How Ethiopia’s State of Emergency affects Universal Declaration of Human Rights



The italic text in red describes my explanation of how the State of Emergency affects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am not a lawyer and this is solely my interpretation of the way the State of Emergency affects the Universal declaration of Human Rights!

The General Assembly,  

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by  teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction. 

Article I  

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

The State of Emergency takes the freedom of citizens away from them and the lack of universality in the implementation of the law  negates the equality clause stated in Article 1.

Article 2  

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

The State of Emergency clearly catatgorize being a follower of other political party as a crime punishable by the law violating Article 2

Article 3  

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

The State of Emergency violates the citizen right to follow, participate or assemble freely

Article 4  

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5  

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The State of Emergency gives a government a right to violate Article 5 without a due process or court.

Article 6  

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to perform duties outside of a law which violates a right of a person enshrined under Article 6

Article 7  

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8  

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to perform duties outside of a law which violates a right of a person enshrined under Article 8

Article 9  

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to arrest, search, and stop and frisk arbitrarily

Article 10  

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to perform duties outside of a law which violates a right of a person enshrined under Article 10

Article 11  

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government presume citizens guilty without proves (citizens have no right to fight the presumption)

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Reading is not crime yet The State of Emergency gives a right to government consider reading websites, prints and watching Tv news Penal offence.

Article 12  

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to arrest, search, and stop and frisk arbitrarily


Article 13  

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to create borders, curfews and limit the movement of people and organizations.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to limit the rights of citizens to freely move or travel.

Article 14  

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15  

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16  

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17  

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

The State of Emergency criminalize the right for assembly or organizing violating article 17

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to force businesses to open or close


Article 18  

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to restrict worshipping if it believes the worship is contrary to the government’s liking

Article 19  

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The State of Emergency gives a right to government to ban TV stations, and any media violating Article 19

Article 20  

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

The State of Emergency bans peaceful assembly and association

2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

The State of Emergency forces citizens to tell on others, participate or follow the government’s working or business hours (if they refuse to associate themselves with the government it penalize them)

Article 21  

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.

3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22  

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23  

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and

supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

The State of Emergency bans creating unions

Article 24  

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

The State of Emergency takes the rights of law enforcement to take a yearly vacation

Article 25  

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26  

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27  

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

The State of Emergency bans live performance

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.Article 28  

The State of Emergency bans expression via art and bodily signage

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29  

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30  

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Ethiopia’s State of Emergency: What it Means

yadPLEASE READ AND SHARE: pardon my translation

According to Ethiopias new state of emergency declaration, the government command post have declared the following as a crime.

1. Discussing anti-government political views publicly or privately 

2. Writing, printing, and distributing political fliers and opinions

3. Live performances (The spokesperson said live performances, no further explanation given)

4. Signage or showing body signs in public. 

5. The government have all right to close any media outlets with out court order

6. The government have all right to cancel or stop meetings and public demonstrations 

7. Organizing groups or forming groups are prohibited

8. Government have a right to arrest any one without court order or due process

9. The government have a right to interrogate, investigate without court order or due process.

10. The government also have a right to prosecute anyone that it considers guilty

11. No search warrant is needed to search any house, offices, vehicles or businesses

12. The government have a right to stop and frisk anyone.

13. The command post have a right to set curfew whenever it believes necessary.

14. Anyone one who fail to cooperate will be considered guilty and will be sentenced to five year in prison.

15. Any violation of the above law will get you three year in prison.




Riot is the Language of the Unheard: MLK

The Rev. Martin Luther King once said, “Riot is the language of the unheard”.
Looking at the burning cars and  destroyed farms, I can’t help it but remember the MLK quote once again. It is very sad to report death and destruction but it looks like the inevitable is happening in Ethiopia. This is what happens when a Government goes crazy and lose all control and respect from its people. Ever since the start of Oromo Protest, we hoped the Government will look into the problem and come up with a reasonable compromise that respects the rights of people while putting reliable effort to secure law and order. Yet, time and again, the government chose to pour gas on the fire to make things even worse. Case in point, look at the way the Oromo protest metastasized to spread every where and get worse by day. Look how a constitutionally guaranteed inquiry about Wolkaite, which can be easily answered by round table discussion, turn into a bloody mess that gave birth to Amhara protest only to join hands with Oromo protest making it the biggest protest the government yet faced.
The government also made the last cool heads powerless, cool heads that used to urge protesters to struggle non-violently, by killing hundreds at Irreechaa and the rest of the country. While the government works day and night to convince Western donors about the reckless killing of Irreecha goers by blaming diaspora activists, Egypt, Eritrea, OLF and my personal favorite the victims themselves for running while a tear gas, live bullets, humvees with hooded soldiers and army helicopters descending on them. Those attended spoke and most of us watch live videos caught the government lying to our face and once again showed us the  utter disrespect the government has for the rights of its citizens and culture. Even those that gave the government the benefit of the doubt, now know, not a drop of solution comes from the so-called leaders of EPRDF.
In one of my posts here, I explained how the government is building house of cards by advertising a looted land as a perfect investment opportunity to sometimes unsuspected and sometimes greedy investors. The government opening business pitch always was “cheap land and cheap labor” without explaining how they acquire the land to begin with. Now the same investors are the victims of a failed policy and their businesses kept on burning. “everything is gone, Tens million investment went up in smokes in one day” wrote the owner of  Esmeralda farms after his farm burned by the protesters in Amhara region.  International media’s that looked the other way when people got killed now report in such an amazing speed to report distraction of properties. Making us to believe the priority is always wealth before the well beings of human beings. It is always a bad day when innocent people whether they are Americans or Ethiopians pay dearly with their life for the stupidity of politicians.
It is time for all Ethiopians to carefully weigh and do a soul searching about what they value the most. The way it is going right now, our country will not stand. It is time to put our differences aside and save our country first. By our country I mean, the core value that binds us together not that make us different. If there is anyone out there that believe the direction of the country is right, I leave them to their fantasy but for the rest of us it is time to buckle up and speak our truth. No western leader will save our country, no western journalist will shine the light to the atrocities as we witnessed it. We are the solution we are waiting for!
Say it loud, It is not OK to kill innocent people. It is not OK to kill children, firing at celebrations, burning prisons, mass imprisonment, torture, creating ethnic clashes, looting land, selling looted land, violating boarders, stealing votes, shutting down oppositions, arresting journalists, enabling fake journalists, making one ethnicity above others, cronyism, nepotism, bad governance, harassing citizens. Spying on citizens, crying foul while doing foul and so on and on ………have to stop and need to be removed!
It is also equally important not to be what we hate by attacking people or properties based on ethnicity or political choice. The past nine months Oromo protesters showed amazing resistance and tolerance towards fellow citizens and that is something that needs to continue even in the face of unspeakable injustice. The government and its supporters are trying to blame  the very people they are killing for the very crime they are committing but nothing will be further from the truth. The entire Ethiopian people know and understand the long history that binds us together shall not be distorted by fabricated propaganda of  hate mongers.
When all the viable venue to raise concern exhausted, when the land of their ancestors taken from them forcefully, when prisons are full of families, when there is no accountability for crimes against human rights, when the spilled blood of  loved ones goes unnoticed, when the last place they considered sacred  defiled by the bullets of dictators. What exactly we expect to happen?

Qilinto Massacre

Qilinto is a notorious prison in Ethiopia, where most of the political prisoners including Bekele Gerba and journalist Eskinder Nega imprisoned. Qilinto Massacre happened after a fire started in the prison and security forces shot and killed more than 28 prisoners. Learn about the Qilinto Massacre by interacting with this image. The governement refuse to give the bodies of the victims back to their families and until this post is made only eight families collected bodies of their deceased families.

It is time to report the truth about Ethiopia!



Ever since the great Ethiopian Athlete Feyissa Lelisa crossed his hand in solidarity of Oromo Protests and highlighted his governments human rights violation of Oromos, Amharas and other ethnic groups. We read and saw a lot of commentaries and stories about his courageous act. Then we heard from Western media outlets how Ethiopian government spokesman Getachew Reda gave them his word that if Lelisa return, he will be treated as a hero. This might be seen as a positive and good move by the government of Ethiopia but only gullible journalists or intentional overlooks will believe this as even close to the truth.

Almost most of the people who lived in Ethiopia under the current government or was once lived and emigrated from the country know how this will play if he returns. If he return, yes the government will celebrate him in public, heck they might even put him in open truck and parade him in the city. Then he will be taken to the palace and meet the president and get a gift of some sort. Every one will be satisfied; the western embassies fax their respective countries and say all is well.

Then the abuse starts. How do I know that? Ask human rights activist and lecturer Bekele Gerba if you find him. Bekele Gerba was in Washington DC in July 2015 fresh off a five plus year prison term in which he was sent to jail for unfounded case. When he was here,  he was interviewed by NPR’s all things considered what he will face when he go back. In the interview he said, “Nobody is actually sure in Ethiopia what will happen to him anytime, Anytime, people can be arrested, harassed or killed or disappeared.” and then he went back. He was not arrested right away but about four months later, he was thrown to jail, tortured, humiliated and still languishing in Kilinto jail.

The skillful Ethiopian government cheated its way out of all the public scrutiny to the point where they asked food aid for 10 million starved people in the same day they declared 10 percent economic growth. The question simply is is the Western media gullible or they intentionally ignore the cry of Ethiopians?

We know and it is a public record that Ethiopian government kills its citizens for protesting against what they believe an illegal land grab by the government. We know it imprison journalist, crushes dissent, blocks social media and jam radio waves so news channels like Oromo Media Network (OMN) and ESAT will not reach people. We also know for the past 9 months the government killed hundreds of students, farmers, civil servants, children under the age of 18 and pregnant women (Shashitu Mekonnen) in Oromia region. It is also a public record that scores of people killed in Gonder and Bahir Dar due to the Amhara protests in relation to rightful and constitutional question related to Wolkaite area.

We know all of the above mentioned events unfolded in Ethiopia in the past nine months yet, the government managed to keep the sin hidden from the world until the brave athlete uncovered it. Instead of asking the government about the human rights abuse, once again, Western media is trying to tell as all is good in horn of Africa. Not so fast.

Ask your self. Here is a young athlete with illustrious records that competed in US, Europe, China and won multiple times. He lives in the capital city and have family and children to raise. As a famous young athlete he owns well earned wealth and a life he build for a himself. He represented his country and represents it well by winning a silver medal in the biggest sport stage in the world. Instead of going home to his happy family and country why do he decide to throw it all? How bad it has to be at home for him to decide not to see his kids and wife for uncertain future?

One can raise a reasonable question by asking these questions. Any reasonable journalist understands his fear of persecution watching him whisper and checking his back multiple time while talking to journalists as if the government come and yank him out of the interview.

I believe journalist have a responsibility to investigate and report the human rights violations in Ethiopia. It is time to question the politicians that emboldened undemocratic governments like the one in Ethiopia by giving them aid to kill and harass their own citizens without any accountability.

It is a time for journalist to do the heavy lifting in Ethiopia to save life. It is not only enough to show emotions while reporting kids being pulled out of bombed-out buildings, by uncovering the truth, journalist can help avoid the war that causes it.

It is time to report the truth about Ethiopia!




Interview with OMN’s Abdi Fite

OMN: Amharic Program April 2. 2016 (በኦሮሞ የህሊና ታሳሪዎች እና በእስር ቤት አያያዝ ዙሪያ ከአርቲስት ያደሳ ቦጅአ ጋር ያደረግነዉ ቆይታ :: )

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Siyaanne state of mind


I met Soreti Kedir at the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) annual conference at Howard University in Washington DC. We were both there to speak at the conference. She flew from Australia to attend the meeting. Soreti is a kind of person you remember meeting twice. First when you actually meet her and second when you meet her after you hear her spoken word. That is truly what happened to me. I was very much moved and touched by her poems. She is simply a word flowing in beautiful order. Her simple yet bone piercing words force one to look deep inside.

After the conference we kept in touch and one day she asked me if I am interested to design the cover of her book. I was very happy to work on it and then she send me the poems. Honestly, this small short book have an impact on me right away. It was beautifully written and it’s title was “Siyaanne” the name her late grandmother gave her meaning “we miss You” in her native language of Affan Oromo.

I mean who writes like this:

The politics of my poetry

The politics of my poetry are complicated,
rooted in the roots of a ground that I know little of,
birthed by a womb that cried for far too long,
standing on mountains that I am yet to climb.

The politics of my poetry are tired,
weary from always waging war with my words,
I began writing with swords long before I picked up a pen,
I was taught to begin fighting the storm long before it would rain.

The politics of my poetry are invisible,
blurred by lines drawn to hide me from the world

Excerpts from the book

I received my copy yesterday and I am in a Siyanne state of mind! Galatoomii




Zami Mille


It has been said those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

In the eve of Rwandan genocide, Radio Mille played an important role instigating the violence towards Tutsi’s. According to a historical record the radio station was  rowdy and used street language – there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. Sometimes the announcers were drunk. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.” (Linda Melvern) it was set up and financed by hard-line Hutu extremists, mostly from northern Rwanda: wealthy businessmen, government ministers and various relatives of the President. Its backers also included the directors of two African banks and the vice-president of the interahamwe (militia). Some people – including the Belgian ambassador and staff of several aid agencies – recognized the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcasts, but it was impossible to persuade western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke. “

The world knows what happened after.  The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 70% of the Tutsi and 20% of Rwanda’s total population.

During that time, radio Mille reporters used codes and asked fans to “go to work” and one of the most disturbing slogan of the radio station was “The graves are not yet full”

Now the behavior of a radio program called  “qoyita ke mimi sebhatu gar” at Zami radio reminded me of radio Mille. Here is how.

Ever since the uprising of Oromo protesters in early Dec, 2015 Ethiopian government security forces brutally crackdown the protests by killing children, students, civil servants and older folks. The age of the victims span from 7 – 74 year old. So far 200+ killed, more than a 1000 injured and 5000 imprisoned. Starting from late December, the government took control of Oromia regions by replacing the local police force with Federal army forces and what followed was unprecedented kind of cruelty and flat out murder of protesters. Yet, the problem that persisted in the Oromia region for decades kept the protestors out and their request for a peaceful halting of a Master plan met with bullets and prisons. No matter how brutal the government forces seemed the protest started getting bigger and bigger as time progressed. The frustration of the protestors also resulted on burning of government properties, road blockade, loss of life (police) and boycotting of government and their cronies businesses.

Now let me return back to Zami Radio and its host Mimi Sebhatu. It was at this volatile time in Ethiopian politics, she hosted a show about what was happening in Oromia.

In the show, she seemed to clearly try to connect the Oromo protests to religious and ethnic clashes even if the fact in the ground clearly shows no religious or ethnic clash happening and we also have a video proof in which elders teach the protesters not to involve in any hate related activities. The same video also shows the protesters giving their word not to involve in hate or revenge of any type.

She also urges the government to give serious response to the protesters as if the government is not doing that. Her words and demeanor seems to ask for more killing and she sounded frustrated by the government. She said “These scavengers use this opportunity try to exploit the situation to benefit from it. They need to be picked up and put in their place and the national security apparatus have to work together to make this a reality”

Her name calling and utter disrespect to protesters remind us the radio Mille journalists in their days. Calling oromo people “scavengers” using the public airtime is unacceptable and bothersome.

Above all, what make me write this blog post is the fact that the prime mister come out and announced exactly what she asked on air. In a nationally broadcasted interview with the local journalists PM Hailemariam Dessalgne vows to crush ‘forces of destruction’ in Oromia region.

This said, one understands governments responsibility to keep peace and to protect life and property. It is without a question one of the primary duties of the government. If the protesters in Oromia violated rights and committed crime then the government have a responsibility to prosecuted those using a due process by bringing them in front of a judge. The problem in Oromia, is that the government lost credibility for violating protesters right by playing judge jury and executioner for more than three months. To this day the number of dead students and injured protesters kept on adding up while the government officials pointing fingers among themselves. No apologies or remorse offered instead officials kept on demonizing protesters for exercising their freedom of speech.

I am also bothered by the sudden surge in name calling and  disrespect towards Ethiopian people by EPRDF officials. The root cause of Oromo Protests was the utter disrespect of Mr Abay Tsehaye when a sound recording leaked in which he screams “we will put them in their place”. Then the spokesperson Mr Getachew Reda called a press conference and called the protestors “demons”. Now the low level  cadres and journalists filled the air waves with their insults adding insult to injury.

The real problem started a while ago and it is about to get out of hand very soon. The airwaves filled with ruthless journalists like Mimi Sebhatu and’s Biniyam, the streets covered with trigger happy Agazi Brigade soldiers and the PM office run by hot heads that vow to crush, the coming days and months will without a doubt be the worst days of our life. The anger of pro and against government forces is in all time high and reasonable minds are hard to find. These, my friends, are the receipts of genocide about to happen. May God proves me wrong and I will forever be grateful.


This post is updated



50 years of silence


When I was a junior in high school, I used to pass by the Ministry of Information of Ethiopia on my way to the library. One thing I remember the most was how I have to cross the street before I get close to the office or get yelled at by the security forces. The office was guarded by highly armed security forces and they sure have no time to befriend anyone. You crossed them they break you. Simple.

As a little kid I wondered why they need to guard this old building with antennas more than the palace or any other important office. I wondered about the attention of the security forces. One day, I run into older gentleman while waiting to cross the street to the other side. In my frustration, I exclaimed “what is the big deal about this place” and the older gentleman shook his head and said to me “the deal, young man, this place is a ministry of information where they have radio and TV stations.” I was surprised even more once I knew what the place was and I asked again “so, what is that mean?” the older gentleman gave me that look as if he is looking into my young naive soul and said “young man, in order to control society, one have to control the media. controlling media is simply controlling hearts and minds of people”

His explanation stayed with me for long time. A nice coincidence gave me a lifetime of lesson. You control media, You control hearts and minds!

This month we are hearing a lot about months long 50th anniversary of Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. With a budget of  millions of Ethiopian birr to celebrate the golden anniversary, Ethiopian TV stations show the impact they made and their contribution to the larger society. Yes, there are many positive contribution in the past fifty years. Cultural programs, entertainments, children programs (even if it is very limited the contribution have to be recognized) sports and so on. I mean who forgets the folk tale by Ababa Tesfaye and jokes of Engedawork, Lemenih and Albachew and so on. So yes, there are accomplishments to celebrate and journalists to thank in this anniversary.

Happy 50th Anniversary!

Yet when it comes to the core of a free press, Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation, simply fails flat. The United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”

One can argue when it comes to the freedom of expression and hold opinions without interference, Ethiopian government owned TV or radio simply celebrating fifty years of silence. Let’s go back and see what the past fifty years record of Ethiopia TV or radio looks like with the landmark historic events that happened in Ethiopia and how the Press covered it.

Drought of 1972-73: The Ethiopian drought which started in 1950’s and reached its climax in 1972-73 left 60,000 plus Ethiopians dead due to famine. The monarch government of Ethiopia at the time was denying the famine and Ethiopian Television was showing pro government programs rather than sending reporters to cover the famine. Finally, the world knew about it by 1973 production of the ITV programme The Unknown Famine by Jonathan Dimbleby. The world and Ethiopians in the unaffected part of the country saw the famine and that resulted in overthrow of the King from power in 1974.

Red Terror 1977-78: Red Terror or Qey Shibir was a violent criminal campaign by the communist government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Undoubtedly, the most darkest time in Ethiopian history, this campaign was estimated to take the life of more than half a million people. Some of us who are old enough to remember back, seeing a dead student with a sign of “Red Terror” in the street gutters simply explain the wickedness of the time. A low level government cadres can play judge jury and executor and simple shoot who they believe to be anti-government. The scar of these time still evident in the citizens of Ethiopia near and far. One of the bad memories of Ethiopians of that time was the revolutionary songs and announcements on Ethiopian TV and radios. Mothers sadly wait to hear the list of names that are executed trying to not hear their loved ones mentioned. Ethiopian journalists who were critical of the government was hunted and killed. Journalists like Bealu Girma, disappeared without a trace. Those who kept their job in the TV and radio stations used their God given talent and skill to glamorize the killing machines of the military junta. (Disclaimer: My father and my brother was in the news in 1975, unfortunately they were with the name of those killed)

Shabia and Woyane: While Ethiopian socialist government fought with Woyane and Shabia in the North, Ethiopian TV and radio programs aired socialist propaganda and kept their mouth shut. They failed to inform their listeners about the war and instead gave a wrong impression of peace even when the war started to get closer. As always, Ethiopians focused to get their daily dose of news via VOA, BBC and other foreign media’s. While ETV airing recurring propagandas, residents of Addis Ababa started seeing rebel fighters with their machine guns and grenades walking on the streets. Sadly though, the struggle they die for was not to liberate but to replace an oppressor as another form of oppressor. In the weeks following the take over of the city, same amount of guards started to secure the building and yell at passer-bye’s just as they were before. Only this time they speak Tigregna not Amharic.

10 most censored countries: In 2015, Ethiopia, made it to the top 10 most censored countries list following Eritrea, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. This list, as shameful it was, showed the pressure our journalists are under in any circumstances. It was not the case of greedy, sold-out, unprofessional journalist that we are dealing with, it was a case of an oppressive, undemocratic, dictatorial government system that put us in the dreaded list of most censored. Journalists like Eskinder Nega, Reeot Alemu, Zone nine bloggers are some of the victims and examples of the oppressive system journalists are under in Ethiopia. Yet, in Ethiopian TV and radio programs, not even a single reporting about the conditions of free press in a way it made sense and informed citizens.

Massacre of the Anuak: In December 2003, Anuak diaspora groups started getting a disturbing message from home about a crime committed against them  by governement forces to take their land make ways to private companies.  According to report by the human rights organization the Oakland Institute, more than 70,000 families are forcefully moved from their ancestral land by the Ethiopian government “villagization’ program to make way for Karuturi Ltd. The Human rights report reads: “On December 13, 2003, in an apparent reprisal for a series of ambushes of highlander civilians carried out by armed Anuak, ENDF soldiers and highlander civilians launched a brutal attack on Gambella town’s Anuak population.  A large number of troops from the ENDF’s 43rd Division were in Gambella town when the massacre began and Human Rights Watch estimates that over one hundred of them participated in the massacre.31  Adult Anuak men were the primary targets of the violence but were not its only victims.  Soldiers raped several Anuak women, over four hundred Anuak houses were burned to the ground and huge numbers of civilians fled into the forest or took shelter in compounds belonging to two of the town’s largest churches. The commander of Gambella town’s military garrison, Major Tsegaye Beyene, was in Gambella town throughout the massacre and took no apparent action to stop it; indeed, he appears to have directly taken part in the violence.”  Yet, Ethiopian Tv and radio programs stayed silent.

Oromo Political Prisoners: There is a saying in Ethiopia, “If you want to learn how to speak Oromo, go to jail” Amnesty international reports Ethiopia’s political prisoners are mostly Oromo’s and the crackdown end up putting thousands of Oromo political activists in jail. Most of the members of Oromo political parties like Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and the Oromo People’s Congress (OPC) are thrown in prison and they remind there to this very day. Known figures like Bekele Gerba are taken from their house and thrown in jail without a due process. In mean time, Ethiopian TV and radio programs, cover the awesomeness of Ethiopia’s amazing economical growth and recurring quotes of leaders from the grave.

Oromo protests and Addis Master Plan: In early December 2015, a protest started in a city of Ginchi, because of the government’s plan of expanding Addis Ababa’s territory into Oromia administered areas. In the effort to stop a private company’s bulldozers from destroying a Chilimo forest, residents of Ginchi started protesting and the government starting shooting innocent protesters. Most young students and some children laid dead in the streets. The protest erupted throughout Oromia and in an effort to squash the movement the Government set up command posts and dispatched a brutal Agazi brigade which escalates the number of dead quickly. As of today, 140 plus dead, 2000 plus injured and 35000 imprisoned. As expected, reporters of Ethiopian TV and radio stations did not rushed to the scene to report the dead or asked the locals what happened. Instead, they stayed in their studios and interviewed government officials which denied the cruelty and murder. The officials also angered many for their disrespectful response that valued property ahead of life and called the protesters “demons”. To this day, there is no reporting of the real cause of the protest and investigation made by Ethiopian TV and radio programs.

I am sure there are so many other important events I missed. (The election of 1996 and the Ambo protests of 2014 comes to mind). I know these are not deep and detailed reporting of the incidents. All I am trying to do is show an example of missed opportunities. So now, let me go back to my point.

When I say, your 50 anniversary is a sham, I am not saying it to hurt feelings or being mean. I am being a realist. I myself was interviewed in Ethiopian TV and radio programs and I had a fabulous time doing it. The journalists I met and spoken to are the best and still my favorites. But, media organizations have to be more and above one’s interest. Their existence and importance is measured by the difficult point they shine light to, their presence have to be to educate and inform citizens so they can make a better judgment in their elections and day to day life. By missing that, you failed us all.

Here is my cheers to you for your fifty years of silence! Fifty years of silence that failed to shine light about millions starved and still starving. Fifty years of silence that gave deaf ears to the screams of thousands behind bars. Fifty of silence that missed important opportunities to get to the bottom of issues and inform and educate. Cheers to you and yours!

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.

Malcolm X





Race to the Bottom


One of the known distractive behaviors in a human psyche is denial. Experts tell us a person who accepted a weakness tend to fix it faster and better than those who are struggling to concede the problem to begin with. This same behavior can manifest itself in group thinking, the way companies run or the way countries governed. Think for example the way the housing industry crushed in the beginning of the great recession. We all remember how it was announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, yet the biggest mortgage companies still airing their toxic loan advertisements in the television. Denial my friends, is a bitch!

I remember about the same denial when I read and see news from back home. How government of Ethiopia and fans like to get high in the news of “success story” “10 percent growth” “middle class country in 20 years” and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in wishing to be the best and striving to change the narrative. The problem is, Ethiopian government and supporters, only like to see the rosy image and totally deny the problem. Remember, denial is a bitch.

Allow me to explain. You remember the scene from the movie “Titanic” how calm and beautiful the ship was while the rich guests mingle with a heavenly sound of a classical piano and fine wine. The most complicated and state-of-the-art ship ever built by mankind carrying rich Europeans and poor servants in its belly. The perfect example of gilded age (the late 19th century, from the 1870s to about 1900. Which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding) about to come crushing. Then go back and see the scene where the ship was sinking taking all with it, indiscriminatingly, the bubble bursting in the middle of the dark ocean. Sad end of a world of greed and denial. For the riches on the top floor the world they were enjoying was “success story” but for the servants and maids in the bottom belly of the ship, the world was “unfair” “biased” and “not worth living”. Same people, same place, different feeling about their life. Yet, all died dreading each other.

This is the same thing I am seeing in today’s Ethiopia. Few Ethiopians are accomplishing the impossible. Building multiple buildings, buying shares in big companies, Everything they do succeeds. “ I was broke ten years ago, then I started investing in housing and now, I own a big company” said an investor in todays Ethiopia while explaining his riches in an interview. This same guy who was broke decade ago now owns multiple companies and he thinks people in Ethiopia will able to invest in his million birr apartments because all he know and see is success. His optimism and drive is infectious only if it is not denial and phony. His success is phony because his riches come from a looted land from poor farmers. His success is phony because the people that are able to invest in his business did not work for their money yet get it just like him by looting others. His building and villas are bubbles because the land that he is selling for $10000 per square feet was taken from a farmer for $4 per square feet and even that sometimes not paid right to the farmers. (if you don’t trust me listen to Abay Tsehaye at 15:15min mark). This is not to say there are no hard working honest and law abiding investors in Ethiopia. In a positive light, those who worked hard, and invested their hard earned money are known by all Ethiopians. Their money and how they got it, is known by all. Yet the one I am talking about are those that just pop up and buy everything. The “tarike Bachiruwoch”

Now let’s see how the other Ethiopian live. Ethiopians from North to South, East to West, regardless of where they are, what ethnicity they belong to, As long as they are not the part of the political elite or local one-to-five cadres or lower rank spies and sympathizers, they all identify with the victim category. The category of tens of millions with food shortage and farmers that are kicked out of their land, the civil servant boxed in the cubicle of bureaucracy and the silent majority that eat once a day. Those who are day laborers, shoeshine boys, snack vendors, and beggars. They eat gursha, handfuls of restaurant leftovers served from plastic bags. Families go for dumpster diving to feed their kids and once landowners now they are gate keepers and servants. Just like the servants in the bottom belly of Titanic, they too see the system as  “unfair” “biased” and “not worth living”.

So the blatant denial of Ethiopian government and supporters is only a remedy for the race to the bottom. It is a race to a bottom to not address the legitimate question of Oromo protesters and shoot and kill unarmed students and children. It is a race to the bottom to point finger on each other rather than taking responsibility and deal with the consequences. It is a race to the bottom to deny about corrupted officials when we are witness villas owned by officials in the middle of the city while millions starve. It is a race to a bottom not to properly acknowledge the downward trajectory of the country and buy the success story while the blood on street is still fresh and the children belly left empty.

It is only denial that make a government to brag about economical growth in the same press release while the next topic is asking aid for tens of millions starving. It is only denial to claim protesters are terrorist in the same interview where an official acknowledge theft and corruption by government officials justifying the protestors. It is only denial to say “Oromo people know who stole from him” while the glaring buildings and sprawling farms hold their name and titles in public. I tell you denial is a bitch.

Armed with denial, soon we all crash to the bottom of the ocean like Titanic, or we can face up to our problem and change our future together. The answer is in our hand.



We put gold in their necks, they put bronze in our brains!


This morning I watched an impressive result by our Ethiopian man and women runners in 2016 Dubai Marathon. Our athletes scored impressive almost all Ethiopian result from one to ten (the only mix up was an athlete from Ethiopia that no longer run for us) and two  Kenyan brothers.  This amazing record and result chart remind me a painful not-so-impressive record of Ethiopian government. The list of Oromo protesters shot by Ethiopian security forces in the past 30 days. 140 plus to be exact.

Yes our golden men and women bring pride and put gold in the neck of our country and the government pays them back  by putting bronze ammo’s in the brains of students and farmers.

This is not a time to celebrate, it is time to reflect.

Congratulations to our athletes, even in this bitter time, your contribution and effort is always appreciated!


A picture worth a thousand words


In the middle of the Oromo Protest, a seemingly confused spokesperson of Ethiopian government, Getachew Reda, sat with ETV’s Tefera Gedamu to discuss the ongoing protest and the response of the government. In an effort to describe what unfolded and identify parties responsible, he said “Students have a genuine reason to protest and by doing so they are exercising their constitutional right but some political parties here and abroad….came together and try to exploit the situation , exploited the confusion. The violence they introduced to the picture simply meant that, apart from student protesting in this localities, was absolutely uncontrollable largely armed gangs terrorizing the public”

Now look at the photo below and here is why it matters. It matters because it exposes the true actions of the government when it comes to the Oromo Protest. Here are three reason why?


Reason one: Constitutional right to protest

The constitutional right to protest mostly not allowed in Ethiopia especially if it is not pro-government. Even in some of the pro-government rallies, voices of dissent was not tolerated. If the protesting students are being model citizens as the spokesperson tells us, why are they being kicked and terrorized by the security forces. Carefully look at the photo. This photo was taken in Dadar, East Hararge. The three kids sitting are student with their school uniforms and books at hand being kicked by government special forces. This is the situation in Oromia, Ethiopia today and the international community is mostly silent.

Reason two: Violence related to the protests

The most violence we witnessed in the protests came from the government security forces and to this day, the government, which controls the entire media outlet in Ethiopia failed to proof its case. Yet armed with cell phones and social media, we now know and  witnessed the incredible cruelty of government special forces towards the student protesters. Dead children, lifeless bodies, tortured prisoners, terrorized campus buildings and illegal arrested political leaders and the list goes on…

Reason three: Armed gangs terrorizing the public

Unless the spokesperson was talking about the government’s special forces, which are armed and terrorizing the students in the picture, the protesters are simply students, farmers and civil servants. It is a common practice for the Ethiopian government officials to create a point of fear to the their western friend by dropping words like “terrorist” “armed gangs” “foreign elements’ to cast a shadow of doubt on what is clearly a movement by ordinary folks to peacefully protest what they considered a flawed system. The Addis Ababa Master Plan.

Sometimes, a picture worth a thousand words!






United Nations or Unique Nations?


According to the United Nations Charter, the first article of the first chapter states the Purposes of the United Nations as :

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”  

The importance of United Nations is so vital to the world peace and to create a plain level field between countries regardless of their power or wealth is what makes me a big fan of it. The United Nations plays an important role in children health, education, refugees protection and so many other crucial services that I can’t able to cover in one blog post. Yet, more than any other services, as stated in the first article of the first charter, peace keeping and international justice is the main reason and work of the United Nations.

That is why I get disappointed and wonder if the United Nations treats its members equally when I see disparities in their response to different casualties around the world.

Take for example the urgency and response given to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. The United Nations secretary General Ban Ki Moon gave a needed a well deserved response the the tragic event the same day. He said ““I am appalled and deeply shocked by the attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris this morning,” Mr. Ban said. “This act of violence can in no way be justified. This is an attack against freedom of expression and freedom of the press – the two pillars of democracy.”  The response and urgency given to Paris was well deserved and I applaud the UN for standing with France in the time of national mourning.

Today, the UN Spokesperson was asked by the Inner City Press (ICP) journalist about the Oromo protest in Ethiopia. The journalist said” Is the United Nations aware of a pretty detail reporting of protest in Oromia, Protesting what is called a seizure of their land , people say 140 people are killed. Given the UN had an office in Addis Ababa, do you have a knowledge of these killings?

The UN spokesperson replied “I don’t have anything with me here, but I will check”

I am sure at this point our mind rushes to find an answer why the UN might not have a clue about Ethiopia versus France. But that is the point.

International peace and security have to be just that, international peace and security regardless of where it happens. Prevention and removal of peace also means intervening into domestic politics when children and students are being killed by their own government. Especially when the government we are talking about is campaigning to earn a seat in the security council of the United Nations. Conformity with the principles of Justice and international law means respecting the human rights where ever in the globe the person lived.

Yet the special attention some countries get from UN officials makes me wonder if the name of the organization is United Nations or Unique Nations?


A Tale of Two Grooms



Sunday, January 10, 2016 was ordinary Sunday in Ethiopia. Most are resting from a long work week, visiting families, catching up with friends. For some, since this was a wedding season, they are preparing to attend wedding of family or friend. This same Sunday two grooms are preparing to wed their loved ones, hundreds of miles apart.

The first groom was Abel Tesfaye, he was preparing to marry his lover, Dr. Sosina Haile Mariam at the Apostolic Church of Ethiopia in the capitol Addis Ababa. This wedding was all over the news since it was the first official wedding that will take place in the National Palace of Ethiopia. Since his soon to be wife was the daughter of the Prime Minster of Ethiopia Haile Mariam Desalegn and w/o Roman Tesfaye. I am sure the wedding was special to the PM and his family since there is nothing more important and moving than giving the hand of his daughter in marriage. The videos that was released from the church was very nice and moving. Congratulation is in order to the Prime Minster and his family. I am sure Groom number one, Abel Tesfaye, will continue to live happily ever after with his beloved wife Dr. Sosina Haile Mariam. With God’s will they will have kids and make the PM a proud Grand father.

The second Groom was teacher Fitsum Abate of Gurissa, Illibabour at Oromia region. He was preparing to marry his lover Frehiwot Belete. According to the reports from different media outlets, the night before, Ethiopian Security forces show up in his place and knock on his door. He opened the door only to be met with a barrage of bullets which hit him in his head. The day that was suppose to be the happiest of his life, Fitsum spend the night in Metu hospital in life support. The day of his wedding he was taken to the capital to get a better treatment and as the reports show he is in critical condition at Tikur Anbessa Hospital.

Here is where the story meets. In early December, a protest started in a city of Ginchi, because of the government’s plan of expanding Addis Ababa’s territory into Oromia administered areas. In the effort to stop a private company’s bulldozers from destroying a Chilimo forest, residents of Ginchi started protesting and the government starting shooting innocent protesters. Most young students and some children laid dead in the streets. The protest erupted throughout Oromia and in an effort to squash the movement the Government set up command posts and dispatched a brutal Agazi brigade which escalates the number of dead quickly. As of today, 140 plus dead, 2000 plus injured and 35000 imprisoned.

At this point, the father of bride number one, the Prime Minster gave a TV interview and we all hoped for a comment of reason to stop the senseless killing and move the country to healthier atmosphere and we were shocked and disappointed to hear his angry comments and his regrets for the destruction of property before life. He said “For the people that involved in the protest in destruction of property, we will take action against them without any mercy”.  Most of us know really well what comments like this mean. The mass arrest of protesters and opposition political leaders like Bekele Gerba continued and the number of dead escalated right away. The PM’s comment meant the green light to hunt and kill what the government believes to be anti-government without any due-process. It meant a green light to harass one in his or her home and shoot them. It meant a green light to shoot groom number two, teacher Fitsum Abate just because the security forces suspected him or not. Don’t hold your breath to see if justice will be served for Fitsum, it is not. He just end up being another person without a voice in his own country.

From the wedding video of the PM’s daughter, I can’t help it but see the emotions of the Prime Minster while he was reading the scripture. He was wiping his eyes with emotions of happiness and I hope he know there are thousands of other parents wiping their eyes too but only in misery and sadness. I hope he knows he and his administrations actions unleashed misery on thousands of families and the only way they remember their kids is by small plot in a nameless graveyard due to the bullets of blood hungry butchers. I hope every time he cherish his family, he remembers, those mothers and fathers and their pain.

The story of the two grooms is a perfect face of today’s Ethiopia. The land of so many struggling families and few completely out-of-touch supporters. The land of the exiled, tortured, imprisoned masses and few greedy millionaires that can loot, steal, lie and prosper without consequences. The land of tens of millions starving and few living in their villas crying foul. 

This is the end of the tale of the two grooms and I hope we will have a country where the two grooms live happily ever after. Hope both families cry the tear of joy and be able to hug their kids and grand kids. I hope we will have a country where the rule of law prevails. I hope and pray!

False Hope: Trickle-down economics

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 9.56.44 AMDiscussing politics with friends and social gatherings is such a roller coaster ride. There is no warning what kind of ideas you going to hear. Constructive, impressive, misguided, flat out crazy and “OMG! what the hell they talking about” are some of the way I characterize them. This is not to say my idea and points are better and I am sure the recipient of my comments can also use the same categories about my comment.

One of “OMG! what the hell they talking about” comment I heard in one of my discussion was “if the fascist Italians stayed longer than 5 years in Ethiopia, they might build better infrastructures for us” I kid you not, when I heard this comment uttered by a person of Ethiopian origin, I felt so sick and disappointed I was about to throw up. I asked myself, did this person know what it means to be colonized? the pain, abuse of human right, being downgraded to subhuman and dealing with aftermath even after hundreds of years? did this person understand, with all the lack of infrastructures, the only reason Ethiopians walk with there heads up is because of freedom our forefathers died for. In any case, after a heated discussion, I find out this believe is shared with others too. The idea of some foreign element to rescue us from our “uncivilized” life and  save the day. Even if their definition of civilization is servitude and being second citizen in our own land.

Well, my friends, it seems to me the same people with the “OMG what the hell they talking about” idea is running the country as we speak. Let me explain.

Meet Karuturi Ltd, Bangalore-based Karuturi Global Ltd, founded by Sai Ramakrishna Karuturi, is the worlds largest producer of cut flowers. Ethiopia and Karuturi signed an agreement in November 2010 for a long-term lease on 11,000 ha (27181 acres) in the Oromia Region and a 50-year lease on 100,000 ha (247000 acres) in the Gambela Region, with an option for another 200,000 ha (494000 acres) if the company completed the project within two years. Besides being known as a iconic landgrabber, Karuturi Ltd is known for its inhumane treatment of its employees. In Kenya, according to, “workers have been living in inhumane conditions without pay, water or electricity since months. In the last six months, their medical services have been shut down and the school for their children has been closed. On top of this, Karuturi owes the Kenyan government millions of US dollars in unpaid taxes that it hid through doctored invoices and transfer pricing.” Later, On April 22nd, 2013, the Kenyan government found Karuturi guilty of tax evasion for nearly $11 million.

This is a company Ethiopian leaders invited to produce food in Gamblla region. According to report by the human rights organization the Oakland Institute, more than 70,000 families are forcefully moved from their ancestral land by the Ethiopian government “villagization’ program to make way for Karuturi Ltd. The report clearly shows some of the sufferings by the local and how the staff of Karuturi call locals “non-people”

This year, Ethiopian Government find out the company only used 5% of the land its given and the government took 98000 ha (242000 acres) from the company. The CEO of the company said, he will sue the Ethiopian government in international court and bragged about his close ties with the Prime Minsters office in the interview he gave the reporter newspaper. What is not clear is what the government do with the land it acquired back from Karuturi. Time will tell if another so called investor will snatch the land while the locals languish without land.

As it stands today, the people of Gambella are displaced from their land. Some languishing in refugee camps, some struggling in the new locations they settled and some work for Karuturi and being called “non-people”. The land that the government wished the foreigners will develop as a high scale farms is just a wet dream. Yet, no one is held accountable. The idea of high scale farming by foreign investors so the success trickles down was just a myth.

Look very carefully the picture featured in today’s Reporter news paper. The owner of Karuturi and his Indian workers. In the background, the Gambella’s as second citizen in their own land. I am sure, I will run into someone who want to tell me “if only Karuturi stayed longer..” but the difference between us is, I don’t want Ethiopian’s to be second citizens in their own land.





Mother of all earth

The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.

Carl Jung


When I was a kid growing up in Ethiopia, I used to closely watch how the man around me acted towards women. I followed their characters and tried to learn from them. See, for a young boy like me, there was nothing more important than emulating them. The older ones in my community did things in a respectful manner towards women and girls. They talked to them in different way they do to us boys. Even when we mess around and get in trouble, we were scolded differently. One night we were watching a TV, a younger lady walked in and the older gentleman wanted her to take his seat. I was a little taken a back by his action. Later that night I asked him why he did what he did and he told me “A women is a mother of all earth, everyone comes into the world from a mother’s womb. No one knows who the mother give birth to, a king or a Pop. You should always respect a women because that is a measure of a just man”

The quote sound much better in our language (apologize for the lack of good translation) but it thought me a very important lesson in my young age. A women is a mother of all earth!

I am sure you heard about the current situation in Ethiopia and Oromo protest against the illegal master plan to take the land from poor farmers to give it to private foreign companies and government cronies. I am sure you heard the government killed 100 plus, injured hundreds of protesters and imprisoned over a thousand activists. The images of dead students some at the ripe age of teens and some in college years are televised and broadcasted in diaspora TV stations. Every single one of them are sad and infuriating. Here is a story of one of the thousands that are detained and tourtured by Federal security forces in Ethiopia.

Meet artist Hawi Tefera.  The famous Oromo female singer Hawi Tezera was detained and tortured  by the Ethiopian Federal police for releasing an Afan Oromo single music that’s critical of the Ethiopian government’s affairs, i.e. the Master Plan and the killings following the protests against the Master Plan, in the Federal State of Oromia. The single, which was released on December 15, 2015, was produced using the traditional Oromo protest genre called Geerarsa.

Upon the intervention of the Oromian State police,  Hawi was released from her ordeal only to be imprisoned again over the last few days. In that time interval, activists able to take a photo of her pain inflicted body and no one knows where she is and how she is doing.

Here is the song she released.

Her story really bothered me and pained me. Who are the federal police officers that tortured her. How does a government with a good  standing with the world, be able to do this without consequences? when do the world fell this low to do nothing while artists, students and farmers summarily executed because they protested.

Yes, in Ethiopia, the government is above the law. But when we torture the mother of all earth, bad karma will torture as back very soon.

Free Hawi Tezera!!

Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere!




The Arc of the Moral Universe


The Rev. Martin Luther king once said “The arc of moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. This quote that keep reinventing itself from an abolitionist Theodore Parker to MLK and then to Barack Obama, reassures with constant push, inevitable sacrifices and long bitter struggle, once stand for moral and righteous struggle will bring justice no matter how long the struggle takes. As wishful as it sounds, the quote always prevails whether it was an abolitionist movement, the struggle for civil rights or to overthrow apartheid.

I am also reminded of the quote this week reading and watching news coverage about #oromoprotest in Ethiopia. The Oromo student protest which is now spreading to civil employees in some areas started to stop the Illegal Addis Ababa Master plan that was planned to illegally take Oromo farmers land and reward it to investors and government cronies by annexing the neighboring Oromiyya cities without the vote or the consent of the locals. The action of the government was met with a huge resistance by the people of Oromiyaa especially by the college and University students. In May 2014, the same day they hosted the Secretary of State John Kerry in the capitol Addis Ababa 100 KM away, the government Agazi brigade, opened fire on a peaceful protest of  students of Ambo University and killed more that 47 students.  The world watch in horror and some of us thought and wished the US government will oppose the Ethiopian governments action, only to be shocked when President Obama praised them by and calling them “democratic”. The Ethiopian government  put aside the Master plan for a while and went back to implement it again after a year. But this time, the protest spread throughout oromiyaa so too the crackdown by government forces. The social media of oromo opposition leaders is filled with gruesome images of killed and injured students, riot gear wearing federal polices terrorizing students in campus grounds and Ethiopian government officials justifying their cruel and illegal action on open social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter.

According to USAID, “Over the last decade, Ethiopia has made tremendous development gains in education, health and food security. In 2014, GDP growth was 10.3 percent (IMF). The addition of 38,000 health extension workers has helped reduce the under five child mortality rate by more than six percent a year since 2000.

Ethiopia still remains one of the ten poorest countries in the world, with an estimated annual per capita income of $470 in 2013 (World Bank). Roughly 30 percent of Ethiopians live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day and are vulnerable to food insecurity, and about 75 percent depend on subsistence agriculture (IFPRI). From a humanitarian perspective, approximately 2.9 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in 2015, in addition to 7.9 million chronically food insecure beneficiaries who are supported through the Productive Safety Net Program. Its fast-growing population, now estimated at more than 94 million, puts tremendous pressure on the land and natural resources that are the cornerstones for the country’s growth.” The above estimate of 2.9 million people tripled to be 10 million plus people that need food help due to el Nino related drought. At the beginning, Ethiopian government denied the numbers and bragged about the agricultural production the country successfully produced. Little that the world know, the large scale producers like Saudi Star, produced grain in Ethiopian for foreign markets while Ethiopians starve. Today, after wasting ample time to help its people by denying the drought, the government agrees there are millions that need food help as soon as possible.

Some of us do not trust the government to solve the drought problem because we believe the government do not put the drought on the front burner and change the way it conducts itself. For example, the same week the government accepted the situation of drought and the need of hundreds of millions from foreign aid to help the drought affected areas, they announced they are completing a secluded complex of villas for retiring government officials to keep it as a gift. The price tag 1.7 million each (six officials get the first villas totaling 10 million). The villas come with there own road and utility services and situated under the foot of a mountain for privacy reason. I wonder how many children and mothers the villas money can feed and how many lives it will save. To make things worse, they announced this is just the beginning of the gifts, I wonder how many they planned and where the money come from.

Ethiopian government is also a recipient of US foreign aid to the amount of half a billion dollar a year. some of the aid goes to help health, education other important causes but also some is directed towards military aid only to embolden the government to crack down on dissent,  imprison journalists and to be one of the most human right violators in the world. Yet, the government seems to find the goose that laid the golden eggs because of its cooperation to fight against terrorist groups like Al Shabab most of it sins will be forgiven by US administration.

How is it we justify the killing of innocent college students just because they use their God given right to disagree and question their government? How is it we keep quite while we see poor farmers being thrown out of their ancestral land to make way to Chinese companies and government cronies in the name of progress? How is it we call ourselves Ethiopians when we look the other way when our Oromo, Anuak, Amhara brothers and sisters being killed and abused in front of us? Does it make a difference if a mother that bury her baby is from oromo or Tigrai? What makes one more or less painful or important? Why are we only incensed when we feel pain close to us and why are we totally deaf to the weeping of children from far? This is not a struggle between ethnic groups, this is a struggle against a system that tries to pin us against one another. We all need to have a moral compass to stand in front of our kids and condemn injustice.

So far, seventy six plus people are killed in Oromiyya and the government is pointing its finger on the protesters for not understanding the Master plan. How about the accountability of the government to control the urge to not shoot?  We are experts of pain and misery, thanks to our reckless governments in the past and present, we are tortured, killed, pillaged, expelled and imprisoned by our brothers and sisters. Who are the land owners in the time of the king that was telling us to eat cake while many dying of starvations? our brothers and sisters. Who are the cadre’s that used to shoot kids in a day light at the time of “red Terror”?  Our brothers and sisters. Who are the Federal police officers that are killing our Oromo brothers and sisters today? our brothers and sisters. Who are the land grabbers, the bribers, the so called investors that loot the countries wealth and farmers land? our brothers and sisters. Look no far, we are the Judge, the Jury and executor of our own people. Open your eyes people, the way of righteousness is crowded and blocked by temporary wealth and opportunities, but if you can see further you are losing your place in the future of your ancestral land.

I heard the government is looking for the leader of the protest. I will tell them who lead this. The Oromo protest is led by the inner Gadda, the ancestral principle that despise hate and injustice,  If you are looking for the leaders to indict, indict the entire Oromo culture that preaches righteousness and standing against injustice no matter what the cost is. Leave the land alone and walk away from this one.

Remember the famous qoute by Pastor Martin Niemöller

” First they came for the Anuak, and I did not speak out—Because I was not an Anuak.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the Oromos, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an Oromo.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Yes the arc of moral universe is long, but i am worried it will be too late for Ethiopia, by the time it bends towards justice. The time to speak against injustice is now or forever hold your tongue.




Global Diaspora Week Launch at State Department

It was great to attend the Global Diaspora Week launch at the State Department on behalf of ‪#‎ethiopiareads‬ and ‪#‎openheartsbigdreams‬ . Among the lineup of speakers were Sec. Of State John Kerry, Thomas Debass, Managing Director of Global Partnership of the Secretary and of course the two times Grammy winner Anjelique Kidjo. It was a pleasure of mine to shine light to the amazing works of Ethiopia Reads and Open Hearts Big Dreams and exchange ideas and learn way to expand some if the projects by partnering with US Government!



Photos are courtesy of the Global Partnership office of the Secretary.

Charles Mudede’s Stranger article!


“In Western architecture, modernism was about breaking with the past. Rich Roman moldings, dramatic Greek columns, and ornate Renaissance ceilings were replaced by hard lines, exposed structural elements, unadorned windows, and so on. This was not the modernism of Habesha’s owner and designer. For them, a change in location (an American city instead of an African one) and technologies or materials did not mean a change in the themes or motifs of old. The past entered the new by way of menus designed with computers. Bojia’s work is on this tip. For example, the Queen Sheba sign he worked on with other artists is original (there is no rusted iron tradition in Ethiopia), but it represents something traditional (a wedding-size cooking pot).

Finally, this branch of modernism is cosmopolitan in the sense that it’s tasteful and professional. There is no half-stepping with the new school of restaurateurs.”

Read the whole story here:


Oromo Art: The Next Frontier


I successfully spoke at Oromo Studies Association Annual Conference at Howard University in Washington DC. I was there in an invitation from the OSA to speak about Oromo art. My presentation was entitled Oromo Art: The Next Frontier. “For centuries, Oromo’s created art that lasted generations. Their work is a trace of proud people with rich identity and history that goes deep down for ages. Whether it is a cultural sword that passed down from one generation to another or a beautiful jewelery Oromo womens wear as a symbol of their ancestors, it contained a DNA of long and wide history of Oromo life and existence. The rich tapestry of this art, was neglected or overlooked for centuries until now. My presentation will try to show the past and analyze the present in hopes to open door for the next frontier.”

I am very grateful for the OSA board members to invite me to this historic meeting, especially President Jawar Mohammed, Ayantu Ayana and Demitu Argo. I also like to thank my family and friends for their hospitality and care.

In addition to presenting, I got a chance to meet a human rights activist Mr Bekele Gerba, who was a prisoner of conscious in Ethiopia for four years and just released from prison in his first US visit. I got the honor of painting him in a spot and presenting it to him. I think his smile says he liked it. My hope is to highlight the lack of human rights and respect to voice in Ethiopia through this amazing leader. A true foundation of a democratic country can not be realized with out the rule of law and respect to human rights. That is true regardless of any hollow praise from a foreign leader or powerful global financial organizations. It is time for us to face the music and acknowledge without a proper shot and respect to human rights, we are building the wall of babylon, which crumbles in time and leave our poor people carrying the burden. We went through this a lot, we don’t need to look at a crystal ball to forecast what ahead. Let’s stop the blame game, too many people are suffering from our inaction.

Look for an exclusive interview for OMN Amharic program with the amazing Abdi Fite!


Let’s all work to promote Peace, Love and Equality! Geletooma! God Bless!

Madaraka Festival 2015

A year ago a friend of mine asked me if I am willing to donate art for Madaraka 2014 festival. I was not aware of the festival that much but I knew the people behind it was good folks and I wanted to look into it. What I found was a gold mine. An idea of a gold mine, that gives back to the people of Kisumu, Kenya, through art to empowerment of  youth. One Vibe Africa, as its mission states, is a registered Kenyan NGO. It’s mission is  “Through programs in music and art, we inspire Kenyan youth toward a deeper appreciation of culture and tradition, empowering them to develop their own creative potential.” I found the organization to be a link between Africans and African Americans  and the Nation of Kenya and Africa itself. I donated two paintings and promised the founder and CEO Simon Javen Okelo, that I will like to involve the next year.

A year later, Simon called and asked me if I can curate Madaraka Festivals art show. I gladly accepted. I also promised to paint a larger painting of Omena band. As I try to create an art that says a  lot about what One Vibe Africa does, I came across an interesting video of Omena Band, consists of a group of men and women in their 70s and 80s from a community in Kenya, and they have been teaching at One Vibe’s Music & Art program. I automatically glued to the video which moved me. I wanted to capture them the way they play their music. Here is the painting.


Please stop by to Madaraka Festival at EMP to enjoy world class music and a rich art from the nation of Kenya.

Who We Truly Are!


Here are the three paintings I showed at The Black Lives Matter: Humanity Not Negotiable.  I came up with this idea while I was driving to work one morning. On the radio, Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney, she worked with the Los Angeles Police Department to build trust with minority communities. This amazing lady said she interviewed hundreds of police officers and they all have one answer in common. “Ms. Rice I’m scared of black men. Black men terrify me. I’m really scared of them. Ms. Rice, you know black men who come out of prison, they’ve got great hulk strength and I’m afraid they’re going to kill me. Ms. Rice, can you teach me how not to be afraid of black men.” I am sure what is happening right now is not all that simplistic for example, Tamir Rice was not big or old but he got shot anyways but it is for sure some of the problem we have. Listen to the program here.


Then I started thinking about the black men I know. Who they are and how the society perceived them, including me. At this point, I started to think about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown and all of them. I wondered if they will be here today if the police officers knew who they truly are. I wondered if it made a difference if the police officers knew the mothers, the loved ones who cared for them. I also wondered If it made a difference if the police officers knew their contribution to their community. I wondered. I am not sure if it made a difference but it for sure will help the police to see the human side of us.

Here are my two friends and me telling the world who we truly are.


Thanks for Naomi Ishisaka for taking the photos. Here is her portfolio website

Meeting a civil rights icon: Rev. Jesse Jackson



It was such a pleasure to meet and hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister and a former Presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket, He is also a Founder of Rainbow Push Coalition. He stood besides MLK in struggle to secure civil rights in US, he literally stood beside him Memphis Tennessee in Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He still stands for the right of minorities to this day. Cases like Eric Garner, Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin only make us wish for more Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharpton’s.

Civil rights Icon and former presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson’s talk at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall about women and minorities in technology, as well as civil rights and student participation in the public policy process.

In his speech, he said. “Racism is a disease, We should be treated to cure our disease, not justify our disease”. Thank you for Keep on fighting, keep on talking, keep on inspiring. Thanks to Tirhase Esahrit and for Mary Levin of UW for her photography!


US State Department’s Diaspora Forum

In recognition of the tremendous contributions that America’s diaspora communities make toward the development of their countries of heritage, The State Department’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Andrew O’Brien, led a Diaspora Tour that takes Washington on the road. One of his stop was Seattle Colleges. This tour builds on the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) partnership, launched in 2011, by the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Seattle event was hosted by Jill Wakefield Chancellor, Seattle Colleges and Moderated by Andrew O’Brien, Representative For Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State. I was one of the panelist representing Africa along with Roberto Carcelén Roberto Carcelén Foundation and Former Olympian, Rob Smith Owner, EarthWise Ventures, Alex-Hung H. Tran President, Western United Fish and Rita Zawaideh Founder, Salaam Cultural Museum.
I appreciated the State Department’s effort to highlight Diaspora’s contribution throughout the world. The panel was outstanding and the Q&A and the discussion took almost two hours. I was specially satisfied by the attendance of students and the whole event was so moving for me since it gave me a chance to return back to my Alma mater Seattle Central Community College.
I participated to talk about an annual fundraising to help raise money  to help train teachers, build libraries, schools and learning centers at my birth country of Ethiopia. The fundraising is called Open Hearts Big Dreams and we join forces with another well established organization called Ethiopian Reads to distribute the funds. The first event in 2011 raised $45,000 and supported several programs in Ethiopia, including a kindergarten  in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa. In 2012, $78,000 helped put a school library in every region of Ethiopia and build learning centers in Kembata Tembaro, a rural area where many children have no access to school. Last year $98,000 was raised, opening two more learning centers in the same region, initiating a new horse-powered mobile library project to reach rural children and helping teen girl athletes become tutors. The next Open Hearts Big Dreams is on December 13. Proceeds will help Ethiopian teachers gain new skills, double the reach of the mobile library and help young women athletes become part of literacy teams and build their own futures. Open Hearts Big Dreams have many donors from the diaspora communities as well as local communities with big hearts.
Special thanks goes to Lisa Knoop & Jason, to Maria Lamarca Anderson for putting together the event, Adam Sotomayor, Chief of Staff to the Special Representative and Bob Hereford for his amazing photography.
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Thank You!!


This past three months were such an amazing time for me and Ire. Ever since we released our new CD entitled, Yaddi Bojia Feat. Iré. We are in constant awe of the support and love we received from all  of you. To be honest, words can not express how grateful we are to be surrounded by the best of mankind. You supported our work, you bought a CD, downloaded online, encouraged us, encouraged others to check on us, you posted your photo with our CD, you posted video of you and loved ones, you commented on online stores and even set up an interview for us. Every day you showed us how much you cared for us. We just want to say THANK YOU!! We are  working hard to set up a live show soon. Look for your invitation.  The graphic above do not include all of you but enjoy it as a token of our appreciation. Tag yourself and tag people you know. Share it and let the world know how awesome you are.


With Love!

Yaddi and Ire

Endorsed by the Lone Wolf MP: Girma Seifu Maru


Imagine if the US congress have 547 seats and 546 of them are taken by Republicans and just one is Democrat or vise versa. I am sure this doomsday scenario will not  happen as long as there is a democratic election and  strong constitution is in place but who knows, I think we are three Koch brothers away from it. Well this same scenario is exactly what is happening in Ethiopia’s, House of People’s Representatives.  The House have 547 seats and 546 of it taken by the ruling EPRDF parties and one is held by Mr. Girma Seifu Maru of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ). In the positive light the House of Representatives have 154 women MP’s, which is impressive comparing to other African nations.

Most political watchers and experts questioned his presence as a rubber stamp of a representative who have no teeth to bit or support to pass a legislative by himself. They also said he is only there to be an example for foreign donors and friends as a sign of so called “Democracy”. These same experts advised and wished for him to leave  in solidarity of  oppositions to let the Government have it all. Yet Mr Girma decided to keep the seat his constituents gave him. He believed in rolling his sleeve and calling a spade a spade,  is the only way change truly happen. He was tough act to follow and impressive to hate. He focused on the task at hand and kept his cool even when he is out weighed 546 to 1. To witness his act in the house is something of a political show. For all the important laws the majority passed Mr. Girma recorded his strong opposition and questioned it’s legality.  His professional demeanor  and his courage to confront, consult, question, support and vet legislation’s regardless of the outcome is something that stood colorful and bold in the House of Representative. Today no expert think his presence in the house is not without merit. Because of that he represented his constituents superbly. Mr. Girma is not always against the ruling party. He also joined forces when he see a good legislation. He mourn the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in such a respectful and dignified way. For some, his act meant we can agree to disagree but we can be human in the time of sorrow.


Now I said all this, it come as a surprise to me to know Mr Girma endorsed my new CD. He said “Yadesa, An artist recently give us a good Reggae music not with the conventional way but with full of love to his nation Ethiopia even beyond to Africa. He is also contributed to Ormifa song …. please search to get the song. For sure you all love it.”

When I wrote my songs and worked with Iré Taylor. We knew what we are doing or what we are working on is not just music for the sake of enjoyment (Nothing wrong with that btw) but we wanted something that have message and something that unites people. Lyrically, I didn’t want to use my songs to hurt people’s feeling but to share what I was thinking. To exercise my God given right to express my inner feeling (track #2). To mourn those we lost and use their life to help others (track #3). To remind my fellow mankind the continent once wrongfully considered “The Dark Continent” is the light of my life (track #4). To celebrate my origin (track #1) to question history and to speak for the voiceless (track #6) and also to celebrate women (track #5, 10 and 11).

Some count their blessing by the amount of CD’s they sale or by the amount airplay’s and gigs they booked. Some feel lost and unappreciated and lose hope in the middle of their career. Some continue to work regardless of the outcome. Yes all of the above play an important role in artist life because artist have to scrap and struggle to make their music and sell it. It is fine and easy to look good on the album cover but it didn’t show the late nights  and credit card balances. through it all, one thing makes all artists flourish. The way they impact peoples life. The way art travel without boundaries and touches all. That is exactly what I felt when I read Mr Girma’s comment.

One of the highlights of my CD release came from two of my friend. One is opponent of the present Ethiopian Government. He spoke about it in public, led demonstrations and effectively denounced most of what he thinks are wrong in Ethiopia. My other friend was pro government. He supported the government and defended its administration on various mass media outlets. These two Ethiopians are very bright and smart and both have very good intentions for the country, yet they always quarrel from their respected corner. The week I released my CD, they both write me (not aware of one another) to say how much they liked the CD. I was very happy about that not only because they liked my work but because they shared same interest which is the indicative of “we are all the same”

May be Mr Girma knew that before all of us when he decided to take a seat as a lone wolf MP.

God Bless



“New and Noteworthy” iTunes

Today, the first day it featured, Itunes added my new CD to “New and Noteworthy” page. This is a coveted space for big label releases and it is such a fulfilling feeling to find my CD between giants like Ziggy Marley, Sean Paul and Sizzla. It was such a honor and a testament to Ire Taylors and other musicians who worked hard in the project and others, like you, that supported this CD to be where it is today. Thank you!!


Yaddi Bojia’s New Music Album

Interview with our own local TV station, Ethio Youth Media(MMRTI) by artist Sultan Mohamed. The interview is in Amharic and we have a surprise guest around 6:02 mark. Special thanks to Sultan and Assaye Abunie for their kind word and hospitality as well as their contribution to the community. This valuable media outlet served our community for the last ten years.

Question Bridge: Black Male and SEEN


Question Bridge: Black Male and SEEN is a video installation traveling show and a group photography show.  According to the PCNW (Photographic Center NorthWest) website:  “The photographs within this exhibition were selected from images submitted by men of African diaspora descent in the Northwest. The call was announced through word of mouth; social media; promotional support through CD Forum, Northwest African American Museum, Seattle Art Museum; and hand distribution of 1,000 postcards over a five-week period.

Seen photographs submitted by: Aaron Dixon, Al Doggett, Ari G., Brian Keith Pitts, Brian K. Wells, Darrell L. Goodwin, Dave Kennedy, David Mayden, Isaiah Bojia, Jacky Gotin, James Morton, Jay Taylor, Kiflom Bahta, Keith Livers, Larry Gossett, Preston Wadley, Ray Tucker, Robert Wade, Scnex Scnex, Tougo Koh-Wells, Toryan Dixon, Yadesa Bojia, Yegizaw Michael, Yonnas T. Getahun,  Zorn B. Taylor

Seen Curators: Alley-Barnes, a maker and facilitator known for curatorial explorations through Punctuation Gallery in Seattle from 2009-2011 and for his long involvement in the visual representation of Shabazz Palaces, was one of the nine muses in Mark Mitchell’s Burial, which was on view at the Frye Art Museum fall 2013; his own work was on display at the Frye in 2012 as part of The Black Constellation, featured in Moment Magnitude. Dunn Marsh is executive director of PCNW; Pallesen has been gallery director at PCNW for 18 years and is responsible for dozens of exhibitions bringing new or otherwise unseen work to Seattle.

Commercialization of “Genna”

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 9.27.27 AMAs explained by historians Santa Clause (A name originated from Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey) was a transformational figure until the first Santa Claus painting made by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company, as it appeared in the December 26, 1931 issue of Collier’s Magazine. Sundblom painted a new Santa illustration for Coca-Cola almost every year until 1964. Besides making Coca Cola a house hold name, the depiction gave a jolly, loving, grandfatherly icon and marketing figure for businesses around the world. The rest was history.


Weeks after  Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly declared “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. and Jesus too” I watched a flashmob organized by Coca Cola dancing in tune of jingle bells in Addis Ababa mall. You might wonder what is the story here so allow me to explain.

Ethiopian Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic  Christians annually celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 to remember Jesus Christ’s birth, described in the Christian Bible. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed. The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Ledet or Genna which, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. Genna is also the name given to a hockey-like ball game. Legend has it that when shepherds heard of the birth of Christ they rejoiced and started playing the game with their sticks. Men and boys in villages now play the traditional Genna game with great enthusiasm in the late afternoon of Christmas day, a spectacle much enjoyed by village communities and the elders who referee the game.

Genna is a well established holiday with its own multiple jingles, menus and traditional dresses and one of my favorite. I remember getting a Santa card when I used to live in Ethiopia and understanding it as a loving character of a foreign culture. It’s like St. Patrick, I am not quite sure the story behind it but I celebrate it with my Irish friends because I love them and let be honest St.Patricks have been very good to me as far as good times. I also remember Christmas trees, usually in the houses of people with western relations  or connections. The reason I am pointing out this is simply to say in this information age cultural exchanges happen much faster than the generation before and it has its own advantage and disadvantages.

Now look at the video attached of the flash mob. It starts with jingle bell tune and a young men and two girls entering the mall. A little kid with coke earphone dancing happily and the video zooms into a young men with a t-shirt that says “U B 6, I B 9″(an explicit turn of sexual position, which probably gives your grandma a heart attack, if explained) all around them coke banners. Then the whole mall starts dancing in choreography and Santa appears in a middle holding  coke in his hand as if he is saying “Diabetics Abeshas”.  Then the music turns into the Ethiopian Genna tune ( an escape clause for marketing execs) and it ends with that same famous Santa rendering of Haddon Sundblom with a word “Where will be the next dance with the father of Christmas?” preparing us for more commercials.

Almost all of the Ethiopian video and social networks appreciated the quality of the dance and video not knowing what is hitting them. For ages and ages to come, cultures borrow from one another. Adopting the culture of Christmas is not what bothers me, what bothers me is the commercialization of culture. Lately we are witnessing the eradication of what makes us unique and a token of African culture. little by little we are losing our culture and not knowing it. I am sure a lot of people consider my opinion as discouraging progress. If you consider stripping your culture naked is a progress, what do you call having no identity? As a great James Baldwin once said, “if you don’t know where you come from, you  don’t know where you going”. I encourage you to explore more cultures and be open to learn them but replacing what is your with a new will leave you without foundation. If you don’t trust me, in about twenty years the question will be “what Genna?” The commercialization of Genna have to noticed.