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Ethiopia Has Many Clones of Malcom X But Not of Martin Luther King 

Yonas Biru ( Courtesy of the author /File)

Yonas Biru, PhD 

Some of the comments I got in reaction to my recent articles include the following. One in-boxed  me via Facebook Messenger: “Why are you so vehemently against Pan Africanism and #NoMore?”  Another  texted me “Please stop your attack on #NoMore.” One was a  free-spirited girl/woman:  “Dude, you are too old to understand current events. So, STFU !!!!!”  

Let  me  start  with  a  general  observation.  In  a  world  where  systemic injustice  exists,  radical  movements can contribute a positive role only where a moderate force is in play as a dominant or  moderating  force.  This  was  the  dynamics  that  served  Martin  Luther  King’s  and  Malcolm’s  movements. In the final chapter of Apartheid and since the end of it, Mandela was in the mold of  Dr. King not of Malcolm. He was neither Anti-White nor pro-Black. He was just an equal  rights  champion. 

Let us look at Pan Africanism. Some historians trace the origin of Pan Africanism to 1898. The first  meeting was held in 1900 primarily by African American and Caribbean intellectuals. It was only  after 1919 that the African diaspora started to attend Pan Africanism meetings in Paris, London, and New York. I think it was in the early 1970s that the first Pan Africanism meeting was held in  Africa (Tanzania).  

Pan  Africanism  has  taken  different  forms,  including  the  Harlem  Renaissance  (New  York),  Afrocentrism  (London  and  Paris),  African  Liberation  (Ethiopia  and  Ghana),  Rastafarianism  (Jamaica),  even  Hip  Hop  (US).  Undoubtedly,  Pan  Africanism  has  played  a  positive  role  in  the  liberation of Africa. Outside of the African liberation, it was and continues to be a fringe movement  without discernable positive outcome for continental Africa. 

Why has Pan African movement  failed  to make a dent on African economic development in  the  increasingly globalized and integrated world? There are two key reasons. First, it has increasingly  become a radical African movement. Since 1957, Africans have tried to use Pan Africanism as an  economic solution, if not panacea. It has not worked. And it will not work in the foreseeable future.  There  are  institutional,  legal,  and  physical  (capital  and  infrastructure)  limitations.  Most  importantly, Africa’s growth is intertwined with the global economic order.  

Second, there is nothing wrong if Pan Africanism is used as a regional economic association as a  part off the global economic order. The problem is that it is often peddled as a protest movement.  Nations such as Ethiopia have a lot to gain from leveraging their strategic geopolitical advantage  rather  than  squandering it  by  hawking a  nonsensical anti-neocolonialism and anti-imperialism  movement. 

As I have written before, when we talk about #NoMore we need to separate the intellectual genesis  that  gave  birth  to it  and  the  young  social media  drivers  who  encapsulated it in  an  enchanting  hashtag and propagated it to a global audience. It is an unfortunate marriage between antiquated  intellectuals and modern-day social media connoisseurs. We need a divorce, followed by retiring  the  former  and  equipping  the  latter  with  the  art  and  science  of  diplomacy.  Only  then  can  our 

capable social media connoisseurs put their expertise to use to advance Ethiopia’s geopolitical and  diplomatic interests.  

The problem is that the anti-West voice is what has totally saturated the political bandwidth from  the PM’s office to intellectual discussion forums. Here are some examples. 

Professor Tesfaye Demmellash:“Unique in Africa in its abiding national civilization and its fierce  resistance against European colonial encroachment, modern Ethiopia can become a much more  significant, independent regional power in Africa. The colonial and post-colonial West’s concern  for decades has been to constrain Ethiopian development…” 

Professor Al Mariam: “What is happening in the relationship between Ethiopia and the U.S. is a  ‘clash of civilization. It is a clash between a civilization founded on white European supremacy and  an African civilization deeply rooted in black independency.” The colorful Professor went on  to  add: The US aims  to  “dismantle Ethiopia by orchestrating ethnic and religious warfare, making  Ethiopia  the  Libya/Syria  of  Northeast  Africa”  because  US  leaders  are  “doggedly  committed  to  destroying Ethiopia because [they] want to avenge the humiliating and devastating double loss of  a white army in Africa in recorded history.”  

The same sentiment is echoed by PM Abiy who believes the West is against Ethiopia because  “they are afraid of Ethiopia’s potential.” Why? “In 2050 there will be two superpowers and Ethiopia  will be one of them.”  

In  the  absence  of  a  moderating  and  sane  voice,  Ethiopia’s  public  diplomacy  and  geopolitical  narrative is dominated by such unfounded paranoia. The #NoMore movement was a byproduct of  it. What made the bad situation worse is that our Embassies in Washington and European cities  are voiceless. They have been crowded out by the #NoMore street diplomacy. I do not see anything  Ethiopia has gotten from it in the short term or in the long term.  

The utter nonsense in our public diplomacy and geopolitics is that for two years we condemned  the  west  of  being  the  enemy  of  Ethiopia  driven  by  a  desire  to  stop  Ethiopia  from  becoming  a  “significant, independent regional power in Africa.” As soon as the war ends, we turn to the people  we condemned as our enemies to help us build regions destroyed by the war.  

I never cared for Thomas Sankara, the young officer who took power in Burkina Faso and became  a champion of Pan Africanism in his generation. But I respect him because his first international  affairs decision was to stop accepting international aid, saying: “He who feeds you, controls you.” 

Our people hold a “Down with Imperialism” banner on one hand and a begging pan on the other  to beg money from the very western countries that they see as their existential enemies. As I noted  in my last article, there is something unsavory or even shameful about it. 

Editor’s note : The article was shared first on P2P forum on November 27, 2022


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  1. Hello,

    I am an Ethiopian-American teenager

    While I mostly support PM Abiy. I somewhat oppose #NoMore for the reasons of it being too extreme, too harmful, too ignorant, etc.

    Now those are the some of the same reasons I also oppose BLM although I hate BLM more than NoMore.

    I hate how NoMore made Ethiopia became more alone and the only love Ethiopians get are from Africans who worship us because of past victories against the hated white men.

    We need more MLKs and less Xs

  2. To be honest, the only real good things #NoMore did was it made Ethiopians wake up to the mainstream media and how evil/stupid it can be. Before, they were heavily democrats who would only trust CNN-type news which is similar to other blacks. Now, it seems like people like Obama/Biden are getting the hate they deserve while Americans like Trump is being credited even though it is slightly too late, it is better than never!

    For other conservatives like me it is really good seeing them scorn Biden’s admin and his term!!! Cheers!

    Other than that it has tended to be the Ethiopian BLM.

  3. Also, this is an amazing article that is very informative and truthful, however, you made a typo with the name of Malcolm X. It is spelled like that not Malcom X.

    My twitter is @NameisKaleb

  4. Dr. Yonas (forgive I called you Minas the other day) you championed me again!
    What a wonderful observation! And your love for your country is adorable!
    All Africans got together couldn’t build AU Headquarter while they robe their own countries/continent and hide it in a country they insult. Every African country boasts of its mineral resources (gold, diamond, cobalt, uranium, coal, name it we have it all) but failed to build one AU structure and had to fail into the hands of Chinese spies who wired up the build.

    Most Ethiopian politicians, those who insult America, took advantage of the same than the poor who struggle for daily lives and somehow wait for heavenly manna of the USAID.

    Most (if not all) those who call for “No More” actually live in the USA. . . prove me wrong Abyi’s children are Americans!

    Yonas, we need more of you!


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