Struggle of the Ethiopian People for a Voice in Our
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia:
Report from London
November 30, 2008
Ethiopians who came to the meeting of the Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) held in London, UK
on November 23, 2008 have much in common with those
Ethiopians who met earlier in Oakland and Minneapolis—they
were all seeking an Ethiopia where their families, friends
and fellow citizens could live in freedom. As their
bodies were physically outside of Ethiopia, their minds
and thoughts remained consumed with the difficult conditions
under which their loved ones lived within the country.
I want to summarize the events of the meeting and the
principles behind the Solidarity Movement so that the
greater Ethiopian public remains informed.
First of all, I want to thank all of the people who
helped make the SMNE meeting in London possible—the
Ethiopian Civic group called "Ethiopian Civic Consortium,
in the UK" who organized it and some of the individuals
who were part of that effort such as Wondimu Mekonnen,
Ermias and Endalemahu.
I want to especially thank my friend, Achame Shana,
a great Ethiopian from the Southern Nations who has
been driving me to various destinations during my visit
in London. He is like the thousands of wonderful Ethiopians
whom I have met on my journey towards bringing justice
to Ethiopia, but whose faces I have never seen. I finally
met Achame face to face this past week when he picked
me up at the airport in London and accompanied me to
my lecture at the University of Reading.
In July of 2007 I had received an email from him, thanking
me for including his ethnic group by name in one of
our articles. He explained to me how meaningful it was
to him because he had never before seen the name of
his ethnic group in print within an article, particularly
one addressing the pain and the misery of his own ethnic
group. Usually they were only included in the category
of “others.” I responded back and we have
become great friends. I recently was privileged to meet
his wonderful wife and two daughters.
Mr. Achame is an example of the many, many Ethiopians
God has brought into my life that I would never have
met except for the tragic deaths of those I loved in
Gambella. Their deaths have made me realize how wonderful
the Ethiopian people are—how caring, loving and
generous—and it has given me hope that Ethiopians
can love one another and find a way to live and thrive
Hatred is what has led to our misery
As I looked at the Ethiopians attending the meeting,
even though I did not know their names, their tribes,
their religion, their regional background, their political
association, their native language or any other particulars
about them, I did know that they were there because
they cared about what happens in Ethiopia. I also told
them that I would be speaking with honesty and without
any hatred towards anyone, including Woyanne or TPLF
with whom I might disagree, because hatred is what has
led to our misery.
Instead, our common humanity must bind us together
as human beings and our common roots within the map
of Ethiopia must give each of us have a place in a future
Ethiopia, even those who have committed a crime. Yes,
we want justice, but we must find ways to balance judgment,
accountability and reconciliation so that we can be
freed to move on as a society.
Part of being freed to move on begins in the consciences
of the people. For example, if you are a Woyanne supporter,
deep in your heart you surely know that something is
not right with this government that you are supporting
and the fact that you are supporting it, helps lengthen
its duration. You might not want to admit it because
Woyanne money and privilege are sustaining your family,
but you may already realize there is a high price attached
to this that is being extracted of you and others as
Others of you may not care because you are gaining
some short-term pleasure for yourselves, exploiting
others to do it; however, most Ethiopians who are Woyanne
or even nominal EPRDF members, are people who are struggling
within themselves because as they try to survive within
such a society, they must constantly deal with a combination
of fear and guilt.
We on the outside must remember how difficult life
is for our brothers and sisters who remain inside Ethiopia.
They need our prayer, love and support to stand up against
evil as it constantly wars against Ethiopians who are
trying to live rightly in such an oppressive environment—look
at one example—Teddy Afro.
The greatest progress within the Solidarity Movement
can begin within oneself because the change of thinking
always begins the process of change. Look at the mission
The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) is
a newly formed grassroots movement whose mission is
to mobilize Ethiopians in the Diaspora and within Ethiopia
to unite in a coalition across ethnic, regional, political,
cultural, and religious lines around principles of truth,
justice, freedom, the protection of human rights, equality
and civility in order to bring about a more open, free
and reconciled society in Ethiopia where humanity comes
before ethnicity and where the same rights, opportunities
and privileges are available to all because no one will
be free until all are free.
It focuses on uniting around principles and ideas that
must replace worn-out, destructive ones that have failed.
People do not unite around principles unless they accept
those principles as being honorable and right. Neither
will Ethiopians unite unless they are willing to consider
others as equally human and equally Ethiopian.
Moral strength that upholds the
humanity, the rights and the privileges of all people
If we begin change in our day-to-day attitudes and
dealings with each other, more historically oppressed
groups that want to break away may reconsider. In turn,
these alienated groups may make new attempts to bridge
broken relationships between Ethiopians. A genuine transformation
of thinking is critical to the success of the Solidarity
Movement and begins with a moral transformation such
as what led to the laws first established in the UK
against slavery in the early 1800’s by abolitionist,
Wilbur Wilberforce who fought against the dehumanization
of humankind that was being perpetrated against Africans.
On Saturday, November 22, I had spoken at the University
of Reading regarding the current discussion about trade
agreements with African countries, called Economic Partnership
Agreements (EPA’s) and trade liberalization. I
emphasized the illegitimacy of those agreements when
they were negotiated and signed on behalf of African
people by African dictators who were oppressing them.
I called for outside players to follow moral principles
in not taking advantage of the poor in Africa by exploiting
them when they had no voice.
The British were the first to enact laws outlawing
slavery in 1833 but it was not easy because Wilberforce
had to persuade those with economic interests to uphold
higher moral principles. This is what we need in Ethiopia—the
same kind of moral strength that upholds the humanity,
the rights and the privileges of all people as equal
under the law, particularly those who are weak and without
Meles uses the beauty of Ethiopia—our differences—to
divide, dehumanize, alienate and destroy us, but we
must not so easily fall for it and instead come together
to talk about those issues we have been avoiding for
years. It is a goal of the Solidarity Movement to create
new dialogues that can teach, empower and bring us together
around common goals and values. It is not a political
movement and not a movement for anyone, including me,
to run for political office. We are not here to compete
with any political party. We support all political parties
and encourage them to work together to bring about the
kind of government that values human life, freedom and
opportunity for all citizens.
I got involved because the Anuak people I knew were
dehumanized and killed. Their killers are walking free
and no one has been brought to justice. We need to work
together to bring justice to the country. This movement
is about freeing the country and then letting the people
decide who they want as their leaders and then bringing
the people who committed the crimes to justice, including
We are here to serve the people and the right to their
own political choices. This applies to the separatists
who want to break away from the country who have never
had a choice to choose their own leaders. Other Ethiopians
are in the same position so let’s join hands,
free the country, assemble the right government chosen
by the people, including the separatists and then decide
if any of us want our independence.
Numerous comments and questions
came up following the talk, I will cover a few.
One man asked for my view on religion and on whether
the Solidarity Movement was going to include working
with the various religious groups because, as most people
know, Ethiopians are not only divided by Christian and
Muslim faiths, but even within the Ethiopian Orthodox
Church and within other sub-groups of all faiths, divisions
exist. He wanted to know if there was a plan to reach
out to these people to try to bring them together?
I explained that we are interested in bringing people
of varying beliefs together in solidarity, respecting
each other’s doctrinal differences; yet, standing
up together for principles upon which they could agree—the
respect of human rights, freedom, equality and justice.
I explained that personally, I was Christian and a believer
in Jesus Christ, but that I was more than willing to
work with Muslims, non-believers and Christians of any
denomination. I told them that in fact, we already have
representation within the Solidarity Movement from those
of differing religious backgrounds, including people
of the Muslim faith who have endorsed coming together
to stand up for the human rights of all Ethiopians.
A young man who recently came from Ethiopia told the
audience that he was in Ethiopia following the killings
related to the 2005 election. He explained how the response
of Ethiopians in the Diaspora made a huge difference
to the morale of Ethiopians within the country. He reported
that every time he heard of a rally in London, America
or elsewhere, it gave him and others hope.
He challenged the audience to imagine how difficult
it is for people back home now because of the divisions.
He emphasized that solidarity was the only way. He reported
that the conditions in the country were worsening on
a daily basis and hoped that a plan would be developed
so Ethiopians would know that we are not sleeping or
forgetting the pain and suffering they are in.
I told him that the main reason that the Solidarity
Movement was formed was the crisis in the country that
was worsening. We realized there was no one common voice
speaking for all Ethiopians and there was a need to
create an organization to speak on behalf of Ethiopians
and report the misery under which Ethiopians live.
Another comment was made regarding the
depth of division between people, asking what we could
do about it.
In response I asked, “Do we really have a choice?”
For the sake of the survival of all of us, we have no
choice but to come together. There is no place in Ethiopia
where people are not affected and repressed. When you
talk about the price of food being doubled or tripled
and inflation jumping from 10% to 37% throughout the
entire country, it is no longer a matter of one group.
Because we are all affected, it makes sense to act collectively.
Be aware that it is not only Meles who can advance
his agenda through our divisions, but it is also some
outside our country who seek the same. When we have
strong and protective leadership, they can negotiate
on our behalf, but when we do not, these leaders negotiate
on their own behalf, sometimes appearing to become puppets,
but in reality, they are only loyal to their own interests,
which are subject to change, depending on the opportunities
that come their way. Some countries, multi-national
corporations and individuals also come with their own
agendas, each taking advantage of the situation and
of self-interested leaders. The only ones continually
left out are the people.
Also be alert to those who stir up division such as
some foreign scholars who I call “terrorist thinkers”
because they preach hatred and destruction. They pretend
to side with one group or minority who have been oppressed
or marginalized, making it appear that they are being
supported, but oftentimes such people are opportunists
whose goal may be the disintegration or disempowerment
of Ethiopia as a nation. While encouraging separatists—pretending
to care about their oppression—and by calling
Ethiopia a “fake country” controlled by
“neo-Nazi racists,” they can prey on the
weak and accomplish their agenda of ensuring a weakened
state of divided, alienated victims, something that
most likely will cost lives rather than save lives.
Do not listen to voices, even if they are intellectuals,
who are saying, “Kill!” These kinds of people
can breed hatred, spreading it by the Internet while
they themselves live in safe places in foreign countries.
Let us refuse to make ourselves
enemies of each other.
Ethiopians, let us refuse to make ourselves enemies
of each other. No one will benefit from us killing ourselves.
I am not saying that we do not have a problem or I would
not be calling for a “new Ethiopia” where
humanity comes before ethnicity and freedom will only
come when we are all free, but these attitudes will
not be corrected by violence but through acknowledging
God-given principles regarding the value of every person
and our failure in the past to live up to these principles.
If we acknowledge our responsibility for the negative
things of the past, we will be more able to move on
to a different future. Look at what has happened in
America. Americans have moved from being a nation where
half lived free to a nation where all are free, even
choosing a black minority to be the president and commander
in chief of their nation.
If you wish for something better for your family, do
not be manipulated by anyone preaching hate. Think for
yourselves and then get out and do what is right. Do
not believe in a leader—not in “Obang”
or in anyone else, but believe in God and what we can
do together to advance peace, security and reconciliation.
Get out right now and work in solidarity. The time is
We can work together or we can sit
by and let the country disintegrate.
We have two choices, to act or to not act. We will
be judged regardless of what we do. We can work together
or we can sit by and let the country disintegrate. Both
choices will affect us.
Look at the former Yugoslavia. The people did not work
hard enough to prevent the killing when they could have
and now the country is broken into pieces. The same
happened in Rwanda when people sat by, listening to
the hate language coming across the radio that was stirring
up people for at least two years before the genocide.
They did not see that it was their responsibility to
do something to stop it, but yet when the deaths occurred,
it affected everyone, including all of those who did
nothing. Many lost loved ones and others are living
with guilt, shame and regret. How do you restore a society
One man spoke up and said that this was the first time
since the division of the Kinijit that he had attended
a meeting. He said he had come because it was about
putting all people forward as human beings first and
he wanted to learn more about it. He said he understood
and agreed now that it would be solidarity around common
principles that could topple Meles as no one group could
free the country alone.
I agreed. This is not a movement of one group, but
it is a movement to save the lives of all of us and
this is why I am inviting you to join with me in this
effort. For me, I am doing this because I believe God
wants me to do so because He cares more deeply than
I could ever understand about the suffering of the people.
I cannot say it has been easy. I don’t have money
in the bank. I don’t own a car. Sometimes I don’t
know where to find the money for my expenses; however,
if by living a simple life, it enables someone else
to not be killed, tortured or raped, what more could
I ask for?
Someone may think this guy, Obang is crazy for living
like this, but I chose to do this myself. I do not want
others to receive the kind of email I did following
the Anuak massacre that tells me to please view the
attachment for the list of all of those killed. If we
really want a new Ethiopia that is free and in peace,
all of us must commit to sacrifice something to this
effort, the substance of which will vary from person
We do not have to be a “beggar
As Dr Ermias was driving me here today, he introduced
me to his seven year old son, Nathaniel and nine year
old daughter, Hannah, both of whom had recently visited
Ethiopia with their mother. I asked them about their
experience and both of them said, they have seen different
kind of animals, but Nathaniel quietly said, “We
saw so many poor children everywhere we went. Many of
them were begging on the streets and it seems like no
one is doing anything about it.”
This beautiful and innocent Ethiopian boy is right.
A recent index showed that Ethiopia was the “most
unfriendly government towards children.” We can
do something about the poor children in Ethiopia. They
do not have to suffer like this. We do not have to be
a “beggar nation.” We can do something about
the homeless, the unemployed and the starving. We can
be the answer to this child’s question. With God’s
help, we can do it. Giving up is not an option. We can
work to create an Ethiopia where people will be born
and have an opportunity to live there rather than to
run away from it.
To all Ethiopians living in exile, we can do it like
the Jews have done it in their land. They suffered,
but out of misery, they combined collectively and created
their nation. We also can work collectively, not just
as one tribe, but as a people and go back and build
this country and pass it on to the unborn.
The money, guns and power that Meles has are not more
powerful than what we can accomplish if we unite around
the God-given principles of morality, love, justice
and respect towards others. We do not have to believe
in one person, one leader, one political party, one
tribe, one religion or one organization in order to
plant that beautiful garden of which I dream.
I have already met many of the people who will be the
foundation of the new Ethiopia where the sanctity of
human life is valued as God intended. These are the
kind of Ethiopians who will bring this kind of Ethiopia
into being, where we are really one people who uphold
the place of all in the greater family of Ethiopians.
May God equip us to be that kind of people.
Please do not hesitate to email me
if you have comments to: Obang@solidaritymovement.org
Obang Metho, Executive Member of the Solidarity Movement
for a New Ethiopia