To the Ethiopian Diaspora: It Is Time To Speak Out

By the Strathink Editorial Team

 In 2013, the Ethiopian government adopted a Diaspora Policy to engage Ethiopians worldwide into the process of nation building. Recognizing the enormous potential of its hyphenated citizens around the world, the government enacted measures to encourage participation—whether investing financial or technical resources—into the country’s development. Earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) went so far as to establish a Diaspora Engagement Affairs Directorate-General with a mandate to organize the engagement of the diaspora.

Maybe these resources should be used elsewhere.

It is certainly the case that a sizable number of Ethiopians living abroad invest money in their home country, engage in philanthropy, and contribute the skills and knowledge they have acquired abroad to their country of birth. These individuals live quietly among us—assimilating to the daily life and rhythms of their adopted country while making yearly pilgrimages to their home in Ethiopia.

Also living among us is that part of the diaspora who can’t seem to let go of the past—whether life under the emperor or Mengistu—where dreams of lost glory never die. These aged warriors, such as Neamin Zeleke, are neither here nor there, taking advantage of the peace and stability of living in a western country while promoting a terrorist agenda against the Ethiopian people.

In his latest article, “The Myth of a Stable and Reliable Partner Under the Minority TPLF Regime,” Neamin provides a rambling discourse on the recent tensions in Oromia and the Amhara regions, which, according to Neamin, signal the collapse of the current government. Neamin warns Ethiopia’s western allies of the imminent disaster waiting to unfold and calls for them to “support the establishment of an inclusive transitional Ethiopian government…” Why does Neamin want the international community to support, in his words, “an inclusive transitional government?” He writes, “This is the only realistic way to reverse the downward trajectory of chaos, civil war, even worse nightmarish (sic.) scenarios that may engulf Ethiopia before it becomes ‘too little, too late” to prevent.”

This statement is frightening.

Let’s step back and provide some context. Neamin Zeleke, an Eritrean by birth, once headed Ginbot 7’s Ethiopian Satellite Television and radio (ESAT). It was reported that he was sacked, however, by none other than Ginbot 7’s patron, Eritrean dictator Isayas Afewerki. According to the news report, Isayas was offended by something Neamin said to him and Neamin scrambled out of Asmara, fearing for his life. He left behind his partner, Ginbot 7 leader Berhanu Nega and his 200-man army. Ginbot 7 has vowed to overthrow the Ethiopian government “by any means necessary.”

Although reckless, Neamin’s statements about the current state of ethnic conflict, given context, are not alarming. In a country with over one hundred ethnic groups living together within an ethnic federalist arrangement, tensions at times can be expected. This is not to understate the seriousness of these tensions but to emphasize that there are mechanisms in place for peaceful resolutions of problems.

What is disturbing about Neamin’s writing is his demonization and scapegoating of the Tigrean ethnic group. Does the opposition living in the diaspora, with all of the opportunities offered to them following their emigration, not understand the danger of such kind of arguments? How can the Ethiopian diaspora, living in their adopted countries not question the seriousness of this kind specious argument?

Neamin wastes no time in demonizing Tigreans. He paints of bleak picture of a minority population controlling Ethiopia’s resources, abusing the Ethiopian people, and stealing from government coffers. His vitriol against Tigreans is startling. He accuses them of “committing a range of crimes against the Ethiopian people,” “perpetuat[ing] its neo-totalitarian minority domination,” “engag[ing] in war crimes and crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleaning,” throwing people into “concentration camps,” “torture,” “execution,” “destabilizing” the region, “misrule,” “poor governance,” rampant abuse of power,” and “unbridled private appropriation of public state resources.”

He characterizes Tigreans as “extremely greedy and short-sighted…engaged in massive plunder deception, corruption and perpetual and obdurate machinations to dominate everyone and everything in Ethiopia as if there is no tomorrow.”

Hasn’t the world heard this kind of hate speech before?

Didn’t Adolph Hitler demonize and scapegoat the Jewish people, leading to the murder of over 6 million Jews in a Holocaust, using precisely this kind of speech?

Didn’t the Hutu-led government use precisely this kind of speech to kill almost a million Tutsis in a matter of six weeks beginning in April 1994?

This is exactly the language used by President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government in the year preceding the massacre of almost a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Radio Mille Collines’ daily broadcasts to the Rwandan people told people that the minority Tutsis were coming to Hutu homes to take their land, their wealth and slaughter to them in their beds. These Hutu extremists claimed that Tutsis were trying to cleanse Rwanda of the Hutu in a genocide.,

Neamin Zeleke, along with other opposition members, are writing articles posted on various websites, such as ethiomedia, claiming that the TPLF is committing genocide against the Amhara, against the Oromo, against the Anuak and so on. These are very serious accusations that are thrown around to incite peoples’ passions. It is an insult to the six million Jews, one million Tutsis, and more than a million and a half Armenians who were the victims of genocide to use that word to advance a narrow, self-serving political agenda.

It is unfortunate that the so-called elites living in the diaspora have fallen so low as to incite people to violence using the same language used by Adolph Hitler and Juvenal Habyimana.

Ethiopians living in the diaspora have a responsibility to the people of Ethiopia to speak out against such hate speech. Given the danger it poses to the peace and security of, most certainly, Tigreans and, certainly, all Ethiopians, it is not hyperbole when comparing Ethiopia’s hate speech to Radio Mille Collines. When you read these words written by Neamin Zeleke and others, the meaning is clear—tragically clear.

Ethiopians living in the diaspora have a responsibility to call out these elites who are writing articles filled with the same hate speech that resulted in millions of deaths. Website editors should establish policies that prohibit hate speech on their sites through an editorial board that balances the principle of of free speech from hate speech. Readers can boycott websites that condone such free speech or can use the “comment” platform to protest hate speech.

The diaspora needs to speak with one voice that supports the right to oppose the current government but condones the use of hate speech.

Neamin Zeleke, and others like him, have shown that they are willing to do anything and sacrifice anyone in their naked grab for power. After all, Neamin played a leading role in Ginbot 7, an organization that has admitted to training and equipping Ethiopians to set bombs in areas such as shopping centers, churches and mosques. Ethiopians in the diaspora need to publicly reject the leadership of these so-called elites and find others means of opposing the government that doesn’t use tactics targeting the Ethiopian people–people these hate -filled elites seem to find dispensable in calculating the outcome.

It is time to speak out now before it is too late. These leaders care nothing about the people they claim to serve. Neamin Zeleke and others like him are disgraceful and should be shown the door. Ethiopians who oppose the government deserve better leaders than those men who would sell their souls–and the souls of all Ethiopians–to take power.

Strathink reminds Ethiopians everywhere of the famous quote by Martin Niemöller a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler. Niemoller was in a German concentration camp the last seven years of Nazi rule.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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