Mutual Challenge: Silently Becoming Our Words through
Solidarity Movement for New Ethiopia | January 26,
We are pleased to know that Professor Alemayehu G.
Mariam, is now publicly endorsing so many of the ideas
and principles of the Solidarity Movement for a New
Ethiopia, as demonstrated in his recent article, “Close
Ranks, Open Hearts and Minds, Shake Hands and Get Busy.”
We hope that these ideas and principles continue to
spread to others because we are convinced that it will
be on such a foundation that the “NEW
ETHIOPIA” will be built.
In his article, posted on January19, 2009, this is
the way he summed up the need for Ethiopians to adopt
these two foundational principles of the Solidarity
Movement if we are to succeed in our struggle for democracy:“….we
must also develop a new approach — a new paradigm
— to the struggle for democracy in Ethiopia based
on an express commitment to a set of core values and
principles that will enable us to defer our differences
for another time. Our core values must be built on two
compelling philosophical principles: 1)
Our humanity must always rise above our ethnicity, nationality,
religiosity, Africanity or Ethiopianity. 2) No one can
be truly free in Ethiopia unless ALL Ethiopians are
free. If we subscribe to these two core
principles, open our minds and hearts and collectively
pull together, we will soon find ourselves in a win-win
We love sharing these principles, values, attitudes
and the other ideas that we believe will lead to a change
of thinking within Ethiopian society, without which
we will continue to repeat the same mistakes of the
past. What we believe and practice makes a difference
in our cultural, political and economic outcomes. What
we have had in the past has led to destruction, hatred,
division, sabotage, deceit, subterfuge, greed, power-grabbing,
oppression, poverty, serial dictatorships and the marginalization
or dehumanization of “others.”
This is why we are glad to see Professor Alemayehu
G. Mariam, comprehensive endorsement of the basic tenets
of the Solidarity Movement. He is one of the key Ethiopians
who, with others, worked diligently for the passing
of United States House of Representatives’ legislation,
HR# 2003, a bill meant to exert strong pressure on the
Ethiopian regime of Mr. Meles Zenawi. We in the Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia thank him for his hard work
and hope to see him continue in his efforts to promote
We also hope to see increasingly more Ethiopian people
endorse and spread these principles of “humanity
before ethnicity” and “no one is free until
we all are free” because working
for the common good in solidarity is key to transforming
a dysfunctional society like ours. Despite all of the
division within Ethiopian groups of every kind, it is
encouraging to hear more people promoting the language
of unity and collaboration as they are starting to see
its importance for themselves. This call has been part
of most every speech, article, Paltalk discussion, radio
interview and meeting in which I, Obang Metho, have
participated for the last three or more years and it
is encouraging to see this happen.
For myself, some of the seeds, which led me to reach
out to other Ethiopians, were planted when the Anuak
faced their darkest and most tragic days when few others
were paying any attention. We in the Anuak Justice Council
advocated alone. At the same time, I met others in Washington
D.C., like the Oromo, doing the same, advocating alone
to many of the same key people within the US government.
However, it was on February 18, 2005, when
a conversation with an Ethiopian taxi driver in Washington
D.C. hit me so forcefully that I purposely changed my
focus from a singular, ethnic-based one to the broad-based
focus that included all Ethiopians. Perhaps, if I had
not come out of a minority group that had been regularly
left out of the mainstream for years, I would have been
more satisfied with the status quo, but I did not and
my experience riding in that taxi jolted me into a new
paradigm of thinking.
I have told this story before, but it bears repeating.
It was in a casual conversation I had with
a friendly Ethiopian taxi driver, Ato Girma Negash,
who could not accept me as being Ethiopian. He could
accept me being from any other country in Africa with
the exception of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. He told
me that I did not look Ethiopian and that there was
“no way” I could be an Ethiopian. It led
me to the thought that as long as I only advocated for
the Anuak and did not reach out to other Ethiopians,
attempting to know them and to work together, our alienation
and the lack of caring for each other would forever
frustrate our independent attempts to stop the cycle
of injustice. This is when I started speaking for all
Ethiopians, realizing that we needed to work together,
to grieve with others and to suffer for others.
When I was invited to testify at the Congressional hearing
on March 28, 2006 and my assignment was to talk about
the Anuak, I purposely chose to speak for all Ethiopians
as well. For those Ethiopians who were there or who
have seen a video of my testimony, you will know that
before I started my testimony, I first turned around
and addressed Ethiopians in the audience, saying,
“Some of you may mistake me for not being an Ethiopian
or not looking like the typical Ethiopian, but I am
Ethiopian and we must acknowledge one another and work
together.” After that statement,
I turned back to address the Congress.
A few days later, I gave my very first speech to Ethiopians
at the Marriott Hotel in Washington D.C. You
can read my speech to Ethiopians at “Free Ethiopia”...
If you review the substance of that speech, you will
find that I called for unity, forgiveness,
acceptance, reconciliation and healing between Ethiopians
who were so deeply divided by ethnicity, skin-color,
political view and region that they could no longer
even drink coffee together in our traditional “coffee
circles,” that in the past, were
much more open to others.
I continued to try to spread this message of unity
and reconciliation even when many of my own fellows
Anuak did not understand.
In April, 2007, when I was invited to be the keynote
speaker at the Gasha conference, you
can read my speech at Gasha for Ethiopians in Washington,
DC... I again stressed the need to call
on our Tigrayan brothers and sisters to come out and
tell Meles that we would not tolerate him using our
ethnicity to divide and destroy others as well as ourselves.
In that speech, I called on the Tigrayan people to stand
side by side with the other Ethiopian people to stop
this cycle of “one tribe” domination.
When our Oromo brothers and sisters invited me to speak
to them in August, 2007, you
can read my address to the Oromo Community in Minnesota...
I did not see one single Ethiopian flag,
but instead, the flag of the Oromia region everywhere.
Because of this, I felt compelled to remind them that
as long as we advocated, fought and struggled for only
our own group, that we would not go anywhere, but would
only prolong our suffering. I urged them to reject the
past ethnic politics where “today, one group would
be in power and tomorrow, another would take its place.”
I emphasized that the name Ethiopia or its flag had
never oppressed or killed anyone and that instead, we
should all be working together to create a society where
everyone would belong, feel welcomed and be appreciated.
In August, 2007, when I was invited by the Ogadeni
community to speak, you
can read my speech of invisible fence... I
stressed the same message, telling them we might look
differently from each other, but that our differences
made up the beauty of the garden of Ethiopia. I urged
our brother and sister Ogadenis to break the invisible
fence that divided us Ethiopians from each other.
In September 2007, when there was a division between
the Kinijit, I called on all factions to
put their political differences aside and to come together
to create an umbrella movement to free Ethiopia.
can read my open letter to Kinijit leaders... I
explained that once the country was freed, they could
go back to their own political platforms, which could
then be presented to the Ethiopian people for a vote.
I even offered to find mediators who were not aligned
with any one particular group so that the best interests
of the country could be placed above partisan politics
through reconciliation of differences. Unfortunately,
my call fell on deaf ears.
In November of 2007, the struggle for unity and inclusiveness
was taken to a higher level when we invited
all civic organizations, especially the leaders of human
rights groups, to come together in new relationship
in order to hear the grievances of our people in other
regions and to better know better their suffering so
we could begin working together. The human rights abuses
and oppression that each described was originating in
the actions of the same government.
We had representation from people from most regions
of the country—Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella, Ogaden,
Oromia, Amhara, Tigray and from the South. At that meeting,
I called people from all the regions to speak up for
each other. For example, someone from Beninshangul-Gumuz
can speak for more than just the people of Beninshangul-Gumuz.
The same is true of an Amhara who can speak for more
than the Amhara, an Oromo for more than Oromo or an
Ogadeni for more than only the Ogadeni because we
need to find common ground to work together to relieve
the suffering of all of us.
It was at this meeting that I announced these principles—“humanity
before ethnicity,” and that “no one would
be free until we all were free,” indicating that
it was the only way to stop the cycle of one-tribe domination
or not caring for others outside our own groups.
At the time, there was a call to speak out for the Ogadeni
who were being especially targeted by the Meles regime.
Most of those who were present at that meeting became
the leaders of what has become the Solidarity Movement
for a New Ethiopia.
In March of 2008 was when we received an invitation
from a great Ethiopian leader, Dr. Golto.
Previously, he may not have been known to mainstream
Ethiopians, but soon showed his love and his care for
his country. He is an example of those bright and talented
people, with excellent leadership ability combined with
good values and wisdom, who have often not been part
of the mainstream because they come from ethnic groups
which have been intentionally ignored and pushed aside
by the previously governments. How many more are there
like him, who have not yet surfaced, but who may be
strategic to reviving this dying country?
Dr. Golto had already been working with other Ethiopians
and had formed a Solidarity Forum of Ethiopia and invited
us to be part of it. His position was that he was comfortable
with his own life as a spinal cord surgeon and was not
interested in being a politician, but stressed that
the only reason he was becoming involved now was because
he could not go on with his peaceful life in America
while his people were suffering back home.
He made it clear that he had no hidden agenda and did
not care about credit to him or his name. He instead
wanted Ethiopians to work in solidarity to create a
better Ethiopia. We joined together with him so when
we organized the Worldwide March, he was one of the
key leaders—besides Alemariam and myself. He was
involved in chairing the more than ten teleconferences
we held before the event took place.
After this, in May of 2008, we in the Solidarity Movement
(SMNE) took the initiative of organizing a four-day,
multi-focused memorial observance of the killing of
election protestors following the flawed Ethiopian National
Election of 2005. One of those events, a Worldwide March,
drew people from diverse groups in cities all over the
In August of 2008, the Solidarity Movement (SMNE) invited
all civic organizations to come together in Washington
DC for a forum focusing on “Where Should We Go
From Here?” You
can read the symposium on Ethiopia Offers New Solutions
to the Question: “Where Do We Go From Here?” The
mission statement and principles of the SMNE were established
at the time.
The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia is a grassroots
movement whose mission is to: Mobilize Ethiopians
in the Diaspora and within Ethiopia to unite in a coalition
across ethnic, regional, political, cultural, and religious
lines around principles of truth, justice, freedom,
the protection of human rights, equality and civility
in order to bring about a more open, free and reconciled
society in Ethiopia where humanity comes before ethnicity
and where the same rights, opportunities and privileges
are available to all because no one will be free until
all are free.
The logo was later created and is an indication of
the values of the SMNE. As you can tell
from looking at its circular design, the three separate
parts of it are meant to represent the diverse Ethiopian
people in the colors of our national flag, all sitting
together at a roundtable, in equal position. If you
remove any one part or “person” in the circle,
it will not be the same, but will be imperfect. As long
as it has each component, it is circular and can be
put into motion, like a wheel meant to move forward
to transport us together to a new Ethiopia where no
one ethnic group will be pushed aside, left behind or
denied an opportunity.
More literally, removing one person from our circle
is like removing one ethnic group from our country instead
of valuing all of our parts and members. That
is why you will find that the people within the executive
committee of the SMNE are from all over the country.
For instance, you will find Robson from Oromia, Ibriham
from Benishangul-Gumuz, Yassin from the Ogaden, Teddy
from Tigray, Dr. Golto from the South, Meleaku from
Amhara region, Ismael from Afar region and some women
like Ms. Sosina and Ms. Lemlem, Achame, Abebe, Girma,
Tessema, Groum, Wondimu, Michael, and Berhan, among
These representatives, and others as well, have been
reaching out to their respective groups at the grassroots
level. As you might have read in our recent article,
“Are the Skies Brightening Over Ethiopia,”
can read: Are the Skies Brightening Over Ethiopia?... that Ethiopians from different regions, various
backgrounds, differing political groups and diverse
professions are endorsing these principles. There are
many other comments from Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians
who have given words of support that we have not released
to the public.
We are progressing with the development
of our infrastructure, part of which required legally
registering our name and setting up a bank account in
that name. We in the SMNE are willing to work with all
other groups, not wanting to exclude any as long as
we have goals in common and as long as they are consistent
with our basic principles and values. This is a principle-driven
movement instead of an ethnic-driven movement as one
can see through our action plan for 2009, that just
came out a month ago. We want to work with those who
agree with these principles and ideas because we believe
they are life-building.
The goal of the Solidarity Movement is
to see the ideas needed “to liberate a people
and a nation,” move through Ethiopian society
until they are accepted as part of what it means to
live “humanly.” These ideas are not genuinely
being carried out if the benefits are only enjoyed by
a special or entitled segment of society. For instance,
if my neighbor is left out, we are violating the principles.
If those from Addis Ababa or Gambella are only included,
we are violating the principles. If those who are of
a certain religious belief or political belief are left
out, we are violating the principles. Yet, we do not
want to compromise or “water down” the principles.
When an institution, business or a religious organization
is formed, those who have the vision, must set the direction
based on what they believe to be true, important and
effective. Others may choose to become part of it if
they agree with the founding principles and values,
endorsing or rejecting it.
In the case of the SMNE those principles
include truth, equality, the rule of law, respect for
human rights, respect for personal liberties of free
press, free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of
religion and other such basic principles that promote
a healthy society. These non-negotiable principles are
not really our ideas but are based on greater universal
For example, they are based in the intrinsic worth
of every human being because God has created every one
of us in His image. As Jesus said, “We are to
“love our neighbor as ourselves.” Is this
not similar to placing humanity before ethnicity and
the belief that no is free until we all are free? However,
because of our moral flaws, none of us can uphold them
perfectly, requiring the fair and equal application
of the rule of law in order to hold everyone accountable.
In a healthy, well-functioning society, our most important
institutions are formed and shaped by them. This has
not been the case in Ethiopia for many years and change
may be painful.
We cannot expect that the “new Ethiopia”
of our hopes and dreams will rise up into new vigorous
life until we hold our own “funeral” on
the negative elements of the “old Ethiopia,”
while recovering that which has best nurtured and sustained
us for many years like our coffee circles.
What I mean by “funeral” is the purposeful
giving up of those beliefs, attitudes and practices
that are causing the physical death of our nation. This
will not be easy and there will be resistance. When
anything dies, even when it is unhealthy, there is always
a struggle. Think of the physical deaths of our loved
ones. Their bodies might have been full of cancer or
a deadly virus; yet they struggled on for life and breath.
The same will be true of the old way of life that has
produced our collective misery. Even though it is killing
us, it will be hard to give up.
The struggle between the two is inevitable
for the “old” is threatened by the “new”
in fear that there will be loss, not gain, but life-giving
principals can liberate everyone. We must be patient
and endure though, for just because it will be a difficult
transformation, does not mean we should give up the
fight for what can free the “soul” of Ethiopia.
Not everyone will go through it in the
same way and at the same time. However, history has
demonstrated that the societies which most flourish
are the ones who most promote these values promoting
human dignity and basic rights. Conversely, it is also
those societies that most reject and repress these values,
which most fail to advance in every arena.
What are we to be? Are you willing to attend
the “funeral” of your own destructive thinking
so our future generations can live in peace and harmony?
We can speak about unity and inclusion, but our challenge
will be to become what we speak. Each of us can use
lofty principles and inspiring words, saying all the
right things, but we above all must “be our words”
without ever speaking. This is a challenge to every
one of us, including me!
May God help us to be the kind of people
who will bring reconciliation, inclusion, respect and
dignity to our fellow sojourners on this earth.
May those we pass by in our life be more enriched and
blessed by our adherence to Your divine principles and
may they be fully integrated into our hearts, lives
May we not compromise our beliefs, but
may we always reach out to extend grace, love and forgiveness
to others as You have done for us. May
God bless Ethiopia!
For more information please contact
me, Obang Metho,
Executive Member of the Solidarity Movement for a New
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