NO THANKSGIVING FOR ETHIOPIANS By Tecola W. Hagos
I. No Thanksgiving to God or Man
Thanksgiving has been my favorite of all holidays that people in the United States celebrate. I even wrote an article on Thanksgiving titled “Thanksgiving: Thank You “the Good Old USA” exactly two years ago. In few days, we will be ready to celebrate this popular holyday in 2013. However, at this time there is no Thanksgiving for me, and I am not thankful to anybody. In fact, I am angry, very angry at my God too for allowing such “life and death” power to a group of people and their political leaders to hurt brutally, murder savagely, rape wantonly, and loot mercilessly God’s other Children (more like God’s step-children)—Ethiopians.
The recent atrocities, savagery, inhumanity of the Saudi Government and Saudi security forces, the terrorism of Wahhabi religious police, and the infliction of pain and suffering by Saudi ordinary citizens on Ethiopian immigrants are most deplorable and have violated every human norm and civilized behavior. Such brutality and barbarism goes against the many Covenants, Conventions, Resolutions, and Declarations of the United Nations. There is no question that the Saudi Government officials and Saudis committed grave, brutal and savage attacks, murders, rapes, and serious bodily injuries on a number of Ethiopians. Even though almost all of the victims of the atrocities were Ethiopians, there were also other people from other parts of Africa, such as Chad, Somalia, even Sudan, who suffered no less than Ethiopian victims. My heart felt sorrow for all who suffered, irrespective of their nationality or immigration status, in the hands of subhuman Saudis.
I have not heard or read any statement from any United States Government Official, or from any Senator, or Congressman et cetera condemning the barbarism committed against immigrants in Saudi Arabia. I have not heard, or read proper news coverage about such atrocities, from the major news media here in the United States, except the BBC and the Huffington Post. Shame on you all and I hope when you bite into your turkey and ham on Thanksgiving Day that it tastes bitter so that you may be reminded of the bitterness of life for some human beings who are enduring the barbarism of the Government and the people of Saudi Arabia.
II. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The Saudis have already declared Jihad against Ethiopians. The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has made on the same day on 17 November 2013 what seems to be contradictory statements endorsing in one hand the brutal crackdown by the Security Forces of Saudi Arabia that included murder and savage beatings and rapes on illegal immigrants, and on the other hand stating also that there should be no violence against those immigrants that are living under the protection of the Saudi Government. Although both the Saudi and Ethiopian Governments officially claimed that three Ethiopians were killed in the crackdown against illegal immigrants in Saudi Arabia, it seems, from very many eye-witness accounts and video reports, that more than three Ethiopian immigrants were butchered to death and several women and young girls were raped and some murdered. A number of detainees have stated also that their personal property, such as cash, gold, jewelry et cetera was taken by Saudi security forces without any receipt or record. Organized young men under the direction of Officials have systematically looted the homes of Ethiopian families once the Ethiopian men were taken into custody.
There is no question the Saudi society and the Officials of the Saudi Government are just a bunch of lawless, barbaric, savages who have no sense of honor, magnanimity, or empathy. They lack the rudiments of the lowest level of intelligence. One of the reasons the officials stress is that of the job situation. How does a low level immigrant worker from Ethiopia threaten the professional job of a Saudi? It is time that we campaign how these criminals could be charged for “crimes against humanity” under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, Articles 2 and 3. Any Saudi citizen or official could be charged wherever found even outside of Saudi Arabia under the Genocide Convention and local legislations of a Party State. Both Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia are parties to the Genocide Convention, Ethiopia ratified the Genocide Convention on 1 July 1949; Saudi Arabia did deposit its instrument of Accession of the Genocide Convention on 13 July 1950.
III. The Ethiopian Government
In an article that has become controversial creating its own dynamism now, I had suggested for those who are in opposition to the current Government of Ethiopia not to attack the Ethiopian Government, until we get all of the twenty three thousand (plus) undocumented Ethiopians (or with illegal status for overstaying or other factors) and deemed illegal by the Saudi immigration authorities. My caution was never an endorsement of the misdeeds and political crimes and blunders, as well as, treasons the Ethiopian Government Leadership had committed during Meles Zenawi’s period of leadership of twenty years. But first thing first, we are in political limbo and in a critical national survival challenge. Thus, I suggested that we regroup as one people even if it means around an insensitive, utterly despicable, irresponsible and corrupt EPRDF controlled Ethiopian Government. I did not think of the present Ethiopian Government Leaders as particularly bright or enlightened, even though I think they are cleaver enough for the sake of our survival and to bring home tens of thousands of Ethiopians who are in precarious situation in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.
The latest statement by a Saudi official is that all Ethiopians (over thirty thousand) who are illegally in Saudi Arabia would be repatriated by the end of November. I have read in some reports that about thirteen thousand Ethiopians had been already repatriated back to mother Ethiopia within the last two weeks. I encourage Dr Theodros Adhanom, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to continue his effort to have all the Ethiopian immigrants in detention in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Gulf States repatriated as soon as possible. I also applaud him for this substantial result so far, for I know how difficult and time consuming the process of documentation of illegal immigrants could be even in ones own country let alone in a foreign extremely hostile country. However, the complete absence of the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during this horrendous crime of the Saudis and the Saudi Government against Ethiopian immigrants is a national disgrace, as well as, both a puzzle and a great disappointment to me. True, I supported Hailemariam’s election as Prime Minister in order to give him time to work out his own political and economic agenda. So far, he had not come up with solid programs
With the new Ethiopian Government leadership of Hailemariam, I had hopes that we might be able to break away from the vise like grip of the TPLF and its highly regimented and parochial leaders without much disruption of the social and economic life of most Ethiopians. It seems that will not happen soon enough. As far as I am, concerned real people in difficult situations are far more important for focusing my attention and effort than all the rhetoric and personal ambitions of desperado politicians hiding in the West dreaming of Utopian political structure based on their undigested book-knowledge. Taking into account the economic situation in Ethiopia, The Ethiopian Government has very limited options in responding to the challenge by Saudi Arabia. My choice would have been to attack full force the Saudi Security Forces, but our limited air power compared to the Saudi’s highly modernized air power with over two hundred F-15s and other equally sophisticated war planes is something to consider carefully. I know some heap of weapon is no match to great warriors even with limited weapon. So we must first have our house cleaned, institute a popular leadership, build our security forces, cleanup the command hierarchy of our military of divided loyalty, bring back home our citizens from Arab nations et cetera, then we can do most anything we want to all those who hurt our Brothers and Sisters. Quiet diplomacy for now is not a sign of irresponsibility per se; it could be the quiet before the storm.
It is amazing to me to read from all kinds of writers, bloggers, chat-room philosophers and cyberspace political scientists who seem to propound the idea that poverty in Ethiopia is a new phenomenon of the last twenty years or so created by the TPLF. The fact is that we were very poor during Haile Selassie’s reign, and we were even poorer during the brutal Mengistu’s reign of terror. The national wealth in absolute terms before adjustments for corruption, capital flight, money laundering, embezzlement et cetera did improve during Meles Zenawi’s term, but that did not get us anywhere out of our dismal economic condition for it is all looted out of the country. Let me remind everyone in the Ethiopian Government the progress in road construction, expansion of the education system, the dam building projects et cetera are all bankrolled through substantial assistance from donor countries such as the United States and Britain. The local Ethiopian economy does not seem to have good solid foundation in a healthy local economy. I must also stress the fact of unchecked population growth as a far serious problem than the economy problem in Ethiopia. Ethiopian parents have failed to control the sexuality of their children and the Ethiopian society in general. The Ethiopian family system has been dysfunctional for decades now.
In a most destructive investment program of the last fifteen years, the Ethiopian Government has farmed out our natural resources such as huge tract of land, our gold et cetera to foreigners. For example, consider the case of individuals like Al’amudi with an initial capital of less than a couple of hundred million dollars has been looting our gold worth billions of dollars every single year for the last fifteen years or more. That is an economic crime that Meles Zenawi and Members of his Government ought to be held answerable for There are also produces such as coffee, hide, et cetera not properly accounted for affecting our inflow of hard currency. Poverty in Ethiopia has been with us for millenniums. Even if there is complete change of the people who are running the Ethiopian Government currently, replacing them with the Diaspora politicians, Ethiopia will still be poor, technologically backward, with tremendous human needs with no provisions to satisfy all that demand. The idea of some kind of Avalonian Ethiopia in the 19th and 20th Centuries is a fantasy that never was. On the other hand, Ethiopia was not a bleak country either through out its long history. There were epochal periods where Ethiopia had greatness, such one period was the Zagwe Dynasty of the 12th and 13th Centuries.
III. Demonstrations and Organizers
On a serious situation of the violation of the humanity and human dignity of tens of thousands of Ethiopians, protesters should be in hundreds of thousands not just scant hundreds. Ethiopian-New Yorkers have done much better job than Ethiopians in the Washington area. The problem seems to be that the individuals who are organizing the demonstrations do not seem to have inspired confidence and solidarity among Ethiopians in the area due to their political affiliations. Uncoordinated and at times infuriatingly with limited participation in terms of the numbers of protesters did not impact the tragedy of the last couple of weeks. It is ironic that in the land of freedom and social justice that I did not see any local people demonstrating in support of the Ethiopians out in front of the Saudi Embassy. Individuals from the Diaspora opposition groups and from other fringe organizations seem to jump ahead of everyone to call demonstrations, or meetings that end in a whimper. Take for example the demonstrations in Washington DC, only a few hundred (liberally estimated at three hundred) showed up at a city where a hundred thousand could have been mobilized. Such limited participation is mostly due to lack of coordination and the wrong type of people organizing the show. These people seem not to understand that Ethiopians at home and also the silent majority of the Diaspora (I count myself as one of the silent majority) have a much different perception of Diaspora politicians.
The Blue Party and others in Addis Ababa tried to stage some demonstration at the Saudi Embassy in Addis Ababa against the atrocities of Saudi Arabia against Ethiopian immigrants. No one would object to their reaction and patriotic response. However, rather than conducting the demonstration on their own, they should have consulted with the Government and should have sought some guidance how to proceed in registering their opposition to the brutality of the Security Forces of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, I do not think the suppression of the demonstration by the Ethiopian Government with force was that necessary and it cuts a very strange impression on the world community and Ethiopians mostly. During a critical moment facing a national Government all opposition groups should act with great caution. In a period of great national tension, leaders of a government can be very unpredictable especially when groups try to take advantage of a national tragedy to promote their own political agenda. One must know one’s own strength and also anticipate all the possible reactions by sitting government/officials.
Let me give you some examples to show you the gravity of the problem we all are facing at this point. Suppose, the Ethiopian Government had reacted to the news of the brutalizing of Ethiopian immigrants in Saudi Arabia, by ng threats and strongly worded protests and some actions against Saudi interest elsewhere in the World. What if the Saudis start executing immigrant Ethiopians in mass as a reaction to such confrontational approach of the Ethiopian Government? There is nothing the Ethiopian Government could do to stop such atrocities by force. Ethiopia simply does not have the fire power to force the Saudi Government from executing Ethiopian citizens in Saudi Arabia. Nothing could have been done to stop such savagery through existing international procedures. I even hesitate to write any thing judgmental on Saudi Arabia, but for the fact that I am an insignificant individual in the scheme of things
IV. Muslim Ethiopians
In my past numerous articles, when it comes to discussing issues of a generic nature affecting the lives of very many Ethiopians across the Ethiopian demographic landscape, I have discussed issues in a holistic manner without any specially prompting, I find myself always thinking not just as an Orthodox Christian, but as a Muslim, as a Catholic, as a Protestant et cetera. If I hear about any news that is about a particular religious group, I investigated the news right away. When there was a crackdown on some group of Muslims almost a year ago, I did everything to establish the facts. I called home, talked to all kinds of people with access to the facts and learned that the crackdown was in fact far too late, for the harm that particular Muslim group was aiming at was as destructive as a terrorist group’s activities of the disruption of social order and peaceful transition. None of the people who claimed they were representatives of such “prosecuted” Muslims, who were getting support from the Diaspora politicians, uttered a word of condemnation of the savagery and barbarism of Saudis and their Governments against Ethiopians.
The only Muslim person who uttered any form of criticism against the savagery of the Saudis with some degree of caution was Jawar Mohammed. At least he has a conscious/conscience to feel the pain and humiliation of fellow human beings if not fellow Ethiopians. I have read all kinds of essays, blogs, chat postings by individuals without distinct Muslim names. I also know some with whom I have had discussions on subjects ranging from historic-Ethiopian Christianity and its interactions with Muslims. None of them uttered a word about the atrocities committed by Saudis and their Government on Ethiopians. If I hear one more diatribe by Ethiopia Muslims about Ethiopian Christian persecution of Muslims, I will just throw-up with disgust.
V. How Do You Account for Your Acts?
Poverty for Ethiopia is not a matter of the last thirty or fifty years, but a way of life that spanned thousands of years. Our lack of technical know-how is part of our social fact. We are not particularly innovative or democratic group of people—in more ways than one we are just like most other people of the world. However, our particular history has affected us in a very strange often self-destructive ways. For Example, the Saudi Arabs if it were not for oil, they would be far worse off than most people in the world and definitely a lot worse off than Ethiopians.
Under the current tragic situation, it might not be the right time to bring up some dicey issues in regard to the number of Ethiopian female immigrants who travel to the Middle East for work. It is often pointed out by several writers that the main agents who exploited such young Ethiopian girls/women are mostly connected with the officials of the TPLF and that they are Tygreans. That may indeed be the case. However, such situation will not exonerate the many Ethiopian families who were willing to send their young sexually mature daughters to a den of Arab men who seem to have ultra supper libido, who see women as sexual objects first and foremost. How could any family member be blind to the fact that their daughter is traveling unprotected by anybody to a household run by a male Arab who has absolute control over such a young girl? Look at your own participation in sending your daughters to Arabs. Do not play innocent now, all you parents, brothers, family members et cetera knew fully well such abuse would happen on your defenseless unprotected daughters or sisters. I do not find it particularly appetizing to bring up issues that will cast some shadow, albeit tangentially, on a victim’s characteristics. But this is not about the victims but their parents and the community at large.
I have read recently a chat statement in response to my article by a certain Dawi that was quite interesting due to an interesting analogy he was drawing between Mexican immigrants flooding the United States and Ethiopian immigrants entering Saudi Arabia illegal. I think his trajectory was very perceptive, but somehow he curbed the full development of his thoughts. I wish he had followed his angle of discussion to its logical conclusion. Whichever way we look, whatever excuse we may try to use in looking at our Ethiopian situation in order to ameliorate serious errors of Meles Zenawi and his Government, the fact remains that the political and economic policies and programs of the last twenty years have failed. The claim that no one else would have done any better is a logical fallacy for the simple reason no one can truly argue an “if” and a negation at that. The real issue here is whether or not we could have implemented far more humane and social oriented policies and programs. The price for our incompetence has led to situations ending in the Saudi brutalizing our brothers and sisters.
Let me state the obvious. The world we live in is a very complex one. Simply writing and talking on its own will have minimal impact to change the lives of people in desperate situations. No matter what, no matter the cost, we must preserve the survival of Ethiopia. Consider the fact that if Arabs, the least civilized group of people, treat us with such contempt, where they fully know that we have a country and a home to go to, can you imagine the atrocities they would unleash if no have no country or home to go to.
Let us all remember the triumphant ultimate fact that it took the Jewish people over two thousand five hundred years to get back their homeland after having been persecuted, murdered, tortured, imprisoned, shunned all over the World. Let us all identify with the great Jewish people. Our suffering is going to be long term and incrementally will get worse. Appeasement will not Work, turning the other check will only encourage more brutality from the surrounding Arabs. Let us make sure that every single Ethiopian understand that our reptilian single minded enemy is Saudi Arabia. Thus, let us choose our role models from the right nations and great heroes from our long history, such as the great Emperors like Kaleb and Sertse Dingle and invincible military commanders, such as Azmatch Dharegot, Azmatch Barnabas, and Azmatch Ze Selassie. History matters, Now is the time when we need to dig deep and connect with the roots of our long standing civilization, this is the time to call on our heroes, and also a time to invigorate and revive our basic values.
Tecola W. Hagos
November 24, 2013