A Special Tribute to Victims of a Terrorist Attack in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 23, 2018 and Amhara Region on June 22, 2019
Today, high level iconic leaders of Amhara kilil (region) were shot by their own brothers (colleagues). Some were killed and others wounded. The man who was coordinating the (military) operation against the coup plotters, our beloved and most respected armed forces chief of staff Seare Mekonen was killed by the hired hitmen of the coup plotters. We have put the situation in Amhara kilil under complete control. It was a coup attempt that did not even last an hour. It was a complete failure. We are pursuing those who managed to escape arrest… P.M. Abiy Ahmed, televised statement, June 22, 2019.
Let us separate private individuals from ethnic groups. Let’s separate the thorns from the rose flowers. Because of one crooked tree, we must not destroy the whole forest…
We will always remember today’s martyrdom as the price we paid for Ethiopian love, Ethiopian peace, Ethiopian unity and Ethiopian reconciliation. We earned this very day with great sacrifice.
It is a day we got by losing so many of our people. It is a day we have learned once again what we got through sacrifice and a day we did not expect to get without sacrifice. Regardless, what I want to announce to my Ethiopian brothers and sisters is that love conquers all.
Forgiveness conquers all. To kill is to be defeated. To kill is to bear shame.
For anyone to work and thwart and destroy the joy of a country is a sign of smallness. But we Ethiopians are not small. We are a great people.
At the scene of the terrorist attack in Mesqel Square, Addis Ababa on 6/23/18
As I remembered the terrorist victims of June 23, 2018, another terrorist attack took place on June 22, 2019.
I had prepared this tribute for release on June 23, 2019 when I heard news of an attempted coup in the Amhara region of Ethiopia and the assassination of Chief of General Staff Saere Mekonen on June 22, 2019.
I was deeply saddened by the news.
Is it déjà vu?
Someone trying to take power by the barrel of the gun, again? Almost exactly a year to the day?
This was intended to be my memorial tribute to those who died and were wounded on June 23, 2018 in a terrorist attack at Mesqel Square, Addis Ababa.
Today, it is also my memorial tribute to those who died on June 22, 2019.
I honor the service and sacrifices of Amhara region president H.E. Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen, armed forces Chief of Staff General Saere Mekonnen (no relation), Maj. General Gezai Abera (ret.), Ato Ezez Wassie, Amhara regional government advisor and others who were wounded in the abortive coup. My deepest condolences to their families.
I remember June 23, 2018 just like June 22, 2019.
I was in Washington, D.C. at the Architect Hotel. A CNN reporter popped on the TV screening. “Breaking news. An explosion at a rally in Addis Ababa… 156 people injured, one fatality.”
I can say I was present at Mesqel Square on June 23, 2018. I cannot say I was completely surprised by the terrorist attack.
Still, I was angry as were millions of others who wanted to act out their outrage.
Those who planned, financed and coordinated the terrorist attack on June 23, 2018 did not aim to kill one individual. They wanted to kill a whole nation in a civil war.
Those who planned, financed and coordinated the terrorist attack on June 23, 2018 intended to abort the birth of a new and free Ethiopia. They wanted to forever seal Ethiopia in the womb of ethnic apartheid.
But on June 23, 2018, ethnic apartheid died miserably and was buried deep in the trash heap of history. But the Forces of Darkness wanted to go out with a bang at the funeral of ethnic apartheid.
Nearly 160 innocent people became victims of the terror of the Forces of Darkness.
All Ethiopians owe a heavy debt of gratitude to these martyrs of freedom who died or were injured on June 23, 2018 at Mesqel Square.
They are the unknown and unsung heroes who deserve our eternal respect and appreciation.
I salute them all for their heroic sacrifices.
On that day, they were the thin red line between civil peace and civil war.
If things had gone the other way that day, I shudder to think how many hundreds of of thousands of innocent people would have died in mindless acts of vengeance.
I learned a great lesson on June 23, 2018.
We must not lose faith in our fellow Ethiopians. Ethiopia is an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. We must learn to “separate the thorns from the rose flowers.”
Ethiopian Days of infamy
Ethiopia has seen many dark days that will forever live in infamy.
November 24, 1974. A day that will forever live in infamy.
Junta leader Mengistu Hailemariam ordered the massacre of 60 officials (Mengistu Massacres) of the imperial government of H.I.M. Haile Selassie. That massacre marked the era of “Red Terror” in Ethiopia.
June 8, 2005. November 1 to 10, 2005. November 14-16, 2005. Thirteen days that will forever live in infamy.
Following the 2005 parliamentary election, Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) Don and capo di tutu capi (boss of all bosses) Meles Zenawi declared a state of emergency and ordered his troops to shoot-and-ask-questions-later. In the Meles Massacres, 193 unarmed protesters were killed and 763 wounded.
October 2, 2016. A day that will forever live in infamy.
Under the leadership of TPLF puppet prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, TPLF troops opened fire indiscriminately on crowds attending one of the most important cultural and spiritual events in Ethiopia. The Irreecha Massacres resulted in the deaths of an estimated 700 people.
June 23, 2018. A day that will forever live in infamy.
June 22, 2019. A day that will forever live in infamy.
Certain individuals intent on effecting a coup d’etat killed Amhara region president H.E. Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen, armed forces Chief of Staff General Saere Mekonnen (no relation), Maj. General Gezai Abera (ret.), Ato Ezez Wassie, Amhara regional government advisor and others.
Power does NOT grow out of the barrel of the gun — Days of the gun are over and gone. Violence is the weapon of losers!
Mao Zedong, the father of the People’s Republic of China was dead wrong when he proclaimed, “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”
The only thing that grows out of the barrel of a gun is death and destruction.
But such has been the slogan of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front and its leaders.
Meles Zenawi’s favorite taunt to the opposition was, “If you want power, get it like we did. Go to the bush and fight your way back.”
For 27 years, the TPLF leaders enforced their cruel and brutal rule in Ethiopia with the barrel and butt of the gun.
For 27 years, the TPLF succeeded in their propaganda that they can be removed from power only through brute force, the barrel of AK-47s.
For 27 years, the TPLF brayed, neighed and cackled about how powerful they were with the gun. They boasted, “We made the mountains shake, rattle and roll with our guns!”
In the end, the TPLF was defeated without a single shot being fired.
In the end, the TPLF packed up and stealthily skipped town like a family of gypsies.
In the end, the TPLF is holed up under a rock somewhere to avoid detection.
In 2013, I proclaimed the TPLF is not to be feared. “When gazed upon, the TPLF appears awesome, formidable and infinitely powerful. It has guns, tanks, rockets, planes and bombs. Though the T-TPLF has legs of iron, its feet are made of clay.”
In the end, the TPLF was defeated not by guns, tanks and war planes.
The TPLF’s guns, tanks and rockets were defeated through mass civil disobedience and peaceful resistance.
The Foolish Old Man had a house that faced the two great peaks, Taihang and Wangwu (metaphorically representing feudalism and imperialism), which obstructed his view.
The Foolish Old Man got his sons and began digging up the two mountains.
A Wise Old Man who was watching remarked, ‘How silly of you to do this! It is quite impossible for you to dig up these two huge mountains.’
The Foolish Old Man replied, “When I die my sons will carry on; when they die, there will be my grandsons and then their sons and grandsons, and so on to infinity. High as they are, the mountains cannot grow any higher and with every bit we dig, they will be that much lower.
The Foolish Old Man and his sons continued to dig everyday firm in their conviction that in the end they will clear the mountains. God was moved by this, and he sent down two angels who carried the mountains away on their backs.
The two mountains we must clear in Ethiopia
Today, two big mountains lie like a dead weight on the people of Ethiopia.
It goes by many other names: ethnic chauvinism, ethnocentrism, ethnic apartheid, ethnic federalism, communalism, sectarianism and clannism.
The other consist of a mountain called Underdevelopment with triple peaks called poverty, disease and illiteracy.
If Ethiopia’s children stand together and dig together in good will and common purpose, we can clear out these two mountains in a single generation.
If we can’t clear them, our grandchildren, great grandchildren can clear them out.
How do we remove the mountains of tribalism and underdevelopment?
Before we can tackle the job of removing the mountains of tribalism and underdevelopment, we must arouse the political consciousness of the entire people of Ethiopia with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s message: “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”
My adaptation of Dr. King’s message is this: We must dig together to clear away the twin mountains of tribalism and underdevelopment that are a dead weight on Ethiopia with the reckless abandon of the Foolish Old Man and his sons or perish like damned fools.
WE can clear out the mountain of tribalism and underdevelopment only when we work together like fingers on our hands and dig together like a cete of badgers.
I use the pronoun “We” in a specific way.
I mean WE as in “We, the People of the United States”.
WE as in “We the people of Ethiopia”, NOT as the so-called nations, nationalities and peoples in Ethiopia. (I have discredited the nonsense about “nations, nationalities and peoples” in Ethiopia.)
WE as in the united people of Ethiopia, NOT as the disconnected people of the Kililistans of Ethiopia.
When I first came to America nearly 50 years ago, I attended a foreign student’s orientation at my college and was told America is a melting pot of races, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, etc.
That was the first time I heard Benjamin Franklin’s saying, “United we stand, divided we fall”.
I learned about the motto of the United States, “E pluribus unum” (out of many, one).
I learned about the pledge of allegiance, “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
I believe there is one indivisible Ethiopian nation that is home to diverse communities. The most beautiful garden has flowers of all varieties with different sweet fragrances.
I believe Ethiopia must be a nation where each citizen is entitled to equality, liberty and justice regardless of ethnicity, religion, race, color, gender or age.
I should like to think of myself the Foolish Old Man digging at the two mountains Mao Zedong was metaphorically talking about.
I have been digging and digging for the past 14 years, not with a hoe and shovel but with my pen and computer keyboard.
Today, the Foolish Old Professor is digging right along the most dynamic Ethiopian Cheetahs (young people) to clear out the mountains of tribalism and underdevelopment.
But the Foolish Old Professor has the easiest job.
All he has to do is carry water for the young Cheetahs who do all of the heavy lifting and heavy digging in building the New Ethiopia.
Medemer: The roadmap out of the valley of tribalism and underdevelopment
Ethiopians have an old saying. “If spiders’ web could be made into twine, it could tie up a lion.”
If thousands of spiders could come together for a common purpose and work together, they could snag and bag that big ole king of the jungle.
“Medemer” is the political translation of the old spider metaphor.
Medemer is our roadmap out of the mountainous wilderness of tribalism, poverty, disease and ignorance.
This past October, I formulated an equationfor Medemer.
M(edemer)= Sc(social capital) x Ac2 (active citizens)
Where Sc is social capital defined as the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, and
Ac is defined as the number of people getting involved actively in their local communities and democratic governance at all levels (from towns to cities to nationwide activity).
In more philosophical terms, Medemer is based on the principle, “Without you, there is no me. Without me, there’s no you. We must come together as a fist.”
The essence of Medemer is that all Ethiopians are tied together in the single garment of destiny.
In other words, without Oromos, there are no Amharas; without Amharas, there are no Tigreans; without Tigreans there are no Somalis; without Somalis, there are no Sidama; without Sidama, there are not Woleyita; without Woleyita, there are no Afari; without Afari, there are no Harari; without Harari, there are no Anuak; without Anuak, there are no Gurage and on and on.
When we include everyone into the whole fabric of Ethiopia — that single garment of destiny Dr. King talked about — undivided by ethnicity, religion, language, etc., then we know we have attained greatness in Ethiopia.
Without each other in Ethiopia, there is only “the other”.
The “other” who is the enemy.
The “other” who must be annihilated.
The “other” who is a stranger among us, even though in every way s/he is one of us, our flesh and blood.
In Ethiopia, H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed has chosen the path of Medemer.
Every day, he preaches the gospel of inclusiveness, “We and Us.”
For PM Abiy, “We and Us” include our neighbors who border us, all Africans and all people of the world.
Medemer requires passionate and dedicated exertions by individual Ethiopians who are willing to fight the insurgent and primitive forces of hate, tribalism and division.
The martyrs of June 23, 2018 and Ethiopia’s road map for the future
On June 23, 2018, I trembled in cold sweat alarmed Ethiopia was inching – plunging — towards a creeping civil war.
On June 23, 2019, I am filled with the confidence and conviction that despite bumps in th road, we have a clear road map for the future.
Ethiopia was saved on June 23, 2019 because a grenade intended for one man was deflected and the pain and suffering of 110 million people was borne by 158 innocent individuals.
Ethiopia shall rise today because it has young leaders who are willing to pay the price for liberty and democracy.
The Forces of Darkness behind the June 23 terrorist attack believed they could stop the peaceful change by killing the leaders brought forward by the blood, sweat and tears of the young people of Ethiopia.
The Forces of Darkness behind the June 22, 2019 coup also believed could stop the peaceful change by killing the leaders brought forward by the blood, sweat and tears of the young people of Ethiopia.
But the die is cast. Neither grenades, guns nor tanks can stop Ethiopia’s march towards democracy.
Notwithstanding the gripes and complaints of the naysayers and nitwits, Ethiopians today live in civil peace without fear of civil war. They are enjoying the benefits of civil government, civility, civic reconciliation and the rule of law.
But to make the sacrifices of the 158 people, the thousands of others who paid with their blood, tears and sweat lasting and durable and the leaders who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we must all come together and do our share.
We must renounce violence.
If we must fight, let’s fight with our ideas.
Let’s make the hearts and minds of the people of Ethiopia our battlegrounds. .
In my very first major commentary in 2006 after I joined the Ethiopian human rights movement entitled “Awakening Giant”, I wrote:
We prove the righteousness of our cause not in battlefields soaked in blood and filled with corpses, but in the living hearts and thinking minds of men and women of good will.
In the worst days of TPLF rule — during the days of the Meles Massacres—I never advocated the use of violence to remove the TPLF.
Many laughed at me as naïve and idealistic. They said the ONLY way to get rid of the TPLF was through armed struggle.
I never stopped telling anyone who cared to listen or read my commentaries, the only way to get rid of the TPLF is through nonviolent political action, noncooperation and resistance.