We Ethiopians are in trouble on so many fronts. We have reached a “tipping point” where the signs pointing to the likelihood of our country imploding into ethnic violence and instability are already in front of us. When can be done to stop this? I can no longer be silent.
Over the last four years, there have been so many violent ethnic and religious-based killings of innocent people in this country that there are too many to count. In only the last few days, we have reportedly lost thirty-six more members of our Ethiopian family in senseless killings in Shashemene at the hands of Oromia regional government led special forces who shot and killed them and critically wounded many others.
What did they do? They were protesting the illegal takeover of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), by unauthorized parties within it; as well as protesting the regional and federal government’s support of this takeover, in violation of the independence of the church. Those murdered and wounded were in the church compound when the killing occurred. These deaths and injuries should not have happened.
First of all, I would like to give my condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones. My heart breaks for them as they grieve these wrongful deaths. I am also praying for the recovery of those who have been wounded. May God help them. I am so concerned about all of this and call on the people to pray for God’s help in ending the shedding of the innocent blood of our own people in our land.
This has been going on too long. Look at the loss of nearly a million lives from the civil war in the North, approximately 500,000 to 600,000 thousand of these lives were of our brothers and sisters in the Tigray Region, along with others in the rest of the country. Ethnic and religious based targeting against fellow citizens has taken hundreds of thousands of lives. Widespread destruction of hospitals, schools and other infrastructure, may have reached several billion dollars, especially in the Amhara and Afar regions. Millions have been displaced. Economic hardship is worsened because of these factors, devastating the lives of the average Ethiopian. Now, the division in the church has been needlessly ignited beyond its doors.
I stand with the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Church against the interference of the government, like I stood for the Muslims when many were arrested due to resistance to the TPLF/EPRDF’s efforts to choose their leaders about 8 years ago. Some religious leaders were imprisoned.
The core of the reason for speaking out for others started from our work with the Anuak twenty years ago following the massacre of hundreds ethnic Anuak groups in the Gambella Region. It was then I realized that no one, like the Anuak people, would be free until all were free. I still believe this. I stood up for them and others as well and I cannot abandon this principle that I believe is God-given.
Since then, I have been speaking on behalf of all Ethiopians, both individuals, groups or ethnic groups in their times of trouble, either in Ethiopia or in a foreign land. Many of these were suffering due to being harmed, killed, marginalized or targeted for various reasons. Even the first speech I gave in March 2006 before the the US Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, I said I could not pick and choose who was my fellow Ethiopian and who was not, because our land had tied us all together. We had no choice of who gave birth to us, of our ethnicity or where we were born. Our Creator has given each of us human life and freedom of choice.
We can choose things that help us or harm us. Toxic ethnicity is not the way, but if we or others continue to choose it, we will bear responsibility before the law andGod for bringing harm to self and others. Instead, we should put humanity before ethnicity or any other differences.
I have said many more things during these last years. It has not been an easy road. Sometimes it can even have a toll on you, like it has had on me. One example is witnessing the war, with its massive destruction and the huge loss of lives, after warning the people that we should look for another solution before fighting and killing each other. Another example is calling on Ethiopians to embrace critically important, God-given principles; yet, being ignored, despite the warning that it will lead us to places such as we are in now. However, as long as we are blinded by tribalism, nepotism, ambition, greed, hatred, division, deception, lies, fake patriotism, fake Ethiopianness, and above all, an ethnocentric worldview that sets us up against each other, we will self-destruct and it will be our fault and the fault of our fellow citizens.
In response, I decided to take a break from social media and others. Now I can no longer be silent when we still have a way to avoid the worst from happening. We owe a debt to those who have already sacrificed their lives so we can have a country. We also have an obligation to pay it forward to the future generations that they can have a better Ethiopia, not a beggar Ethiopia. It is that hope for a better and more harmonious Ethiopia than we have now with our current toxic ethnic-based culture, polluted by institutionalized tribalism and ethnic-federalism which motivates me to not give up on our country. This is what has brought me out of silence; however, it is not only my job, but it is also the responsibility of all of us to create a livable country for all our people.
What can we learn by these difficult years that we have gone through that can help us recover from our past so to build a better future for all? I am extremely concerned. The wrong things have pushed us to the edge, like greed, selfishness, injustice, corruption, exclusion, hatred, deceit, robbery, slander and immorality. Instead, are we willing to listen to God and our hearts in a way that will lead us to transformation like embracing truth, love, freedom, justice, morality, equality, integrity and accountability for the benefit of all, including our neighbors, near and far?
These principles are the only way to end the cycle of “our turn to lead, eat and oppress others,” which is unsustainable, thereby followed by “our turn to be oppressed,” as is seen over and over again. Unfortunately, it is usually the poorest and most vulnerable who have the least gain during the best times and who are the primary victims of the worst of these cycles. Instead, let us strive for our turn to flourish together in harmony, peace, justice and true prosperity.” Let us protect our fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters by creating a better system that embraces the humanity of all in a more sustainable way.
We can do better in all of these areas, but will we? I am disappointed in what we have needlessly gone through, but I have still not lost hope because God can help us through at such a time as this. Let us join together in solidarity and pray! May God protect us and save us from our mutual destruction. Long live Ethiopia!
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org