies are anthises not only to Ethiopian Nationalism and the sovereignity of Ethiopia but also for capitalism and democracy to the silent, silenced but not silent majority of Ethiopians, where capital and land is available to TPLF and TPLF affiliated enterprises and cadres, and is available to foreign corporations.

  4. MELKAMU
    | #4

    Blaming the political leaders and using them as a scapegoat whenever we get a chance will not solve anything. Responsibility is a two way street. Before blaming politicians, we should ask ourselves if we are doing anything to solve the problem. Are we financially supporting any organization of our choice? Do we come to meetings and demonstrations? How many of us are approaching our community members and ask them to participate in this difficult process of bringing democracy in Ethiopia? How many of us contact our city and government representatives on behalf of Ethiopia and the difficulties our people are going through?

    After all there is no such a clear cut meaningful and significant distinction between ‘politicians’ and ‘ordinary’ peoples. There are very few genuine politicians who are wise, honest and courageous who stand for the general well being of their country and its peoples and to the contrary the majority of them are selfish, opportunist and treacherous politicians who are worthless for their nation and its peoples. In 21st century politics is becoming like a part-time lucrative business. Even there are a lot of indirectly paid phony political parties that are sponsored by TPLF and that is why we happen to witness such around 60 political parties in our country. Is it not a bizarre and ridiculous act in Ethiopian politics?
    The very problem arises that those who claim that they are ‘politicians’ believe that they are all-knowing and flawless and as such do not want to listen the genuine constructive critics of other citizens who do not claim as being a politicians. In fact nation creation and building is such a laborious task and process that requires wisdom and skill beyond the stereotypical game of politics. As long as those who in monopoly control of the political scene stage in Ethiopian politics stop their dirty political prostitution and then become wise, genuine and courageous citizens who are considerate of their country and its peoples the rest of the society shall not have trust on them. Those ‘politicians’ who had been bleeding and harming this country and its peoples severely while they were TPLF and other party members are even changing their face and reappearing again in different disguises claiming that they are here again liberate us. Any political party or any force that has any plan to work with EPLF and TPLF x-members has to critically demand in advance that such persons first cleanse their sin by confessing for the crimes and destructions they committed by being collaborators for the diabolical destructive moves of TPLF and EPLF against Ethiopiawinet and Ethiopia. I dare to say that all previous x-members who join the new forces that are against the incumbent TPLF are mainly those who insidiously striving to save the economy empire created and built by EFFORT of TPLF by plundering the wealth of Ethiopia and its peoples. Even it is very shameful and disgraceful in that persons like Gebru Asrat and Siye Abirha after serving for so long as TPLF (a force that stands only for the liberation of Tigrians) they again form the same ethnically driven political party called ARENA-TIGRAY. How they still can not regret for all the resources they ‘mistakenly’ spent and for the crimes they had committed for ethnically driven TPLF force. Such persons are known for committing political prostitution. They work with some evil forces and when things are not the way they want and when they are also pushed away then they form something or side with others. This is what we happen to know and reveal as the inherent nature and modus-operandi of our stereotypical politicians. Then how can we (Non-Politicians) respect, trust, follow and support them. Or should we have to believe and convince our selves the maxim in that politics is a dirty game and a dirty business? Well if we have to continue believing in such perverted maxim and then we have adulterated ourselves and also we have to be dirty and also lead a dirt life as well. For the last 40 years, especially for the last 20 years, dirty political games or political prostitution based on sheer dishonesty and treacherous acts has been the prevailing legacy of Ethiopian politics. We do not want to stick to the narrow perspective of such stereotypical politics based on stereotypical and phony party politics. There are such forces in that unless there is massive and intensive awakening and enlightenment at a grass-root level in a certain society then relying only on mere political parties political figures has been an obsolete tradition. What is even happening now in the most advanced countries, who preach us democratic values, is indeed very evident in that citizens and peoples have lost trust on the prevailing system and also on mere stereotypical political parties and political figures.
    Hypocrisy has become the virtue of stereotypical politicians and hence failed to be genuine and loyal to the peoples and citizens they claim they stand for and they promised with attractive words before clinging to power. Therefore, the excerpt I take above, that makes distinction of worthy values based on labels like “politicians” and “non-politicians” from the article is very shallow and wrong perception.
    Is after all claiming or becoming a politician as such a worthy stuff deserving a different and unique respect as such in 21st century where politics is mainly becoming a dirty game of business?
    And for that matter I dare to say that stereotypical politician alone do not as such save and liberate this nation, Ethiopia, from the shackles and bondages it is entangles with. And for Gods sake it is better that such stereotypical politicians stop claiming as a politician for convenience and better communications and understandings.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    The only time we do not blame the poloticians is about the occurrence and frequency of draughts, but we can blame them as to how they try to mitigate the drought short and long tem relief program initiation and implementation. We can also blame them for the lack of broader perspectives of their political outlook and support for the current ethnic federalism, secessionism and totalirinism built into the constitution, to say the least for not contending to the lack of independent branches of government, which resulted creating anti-terroist law, as well as the constituion that allows the regime to charge citizens with out independent Grand Jury, and Independent Judiciary of falsely charged politicians and journalists.

  6. Namomsa
    | #6

    It appears that these three leaders are the ideals of the walk to unity. One thing should be clear if true unity is to come about with least delay. We should forget feudalistic way of thinking and put on a twenty first mind set. Suppression, manipulation and ego wo’nt get anyone anywhere. Let all nationalities first get what is due to them and play part in the unity of Ethiopia with each and everyone’s self pride.

  7. Oda Tulu
    | #7

    Stunnning success is a pompous exageration of the event. Only Dr. Birhanu is right in his assertion of “one man one vote” principle.

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