Your Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed,
Let me state from the outset that I was once one of your biggest supporters. After witnessing Ethiopia decimated by the malevolence of the Marxist Derg government followed up by the mendacity of the tribal TPLF junta, in you I saw a glimmer of hope where my birth land was once covered in the netela of darkness for 44 years. My recent criticism of your administration has nothing to do with contempt but a frustration due to the lack of policies that represent the interests of all our people, especially the poor and the struggling masses.
However, after contemplation and prayer, I have come to the realization that my passion for Ethiopia has led me to judge your intentions and to condemn your motives. For this moral failing, I personally apologize. No matter our differences, you are a son of Ethiopia and someone whom I believe cares about our people. It is my responsibility to criticize without demeaning your integrity and to demand results without turning to pejoratives.
When everyone wants to be king, all become slaves to ego and narcissism. Tigab (vanity) and pride are the two main factors why our nation suffers. We Ethiopians have perfected the art of taking a medosha (hammer) to one another and dabbling in the unproductive practice of all or nothing thinking. So I write this open letter to you in the hopes of establishing a more civil tone and in the process help change the perception among our people in order to show that we can disagree and debate without being disagreeable.
My hope and prayer for Ethiopia is peace and prosperity for all irrespective of identity or ideology. I pray that you help guide us away from the virus of tribalism and lead us towards the elixir of inclusion and mutual respect. I know this capacity to be a voice of reason is within you even if I disagree with some of your decision; there is an authenticity in you that I observed when you visited Washington, DC last year and embraced an opposition leader. That moment was so powerful that it prodded me to write an article in July of 2018 praising your humility and grace.
Rest assured that my change of heart with respect to your administration is not due to impatience or the stuff of idle chit chat of a “social media activist” as some of your ardent supporters frequently dismiss your detractors. To the contrary, I do not expect you to be Houdini and perform a magical transformation of Ethiopia overnight. I know the issues that confound my homeland are decades in the making and I fully understand that there are no silver bullets that will morph a country shattered by infighting and mismanagement into a shining city on a hill in a New York minute.
What I expect of you is not to be a wizard but a calming presence that offers Ethiopians an alternative to the broken politics of Ethnic Federalism, to instill a sense of civic responsibility among all Ethiopians at home and abroad and to show by example that collaboration is better than competition. We are a land that is in urgent need of leadership; too many activists who aspire to be tribal chiefs have fractured the very essence of what it means to be Ethiopian. Instead of seeking unity, we are being conditioned to care about ethnicity as we forgo the spirit of nationality that once enabled our ancestors to defeat would be colonizers at the Battle of Adwa and to repel Mussolini’s fascist military during the second Italian-Ethiopian war. Andinet is the fuel that lived in the souls of arbegnoch.
Tribalism and ethnic nihilism are destroying Ethiopia from within. In this paradigm, it is an imperative for you to be a source of reason and to remind all of us that our only chance to rescue our nation from tribulation and be delivered into God’s kalkidan (promise) of restoration is through unity and love for those who don’t speak our dialect or pray like us. When I perceive you doing the opposite and embracing fanatics within one camp while vilifying others, it greatly disheartens my spirits.
You have yourself acknowledged that the past 27 years have been a time of repression and favoritism. If we are to move towards a new day for Ethiopia, we cannot hope to create consensus by replacing the extremist ideology of TPLF with a radical ascension of OLF/ODP. It is high time for Ethiopiand to abandon these ethnic based acronyms that promise to liberate people only to deliver hatred and bigotry. We need a leader who renounces tribalism and embraces the multitude of cultures and communities that are the foundation upon which Ethiopia was built. Let us not turn our diversity, which is a national treasure, into a weakness by bickering over who was injured more or who is more deserving of justice.Instead of arguing about who was hurt more and trying to monopolize pain, let us work together so that we all mend. #Letter2Abiy #Ethiopia Click To Tweet
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. I know the weight of an entire nation is upon your shoulders and the sword of Damocles hangs over your temple. I take no joy in seeing your mood morph from a hopeful messenger to a dejected soldier; watching the video of your speech to Parliament brought great anguish within my heart. I do not wish to add to your burdens by pilling on during this time of national uncertainty. I write this open letter to you not to stir antipathy among our people but to hopefully open new roads of civility where we have reached the dead end of animosity.
To this end, as I apologize to you for my recent piques, I hope that you too take steps away from blame and spite that have infected our politics for far too long and threatens to turn Ethiopia into the next Yugoslavia. I beseech you to be compassionate at all times; though it is hard, you must find it in your heart to have forbearance towards your biggest critics. You occupy a national office, one that demands respect for the betterment of our nation, so going on air to blast your political foes is counterproductive at best. Where some become impetuous, you have to muster the will to be merciful and forgiving at all times.
Moreover, do not feed into the divides that are fracturing Ethiopia. Return to Ethiopiawinet and resist the temptation to pander to radicals who preach separatism and spew ethnic bigotry. People like Jawar Mohammed, Birhanu Nega and foreign mercenaries like Herman Cohen are repulsive demagogues who are intent on radicalizing Ethiopians along ethnic lines; these people need to be marginalized without bias to their tribe or political affiliation.
In a country that is being torn apart by sectarianism, it is of vital importance to have a head of state who rises above our differences and speaks to our common dreams and aspirations. Oromos, Ahmaras, Tigray and all Ethiopians desire a fair shake in life, to reach their God given potential and to lead lives free of repression; let us focus on these commonalities instead of gazing at our divergences.
Let me end this on a personal note by addressing an issue which has been a source of exasperation for quite some time. Too many Ethiopians have dived head first into the gutter of divisiveness by referring to Ethiopians who are no longer at home as “diaspora”. This term has become a pejorative and a means of “otherizing” Ethiopians who live abroad. On more than one occasion, you have also reverted to this term that serves to separate Ethiopians who live in America, Europe and beyond from our people back home. Just because we no longer live in Addis Ababa, Sidamo, Mek’ele or Bahir Dar doesn’t make us any less Ethiopian.
I did not leave Ethiopia out of choice; the horrendous treatment of Ethiopians by the Derg government forced my parents to snatch my sibling and me out of our homeland and turned us into immigrants. I arrived in America at the age of seven and have spent the past 37 years missing the land that gave birth to me. There is a reason that I started Ethiopian-Americans for Change, why I spent a small fortune trying to organize Ethiopians for the past 11 years and why I became the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy; even if my Amharigna is broken, my love for Ethiopia is unending and undying.
I am an entrepreneur who once worked at the Pentagon as an Associate employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, I have a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University and I was such an integral organizer for the Obama campaign during his inaugural election that I was invited to Chicago in December of 2008 to help launch Organizing for America. I don’t say these things to boast but to remind you that I represent millions of Ethiopians abroad who people dismissively refer to as the “diaspora”. All efforts should be made to bring us back home. We have the skills, the know-how and the experiences to make a difference for our homeland. Instead of disparaging us, we should be welcomed with open arms.
I pray that God gives you the wisdom and the patience to lead Ethiopia into a new age of shared prosperity and share success. I do not harbor any animosity towards you; my criticism should not be viewed as a source of friction but as a basis of alternative solutions. I have no desire to see you falter for your failure will have negative consequence for more than 105 million people in Ethiopia and millions more around the world. I only hope that you lead Ethiopia through inclusion and that you have in mind the wellness and the well-being of the poor and the struggling masses as you implement economic and social policies. May Egziabher bless you and may Egziabher bless Ethiopia.
This is a video dedication of unity and love for all Ethiopians back home and abroad, though we must respect and celebrate our differences, we must never forget that we are all one united by our spiritual connection and a love that is undying for each other.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the Chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. He is the direct descendant of Atse Tewodros II, the once Emperor of Ethiopia who united a fractured nation during Zemene Mesafint (age of princes) and imbued Ethiopia with a sense of togetherness that enabled them to eventually defeat Italy at the battle of Adwa. Lij Teodrose was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia but grew up in America. He has a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University and an Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Lij Teodrose believes in one Ethiopia and that a nation can only be judged by the wellness of the least among us.