Movement Calls for New Actions:
SMNE Endorses January 14th Rallies
Throughout the World to Free Birtukan, Teddy Afro, Bekele
Jirata and All Ethiopian Political Prisoners!
Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia | January
We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)
are pleased with the very positive responses we have
received from numerous diverse Ethiopian groups who
indicate a willingness to sign a collective letter calling
for an end to tyranny in Ethiopia. Such a letter would
be addressed to policymakers in key donor countries,
to the media and to other strategic leaders asking them
to stand with the Ethiopian people against the oppressive
policies of the current government of Meles Zenawi.
More specifically, we would be calling for their action-based
support for the release of Birtukan Mideksa,(UDJ Chairperson)
Teddy Afro, (Ethiopian popular musician) Bekele Jirata,
(General Secretary of the Oromo Federalist Democratic
Movement (OFDM) party) Jumma Rufaai, (Human rights activist
from Beni-shangul-Gumuz) Sabeel Aldakheet (former Vice
President of the Beni-shangul-Gumuz region) and all
other political prisoners, for the rescinding of the
recently passed Society and Charities Proclamation law,
for the halting of all human rights abuses in the Ogaden
and throughout Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, for
the restoration of the full and equal rights of all
citizens under the Ethiopian Constitution and for the
opening up of genuine political space. This letter will
be published next week.
The Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) groups of
North America, Europe and in other countries, led by
imprisoned leader, Birtukan Mideksa, are examples of
some of those who have told us of their intent to be
signatories of this letter. They have also pledged their
support of the 100,000 person, “March for Freedom
and Justice,” to take place in Washington D.C.
in September of this year.
As mentioned before, the SMNE is not a political group,
but it does represent the interests of all political
groups in being able to freely carry out rightful political
activities within the country—something that is
currently not tolerated at any level within Ethiopia.
The imprisonment of Birtukan is a shocking example
of the blatant politically based manipulation of Ethiopian
law, under the flimsiest of reasons, in stark contrast
to the “culture of impunity” that has been
put in place to protect government-supported perpetrators
of serious crimes.
Birtukan is not alone—there are many more political
prisoners like Teddy Afro; thousands detained/tortured
Oromo Prisoners like Mr. Bekele Jirata, General Secretary
of the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) party;
Asefa Tefera Dibaba, university lecturer at Addis Ababa
University; Bekele Negeri, businessman; Dejene Dhaba,
businessman; Fiqadu Jalqaba, college student; Eshetu
Kitil, owner of the Hawi Hotel and Desta Kitili, his
brother; Kebede Borena, assistant manager of the Hilton
Hotel in Addis Ababa; Leslie Wodajo (f), a journalist.
Thousands detained and tortured Gumuz prisoners in
Beni-shangul-Gumuz region like Sabeel Albakheet, former
vice president of Benishangul region; Anazeer Ibrahim,
Benishangul regional government employee; Mustaffa Mussa,
khumasha warda employee; Abdel-Raheem Alshafee, Asossa
zone head; Mudawee Abdelraheem, Khamusha warada employee.
All of them are currently detained in Asossa military
prison. There are also thousands detained and tortured
Afras and Ogadenis prisoners.
The Ethiopian people, themselves, have
become prisoners within their own country and it will
require unified and widespread calls for justice for
them to be heard. Birtukan’s own example demonstrates
her desire to raise the volume of those cries as she
is not carrying on a hunger strike for her own personal
release, but for the freeing of the country from tyranny.
SMNE Calls for All Ethiopians from Diverse Groups to
Rally on January 14
In this spirit of unity, the UDJ has scheduled rallies
to take place in ten cities on January 14, 2009. This
is an opportunity to bring worldwide attention not just
to Birtukan, but also to the tyranny that exists in
Ethiopia—not just against one leader, one group
or one political party, but against all who dare dissent
against this regime!
That is why we in the Solidarity Movement are calling
on other political groups, including those from resistance
groups, to participate. In other words, we want both
those advocating for a peaceful struggle and those advocating
for an armed struggle to join because both groups are
united in wanting freedom and justice in Ethiopia. Needless
to say, if freedom and justice can be accomplished without
an armed struggle, who would not support that? However,
it is hard to blame some who are discouraged with the
progress of the past few years, particularly as the
situation worsens; yet, together, we might be more effective
in shaking the foundations of this regime than was possible
in the past with competing factions.
We also call all on Ethiopians of every ethnicity,
region, viewpoint, gender, age and religion who can
rally without being shot, to join with their fellow
Ethiopians in calling for the release of Birtukan Mideksa,
Teddy, Bekele, Jumma, Sabeel and all other political
prisoners. Also, bring other names of those you know
from other regions and groups throughout the country
who are languishing in prison.
Condemn the new draconian “Society and Charities
Proclamation law”, explaining its impact on some
of the most vulnerable in our society. Condemn the killing
in the Ogaden or in other places of which you know.
Call for courage, strength and conviction among the
people to stand up together against brutality. Call
for international condemnation of such injustice!
We in the Solidarity Movement are also continuing to
work behind the scenes to advance the goals of the SMNE.
Call Your Legislators to Arrange
Meetings This Week!
A rally is a great step, but more is required of each
of you and it must be done immediately! Meles’s
recent actions show that things cannot get much worse
in Ethiopia. As Meles reveals his “real colors”,
it becomes more convincing to outsiders to join with
united Ethiopians in confronting this government. US
legislators have told us that only five or ten letters
or calls from people from within their districts can
make a difference.
Already some of you or us have taken great action to
contact key people. As a result of that, we can see
the statements coming out from Donald Payne, from Swedish
International Development Cooperation Minister, from
German Development Minister, from Amnesty International,
International Federation for Human Rights in Paris,
France, from World Organization Against Torture in Genève
Switzerland, from Human Rights Watch and there are more
to come next week. Good job!
Don’t be discouraged for we can do much more!
If Ethiopians work to get another bill like HR #2003
before the House after Obama comes into office, there
seems to be good indication that he will sign it, but
still, Ethiopians must be the ones to do the work.
This week, Ethiopians—individually, in small
groups or as teams in representation of a large group—should
call their senators and congressional representatives
to schedule meetings with their staff.
Ethiopians who live in Washington D.C. should attempt
to schedule urgent meetings with top policymakers like
Chris Smith, Donald Payne, Russell Feingold, Patrick
Leahy, John McCain and others to let these people know
how urgent this situation is, telling of Birtukan’s
hunger strike, about other political prisoners, the
crisis in the Ogaden and the new law, then encouraging
them to take immediate action.
Ethiopians from California should schedule a meeting
with Nancy Pelosi (or her staff) to tell her about the
condition of Birtukan and others. As a political leader,
a woman and mother herself, she should understand.
This model of approaching key decision makers or special
interest groups should apply to all Ethiopians throughout
the world. Start arranging such face-to-face meetings
this coming Monday or Tuesday.
Tell your local newspaper about what it going on and
ask them to cover the issues. Give them copies of articles
from the Internet, all of which could add explanation
and documentation to your case. We have to be the voice
that brings Ethiopia to the local newspaper. Tell them
that our tax money (over $900 million) is being given
to a country whose leaders are committing unthinkable
human rights abuses against your fellow Ethiopians and
denying citizens their most basic rights. Ask them to
take a moral stand against supporting such dictators
and extending their regimes.
By virtue of Meles’s actions, it will also be
easier to engage new non-Ethiopian people to join. Seek
help from people within your religious groups, communities
and social justice groups. This new Charities law will
raise the anger of women’s groups, groups for
the disabled, political action groups, musicians and
artists (Teddy Afro) and many others.
Tell them how it has become illegal for NGO’s—including
religious groups—receiving more than 10% funding
from outside the country (estimated to be over 95% of
the 3800 registered groups) to promote human rights,
democracy, equality among women, ethnic groups or religious
groups, conflict resolution and rights for children
or the disabled.
In other words, one could be sentenced to up to fifteen
years in prison for promoting reconciliation between
ethnic groups, women’s equality in business and
the rights of the disabled for increased accessibility
to services for the handicapped. Most people will not
be able to believe it! If we do this right, we can free
Give Up the Past Failing Models
If You Want a New Ethiopia
As we have been saying all along, this is beyond one
political party. If Meles can put Birtukan in jail,
he can put anyone in jail. If you want a “New
Ethiopia,” you and I must stop swallowing, regurgitating
and then again swallowing the same rotted food we have
consumed for the last 50 years. It has led to our perpetual
shame, tyranny, poverty and hardship. Think about our
thinking and our attitudes! That is where our problem
begins! We have excluded many, elevated our own and
when we suffered, we blamed everyone else but ourselves.
Go back to the student movement in the nineteen-seventies.
It was a movement that became immoral movement right
after it was formed because it was based on killing,
division, exclusion and power-grabbing. It divided us
at home and in the West. As a result of this, countless
Ethiopians lives were lost and it destroyed the nation.
It was a movement that firmly planted the seeds for
the unhealthy society we live in today. The worst part
of it is that the devastating results of this movement
have never been addressed, even today. There was never
any accountability or attempt to bring justice or reconciliation.
It was swept under the carpet where it remains. Meles
was the result of never “cleaning up” after
our last tragedy.
The TPLF was born out of the previous injustice. Oppressed
Tigrayans fought to liberate themselves. However, they
did not deal with it properly, using terror and violence
to achieve their goal. Just like those of Mengistu,
they focused on themselves rather than including all
oppressed people, using others when needed and discarding
them when not. By luck, they overthrew Mengistu, not
by their numbers or by the power of their guns, because
Mengistu had more of each, but by aligning with the
West. Unfortunately, when they came into power, they
became worse than Mengistu! They brought in this system
of ethnic preference, which is essentially an apartheid-based
system supportive to the members of this minority party,
which did not include many Tigrayans or others who had
helped them get into power.
This apartheid Ethiopia has caused many oppressed and
marginalized Ethiopians to not want to be part of this
country anymore because of how far this minority party
has gone in grabbing the benefits made possible through
ruling with a powerful iron hand. The TPLF uses the
threat that they will destroy Ethiopia if we “push
them too much.” Now, because of their actions
against the majority, it has gotten to the level where
many Ethiopians are saying that the reason they are
denied education, cannot feed their children and are
denied their rights is because of the Tigrayans, wrongly
putting them all in the same box.
Anyone who denies the fact that there is hatred towards
Tigrayans would be lying. It is critically important
that these feelings be addressed so that the rational
parts can be dealt with in a civil and just manner and
the irrational parts confronted and corrected.
If we are to become a healthy society, there must be
widespread acknowledgement of how our society (made
up of individual Ethiopians) has contributed to the
creation of serial dictators, cronyism, division and
the marginalization of our minorities—all going
back 50 years. This favoring of one group over all others
is the reason why so many want to run away from Ethiopia
and why some of our darker skinned people feel that
they are not Ethiopian while at the same time, others
stoke the fires of that alienation by considering themselves
to be “the pure Ethiopians.”
If we are going to deal with the problem of Ethiopia
in the same ways we have done for all of these years
of failure, all we will get is more of the same only
with different names and a different tribe controlling
Now is the time to change this and is a
fundamental reason we created the SMNE. The goal of
the SMNE is to go back to
1) respecting the basic value found within every human
being that supersedes ethnicity—humanity before
2) working towards becoming a society that values justice,
freedom and opportunity for all—no one is free
until we all are free. Many of our societal problems
would be resolved with the adoption of these two simple
principles. Widespread practice of these principles
would break the cycle of our self-perpetuated misery.
Action Need is Urgent
The need for united action right now is very urgent,
especially knowing that Birtukan is on a hunger strike
and that she is in poor condition; something that the
International Red Cross has told me they will check
out. Yet, her own mother says she can hardly recognize
her daughter who continues to refuse to eat in protest
to this regime—may God protect her life and accomplish
far more than we can imagine through her actions.
In response, I am calling for every Ethiopian to put
yourself in Birtukan’s position. She is young
and a mother. No one would have blamed her if she would
have stayed in Europe or North America when she was
there, but instead, she returned to Ethiopia and did
not back down to Woyanne threats. She did not go to
prison for herself, but is telling Ethiopians and those
who value freedom for others, to do something about
the lack of every freedom in Ethiopia. She is saying,
do not let a moment go by without thinking about the
countless millions of people within Ethiopia who are
suffering and dying every day because of tyranny and
deliberate mismanagement. She is speaking for everyone
and the action we take will tell us what kind of people
Will We Just Pass By?
So many have told me that I should do more, but that
they are afraid to do so themselves because they want
to go back to Ethiopia to see family or friends. I have
heard this comment not hundreds of times, but thousands
of times, from Ethiopians of every distinction in the
Diaspora. They live outside the country, but are still
afraid to publicly join against killing, imprisonment
and the destruction of our country! What would happen
if all of us in the Diaspora said we would postpone
our visits until our country was freed from tyranny?
God calls us to be fearless in standing up for what
is right and that true believers would show it in loving
actions towards others—in loosening the cords
of injustice. What if everyone was too afraid to take
a position? Meles would probably stay in power and continue
to brutalize the people with your passive support like
he is doing it now. If you find this morally intolerable
and feel guilty for not doing what is right yourself
or urging others to do so, now is the time to make that
change. It is not about politics, it is about morality
and about being a responsible human being. If we don’t
do this, no one else will. Think about if all of the
thousands of you would do something!
A few months ago, a young Ethiopian woman, only in
her mid-twenties, forced to beg for food for herself
and her young child, died on the streets of Addis Ababa.
She must have died at night because in the morning,
as people were walking by, her small, two and half year
old daughter could be seen pushing on her mother, repeatedly
saying, “Mommy, get up. Mommy, get up.”
A stranger sensed something was wrong and discovered
that the woman was not breathing and had died. The man
called the authorities and later, the police came and
took the young child.
I tell you this story because how many Ethiopians out
there have been calling, “Mommy get up, Mommy
get up?” All of us should put ourselves in the
shoes of that child. Did her mother die from something
preventable that could have saved her life if someone
had intervened? Did her mother give up her own food
so that her daughter could live? We will never know,
but we do know that Ethiopia is on the brink of death
and destruction and many are already crying out to us,
We may try to cover our ears to it, not wanting to
hear it, because we—some within Ethiopia and some
in the Diaspora—may be personally benefitting
from it or some outside the country might want to go
back, visit and invest in this “stolen”
country. Because of that, they do not want to get involved
in “politics.” However, this is not about
politics but about saving lives.
Ethiopia, as the country we were born in, is dying
and most Ethiopians are simply “passing by”
like those passing by the crying child who is desperately
seeking any sign of life from her mother, but does anyone
We need to pay attention to this dying nation and to
those sacrificing to revive it before it is too late.
They are at the front lines, some whose names we will
never know, but some we already do. Their names are
Birtukan, Teddy, Bekele, Jumma, Sabeel and many more.
So get up from where you have become comfortable.
Stop blaming; stop accusing; stop attacking; and stop
denying the voices of suffering crying out for help!
Stop begging someone else for your own freedom or the
freedom of your family and loved ones. America, the
UK, the European Union and all other outsiders will
not do it.
It is we the people, the average Ethiopians,
who must do it with the help of our Almighty God, the
Creator of the heavens and the nations and the Creator
of our hearts and our souls.
May God give us the strength, wisdom, courage
and depth to rediscover our own gift of humanity, known
in relationship to God and then to uphold the moral
requirements that flow out of that relationship that
must be reflected in our attitudes and actions towards
May God bless Ethiopia!
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