to the Ethiopian National Congress on the Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia in Loyola University, Chicago,
|February 28, 2009
Thank you for inviting me to speak about the Solidarity
Movement for a New Ethiopia. I am grateful to be here
with my fellow Ethiopians. I thank Ato Erku Yimer, Dr.
Imru Assefa, Ambassador Imru Zeleke and the Ethiopian
National Congress for organizing this conference and
for their commitment and passion to help in the struggle
for our country to become a land that is free and where
Ethiopians can live and flourish together.
I first entered this struggle when I started working
for the protection of the Anuak following the massacre
and human rights crimes perpetrated by our current government
in December of 2003, but the seeds of a larger, more
inclusive movement began over three years ago when I
began hearing more and more reports of the suffering,
misery and abuses to our people all over Ethiopia—from
the east to the west and from the north to the south—at
the hands of this same government.
Since that time, I could not only focus on my own group
because I knew that until all were free, none of us
would be free. I also knew that a New Ethiopia would
never be accomplished without valuing all human beings
as precious and all created in the image of God. I knew
that until our humanity came before our ethnicity or
any other differences, that we would sabotage each other’s
efforts to improve our lives and the lives of our descendents.
I knew that coming together in solidarity would require
that we improved our relationships and our respect for
each other. I knew that such relationships could transform
our society into a new, more welcoming Ethiopia. This
is the kind of Ethiopia for which I hope and dream.
This is the basic reason behind the formation of the
Today I have been asked to more specifically describe
what the SMNE is all about, why it was formed and what
we hope to accomplish as a result of it. Sometimes it
is easier to start by explaining something by what it
is not, before explaining what it is.
1. The SMNE is not a political movement to
run for office.
It is a social justice movement to bring about a climate
conducive to genuine political expression so that different
political parties and their candidates can openly compete
for elected office in free and fair elections where
the people decide who they want to represent them.
2. The SMNE is not a movement of groups or
organizations where these individual groups or organizations
are expected to each abandon their own identity and
goals so as to merge into one.
It is a movement of individuals, groups and organizations
who are independent, unique and who should continue
to carry out their own objectives, but who desire to
come together as a stronger, more collective force for
good, around the shared goals and principles of the
SMNE in order to bring about a more open, just and harmonious
society where Ethiopians are free to pursue their goals.
3. The SMNE is not a movement to fight for
dominance or to overthrow the government.
It is a non-violent movement where Ethiopians can join
together, more powerful and effective as a unified force
of diverse people, to exert pressure on the ruling government
for positive change through wide varieties of tactics
of non-violent actions and/or resistance, through legal
measures, through actions taken by the international
community resulting from advocacy work and through other
peaceful actions within and outside of Ethiopia to bring
about change, possibly including a genuine dialogue
with international mediators.
4. The SMNE is not a movement of one tribe,
one political group, one region, one culture, one class,
one religion, one gender, etc.
It is a movement of people to people, family to family,
friend to friend, community to community, ethnicity
to ethnicity and so on, to bring reconciliation between
previously alienated people and groups and to set an
atmosphere in Ethiopia where all are included regardless
of ethnicity, regional background, political view, religion,
culture, language, educational level, class, gender
and age, so that all who live within the boundaries
of Ethiopia are valued members of society and are considered
5. The SMNE is not a movement based on a certain
leader or group.
It is a movement of ideas, principles and values intended
to hold all leaders and members of our society—present
and future—accountable. Where men and women fail,
make mistakes and change their minds, we must have high
standards of transparency and accountability that challenge
all to perseveringly uphold the basic rights and value
of every human being as of highest importance and as
key to the sustainability of any free, open and harmonious
6. The SMNE is not a movement that ends once
Meles leaves office
It is a movement that must continue to protect, shape
and undergird our society, government, institutions,
civic organizations, economy and natural resources against
future tyranny, oppression, injustice, devaluation,
exploitation and abuse by those inside or outside of
The Goals of the SMNE:
- To encourage Ethiopians to become a healthier,
more inclusive society where all people are valued
and where the rights of all are respected and advanced.
- To bring about national reconciliation between
previously alienated groups.
- To bring an end to human rights abuses, the imprisonment
of all political prisoners, corruption, cronyism,
injustice, government domination of all sectors of
society, unjustifiable military aggressions against
Ethiopian citizens and neighboring countries, the
territorial disintegration of Ethiopia, the suppression
of the press and media, the suppression of free speech
and other such basic rights.
- To better document human rights crimes perpetrated,
instigated or tolerated by the current government
to different people in different locations within
the country, raising awareness, calling for urgent
action and compiling a legal case showing a pattern
of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and
other human rights violations in violation of international
human rights laws and the Ethiopian Constitution.
- To raise awareness and advocate in the international
community for the respect of human rights, freedom,
justice, free and fair elections and good governance.
- To identify key experts, who might join together
to form think tanks to begin to examine and make plans
to address potentially critical areas of Ethiopian
society—such as security issues, national reconciliation,
ethnic issues, the food crisis, political prisoners,
the economy, corruption and good governance—where
preparedness would prevent violence and chaos and
help ease the transition from an authoritarian society
to one that was free, diverse and open.
- To establish an institution that would continue
to act as a watchdog to guard and advance the principles
set up within the Solidarity Movement for the long-term.
In summary, the SMNE is a movement to teach Ethiopians
to accept, value and respect one another, giving people
their God-given rights so we can live in a healthier
society, also making those running our government
more accountable in becoming a healthy government
of the people.
Right now our survivals as a people and as a country
are in doubt. Meles is using ethnicity or other differences
to destroy, but we must use humanity to unify us and
by doing so, to overpower his destructive influence.
Meles has told us we only have our own group, but we
say all human beings are our group. These are the principles
we are building. To make it practical, it requires reconciliation
through listening to others’ pain, acknowledging
what we have done, forgiving each other and coming together
in new relationship.
What we need is not the solidarity of a political party,
a tribe, a class, a religion or class, but human-to-human
solidarity. Because of this, we in the SMNE are willing
to work with any other group, as long as we have something
in common, like the Ethiopian National Congress. We
have to collaborate on the things we have in common.
For instance, during a disaster, the International Red
Cross works side by side with other organizations who
are all present to help in their different, but complementary
The destination that many of us are wanting is to free
Ethiopia to bring freedom for everyone. All of us may
take different roads or means of transportation to get
there, but never the less, if that is our destination,
we can work together because our destination is the
same. Our job is not to compete with each other, but
to help empower and encourage others to do their best
to accomplish our shared goals.
Division will destroy us. That is why in the SMNE,
reconciliation between Ethiopians is the bedrock of
the foundation for a New Ethiopia. Labeling of people
in categories is only deepening our divisions so much
that we often see each other as an enemy instead of
as part of our family. Everyone knows what I am talking
about. An example is our tendency to not talk to or
socialize with others outside our ethnic groups.
Another example is in the sad truth of how so many
of our people want to break away from Ethiopia because
it has become a country that has no place for them.
We must change all of this by creating an environment
where when we face another Ethiopian, we see their humanity
rather than their tribe.
My statement recently about racism is an example of
how important it is to start sitting down with each
other to talk so that we can bring people together.
When you care enough about someone, you do not ignore
something standing in the way of a stronger friendship,
but instead, you tell them so together, you might solve
We must to try to solve these conflicts by starting
to listen to others rather than avoiding those with
whom we have a problem or with whom we disagree. This
culture, where if you disagree with someone, you cut
them off, shows what a problem we have in resolving
settling our differences with the spirit of honest reconciliation,
with humility, with grace and with civility.
We need to practice the art of apology, as the best
way across the bridge that can link a divided Ethiopia
to a new Ethiopia. In the rebuilding of our country,
feeling healthy shame for our past behavior, combined
with honest repentance, will heal many wounds and help
the memories of past offenses soften enough so we can
forgive each other and move on.
This work of reconciling cannot be done by politicians.
It has to be done by all the people and that is why
we call the solidarity of this movement, the solidarity
of the people. It must start and be carried out at the
grassroots level—people to people, one by one.
For instance, you may know of an Ethiopian who avoids
you. Instead of also avoiding them, approach them with
friendliness and say, “I am from the same country
as you.” Start having a real talk, asking what
we all can do to better our society.
This is the caution: if we do not do this, we will
be judged as people who sat by doing nothing and allowed
hatred to boil up until it exploded into more hate,
violence, destruction or even into ethnic killing. On
the other hand, if we start reaching out, becoming more
inclusive, just and compassionate, we could be known
as a people who have changed the downward direction
of their country and instead brought about renewal.
In conclusion, we have no time to compete, manipulate
others or to waste. The clock is ticking and it is time
for each of us to do our share, reaching out in a genuine
and truthful way, rather than with deception and dishonesty.
We do not need a superficial chameleon unity of saying
we are family when we cannot even talk to each other.
Anything we do to deceive, God knows and our people
cannot afford this. This false unity is the reason that
the whole country is in prison, but even more so, like
my friend Birtukan, and many others, who are being held
under terrible conditions. We, including me, are not
doing enough for her and for others in prison. I am
hoping that we can all do more in the next coming weeks
to make people aware of our prisoners as well as those
in harm’s way—like the Ogadeni.
I would like to end this talk by thanking certain individuals
who have made this event possible and also thanking
the Ethiopian National Congress, for the work they have
been trying to do to bring Ethiopians together. As I
said from the very beginning when I first came to this
struggle, we must work together for the benefit of Ethiopia.
I am not pro-one group, but I am pro-Ethiopian and am
for any group contributing to our struggle for the betterment
of Ethiopia. You can count on me doing my share because
I believe unless all Ethiopians are free, I myself will
not be free. I came to this struggle not for political
reasons, but seeking justice. The justice I have been
seeking has still not been accomplished so I will carry
on and I hope you will too. Let us work together until
justice is served.
To the Ethiopian National Congress and to all the peace
loving people here with us in this room or to those
outside, my call is to remind you that we are all one
people and one family so let us stand together for our
Let us see each ethnic group or any individuals or
groups as one unique part of our larger body—such
as our finger, our arm, our leg or our head—because
if we view them as part of our body, when that part
is inflicted with pain, that pain goes throughout the
entire body and effects all its functioning. Let this
be what we strive for. We must protect this one body
we have from being hurt.
From now on, when you think of different ethnic groups,
think of their beauty. Think of the beautiful songs
of the Amhara, or the dancing of the Gurage, the Oromo
or of others. Think of our reaction to each others’
music that stimulates all of us to move or feel something
emotionally when any of our groups perform.
I leave you with a quote from a human rights lawyer
from Mexico, Digna Ochoa, who challenged others to productively
use their anger about injustice. He said, “Anger
is energy. It is a force. It is injustice that motivates
us to do something—to take risks, knowing that
if we don’t, things will remain the same.”
Dear Ethiopians, that injustice is everywhere. We have
the energy. We have the force. The death of our people,
the depth of their misery and the endless threats to
their life and livelihood, all point to the danger looming
over us. This should motivate us to stand together,
to fight together and to take risks together, knowing
that only then, will we be able to survive as a people,
as a nation and as human kind.
The rich and powerful countries on earth may abandon
Ethiopia and its people but the Almighty God will never
abandon Ethiopia and her precious people.
Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless Ethiopia.
Please do not hesitate to email me
if you have comments to: Obang@solidaritymovement.org
Obang Metho, Executive Member of the Solidarity Movement
for a New Ethiopia
file in Word View
file as PDF