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Lesson for Columbia University Community

September 23, 2010

Tedla Asfaw: The Sept.22 rally in New York by Ethiopians remind me the rally in in the South Lawn of the White House during the first term of the Clinton Administration in 1990s. Back then Ethiopians in thousands denounced one of the “new breed “of African leaders, Meles Zenawi based on his anti-Ethiopia stand of the party he led, TPLF. Now after two decades of Meles Zenawi’s led TPLF Ethiopians denounce him based on his record. Like then there were his supporters carrying his photos wishing their leader the best and calling many more years for him to stay on power. The difference this time however they carried the modified version of the Ethiopian flag and their number is far less about fifty of them.

For more than five hundred Ethiopians who hold on the Ethiopian flag the unadvertised pro Meles rally was a nuisance at the beginning. Starting 2PM the few pro Meles Orchestra members led by the conductor Solomon Tekalegne was having good time in ambushing the anti Meles rally. Things completely changed after the huge crowd of DC and Boston joined the rally around 3pm. The opposition voice completely obliterated Solomon Tekalegne led Orchestra and spectators rightly identified the two warring camps.

Question is coming from mostly young spectators most of them students of Columbia who were enjoying the festive atmosphere supported by warm weather.Serious question were asked by students and others. Who is this man ? Who is that woman ? The man is Meles Zenawi, the invited guest of Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University , who is the keynote speaker on World Leaders Forum at Columbia who jailed many opposition leaders and the woman you see is the recent victim, Birtukan Mediksa a leader of UDJP party who has been in prison for almost two years for saying no to injustice like Rosa Park.

The placards that were carried demanded for Birtukan Mediksa and all jailed but not forgotten leaders like Debteraw, Aberashe and many Oromo and Somalis who are held in prison throughout Ethiopia for decades. There were young Somalis carrying the Ogaden flag and demanded the human right abuse and the killing to stop in Ogaden. These young women who wear their Burka are hardly to miss though few in numbers.

I had conversation with them, I informed them that I will stand with them until the killing stop in Ogaden. I also told them Ogaden is a land Italian fascist declared war on Ethiopia at Wolwel more than seven decade ago. Many patriots died fighting, Ogadenis and other Ethiopians. Ogaden Somalis should not fear of living in a Democratic Ethiopia. Mini Ogaden, Oromia etc which is encouraged by the article 39 constitution of TPLF had not produced any tangible benefit for the people it claimed freed.

It was amazing to see the brotherhood and sisterhood in this big crowd. Tolerance was not only preached but practiced. Many Ethiopians were interviewed by Journalism students of Columbia including myself. The pro Meles rally finally lost patience and started lobbying insult and accused us “Shabias”. I do understand their frustration of being drowned in this battle. It was “Fall” for them and Fall has indeed come to New York, however, it was still Summer in our camp. The hope of freedom is still shining and I was confident that a United Diaspora action will be a force to be reckon with and will not be matched by the recent trend of pro Meles rally organized by those who benefited from the system and care less for millions of our people who survived by piece of bread daily while the ruling elite is now comparing itself with the rich and famous of the West.

The feedback we received from those who were in the conference hall was also encouraging. The No Show of Columbia President, Lee Bollinger who was represented by professor Joseph Stiglitz that Meles called Joe tells it all. Those who invited Meles Zenawi did not expect the one week sustained campaign by Ethiopians sending email and calling directly challenging them to judge Meles Zenawi on his two decade record. Sadly they failed to do so.

The no show by Columbia President is not due to any virus, it was because of public embarrassment, the least. Those who were there asked fifteen questions similar to Meles Zenawi 101 paper distributed to the public who showed up at our protest. The answer from Meles Zenawi was not followed by any question an embarrassment for Columbia community. The Chinese Communist Party did it the same way on recent Obama’s appearance on one of Chinese universities. We hope that the video and audio of the the Sept. 22 Wold Leaders Forum organized by Columbia will be out for public shortly unlike the Chinese who kept it out of reach of anyone.

The four hour rally came to frantic moment when those who were part of the one hour conference came out. Shame on You, Shame on You. The noise was deafening and the huge crowd left peacefully at 6pm by the remark from Tamegne who urge everyone to remain united and be the voice for voiceless Ethiopians.

From → News

  1. Awesome post, thanks. I’ve been attempting to lose weight with the Cambridge diet these past few months and it’s going well. Will try and update soon to let you guys know how it’s going, so far I’ve lost 20 pounds in 4 months!

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  1. Lesson for Columbia University Community | Debteraw : Ethiopian News and Politics Journal

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