Mr. Obang Metho, Speech at “The Horn of Africa Peace Forum”,
“Putting Humanity before Ethnicity:
Exploring a Forgotten Path to Lasting Peace in the Horn”
Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs,
University of Minnesota.
December 4, 2009
Good evening! I want to take the opportunity to thank those Ethiopian, Eritrean, Somalis and Djiboutian who organized this very important event.
* You are visionaries with a bigger view of the world; unwilling to settle for the past and present failures in the Horn of Africa.
* You are risk takers, willing to step out of your own familiar groups and extend your dream to others.
* You are reconcilers, hoping to bridge broken relationships by working together to build a better future for all of us.
Thank you for inviting me. It is an honor to be here. I could not agree more with your mission of seeking lasting peace in the Horn. It is we, the people of the Horn, who must take charge and one of the first steps is coming together in this way for meaningful dialogue.
This forum is something our organization, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, has really wanted to see happen, so when we learned that another group was organizing it, we were delighted to take part. A year ago, we called a meeting in the Twin Cities, reaching out to the diverse people of Ethiopia, but this meeting tonight goes where it should—beyond Ethiopia to the entire Horn of Africa. Lasting peace can only be achieved as all the people of the Horn are included in it. Lack of inclusion, our failure to value human life and inability to collaborate with each other is the reason that we are known for our death and suffering.
Before I begin, please permit me to give some short background on how I became involved in this struggle. My name is Obang Metho and I am the executive director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, a social justice movement with the mission of bringing diverse Ethiopians together to address the widespread human rights violations, corruption, lack of justice, and lack of freedom in the country and in order to bring about a more open, reconciled and prosperous society where all members can participate and benefit.
I am from a tiny ethnic group, the Anuak, who come from the Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia and across the border into southeastern Sudan. Our region has many untapped resources like fertile land, water, gold and oil, but few opportunities. Because I desired an education, I immigrated to Canada and after finishing the university, I went back home, expecting to see life improved; however, in the Gambella region, where half a million people live, there was only one poorly equipped hospital and one doctor. Only 10% of the people had access to clean water.
Many of the children still had no education. The entire region was a forgotten and marginalized area by all the previous and current Ethiopian governments. The only time we were remembered was when they forcibly conscripted our young men to fight a war that defended their own dictatorship.
As I considered the difficult life of those back home, I determined to do something about bringing development to the region and started a development agency; partnering with fellow Canadians in a number of ongoing projects; including a major medical project in association with the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. We were just approved to receive a very large government grant when a tragedy struck Gambella.
On December 13th of 2003, my life abruptly changed when Ethiopian National Defense troops, accompanied by some highlander militia groups, used a prepared list and massacred over 400 Anuak leaders in less than three days. They marched through town, pulling mostly men out of their homes and brutally hacked them with machetes before the defense troops shot them in their backs. They chanted, “Today is the day for killing Anuak.” As they raped women and girls in front of their families, they taunted, “Today there will be no more Anuak babies.” As they looted, burned homes and destroyed property they jeered, “Today there will be no more Anuak land.” A few days later, a foreign oil exploration company began work drilling for the oil believed to be in abundance on our indigenous land.
Among those killed were many of my colleagues with whom we had been doing development work. Many were also my relatives, my former classmates and friends. This was when my life, as I knew it, unexpectedly changed because I felt I had to speak up for those who were killed and others who were still being targeted for their ethnicity. I knew that had I been living there, I would have met the criteria to be killed—I was male, an Anuak, I was educated and I was politically aware of my rights.
Over the next two years the human rights crimes continued. As many as 2000 Anuak were killed, many ending up in mass graves and countless more women were raped. Others were imprisoned, tortured or disappeared. Wells, crops, granaries, health clinics and schools were destroyed. In another week, it will be seven years since this happened and still no one has been held accountable for these crimes. If you ask why it came to an end, it is because the troops were moved to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and into Somalia, where for the last three years, Meles’ troops have been committing the same crimes against humanity.
When I was first invited to speak at this Horn of Africa peace forum, I was asked to come up with a topic that would focus on solutions to the problems in the Horn of Africa.
The topic I have chosen is central to the mission of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia. That is: “Putting Humanity before Ethnicity: Exploring the Forgotten Path to Lasting Peace in the Horn.”
In my talk, I will attempt to answer the following questions:
1. What went wrong?
2. What does it mean to put “humanity before ethnicity?”
3. What is “the forgotten path?”
4. How can we move forward?
“What went wrong? Or, does anyone care about my pain?”
We can discuss all the various forms and incidents of tyranny, suppression of civil and human rights, corruption, poor governance and exploitation being carried out by the current government of Ethiopia against its own people and its neighbors, but I am going to mainly concentrate on “what has gone wrong” with the people of Ethiopia as a whole, which of course, also includes those within the EPRDF government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
One of the main things wrong with Ethiopia and the Horn is that we have become people separated by ethnicity, region, village and clan. If this is not enough, we are also sub-divided by political view, language, religion and skin color. We have isolated ourselves into hostile groups who are competing for power and resources. We are either hated or ignored. When tragedy or hardship strikes one group, no one else seems to care about their pain and suffering.
Let us look at some examples.
* When the Anuak were massacred, no one other than the Anuak cried; the human rights crimes that continued for the next two years were ignored by mainstream Ethiopians. This is a true fact. I am not exaggerating this.
* In May 24, 2002, when more than 100 Sidamo civilians were killed in Awassa, when they were peacefully protesting the federal government’s involvement in the Sidamo regional affairs and in March 10, 2002 when over 200 protesters from the Mazenger and Shekicho ethnic groups were killed in the town of Teppi, there was no outrage from Ethiopians at home or in the Diaspora.
* In 2006, when Meles’ troops invaded the Ogaden and Somalia, again, there was mostly silence. The Ogadeni were considered “separatists,” but few asked why they wanted to separate; however, before the 2005 election, the current government tried to get their votes by giving them hope of secession.
* The Oromos have lost more people than almost any other group. Ethiopian prisons have been called Oromo prisons because they are packed with Oromos. Again, has their suffering for the last fifty years been acknowledged? Has anyone really listened to why Oromo have wanted their own country?
* Think of the Afar, the Benishangul-Gumuz, those many tribes from the Southern Nations, as they have been pushed aside for many years and now plans are underway to exploit their land and/or resources. Those leaders who resist are imprisoned or killed. Why are most not really speaking up for these people?
* Think of the Amhara farmers whose land was given to Sudan and who are being displaced? Why is Meles willing to have 100,000 Ethiopian lose their lives over keeping Badme and then give away fertile Ethiopian territory to the Sudan? This contradiction will only make sense to Meles and his regime who are certain to profit in some way from both moves.
* Think about how those Tigrayans, who have stood up against the TPLF, have either left the country or have been abused, imprisoned and killed by this regime; yet they are excluded by others who lump them all together in an “ethnic” category called Woyane.
* When the Eritreans living in refuge in Ethiopia were deported by Meles to go back to Eritrea and most of their property was confiscated, did anyone care?
* During the Meles invasion of Somalia, it is reported that 22,000 Somali civilians have been killed and 1.2 million displaced in the last three years—some calling it and the Ogaden a “silent Darfur. Why is there not more outrage by all of us and the international community regarding such atrocities? The only news is of human rights atrocities being committed by Somali radicals and others; whereas all such crimes against humanity should be opposed or condemned regardless of who committed it.
This forces us to ask, if everyone wants to break away from a country, what is wrong that must be fixed? Is that not the reason we are here today? Had Ethiopians cared about the pain of the people, I am confident that it would have made a difference! In fact, many groups would not be fighting to separate from the country if they were treated with respect, were given true self-autonomy like states within the US and if others listened and cared about their grievances and pain—the lack of which is the reason why Ethiopia, as it is today, may no longer exist as a country of the future. Instead, Ethiopians and others in the Horn must see and correct the destructive attitudes and practices that perpetuate our problem.
* A culture of revenge and woundedness: Wounded victims rise up to become perpetrators against new victims who then rise up to perpetrate against the same or new victims, in a never-ending cycle where we become hardened from seeing the humanity of another and in doing so, lose our own humanity.
* A culture of “ethnicity gone wrong:” Ethnic policies and hatred create a system of injustice where retribution is taken, not necessarily against the guilty, but against innocent civilians of the same ethnicity or even by collective punishment of entire groups. Privileges, opportunities and power, or lack of the same, are based on ethnicity or other superficial distinctions.
* A culture of “one ethnic group takes all:” Each group fights for dominance and then oppresses everyone else and rewards their cronies. Minorities and the marginalized are left out regardless of who is in power and are only used when needed to advance the self-interests of those in charge.
* A self-defeating culture of oppression, poverty and destruction:” Most are left out most of the time creating endless suffering and want. A percentage will resist, oftentimes with the goal of regime change or separating from the country.
What does it mean to put “humanity before ethnicity” or how can we become a more humane and caring people?
When we in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) speak of a “new Ethiopia,” we want to emphasize that there is something deeply wrong with the “old Ethiopia” that includes a hardened view of “others.” Our actions really are based on our thinking—on the ideas, feelings and experiences we carry around with us; all of which makes up our culture. When these are more or less, “bad ideas,” they birth “bad behavior and attitudes;” when these are more or less, “good ideas,” they birth “good—or better—behavior and attitudes.” Therefore, when we speak about putting humanity before ethnicity, it starts with each individual person and the choices that person makes as he or she interacts with others.
If we do not change our thinking to “a more accepting, embracing and inclusive” mindset towards other human beings, we will continue in this mess in the Horn. We will constantly be fighting to replace one dictator or clan leader only to be oppressed by another. This does not mean agreement, but it means respecting the rights, dignity and worth of others despite differences of opinion or belief. It means listening and it means being able to work together in building a peaceful environment in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa.
This is why the Solidarity Movement is based on simple principles. We are not about “over-throwing a government.” We are about “overcoming” the mental framework that has created an immoral, dehumanizing and destructive system and culture that has made a hostile environment for any kind of sustainable life in the Horn—be it human, animal or ecological.
A foundational cornerstone of a “new Ethiopia” is putting “humanity before ethnicity;” which simply means, caring about others regardless of ethnicity or any other characteristics that have divided us and dehumanized others. What we now have in Ethiopia and in the Horn is upside-down. Ethnicity comes before humanity. Language comes before humanity. Religion comes before humanity. Skin color comes before humanity. Political view comes before humanity. Even clan and village come before humanity. If one’s ethnicity, language, religion, skin color and political views are all different at the same time, it is all the worse.
Most every revered ideal—like truth, freedom and justice—has been attacked, manipulated and perverted for our own ends. Our leaders recognize right from wrong because they are quick to use the rhetoric, but because it is not in “their—or our hearts,” their—or our—actions are the opposite. It is time to mean what we say.
Respecting our shared humanity with others must be put into action by speaking the truth, giving freedom to another, giving impartial justice, treating others as equal under the law and deserving of equal opportunity, respecting the human rights of others, respecting the property of another—especially the weak and vulnerable and participating in civil behavior with others, even when there is disagreement. We have failed to embrace the humanity of “others.” This is difficult to do when there is a grievance against them, but we must break free of hatred in order to be truly free.
When the Anuak were killed, some others and I formed the Anuak Justice Council (AJC) in order to advocate for the rights of the Anuak, but it soon became apparent that others across the country were also victims of human rights crimes at the hands of the current regime. I became convinced that without systemic change, no one group would succeed in finding sustainable peace, particularly if we kept fighting with each other instead of uniting around larger goals.
Yet, each victim of such crimes must decide whether to become consumed with anger and hate or whether to reach out to others to find justice for everyone—not just your own group. This was a decision I had to make for myself. This was not an easy decision, but I believed it was necessary if we want to break out of this cycle of ethnic hatred and revenge. Not surprisingly, I was criticized by some within my own ethnic group for making this decision to reach out to others; however, I was convinced that hatred would never bring about the Ethiopia or Horn that will give our children and grandchildren freedom, justice, the respect for human rights, peace, civility or prosperity. I realized that until all were free in Ethiopia, no one group, including the Anuak or even Meles and his supporters, would ever find sustainable freedom. The same can be applied in a larger scale—until all the people of the Horn are free, none of us will be free.
We have a choice, either to enter into these destructive, cycles to perpetuate them or to break them by building bridges of solidarity between alienated and hostile groups, replacing new thinking with old and “putting humanity before ethnicity.”
We in the AJC started very early to speak out for others. When I spoke at the UN in April of 2004, we purposely mentioned other Ethiopian groups who were suffering. When Human Rights Watch completed an investigation of the Anuak, I encouraged them to do the same for the Oromo because I had heard of many incidents of human rights violations to their people by the same government. When I spoke at the US Congressional hearing, I tried to call attention to others who were also suffering in Ethiopia, including the mothers of the student protestors whose children were killed following the 2005 national election. Their pain at their loss was no different than my own pain. We must find a remedy to stop inflicting pain on each other.
“What is the Forgotten Path?”
When I talk about the forgotten path, I am not giving a history lesson on the Horn of Africa; but instead, I am talking about restoring and reclaiming relationships—with God, with other people, with our society/government and with our environment. Our past is not perfect, but most of us know it was not always as bad as it is now. We have lost our way more than ever before, forgetting that there is a universal law that governs over all of us and is based on God being our creator.
Most Africans never doubted there was a God. We may not have had formal training, but we could see evidence of God through all of creation, including that of humankind. Atheism is more of a western belief or a left-over remnant of communism than indigenous to Africa. We Africans also knew there was a God-given natural law—it was wrong to kill, to steal, to lie, to give false testimony and so forth. These same laws, with some variations, were present in most every tribe and society since the beginning. Our elders passed these laws on from generation to generation because they were essential to the sustainability of life.
In African society, there was also a traditional way that from the very beginning, we nurtured and cared for our children, families and elders, valuing them through the stages of life. We knew that from the minute we were born, we had to rely on fellow human beings. As you know, when we take our first breaths, we are in someone else’s hands and when we die, the bodies of our loved ones are respected as we seek to give them a proper burial. We cannot survive without being in the hands of other human beings from the beginning to the end. The African proverb that we all know is that “it takes a village to raise a child or family.” This sums up who we are as Africans.
We were given families, clans, villages, communities and tribes to support us, to teach us and to protect us. There were safety nets in place in case there were problems or hardship. In my culture, no one went hungry among us because there was sharing. We would carry our spoons with us as we played because someone would always feed us. We would eat together, laugh together, grieve together and build the next generation together. The very name, “Anuak” means “people who share.” When refugees came to our area, we would often greet them with food, water and smiles.
There was a complicated system of traditional laws that were essential in maintaining peace, justice and order in our small communities. We knew there was evil and that it was to be resisted or that all of us would be affected. We feared a powerful God as well as a powerful community; both who would hold us accountable, but unfortunately, much of our current society has lost these roots of strength. How?
* We lost our fear of God and as a result, we gave up His moral law that brings with it the important ingredients to help us live together in peace and cooperation; being good family members and neighbors to each other.
* We forgot that every human being shares a common humanity; that each of us is “representative” or “created in” the image of God; giving inherent value to every person. When we forget this, it suddenly makes it much easier to ignore the pain of another, or if you are an aggressor, to kill them, rape them, abuse them, steal from them or oppress them.
* We forgot that the beauty of this earth and of humanity is its diversity and complexity; instead we it has become the reason to exclude, ignore, exploit or kill.
* We lost our tolerance between religions. Look at the long history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Ethiopia where people of different faiths have lived in harmony. Muhammad told his followers who were being persecuted, to go to Ethiopia because there were good people ruling the country who would accept them and that nothing would happen to them. This was over a thousand years ago. That attitude was still present only thirty years ago, but today, it is nothing like this. That was when there was more morality. Now, we have documented reports from Christians who were being targeted and killed in the Jimma area, supposedly by radical Muslims trained in Somalia, but eyewitnesses reported that the perpetrators were instead government sympathizers, posing as Muslims. The Ethiopian government appeared to use religion to divide us. They also used this contrived attack as a rationale to invade Somalia.
* We have given power to artificial boundary lines dividing people that were drawn by outsiders many years ago. The problem is not necessarily about where the line is drawn, although some may object to the rationale behind them, but the real problem is that we have forgotten about the humanity of those on the other side from us. Should an artificially drawn boundary line between two countries make us enemies with those on the other side? We are already a family with many, like in Eritrea and in Ethiopia where we used to be together until 1994. Even though we now have boundaries, we are the same. We do not need to hate each other or to kill each other.
Before these artificial boundaries, we had been drinking from the same water from the same rivers. People called us uncivilized before colonialism, but we were not killing each other in the ways we are now. We took the wrong path and it is leading us further away from our humanity and into destruction.
Look at the lines between the Ogaden and Somalia; between the Anuak in Ethiopia and the Anuak of Sudan; between the Oromo in Ethiopia and the Oromo in Kenya, between the Gumuz in Ethiopia and the Gumuz in Sudan, or between the Afar in Ethiopia and the Afar in Djibouti and Eritrea. The list can be endless because it is found all over Africa and the world. Boundaries should not make us enemies.
Sometimes it is our religion or natural resources that draw these artificial boundaries between us. One case where some differences of religion were made as a reason to degrade the humanity of another and to forget one’s own was one of the most gruesome things I have ever seen. It was a video clip that showed a gentle young Somali man being captured by others Somalis who had forgotten the path that gave peace and harmony to the Horn for centuries. All of them were Somalis; sharing a common language and history.
The only difference between them being that one was a Christian and the others were Muslim. They were Somalis who accused this man of being a Christian who was trying to convert some from Islam. He was tied down and his throat was cut like they were cutting a goat. Blood poured down from his throat and eventually the man died. At the beginning of the video, the man was talking and then it showed his head detached. What has led people to go to this extent? They have forgotten their own humanity and the humanity of another. They have forgotten how God created each of them as humans representative of His image.
What these men did is not about Islam. Similarly, what Meles is doing to Somalis is not about being Christian or Orthodox because he is supposedly an atheist of Marxist-Leninist ideology. It is about forgetting about our shared humanity.
It is about forgetting about God’s law and how when He created us as human beings, He made each of us to be of value. Recovering these principles is the only way to find peace in the Horn, but where are the institutions to teach us a better way?
The institutions—even our families, clans and communities—that used to help keep us accountable, have been torn apart by conflict, violence, displacement and the resulting hunger, disease and death. Under such circumstances how can the families do the most basic, yet most important, job of nurturing, feeding, caring and protecting the young?
Many of us in the Horn have lost one, two or many loved ones. We have lost many of our community leaders. Some of our religious leaders are appointed by our dictators or others are threatened to not speak up about truly following our beliefs because it would threaten their tyrannical power and control or our bitter hatred towards others. The human rights and value of others are forgotten as we struggle to live.
Peoples’ actions are limited by living in daily fear of survival; replacing the richness of community and family life that has sustained healthier communities for many years. Our governing authorities cannot be trusted. Instead, they give us lies instead of the truth, exploit instead of support, punish good instead of evil and stir up conflict instead of reconcile.
Some people predict that Ethiopia will be the next Somalia, meaning failed state, and that the entire Horn will be engulfed in conflict. We never killed each other like this before. Have we forgotten we are family? When someone in a family becomes sick, everyone is concerned; when they die, all of them cry. Our family in the Horn of Africa is sick and dying in isolation. Can we recover our forgotten connections? Can we better see the face of humanity in our neighbor?
“How can we move forward?”
1. People must take ownership.
No other nation will free us. No outsider can make it part of the fabric of our society, but us. The people of the Horn have to make the decision to define their future. Nothing short of a moral transformation—where “humanity comes before ethnicity” and where people care about the well being of others because “no one will be free until all are free”—will bring freedom, justice, prosperity and peace to the Horn of Africa.
A family is made up of individuals, a village is made up of individuals, a country is made up of individuals and so is the Horn of Africa. It is up to us, the people of the Horn, to one by one make a difference. If we fail to do our job, exploiters, both internally and externally, will continue to do what they do best; that is to divide us and to exploit us while we stay stuck in the dark ages. Our failure will allow them to continue to overlook us as they advance their interests; building their future with our resources.
2. Stopping the elephants in the Horn from trampling on the grass.
We must use our solidarity around shared principles to exert strength to bring to an end the fighting between the elephants in the Horn. We Africans know that when two elephants fight, like Meles, Issayas and now pro-Aweys or anti-Aweys leaders, it is the grass—we the people of the Horn—that pays the price. Who will protect this grass? Those who organized this event today are noble examples. It is people like these as well as people like you and me who are going to have to do it. It starts by talking with one another and by not allowing any strongmen to put up blocks between us.
3. Recovering our respect for human life
Our identity as Africans or as people from the Horn of Africa has been damaged, but more than that, our identity and obligations as members of human kind must be restored and revitalized. What separates us as humans from all other life is our emotion, our conscience and our higher intelligence, but when we lose our sense of right and wrong and our emotions are damaged, we can become mechanical perpetrators of evil towards others. We have given up the big picture of peace, harmony and working together for the small picture where greed and the desire for power and privilege make us continually thirsty for “more.” We must recover our own sense of humanity so we do not look at other people as objects in our way or as competition to be trampled in order to advance our self-interests.
4. Revitalizing our weakened and destroyed institutions
This Horn of Africa Peace Forum could be the beginning of a truly honest and genuine institution that advances peace by putting the interests of the people at the forefront. Such active and genuine organizations do not exist right now, particularly within the Horn due to the current crisis and due to the destruction of legitimate institutions.
Let us support this effort so we can move on from here; however, we must first discard the attitude of not accepting the work of others or we will never form new or strengthen existing institutions needed to build a better Horn. It is essential to recognize and contribute to the good work of others rather than seeing them as enemies. This is one of the biggest reasons our work often fails to move us forward. This is played out in different ways.
* We have a tendency to easily become divided; oftentimes over competition for power, while using the same rhetoric of seeking unity, reconciliation and inclusiveness.
* We have a difficult time sitting down together to listen, discuss and work out real differences or to agree to disagree.
* We often purposely sabotage the work of others; not based on the merit of the other’s work, but because “we,” “our people,” or “our ethnic group” are not in charge of it. We use the language of unity and respect for the rights of all people, but it fails to be genuine.
* We are “copycats.”Again, we refuse to join another’s group or to acknowledge their work; but in this case, we copy or hijack their ideas; claiming them as our own without ever giving credit to the originators for fear that it might advance them rather than oneself. The final result is the creation of countless new organizations who are not working together towards a shared goal, but in competition with each other. This is particularly true of ethnic organizations.
For example, some people may support the ideas and principles of a certain group or organization, but because it does not come from them, they will not join together with them. Underneath the resistance is sometimes is a power struggle for control that is greater than the genuine desire to advance, strengthen or perfect the ideas, principles and goals or they would have joined the first organization. Criticism of certain elements of the first organization is sometimes used as the justification for copying it; however, it can also be seen as an attempt to “take-over” the idea or model and make it their own and under their leadership.
For instance, the duplicators might call themselves more broad-based or claim to be a larger coalition, but then turn around and attempt to place the original coalition under theirs, never acknowledging that the other was the originator of the model or idea. If the originators resist, they can be seen as the ones who do not want to follow; yet, if they agree, the heart of the principles, ideals and goals might easily be lost. They are particularly at risk due to the original lack of honesty and the clearly present, but unspoken, power struggle. This is an example of why we are not moving forward and why there are so many divisions. How many duplicates of “the same” or “similar” do we need before it breaks down the entire effort?
If the solution of the crisis in the Horn or in any one of the countries could be solved by the number of human rights organizations, NGO’s, political parties or religious groups (usually divided by ethnicity), the Horn would be the best place in the world to live. In Ethiopia alone, there are a couple hundred political parties and organizations, but what have they all done? What we should be doing is to endorse those who come up with new ideas and give them credit where credit is due, like what the organizers of this Horn of Africa Peace Forum have accomplished. If we in this room could find a way to continue to work together, just think what could be accomplished!
Could the Horn of Africa become a Federation of Independent States?
Could the Horn of Africa become a Federation of the Independent States of the Horn of Africa or even of Africa as a whole; using the same money, the same defense and enhancing trade and access to markets between regions and countries? It depends! The answer to that question is whether or not we can overcome hating others simply because of their differences? Can enough of us say “STOP, WE HAVE HAD ENOIUGH?” Can we refuse take part in doing this to each other any longer?
What if we do not? Can the crisis in the Horn of Africa get any worse? Yes! What if we do, can it get better? Yes, if we start working together to put humanity before ethnicity or any other distinction. Yes, if we as a society find our way back to God’s moral law!
All of you who are sitting in the audience may be sitting next to someone from a different ethnicity, religion or country, but we are all from the Horn. We are all one and our children’s destiny is in our hands. We can decide to let the images of the Horn of Africa that we see on TV continue—with the starving children with swollen bellies, displaced populations and endless conflict—or we can choose to be a people who change that image from the bottom up. The choice is yours and mine; whatever decision we make will define what kind of people we will become. Thank you.
Please do not hesitate to email me if you have comments: Obang@solidaritymovement.org