Obang_Metho_Addresses_Ethiopians in Washington DC: Why
Should All Ethiopians See the Border Issue as a Collective
Threat to Our Existence as a Nation and People?
July 2, 2008
Hello! I am thrilled and honored to be here to speak
to my fellow Ethiopians. First of all I would like to
applaud the Ethiopia-Sudan Border Affairs Committee
for their hard work, commitment and vision in convening
us here today to address this matter of most urgent
importance—the next chapter in the destruction
of Ethiopia—now happening on our western border
I thank this committee for inviting me to speak. It
is a real privilege and I am looking forward to working
further with all Ethiopians of diverse political, religious,
ethnic, regional and cultural backgrounds in order to
find new and workable solutions to the crises we are
now facing as Ethiopians. This is everybody’s
issue. It is not just about one group.
As most of you know, I do not belong to any political
group and that when I speak, I am free to speak honestly
about human rights as well as what I see is going wrong
in Ethiopia without having to claim or favor one group
over another. When I speak of human rights, I am speaking
about the human rights of every person—of all
When I speak of justice, it is not limited to the Anuak
people just because I am an Anuak. Instead, I speak
about all the people of Ethiopia because I firmly believe
that unless justice comes to all, no one will have long-lasting
justice. I am not even speaking only for the rights
of Ethiopians, but I am speaking for the rights of others
in the Horn, others in Africa and others in our world.
The human rights of every human being is fundamental
to their survival. The same applies to the people of
Ethiopia and how this applies to the crisis at our border
is the focus of my talk today because failure to resolve
this issue will only lead to other issues until our
country is destroyed.
If any of you have children, perhaps you have seen
the toy where the child is supposed to quickly hammer
the head of whichever animal head pops up, but as soon
as one head is hit, another one pops up somewhere. Unfortunately,
this reminds me too closely of Ethiopia.
Problems are popping up all over. As soon as one is
discovered, another one rears its ugly head. We must
pay attention well or we will lose the game Meles loves
to play—the game of “surprise, deceive,
divide and conquer.”
The purpose of my talk today will be to call Ethiopians
together to refuse to play by Meles’ imposed rules
anymore. One of the reasons he is playing this game
is because we leave ourselves open to be manipulated
because of our greed for short-lived pleasures and self-interest
instead of protecting the country and its people.
As I address this topic, I will attempt to answer four
1) Why should all Ethiopians take this border issue
seriously as a threat to their future?
2) What is the background of this border issue?
3) Which account of what is happening should we believe—that
of the Ethiopian people on the ground or the version
given by Meles—and why?
4) What are the solutions?
Why Should All Ethiopians See the Border
Issue as a Collective Threat to Our Existence as a Nation
Ethiopia just recently was placed near the top of an
index that explored factors most likely present or absent
in countries at risk of becoming failed states. Ethiopia
was number sixteen in the world. Its neighbors were
on the top of the list—Somalia at number one and
Sudan at number two.
Many of us Ethiopians would agree that the Meles government
has played a contributory role in undermining the stability
of both of these countries as well as Eritrea. In fact,
the Horn of Africa is a mess and Ethiopia is in the
middle of it-- geographically, politically, militarily
and strategically. The border issue between Ethiopia
and Sudan is one more dangerous sign that Ethiopia is
at risk of further disintegration, but there are also
problems at our border with Eritrea and Somalia. It
is critical to our future that we pay attention to what
Most of us assume that it is the responsibility of
the government to keep Ethiopia intact as one country,
but in Ethiopia, we have witnessed the opposite while
pretending to be different. The Meles regime has repeatedly
justified its use of brutal military force against Ethiopian
separatist groups, most all of whom claim they want
to separate from Ethiopia due to the harsh abuse, oppression
and marginalization they have been enduring under this
regime, but this new threat of losing a piece of Ethiopia
to the Sudan comes from those most loudly proclaiming
their efforts to protect its integrity. In other words,
the primary threat to the breaking apart of the country
is from the biggest separatist of
While Meles is refusing to give up Badme, in violation
of the United Nations demarcation, he is moving secretly,
behind the backs of the Ethiopian people, to hand over
land to Sudan—as if he were an agent of Sudan!
He is manipulating Ethiopian law, principle and the
will of the people to do so, similarly to what he did
in Eritrea when Ethiopia lost all its ports on the Red
At that time, the only threat to the TPLF was the Eritrean
Peoples’ Liberation Front (EPLF), a much stronger
organization than Meles’ own TPLF group. So, allegedly,
in order to rid himself of any competition for power,
he simply gave Eritrea away in a power grab for Ethiopia.
According to some insider’s reports, some believed
Meles wanted Eritrea to break away from Ethiopia even
more than Eritreans wanted to separate—for this
major reason—to gain control of Ethiopia. It makes
one very suspicious of his motives regarding this border
The prospects of losing even more land, especially
to another major violator of human rights like Omar
al Bashir of Sudan, is almost too outrageous to believe,
but too outrageous and dangerous to ignore! To those
who have experienced the deteriorating public policies
of Meles and his total lack of care regarding the Ethiopian
people, the inconceivable becomes almost predictable.
For instance, in one classified document recently released
to the public from the Libyan Embassy (if it is accurate),
it was indicated that right after Meles took power in
1991, he had spoken to members of the Arab League stating
that he was more Yemeni than Ethiopian—no surprise
to us! The evidence of what he has done is the evidence
that has little allegiance to Ethiopia and he has said
Because of this, we must get ready. If the government
that claims to be ours will not protect us, we must
do it. If Meles is willing to do such a thing in one
place, it will happen in others. If it is not about
land, it will be about something else of value to the
Ethiopian people like its resources. This already happened
in Gambella and in the Ogaden.
Every Ethiopian should be concerned regarding what
seems to be the increasingly rapid rate of destruction
to our country. For us to do something we must act quickly
or the Ethiopia we know today will only be an illusion
of “days gone by” to future generations.
This is not an issue for one political group. It is
not only an issue for the Ethio-Sudan Border Committee,
the civic organizations, the religious organizations
or the political organizations, but it is an issue for
all Ethiopians to address.
The first rumors that some “deal” was being
made between Ethiopia and the Sudan regarding the border
started circulating as early as 2004. However, most
people did not take it seriously at that time because
of their hope that a more legitimate electoral process
in the Ethiopian National Elections of 2005 would lead
to the ousting of Meles Zenawi. If Meles did not win,
the border issue would resolve on its own. However,
as we all know, Meles Zenawi hijacked the election,
and even though the public heard little about any “plans”
for the border following that, those plans apparently
still continued to be made, but underneath the radar
of the people.
Information again surfaced in May of 2007 when the
Sudan Tribune published a lengthy report with information
that an agreement had been reached between Ethiopia
and the Sudanese government for the demarcation of a
different border. Their newly formed Meles’s government
organization, called the Border Commission, facilitated
meetings between the two countries, with most occurring
between October and December of 2007.
They allegedly met secretly in Ethiopia with Ethiopian
government authorities from regions sharing a common
border with Sudan—from Gambella to Gondor. They
reportedly alleged that the demarcation was originally
done incorrectly and that they wanted to restore it
to its proper place, once and for all. The agenda items
covered in these meetings supposedly were called: “Cultural
Exchange,” Economic Development” and “Border
Although most of the general public knew nothing of
these plans, there were some concerned Ethiopians who
found out and sent letters of inquiry and opposition
to the governments of both Ethiopia and the Sudan; however,
no response was given by either Ethiopia or the Sudan.
In January of 2008, the governor of the Sudanese regional
state of Gadariff reportedly began giving speeches throughout
his state, informing the people of that region that
the land now under Ethiopian ownership would soon be
given back to them. He allegedly told them this was
“their land,” and that it was “very
fertile” and had “plenty of water.”
This was when word began to spread further and Ethiopians
began to hear more, greatly raising concerns for their
On February 26, 2008, there was a meeting of the Ethiopian
Border Commission at Abderafi, near Gondor in the Amhara
region. The purpose of the meeting was allegedly to
finalize their agreement, but before that could take
place, local Ethiopians had risen up in resistance to
As Meles always does, he tried to get his government
agents to ward off resistance from the people by meeting
with them and assuring them that they need not worry.
At the meeting, the young government official from within
the local government who had been appointed to address
the people listened to what they had to say and then
promised that this would remain their land forever and
that it was not negotiable.
Reports from the public attending the meeting indicated
that the official seemed genuine and “spoke their
own words back to them.” They reported that at
the time, they felt “defended by him,” pacified,
at least for the short term.
However, on March 18, 2008, the Sudanese government
military troops suddenly crossed the border into Ethiopia
and ordered the local farmers to leave their homes and
land. Farmers in Nabsgebya resisted, defending their
right to remain, but in retaliation for this resistance,
the Sudanese military troops burned down approximately
twenty-four farms and took thirty people across the
border to Sudan as prisoners of the Sudanese government.
There was a public outcry, demanding that the Ethiopian
government of Meles needed to intervene, but even though
the government gave promises to do so, they were never
carried out. In apparent frustration, some of the young
Ethiopians took the matter into their own hands and
crossed the border into Sudan in Gardariff State where
they hijacked a bus. With all of the passengers still
inside of it, they drove the bus back to Ethiopia. There,
they parked the bus under a large tree where the bus
was hidden from public view by the leaves. The hostages
remained in the bus, but were cared for by the local
farmers who fed them and provided water.
The hijackers then asked that the Meles government
retrieve the 30 Ethiopian prisoners still being held
in Sudan and promised that they would release the hostages
in exchange for their return, but Meles refused to do
so until they first returned the bus and released its
passengers. When they also refused, Meles sent a helicopter
to locate the bus and when it was found, he sent a local
militia to the area. Fighting broke out between the
militia and the people holding the bus. None of the
hostages died, but twenty-two local Ethiopian people
were killed and twenty-six from the militia before the
militia gained control. Then, Meles released the hostages
and bus, allowing them to go back to the Sudan, but
the abducted Ethiopians remained as prisoners in the
On May 11, 2008, according to reports, the Ethiopian
Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the Sudanese government
in Khartoum to assure them that they had “effectively
dealt with” the resistance to their plan and that
they could move ahead on it. This is when the issue
exploded into public view.
On May 20, 2008 Meles attempted to control the escalating
outrage by going to the Parliament and denying most
everything that had taken place, saying it had not ever
occurred. He blamed Ethiopians for having the attitude—“let
me keep mine, but let’s share yours!” In
other words, he said that the Sudanese were more generous
and future-thinking than were Ethiopians who were unwilling
to share their land and therefore, Ethiopians should
“shut up and stop complaining!”
He made some additional comments to the effect that
if a tiny part of the country went to the Sudan—“big
deal!” People questioned how Meles could operate
as if he were the prime minister of Sudan instead of
Ethiopia? In my opinion, it is the same as an act of
treason along with other illegal actions he has committed
against Ethiopians since he came to power.
It may be no “big deal” to Meles, but
neither are the countless injustices, hardships and
atrocities being perpetrated by his government against
millions of Ethiopians throughout the country. Meles
may have much to gain from this “deal” while
once again, we have much to lose. It does matter to
us and has been affecting us one area at a time, particularly
in areas of promising natural resources.
The Gondor region is an example. It is a very rich
area of fertile land, forests and abundant water with
both lowlands and highlands. In the report written by
the Sudan Tribune in 2007 it had said that the change
in the border demarcation would affect regions approximately
twenty to thirty miles deep into Ethiopia along the
1600 kilometer border line reaching from Gondor to Gambella.
However, in the other regions, the demarcation line
might reach much further into Ethiopian territory. No
one knows for sure because no one has seen the map.
International law requires that such new demarcation
should be submitted to the United Nations, but of course,
Meles has not complied with this because he wants to
keep it secret. However, the impact of what he is doing
will have great effect to many Ethiopians as we learn
more how it will affect those in more southwestern regions
of the country such as in the resource rich land of
the Beningshangul-Gumuz region and into the region I
know so well—Gambella.
Gambella is also a very rich area of natural resources
with the promise of oil, minerals, fertile land and
water. It may only be a matter of time before the same
crisis explodes in this area as it did in 2003 when
the exploratory drilling for oil began. Again, just
like the farmers’ resistance in Gondor, Anuak
resistance to that drilling on their ancestral land
without any input from them was dealt with by the massacre
of resistors by the Ethiopian military and local militia
However, there is a slight difference between how the
two areas are being considered right now. Gambellan
land is now being claimed as the rightful property of
the Sudan by a Sudanese government official, among others,
who voiced his opinion on the program “Straight
Talk Africa” in his answer to a question regarding
the border issue. His comment indicated that the question
regarding the border issue in the north (Gondor region)
could be dealt with differently than that of Gambella
because “Gambella was really their land!”
Who Do We Believe—the People or
Who are we going to believe—the detailed accounts
of the people on the ground or the quick denials from
Meles in the face of evidence to the contrary? As we
know, a dog does not bark without reason. Furthermore,
we know that when a dog barks, it faces the direction
of the threat. Right now, the dogs all over Ethiopia
are barking and they are facing Menelik Palace! I ask
you, “All these dogs cannot be pointing in the
wrong direction can they?” There is the answer
to my question---I believe the people. There is simply
too much incriminating evidence and history of similar
offenses to the people of Ethiopia by the Meles government!
Because of this, Ethiopians, of different ethnicity,
region, religion, vocation, age, political belief and
culture, are all pointing one direction and that is
towards our un-elected leaders who have repeatedly been
caught red-handed betraying the people and the country.
Their persistent lying, manipulation and deceiving has
become so expected that anything they say only confirms
that the opposite must be true.
However, Meles is obviously mad that the “cat
is out of the bag.” For someone who loves the
darkness, the light of truth must be infuriating. When
none of us talked to each other it was much simpler
for Meles. Now we have discovered the commonality of
our experience and none of us like what we have been
going through! So now, what should we do?
What are the Solutions?
Ethiopia has become like a hut whose grass roof has
been removed and whose mud walls are caving in. As it
does, all those inside suffer for it. When it rains,
all of those inside the hut get wet. When the mud walls
start to cave in, it no longer can offer protection
to its inhabitants and they must leave or start rebuilding.
All Ethiopians cannot simply flee the country—somehow,
we must find a way to start anew.
Throughout world, since the dawn of civilization, people
have fought over preserving their homes, land and territory.
Millions of lives have been lost over land issues because
it becomes so much part of our identity as well as a
sanctuary from hardship and difficulty.
When the Italians invaded, we Ethiopians united to
fight to protect our country, putting our individual
and tribal differences aside to resist the common enemy.
When Meles claimed Eritrea had invaded Ethiopia, Ethiopians
from all over the country believed him and joined hands
to fight a war for the same government that oppressed
them because they felt endangered from forces outside
Now, we are in a totally different situation. We are
defending our land and country from the very one who
is supposed to lead the way in our defense—Meles
Zenawi! However, even he is not claiming that Sudan
is invading the country, but appears to be selling us
out behind our backs; yet, a hundred thousand Ethiopian
lives were lost over Badme!
It is obvious that he is making some kind of a deal,
but we may not know until it is too late unless we take
action now. Look at the devastation being perpetrated
in Somalia by Ethiopian troops, many of them who have
been forced into the military. He and his cronies are
like an army of locusts leaving destruction behind wherever
Solution One: Working Together in Unity
The border issue is a prime example of a critical issue
facing Ethiopians that can draw commitment and unity
from a broad spectrum of Ethiopians. We all can understand
the injustice of what is happening and that it could
easily happen to others under the current ruthless regime.
The Ethiopia-Sudan Border Affairs Committee has already
done a great job in reaching out to others in order
to organize a more powerful and united response to this
violation of Ethiopian law by those highest in command.
Meles’ actions are indicative of the depth of
dysfunction he is wreaking throughout Ethiopian society
and we must attack it at its root, remembering that
the problem faced by those on the border is also “our
problem” of tomorrow.
Communication and support to those facing these crises
are both essential if we are to stand up together in
unity—for peace, justice, peace, hope and prosperity.
Coming together does not mean leaving behind your own
values, beliefs and culture, but instead working together
to create a political and social landscape where diverse
people can flourish.
It is time to bring people together in a
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia to address
problems such as this one. If you are someone wanting
to find a lasting solution, come and join. This is a
time to embrace all the vast diversity of Ethiopians
so no one is excluded. This includes opposition leaders
from various groups as well as Ethiopians who have never
been involved in politics!
The future of Ethiopia depends on what decisions we
make today. If we are to be successful, we must leave
behind our fights over dominance and any ambition to
be the next Meles. If we do not, we will fail. In other
words, we must put aside our differences to fight for
Ethiopia against ethnic hatred, economic exploitation,
corruption, the perversion of justice, brutal repression,
human rights violations and the marginalization of many
groups within the country. We must get involved in advocating
for each other or the inaction, infighting and indifference
of Ethiopians will destroy us one by one, region by
region, ethnic group by ethnic group and no one will
The solution is unity, not to become the next Meles,
but unity based on trust. Unity is key, not a unity
to use people and deceive them with hidden agendas like
Meles, because even he spoke in support of human rights
and democracy from the bush.
Worshiping leaders without holding them accountable
will set us up for being deceived and betrayed again.
Instead, we should have expectations from our leaders
that they mean what they say and remember that no leader
is above the law. We must remember that no leader can
remain a leader without followers.
Those of us who are followers are really in charge
because the public must decide on the future of Ethiopia
by better examining the kind of leaders we want and
then expecting that they will lead by being servants
of the people, willing to give over power to the next
leader. In Ethiopia and in most of Africa, leaders become
leaders for life unless they are kicked out by force.
The border committee has already started the work.
This is not a committee committed to only one ethnic
group, but a committee of Ethiopians committed to save
the country from breaking into pieces. This is a committee
dedicated to looking for solutions rather than one who
has been using its resources to fight one another, to
attack, insult, accuse or blame.
This approach is being used by some others as well
and hopefully, will become the expected model for how
we Ethiopians operate in the future. Right now, the
collective energy and climate for change within individuals
and organizations will shape whether we can successfully
work together in solidarity for a new Ethiopia.
This border issue is one of those critical issues that
Ethiopians care about that can unify us—but only
if we make the right choices.
Solution Two: Reviving the Soul of Ethiopia:
Moral and Spiritual Transformation
Our country is dying. Every day we see another warning
sign that Ethiopia, as we know it, is being destroyed.
Today it is our western border, but tomorrow it will
be in the Ogaden or the Afar region or in Oromia. It
sometimes seems bigger than us, but I assure you, with
God’s help, it is not. In fact, oftentimes, crisis
is a tremendous opportunity and motivation for change—either
for the good or for bad.
After Haile Selassie, we accept Mengistu. After Mengistu,
we accept Meles. This is not about these specific people,
but our repeated failure to change our thinking, which
caused us to pick look-alike leaders instead of something
different. Perhaps this has been caused the hardening
of our hearts towards God and our fellow human beings.
It was shown by our continued ethnic hatred, greed,
self-serving policies, division, abuse of human rights
and apathy towards the poor and marginalized. These
were evidence of our individual and collective moral
We are at another crisis. What will we choose? Without
a moral and spiritual transformation in the individual
souls of Ethiopians, we will certainly only continue
to decline and break apart. This is a time to revive
the soul of Ethiopia one person at a time!
Consider what one person can do for evil. For instance,
every person killed by this government was killed by
the decisions or actions of another human being. Every
person thrown into prison, tortured, harassed, threatened
or devalued can be linked to at least one other human
being who is filled with hate, greed, selfishness, bitterness,
fear, anger or a hard heart. Those of us who walk by,
looking the other way, contribute to the continuation
of such violence against another human being.
On the other hand, one person can have a tremendous
impact on others for good and that person can be you!
Let us turn to God for healing and restoration so He
empowers each of us to become like a river of water
for a thirsty land. As it flows, it brings new life
along its path even without knowing it. But we cannot
have transformation without repenting of the wrongful
acts we have committed as people and as a society in
We must turn away from what is destroying us and instead
look towards our Almighty Creator for the deep change
that must sweep over the nation to bring new life and
revive it from otherwise most certain death.
We have become enslaved to the destructive thinking
and actions of the past just like an alcoholic who cannot
change his or her patterns of self-destruction. We have
replaced freedom of the soul with death from bondage
to a way of life that will kill us. The key to our recovery
may be similar. Let us consider how that might be played
out to bring back freedom and life to Ethiopia.
1. We must first admit that the life and soul of Ethiopia
is dying and that we are powerless to change it without
God’s help, truth and light.
2. We must admit our own individual and collective
moral failures and rebellion against God.
3. We must admit our individual and collective wrongful
attitudes and actions against our Ethiopian brothers
4. We must individually and collectively apologize
for what we have done to others and do our best to set
things right in the future.
5. We must come together in new relationship, caring
about others and seeking their freedom, justice and
well-being as if it were our own through the establishment
of a government whose policies exemplify these values
and attitudes in practical action.
We cannot ever hope to accomplish perfect justice,
equality and opportunity but we should seek it with
diligence, transparency and accountability. Today is
the day to stand up and commit to change.
Solution three: Commitment to Moral Transformation,
Change and Action
Words mean nothing without application. That is why
I am now calling you to make an individual commitment
to moral transformation, change and action. I call on
you to become a change agent. If we simply walk away,
go home and carry out our daily tasks, we will have
failed and have not accomplished anything by coming
Today, you are faced with a choice and it is time to
go one way or the other. You can walk away, refusing
to take part or you can choose to walk forward towards
life. If you walk out of here without deciding, that
is a decision, yet do not take it lightly.
I am calling on you to be part of what frees and revives
Ethiopia, but if you do it wholeheartedly, with God
leading, it will not only bring life to Ethiopia. It
will bring life to you, your family, your friends and
your future. Destructive thinking is our enemy and let
us say no to it! Let us come together with new resolve
and commitment. Let this be a day that changes the direction
of our lives, people and country!
Stand up if you are against this brutal
regime that is dividing, imprisoning, repressing, killing
and destroying Ethiopia.
Stand up if you are willing to join the
struggle for human rights, justice and freedom for all
Stand up if you are willing to denounce
ethnic hatred and division between the people of Ethiopia.
Stand up if you are willing to commit
and sacrifice so that the people of Ethiopia and the
future children of Ethiopia might know we are their
co-fighters in the struggle for a better life for them.
Stand up if you are willing to contribute
your time, effort, skills and resources to bring freedom,
justice and peace to Ethiopia.
Raise up your hands to the heavens to
God our only hope who calls us to repentance and change.
Raise up your hands for God’s help
to face oppression and injustice with courage and moral
commitment that He can provide only as we step out in
Sign this petition if you are willing
to come together in unity against the evil and destruction
of Ethiopian life and if you are willing to be part
of reviving Ethiopia.
Call out to our Creator God to Revive
Ethiopia, asking Him to bring us Ethiopians to repentance,
healing, reconciliation and new life!
God will not force us to change. His promises of delivery
are conditional on our willingness to be obedient to
Him. It will require us becoming different people—people
of love and action in demonstrating that love towards
those around us in revolutionary ways. I now end my
talk by calling all Ethiopians to a revolution of moral
transformation and revival. Will you join?
For more information please contact
me by email at: Obang@anuakjustice.org
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