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Open Letter to President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama in Ethiopia, 27 July 2015

By Melaku Tegegn

Dear President Barack Obama,

One day on November 5, 2008, I got up at 5 a.m. to listen to the news of a great event in world politics that was just announced from Washington D.C.: the results of the US presidential election. I hardly slept that night due the suspense and eagerness to know if the first black presidential candidate won the election. Yes, you did. I was so emotional that had to fight mine back when I saw Jesse Jackson in tears. Yes, I was elated with joy, a joy with anticipation of hope for change as the foreign policy of the previous US administration had already brought the world to a brink of nuclear war vis-a-vis North Korea. But, that is not why I am writing you about now. I am writing you about the dire situation in my country, Ethiopia.

I perfectly understand the desperate need to fight Islamic terrorism after 9/11. But, Islamic terrorism is a menace to everyone. We are on the doorsteps of this menace and know how to deconstruct it. I believe Islamic terrorism can only be defeated with enhancing the process of democratization and freedom as the only preconditions to deconstruct the various undercurrents that advocate for terrorism. Knowledgeability and being well informed about the constructs of terrorism is essential here. Authoritarian rule, by relying on the gun only exacerbates the problem and, in fact, inadvertently assists the spread of Islamic terrorism. On the contrary, this struggle is best advanced by a democracy than a dictatorship. If the West’s ‘rationale’ to support the regime in Ethiopia emanates from the belief that the regime in Addis is fighting terrorism, then it is about time to realize that what the regime is doing in this respect is exactly the opposite: breeding Islamic terrorism by only relying on the gun and suppressing freedom in the country. Consequently, Ethiopia is sitting on a ticking bomb.

But, internal implosion seems to have overtaken the terrorism threat when more than 70% of Ethiopia’s population, – Oromos and Amharas in the main,- rose in a mass revolt against the regime, unprecedented throughout the last 25 years of the EPRDF’s rule thereby defying the claims of the “democratically- elected” regime for winning 100% of the votes. Yet, my country is on a brink of collapse as a result of a unique type of equilibrium prevailing now. The regime could not rule in the old way, nor could the revolt topple the regime. But, the former is unleashing a campaign tantamount to genocide specifically directed against the Amhara people. Carnage is already underway; killings, mass arrests, torture and beatings have become daily routines. Torching prisons and massacring political prisoners for “trying to escape” is the latest ‘fashion’ in this Nazi-type rule of terror. War is declared on the Amhara and Oromo because people revolted against tyranny and wanted freedom. That is their only ‘crime’. Mr. President, my country is now living under the Third Reich reincarnated in African soil and the persecution of the Amharas and Oromos is similar to situation of European Jews during the Third Reich.

Without much ado, Mr. President, your office is perhaps the most powerful office on the planet. You have immense capacity to bring peace in countries such as mine where genocide is declared by a government against its own people, people who only demanded freedom and democracy. The regime claims to enjoy the backing of the West and the US in particular. Yet, Ethiopia is bleeding, its people are living under the rule of official terror, its youth are being slaughtered everywhere, the sobbing of mothers doesn’t seem to see an end and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

Mr. President, it is my belief that you will never opt to stand on the side of a regime that is still committing genocide while I am writing these lines. I am sure you have the power to make this regime stop its genocide and talk to its people to bring normality, the rule of law and negotiate the setting up of a transition government that will work towards the establishment of a genuine republic. Ethiopia was once betrayed by the international community, a betrayal that paved the way to Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia. It is my sincere hope that we will not be betrayed for the second time? Will we?


M. Tegegn
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