Press Release: The Ethiopian Human Rights in the Next Millennium – Anuak Justice Council

November 20th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

In a historic meeting, representatives from diverse regions of Ethiopia came together to share their concern for the dismal state of human rights in the country. (more…)

In a historic meeting, representatives from diverse regions of Ethiopia came together to share their concern for the dismal state of human rights in the country.

The Ethiopian Human Rights in the Next Millennium event, sponsored by the Anuak Justice Council on Saturday, November 17, 2007, in Washington D.C. was greeted with great enthusiasm by participants and attendees. In a historic meeting, representatives from diverse regions of Ethiopia came together to share their concern for the dismal state of human rights in the country, hoping to work together for the first time for comprehensive solutions.

In the past, there was little communication between segments of the population that were divided linguistically, geographically, culturally and by widespread categorization of each group that alienated one from the other—calling others separatists, terrorists, barias, privileged and so forth. But after coming together and sharing stories, participants learned they had much in common.

Addressing the audience, a representative of the Ogaden said it well. He asked all the Ethiopians, “Do you really know me? “ Some say I am a radical. I am not. Some say I am a terrorist. I am not. Some say I am a Somalian. I say I am Ethiopian. Some say I am a separatist. I say I am not. The only reason the Ogaden people want to separate from Ethiopia is because they have never been appreciated. If we are appreciated, we have no reason to separate.”

As each representative spoke of similar repression and human rights violations, what emerged was that the human rights abuses were affecting everyone; that the oppression was widespread and the lack of development, opportunity and political representation was the same, they realized that they had more reasons to come together than to separate.

A participant from Benishangul-Gumuz summed it up, “Alone we are weak and helpless, but now I see that in creating an umbrella movement where the people on the ground come together, is the only way we can be strong.”

Participants were excited as this new dialogue between each other brought not only new friendships, but with it, a renewed hope that Ethiopia may remain as a country where humanity comes before ethnicity, country before region, and region before village. As stories were told of the suffering and oppression of the people, bridges of compassion were built between those who had never talked before.

We all know very well that most of our political organizations and civic and religious institutions who should are the ones that should be guiding us to a better future, but instead they are fighting and divided, resulting in the continued suffering of all Ethiopians at the hands of the EPDRF that is founded on hatred and division. However, the emphasis of this meeting was on establishing commonalties and feeling the pain of others so that new partnerships could begin.

Participants voiced their support of this goal and indicated that the spirit of unity had already begun by seeing their fellow Ethiopians across the table—that table being covered with the flag of Ethiopia.

Mr. Obang Metho said he was disappointed that more Ethiopians did not show their support for a more inclusive Ethiopia by attending this meeting; especially knowing that what Ethiopia needs today is unity even more than it needs democracy. This is not just the unity of the past where other Ethiopians are mentioned only when they are in the room or are otherwise visible.

The unity we need now is based on mutual respect and trust where we listen to and interact with other Ethiopians rather than just talking about them. Yet, despite the poor attendance, especially in a city where more Ethiopians live than anywhere else in North America, it did not suppress the excitement of those at the meeting who saw it as a new beginning and as the only way to restore life into a dying nation.

Mr. Metho stated that some Ethiopians might be afraid that by including these new groups it will mean others will be excluded. He said, “Don’t worry. This would be morally wrong and is “old thinking.” He said, “No one should be excluded in an Ethiopia where the people are valued as equally created in the image of God—this definitely includes Woyanne supporters.”

However, many might not yet understand how human rights is not simply stopping human rights abuses; instead, the failure to respect such rights of all people, affect every part of our society—government, law, civil society, education, health care and the economy. Even government policies regarding land ownership, laws regarding business development and the provision of credit at reasonable interest rates for small and medium sized private enterprise along with micro-enterprise are affected by how we view the human rights of our fellow Ethiopian.

Division, repression, suspicion and human rights abuses are a natural outgrowth of failing to regard one’s fellow Ethiopian as equally human and equally Ethiopian. It takes great force to repress the thirst for freedom in the human soul, yet where such humanity is embraced, all can benefit.

The participants at the meeting all embraced the concept of setting up an umbrella organization to advance the interests of human rights of all Ethiopians. Plans are underway to organize a strategic meeting to begin a movement for a new Ethiopia.

If you missed this opportunity to attend the meeting, it was filmed and recorded for the benefit of those who did not attend. Please check back for further details when they become available.

For additional information, please contact:
The Director of International Advocacy:
Phone: (306) 933 4346

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