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Humanity before Ethnicity

SMNE Articles and Opinions - 2014

Mr. Obang Metho is the primary author of these articles, but many are also written with the collaboration of other members of the SMNE team.

December 15, 2014


My message for today is to encourage us to break down the barriers between communities by starting to talk to each other rather than about each other. This forum is second in a series of forums on this topic. No doubt, simply by living in Minnesota, you have seen ample evidence that certain environmental values, practices and supports make it easier to do.

Although mainstream Minnesotans appear to be very similar to each other, it was not always the case. Many can trace their heritage back a couple of generations to when their grandparents or great grandparents immigrated here from places like Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Germany or other mostly European countries. There was also a large population of African Americans. They all lived in their own neighborhoods, started churches or religious organizations based on language and ethnicity, ate food familiar to their own cultural backgrounds, and mainly talked about each other rather than to each other. Today, things are very different as you can easily see. Mainstream Minnesotans have assimilated, but at the same time, they have made it a hospitable place for many new immigrants and refugees from all over the world—from China, India, Burma, Mexico, Russia, South America and Africa. It is not only home to the largest population of Asian Hmong in the country; it is also home to more Somali, Oromo, Ogadeni, and Anuak than any other place outside of Africa.    read...



November 18, 2014. Washington, DC--. At the recent Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia Forum in Washington D.C. on November 15, it was quite evident that Ethiopia does not lack for gifted people who possess the essential capabilities, virtue, and experience needed to build a New Ethiopia.

It was inspiring to hear from a wide array of speakers who portrayed the qualities of courage, strength, faith, wisdom, integrity, and an attitude of respect towards others, even when some differences of opinion emerged. This was a civil dialogue, meant to be a model for how Ethiopians with grievances against each other or simply of diverse backgrounds might come together to forge a better future. People came together as people first. Then, they came together around shared values—a desire to see a society where truth, freedom, justice, civility, opportunity, and harmony could prevail for all its people.   read more...

Listen to the VOA report

November 20, 2014
Open Letter to Mr. Karl Johan Persson, Winner of 2014 Fairness Award Faces Significant Challenges in Partnering with Autocratic and Corrupt Ethiopian Government-Controlled Businesses

H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB logo

On behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people we represent, I extend my warmest congratulations regarding the upcoming event at the Historic Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. on November 24, 2014 when you will receive the 2014 Fairness Award given by the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) along with Mr. Robert B. Zoellick, former president of the World Bank Group (2007-2012) and Ms. Nani Zulminarni, Founder of Perempuan Kepala Keluarga (PEKKA), Indonesia.

This is no small accomplishment. According to the Fairness Award website, this award honors “exceptional leaders whose work and life have opened opportunity and access for poor and marginalized communities. By honoring these outstanding individuals, GFI hopes to inspire a new generation of leaders to dedicate themselves to economic justice, fairness, and equality.” As a Swedish businessman, and President and CEO of one of the largest global fashion retailers, H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, we can see how you have combined value-based business practices with great success.

The reason for this letter is to express our deep concerns regarding a recently announced business venture H&M is planning in Ethiopia.       read...




October 18, 2014
Mr. Obang Metho Addresses the Ethiopian community in Calgary, Canada. Ethiopia, a Country of Repetitive Crises: Will we miss our opportunity once again?


The theme of my talk today will be focusing on the opportunities we Ethiopians have missed over and over again throughout our history. In order to not repeat our mistakes, we must think about the reasons for our failures and what to do in the future to avoid them. I believe the lack of strong institutions has undermined our progress as a country and as a people. Such institutions must be built by people of strong moral character who are willing to engage in the struggle for the common good. These go hand-in-hand and should lead to building relationships of trust and agreeing on shared core values. This begins by talking to each other. Only then can we broaden our efforts to create a more just and free Ethiopia for all rather than only for a few from one’s own ethnic group.   read...

SMNE Forum


It starts by talking to each other rather than about each other.
Saturday, November 15, 2014, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel,
900 S Orme St., Arlington, VA

Ethiopia’s strategic importance is growing in an increasingly global world. As it does, a tug of war over access to Ethiopia and its resources between and among internal and foreign players has ignored the voice of the people, furthering their oppression. Opposing images of Ethiopia have emerged. The faulty image presented by those in power, along with their supporters, is one of remarkable economic progress and with it, widespread development and the alleviation of hunger. Such an image sharply contrasts with the testimonies of people on the ground, refugees fleeing the country, and record amounts of remittances going into the country to support relatives, otherwise unable to survive in many cases. At the same time, record levels of illicit capital leakage from Ethiopia, some $11.7 Billion (USD), left the country from 2000 to 2009, with a loss of $3.6 billion (USD) in 2009 alone. It has only increased since then.   read more...


October 10, 2014
Address by Obang Metho to the Civil Society Policy Forum at 2014 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group
... The World Bank is investing billions of dollars into agribusiness. Various new tools have been designed to measure and assess whether or not these investments are assisting the farm sector, including smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, resulting in improved food and livelihood security for the people. The question today is whether or not these new tools, used as indicators of the degree of success of WB projects, are accomplishing the intended goals of guiding and strengthening agribusiness in Africa? These are some of the key questions to be answered:.   read...

October 10, 2014
Speaking Truth to Power: Obang Metho’s Timely Letter to the TPLF
Ato Obang Metho, the Executive Director for the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) and the well-known human rights advocate among Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia, recently sent a historic and principled letter to the leaders of the TPLF highlighting the dangerous trajectory our country finds itself under the TPLF’s apartheid-like governance policy. It is a historic letter because no one has systematically documented a protest letter addressed to the leaders of the TPLF on the fundamentally flowed nature of their ethnic policy, the danger it poses for the future of our people, and the need to come-up with an all-encompassing alternative strategy.   read...

August 10, 2014
Is the TPLF/EPRDF an ethnic-­‐based-­‐apartheid government?
Institutions are to be independent of political control in a healthy, just and inclusive society; however, in Ethiopia, one can see that one ethnic group, affiliated with one ethnic-­‐based political party, dominates key positions in government and its institutions. Judge for yourself. The majority of the examples given below provide information of ethnic background and political affiliation for key leaders within key institutions in Ethiopia.  read... (pdf)

August 3, 2014
US Africa Summit 2014: Are African Strongmen Being Chosen Over African Civil Society? Where is the Voice of Africans?


The US is in the middle of a dilemma this coming week as some fifty-one African presidents and unknown numbers of African diplomats converge on Washington D.C. from August 4-6 for what is being called historic, the first US Africa Summit. It appears from the agenda that the emphasis will be on encouraging US Africa trade, investment and business partnerships; however, the mediators of any new deals are some of Africa’s numerous authoritarian leaders, seen by many Africans as responsible for many of their woes. At the same time, the absence of members of African civil society has stirred up strong sentiments in the African Diaspora and they are talking, something that could not be done without fear of retribution in many of these countries.  read...

August 2, 2014
An Open Letter to the Chairman of the TPLF and Members of the TPLF Central Committee:
Wake Up! Your Ethnic-Based Apartheid Government has Made You the Prisoners of a Self-Destructive Future! Only Morally Righteous and Genuine Actions will Free You Now!

Dear Abay Woldu and Members of the TPLF Central Committee,
I am writing this to you on behalf of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia, a social justice movement of diverse Ethiopians; but foremost, I am writing to you as a fellow member of our Ethiopian family, of which you are also members. When family members are in conflict is it not the responsibility of family members, especially the elders or those who care deeply about the well being of the entire family, to make every attempt to solve the problem? Is it not far better to honestly address these deep conflicts since we share an identity, a land and a future?   read... (pdf)

July 26, 2014
What Will Ethiopians of Tomorrow Inherit from Us?
Mr. Obang Metho Keynote Speech at the 4th annual Ethiopian Heritage Society of North America (EHSNA) Washington, D.C


I am honored to be here with you to speak about our beloved country, Ethiopia, its beautiful and diverse people, our heritage, our heroes and heroines, and our future. As I speak today, I will be emphasizing legacy over heritage because although very interconnected, the two are very different. This brings up an important distinction between heritage and legacy. Heritage is what we inherit from those who came before us and legacy is what we will pass on to those who come after us. We do not have control over our past, but we have far greater ability to choose what we pass on to future generations. Our emphasis should be on the future. In other words, what can we learn from our past—from both the successes and the mistakes—in order to pass on a better legacy to future generations?  read...

July 9, 2014
SMNE strongly condemns the recent illegal arrest and extradition of Mr. Andargachew Tsige from Yemen to Ethiopia.

The Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) strongly condemns the recent illegal arrest and extradition of Mr. Andargachew Tsige from Yemen to Ethiopia.  Mr. Andargachew was allegedly picked up at the Yemeni airport in Sana’a while in transit from Dubai to Eritrea. During a layover there, Yemeni security agents, tipped off and accompanied by Ethiopia’s own security agents, were prepared to pick him up and to fly him to Ethiopia. The plan was executed and now, Ethiopian government representatives say he is currently being held in Addis Ababa under charges of terrorism.   read...

May 25, 2014


Mr. Obang Metho’s Acceptance Speech: “The Journey to a New Vision for Ethiopia” At the 22nd SEED Annual Award ceremony

I would like to deeply thank distinguished members of the Society of Ethiopians Established in Diaspora (SEED) and my fellows’ citizens of Ethiopia for this recognition. I am both humbled and honored to be here tonight as a recipient of this award. I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. I want to acknowledge others who have helped make this possible because, although I am accepting this award, this is not only about me. I did not come to this point alone, but must recognize the countless individuals, too many to name, who have contributed to this work along the way. Without them there would not be anything to acknowledge, just like the African proverb that says, “If you want to go faster, go alone, but if you want to go further, go together.”   read...

Watch video of acceptance speech.

May 3, 2014
SMNE condemns the massacre of Oromo Students, Afar Pastoralists and crackdown on journalists: A Call to Action for All Ethiopians to Stand Strong for a Better Future!

We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia strongly condemn the horrific killing of innocent Oromo students, peacefully protesting at various universities in Ethiopia. They were decrying the forced displacement of Oromo farmers and the take over of Oromo land for development near Addis Ababa where many have been forced out of homes and from land they and their families have lived on for years, if not centuries. This is another part of the TPLF/EPRDF strategy to dominate and exploit the people, similar to what they have been doing in Gambella, the Omo Valley, Benishangul, the Ogaden, the Afar region, the Amhara region, and now in the Oromia region around the city. The Oromo are not alone for this is a klepotocratic and brutal regime who have left a trail of serial human rights violations throughout the country.   read...

May 1, 2014
Open Letter to Political Leaders in Ethiopia:
Are Ethiopians Ready to Discard Ethnic Politics and Embrace Inclusion in Preparation for the 2015 National Election?

We are writing to you because we believe you are among those who have shown courage and perseverance in pursuing the struggle for freedom and justice in the face of many obstacles. Despite the lack of political space, you have found a way to bring light through the cracks in the foundation of the TPLF/ERPDF. Kudos to you and to those working with you! We want you to be successful, not only for the sake of Ethiopians and those in the opposition, but also for those fellow Ethiopians currently in power who may be realizing they are trapped in a faltering system of their own making. How can we all find a way out before it is too late?   read...

April 1, 2014
Address to Women's National Democratic Club Ethiopia’s Strategic Importance in Africa: Will Its Influence Be Used for Good or for Ill?


I have four questions I would like you to consider today. They are: 1) what makes Ethiopia so strategic, 2) will Ethiopia’s strategic influence in Africa be used for good or for ill; 3) is Ethiopia’s increasing repression within the country becoming the source of its own instability; and 4) will the international/ donor community heed the warnings and support efforts of Ethiopians for reforms before it is too late?    read...

March 14, 2014
An Open Letter to African Steering Committee Members for Publish What You Pay(PWYP) Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Board Members from PWYP

We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia are contacting you in regards to the upcoming Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) board review concerning Ethiopia’s reapplication for membership in the EITI. The outcome of your decision related to this case will either help or hinder Ethiopians both now and in the future so it is critically important that you hear a representative voice from the people.   read... (pdf)

March 10, 2014


Addressing Norwegian Civil Society Ethiopia—An Abusive Home for its People?

When I first came to Norway in 2004, it was for the Anuak; but today, I am here for all the people of Ethiopia. The problem of human rights violations, resource-grabbing and the elimination of democratic rights in Ethiopia is not the experience of a few, but is endemic. Justice will never come to only one group until it comes to Ethiopia as a whole. For that reason, the social justice organization of which I am the executive director, the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE), has a mission to protect the rights, wellbeing and freedom of all Ethiopians. .    read...

February 17, 2014


"Civil Society Cannot Exist in Ethiopia!” SMNE Calls for Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Board to Reject Ethiopia’s Re-application for Membership

Ethiopia is once again applying for membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), “a coalition of global countries, companies, investors and civil society working together to improve openness and accountable management of revenues from natural resources.”

In 2010, Ethiopia’s application was denied based on Ethiopia’s enactment of the Charities and Society Proclamation (CSO), a law that aggressively targets civil society. According to the principles of EITI, an active, independent and robust civil society is essential for the protection of society from the excesses and harmful practices sometimes associated with unethical extractions of oil, gas and minerals; therefore, the lack of such was enough to reject Ethiopia. 

If one asks the people of Ethiopia about the state of civil society in Ethiopia four years later, most would ask, “What civil society? None can exist in this repressive environment!” If one asks Ethiopians whether their civil and human rights have improved in the last few years, most would say they have declined, not improved.    read...

January 26, 2014
US House Appropriation Bill Requires Increased Accountability from Ethiopia as Prerequisite for Funding

Is United States policy towards Ethiopia shifting? For years Ethiopians, social justice groups, human rights organizations and civic groups have been calling on donor countries to demand greater accountability from the Government of Ethiopia for funds received, citing the lack of political space, endemic injustice, the repression of basic freedoms and widespread human rights crimes; however, now, the people of Ethiopia have reason to expect that the climate of impunity is changing.   read...