FREEDOM 4 ALL ETHIOPIANS

FREEDOM,DEMOCRACY.JUSTICE.AND UNITY FOR ALL ETHIOPIANS …by DANIEL TESFAYE

Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Ethiopia: Cry Once Again, Our Beloved Country!

April 28, 2015

by Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ethiopian lives matter!

Ethiopian lives matter!

Exactly ten years ago in 2005, almost to the month, the late supreme leader of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (T-TPLF), Meles Zenawi, personally directed a campaign of brutal suppression of unarmed protesters following the general election that year. On May 16, 2005, Meles Zenawi declared a state of emergency, outlawed all public gatherings and placed under his direct personal command and control all police, security and military forces, and replaced the capital city police with federal police and special forces. In the coming weeks, Meles’ forces went on a killing rampage slaughtering 193 innocent protesters and severely wounding nearly 800 others. The unarmed protesters were hunted down and shot in the streets and in their homes simply because they chose to exercise their right to peaceably protest that rigged election. Those protesters died as martyrs to Ethiopian democracy.

I have been carrying the pain of that slaughter every day for the last ten years. I have preached about it every single week, without missing a single week, for the last nine. I joined the struggle for human rights in Ethiopia as a result of the Meles Massacres of 2005. The victims of the Meles Massacres cry out for justice. I am their voice.

In April 2015, almost a decade later to the month, I witnessed a revolting video clip of the slaughter of 30 Ethiopians by a barbaric self-styled terrorist group known as “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) (also known as Islamic State of Iraq and (Syria) al-Sham (ISIS)) in Libya. (I shall refer to this malignant cancer of a terrorist organization in the rest of my commentary here as “the terrorist group/organization” because I find it unconscionable, blasphemous and outrageous to associate the name of one of the great religions of the world with a barbarous, bloodthirsty and psychopathic group of criminal thugs in the world.)

The sadistic terrorist group in Libya decapitated — beheaded, butchered — young Ethiopian Christians like lambs at a slaughterhouse because they were “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church” and steadfastly refused to change their faith. The 30 young Ethiopians died as martyrs not just of Christianity but also humanity of all faiths and beliefs. They died in the true spirit of Angus Dei (“Lamb of God “).

The ruthless terrorist group that is responsible for the unspeakable crimes against the young Ethiopian men, and among others, including  victims from Egypt, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Iraq and Syria, is believed to control territory in parts Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria. In June 2014, that terrorist group proclaimed itself to be a worldwide caliphate (religious state) with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph (the leader supposedly acting in the place of the Prophet Muhammed).

That terrorist organization is believed to have attracted a motley crew of psychopaths, adventure-seekers and other disaffected and disenfranchised elements from the Middle East and Europe. Its members are infused  with  an apocalyptic world view. They expect the end of the world to begin when they meet the “army of Rome” (that is crusaders literally sent by the Pope in Rome, or more metaphorically, the armies of the “infidel” West) in Dabiq, Syria. To be sure, for that terrorist organization, the “infidels” also include Shia Muslims and other Muslims, and every Muslim state which does not subscribe to the terrorists’ ideology.  That terrorist organization to date is responsible for the massacre of untold number of Muslim in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Nigeria.  In Dabiq, the terrorists expect to vanquish all they consider “infidels”, including Christian, Muslim and others,  and emerge victorious to spread their caliphate throughout the world.

The takfir doctrine is the driving ideology of that terrorist group. The doctrine is used to justify the mass murder of any Muslim not practicing their brand of ideology, an unbeliever (Takfir) or an apostate, (Murtad).) The warped terrorists believe the only way of purifying the world is by killing vast numbers of people they consider “unbelievers”.  For a clear and very informative analysis of that terrorist group, CLICK HERE.

In the terrorist-released video footage last week, a group of young Ethiopian men are shown collared by their terrorist captives and led through the desert and onto the beach for beheading. Some of the men are dressed in orange jumpsuits, others in black. The terrorists justify they are beheading the young Ethiopians because they are “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church”.

This particular group of ignorant terrorist thugs in Libya, and others like them elsewhere, is clueless of the hospitality given to the first Muslims escaping persecution and the teachings of the Prophet. According to a recent in-person interview, “none of the terrorist fighters interviewed in Iraq had more than primary school education. When asked ‘What is Islam?’, they answered “My life.’ They knew nothing of the Quran or Hadith, or of the early caliphs Omar and Othman, but had learned of Islam from Al Qaeda and ISIS propaganda, teaching that Muslims like them were targeted for elimination unless they first eliminated the impure.” They “told of growing up after the fall of Saddam Hussein in a hellish world of constant guerrilla war, family deaths and dislocation, and of not being even able to go out of their homes or temporary shelters for months on end.”

Other terrorist recruits do not fare much better. They are “mostly youth in transitional stages in their lives: students, immigrants, between jobs or mates, having left or about to leave their native family and looking for a new family of friends and fellow travelers with whom they can find significance. Most have had no traditional religious education, and are often ‘born again’ into a socially tight, ideologically narrow but world-spanning sense of religious mission.”

These ignorant terrorists and misfits have no clue that Ethiopia is the “Haven of First Migration” (First Hijra) for the Prophet Muhammad’s first followers. The Prophet told his persecuted followers  “to leave Makkah and to seek sanctuary in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) which was then ruled by a Christian king, well-known for being a just and God-fearing man.” The Axumite king and the Habeshas (Ethiopians) welcomed the persecuted Muslims as early as 615 A.D. with great hospitality, gave them protection and assistance and refused to return them when requested to do so by their enemies.  The terrorist thugs  are ignorant of the Prophet’s appreciation of the Habasha (Abyssinian/Ethiopian people) in the Hadith (the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) and his edict, “Leave the Habasha alone, so long as they do not take the offensive!”  (“Utruk Al-Habesha ma tarkukum”.)  The Prophet also taught, “God will not show mercy to him who does not show mercy to others.”

The Ethiopians the terrorists beheaded in Libya “took no offensive” against anyone. They were poor and defenseless  refugees seeking safe passage through Libya on their way to a European destination. They deserved mercy, sanctuary and assistance, not beheadings. The blasphemous terrorists took direct offense to the teaching of the Prophet when they beheaded the Ethiopians! Allah will not show them mercy! Innocent Ethiopian lives matter in the eyes of Allah!

Meles and the T-TPLF did not behead their innocent victims in 2005; they shot them in the head.

In a videotaped interview, Meles justified the massacres of what he called “deaths of up to 194 civilians”. He said, “… There was a constitutional challenge to the constitutional order in Ethiopia; and that challenge had to be faced.” In other words, the protesters had to be slaughtered because they challenged his rule. He said he “doubted” if the massacre had changed “the views of world leaders” towards him, but “it clearly tarnished the image of Ethiopia.”

The Report of Judge Frehiwot Samuel, Chairman of the Inquiry Commission appointed by Meles Zenawi himself to look into the 2005 massacres, COMPLETELY EXONERATED the protesters and laid the entire blame on the Meles regime:

There was not a single protester who was armed with a gun or a hand grenade (as reported by the government-controlled media that some of the protesters were armed with guns and bombs). The Commission members agreed that the shots fired by government forces were not to disperse the crowd of protesters but to kill by targeting the head and chest of the protesters. (Emphasis added; parentheses original.)

The identities of the police thugs who undertook the 2005 massacres are officially known and documented. In a report entitled “Modernizing Internal Security in Ethiopia,” counterterrorism expert Col. Michael Dewar, British Army (Rtd.), revealed that the Director General of the Ethiopian Federal Police Werkneh Gebeyehu told him that “as a direct result of the 2005 riots, he [had] sacked 237 policemen.”  The lives of unarmed Ethiopian protesters matter!

The perpetrators of the 2005 massacres today roam the streets free. Not a single one of the police executioners or the criminal bosses who ordered the massacres have been brought to justice.  

Almost exactly one year ago to the week, The T-TPLF massacred at least 47 university and high school students in the town of  Ambo, 80 miles west of the capital Addis Ababa, and environs. The T-TPLF regime dismissed that massacre and tried to sweep it under the rug claiming that a “few anti-peace forces incited and coordinated the violence”.

At the time, I protested. “I am outraged beyond my ability to express my outrage in words. I grieve and ache for the students cut down by hails of bullets in the prime of their lives.  I grieve for Ethiopia for it has lost its best and brightest children. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the massacre.” Ethiopian youth lives matter!

The perpetrators of the Ambo Student Massacres today roam the streets free. Not a single one of the police executioners or the criminal bosses who ordered the massacre have been brought to justice. 

In 2013, a campaign of terror was unleashed on Ethiopian domestic workers and refugees in Saudi Arabia. For days on end, Saudi police, security officials, mobs and vigilantes took to the streets literally hunting down Ethiopians, beating, torturing and in a number of cases killing them. The YouTube video clips of Saudi police torturing Ethiopians are shocking to the conscience and require no explanation. Yet, some of the Ethiopians died at the hands of their Saudi tormentors with the true Ethiopian flag wrapped around their heads. Their ancestors would have been so proud!

At the time, Tedros Adhanom, the malaria-researcher-turned-instant-foreign-minister, told the press, the deportation and killings “is something that has been bugging me for some time now.”  Adhanom summoned the Saudi Arabian ambassador and told him, “Ethiopia would like to express its respect for the decision of the Saudi Authorities and the policy of deporting illegal migrants. At the same time, it condemns the killing of an Ethiopian and mistreatment of its citizens residing in Saudi Arabia.” (Emphasis added.)

For Adhanom and his T-TPLF, the dehumanization, abuse and murder of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia was not a very big deal. It was something that just “bugged” them. At the time I wrote, “Rush hour traffic “bugs” the hell out of me. Students who come to class without completing the assigned readings  “bug” me to no end.  What the Saudis are doing to Ethiopians does not ‘bug’ me. It makes my blood boil. I am inflamed at the sight of the inhumanity and barbarity of the Saudi Police. I am outraged by the cruelty and brutality of Saudi mobs and vigilantes. I am shocked and appalled by the depraved indifference of the Saudi regime to the many acts of crimes against humanity committed against Ethiopian migrant workers. I am outraged that the suffering of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia merely ‘bugs’ Adhanom.”

Since 2013, the news about Ethiopians from the Middle East and Southern Africa has become sadly familiar. (I shall address the criminal acts committed against Ethiopians and other African immigrants by thugs in South Africa in due course.)  Hardly a week goes by with a report of an Ethiopian domestic worker abused by her Middle Eastern employer, allegedly committing suicide or facing some other inhuman suffering or indignity. Just a few days ago, a 23-year-old Ethiopian maid was allegedly found hanged in Beirut, Lebanon. The lives of innocent Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East matter! 

The perpetrators of the crimes against humanity on Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East today roam the streets free. Not a single one of the police executioners or the criminal bosses who ordered the beatings, tortures and killings have been brought to justice. 

Beginning in October 2007, Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF launched a crackdown against insurgents in the Ogaden region which quickly expanded into a program of collective punishment for Ogadeni civilians. Meles’ troops destroyed entire villages and committed rape, murder and pillage. They hanged and beheaded suspects to terrorize the population.  Human Rights Watch told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health that “the Ogaden is not Darfur. But the situation in Ogaden follows a frighteningly familiar pattern”. The lives of Ethiopians in the Ogaden region matter!

The perpetrators of the crimes against humanity and genocide on the Ogadenis in in Eastern Ethiopia today roam the streets free. Not a single one of the police executioners or the criminal bosses who ordered the massacres have been brought to justice. 

In December 2003, Meles Zenawi and his T-TPLF ordered their troops to undertake a series of attacks in Gambella, Western Ethiopia, in which 400 Anuaks were massacred and over 1000 homes destroyed. The Meles regime subsequently issued a statement “apologizing for not acting proactively and promised to stand on the side of the victims to see that justice is done.” At the time, the regime claimed to have identified dozens of suspects in the Anuak massacres. None of them has been prosecuted. The lives of Ethiopians in Gambella matter!

The perpetrators of the crimes against humanity and genocide on the Anuak in Western Ethiopia today roam the streets free. Not a single one of the police executioners or the criminal bosses who ordered the massacres have been brought to justice.  

To date, no soldier, police, security or other civilian official in the service of the T-TPLF has ever been prosecuted, held accountable or sanctioned for any murders, crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes or crimes of aggression.

The open season on Ethiopians and Ethiopian refugees must end!

The death of outrage and the outrage over the death of Ethiopians

The butchering of the young Ethiopians by the sadistic terrorist group has provoked outrage throughout the world.  Pope Francis expressed “great distress and sadness [over] the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya.” He expressed “heartfelt spiritual solidarity” with the “continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia.” He said the terrorist criminals stand on the side of evil. “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil.”

The Obama Administration “condemned in the strongest terms the brutal mass murder by ISIL-affiliated terrorists of what the murderers claimed are Ethiopian Christians in Libya. These terrorists killed these men solely because of their faith points to the terrorists’ vicious, senseless brutality.”

The so-called Ethiopian government initially refused to acknowledge the terrorist beheading victims were Ethiopians. Redwan Hussein, “Ethiopia government spokesperson”, said while his “government” was not able to verify if those killed were Ethiopians, “the Ethiopian government condemns the atrocious act.”

It did not matter to the T-TPLF “government” that CNN had confirmed and reported the beheading victims were Ethiopians. It did not matter Al-Jazeera had confirmed and reported they were Ethiopians. It did not matter to the T-TPLF regime that Reuters, Agence France Press, BBC, VOA, the N.Y. Times, the Washington Post…. had all confirmed and  reported the victims of the terrorist massacres were Ethiopians.  They refused to acknowledge the fact.  What were they concerned about? Were they being cautious  on the facts because they may mistakenly express outrage for the beheading of citizens of another country? Wouldn’t any decent government anywhere in the world have simply accepted the international press reports as true on face value and expressed its outrage and concern!?

The truth is: For the T-TPLF, it is all about mind over matter. The T-TPLF doesn’t care and the young Ethiopian lives lost at the hands of bloodthirsty terrorist thugs don’t matter!!!

Once the T-TPLF regiime confirmed the victims were Ethiopians, it issued an official  statement,  bawling in crocodile tears:  “The Ethiopian government is deeply saddened by the barbarous act committed against our innocent nationals.”

After confirming the 30 individuals slaughtered by the sadistic terrorist group in Libya were Ethiopians, the “Ethiopian government” “declared three days of mourning”.

Adhanom and his paper-boss Hailemariam Desalegn, the marionette “prime minister” of Ethiopia,  took no publicly demonstrable diplomatic actions demanding greater protection for the remaining Ethiopian citizens in Libya; not even a token gesture. No diplomatic protests were lodged; they did not even pretend to go through the obligatory diplomatic motions. They did not notify the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to urge immediate assistance for the remaining Ethiopians in Libya. Hailemariam and Adhanom were silent as church mice, letting their “spokesperson” do all the talking. That is not surprising because they don’t give a rat’s behind about Ethiopian refugees anyway!

Just for the record, I want to mention that Adhanom and his paper-boss Hailemariam Desalegn tore up the platform at the African Union meeting in October 2013 crying bloody murder and “race hunting” when their friend, Uhuru Kenyatta, was hailed before the International Criminal Court. They went out of their way to orchestrate an all-Africa mass walkout of the Rome Treaty (International Criminal Court authority).

Today, their lips are sealed when their citizens are literally hunted down like wild game in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East and slaughtered and hanged like wet laundry on a clothesline in their employers’ residence. How come they are not orchestrating the African Union to take action, or even express their symbolic outrage, against the barbaric terrorists? For Adhanom, Hailemariam and the T-TPLF powers that be, it is all just another tempest in a tea pot, like 2013 Saudi Arabia, like 2005 Ethiopia… It will blow over in a week or two; and they will be back to business as usual.

Not so when more than 21 Egyptian Copts were slaughtered by that evil terrorist group this past February. Like the beheaded Ethiopians in Libya, the Egyptian Copts were also dressed up in orange jumpsuits and their hands tied behind their backs.  The Egyptian men, like the Ethiopian men, were forced to kneel before being beheaded.

President Abdel el-Sisi was hopping mad at the beheadings of the Egyptian Copts. He went on television within hours of the occurrence of the event and declared Egypt “reserves the right to respond in any way”.  He expressed his “deep sorrow”, let the world know that he “mourns the Egyptian victims of an abhorrent act of terrorism in Libya” and “offered his deepest condolences to the Egyptian people for their grave loss.”  Within hours, el-Sisi conferred with his defense council and dispatched Egyptian bombers taking out targets in the terrorist-held city of Derna in Libya. In honor of the 21 Egyptian Coptic victims, Egypt declared seven days of mourning!  

What is absolutely outrageous is the fact that the remaining Ethiopian refugees in Libya who were given a telephone number by representatives of the T-TPLF regime to contact the “Ethiopian  Embassy” in Egypt got neither material nor moral support. Their efforts to get help were met with depraved indifference.  According to a very recent interview of Ethiopian refugees in Libya on the Voice of America, (VOA) Amharic Program (move audio clip forward to 04:00 minutes), the refugees instead of getting assistance received depraved indifference. One interviewee reported:

We were given a telephone number for the Ethiopian Embassy in Egypt to call and get assistance. We have received no assistance at all from the Ethiopian Government. We use a telephone calling card we buy by scrounging what little we could to call the Ethiopian Embassy in Egypt.  They pick up the phone and mock us. They don’t talk to us. They pick up the phone and let our telephone calling card run out of time. Then we get another card. Sometimes they answer. Sometimes, they don’t…”

Other Ethiopian refugees interviewed by VOA reported similar experiences.

Of course, we all know what the Adhanom, Hailemariam and the T-TPLF are saying to themselves: They should never have left. They took a chance and lost. We told them so. That will teach them a lesson…  Blah… Blah… Blah…   

But why are young Ethiopians voting with their feet? 

Why are tens of thousands of young Ethiopians taking such extraordinary risks to leave the country?

Why would they choose to leave the land of milk and honey galloping in double-digit economic growth?

Why did the hapless Ethiopians travel to Libya where they met their tragic fates?

The answer is simple. They did not leave Ethiopia because they were overwhelmed with educational and employment opportunities. They did not leave because they enjoyed political and economic liberties. They did not leave because they wanted adventures in the deserts of North Africa. They risked everything, including their lives, because they wanted better lives than the ones they were having in Ethiopia. To improve the lives they were living in Ethiopia and to support their families living in abject poverty, they were willing to risk dying in the parched desert or as servants to a ruthless house master and mistress in the Middle East.

Young Ethiopians today are willing to die in the desert and wilderness than live under the tyranny and oppression of the thugtatorship of the TPLF. The young Ethiopians who  died in Libya died in the spirit of that glorious slogan of freedom: “Give me death or give me liberty!” They were going to live free from the rule of thugs and died trying at the hands of thugs! But they died as martyrs trying to live free!

Ethiopians love their country. It is in their DNA.  I would say, Ethiopians, perhaps right down to the last man and woman, are not the type who will voluntarily leave their country and risk becoming refugees or traverse the desert and wilderness  just to improve their economic lot. They leave their country not because they don’t love it, but because their lovely country has been transformed into the Land of Hate. Their Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine has been enveloped in the impregnable darkness of thugtatorship for nearly a quarter of a century. Ethiopians love their country too much to just leave it.

According to Tasse Abye, Ethiopian out-migration historically occurred in “waves”. In the first wave, throughout the 1960s, were a tiny group of elites who temporarily left the country, often to the West, principally for educational and training, with the aim of returning home. That trend continued into the second wave during the 1974-1982 period. The ruthless military Derg junta beginning in 1974 made it very difficult for people to leave the country; and those caught attempting to leave were given severe punishments. The Derg military repression opened the floodgates of Ethiopian refugees.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians left their country to make their home in North America. After the passage of the 1965 U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, Ethiopians became the third-largest national group of African immigrants to immigrate to the United States.

Most Ethiopians arrived in the United States after Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980 and became the largest group of Africans to immigrate until Somalis surpassed them in 1994. According to Tasse, “Since the fall of the Mengistu regime in 1991, a fourth wave of emigration has occurred, composed mainly of professionals fleeing ethnic violence and political repression.” For a brief but highly informative analysis on Ethiopian immigration and the Ethiopian Diaspora, CLICK HERE.

The major problem for Ethiopians leaving their country  occurred during what might be called the “fifth wave”. As I explained in my January 2012 commentary, “From the International Slave Trade to the International Maid Trade”, factors internal to Ethiopian politics were the driving force in the out-migration process. Under the T-TPLF regime, a network of unscrupulous modern-day slave-traffickers (“human traffickers”) and “private labor employment agencies” operating under official license were trafficking in young Ethiopian women to various parts of the Middle East. The traffickers were engaged in what amounts to “contract slavery”, with implicit official support and without official follow up and monitoring of the workers to ensure their well-being and welfare in their host countries.

The plight of Ethiopian women domestic workers in the Middle East has been documented in Bina Fernandez’s survey research (Ch. 7).  In 2009, “over 74,000 people risked their lives to enter Yemen en route to Saudi Arabia, of which 42,000 were Ethiopians.” According to official data, 91% of the Ethiopian domestic workers in the Middle East were single women, 83% between the age of 20–30 age group, 63% had some secondary education, 26% were illiterate and 71% Muslim and 93% earned US$100–150 per month. Some of these women “officially registered with the government as a migrant worker”. Others “worked through illegal brokers who are viciously exploitative [and] often take the women’s money and sometimes abandon them in the desert before they even reach Somalia.”

The T-TPLF and the problem of human trafficking 

Since 1998, the Meles Zenawi regime has put in place a “Private Employment Agency Proclamation No. 104/1998”, which provided for licensing of private employment agencies and the prosecution of illegal brokers. In 2009, this Proclamation was repealed and updated by the “Employment Exchange Services Proclamation No. 632/2009”, which required private employment agencies, among other things, “not to recruit a job seeker below the age of 18 years; not to terminate the contract of employment before acquiring the consent of the worker in writing, get approval from the Ethiopian embassy or consular office to form a new contract or to modify the existing one, register a worker sent abroad, within fifteen days, with the nearest Ethiopian embassy or consular office.”

The “private employment agency which sends workers abroad” is mandated to ensure that the working conditions in the host country not “be less favorable to an Ethiopian than the rights and benefits of those who work in a similar type and level of work in the country of employment.” The foreign employer is required to pay the “visa fee of the country of destination, round trip ticket, residence and work permit fees and insurance coverage” for the worker. Moreover, “any private employment agency which sends a worker abroad for work” must deposit cash or post bond in the minimum amount of USD$30,000 for up to 500 workers “for the protection and enforcement of the rights of the worker.”

The real penalty for violation of the Proclamation No. 632 is actually suspension, revocation or cancellation of license of the employment agency. Though various stiff criminal penalties are provided in Article 40 of that Proclamation, there is little evidence of serious prosecution of human traffickers. According to a 2010 State Department report, “Between March and October 2009, the [Federal High Court’s 11th Criminal] bench heard 15 cases related to transnational labor trafficking, resulting in five convictions, nine acquittals, and one withdrawal due to missing witnesses. Of the five convictions, three offenders received suspended sentences of five years’ imprisonment, two co-defendants were fined, and one offender is serving a sentence of five years’ imprisonment.”

Similarly, according to a 2011 UNHCR report, “The [Ethiopian] government showed only nascent signs of engaging destination country governments in an effort to improve protections for Ethiopian workers and obtain protective services for victims.” Moreover, “although licensed employment agencies must place funds in escrow in the event a worker’s contract is broken, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has never used these deposits to pay for victims’ transportation back to Ethiopia.”

But the T-TPLF regime has readily come to the rescue of other victims of human traffickers according to the same UNHCR report: “In 2010, Ethiopia granted asylum to 1,383 Eritrean refugees deported from Egypt, many of whom claim to have been brutalized by Rashaida smugglers operating in the Sinai – including conditions of forced construction labor – or have fled Eritrea to escape situations of forced labor associated with the implementation of the country’s national service program.” While it is noble and morally commendable to assist any victim of human trafficking and human rights abuse, it is also true that charity begins at home.

The solution to the problem was promised in 2013

During the Saudi persecution of Ethiopian domestic workers and refugees in November 2013, Adhanom said,

Of course we have been working a lot on long term and short term solutions for long time in Ethiopia now because there are structural problems that we need to address  to solve the problem once and for all. And you know Ethiopia is making progress and growing in double digits, [a claim I have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt to be a lie, a damned lie and a statislie (statistical lie)] and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we know we can make it, and we know we can eliminate poverty. We are in the right direction but still we believe in global solidarity. But we never expected that this would happen. (Emphasis added.)

I still find it hard to believe that Adhanom said  “we never expected that this would happen” to Ethiopian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia; or that the whole thing was “a complete surprise” to him. Of course, it was not a “complete surprise” to anyone as I demonstrated in my commentary at the time. There is no way it could reasonably be said that Adhanom could not reasonable foresee the humanitarian disaster that befell Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia in November 2013.

Be that as it may, I am still waiting to see the results of what he called, “the long-term and short-term solutions we have been working on for a long time” to deal with the issue of mass exodus of Ethiopians and protections of their human rights as refugees and contract workers particularly in the Middle East.

In April 2015, nothing has changed. Young Ethiopian men and women are voting with their feet (since they cannot vote with their hands). They continue to be victims of unspeakable violence in the Middle East. They are beaten, tortured, starved, hanged, and now beheaded.

These crimes continue to be committed against Ethiopian refugees and domestic workers with greater frequency and intensity two years after Adhanom declared  his regime has “been working on long-term and short-term solutions for a long time”. So Ethiopians, to borrow Adhanom’s and Hailemariam’s favorite phrase, are being “race hunted” and “religious hunted” in the Middle East and even in South Africa. Yet nothing has been done to assist and protect them from the unspeakable crimes. Not even symbolic actions!

As an academic, a lawyer and a human rights advocate, it seems to me a lot could be done to help Ethiopians victimized not only by terrorists, vigilantes, thugs and abusive employers but also official authorities acting under color of law. Why is there not a permanent official special task force assembled to deal with the ongoing emergency of Ethiopian refugees and abused domestic workers? Why aren’t civil society groups mobilized to stave off out-migration and help in the re-absorption of the returning migrant workers and other refugees? Will the T-TPLF ever give a damn about the suffering of Ethiopian refugees, contract workers and others facing mistreatment and abuse? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

When a crisis of the type facing Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia occurs, any regime that cares for its citizens will institute an emergency task force to coordinate its response and reach out to international organizations for assistance and support. (I don’t mean reach out to international organizations to beg for money and pocket it.) It is manifest that Adhanom and his regime calculate that the situation of the Ethiopians domestic workers and refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere shall soon pass and they will continue to do business as usual.

So I ask myself the unanswerable question in despairing poetic solitude…

What’s the matter?

What’s the matter?
Don’t Ethiopian lives matter!?

Man, it’s just mind over matter,
The T-TPLF don’t mind
Ethiopian lives don’t matter.

What’s the matter
Nothing’s is the matter!

It doesn’t matter.
What doesn’t matter?
Ethiopian lives don’t matter.

It matters.
It matters not.

What’s matter?|
Ethiopian lives matter,
All human lives matter!

What’s the matter?
Tell me, what’s really the matter?

T-TPLF brutality and depravity,
Terrorist barbarity, insanity and inhumanity,
South African thug criminality
Ethiopian Diaspora inability,
Disunity in our Ethiopianity,
Evil’s banality, and
Man’s inhumanity to humanity.

That’s what’s the matter! Ethiopian lives always matter!

It’s all about mind over matter. The T-TPLF don’t care, and Ethiopian lives don’t matter!

I cry for our Ethiopia, the beloved country, but “there is a light at the end of the tunnel”

During the Saudi Arabian persecution of Ethiopian domestic workers and refugees, Adhanom said, “there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we know we can make it, and we know we can eliminate poverty.”

I, too, say there is a light at the end of the tunnel of tyranny and dictatorship in Ethiopia. There is a new day on the horizon. We must hold on, hold hands together – Christians and Muslims and Ethiopians from all parts of the country — and march straight out of the tunnel of two decades plus of oppression and denial of basic human rights.

I must tell the truth. It is hard. Sometimes, I despair and cry for our beloved Ethiopia. I do. Only if you knew how much I do.

In 1948, the same year Apartheid became law in South Africa, Alan Paton wrote in “Cry, the Beloved Country”, and expressed the deep despair he felt over the fate of South Africa. My own deep despair over the fate of Ethiopia parallels and resonates Paton’s:

… Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on the earth, on the lovely land that man cannot enjoy. He knows only the fear of his heart.

I, too, like Paton cry for the “broken tribe” of Ethiopia, the Ethiopia broken down into ethnic “kilils”.

I cry for the law and the custom that is gone. I cry for the Ethiopian flag they call a “rag.” I cry for Ethiopia’s history they say goes back only 100 years. I cry for the Ethiopia they say has been in existence barely a century.

I cry for the rivers and those voiceless people dammed by a dam. I cry for the and mountains, the valleys and  the deserts. I cry for the land that is bleeding its gold and minerals.

I cry out loud for the 30 young Ethiopian Christian men who were beheaded by an evil terrorist group. I cry out loud for their fathers and mothers; for their sisters and brothers; their uncles and aunts and grandparents.  I cry out loud for their friends and neighbors, their towns and their cities. I cry out loud for their beloved country, their Ethiopia. These things are not yet at an end. The sun pours down on that Land of 13-Months of Sunshine, on the lovely land that only the privileged few can now enjoy. I cry out loud for all Ethiopians who only know the fear in their hearts. I share their suffering and their unbearable sorrow and grief.

I also cry in silence for our young brothers who, like the silent lambs, were slaughtered like in Libya by cruel and murderous thugs. I cry for the remaining Ethiopians trapped in Libya with no one to help them. I cry in silence for our sisters who are raped, beaten and thrown out of windows to their deaths and hanged from ceiling and tree tops and scalded with hot water all over the Middle East.  I cry in silence for those young Ethiopian men and women who feel compelled to leave their country and risk their lives because they do not feel free; they do not feel they have rights; they do not feel they are human in their own country. They know third and fourth class citizens in their own country. I cry in silence for those Ethiopians who died and continue to die crossing the deserts of Yemen, Libya  and Saudi Arabia seeking to improve their lives.

I cry in silence for those young men and women, fathers and mothers who were murdered at the hand of Meles Zenawi and the t-TPLF in cold blood in the streets in Ethiopia after the 2005 election.

I cry for my sister Reeyot Alemu and for my brothers Eskinder Nega, Andualem Aragie, Woubshet Taye, Bekele Gerba, Abubekar Ahmed and the many thousands of Ethiopian political prisoners. I cry for all Ethiopians and for Ethiopia.

In my cry of despair, I pause to reflect on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29: “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes/ I all alone beweep my outcast state,/And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,/And look upon myself, and curse my fate,/Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,/…

Yes, I cry and cry and “trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.” Yes, in my despair, I am one more rich in hope. I HOPE Ethiopia will soon be free from the rule of thugs. I HOPE her people will see through the tricks and machinations of the thugs and come together and build one Ethiopia on a foundation of tolerance, harmony and love. I HOPE because I have REJECTED despair.

I cry for our beloved Ethiopia. I cry in joy and hope. I promise you, our cries shall not go unheard. didn’t South Africa emerged from the tunnel of apartheid tyranny. Wasn’t Mandela one more rich in hope:  “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”

Doubt not. I remain more hopeful, joyously hopeful, than ever. I have no doubts whatsoever that Ethiopians shall soon regain their dignity and honor at home and abroad.

Ethiopians under “kilil” rule, like South Africans under apartheid rule, shall no longer be the “skunks of the world”; and deep in my heart, I do believe Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God and we shall rejoice and cry no more!

May God in His eternal and infinite grace bless the souls of our fallen brothers and sons in Libya.

May Allah, the merciful and beneficent,  show mercy to those who showed no mercy to our brothers and sons.

ተከብረሽ የኖርሽው ባባቶቻችን ደም
እናት ኢትዮጵያያ ያስደፈረሽ ይውደም!

posted  by Daniel tesfaye

Letter from an Ethiopian prison to John Kerry

April 26, 2015

Natnael Feleke has been imprisoned for a year without trial. In a letter smuggled out of jail, he asks the US secretary of state to stop supporting the Ethiopian regime

by Natnael Feleke from Kilinto prison | The Guardian

US secretary of state John Kerry with blogger Natnael Feleke

Dear John Kerry,

I first came to know about you back in 2004, during the US presidential election, when you were running for office against George Bush. At just 17 years old I knew little about US politics – or politics in general – but I discussed the campaigns with my schoolmates.

A year later, the historic 2005 Ethiopian national election took place. This election differed from previous votes in that the lead up to it was mostly democratic. This left many Ethiopians hoping they would witness the first elected change of government in the country’s history. But it was not to be.

After the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front realised they couldn’t win the election without rigging the vote, the true face of the regime emerged.

After polling day, we saw civilian bloodshed, and the arrest of thousands – including journalists and opposition leaders.

I was only young then, but the election gave me my first real experience of politics. It also left me with a strong desire to follow the repressive situation that was unfolding in Ethiopia.

It was this interest and commitment that led my friends and I to form the bloggers’ and pro-democracy activist group we called Zone 9.

The birth of Zone 9

All nine members of the blogging group are young and passionate about encouraging Ethiopia’s democracy.

We aimed to create a platform for Ethiopian youth to discuss political, economic and social issues when we launched our blog, with the motto, “we blog because we care”.

Although our arrest came two years after launching, our site was blocked in Ethiopia early on, but we continued to share our views via social media.

Finally, the regime took drastic measures: in April 2014 they arrested six members of Zone9, and three other journalists too.

We are now facing between eight and 18 years imprisonment.

This hasn’t come as a surprise. Whenever Ethiopians exercise their constitutional rights to free expression, the regime resorts to its security apparatus to silence them.

My charges are tied up with our meeting back in 2013. We met in Addis Ababa University: the minister of foreign affairs Tedros Adhanom invited me and a couple of others for a discussion, in which I raised my concerns about the regime’s tactics to push young citizens away from participating in politics.

I highlighted the negative impact this was having on the political sphere. I told you that I was risking a lot merely by expressing my thoughts freely. At that time, my arrest was only an abstract possibility.

An Ethiopian court granted police 10 more days to investigate six bloggers and journalists

The conditions

The regime continues to silence any form of dissent using the strict anti-terrorism proclamation.

Since the 2005 Ethiopian election the government have prosecuted more than 200 people – journalists, dissidents and activists – and has shut down many weekly magazines and newspapers, sending most journalists into exile.

In the last eight months alone 17 journalists have been forced to flee the country.

This has made it nearly impossible for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.

It is quite common for the federal police and the national intelligence and security service (Niss) to use force to solicit confessions from suspects. My friends and I fell victim to this type of mistreatment at the police crime investigation sector, commonly known as Maekelawi.

The abuses they are reported to have committed there include beatings with electric wire, forcing heavy physical exercise, lengthy interrogations with no rest, and keeping people in solitary confinement until suspects agree to incriminate themselves, or others. The mistreatment is more extreme under Niss.

My fellow bloggers and I spent the first 85 days of our arrest at the police station. We were given a 20-minute toilet break twice a day. In case of emergency, we found an understanding officer, or a bucket.

The rooms were crowded, filled with suspects from all over the country. We slept and ate in the little space available.

The suffocation was sometimes unbearable.

Halt the millions

The investigation has so far been a farce.

I have been, for instance, repeatedly asked what kind of relationship I had with you, and why I was invited to ask a question on the BBC’s Hardtalk program, hosted by Zeinab Bedawi, when it was filmed in Addis Ababa in May 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union.

But to be honest, the amount of time I will be spending in prison is not the most pressing issue on my mind right now. Rather, I am worried about what will happen unless the international community, and specifically your government, assumes a firm stance on Ethiopia, demands progress with democratisation, and halts the millions of dollars pouring the regime’s way.

Having said this, I want to assure you that I understand the question of liberty and democracy in Ethiopia should be primarily answered by Ethiopians ourselves.

Ultimately, it is the “willingness to suffer and sacrifice [for our cause]”, in the words of Nelson Mandela, that will determine our fate.

Your sincerely,

Natnael Felek

posted by daniel tesfaye

Free Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalists – Human Rights Watch

Free Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalists – Human Rights WatchFor Immediate ReleaseBloggers, Journalists – Human Rights  <!–

… በፌስቦክ Like ማድረጉንም አይርሱ! ..መልካም ንባብ፡፡

–>

zone 9ners

Ethiopia: Free Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalists
A Year After Arrests, Drop Politically Motivated Charges

(Nairobi, April 23, 2015) – Ethiopian authorities should immediately release nine bloggers and journalists arrested a year ago who are being prosecuted on politically motivated charges, Human Rights Watch said today. The six bloggers, who belong to the Zone 9 blogging collective, and three journalists were arrested on April 25 and 26, 2014, in a coordinated sweep in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. They were charged under the criminal code and anti-terrorism law for having links to banned opposition groups and trying to violently overthrow the government.

In the past year the court in the Zone 9 bloggers trial has adjourned 27 times, prolonging the case seemingly unnecessarily. The unreasonable delays, lack of access to lawyers, and various procedural irregularities raise serious concerns about the defendants’ rights to due process and a fair trial, Human Rights Watch said. The next hearing is scheduled for May 26, 2015, two days after Ethiopia’s general elections.

“The stop-start Zone 9 trial underscores concerns that this is a spurious prosecution before a court under the government’s thumb,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should drop the charges and release these young Ethiopians, so they can contribute to the political debate rather than to the prison population.”

Several of the bloggers have alleged that they have been mistreated in detention. There has been no meaningful investigation of the allegations. And on March 24, after several hearings, the judge in the case dismissed the allegations for “lack of evidence.”

As of the 26th court hearing, on April 8, a total of 18 witnesses had been presented, the vast majority of whom merely testified that they were present when the police obtained the documents presented as evidence, during house searches or from the defendants’ computers. No witness has suggested anything that backs up the criminal charges against the bloggers and journalists. The police and prosecutors have continued to ask for more time to produce witnesses.

Two people told Human Rights Watch that they were approached by security officials to provide testimony against the Zone 9 bloggers. Each said they were told they would receive preferential treatment by the authorities in their own cases if they testified against the bloggers. They said they did not personally know the bloggers nor had been witness to any of the bloggers’ activities. The two refused to testify.

The arrest of the Zone 9 bloggers and journalists is part of a wider government crackdown against independent voices, Human Rights Watch said. Since 2010, at least 60 Ethiopian journalists have fled into exile, including 30 in 2014 alone. Another 19 or more journalists languish in prison. Government harassment and intimidation caused at least six independent publications to close in 2014.

The arrested bloggers are part of a blogging collective known as Zone 9, which provided commentary on social, political, and other events of interest to young Ethiopians. The six bloggers are Atnaf Berahane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnael Feleke, and Zelalem Kibret. The three journalists are Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, an editor at the weekly magazine Addis Guday.

Addis Guday has closed, and a number of its employees are living in exile due to a concerted pattern of threats and harassment of staff. In October 7, the Addis Guday publisher, Endalkachew Tesfaye, was sentenced in absentia to three years and three months in prison.

The bloggers and journalists were arrested, three days after Zone 9 announced they would resume blogging again after several dormant months. Initially they were detained in Maekelawi, the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector in Addis Ababa where Human Rights Watch and others have documented mistreatment in detention. They were not formally charged until July 17. Soliana Shimeles, another Zone 9 blogger, who was not in Ethiopia at the time of the arrests, was charged in absentia.

The prosecution claims the bloggers and journalists received support from Ginbot 7 and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), both among groups designated as “terrorist organizations” in 2011 by the House of Peoples’ Representatives, the lower chamber of Ethiopia’s parliament. They are also accused of using digital encryption to communicate, of getting training in “making and detonating explosives,” and of having connections with ESAT, an opposition satellite television station based in the diaspora. The charge sheet states that ESAT “is the mouthpiece of the terrorist organization [Ginbot 7].”

The charge sheet, obtained by Human Rights Watch, indicates that “evidence” against the defendants was obtained from their homes and laptops and includes documentation related to digital security and various media articles related to their online campaigns on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and respect for the Ethiopian constitution. Documents about the activities of Ginbot 7 and the OLF were also cited as evidence. Some of the material cited as evidence has still not been presented to the defendants’ lawyer.

Given restrictions on traditional media in Ethiopia and pervasive government telephone surveillance, social media provides an important platform for young, educated Ethiopians to share information and news. But the arrest and prosecution of the Zone 9 bloggers has had a wider chilling effect on freedom of expression, especially among critically minded bloggers and online activists.

Tools used by online activists around the world to protect their privacy and the safety of their contacts are not viewed by many net savvy Ethiopians as a viable option given the concern that using ordinary encryption and digital security tools might be cited as evidence against them, as has been the case with the Zone 9 bloggers and journalists.

“When human rights activists and bloggers try to protect their privacy online it isn’t terrorism, it’s common sense,” Lefkow said. “Ethiopia, like other governments, should help protect the safety of activists and journalists by promoting use of encryption, not punishing it.”

Ethiopia’s prime minister and other senior government officials have accused the Zone 9 bloggers in the media of having links to “terrorist groups,” seriously undermining the presumption of innocence, a fundamental right. The court has also failed to properly respond to the allegations of mistreatment. Detainees have had only erratic access to legal counsel. Family members were not allowed to meet with the defendants until 13 weeks after their arrest, and continue to have difficulty visiting their relatives. These and other issues raise serious due process concerns, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch and other organizations have repeatedly raised concerns about Ethiopia’s use of the anti-terrorism law in politically motivated prosecutions. The law contains overly broad definitions of “terrorist acts” and “encouragement for terrorism.” Its vague prohibition of “moral support” for terrorism has been used to convict a number of journalists. Since 2011, at least 11 journalists, and possibly many more, have been convicted for their journalistic activities, contrary to media freedom protections under the Ethiopian constitution and international law.

For Human Rights Watch’s January 2015 report on press freedom in Ethiopia, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/node/132073

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Ethiopia, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/africa/ethiopia

posted by Daniel tesfaye

“ETHIOPIA, A COUNTRY WITHOUT A GOVERNMENT”

April 22, 2015

“Ethiopia, a country without a govrnment!” The protest slogan shouted out by Ethiopan mourners in the streets of Addis Ababa yesterday following the massacre of Ethiopian christinas in Libya

SMNE Press ReleaseProtest in Addis Ababa against ISIS and their own government

On Sunday, April 19th, the Islamic State (IS) released a video depicting the gruesome killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya. It is said to have been carried out at two separate locations; one where they were shot in the head and the other where they were decapitated. It has been upsetting for anyone to see; however, it has been especially heart-rending to the people of Ethiopia.

Mr. Obang Metho, the Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), is calling onProtest in Addis Ababa against the killing of Ethiopians in Libya Ethiopians from every ethnicity, religion, region and political viewpoint to come together in unity to mourn for these Ethiopians who have lost their lives and to find ways to protect the many others who remain in dangerous situations.

The SMNE is a non-violent, non-political social justice movement of diverse Ethiopians whose work has largely focused on the widespread human rights crimes and systemic injustices perpetrated by the current regime of Ethiopia against its own people. Due to massive outflows of Ethiopians to other countries, the SMNE has also advocated for the countless refugees and migrant workers throughout the world. The SMNE is located outside of Ethiopia due to extreme restrictions on such work within the country.

Mr. Metho states:

Ethiopians all over the world are grieving the loss of these brave Ethiopians, who were willing to stand up for their faith as Christians despite the threat of death from people who despise their own God-given humanity—for who else could commit such evil?

No words can describe the shock, grief, and compassion so many of us feel at this time for the families and friends of those so coldly murdered. We give our heartfelt condolences and wholly condemn these acts. We stand strong together as one Ethiopian family, no matter whether or not we share the same religion, ethnicity, political view, age, gender or any other characteristics; for, we are first and foremost human beings, created with intrinsic worth and dignity by an Almighty God. The pain of this tragedy should never let us forget our shared humanity simply because some have descended into such moral depravity. God calls us to be above this.

In the last weeks and month, Ethiopians fleeing their homes due to the threat of arrest, persecution, human rights abuses, land evictions, repression, ethnic apartheid policies, endemic poverty and those who are desperately seeking a better life, have encountered terrifying situations where their vulnerability has been exploited, leading to injury, danger, and death at the hands of others.

Just last week, on April 16th, mobs of South Africans in Durban attacked, beat, and murdered Ethiopian immigrants in their country. Three Ethiopians died, including two young men who were set on fire and burned alive. Reportedly, many of those threatening them are neighbors who see the influx of foreign migrants and refugees as competitors for jobs and opportunities due to high unemployment in the country. On Sunday, these foreign nationals were warned that any persons possessing a foreign passport or without a South African identification card, would be assaulted. Many fled their homes out of fear.

In another location, also occurring on Sunday, an overcrowded boat carrying between 700 and 950 migrants from Libya to Italy capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Only a small number of them survived. It is believed that many were Ethiopians.

Last month in Yemen, many Ethiopians were trapped in the fighting going on between the rebels that overthrew the government of Yemen and those defending it. It is believed that numbers of Ethiopians were killed in the bombing by Saudi Arabia as well as by the fighting going on within the country. Ethiopians have been desperately trying to find a means to leave the country, but few wanted to return to Ethiopia. It is believed that close to 100,000 Ethiopians are still stranded there and remain in imminent danger.

The timing of all of these incidents makes the massacre in Libya all the worse. As Ethiopians, the shared sorrow we feel at the loss of our people is overwhelming. From the news reports we hear that thirty Ethiopian Christians lost their lives in Libya. Those murdering them claimed they were taking revenge on these Christians for Muslim blood and called Ethiopia “a nation of the cross.” However, Ethiopia has been a nation that has demonstrated how Christians, Jews and Muslims have been able to peacefully live side by side for hundreds of years, often intermarrying. As a result, they are related by blood, not only by the nation they share.

In fact, Ethiopian Muslims have publically come out with one of the strongest statements seen in regards to their total condemnation of these killings by IS. They are standing together with their fellow Ethiopians against the murder of innocent civilians, calling it “immoral, illegal, barbaric, and in direct contravention” of their beliefs. They state: “We therefore, condemn in the strongest terms the killings of our fellow Ethiopian brethren in Libya and asking justice be served to the perpetrators of these crimes.”

In other words, this act by IS is not about religion, but instead is about power, ambition, greed, hatred, self-interest and self-worship; claiming to be carrying out God’s work while actually violating God-given principles.

To outsiders, these thirty victims may be numbers, but to us they have names, ages, life stories and relationships with the people they have left behind. Some families are only now finding out that their son, husband, father, brother, cousin, or friend is among the victims; with others it may take longer. Some may remain unnamed; however, they died for their faith and are now gone from this world of greed, guns, barbarism, and selfish interest. Christians strongly believe that when a Christian believer is gone from this world, each will be welcomed by name, one by one, to their heavenly home. As it says in the Bible, “…absent from the body, present with the LORD.” [2 Corinthians 5:8] This is comforting to many of us.

Most of these were young men with dreams for a better life that will never be realized now. Although they knew it would be a dangerous journey, they risked it for many reasons—threat of arrest, persecution, or lack of freedom, but also because they may have wanted jobs and an education so as to help their families back home. They may have wanted to make the way for others to follow later—wives, children, parents, sisters and brothers. They are gone now and it has left a big hole in our hearts and souls.

In Ethiopia, the reaction from the government to these tragedies has been reprehensible and shameful. The current one-party government of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been in power since 1991. It is a coalition of four ethnic-based parties representing four of the eighty or more ethnic groups in Ethiopia and four out of nine of its regions. Worse yet, the EPRDF is controlled by one ethnic-based party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which represents one region and one ethnic group made up of 6% of the total population. A minority of Tigrayans, making up the Central Committee make all the decisions in the land. They control every sector of society and have exploited the opportunities, the resources and the economy for their own benefit, leaving out the majority. This is why people of Ethiopia regard the regime’s system as being ethnic apartheid. This is apparent in the wide disparity between those within the TPLF and those not included.

For example, while regime cronies have accumulated great wealth, the majority of Ethiopians remain impoverished, despite claims of double-digit economic growth. No wonder people are leaving the country in such large numbers. Therefore, the inadequate response to these crises is not surprising. This is not a regime that cares about its own people, only its own survival and international public image.

The regime’s first response to the massacre of Ethiopian Christians was to distance themselves from the emotions or any responsibility surrounding this brutal event until the victims were positively identified as truly being Ethiopians despite the fact that the killers had already named them as such. This angered many Ethiopians. Once there was proof of the nationality of the victims, the TPLF/EPRDF made a public statement on April 20 claiming their government had been on the “frontlines against terrorists for a number of years and [had] been a leader in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism”, self-righteously saying: “There could never be any excuse for such deliberate crimes against humanity…. The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia strongly condemns the brutal murder of innocent people.”

However, this regime is well- known for its extra-judicial killings, massacres of innocent civilians, torture, the arrest of journalists, religious leaders and activists and human rights reports that document their own crimes against humanity. This includes the US State Department’s Annual Human Rights Report on Ethiopia.
Mr. Metho explains why such claims upset so many Ethiopians:

To outsiders who are wondering why Ethiopians are suffering all over the world—in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Lebanon, Yemen, Kenya, Libya, Malta, South Africa, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and in other places—you should know that it is not by accident. Some people may even be tired of hearing about the trials and hardships of Ethiopians, believing it is about poverty rather than oppression because Ethiopia is so often portrayed as a democratic government as recently as this past week by the Undersecretary of the US State Department, Wendy Sherman, the fourth highest-ranking official there. As these accounts of the killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya and South Africa come out, Ethiopians will tell you that this is not the first time they have witnessed this kind of thing.

Look at the silent genocide in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia—still ongoing, the massacre in the Amhara region in the nineties, the massacre of 424 civilian leaders in the Gambella region in 2003, the killing of 197 student protestors following the flawed 2005 election, the killing and mass arrests of the Oromo, the ongoing assault on the Afar people, and the ongoing human rights crimes in every region of the country. One of those killed by IS was a student leader who protested the regime’s eviction of Oromo from their homes in Addis Ababa and was going to be arrested, forcing him to flee the country. If you ask the people, the ruling ethnic-apartheid regime in Ethiopia is the IS or terrorist of Ethiopians, despite portraying themselves to outsiders as a government of the people.

On April 20, the TPLF/EPRDF declared that there would be three days of mourning for the victims and that flags would be at half-mast. The Ethiopian Parliament was to convene to discuss the situation; however, only 56% of the parliament’s 547 members showed up on April 21 to participate. Why? How much do they care?

The regime is also making decisions as to how Ethiopians can grieve, but they are denying Ethiopians their cultural way of grieving for the loss of loved ones, which is always done by gathering people together. Instead people are to remain in their homes to grieve alone. They are not to come out in the streets or to set up tents for people to congregate. This is outrageous. This regime should allow people to freely grieve the way they want. If they want to cry out in the streets as they sometimes do; they should be allowed to do so. When the former prime minister, Meles Zenawi, died, mourning in the streets was orchestrated and went on for days.

Allegedly, the TPLF/EPRDF has now called on religious leaders to tell Ethiopians not to leave the country for other places. In doing this, they essentially blamed the victims for putting themselves in harm’s way. They fail to acknowledge their own responsibility in it—that the mass exodus of Ethiopians had nothing to do with their own brutal, ethnic-apartheid policies they followed.

Religious leaders should be genuine and stand with the families in distress. They should also be free to speak the truth—that the source of the problem is the lack of good governance, the lack of opportunity for the people, and the favoritism of one ethnic minority over all others—more specifically, TPLF regime cronies, over everyone else, including other Tigrayans. The minority controls everything while the majority continues to leave the country. Regardless of any warning from the regime or from religious leaders, danger will not prevent the majority from leaving due to the terrible conditions within the country. Only genuine change will reduce the flow of Ethiopians to other places.

The regime is also putting the blame on human traffickers for what is happening. Mr. Metho challenges this thinking as another effort to avoid accountability. He says:

Yes, traffickers take advantage of the vulnerable and the desperate, but what is at the root of the problem? Why are so many continuing to leave the country regardless of the risk? The TPLF/EPRDF must look at themselves first. In fact, some allege that there is evidence that regime cronies are closely linked to the traffickers, those in international employment agencies, those giving working visas and passports, and others along the way.

Ethiopians have taken to the streets:

On April 21, with heavy emotions, the people of Ethiopia have come out in large numbers on the streets of Addis Ababa to grieve together for their fellow Ethiopians. Mr. Metho states:

Like the Biblical Good Samaritan, who did not ask the religion, ethnicity, or political view of the wounded man on the side of the road before helping him, we call on Ethiopians to do the same. Show compassion towards the hurting, putting humanity before ethnicity, religion or any other of our human differences. This is a basic principle of the SMNE. This is a time to stand for God-given values of life, liberty and loving one’s neighbor as oneself for no one will be free to live or worship freely without caring about the freedom, justice, religious freedom, and well being of others—another primary principle of the SMNE.

The death of our people should unify us as one people regardless of our differences. If we had a government that respected the value and dignity of all of its people, and if we as people honored God by following what is right, true, and good; the root cause for our people being scattered throughout the world may be reversed. If Ethiopia were a home where we could actually live and thrive, we would not be hearing of such tragic and horrific acts against our people.

Instead, when these problems happen, the current regime has repeatedly demonstrated a desire to minimize the problem in order to protect their own interests, fearing a backlash. This means blocking media coverage, blaming the victims, putting pressure on religious leaders to cover for them, inciting ethnic and religious divisions, polarizing groups and people, and denying their own injustices and human rights crimes against the innocent people of Ethiopia. Mr. Metho goes on to say:

These Ethiopians in Libya, South Africa, in Yemen and in the Mediterranean Sea have died senseless deaths; but let Ethiopians come together to mourn, repent of our wrongs and pray that God will bring good out of what was intended for evil so these precious people have not died in vain.

It is God who condemns the bloodshed of the innocent as something that pollutes the land and the soul of those involved. Yet, it is the same faith of these victims in Libya that calls for forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humankind and between our fellow brothers and sisters.

May Ethiopians of every faith cry out to God for our deliverance, mourning our failures and seeking the moral transformation of ourselves, our people, our society, and this regime.

May our religious leaders be strengthened to resist human manipulation; and to instead, be courageous, standing true to the One who has called them to Him—their Creator.

May we all become reconcilers, defenders, and peacemakers in our beloved country—excluding no ethnic group, no religious group or anyone else, because no one is free until we all are free! Even if we are imperfect and flawed in carrying it out; because of that, with God’s help, let us be ready to forgive, to restore, and to live rightly to the best of our ability.

May God protect those still in danger or difficulty, both within Ethiopia and in places all over the world. LONG LIVE ETHIOPIA!

For more information, contact Mr. Obang Metho, Executive Director of the SMNE. Email: Obang@solidaritymovement.org

posted by Daniel tesfaye

Statement of Patriotic Ginbot 7 on Fellow Ethiopians who were Victims of barbarians

April 21, 2015

Statement of Patriotic Ginbot 7 on Fellow Ethiopians who were Victims of barbariansIt is with deep distress that the people of Ethiopia have heard the barbaric killing of twenty eight fellow Ethiopians in Libya on April 19, 2015 by the barbaric and medieval cowards of ISIS. This group, who belong to the darkest of dark ages, and takes pleasure of its barbarism, has killed desperate, defenseless Ethiopian migrants who have no other objective other than seeking a better life outside of their country. By so doing, the barbaric and criminal beasts have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have a serious quarrel with humanity itself, not to mention the fact that they don’t even know what prophet Mohammad, in whose name they kill, has said about Ethiopia and Ethiopians in the holy book and the story of the First Hegira.

Patriotic Ginbot 7 for Unity and Democracy Condemns this heinous crime on our fellow citizens and calls on all Ethiopians to condemn it in no uncertain and clear terms and put up a united fight against this barbaric group in all ways and means we can.

We also take this opportunity to reiterate the fact that the barbaric terrorism perpetrated by this group which calls itself ISIS, has nothing to do with the religion of Islam as what it does is against the teachings of Islamic. Our country Ethiopia is holy to both Moslems and Christians. Moslems and Christians in in Ethiopia live and have lived as a family harmonisly , exemplary tolerance and respect of one another’s religions. As Ethiopians, we will keep priding ourselves of this exemplary unity between Moslems and Christians and consider it as pivotal feature for our survival as a country in bad and good times for over millennia.

The tragedy that has befallen on our fellow country and people over the last week has not been only the murder of our fellow Ethiopians in Libya. In South Africa fellow Ethiopians were also murdered in cold blood and burned with fire alive. During the same week we have also heard the drowning of a ship in the Mediterranean Sea that we believe has carried large number of Ethiopians who perished along with 700 other people. In Yemen thousands of Ethiopians are living in the middle of the hell of war.

Ethiopians who flee injustice and economic hardship in their country are facing humiliation, death and hopelessness in a way that we have rarely seen in our history. There is no question that the source of all these hardship is the corrupt dictatorship of the TPLF that is ruling Ethiopia with iron fist and with callous disregard for the welfare of Ethiopians. We, as an organization of democracy and justice, believe that the removal of this regime from power is the only way to reverse this tragedy that we are subjected to live in. For Ethiopians, there is no place better than Ethiopia and we are determined to make it one.

Patriotic Ginbot 7 calls on Ethiopians to once and for all end this tragedy by fully engaging in the struggle everywhere, in places where we live and work , contribute towards an organized resistance to the TPLF brutal rule. We call on all Ethiopians from all walks of life , including Ethiopians of every religion and ethnic group to come together, join hands and struggle in unison to remove this regime. We can never forget that the TPLF is the source of this unending tragic life of our people.

Eternal peace for those who lost their lives by barbarians!

posted by Daniel tesfaye

US anger over ISIS ‘atrocity’ against 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya

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April20,2015

Tripoli – The United States on Sunday condemned the “brutal mass murder” of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya following a video released by Islamic State militants purportedly showing their execution.

The 29-minute ISIS video appears to show militants holding two groups of captives, described in text captions as “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church”.

National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan decried the killings and called for stability in Libya, which has been mired in political chaos and unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled former strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the brutal mass murder purportedly of Ethiopian Christians by ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Libya,” she said, using another name for ISIS.

“This atrocity once again underscores the urgent need for a political resolution to the conflict in Libya to empower a unified Libyan rejection of terrorist groups.”

Masked militants

Ethiopia said its embassy in Egypt was trying to verify the video to ascertain if those murdered were indeed its nationals.

“We strongly condemn such atrocities, whether they are Ethiopians or not,” Communications Minister Redwan Hussein told AFP.

The video portrays a masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol, who makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam.

The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach, and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area.

It was not immediately clear who the captives were or how many were killed.

Before the killings, the video shows purported footage of Christians in Syria, saying they had been given the choice of converting to Islam or paying a special tax, and had decided to pay.

The video bore the logo of the ISIS media arm and was similar to past footage released by the jihadists, including of 21 Coptic Christians beheaded on a Libyan beach in February. Several Libyan jihadist groups have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

Addis Ababa says ISIS, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq and won the support of jihadist groups across the region, has also gained a foothold in Ethiopia.

“There are elements of ISIS around Ethiopia who are already carrying out operations, even though under a different name,” said Redwan, referring to the Shabaab group.

“We will keep on fighting them.”

Fears for Christians

Since the 2011 revolt, Libya has been awash with weapons, has rival governments and parliaments, and is on the edge of all-out civil war as armed groups battle to control its cities and oil wealth.

Officials have repeatedly warned that Libya could become a jihadist haven on Europe’s doorstep unless the violence stops and a national unity government is formed.

And waves of would-be immigrants including Ethiopians have been using Libya as a stepping stone to embark on perilous sea crossings to Europe. More than 700 people are feared drowned in the latest disaster.

On Sunday, UN envoy Bernardino Leon said after weeks of brokering talks between rival Libyan factions that they had reached a draft accord which is “very close to a final agreement”.

Speaking to reporters in Morocco, Leon also said preparations were under way for armed groups to hold direct talks to end the conflict.

Referring to the ISIS video and fighting in Libya, Leon said: “We know that the enemies of peace, the enemies of the agreement, will be active and be even more active in the coming days and weeks.”

The IS execution of Copts in February prompted retaliatory air strikes from Egypt, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pushing for the creation of a joint Arab military force to battle jihadists.

Arab military chiefs will meet on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss how the force will be created, its role and financing, an Arab League official said.

A US-led coalition of Western and Arab nations is already waging an air war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has carried out atrocities against minorities – including Christians and Yazidis – sparking fears for the fate of vulnerable communities in mostly Muslim nations.

posted by Daniel tesfaye

ISIL video purports to show killing of Ethiopian Christians

Sunday, April 19, 2015

ISIL video purports to show killing of Ethiopian Christians

ISIS released a video threatening Christians and executing by gunshot and beheading Ethiopian Christians in Libya.
ethiopian killed
Ethiopian killed by ISIL
ethiopian killed by isil 1
ethiopian killed by isil 3
A video purporting to show the killing of Ethiopian Christians by Islamic State-affiliated militants in Libya has been released online.
The 29-minute video appears to show militants holding two groups of captives, one by an affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barka Province and the other by the Fazzan Province, an affiliate in the south.
A masked fighter wielding a pistol says Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran, before the captives in the south are shown being shot dead and the captives in the east are beheaded on a beach.
In January, militants loyal to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, claimed responsibility for an attack on the Corinthia hotel in the Libyan capital of Tripoli that left 10 people including an American and four other foreigners dead.
Extremist groups, including some that have pledged allegiance to ISIL, have risen in the country since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
In February, Egypt began airstrikes against ISIL targets in Libya hours after militants released a video purporting to show the mass beheading of Egyptian Christian hostages.
ISIL controls vast swaths of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The extremists were recently driven out of Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit by Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias, helped by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
The battle for Tikrit was seen as a key step toward driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
posted by Daniel tesfaye

The Zulu Animals in South Africa Slaughtering Africans (watch video

April 16, 2015

What is happening in South Africa? ‪#‎Xenophobia‬. It’s a shame that in Africa, we tend to give a good name to bad things. Simply put, Zulu South Africans have gone mad. Completely insane. And the press is not helping the matter. Black South Africans ganged up to kill and steal from African immigrants claiming that other Africans are taking their jobs when they are yet to question their corrupt government and the whites controlling their economy.

Gangs weilding axes marched through the streets

It is a shame on South Africa and her presidency. Jacob Zuma has not issued a single statement concerning the genocide in his country. Of course, he is as stupid as his countrymen. Nelson Mandela was and only is still the true leader that any African nation ever had.

I remember how Nigerians stood by these stupid South Africans during the apartheid and kids in elementary school would give up their lunch money for their friends in South Africa. Fast forward to 2015, Zulu men now consider it illegal to live and work in South Africa.

These group of idiots kill black foreigners, loot their stores and homes and brag about it on social media.

Even though, there are claims that no Nigerian has been killed, over ten other Africans have been killed. And their government is yet to issue a statement and the Zulu king who incited the violence from what I gathered can’t hold down his wild animals.

With all those graphic photos of butchered and burnt people on the streets of Durban, I would not even cringe if white people keep stereotyping Africans as animals because we keep behaving as such.

While we still battle terrorism in Nigeria and Kenya over religious differences, South African werewolves are on the lose for immigrants simply because their white South African bosses chose them over Africans of different nationalities.

Before I forget, DSTv and MTN are South African companies operating in Nigeria and other African countries. Let’s turn the table.

And remember guys, this same shit happened in 2008. So, this is not the first time.

posted by Daniel tesfaye

We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence Against Forced Displacement in Ethiopia

April 14, 2015

Oakland, CA – We Say the Land is Not Yours: Breaking the Silence against Forced Displacement in Ethiopia, aWe Say the Land is Not Yours landmark report from the Oakland Institute documents testimony from members of several ethnic groups from different areas of the country,1 bringing forward the voices of those most directly impacted by land grabs and villagization. The Ethiopian government’s villagization program aims to resettle up to 1.5 million Ethiopians, mainly pastoralist and indigenous communities, from areas targeted for industrial plantations. These resettlements have happened without free, prior and informed consent, and when communities resist, they have been forcibly removed by means of violence, imprisonment, intimidation, political coercion, and the denial of humanitarian assistance.

“The Oakland Institute has released reports based on meticulous fieldwork and years of research, exposing the human rights abuses against indigenous and pastoralist communities in Ethiopia,” said Anuradha Mittal, the Oakland Institute’s Executive Director. “As the country now prepares for the national election in May 2015, it is important for communities that have been shut out and locked up, to tell their stories in their own words.”

Over the past few years, free speech in Ethiopia has been systemically withdrawn. International media and NGOs have documented the threats, arrests, and disappearances of those critical of government’s policies. To add to this is the lack of media freedom: Ethiopia is the second biggest jailer of journalists after its neighbor, Eritrea. Its broadcasting and telecommunications sectors are controlled by the state, and the minimal private media sector is heavily regulated and frequently censored.

“The context in which we release this report is one of torture, oppression, and silencing,” said Mittal. “A development strategy without ensuring its citizens freedom of speech and expression is not a development strategy but a scheme to benefit the ruling elites. Those basic human rights are not being upheld in Ethiopia. It is therefore urgent to make voices of those impacted heard.”

The report includes the voices of Ethiopians, some who remain in Ethiopia, and others who have fled to neighboring countries and have sought political asylum.

With the impending national elections, the government has escalated its crackdown on political opposition and dissent. This report brings forth the voices that are being silenced, to bring this oppressive situation to the attention of the members of the African Union, international community, and donor countries. The time is now to take decisive action.

To download a copy of the report, click HERE.

For more information on Ethiopia, click HERE.

1 Representatives of affected communities from Gambella, Benishangul, Hammer and Nyangatom in the Omo Valley, and refugees in Kenya, came forward to share their experiences.

posted by Daniel tesfaye

A Special Tribute to Prof. Donald Levine (Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam)

April 13, 2015

Prof. Donald Levine: The scholars’ scholar

Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam

This past January, Prof. Levine emailed to tell me about his long-planned visit to Ethiopia that had been thwarted by his illness. He had set three objectives for that trip. He wanted to be present for the launching of his book Interpreting Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. He wanted to witness the opening of a new youth facility in Hawassa, some 270 km south of the capital. Several years ago, he had co-founded the Awassa Youth Campus with the aim of providing a variety of sports and artistic opportunities for local youth. (Click here to see the wonderful video.)  He had obtained substantial funding to expand the physical facility of the campus. He was most eager to see the very first group of young Ethiopian men and women test out for promotion to black belt in aikido (a unique martial arts philosophy in which “practitioners use their skills to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.”  Neither was to be. The expansion to the youth facility could not be built because of “delays”. A Special Tribute to Prof. Donald Levine

With greater urgency, Prof. Levine planned to visit my personal hero Eskinder Nega and she-ro Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia’s courageous and famed journalists, languishing in prison. When Eskinder and Serkalem (both internationally acclaimed Ethiopian journalists) were victimized by long incarceration and abuse that rose to the gravity of crimes against humanity in 2007 before being acquitted of all charges, he had personally pleaded with the late Meles Zenawi asking him to show compassion and allow medical care to be given to Serkalem who had given birth in prison. Meles relented.

I believe the fact that his declining health would not make it possible for him to visit Ethiopia one last time weighed heavily on his heart. As I read his email, I felt he had a greater purpose to accomplish in his planned visit.  I sensed he was acutely aware that he was in the sunset of his life and wanted to bask for just a moment or two in the Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine for the last time. He yearned to go home. I felt he wanted to go back one more time, for the last time, and breathe the fresh Ethiopian air, visit his old stomping grounds in Menz, laugh with his Ethiopian friends and engage the young men and women of the Awassa Youth Club and advise them to strive for excellence by building not only their bodies and mental skills but most importantly by building their character with integrity, self-discipline, self-dignity and hard work. I felt he wanted to say “Farewell Ethiopia” for the last time as his plane left the Ethiopian airspace headed back for America. That was what I read, heard and saw between the lines of his email to me.

Prof. Levine was a man of great learning and appreciated art and literature. I wonder if he thought of Khalil Gibran’s verse as he planned his final trip home to Ethiopia:


Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky….

The longing to go back became a dream for Donald Levine; but that dream, hopeful and cheerful,  in my view, describes the essence Donald Levine, the man who had a love affair with Ethiopia for over one-half century.

Prof. Levine passed away on April 4, 2015. His son, Bill Levine, announced, “Gash Liben, Ethiopian scholar, lover of Ethiopia, founder of the Aikido Ethiopia Project has passed away today at 1 pm.”

Donald Levine, the scholar, is unarguably the “Dean” of the “Ethiopianists” (non-Ethiopian scholars who have made it their labor of love to study Ethiopia and develop scholarly knowledge accessible to the world). I became aware of Prof. Levine’s scholarship through his seminal work Wax and Gold as an undergraduate in the 1970s. That book is full of extraordinary insights about Ethiopian society and culture. His penetrating understanding of the complexities and subtleties of Ethiopian cultural forms was not merely extraordinary; it was stunning. Few scholars of any nationality understood Ethiopia as did Prof. Levine.

There is little that I can add by way of review of Wax and Gold or of his broader scholarship. The New York Times described Wax and Gold as “a classic work of area studies.”  The Times Literary Supplement noted, “Ethiopia’s abiding problem is the symbiosis of her autochthonous civilization with the demands of an uncompromising modern world. . . . Nobody has yet described the dilemma, its origin, its magnitude and possible ways of resolving it with greater ability and understanding.” The American Journal of Sociology commented, “An important, insightful, and excellent book. . . . With remarkable freedom, virtuosity, and success [Levine] forays from his own base as a sociologist into the domains of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, and linguists.” The American Sociological Review commented, “Levine perform[ed]  the most ancient scholarly task well, that of the sage, who leads us to see the eternal wisdom hidden behind the veil of everyday concerns.”

Prof. Levine’s scholarship, of course, covered a much wider scope of sociological theory and asnalysis. He was highly regarded for his critical interpretations of the “founding fathers” of modern sociology including Auguste Comte, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, among others. He was a foremost authority on Georg Simmel who theorized that society consists of a web of patterned interactions and the purpose of sociological inquiry should be to examine the forms of sociological interactions as they occur and reoccur in diverse historical periods and cultural settings. Simmel’s work stood in contrast to the other great sociologists  including Weber who argued that the methods of the natural sciences could be rigorously applied to examine human cultural norms, values, symbols and social processes. I believe Simmel’s work informed his research and analysis on Ethiopia considerably.

I began communicating with Prof. Levine following the 2005 election in Ethiopia. Prior to that time, I had little interest in Ethiopian politics and human rights. I was propelled into action following the Meles Massacres that year in which 193 unarmed protesters were killed by sharpshooters and nearly 800 wounded.

I do not recall my first communication with Prof. Levine, but by 2006 we were exchanging emails on various Ethiopian human rights issues including Congressman Chris Smith’s H.R. 5680, “Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006”.  We communicated by email regularly over the years. I am honored to say he was a long time and regular reader of my weekly commentaries. He appreciated them. Of course, we did not always agree on things; but he was always gracious enough to tell me why he did or did not agree with me. He understood the method in my provocative pamphleteering (blogging). He reminded me from time to time how I reminded him a little bit of Thomas Paine, the American patriot who railed furiously against tyranny, defended liberty passionately and preached that the people will ultimately fulfill their destiny by overthrowing the tyrants who abuse them.  Though I believed Paine was a far more radical and iconoclastic pamphleteer than myself, I took the comparison as a great compliment.

I was also not the type to hold back. I told him that he rightly deserved the nobility title of “Fitawrari” (“leader of the vanguard warriors) for his long service to Ethiopia as he had led the scholarly march to promote and preserve important values of Ethiopian society, people and culture. I addressed him as Fitawrari Leben Gebre Ityopia in all my communications until my very last email. Or simply, “Fit”.

After years of email and telephone communications, I finally met Prof. Levine in person in late November 2012 at the African Studies Association (ASA) meeting in Philadelphia. The ASA had organized a special full day symposium in his honor under the rubric, “Revisiting Wax and Gold”. He bestowed upon me the great honor of chairing one of the panels and becoming a presenter on another.  It was an extraordinary privilege for me because I believe “Wax and Gold” is a classic and incomparable sociological study of Ethiopian society. It is a work of such depth and insight that it demonstrates the extraordinary scholarship and brilliance of Donald Levine. He could have asked so many other more accomplished scholars on Ethiopia than myself, but somehow, despite my different academic and professional background, he thought I would be best suited for the job.  I was humbled and honored by his request, and took to my duties with gusto. Many of his former students presented excellent papers at that symposium and the panels were very well attended. He was very pleased.

Many have seen the multi-part interview Prof. Levine gave on ESAT with Abebe Gelaw, the young and relentless exiled Ethiopian journalist. Prof. Levine’s command of the Amharic language is stunning. (See video here.)  But Prof. Levine was not merely a dispassionate and passionate social scientist studying Ethiopia. He brought a large measure of patriotism in defense of Ethiopian sovereignty and freedom. Last year he offered a moving defense of Ethiopia’s victory over Italy at the Battle of Adwa and what that victory meant for Ethiopians and the rest of Africa.  (See video here.)

As an academic myself, I appreciated Prof. Levine’s passionate defense of expressive and academic freedoms. In 2012, when an illegally scanned copy of a book written by the former Ethiopian junta leader Mengistu Hailemariam was posted online, he was furious and unreserved in his condemnation. He wrote those who did the online posting “committed an act that [is] illegal, unethical, and imprudent. To my mind, that marks it as ‘un-Ethiopian.’”

He was very concerned about the politicization of contemporary Ethiopian higher education. He lamented

With the overthrow of the Derg, Ethiopians inside and outside the university enjoyed a marked increase of freedom of speech and publication. Even so, the pattern of unwarranted governmental intrusion into the university was matched by such destructive actions as the abrupt dismissal of some forty of the most experienced and accomplished members of the University faculty. It has remained difficult to uphold standards of admissions and to hold faculty performance to international academic standards. The government has failed to realize how delicate and vulnerable a university of high quality is.

Prof. Levine was an implacable and longtime defender of academic freedom in Ethiopia. When he served as assistant to the acting vice president of Haile Selassie University, Harold Bentley in 1958, he observed:

Before the project [Haile Selassie University] had a chance to break ground, however, Addis Ababa was   racked by an attempted coup d’etat against the late Emperor. As a friend of one of the coup leaders, Girmame Neway, I was one of the last persons to talk with him before he was captured and killed. Girmame’s parting words riveted me: ‘Don, please tell our story to the world. Even if we are defeated and killed, at least a word of truth will have been spoken in this land of deception.’  A few months later, I published an article in accord with Girmame’s testament, an article which the Emperor found so offensive that he wanted the U.S. Government to put me in prison. But then, Acting Vice-President Bentley dissuaded him with this memorable argument. ‘Your Majesty,’ he pleaded, ‘think of yourself for a moment not as head of the Ethiopian State, but as Chancellor of this new University. You want it to be internationally respected. For that, it must be able to guarantee academic freedom. What better proof of your intent could you demonstrate than to invite Dr. Levine to return to help build it?’”

The rhetoric worked. Despite the fact that I had written an article that was terribly critical and threatening to him, the Emperor understood that for this university to be a first-class, internationally respected university, it had to guarantee freedom of inquiry, speech, and publication; and so, with grace and generosity, His Majesty approved the idea of inviting me to return…

He warned:

The truth is that those in Power need, today more than ever, an independent and open quest for truth. Although the conclusions or the process of such inquiry may at times bring discomfort to the powers that be, surrounded as we are by unprecedented changes of enormous complexity, it stands to the advantage of these powers to support free inquiry and to be open to its honest conclusions. Failure to do so can result in calamities, based simply on ignorance and uninformed judgment….

I must say that I have some regrets as I write this special tribute. I believe Prof. Levine deserved to receive our accolades and appreciation while he was alive. He should have been recognized by all Ethiopians for his prodigious scholarship on Ethiopian society and culture. He should have been especially recognized by Ethiopian scholars who are familiar with his scholarly impact of his works. He should have been recognized for his work in establishing an extraordinary youth civic society organization.  Most of all, he should have been recognized in official capacity at the national level for his one-half century of service to Ethiopia and its people.

It is sound moral principle to give than to receive. Prof. Levine has given a lot to Ethiopia. Like him, many other “Ethiopianists” have given freely to Ethiopia. It is painful to see them pass away one by one; and I am left despondent as I survey the intellectual landscape and scan the scholarly horizon and see not even a mirage of images that resemble their scholarly caliber, dedication and commitment. Though they pass away by nature’s command, I comfort myself with the forlorn thought that their contributions will live forever. I can imagine young Ethiopian scholars in a future generation picking up their works and marveling at their dedication and scholarly excellence.

A scholar’s ultimate legacy: Dialogue

What may be said of Prof. Levine’s legacy? He was the quintessential scholar, and his legacy, I believe, is succinctly stated on the homepage of his website donlevine.com

I invite you to join one or more of these conversations: to engage the perennial questions of how to help each generation become strong, accomplished, and wise human beings and citizens; to grapple with searching ideas of the finest theorists about human nature and the social order; to engage the complexities of a two-millennial civilization and its tortuous encounters with modernity;  to absorb the teachings of an Asian master who discovered in the flow of water a key to promoting harmony in human action.

And along the way, to share ideas for more effective ways to sustain these and other conversations….

I say great teachers and scholars never die; they just fade away in the minds of the youth of coming generations to silently, relentless and endlessly agitate dialogue.

Dialogue. That is exactly how I intend to honor the memory of Fitawrari Leben Gebre Ityopia. Or simply, “Fit”.

posted by Daniel tesfaye

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