by Teshome Borago
Ethiopians in Bahir Dar have said enough and the government has virtually lost control of the city. Hundreds of thousands in northern Gondar have protested against the corrupt TPLF regime. And as I write this article, most of Western Gojjam has become ungovernable thanks to patriotic Ethiopians who have risen up against tyranny and in solidarity with their Oromo & Gondar Amhara protesters nationwide. Meanwhile, the regime has already killed thousands of protesters, with many more in hospital shot, or injured or in prison. We are witnessing new massacres every week. TPLF tanks are moving into civilian areas. Teenagers and even toddlers in Ethiopia are bleeding to death in makeshift hospitals after being shot by TPLF snipers. But where is President Obama? His silence is deafening. Who knew the first African-American US president would become the least compassionate towards Africans.
In Libya and Syria, the Obama and Hillary Clinton administration vocally and quickly supported the controversial opposition rebels and they intervened either militarily, financially, diplomatically or other ways. They preached against dictatorship and in favor of democracy for the Middle East and the Arabic North Africa. But What about black Africa and Ethiopia? Are we not equal human beings deserving of freedom and democracy? Ethiopian-Americans should ask Hillary Clinton: does black lives NOT matter in Ethiopia? How can their Democratic Party claim “black lives matter” for them inside America but categorically employ policies that prove otherwise around the world?
Why have Obama and Clinton ignored our plight? Is it because Ethiopia has no oil or because we have no special interest groups influencing US policy? Or is it because the TPLF regime’s billionaire al Amoudi “donated” $20 million to the Clinton Foundation or hired lobbyists? What is the reason? A few years ago, Secretary Hillary Clinton said she “admired” the TPLF’s bloodthirsty dictator Meles Zenawi and President Obama said the TPLF was “democratically elected,” despite the rigged elections where thousands got shot or jailed under the one-party rule. This is shameful. Indeed, what is happening in Ethiopia and the unprecedented reaction from Washington DC is truly disheartening.
However, we can do something about it. The over half a million Ethiopian-Americans are the fastest growing African-American community in the United States. From the standpoint of the US general election, yes, We are a small minority. And our votes in California, Washington, New York and Texas have no impact because these states are one-sided and already predetermined.
But relatively large Ethiopian-American populations are strategically concentrated and growing in two future “swing states” where the election contest between the Republican Party and Democratic party is very close. These two key contested states are Virginia and Minnesota. These two states are important for the 2016 election and nobody knows who will win in these states. The result will be decided by small margins.
Let us Remember, George Bush won the 2000 general election by narrowly winning Florida state with just 537 votes more than Al Gore. Only 537 votes decided the final result! The same way, the 2016 election in Virginia and Minnesota might become very close. If the tens of thousands of Ethiopian-Americans in Virginia and Minnesota register and vote in unity as one bloc, we may control who becomes the next US President as well as future presidents.
The key is that we must be united first. We are already witnessing Ethiopians breaking tribal and religious barriers to come together worldwide and inside Ethiopia. For example, some of us do not support the views of some Oromo protesters but we still managed to unite with them. We share and sympathize with their suffering. We might disagree on federalism and other policies for Ethiopia, but one important thing we all agree on is the need for democracy and equal rights for all. When i first met Dr. Berhanu Nega in New York in 2007, I disagreed with his “armed struggle” ideology but I supported his pro-democracy views for Ethiopia. Recently, when I communicated with the Oromo scholar Dr. Awol Allo, our political views disagree on policy. He is Oromo but I am a mixed-Ethiopian with Welayta, Oromo and Amhara background so we might never fully agree on all policy. But we still agreed on the need for democracy in Ethiopian so that all Ethiopians are free to decide their future.
So if we continue to put democracy ahead of our narrow interests in Ethiopia, we can create a foundation for unity. And such unity can be powerful when we utilize it an engine for change in Ethiopia as well as western policy on Ethiopia.
We just can not ignore the suffering and the killing of our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
The easiest action we can take is making US politicians earn our votes.
Ethiopian-Americans as single issue voters
One way our diaspora can become divided is if every group entertains their selfish and narrow interests inside America. We have to focus on Ethiopia and democracy. We can NOT afford to be “multiple issue voters.” We have to be “single issue voters.” For example, many Ethiopian-Americans oppose Hillary Clinton because of her pro-abortion, gay marriage and her other policies against our faith or religion. And many Ethiopian-Americans oppose Donald Trump because of his personality, his pro-police brutality and his anti-Islam views.
Recently, Clinton said Trump is associated with the racist KKK official David Duke. In response, Trump said Hillary Clinton supported the racist KKK official Robert Byrd. This back and forth attack and insults between Clinton and Trump should not influence our decision. This election is more important than childish name-calling and insults. For us Ethiopian-Americans, we should focus on substance, especially when it comes to US policy on Ethiopia. We should not worry about our selfish interests or narrow political views while thousands of Ethiopians are getting massacred and killed everywhere in Ethiopia. We must think about the greater good.
If we want American politicians to take Ethiopian-Americans seriously as an influential voting bloc, we have to be single issue voters. Our motto should be “Democracy first!” Motivated with the single issue of establishing democracy in Ethiopia and by voting as one bloc with high turnout, we can potentially impact future US elections. Only when that happens will politicians hear our cries and our concerns.
Tired of begging TPLF and US politicians, Dr. Berhanu Nega sacrificed his comfortable life in America and abandoned his children & family in order to bring change in Ethiopia. The same way, We can not continue to beg officials, we have to show strength and resolve.
In 2008, almost all African-Americans voted for Obama. Even though white-Americans are over 75% the population and African-Americans are only 13%, the African-Americans working together and maximizing their numeral potential made their vote disproportionally more powerful. We can do the same thing.
All Ethiopian-Americans in Virginia and Minnesota should register to vote in September. This is the least we can do. Is this too much to ask? Kids and students in Ethiopia are asking for our support. Many have already died on our behalf for our native country. Many women and children are getting shot and slaughtered by the one-party regime in Ethiopia. Can’t we make a small sacrifice and show solidarity with them by voting for change? I ask all Ethiopians in Minnesota and Virginia to register and make history.
Through out September, we will examine the foreign policy of the two US presidential candidates. We will email, phone and ask the candidates. Both of them must win Minnesota and Virginia to win the presidency. Especially, we have to demand the Hillary Clinton campaign to explain her ongoing support for the TPLF regime and explain Obama’s current policy on Ethiopia. All diaspora from Ethiopia must now unite and register to vote.