By Apee Ojulu, Minnesota, USA - Dear Haimanot or Ajwomo, I would like to extend my sincere thank you to you for your interest in debate about issues affecting our community. I believe in public debate because it is the foundation of how things are resolved in the modern world. But your government is very afraid of allowing free debates in the country because it does not believe it can defend it actions in a free debate. Has your government been a very open to debate, this debate could have taken place in either Gambella or Addis Ababa, not across oceans.
Anyway, let me respond to your four major points you made in your three messages I read. I am going to respond to these four major points in the following way: For clarify, I am going to respond to each point for readers to follow my responses here.
Negotiations between Anuak
In your article you argued that the Gambella Regional government and the ‘extreme diaspora’ are fighting day-in and day out. The solution to this feuding, you suggest, is for the ‘extreme diaspora’ and the Gambella regional government to sit down and discuss their differences. You seemed to suggest the conflict is between Anuak in diaspora and those in Gambella. I just want to remind you that the conflict in Gambella is between the Ethiopia federal government and survivors of those it murdered on day light of December 13. If there is any negotiation should be between December 13 survivors and the federal government in Addis Ababa.
The regional government in Gambella is simply a pawn that is being used by the central government to achieve its objectives there, such selling Gambella land to foreign corporations. It is not an entity any one in his right mind would negotiate with.
Given your unfamiliarity with the conflict in Gambella, I suggest you first re-study how the conflict started and who were its perpetrators and who were its victims. I know you may know this but decided to pretend you do not know the facts so that your next promotion interview would not be difficult since you acted against the interest of your community.
Furthermore, you suggested in your article that the Anuak diaspora community is extreme and just as bad as the regional government in Gambella Town. Opposing crimes that was committed during day light like December 13 is not extremism. In fact, as a government official, it is what you should have done, standing up and be accounted among those who work as their people representatives to government but not government representatives to their own people. The position of the Anuak diaspora community from the beginning is that the crimes the federal government has been committing in Gambella must stop and remedies are put place to prevent future recurrent of these crimes. Have the Ethiopia federal government done this? The answer is no. Then how can you accuse the Anuak diaspora community as is extremist element when the criminal (federal government) refused to accept responsibility for the crimes it committed in Gambella?
The regional government did not murder Anuak. You should ask your colleague Okichi about this. Okichi said during the evaluation of his regional government that he only provided the names of those murdered to the federal government and Meles, your then boss, ordered the killings of Anuak. Does accepting the truth hurt you like your fear of speaking out on the behalf of Anuak you are supposed to represent? We know that the Regional government in Gambella town has neither the power to order the federal police nor the military who were involved in December 13 without prior authorization from Addis Ababa.
Focus on Development
You also advised the Anuak Diaspora community in your article should focus on developing Gambella (Pochalla and Akobo) instead of getting involved in politics. Before you offered your advice on this issue, the Anuak Diaspora community started investing in Gambella right after the majority of them started arriving in the west in the mid-1990s. The fruit of their investment is the reason why you are seeing some sort of resident buildings in Gambella, especially in Gambella Town and Pinyudo. The Anuak Diaspora community was and still interested in further investment in Gambella.
However, your government has not been very receptive to the Anuak Diaspora community investment. One thinks of the efforts of a group of Anuak here that created the General Business Corporation (GBC) over a decade ago and bought a bus to start their business in Gambella. One military general of your government took their bus and turned it into his personal business venture to transport and pocket the cash. This was one incident in a long list of obstacles your government has been putting place to block Anuak who are interested in starting businesses in the region.
Furthermore, economic development cannot be created by the Anuak Diaspora community alone. TPLF has been building their region using the resources in the country’s treasury. As a government official, why do not you ask for the same development fund and start development projects in Gambella? Your job is not supposed to just earn salary for your personal use only but also advocate for resources for the regional economic development. Have you done this so far?
Accommodating different views
In your last e-mail you advised us to accommodate different views. At Gambela Today we accommodate different views all the time. The last person I expect to offer an advice on media freedom is an official of the regime in Addis Ababa. The global medial advocate organizations ranked the Addis Ababa regime last in media freedom. Why do not you start asking your government to free journalists it imprisoned because they reported news as they saw them? You are working for the government that has one radio, one telecommunication, one internet provider and one view for population on every aspect of life. Those who work for these type of governments should start reform with their governments before they demand media freedom from others who are well ahead of them in media freedom.
Gambela Today has a policy against people who do not want to use their names. We believe that when one wants to participate in any debate, the person has also to be willing to use their names because when a reader reads an article that reader is not just reading the article but evaluating its author. We do not want Hitler to use Johnson as his name and claim that he was the person who saved Jews. We gave you a pass this time. Next time you write an opinion, we would use your real name.
In your e-mail to Obang Metho, copy to Gambela Today, you accessed Obang as the Amhara mouthpiece. How did you come to this conclusion? Obang leads his own organization and he is not a member of any of the political parties. His speeches to Amhara you have alluded to he only gave them like the sayings goes, “your enemy’s enemy is your friend.” Most Amhara opposed your regime for crimes it is committing against them, so the ideal partner for anyone opposing the regime is to partner with them and other who are opposed to the regime.
Moreover, you suggested that TPLF has done a lot in Gambella. What has TPLF regime has done for the people of Gambella? Dergue you claimed as the Amhara regime built Openo bridge and the airport. What has the TPLF build in Gambella? December 13 genocide, land grab, and pushing Anuak to refugee camps in South Sudan and Kenya? Do you really call these crimes achievements and you are proud of them? Compare what TPLF has done in its power base,Tigray region, and what it has done in Gambella. Wake up fellow!
Amhara did not kill Anuak on December 13 or have done anything close to crimes the current regime has been committing in Gambella. Who is in an untenable position: Obang Metho who is leading his own organization and giving speeches to Amhara who have no Anuak blood on their hands or you who are chatting with the same officials who are committing crimes in your region?
Fellow, if any Anuak is seeking advice on what community in Ethiopia he or she should alley herself or himself with, the last person to be asked is you. You are the least qualified because as you sit you chatting with the regime officials who inflicted enormous pains on Anuak society. You should reflect a bit on these issues.
Moreover, in the same e-mail to Obang Metho you acknowledged that December 13 has happened but argued that we should no longer continue discussing it. Here you seemed to not know the reasons why the Anuak diaspora remain deeply committed on keeping pressure on the regime.
There are two main reasons that are motivating the Anuak diaspora community to keep the issue of December 13 alive. One is because the chapter has not been closed. The December 13 survivors are in refugee camps in South Sudan and Kenya. Their fates remain uncertain. More importantly, the remains of those your government murdered remained in mass graves and the government does not allow their relatives to retreat their bodies and properly bury them.
The Anuak Diaspora community understands that there are bad governments everywhere in the world like your regime that even have committed far worse than your government did in Gambella. Nonetheless those governments have demonstrated their maturity. To close chapters on their crimes, those governments who committed them rose to the occasions and accepted responsibility for their crimes and re-buried their victims in proper way and apologize to the relatives of those they murdered. Have your government done this?
By the way, TPLF has built shrines to commemorate their death Dergue killed during the market hours and beyond. Each year they remember their deaths, as they should, but the same officials are telling you that those they killed in Gambella are “thieves.” Do not you see the contradictions between their commemoration of their deaths and their denial of your own? Do you really need someone to remind you about this fact? To assure you, the Anuak diaspora community will continue to keep December 13 alive now and in the future; it will bring it to Gambella after the demise of the current regime and it will be held on both sides of the border.
In conclusion, the title of your article should have been more appropriate if you have titled it, “I Got it Wrong.” On the four points you raised you got each point wrong. Facts are: the conflict in Gambella is between the federal government and its victims, Obang is not a member of Amhara political parties, continued focus on December 13 is because the regime has not follow the proper road of closing a chapter on crimes and Gambella Today, unlike your government, does not suppress different views. I wonder sometime about the regime officials’ political orientation. Does the first sentence in the TPLF political orientation manual says deny the fact first and then offer factually inconsistent arguments to defend one position?
Apee ojulu can be reached at email@example.com and feel free to send him your comment, question, or/and concern you may have regarding