By Yimer Muhe
Dear Mr. President:
The brutal dictatorship in Ethiopia that you have loyally supported during your entire presidency has been unleashing its security and special-forces against its people and hundreds of peaceful protesters have lost their lives and counting. There is no free media in the country, Muslim community leaders, journalists, conscientious objectors, and all those who dare to criticize it are behind bars serving lengthy sentences. The justice system is nothing but independent. The only outlet for the people – the social media – is shut off at will, etc. Let me ask you Mr. President, what is democratic about such a system? As a constitutional lawyer, it shouldn’t be that difficult for you to see the glaring absence of rule of law in Ethiopia today. The ‘clamoring’ of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Oakland Institute and some congressmen including Senator Mark Rubio, just to name a few, about the gross human rights violations being committed by the Ethiopian government obviously has failed to register with you. However, if you keep ignoring the elephant in the room Mr. President, the significance of your speeches in Accra, Cairo and Frankfurt including your Nobel Prize for Peace will definitely not escape being meaningless.
Mr. President, did you see by any chance the picture of the young lady – probably a mother – lying dead in a pool of blood that appeared on the Washington Post? Did you see the video of the young man who was being repeatedly beaten even after he died? No respect for the dead at all! Mr. President, you might not have heard of the young pregnant woman from Oromia whose belly was bayoneted exposing her fetus? Of course, she died instantly, so did her fetus. Such gruesome atrocities are being committed in Ethiopia today by government security forces that depend on the West’s largesse for upgrading their gears.
Mr. President, did you read the Washington Post Editorial of August 9, 2016? I am sure if you didn’t that your aides did. It stated, “…the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa remarked that it was “deeply concerned” and expressed its “deep condolences to those who suffered as a result” but stopped short of explicitly urging the Ethiopian government to refrain from using excessive force against its citizens.” In other words, it is not farfetched to conclude that your Embassy in Addis Ababa was in fact condoning the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.
Mr. President, don’t you think it is time to break your silence on the side of the Ethiopian people and against tyranny? Last time you broke your silence in August 2015, we were deeply disappointed and felt betrayed because you sided with the government in a very grand way. The Ethiopian community is still in a state of shock, as a result. How could you extol a system that resembles apartheid as democratic and at the same time idolize the late Nelson Mandela who you met and quote from time to time?
Mr. President, the architect of your failed African Policy might be Susan Rice and her cohorts Gail Smith and Windy Sherman. Since you went along with it, no doubt you will own it in history. How does it feel Mr. President, to hear Harry Belafonte, one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement saying that you have ‘failed to meet the needs of the most oppressed people in America and around the world’? How does it feel to learn about your own brother’s, Malik Obama’s, decision to vote for Donald Trump because he is so unhappy with what you have or haven’t done for Africa?
Mr. President, in the waning days of your presidency, do you have any pleasant surprises for Africa, especially Ethiopia? To be frank, we are not holding our breath. On February 25, 2016, during a Congressional Hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, your Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t have any qualms when he stated the Ethiopians (meaning EPDRF) “don’t have a five year plan, they have a 35 year plan” to combat terrorism thus betraying his wild hope for one of the most repressive governments to hold on to power as long as possible. I have bad news for you, Mr. President. That is not going to happen because the system that has been pampered by the West for the last 25 years is now gasping its last breath due to the peaceful struggle Ethiopians have embarked on across the country.
Year after year the West’s ‘War on Terror’ has been morphing into ‘War on Democracy’, especially in the case of Ethiopia. Yes, there is terrorism in Ethiopia – state terrorism which is ironically thriving on the West’s ‘War on Terror’. It is a monumental tragedy that the West is nurturing state terrorism in the name of regional stability by embracing stability via repression of a peaceful people instead of stability via empowering them.
Mr. President, even though you didn’t personally experience ‘Jim Crow’, as a black American, I believe you can understand the pain of those who lived through it. The African version of ‘Jim Crow’ is what has been instituted in Ethiopia today. A minority group controls everything: the economy, the politics, the bureaucracy, the media, the military and the whole security apparatus. The rest, 95% of Ethiopians are under the mercy of the ruling clique with nothing trickling down. As you know African Americans and progressive elements paid a huge price in the 50s and 60s to undo ‘Jim Crow’. In the same manner, today, Ethiopians are protesting across the nation to undo ‘Ethnic-apartheid’ that resembles the ‘Jim Crow’ of the South. In the process they are being mowed down by security forces and trained snipers. They are being beaten up, and incarcerated just as in the South African Americans were lynched, water-gunned and jailed. The victims range from expecting mothers, bread-winner fathers, school-age children, to young and old. So much for a government that claimed a 100% election victory just last year! So much for a system that the West is in bed with! Mr. President, don’t you think it is fair to conclude that the West indeed has long crossed the line of ‘guilt by association’ making it impossible to rule out ‘complicity’ and culpability no matter how things are twisted and the best semantics applied?
Mr. President, when are you going to pay attention to the plight and woes of Ethiopians? Today, Addis Ababa, the capital of the nation, also the capital of Africa by dint of the location of the AU Headquarters, is a city under siege. Its notorious prisons: Kaliti, Kilinto, and Zewai, etc. are multiple times overcapacity. Major street corners are equipped with security cameras to control each and every movement. Addis Ababa, the medina of African Freedom is a city of fear completely gripped by paranoia. Don’t you think, Mr. President, it is time to recalibrate the ‘War on Terror’, so that making democracy, rule of law and peoples’ aspiration for their God given rights its collateral damage could come to an end?
Mr. President, did you watch the Olympics Marathon in Rio? I am sure as a half-Kenyan you didn’t want to miss Eliud Kipchoge winning the Gold Medal. The Silver Medal winner was Feyisa Lilesa from Ethiopia, our hero, who made a daring political statement with his crossed arms about the massacre of peaceful protesters that is underway in Ethiopia. The 26 years risked it all: his wife, children and extended family for the sake of his generation and his country. He could take the oppression no more, and at Rio, he chose to be the voice of the voiceless thereby winning the hearts of millions around the world. Mr. President, what is it going to take to convince you to side with the people of Ethiopia and for you to say ‘enough is enough’ to the brutal regime? Does Ethiopia have to be another Rwanda to prove to the West to take responsibility?
Mr. President, one last note: eight years ago, when you won the presidency, we Ethiopian Americans were elated like the rest of your supporters because the unthinkable happened in this land of opportunity. That exuberance and elation has since been replaced with deep disappointment because you turned your back on our people back home. Mr. President, now is the time to act and nobody is going to blame you for being late. Say, “Enough is enough!” to the murderous regime in Ethiopia. I believe this is the only route that could partially absolve you for now, though you might not escape history’s castigation, and you will have to thank Susan Rice for that.