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Humanity before Ethnicity

SMNE Articles and Opinions - 2013

Mr. Obang Metho is the primary author of these articles, but many are also written with the collaboration of other members of the SMNE team.

November 22, 2013
SMNE urges Minister Tedros Adhanom to take swift and comprehensive action in addressing the shameful treatment and humiliation of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Dear Minister Tedros Adhanom:
I am writing this letter to you as your Ethiopian brother who shares the same beautiful country despite the fact we hold to significantly different political views. As the executive director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), a social justice organization that stands for the well being of all our diverse Ethiopians, I am not here to please you or anyone else, but instead I am here to urge you, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to take swift and comprehensive action in addressing the shameful treatment and humiliation of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and other countries in the Middle East.    read...

November 11, 2013
SMNE Calls on the Saudi government to stop this brutal and inhumane treatment of the Ethiopian migrant workers

The SMNE is highly disturbed by reports, pictures and video footage of the violence being perpetrated against Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.  

Graphic pictures of blood, injury and death are circulating on websites and in the social media and we in the SMNE have received countless phone calls, emails, pictures, videos and messages telling about and showing Ethiopians who have been victims of these crimes. One was a heartbreaking picture of a young Ethiopian man who was shot dead on the street, the blood from his wounded body flowing onto the pavement. Eyewitnesses to his murder report that this man was shot in the head as he tried to run away. He may have feared arrest or the brutal treatment at the hands of Saudi police. In one reported case, a handcuffed man, already contained, was still beaten by the police. In another video clip, Saudi civilians can be seen beating up other men. According to reports to the SMNE from Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, a total of 7 Ethiopians have been killed, 218 have been injured and over 368 are missing. This brutality is outrageous.    read... (pdf)

November 4, 2013
PRESS RELEASE: SMNE Calls for Strong Measures from the International Community, Donors and International Investors in Confronting Official Corruption in Ethiopia

The Government of Ethiopia is broadly soliciting for development aid, foreign-based business partnerships and financial investors; yet, the unpopular ruling party has been accused of abuse of state power, misuse of donor funds, widespread party-run business monopolies, illicit financial practices and endemic corruption. It is time to demand accountability from all involved and concerned.      read...

October 19, 2013
Ethiopians Who Fall Prey to Human Traffickers on Rise as Government of Ethiopia Cracks Down on Freedom


Many of us feel especially touched by this topic after the recent tragic shipwreck off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, where 500 people, mostly African migrants, were crowded onto an unsafe boat, which eventually lost power, caught on fire and sunk. Only 155 people were saved. The display of their coffins has left heart-wrenching images in our minds. Only four days prior to this, 13 other African migrants drowned off the coast of Sicily. These are only the ones we know about. Most of the victims were reported to be Eritreans and Somalis—two countries of immense suffering; however, Ethiopians were also among the dead and were also possibly underreported due to the practice of Ethiopians taking on Eritrean nationality as a short-cut to being accepted for asylum.      read...

September 5, 2013
SMNE Applauds Non-Violent, Peaceful Struggle in Ethiopia as TPLF/ERPDF Tries to Intimidate and Label Opposition as Extremists


We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia are deeply disturbed by illegal and violent actions by the TPLF/EPRDF that prevented the Semayawi Party from carrying out its peaceful rally on Sunday, September 1. Despite receiving the go ahead from authorities to stage this lawful rally nearly two months ago, with no warning, federal police stormed and ransacked Semayawi [also known as the Blue Party] headquarters on Saturday, August 31, 2013.     read...









read in Amharic...

August 8, 2013
SMNE Warning to the TPLF/EPRDF to Uphold Its Constitution: Stop Unlawful Acts of TPLF/EPRDF –Sponsored Terrorism Against Ethiopian Muslims or Face Future Charges

Ethiopians of Muslim faith have taken to the streets of Ethiopia to peacefully demand religious freedom in Ethiopia. According to their demonstration organizers, the numbers of protesters will increase to new levels of participation in the coming days and weeks; while at the same time, the TPLF/EPRDF government warns of new cracks down, some of which have already taken lives, injured young and old and resulted in the arrests of thousands of political prisoners.

This is no easy issue to resolve. Freedom of religion is close to the hearts of millions of Ethiopians, not only Muslims but all people who seek to pursue their faith and conscience without restriction. This has created a deadlock where the TPLF/ERPDF’s position is unsustainable without making concessions; however, based on past actions, it is highly doubtful that the TPLF/EPRDF will take the necessary steps to prevent the situation from escalating out of control, especially if the TPLF/EPRDF-sponsored violence against civilians is continued.      read...

July 25, 2013
Ethiopians at the 30-Year Anniversary of the ESFNA Soccer Tournament Model the “New Ethiopia”

Soccer Tournament

What I witnessed as I watched and met thousands of people at this great gathering of Ethiopians was so extraordinary that I have been pondering it ever since. I saw the face of genuine humanity among Ethiopians and was very emotionally moved by it. My hope for a better future for Ethiopia is greater than ever.

Sometimes we focus on the most discouraging issues and obstacles before us like the lack of political space, the arrest of journalists, activists, and religious leaders, the grabbing of land and resources, the displacement of the people, the human rights abuses, ethnic division, the hardship of life in the country and the ongoing exodus of our young people out of the country; however, what I observed after being around so many Ethiopians all week was “the New Ethiopia” being put into action all around me. It was so remarkable and encouraging that I had to share it. I know that Ethiopians are people who, with God’s help, can be transformed, but seeing it played out before my eyes was inspiring!     read... (pdf)

SMNE Handout for  ENSFA Soccer Tournament (English - pdf)
SMNE Handout in Amharic (pdf)

June 20, 2013
Testimony before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
Mr. Obang Metho

Obang speaking

“Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights”
In 2006, I gave testimony at that previous hearing in regards to the massacre of 424 members of my own ethnic group, the Anuak, in 2003, perpetrated by members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces. I also testified regarding the ongoing crimes against humanity and destruction of property and infrastructure in the Gambella region of Ethiopia; however, because similar abuses were being perpetrated in other places in the country, I also spoke of the 193 peaceful protestors who were shot and killed as they peacefully protested the results of the flawed 2005 national election and the repression in Oromia. This also included testimony regarding the imprisonment of opposition leaders, including Dr. Berhana Nega, who is sitting next to me today.     read... (pdf)

Subcommittee Hearing: Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights

View a live video feed during the hearing

Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
2172 House Rayburn Office Building Washington, DC 20515
Jun 20, 2013 10:00am

Chairman Smith on the hearing: “Ethiopia is a vital American ally in Africa, but its human rights and democracy policies fall short of the basic rights that Ethiopians deserve. Our hearing will look at the policies of the current Ethiopian government in hopes that it will better accommodate political opposition and civil society, and respect the rights of all Ethiopians. We also need to consider how the U.S. Government can support ways to improve the rights—and lives—of the Ethiopian people.”      read...


Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman


You are respectfully requested to attend an OPEN hearing of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, to be held by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building (and available live on the Committee website at www.foreignaffairs.house.gov):

DATE: Thursday, June 20, 2013
TIME: 10:00 a.m.
SUBJECT: Ethiopia After Meles: The Future of Democracy and Human Rights read the invitation... (pdf)

June 3, 2013

SMNE Calls on Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn To Lead Ethiopia towards Change by Answering the Demands of the People

Peaceful demonstration in Addis Ababa
organized by Semayawi or Blue Party
June 2, 2013

Dear Prime Minister Hailemariam,
On behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, I, as the SMNE’s executive director, am writing to you regarding the peaceful rally that took place in Addis Ababa yesterday, June 2, 2013. We highly commend you and the TPLF/EPRDF for allowing the rally to proceed without interference. Even though freedom of assembly is allowed under the Ethiopian Constitution; since 2005, Ethiopians have been denied this right. For the first time in eight years, after some negotiation with the Semayawi (Blue) party’s leadership to change the date, the TPLF/EPRDF government agreed to provide the permit that allowed the Ethiopian people the right to express their beliefs without arrests, brutality or death.   read... (pdf)

May 21, 2013

SMNE Urges Secretary Kerry to speak out on behalf of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, independent judiciaries and open political space in Ethiopia.

Open Letter to Secretary of State John Kerry,

Dear Secretary Kerry

We are pleased to know you will be one of the distinguished guests at the 50th anniversary of the African Union. This is a celebration not for Africans alone, but for the world. Sadly, the progress made over the last half-century falls substantially short of what could have been possible.

The formation of the African Union (AU) followed the liberation of many African countries from the minority rule exercised during the colonization of Africa. At the AU’s inception, the hope for Africa was that it become a continent where freedom of expression, freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, equality, impartial justice, and the rule of law would undergird all aspects of African life—just the same as what America’s founding fathers had envisioned for the United States. However, if the founders of the AU were alive today, would they be celebrating? .     Click here to read the entire letter...

April 15, 2013


African Land and Natural Resource Grabs Destroy Lives and Futures of Africans
Mr. Obang Metho gives warning of the impacts on the people at the U.S. Congressional Briefing on Land Grabs in Africa
When I speak today, my testimony will not be as an outsider, but as a witness. When I talk about the people being displaced from the land grabs, in many cases I am speaking about people whose names I know. They include my uncle, my cousins, my nephews, my extended family, my community and my people—the people of Gambella, the people of Ethiopia, the people of Africa and the people of the world. We the people of Africa must be able to feed ourselves, but when the powerful take the food and land we have to sustain ourselves, leaving little behind for the indigenous, it is unconscionable and should be challenged. I welcome the opportunity we have to talk about this today. I request that my statement be submitted into the record in its entirety.  .     read...

April 8, 2013
A Discussion with Advocates & Policymakers

Monday, April 15 at 2:00PM U.S. CONGRESS: Rayburn House Office Building (45 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC) A SHORT DOCUMENTARY ON LAND GRABBING WILL BE SCREENED

Land grabbing is becoming the single most combative issue in Africa. It involves large-scale land acquisitions by foreign countries and corporations for farming, biofuels, logging and minerals. Unlike land acquisitions in the United States and Europe where purchasers pay the fair market values for land, in Africa unscrupulous deals are displacing thousands of farmers and leaving local communities in abject poverty, while government officials benefit from land sales and leases.  read... (pdf)

April 8, 2013
World Bank Must End its Support for Human Rights Abuses in Ethiopia By David Pred
A multi-billion dollar aid program administered by the World Bank is underwriting systematic human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Last September, Ethiopian victims submitted a complaint about the program to the World Bank Inspection Panel, which is tasked with investigating whether or not the Bank complies with its own policies to prevent social and environmental harm.  A meeting of the Bank’s board of directors to discuss the Panel’s preliminary findings was postponed on March 19th due to objections from the Ethiopian government.  read...

April 6, 2013

At the meeting

Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) Declares Commitment to Work with Others towards a Democratic, Multi-national Ethiopia: Is this the Same “New Ethiopia” We in the SMNE Envision?
On March 30, 2013, I had the privilege of watching history in progress while attending the first meeting of the newly formed Oromo Democratic Front (ODF) as an observer. Those involved included most of the founding leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). As they announced their new vision, direction and organization to more than 500 people attending the meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota, I was deeply struck with the vastly different message I was hearing that day—calling Oromo to work together for one Ethiopiafrom what I had heard at their 2006 OLF meeting where their secessionist goals and strictly Oromo agenda dominated every aim. I can only think that this transformation has been brought about by a renewed hope among its leadership that the great people of Oromia can contribute to the creation of an Ethiopia for all its precious people.        read...

March 23, 2013
Obang Metho addresses Ethiopian women on the second annual International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora in Washington, DC
Sponsored by the Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women

Obang Speaking

The role of Ethiopian women in building a New Ethiopia is so important that I believe we will never achieve our goal without the involvement of the women of our nation, many of whom are our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, colleagues and community members. 

If we think of our struggle as a huge puzzle of many pieces that must be put together, Ethiopian women make up a huge section of the still missing pieces. Our Ethiopian women make up one of the largest sub-groups in the country, around 50% of our population. They share many common values, aspirations, challenges and obstacles; however, they also are representative of our rich and diverse Ethiopian culture.     read...

February 26, 2013
TV Debate: Lands and Natural Resource Grabs in Africa
Rajya Sabha TV RSTV, February 19, 2013

Two of my colleagues and I went to India to speak directly to the good people of India, who have themselves thrown off the shackles of colonialism only 65 years ago, to asked them to join with Ethiopians and other Africans in confronting the hundreds of Indian companies who are now at the forefront of colluding with African dictators in robbing the people of their land, resources, lives and future!    read and view on YouTube...

February 5, 2013
Doing Business with a Dictatorship is a Risky Venture:
Can an Outsider Ever Be Assured of Winning?
Obang Metho addresses the National Press Club of India


According to the 2012 Index of Freedom, a study completed yearly by Freedom House, 88% of all Africans are not free or are only partially free. Food insecurity is more about freedom than any other factor. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), one out of three persons in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished and according to the African Human Development Report of 2012, hunger in Africa is the highest in the world; yet, it is said to possess some of the most fertile agricultural land in the world.     read...

February 5, 2013
Understanding Land Investment in East Africa
Seminar Hall II, India International Centre, Max Muller Marg, New Delhi A Day Light Robbery in Ethiopia: “Doing Business” With African dictators“

Africa has emerged as the premiere frontier market in the world for vast agricultural land acquisitions, often called “land grabs” due to widespread evidence that the land being acquired is not “free and clear” of inhabitants. Instead, repressive African governments, like in Ethiopia, are forcing some of the poorest people in the world from their homes and land without consultation or compensation, leaving most of them more destitute than before. Those who resist have faced arbitrary arrests, beatings, rape, torture, and death.

In Ethiopia, huge swathes of fertile, well-watered agricultural land are being leased for up to 99 years and for negligible amounts to foreign countries, foreign multinational companies and private investors. At the forefront of these mostly secretive deals are investors from India, China and Saudi Arabia.     read...