Not too long ago, when I tried to be a social activist and a political organizer within the Ethiopian community, I used to go around giving this one overriding advice to every Ethiopian activist I met. “Stop chanting slogans to other Ethiopians”, I would tell them, “because you are either preaching to the choir who gets it or throwing water on rocks who refuse to acknowledge suffering.”
I would beseech human rights advocates and political personalities alike to relay the suffering of Ethiopians to other marginalized groups and to stitch our suffering with struggles of people throughout the world. Pain is a connective tissue; injustice against one is injustice against all. In this way, I impressed upon anyone who would listen to marry the anguish of a mother in Gonder, the plight of a father in Mekelle, the tribulations of a child who goes to sleep hungry at night in Addis Abeba and the endless hardships faced by most Ethiopians—irrespective of tribe or belief—to the adversities faced by Jews, Latinos, Muslims, “African-Americans” and anyone else who has tasted from the bitter chalice of exclusion.
Sadly, my ego was bigger than my patience. The more my advice was disregarded, the colder my heart turned. I started my journey to organize Ethiopians during the inception of the Obama campaign in 2008. After being disconnected from the community I was born into, Barack’s presidential ambitions launched my own aspiration to reconnect with my fellow countrymen. My life became Obama all the time as I worked assiduously with Mike Endale, Emebet Bekele and countless passionate volunteers under the auspices of Ethiopians for Obama.
I learned the hard way how bedeviling the ego is. Despite the fact that I started my journey to reconnect with my roots with a humble heart while trying to get the “first black president” elected, in time my pride and haughtiness got the better of me. With each idea that was rebuffed and with every gesture that was returned with indifference, my heart turned to stone and I eventually became vengeful. I justified it all back then, I used to boast about roasting anyone who came at me with ill will.
“Come at me with a matchstick”, I would brag, “and I’ll send you packing wrapped in a netela (blanket) of inferno”. I took delight in eviscerating trolls, in the process I became the biggest troll of them all. There are a lot of reasons why I became homeless in 2015 and why I spent two and a half years cocooned in depression and loneliness. Most of that story I give to God because seeking vindication only leads to tribulation. However, it would be the height of duplicity if I did not admit that my own hubris and spitefulness opened the pathway to my exodus.
I recount this story in light of what is currently taking place in Ethiopia at this precise moment. I will do so by taking the advice that I used to freely dole out to other activists eight years ago. Even though what I’m about to convey to you next is about my birth land, trust me when I tell you that what is unfolding in Ethiopia is directly tied in to what is taking place here in America and throughout the world. The suffering and misery that is proliferating throughout the planet have a common source, the same monsters who bleed Venezuela and Syria are the ones who are purveying bloodshed throughout Africa and bleeding us right here at home.
Let me give you a bit of a background so that you can get a better understanding of the current situation in Ethiopia. Dating back to the Axum Empire, the story of modern day Ethiopia is one that spans close to 3,000 years. Though propaganda cites Rome as the foundation of Christianity, the truth is that Ethiopians accepted Christianity 280 years before Constantine appropriated it for political reasons in 313 AD. The oldest bones were found in modern day Ethiopia, likewise scientists acknowledge that homo sapiens sprung from the soils of Ethiopia. The few who emerged from Ethiopia migrated outward and eventually became the nearly 8 billion people who inhabit this world. We are a big family with different first names but bonded by the same last name which is human.
Race is a construct of racists; the truth is that we are all interconnected, humanity is one irrespective of our differences.
The Axum empire (modern day Ethiopia) was able to remain intact for nearly 3,000 years for one reason above all. Though we’ve had our moments of strife and have faced internal and external threats, we nonetheless survived as one because we were communal by nature. Our unity as a people was our greatest asset, a strength would-be colonizers found out the hard way when Ethiopian jegnoch (warriors) decimated Italians invaders at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. They came huffing “veni, vidi, vici” only for my forefathers to rise up and respond in kind “veni, vidi, embi! (no)”. Unity has always been the one obstacle that colonizers could not overcome; a fact that I note in this video below where I weave the story of Adwa, Haiti and countless instances where people with lesser means defeated those with greater weapons.
After suffering an embarrassing defeat at Adwa, European colonizers reassessed. Though they had already colonized almost the entirety of the continent we now call “Africa”, they lusted the one speck on the map they could not subjugate. Parenthetically, did you know that “Africa” was actually called Ethiopia before Scipio Africanus committed a holocaust of all holocausts against the continent of humanity’s birth? Imagine Jews calling themselves Hitlarian. The first defeat is by way of the gun as imperialists oppress the less powerful; the lasting defeat is with the pen as historians rewrite our stories and indoctrinate us with lies.
However, lies have a shelf life. There is a reason this publication is called the Ghion Journal; we are honoring the river Ethiopians call Abay Ghion to this day. The Ghion River is the second river named in the first book of the Bible. Abay Ghion was renamed to the Nile River by John Hanning Speke in order to wash away the significance of Ethiopia.
Wanting desperately to avenge the Italian loss at Adwa, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Though my grandparents’ generation put up a fierce resistance for close to a decade as the world ignored the plight of my ancestors, they did not have the same success their predecessors had at the Battle of Adwa. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians dead and millions more victims of Mussolini’s chemical attacks, Ethiopia nonetheless emerged from the smoldering ashes of World War II intact. Twice besieged, twice victorious—the spirit of jegnoch could not be subdued by European colonizers.
Because greed has no ends, imperialists were hell bent on colonizing Ethiopia at any cost. They realized that our unity was our source of strength, so they drew up plans to inject tribalism and fracture us from within. This plan came to fruition on May 28th, 1991 as the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), backed by their European masters, swept into Addis Abeba and deposed the ruthless dictator Mengistu Hailemariam and his Derg regime.
If anyone doubts that sectional movements are counter-revolutionary and are meant to further injustice, what took place during the TPLF’s reign should serve as a case study about the dangers of tribalism. Within short order, Zenawi and his henchmen implemented the nefarious plans hatched up by globalists in Great Britain. Contrary to popular propaganda, the rise of the TPLF did not take place through an organic insurrection, the TPLF were armed and supported by the West years before they deposed the Derg government. Like gangsters being accepted as made men by the Godfather, the London Conference “blessed” Meles Zenawi and the TPLF as imperialists conferred upon him and his capos the authority to “lead” Ethiopia with the full might of the military-financial complex backing them.
Other groups that espoused a more united approach were excluded from the London Conference; the West injected Ethiopia with the virus of tribalism with the aim of destabilizing the one country in “Africa” that was never colonized.
“What the Berlin Conference did to Africa, the London Conference did to Ethiopia,” noted Obang Metho. “Where his grandfather failed as a banda (traitor) in his attempt to topple Menelik II by siding with Italy during the Battle of Adwa, Zenawi was able to succeed by joining forces with his Western masters and signing on to their plans at the London Conference.”
What the Italians could not do with brute force in Adwa, the British imperialists and their American counterparts were able to pull off with cunning and diplomacy. Instead of attacking us with guns, they loosened a pestilence of dissension among Ethiopians at the London Conference. They darkened a land blessed by 13 months of sunshine with the shadows of factionalism and civil strife. This is, of course, nothing new for the British and their Western counterparts.
After all, it was the British monarchy that fractured Ethiopia’s unity established by Atse Tewodros II and led to his death at Magdala. It was also the British who kidnapped Atse Tewodros’s son Lij Alemayehu and turned him into the political prisoner and a personal toy of Queen Victoria. To this day, the body of Lij Alemayehu is buried in England along with the treasures the British monarchs looted from Ethiopia. They stole our pearls and gave us in return a cancer by way of Meles Zenawi and the TPLF.
The success Zenawi had was introducing a virulent strain of tribalism that fractured Ethiopia along ethnic lines and induced sectarian strife. The lasting legacy of the TPLF is not the economic development that benefited a tiny sliver of society, rather their biggest “achievement” was reviving the ugly legacy of Apartheid as they implemented “Ethnic Federalism” throughout the land. They sliced and diced Ethiopia into enclaves of ethnic zones with the aim of pushing ethnicity above nationality. The same way the racist Afrikaner government of South Africa created homelands for “blacks” and “colored people” in order to segregate communities, TPLF likewise imposed ethnic federalism in order to ghettoize Ethiopians and incite separatism.
People used to think that I was making a big deal out of molehill when I raged against the Pentagram on the Ethiopian sendek alema (flag). If only people realized that the star on the Ethiopian flag was placed there by satanic plutocrats who were intent on destroying Ethiopia and wiping away our biblical connection in the process. The devil’s primary goal is to wipe away the existence of God; whether you believe in a higher power or not is inconsequential, what matters is that there are people on this earth who think they are illuminated above the rest of us and spread pestilence around the world. They scored their coup in 1991 and bled Ethiopia for 27 years while loosening the disease of factionalism upon a nation named in the bible more than any other.
After 27 years of iron-fisted rule, the TPLF regime cracked last year amid the rocks of a popular uprising. Abiy Ahmed, a young and charismatic leader, emerged from the vacuum created by the exit of Hailemariam Desalegn—who took over after Meles Zenawi passed away. To his credit, Prime Minister Ahmed rolled back a lot of the brutal and repressive laws that were the hallmarks of the TPLF regime as he liberalized the media and stopped cracking down on free speech. There is a reason why millions of Ethiopians, both back home and throughout the diaspora, were drawn to Ahmed’s message of inclusion and forgiveness. Though there is much to be done, after 27 years of brutality and intimidation, Ahmed’s tone and tenor is one that Ethiopians were desperately waiting for.
However, I will pause here to sound a somber alarm. Let us not get caught up in the cult of personality. I write this to my fellow Ethiopians as well as my fellow Americans here in the states; leaders are not to be bowed before, they are to be held accountable. I am observing with keen eyes the policy decisions that Prime Minister Abiy is making. Rosy speeches and poetic rhetoric are wonderful, but they can’t feed hungry mouths. This world is being suffocated by the greed of capitalists who insist on making the next marginal dollar by condemning billions of people in perpetual cycles of poverty and violence. It is time to say embi! (no) to the avarice of oligarchs who arrogantly call themselves “the masters of the universe“—pride goeth before the fall.
I write these words directly to Prime Minister Abiy, I watched a video of yours not too long ago when you told a bunch of artists and singers that death is the fate that awaits anyone who strives to make a difference for his people. If you truly are for the people, then be a brave soldier and push forward irrespective of the dangers that await. Be like our grandparent’s generation who refused to be cowed by imperialists, if not, if you choose expediency over courage, history will judge you accordingly.
For now, I shall give Prime Minster Ahmed the benefit of the doubt even as I observe his policy decisions. If, in fact, Amhed has good intentions for Ethiopia, which will be revealed in time, then I pray for his success. However, I ask this of Teklay Minister Abiy Amed, your excellency, take that demonic star off our sendek alema as a gesture of good will and to show that you are not in league with the same people who foisted Zenawi and tribalism upon enat Ethiopia. I know you are a man of faith, your mother raised you as such as you mentioned. Do not shrink from the responsibility Egzyehaber entrusted you with. Let me cite a verse from the bible that I’m sure both of us revere for we are saved by the grace of Eyesus.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” ~ Matthew 16:25
Let me add one more thing, a coded language that I’m sure you will understand. The sons of Maia have nothing on the son of God; those who oppress His chosen people will in time burn. Turn to the wisdom of Solomon for his is greater than the intelligence of Hermes. As I noted, you have much work before you, but as a man of God that I know you are and a person who believes in a higher power than we can ever imagine, I plead with you to take that Satanic pentagram off our sendek alema Teklay Minister Ahmed.
.@PMEthiopia Feed the people, they will be your army. The "masters of the universe" and those who purvey injustice globally know very well what happens when #Ethiopia|ns are united and inspired. #FikerYashenifal
— Teodrose Fikre ✒ (@TeodroseFikre) February 26, 2019
Let me pause here and stipulate a few things. For those with the ability to discern what you are about to read next and wondering who I am, let’s say I am a former traveling man who decided to swim away from the shores of the flesh towards the sea of God’s grace. Does it shock you that I’m whispering your codes so brazenly and taken aback that I’m putting to ink the secrets you guard so jealously? That’s because I do not fear you–I come from ancestors who are greater than the ungodly icons you put on dollars. Be careful, for as much as you think you have an eye in the sky that sees all, there is a greater eye in the heavens who observes all.
“There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing concealed that will not be known and understood.” ~ Luke 8:17
To those who guard these evil institutions, the soldiers who defend the status quo, just remember that God is above country, remember that love is the supreme law. For too long, we have chosen compliance over justice, except this time, if we follow in that path, that is the path to our destruction. This morning, Pakistan shot down an Indian plane, two nuclear powers just took us closer to our extinction. Without our knowledge, plans compartmentalized to the point of invisibility are unfolding before us. If we do muster the strength to defy the principals of power, our failure will unleash a prophecy that could lead to our final dissolution. Think about these things instead of being distracted by the circus of the Cohen hearings.
As for Ethiopia, I must note that the work before Prime Minister Ahmed and his administration is being hindered by the ugly strain of tribalism and sectarianism that was planted by the TPLF has metastasized and is currently eating away at the fabric of Ethiopia. Where Zenawi, Hailemariam and the TPLF regime shrank into the night, in stepped in another Western backed demagogue by the name of Jawar Mohammad.
This is how western imperialists work; they don’t destroy nations by brutal force as much as they weaken them from within through subversive agents of hate.
Jawar, a firebrand radio personality like Rush Limbaugh, was plucked out of obscurity and given the air of authority much the same way that Zenawi was empowered at the London Conference. When it comes to tribalism, few in Ethiopia match the rhetorical skills and fiery presence of Jawar. In 2006, Jawar founded the International Oromo Youth Association, in less than a decade, he has risen to such prominence that he audaciously thinks that he has a veto power over the Ethiopian government. As I’ve noted over and over again in previous articles, the establishment love sectional leaders and push them to the forefront for a reason.
To this end, Jawar was their man; he has become most prominent voice of the Qeerroo youth movement and is currently doing his level best to incite ethnic violence in Ethiopia. He does this by claiming to be speaking for the Oromo people when in reality he is leveraging their pains to advance his own narrow interests. This is a playbook of divide and conquer that has been used over and over again; Jawar is another provocateur empowered by outsiders to weaken Ethiopia from within. My fellow Ethiopians back home should be very careful about following Jawar; if widespread conflict breaks out, he is a Trojan horse and a cancer upon the land who will be safe behind guarded gates as bodies start dropping throughout the countryside.
Marginalized people have a way of being drawn to firebrands while they disregard those who seek accord. I mentioned Obang Metho earlier in this article, Obang has spent more than two decades pleading with Ethiopians to stop focusing on tribe and to instead seek inclusiveness. To the detriment of Ethiopia, various tribes and factions back home are latching on to the toxic sermon being proselytized by Jawar instead of flocking to the message of love being proffered by Obang.
Hate being met with hate, injustice being greeted with vengeance, a country that survived 3,000 years intact is teetering at the precipice of societal conflagration.
As I noted earlier, what is happening in Ethiopia has equal ramifications in America and beyond. Just like tribalism was unleashed upon Ethiopia by outside forces, sectionalism is being foisted here in America by establishment voices who are propagated to incite our emotions and keep us perpetually at each other’s throats. At best, what occurs is social strife as the few who hoard much fleece the many who struggle mightily. They are able to get away with mass larceny and massive wealth transfers from the bottom 90% to the fraction at the top by weaponizing identity politics and inducing conflict. The worst case scenarios is one that should make us shudder in fear; we can one day wake up and realize that America has turned into Hotel Rwanda. The same fate awaits Ethiopia if we continue down this path of antipathy and conflict.
I hope and pray all the time that saner minds will prevail and that we seek inclusive justice instead of seeking exclusive ends. Likewise, I pray that Jawar Mohammad ceases being an agitator and instead decides to be a healing presence. Jawar, I write this to you personally, you have a powerful voice, use it to mend people instead of ripping scars open for the sake of appeasing your ego and your western backers—pleasing those two masters will end with you wrapped in the netela of endless woes. I know first-hand the dangers of vengeance and hubris, it is better to seek compassion over antagonism. Though we can’t deny past injustice nor should we overlook present inequalities, we have to find it in our hearts to be forbearing towards one another and find solutions through empathy and love.
I write this to everyone else irrespective of your location, station in life, ideology or the identity you ascribe to. Stop assigning collective guilt and seeking vindication, stop monopolizing pains and realize that we are all interconnected. Looking back to the past with jadedness only leads to bitterness. Forgiving in this context is as much for the giver as it is for the receiver. I would not be presenting this article to you today had I not learned the hard way to turn away from retribution and instead seek compassion.
Adversity is not a bad thing, it gives us character and teaches us, through hard knocks, to loosen our egos and to turn to a greater power than ourselves. To this end, I finally picked up a little bit of wisdom to pair with the intelligence that my father always believed I had. Far from being a supporter of Barack Obama, or any political party for that matter, I believe in inclusiveness and hope above all that we overcome injustice through compassion instead of vengeance. I have a ways to go still, I have yet to wash away my ego, but I have gained enough tigist (patience) to view life as a journey instead of rushing to get to the destination. We grow as we go.
I finally learned that the greatest attribute I have are not those of my forefather Atse Tewodros, whom I am named after. While Atse Tewodros II was a fierce warrior and an iconic king of Ethiopia, I realize now that my reservoir of strength is drawn from my father’s first name which is my last. Fikre means my love in Amharic, Fikre is who saved me from the abyss of dejection after my need to be a warrior led me to tribulation that nearly broke me. We can choose to be light to this world or we can add logs onto the fire; the choices are simple but the decision is crucial in terms of our own well-being, the wellness of our planet and the future for our children.
Love and unity is what enabled Ethiopian jegnoch to repel the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, retaliation and payback is what’s cracking the foundation of Ethiopia at this moment. We have a saying in Ethiopia, “fiker yashenifal”, love will win. I pray this for Ethiopia, America and the rest of the world: let us become love so that the love in all of us can win. #FikerYashenifal Click To Tweet
I have one last favor to ask; if you, your family or your ancestors have tasted from the bitter chalice of exclusion, oppression and maltreatment in the past or at this moment, I ask you to make it your purpose and your mission for the next couple of days do this one thing. For ages, imperialists have been colonizing us with their guns and with their education. Let us return the favor for once and show that a united people can stand toe to toe with the powerful. For people who live in the DC metro area, we will be having an event on Sunday, March 31st picking up on this same topic of unity overcoming tyranny. Click on the picture below to find out more and RSVP.
Use the very social media they use to medicate us into compliance and the very technology they deploy to keep us distracted to share this article everywhere. Instead of using social media to echo sensationalism and manufactured outrage, amplify this missive and speak truth to power. #Justice
“Messengers will arrive from Kemet; Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands to God.” ~ Proverbs 68:31
Today, instead of contributing to me personally or empowering the Ghion Journal, I ask you to contribute on my behalf to a foundation started to lift Ethiopians out of poverty and despair. The Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund is a non-profit that has at its core mission to encourage the Ethiopian Diaspora to give back to their homeland. Since life as we know it started in Ethiopia, it is not too much of a stretch to say that we are all Ethiopians. More importantly, we are all human, so as you are able, please give to those who have less than us. CLICK HERE or on the icon below to contribute. Amesegenalew, thank you and God bless::
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
- Who is there for Us? When Suffering and Hopelessness Give Way to Tribalism and Hatred - May 26, 2019
- Judge Not… - May 16, 2019
- Why I No Longer Fight for Justice - May 9, 2019