24 November 2020

The Maikadra massacre - One of the darkest days in Ethiopia



9th November 2020 was one of the darkest days in the history of Ethiopia. A day when TPLF forces killed hundreds of Ethiopians, who are mostly of Amhara and Wolkait origin, according to eyewitness that gave testimony to Amnesty International and now to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

November 9 brought to light how cruel and merciless TPLF forces are. The cruelty of TPLF is not new for Ethiopians as it has been inflicting atrocities on Ethiopians across the country for over 40 years.  But to go that low even at its eleventh hour shows TPLF is never ready to repent and that it will do everything possible to keep creating havoc in the country. Even though TPLF is at its demise and almost ready for burial, it may continue inflicting pain.

According to the preliminary findings of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, ‘On November 9, 2020, the day of the attack, from around 11:00 AM onwards, the town police started checking identity cards to differentiate people of non-Tigray origin from the rest and raided all the houses/huts, stretching from the neighbourhood known as “Genb Sefer” up to the area called Wolkait Bole (Kebele 1 Ketena 1) which is largely resided by ethnic Amharas. They detained up to 60 people they profiled as Amhara and Wolkait and who were said to use Sudanese SIM cards on their mobile phones and destroyed said SIM cards. Ethiopian SIM cards had already stopped working by then and the motive for confiscating and destroying the Sudanese SIM cards was to prevent any communications or call for help during the attack, according to testimony of the people in the area. Women and children of Tigrayan ethnic origin were made to leave the town a few hours ahead of the attack. On the same day (November 9th , 2020), around 3:00 P.M., the local police, militia and the informal Tigray youth group called “Samri” returned to “Genb Sefer” where the majority of people of Amhara ethnic origin live and began the attack against civilians. According to eyewitnesses and families of victims who spoke with EHRC, the first act committed by the perpetrators was to execute an ethnic Amhara former soldier called Abiy Tsegaye in front of his family and outside his house and set the house on fire. Afterwards, they threw his body into the fire. Residents said Abiy Tsegaye was a former soldier and militia member who had declined a request to re-join the militia as tensions began to rise. They surmise that this might be why he was targeted. The victim’s wife and eyewitnesses have given a detailed account of how the group of perpetrators forced Abiy Tsegaye out of his house and had him shot in front of his family by a local militia and former colleague called Shambel Kahsay, before throwing his body into the raging fire that engulfed their house. The EHRC team also visited said house, still smouldering, and the area around it, still heavy with burned body smoke.’

Full report of The Human Right Commission below 

9 November 2020

Yohannes Abraham – Ethiopian American leading the day-to-day operations of Joe Biden’s transition team

 

As Joe Biden is on course to take oath of the US presidency, his transition team has been preparing so as to ensure continuity of government as soon as the president takes power in January 2021. The team will have a series of preparations to have as Joe Biden will take over amid the coronavirus pandemic, the economic challenges and other extremely important stuff that need attention.

One of Joe Biden’s transition team members is Yohannes Abraham, who is leading the day-to-day operation of the transition team and who also served in Barack Obama’s White House for 8 years.

Abraham is one of the Obama lifers who were totally committed to getting things done during the tenure of the former president. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Valerie Jarrett, one of the most senior advisors of president Obama said, “Abraham was illustrative of many of the early staff, passionate, hard-working, without ego or agenda, determined to help recapture the true honour of public service.”

Abraham’s bond with Obama continued when the president left White House as Abraham served as Senior Advisor at the Obama Foundation, helping to set up the foundation and subsequently as the interim Chief Operating Officer of the foundation. The Ethiopian American who spent 8 years in White House West Wing has a very important role to play as he leads the daily operation of Biden’s transition team.

Abraham a son of Ethiopian immigrants, who was born and raised in Springfield, Virginia is a graduate of Yale College and has been the Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

As Joe Biden said in his victory speech, “America is a country of possibilities”. All that matters is the strive for success and the readiness to go extra miles. Abraham has all it takes.

Ethiopia will be proud of Abraham’s success. It’s more than important to have such an influential White House staffer linked to Ethiopia, the cradle of mankind which is on course to finalising its most important project – The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the building of which was threatened by the outgoing president. The future is promising.

24 October 2020

GERD is Ethiopia’s and Africa’s - NOT Trump’s - stay away Mr. President

The Trump administration has been meddling in the internal affairs of many countries for a while, but it has now gone beyond the red line by inciting violence on a sovereign country - Ethiopia.

When the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam negotiation was about to take place in the US, there was hope that Trump’s administration would remain neutral and help only as a convenor of the meetings. That didn’t last long as the administration went from being a convenor to negotiator, deal broker and finally decision maker. All the Trump administration cared was about its own interests and the dignity of the president. For Trump and his administration nobody else matters. For the president, it is all about him. 

The futile attempt by the Trump administration to subdue Ethiopia so that it signed a deal that only favoured Egypt was not successful thanks to the many wise Ethiopians who have been working on the issue for years. Great that Ethiopia rejected a deal that was never a fair deal. Of course, that would have irritated the president and his administration and hence we saw a number of statements by the Trump administration in the run up to the scheduled July dam filling. Whether the Trump administration liked it or not, the job had been done and continues to be done.

On the day Trump was boasting about being a peace maker and deal broker, following the Sudan- Israel normalisation process, he made a gross mistake and made utterly disgraceful comment suggesting that ‘Egypt could blow Ethiopia’s dam’. The president is egocentric and desperate for attention. In so doing, he doesn’t care what his actions and rhetoric could bring on others.

His reckless and totally irresponsible comment about Ethiopia and its flagship project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, is unacceptable and extremely dangerous.  In his infamous comment whilst speaking to the leaders of Sudan and Israel, the president brought unrelated item for conversation. He said, “Ethiopia broke the deal which they should not have done. That was a big mistake and we've stopped payment to them.  … They will never see that money unless they adhere to the agreement. They built the dam which stops water from flowing into the Nile and you can't blame Egypt for being a little bit upset. Right? … I had a deal done and then they broke the deal, and they can't do that. They can't do that. So the deal was done and it's a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way and they'll end up blowing up the dam and I said it, they say it loud and clear, they blow up that dam.” and he then asked the Prime Minister of Sudan to talk to Ethiopia and said the following about Egypt, “I'm telling Egypt the same thing. By the way they could have stopped it. They should have stopped it long before it was started. I said how do you let it get built and then you say they have a dam?”

 

The president might bow down to pressure from the historical enemies of Ethiopia, but should not expect Ethiopia to bow down. The president may not know that Ethiopia is a sovereign country with proud history. Someone tell this president that Ethiopia was never colonised and that it defeated all the aggressors that tried their chances. Someone give lecture to this president about the Adwa victory and all the previous and subsequent victories over aggressors. Yes, someone advise this president to study history and mind his own business. Ethiopia is not and will not be a remotely controlled country. Ethiopia has a right for a fair use of its waters. The Nile is more than enough for all the countries that contribute to it, not only Egypt. It is more than time for equitable share of the Nile and that is what Ethiopia has been asking and working on.  The American president should stop interfering in a matter where he is not invited. Leave the issue to the African Union and the African leaders. No ifs, not buts.  Stay away from our dam. 

Whatever the Trump administration does to distract the work of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, it will not be successful. Ethiopians will deliver GERD and come out victorious. Trump should know that GERD is a unifier, and any threat or financial sanctions will not deter Ethiopians from their determination to see GERD finalised.

 


31 August 2020

Churchill Fellowship – an investment of a lifetime – glad I did it

About 6 years ago, I was keen to have a purposeful travel, study, have some good time, come back, reflect, and use my learning to better myself and my contribution to society. Although I was keen to do all these, I didn’t know how.  I also didn’t have enough resources. As I did some research online, I came across the Churchill Fellowship, the criteria of which I fully met. Hence, I decided to try it. I thought it was better to try and fail than to regret of not having done it. I hence put in my first application in 2014 which was not successful. Although I didn’t make it the first time around, I didn’t lose hope. I used it as an opportunity to learn. I thus decided to wait for some time and try again after organising myself and my application better than the first time around.

In May 2017, I was in the USA doing a short course on leadership in a program entitled the ‘Global Change Agents’ at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University when I received an email from Neil Jameson CBE, the then Executive Director of Citizens UK, encouraging staff members to apply for the fellowship. Neil knows better than most of us about the fellowship as he himself was a fellow in 1977 which helped him to travel to the USA, meet veteran Community Organisers, reflect on Community Organising in the USA and consequently sow the seeds for Community Organising in the UK where he established Citizens UK in 1989. That email from Neil ignited fire in my belly. It encouraged me to rethink and try Churchill Fellowship again. I flagged the email and waited for some time. This time around, I was more purposeful, focused and knew where to concentrate on and why. Luckily, I even know good colleagues who had succeeded with their fellowship, who all advised me to give it a try. I knew what I was going to do if I succeeded. By the time I was about to put in my application,  I was highly involved in Refugees Welcome movement in the United Kingdom and my fellowship was how I could strengthen my understanding of the sector. I organised my application better than the first time around and submitted it in good time

After I had submitted my application, I kept doing some research on what to do, who to meet and when to travel hoping that I would succeed this time around. It was a good dream to dream; hope to hope and aspirations to aspire. Asking myself what if I was awarded? What could I do? Yes, it all paid off. When I got that email from Winston Churchill Memorial Trust notifying me that I was successful, I had the most emotional moment. Cries with emotions. Smiles in the streets. Yes I did it. Although I was preparing myself for the good news, it was still unbelievable. I had in the past been awarded fellowships, but the emotional feeling this time was different. I had, however, to wait for some time to make the news public as per the conditions attached. As a social media enthusiast and keen to share these sort of news to friends and allies, the wait until the embargo was lifted was challenging, but something all fellows had to deal with.

My Churchill Fellowship took me to Canada to study about its decades long Refugee Sponsorship program.  As my fellowship was more focused and around my job responsibilities and interests, the contribution of the fellowship was enormous. The fellowship equipped me with what I needed to know about the Refugee Sponsorship scheme. To see why Canada’s refugee sponsorship program is successful and what we could bring over to the UK and see how we could use the learning to better our Community Sponsorship program. I am now at stage where I can use my Churchill Fellowship learning and my lived experiences to contribute in the Refugee Welcome movement. I was once an asylum seeker, a detainee and had gone through many challenges in my journeys to sanctuary, but the learning in these journeys were instrumental. Hope and perseverance have taken me so far.  I am now director of UK Welcomes Refugees, which is all about Building Community Sponsorship of Refugees Together with others. Lots of credit to my Churchill Fellowship. Glad I did it. It was indeed a blessing.

Please find my Churchill Fellowship report, HERE

11 August 2020

It is compassion and safe routes that is needed more

As our TV screens, newspapers and social media outlets bring more and more atrocious news about the worsening refugee crisis, there is a natural call for us to do the decent thing whilst we are still able to do so. All we need is compassion and safe routes, not dehumanising of fellow humans. After all these people are the most vulnerable in our collective human family and deserve our love, empathy, and care as they have already been through lots of hardships.

The desperation of people on the move and their travels through extremely risky situations is a stark reminder that people will take any risk to go out of the situation they are in unless we have safe and legal routes to help them. One of my Syrian friends often says, “You won’t leave home unless home has the mouth of a shark.” If anybody thinks all those taking risks to cross the English channel in dinghies and other smaller boats should have a second thought, what should that be? Die falling into the mouths of sharks or run away to go into the unknown over the known danger? It is very natural to run for safety. Because hope is what almost everybody has. Hoping for better days and life despite all the challenges and sufferings of the day.

I have read and heard many good initiatives and ideas on what could and should be done to address the crisis. The need for being proactive and collaborative. The need for addressing our collective human responsibilities and moral obligations in the sense of urgency and with more plans in the long run.  I have also read and heard many disheartening stuffs in the past few days. As disheartening as the words are, I am not going to repeat them because I don’t believe they represent the country I know is the United Kingdom. Let us not forget that there are many great people in this country who are doing everything possible to support fellow asylum seekers and migrants. People always on the right side of history. I am a living testament and I wholeheartedly believe the good outweighs. I feel blessed to have had the support of many wonderful people in my life.

I grew up listening to the BBC; watching premier league; supporting England in world cup competitions because of the influence of the premier league on me; reading the best of Shakespeare; learning about one of the most civilised democracies and human rights records. Hence coming and seeking asylum in this country was natural for me when I needed protection and had to flee. People have reasons why they take all those perilous journeys. Let us listen to them as well. Let us give chance to fellow humans to rebuild their lives and unpack their potentials. It may take time, but we will be rewarded with all our good investment.

There is also some fact to know about our immigration system because some people think the immigration system to be the softest ever, which is not my experience as many fellow asylum seekers and refugees will testify similarly. There are lots of ups and downs going through the immigration system. It is not all a 4*/5* hotel life as mentioned by some. I have seen the good and the bad of our immigration system.

It is time to rethink. To revisit our system. To check as to when all the safe and legal routes would be open. How we can widen the welcome and meet the expectation and respect Britain has globally. To also make sure people seeking protection are given the protection they deserve. To make sure those stuck in the system are properly dealt with. Yes, calling for more compassion and positive actions. Finding ways to bring wider civil society, businesses, and others on board so that we all contribute to the Refugees Welcome work through schemes like Community Sponsorship of Refugees. It takes us all to change the course. And the time is now.


The Maikadra massacre - One of the darkest days in Ethiopia

9 th November 2020 was one of the darkest days in the history of Ethiopia. A day when TPLF forces killed hundreds of Ethiopians, who are mo...