On Monday, September 19, 2016, thousands of Ethiopians held a Historic Peaceful Marched Protest in Washington DC. The Peaceful March Protest started from the U.S. Department of State to the US Capitol and gathered in front of the US Capitol building to bring attention to the ongoing killing of peaceful protestors, in the Oromia, the Amhara regions and other human rights crimes being perpetrated against the people of Ethiopia throughout the country by the repressive authoritarian of the TPLF/EPRDF.
Millions Ethiopians are worries that the situation could easily explode, pushing Ethiopia over the edge to become another failed state in the Horn of Africa. Actions or inaction taken in the next days, weeks and months may determine which direction it will go. Countries like Libya, Syria, Yemen and now South Sudan provide disturbing images of the kind of disintegration we seek to avoid in Ethiopia. Most would agree that the costs to the people and resources of a country are much less or even avoidable the earlier one intervenes. It is too late to change the course of destructive events in these other countries, but it may not be too late to do so in Ethiopia.
The peaceful march in Washington DC was a success and we believe it will lead to many new opportunities. One of these will be the possibility of working together in collaboration to map out a strategic plan for a democratic Ethiopia where there is justice, political freedom, freedom, good governance, peace, Rule of law and prosperity of all.
It was a historic peaceful march in that so many different Ethiopian groups, who have never come together before, were present. The crowd reflected the enthusiasm of this milestone as they came together not only from one group or one ethnicity, but as a mix of many, all with the same goal of bringing about an inclusive civil society in Ethiopia where justice, individual rights, the rule of law and opportunity would be based on being a citizen of Ethiopia rather than on tribalism, cronyism or elitism.
Many comments were made that this unity will re-ignite energy into the movement of the people. Some new faces have emerged on the scene who say that if nothing is done, violence could erupt in Ethiopia and they want to help prevent it. They do not want to sit by while their country disintegrates. Some of these are emerging from the diverse religious community—both Christian and Muslim who believe they have a role to play to save the country.
The commitment to this new paradigm of putting “humanity before ethnicity” and that “no one will be free until all are free” was clearly demonstrated in the efforts of some Ethiopians who traveled from 23 different cities in the US or Canada and from nine different countries, all of whom joined with others from the region.
We really appreciated that kind of support that reaches beyond one’s own group or one’s own approach to a shared vision for Ethiopia because the ethnic apartheid regime of the TPLF/EPRDF is killing all of us; not distinguishing between ethnicities, region, religion, gender, political differences.
The impact of the historic peaceful march for unity, justice, freedom, peace, and democracy will be measured by what happens next. The march 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 peaceful 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 Ethiopian Satellite Television and Radio (ESAT), 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. It is imperative that the African Affairs Bureau at the US State Department critically rethinks its policies in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa that have failed to produce; instead, contributing to the disintegration of Ethiopia and to the increased oppression in Ethiopia. The Obama administration should not continue with status quo policies without dire consequences of worsening the prospects for stability.
The past policies of George W. Bush and Obama administration 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 the ethnic apartheid regime of the TPLF/EPRDF, 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 the TPLF/EPRDF regime unexpectedly toppled.
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 regime in Ethiopia 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 between the people. A formal national reconciliation effort is critical, but must be preceded with interpersonal grassroots reconciliation in one’s own sphere of influence. Take responsibility yourself.
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 Nile or 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!
A passionate champion of Ethiopian unity, Obang Metho is Executive Director of Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is also on Facebook and Twitter.