Movement Calls for Names of All
Solidarity Movement for New
Ethiopia | January 23, 2009
A hearty THANK YOU to the Ethiopians
International Committee who organized the January
14th demonstrations and to the countless individuals
who helped them make it a success!
I want to name some of the key individuals who should
be considered heroes for organizing this event. Just
like Birtukan, Teddy Afro and all other prisoners who
have paid their share, those who put together this great
event are the silent heroes outside the cells of Ethiopia,
a country imprisoned by its leaders.
I wish I could personally thank every person who contributed,
but there would be too many to name and some of you,
I still have not met. Yet, I want to mention a few of
the key organizers like: Dawit Kebede, from Atlanta;
Wondimu Mekonnen, from London; Dereje Habtewold, from
Brussels; Ahmed Ali, from Stockholm; Demelash Likum/Lishan
Gizaw, from Frankfurt; Mistre/ Meseret; Hailu Ourgessa,
from Geneva; Tamagne Beyene, from Washington and Yilma
Bekele, from Oakland.
Let all of us Ethiopians join together in also thanking
those who selflessly rallied in London, Brussels, Washington
D.C., Stockholm, Oslo, Frankfurt, Geneva, Oakland, Dallas,
Calgary, Seattle, Rome, Copenhagen—the list could
go on! Ethiopians came with posters, flyers, pictures,
slogans, Ethiopian flags and more than anything, with
their thirst for freedom in Ethiopia.
You put spirit and fight back into the hearts of the
people on January 14th when you rallied in cities all
over the world for the release of Ms. Birtukan, Mr.
Teddy Afro, Mr. Bekele Jirata, Mr. Jumma Rufaai, Mr.
Sabeel Albakheet; Mr. Abera Yemaneab; Ms Aberash Berta;
Major Adugna and all our fellow Ethiopians who remain
locked up in prisons, jails and detention centers around
These are the kind of people who give me hope that
Ethiopia will someday be free. I also consider the individual
Ethiopians who have contributed to the struggle through
different means. Just this past week, an Ethiopian who
I had met in London called to tell me that the work
of the Solidarity Movement required not only moral support,
but financial support and said he was sending 50 pounds,
telling me to please use it in any way that would help.
This week I was in Washington D.C. for Obama’s
inauguration and four different taxi drivers in the
city, refused to let me pay for my fare, wanting to
contribute it to the struggle.
Another Ethiopian phoned today to just check in to
make sure I was alright.
Last week I received an email from an Ethiopian in China
saying how saddened he has been because he has lost
so many of his school friends because of tribal politics
that alienated one group from another, but now sees
hope in the principles of the Solidarity Movement.
Another Ethiopian, whom I had never met, called from
Toronto, Canada and said he had fifty dollars to support
the struggle and asked me how he could send it.
An email came to me from an Ethiopian man from within
the country, telling me that he was praying for God
to give me strength and wisdom to carry on the struggle
because that was the only thing he has to contribute,
but in my opinion, it is the best of all possible contributions.
People like these—who are organizing, rallying,
contributing, encouraging, advising, constructively
criticizing, challenging and praying—are only
some of the examples of Ethiopians who are the soldiers
who will help win the hearts and minds of Ethiopians,
leading to the transformation of a sick society to one
where there is justice and the rule of law for all.
They are the soul of our struggle for truth, reconciliation
and equality. They are the troops that will
free us and make us acknowledge our humanity beyond
our ethnicity and recognize that unless we all are free,
none of us is free.
Each one of these people I see as the rays from the
rising sun over Ethiopia. One ray would not have been
noticed, but as each separate ray combines together
with others, they will become the powerful source of
light that cracks through the darkness to bring the
dawn. They are people “rallying” for a NEW
and better Ethiopia that goes beyond their own interests.
This was also the best thing about the rallies. The
participants were not only for one person, but were
speaking out for all Ethiopian political prisoners.
Birtukan is an excellent example of someone who has
done her share by speaking the truth and refusing to
back down. It is the reason she is in prison; however,
others have done the same and hopefully, someday, we
will better know their stories.
Do you know what a political statement that makes to
those who want us divided! Do you know what a statement
that makes to Western governments who have seen far
too little solidarity between various groups? This is
the only way we will be heard. This is the only way
we will be effective. This is the only way we will be
able to finally bring sustainable freedom, justice and
the rule of law to Ethiopia. The rally was a success,
but now some are asking, “Now what?”
I say, this must only be the beginning of more public
demonstrations and overall efforts to gain freedom for
our fellow Ethiopians imprisoned across the country.
Some may be freed from time to time for political reasons,
but we must not stop until all those unjustly imprisoned
by this present regime are freed and that will not happen
until Ethiopia is freed from the tyranny of the past,
of the present and of the future!
That means we must replace the ingredients
that are poisoning our society—the tribalism,
deceit, blaming, sabotage, destructive competition,
victim mentality and moral weakness that results in
us failing to stand together in joint opposition to
systemic evil. Part of standing up against such evil
requires that we expose the depth, height and breadth
of political repression within Ethiopia.
One way to do that is to gather better documentation
on the names and circumstances of all our Ethiopian
This is a work that is already being done by a superb
Ethiopian organization, the Solidarity Committee for
Ethiopian Political Prisoners (SOCEPP) that I greatly
admire and respect because of their excellent work that
has not discriminated against any political prisoners
but have included all.
They have also been speaking out against the injustice
of all Ethiopians. They are an example of an Ethiopian
organization that has risen above ethnic politics. The
SOCEPP leaders were the ones who reached out to me and
told me that when I talked about political prisoners,
that it should be for all political prisoners. I cannot
agree with them more on this important principle and
I appreciated their advice. They were right! The SMNE
has already been in contact with them and want to collaborate
on this project and on many other issues where we have
shared goals. There are more Ethiopian groups like this
who are the champions against injustice such as the
Ethiopian Human Rights Council, the Oromo American Citizens’
Council, the Ogaden Human Rights Committee, Southern
Ethiopia Peoples action group; Gasha for Ethiopia, Beni-shangul-Gumuz
Human Rights Council and the Afar Human Rights Organization.
This will require the cooperation of these and other
organizations, groups and individuals at the grassroots
level from all over the country. If you
genuinely want to work together to bring an end to political
imprisonment, this is your opportunity to make a strong
case against political repression by collecting names
of those you know and sending them to be used in a comprehensive
Up to now, we have been able to bring international
awareness about our political prisoners through Birtukan
and Teddy, but we need to strengthen our advocacy efforts
by determining—person by person—the incidence
of political imprisonment in Ethiopia.
We ask that all political leaders, in particular, provide
names of those they know because they may end up being
the best source of information. For example, the OLF,
ONLF, the Afar Liberation Front, the Sidamo Liberation
Front, the EPRP-D, the All Ethiopian Unity Party, the
ENUF, the EPPF, the EPRP, Ginbot-7, UDJ, UDEF and all
political groups may already have compiled such lists
of their own people, all of whom should be included.
We do not care if political parties are divided because
all of the prisoners have suffered for the cause of
Ethiopia, meaning for the cause of all of us.
We also extend this invitation to civic organizations,
religious groups, human rights organizations and individuals
who might have information on specific prisoners of
conscience or those imprisoned on alleged false pretenses,
to submit those names. We must be a people
who care about the freedom of everyone. This sums up
both of the most basic principles of the Solidarity
Movement for anew Ethiopia; that humanity comes before
ethnicity—or any other distinction—and that
no one is free until we all are free.
We will provide an email address that will be a central
collection point for information on political prisoners.
Please include as much of the following as you have
access to regarding each person:
- their full name
- a picture if you have one
- a short statement about their background
- what happened leading to their arrest or disappearance
- where they are being held if you know, and
- if pertinent, under what kind of conditions they
are living; for example, if there are health problems,
crowding, lack of basic necessities, etc.
If you do not have all the information, just send
what you have. You can keep the information simple and
straightforward unless you believe that a fuller story
might be helpful. We will not make the names of those
who provide information public without their agreement.
No one should be left out, including those who have
been in prison since 1991 when the TPLF took power.
For example, one of those men is Mr. Tsegaye Gerbremedhin
who was arrested in 1991 is a well-respected poet who
has been imprisoned for the last 18 years.
Others prisoners of conscience are Mr. Abera Yemaneab;
Ms Aberash Berta; Major Adugna and others Ethiopians
from America who returned to Ethiopia in 1993 for a
National Reconciliation Conference, but instead of being
a genuine reconciliation effort, the government rounded
them up and put them in jail where they remain. We
cannot forget these people. They are our people. As
long as they are in prison, we are in prison as well.
We will not be free until they are free.
Lack of having a viable institution or body that represents
all of us is the reason that the Solidarity Movement
for a New Ethiopia has been formed. Joining a solidarity
movement is a way dedicates oneself to the larger cause
of Ethiopia! One does not have to disband or resign
one's political organization, it means we put aside
the partisan politics aside for now and rescue Ethiopia.
The task of competing with each other politically will
come when there is a secure democratic playing field
For that reason, when we ask for the names of political
prisoners of conscience, we are asking for all Ethiopians
throughout every region of the country, from every city
and every village. This is why we are also appealing
to the people at the grassroots level for the names
of those you know. They may be names of your grandparents,
fathers, husbands, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters,
daughters, sons, uncles, aunts or cousins. They might
be your classmates, teachers, community members, work
colleagues, public servants, journalists or religious
leaders. We want them all.
We are asking for the people from Afar to submit the
names of all their political prisoners. We ask for the
same from the people of the Ogaden, from Oromia, from
Harere, from the Southern Nations, from Amhara, from
Tigray, those from Beni-shangul-Gumuz and from Gambella.
Please do not leave anyone out, even if you disagree
with their views. We are asking for widespread cooperation
in giving all the names regardless of any differences.
If groups can get together to collaborate on this, so
much the better!
In conclusion, we cannot free our country
unless we work together in unity of purpose rather than
in competition and destroying the work of others. If
we are to succeed, it cannot be done by one person,
but will require more established leaders as well as
people at the grassroots level, all doing their share.
Come and join us—there is room for you. Let us
free our people together!
Put yourself in the shoes of those who are in prison
or in the shoes of the family members who may have been
waiting for years for the release of their family member.
Put yourself in the shoes of those whose loved ones
have simply disappeared and they are still waiting to
find out if they will ever be coming home. Put yourself
in the shoes of Birtukan’s daughter who goes to
bed with no goodnight kiss from her mommy because her
mommy is behind the bars of a prison. But, her mother
has gone to prison to correct the wrong so that other
children will have their daddy’s and mommy’s
Therefore I ask you, the reader, to always put yourself
in the shoes of those suffering. Their suffering is
our suffering. Their pain is our pain. Their horror
is our horror. Their tears are our tears. Let us embrace
them in our thoughts, in our actions and in our prayers.
May God give us the strength to be the humans that
He intended us to be—human beings with emotions
of love, sympathy and care for those needing help that
drives us to take responsibility, not only for ourselves
or our loved ones, not only for our tribe or our regions,
but also for the suffering humanity around us. May God
purify our souls and hearts. Let us fear only Him. Let
us not desire the praise of men or leaders, but the
praise of God! May God overcome evil with good!
For more information please contact
me, Obang Metho,
Executive Member of the Solidarity Movement for a New
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