In addition, we also want to recognize the sacrifices of all the political prisoners, including those who worked under the Dergue, who have been in jail for almost twenty years.
We also think of others, all over the country who are imprisoned for their dissent and courage or for politically contrived reasons like Bashir Mahktal, an Ogadeni, whose picture on a poster that read, “Free Makhtal,” was held up by those from different ethnic groups. This is the kind of Ethiopia we want where every Ethiopian should fight for the rights of all Ethiopians regardless of any distinctions!
The impact of the March for Freedom will be measured by what happens next. The event gave Ethiopians a vehicle to advance a new campaign to influence US and other donor country foreign policies towards Ethiopia. Connections made prior to the march, in raising awareness of this event, can now be pursued and multiplied. A larger network of committed Ethiopians, joining under common goals, has emerged and is strengthening. Through the media - Paltalk coverage, televised coverage throughout Ethiopia through the VOA and radio coverage through German radio to Ethiopia, has enabled the impact of the march and its message to reach far more people than otherwise possible.
Now, we hope that many struggling Ethiopians in the country will be encouraged and that many outside of the country will become re-charged to step up their efforts in solidarity with others. We also hope that many new Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians will become engaged. We thank those involved in the media for such a significant contribution to making the voice of Ethiopians heard and hope that such an effort continues and expands.
Now, we want to capitalize on this momentum by reaching out to decision makers. In the US, it is a critical time as the new Obama administration is in the process of forming its foreign policy direction with Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa and Africa as a whole. It is imperative that the African Affairs Bureau at the US State Department critically rethinks its policies in the Horn of Africa that have failed to produce; instead, contributing to the disintegration of Ethiopia and to the increased oppression in the Horn of Africa. This new administration cannot continue with status quo policies without dire consequences of worsening the prospects for stability. Past policies that ignored the human rights abuses, the increasing ethnic tensions and the lack of democratic space that is crushing the development of legitimate alternatives to this regime, must be quickly addressed and remedied. This is a high risk situation. At the very least, donor countries would be wise to support the emergence of an Ethiopian-driven crisis intervention plan, in the event that the situation exploded or in the event that this regime unexpectedly toppled.
Fortunately, isolated, competing or alienated groups are beginning to see a more shared vision for the future that would benefit all rather than one group which in the past was a winner “take all” “Meles-style-approach” that would simply recycle the whole problem all over again. A Pakistani cab driver here in Washington DC basically told us that what people get comes out of who they are; in other words, if the people continue to hold hatred, greed and self-interest in their hearts and minds, they will advance only those with the same qualities and then those leaders who come to power will carry out actions and policies in line with that thinking. In other words, the people get the leader they deserve.
What kind of leaders will Ethiopians choose? The divisions among Ethiopians have sabotaged the development of a viable alternative to the current regime, creating an obstacle equal to the non-existent democratic space in Ethiopia. The Obama administration may be reluctant to press a fragile Ethiopian government with the withdrawal of support—which will surely cause their collapse—if they believe there is no viable alternative within Ethiopia that would be compatible with US interests in the region and could actually cause greater disaster to the people of Ethiopia. They may prefer the current dictatorship over a failed or hostile state.
Therefore, Ethiopians must assume personal responsibility in bringing about a viable alternative, made more possible through reconciliation. A formal national reconciliation effort is critical, but must be preceded with interpersonal grassroots reconciliation in one’s own sphere of influence. This can be done by every person. Take responsibility yourself. If you hear someone lumping all Tigrayans, Oromos, Amharas, Ogadeni or people from any other groups into one box, do not remain silent. With civility, grace and conviction, confront what is being said. Do not condone it. This is the task of all of us. As we become a people of moral convictions who accept and care about the humanity of others, we may “get the leader we deserve,” leaders who also have moral convictions and who accept and care about the humanity of others! Would that not be the beginning of a better Ethiopia? Let it begin with you!
May God empower Ethiopians to become ambassadors of reconciliation who, one-by-one, will bring healing and support leaders who will uphold truth, justice, the rule of law, equality and the respect of human and civil rights.
May God cause the decision-makers among donor countries to listen to the voices of those suffering in Ethiopia and remove obstacles to our freedom! However, even if they do not, may God help Ethiopians create the huge movement of the people and by the people and for the people needed to free Ethiopia!
May God cause Ethiopia to become like the Abbay River that finds its way around obstacles, even mountains, giving life to all the millions of people and living things that depend on it for survival. The Almighty God created this river to nurture life in Ethiopia and beyond where we can never imagine. In the same way, let God help heal the Ethiopian heart and make us a river that nurtures and blesses as it flows from its origin in Ethiopia to places beyond!
For more information, visit March 4 Freedom website: http://www.march4freedom.org. You can also contact Mr. Obang Metho by e-mail:Obang@solidaritymovement.org