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Humanity before Ethnicity


July 13, 2010

Washington, DC – Most of us have heard about the 74 people killed and some 70 more wounded in Kampala, Uganda when three bombs exploded that had been planted at an Ethiopian restaurant and rugby field. Among the dead were Ethiopians, as well as Ugandans, Eritreans, Indians and an American. We greatly mourn the death of all of those lost in this tragic event. Some of the victims, whose bodies were wounded beyond recognition, still have not been identified.  Our prayers and sympathy go out to the families and friends of these people, some who still do not know about the death of their loved one, as well as to those still recovering from their wounds.

We call on our fellow Ethiopians and Eritreans to share in mourning their loss and ask many to support the families through prayer, public and private acknowledgement and through financial support if you know one of the victims. It would be helpful if a church, mosque, community group or other organization could come forward to organize some kind of more general fund to support the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Kampala who are doing their very best to deal with this great blow.  Funds could be used to help relieve the burdens to the victim’s families for burial costs, medical expenses and the loss of income. This is what it means to be a fellow citizen and one people.  To the outsiders, the dead are simply called Ethiopians or Eritreans, but to us, they have a name, an age and a family. They are our people—regardless of whatever ethnicity they are. 

So far, we have learned that among the dead is one wonderful Ethiopian man who was an active member of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE). We are so saddened by the irony that this man, along with other Ethiopians and Eritreans who died or were wounded, was an Ethiopian refugee in Kampala. He had sought to escape the terrorism and oppression he faced at the hands of the Meles regime in Ethiopia only to be targeted and blamed for Meles’ many terroristic actions against the Somalis.

Responsibility for his death lies not only with those planning and executing it, but also with Meles and his regime who made life so difficult for him in Ethiopia that he sought refuge outside the country in the first place and who radicalized some Somalis by the many crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against civilian Somalis by the Meles-controlled military.  

Countless Ethiopians leave the country seeking freedom, safety or simply opportunities that do not exist in Ethiopia; however, too often death, danger or hardship accompany us Ethiopians wherever we run to; from drowning in the Red Sea, dying of disease or starvation in Pochalla or Juba in Southern Sudan or in refugee camps in Uganda or Kenya, languishing in detention centers and jails in Libya, Egypt, Tanzania, Japan or Syria or being held as trafficked domestic or sexual workers in countries in the Middle East. 

We ask God, why? We ask Him what we have done wrong and what we can do to see an end to such suffering.  These people ran away from the persecution of the current TPLF government, but now they end up dying or wounded in the name of the TPLF/EPRDF government they resisted. 

This TPLF government is not the peoples’ government but under the tight control of the Meles regime that just uses the people to prolong their own power and self-interests.  For example, many Ethiopians, including the young, are taken into the military against their will and forced to fight. Others in the Meles military are hardened human rights perpetrators who can kill, rape, pillage and destroy wherever they go, and with assurance of impunity. They did this to the Anuak in Gambella, committing genocide and crimes against humanity from 2003-2006 before they were moved to the Ogaden (the Somali region of southeastern Ethiopia) and into Somalia where they committed the same crimes against humanity and also war crimes according to investigations conducted by Human Rights Watch.

We in the SMNE have spoken out against these human rights abuses from the beginning and have warned donor countries that, contrary to what Meles would like them to think, the greatest source of stability in the Horn of Africa would come if good government replaced this regime. 

The world has ignored the suffering and widespread human rights atrocities being perpetrated in Ethiopia and into Somalia—the latter being called a “silent Darfur.” No one seems to care about the people. As a result, look what has happened. Thousands have been killed and half the population displaced. We have seen the rise of a radicalized and violent youth movement, al Shabaab, which now claims responsibility for the bombing of the innocent in Kampala. The whole Horn could explode into violence. Those who set these bombs should be held accountable for these horrific crimes; yet, some degree of responsibility must be shared with those Ethiopian insiders and foreign outsiders whose own or national interests cause them to prop up a dictator who terrorizes the people of Ethiopia and the Horn.

Meles’ assault on the freedom of Ethiopians and Somalis has now reached beyond the Horn to Kampala. Those who are using Meles in the War on Terror can be assured that genuine and sustainable peace will never come through the guns of Meles, but instead will only increase the chances that new levels of violence will spread and become entrenched in the Horn and beyond. We must look at a new paradigm shift which is restating the obvious about valuing human life over national interests. When we say, “No one will be free until all are free,” we mean that justice will not prevail for a few of us until it prevails for all of us. We cannot expect to trample on the lives and rights of other people, or sit by and do nothing while others do, without expecting it all to backfire; undermining the freedom, safety or wellbeing of our own families and society. 

Recently, the former Prime Minister of Somalia, Dr. Ali Khalif Galaydh, publicly commented on what it will take to bring peace to Somalia—the worst failed state in the world and now an alleged exporter of violence. He said that for stability to be achieved in the Horn, Ethiopia played an enormous role. In his opinion, peace in Somalia could be quickly and most effectively achieved if good governance came to the Ogaden region of southeastern Ethiopia. He then said that peace in the troubled Ogaden could be most quickly and most effectively achieved if good governance came to Addis Ababa and that the same was true of Eritrea and other countries in the Horn of Africa. He believed that Ethiopia was the lynchpin.

If a government of the people, by the people and for the people is to come to Ethiopia, we need leaders who value truth, justice, civil freedoms, equality and the human rights not only of Ethiopians, but for all the precious people of the Horn, Africa and beyond. The taking of these lives was senseless. We in the Horn could choose a different future for ourselves, with God’s help, if when we saw our brother or sister hurting; we would not just walk by. Alone, we may be weak, but let us stand up together and not cease caring or working, until all of us are free! May the loss of these precious lives, inspire us to see that human life should come before one’s own or one’s national interests and that our humanity has no national borders.


For more information, please contact Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE
Phone: (202) 725-1616 E-mail: obang@solidaritymovement.org Website: www.solidaritymovement.org

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