This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Thank you Ambassador Booth for inviting me to speak here today. I am honored to be here at the U.S. Embassy. I also want to thank all of the distinguished diplomats who are here for this meeting. I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you. Let me say that it is a distinct honor and a special privilege for me to come before you on behalf of the Blue Party of Ethiopia to introduce our Party and share our values goals and objectives. You might say we are the “new kids on the block” and many people in Ethiopia and abroad do not know much about our Party. That is partly because we have been in existence as a party for a very short time. The Blue Party is very young party, by that I mean, it is a party of young Ethiopians, by young Ethiopians and for young Ethiopians. But I want to make it clear that it is also a party for all Ethiopian. As you know, the majority of Ethiopia’s population, some say up to 70 percent. Is under 35 years of age, so when we talk about the suffering. Hardship and despair of Ethiopians, we are mostly talking about the situation of the youth. Ethiopian youth today face enormous problems in their daily lives. They also experience deep anxiety everyday about their future. Far too many of our young people carry with them not only a deep sense of hopelessness but also powerlessness. They feel they cannot change anything that affects their lives. Many of Ethiopian’s youth are denied educational opportunity which could lead to employment opportunity which in turn could lead to self-sufficiency and contribution to Ethiopia’s growth and development. Youth unemployment in
Ethiopia by some estimates exceeds 40 percent there are fewer and fewer job and educational opportunities for Ethiopia’s youth as their share of the population increase’s year after year. Ethiopian youth acutely feel their lack for basic freedoms. Young journalists are jailed and harassed. Young dissidents face harassment and persecution. Without educational, employment and personal freedoms, they see a dark future for themselves and their country. We formed the Blue Party aware of the situation of Ethiopian youth and the need for us to do wherever we can to secure the future of our country and our own, we are not content talking about problems and issues. We want to do something about it. We want to play a significant role in bringing about positive change in our country so that we can, like all free people, enjoy liberty and pursue happiness. If we do not get involved and act now, we believe our future will be strife, division and unending poverty and suffering for all Ethiopians. Ethiopia today faces many challenges which you all know very well; we have extreme poverty and hunger. The proportion of people in Ethiopia whose income is less than USD$I day is estimated to be 40 percent, Unemployment is high for the population in general, it is very high for youth, Corruption in Ethiopia has reached incredible proportions as revealed in the recent, World Bank report, respected international organizations report $12 billion in illegal transfers of money out of the country, there are many issues that I could list but I believe you know the scope and magnitude of the problems better than myself.
Ethiopia also faces many social challenges, Ethnic, linguistic, cultural religious and regional differences are used to create needless divisions in society. Instead of using our diversity to form strong bonds of unity, it is used to highlight the things that divide us as a people and a nation. Differences in ethnicity, language, culture, religion and region have been used as political weapons to prevent democracy governance. Human rights are systematically violated through the use of a variety of repressive laws. Time and again, free and fair elections have been subverted to a point where the ruling party shamelessly claims that it won 99.6 percent of the parliamentary seats. More and more young Ethiopians are choosing to leave the country as political and economic refugees. Many young professionals in the sciences, medicine and engineering are leaving the country. Many Ethiopians with the skills and capital who live abroad are unwilling to return and help their country because of the repressive political conditions. In forming the Blue party, we were deeply concerned about what we can do to help resolve these problems. Our Blue party does not claim to have all of the solutions to these problems. No one does. What we believe, however, is that we have the right vision, approach, understanding and abilities to help resolve many of these problems. I want to make it clear that the Blue party does not underestimate the great achievements of those parties, groups and individuals that have made enormous sacrifices in the cause of democracy, freedom and justice in Ethiopia over the past five decades; we pay our highest respects to all of them. We stand on their shoulders.
We in the Blue party have our own vision built on the idea that Ethiopians will be in a stronger position to solve the entire social, Political, economic and other problems our country faces if we stand united as one people. I believe president Abraham Lincoln said, “A- house divided against it cannot stand” If Ethiopia remains divided against it, how could we have the will or capacity to resolve its problems? In the Blue party, we believe that we should begin to build unity by focusing less on those problems and issue over which we have differences and focus more on those over which we have broad agreement; there is broad agreement on respect for human rights, free and fair elections, and the rule of law. Political accountability and transparency, decisive action against corruption at all levels and good governance based on constitutional principles, We have set out in great detail our position on these and many other issues in our political program. We must, however, remove certain obstacles before we can tackle these issues. Many of the obstacles are not too difficult to overcome, but they require that we set side our personal issues and advantages, narrow sectorial interests and work together on the things that uplift us all as one people. If we are unable to unite all Ethiopians in a common cause and purpose, we will be worse off than past generations and our future will be bleaker than ever. Over the past two decades, our sense of collective national unity and belongingness has been severely tested. We have been divided along ethnic, religious, regional and linguistic lines in the name of “ethnic federalism” We are told that we belong to one ethnic group or another and we must find our places in Ethiopia by becoming part of one kills or another. Many political parties are organized along ethnic lines and the vast majority of them are weak, disorganized and without
funding. Many Ethiopians have come to believe that their identity is their ethnicity and they have no nationality. The fact that there are so many dozens of parties in not accidental. The more parties the more division. We in the Blue party, and I believe the vast majority of young Ethiopians, are not stuck on the ethnicity nationality debate, Tribal divisions, religious rivalry and regional differences are least important to us. We see them as roadblocks to our collective progress. We want to build a country that maximizes opportunities for all youth regardless of social background. We do not want to fight the old battles of past generations over divisive issues, we want to acknowledge them and move forward because young people all over the world are moving forward. As the world moves towards greater and increasing globalization. I Ethiopians cannot afford to go backwards to tribalization and ethnic division. For us in the Blue party, national unity means overcoming ethnic, religious, language and other divisions through dialogue and understanding, it means finding common language to communicate our hopes and dreams despite cultural or linguistic differences. Unity means embracing and truly celebrating our diverse cultures and traditions as one people, In the United States, people who have come from all corners of the earth, yet take pride in their American national identity while enjoying their unique cultural experiences. This takes me to my next point Peace, Peace in Ethiopia in the Blue party; we do not believe peace comes from the use of fear. Intimidation and persecution. Peace comes from openness. Dialogue and understanding. I know ‘hope’ is a much overused word in politics. In the Blue party, we do not hope blindly, we hope to create more opportunities for all Ethiopians and particularly the young people, we hope to bring greater unity to our people by
narrowing their differences and widening their areas of agreement, we hope to work for Pease by working for justice and engaging in nonviolent struggle. We hope the best way to bring hope to the youth and the people is to build a political organization that thrives on democratic culture in its organization and leadership practices. In the Blue Party, we believe that if there is any one group that can bring hope to the youth, it is the youth itself, To us hope is nothing more than the chemistry of clear mindedness, energy, enthusiasm and determination to work for a better future, We know hope does not grow in a vacuum, It must be worked on and cultivated like everything else. Hope without effort is a wish. A fantasy just an unattainable dream. From time to time, I am asked why the Blue Party decided to strike out on its own. Many of us in the party are told we should have merge or joined one of the two or three existing political parties and make our contributions. Let me say again that we in the Blue party respect and appreciate existing parties that have worked so hard to bring democracy in Ethiopia. But we have learned some hard lessons from current and past opposition politics in Ethiopia. Despite much strength, we believe many of these parties and groups have not been able to inspire real hope and optimism in the people in general and the youth in particular. It is not uncommon to hear complaints among the youth and ordinary people about their dashed hopes in opposition politicians following the 2005 elections. The people had hopes that the opposition groups that came together to contest the 2005 election could have done a lot more if they had remained united after the election. Because they did not, the people lost hope in the opposition and with that hope of change.
There are many reasons why opposition politics in Ethiopia has failed. The major one, we believe, is lack of internal democracy and transparency; we do not blame individual leaders or party members for these problems. The blame lies deep in our culture and history. We have yet to build a viable democratic culture in Ethiopia that can effectively control our cultural tendencies towards suspicion and mistrust. The Blue Party wants to change that culture. We hope and plan to do that through a new generation of leadership that is aware of the mistakes of past leadership and revolved not to repeat them, we believe it is time for a “new generation” to form a ‘new leadership.” And make a renewed commitment that will give hope to all Ethiopians. In the Blue Party, we believe that the people and particularly the youth must be involved in shaping their hopes and dreams. Hope cannot be handed to them on a platter to feed on. The way they get involved in shaping their own hopes is through participation in the democratic process. For us in the Blue Party, we strive to practice internal democracy, which means an internal decision making process that thrives on discussion, consultation, participation. Free expression and exchange of ideas. Unless we internalize democratic values and practice them, we cannot convince others to flow our path or even build consensus. We believe in dialogue to come to a consensus. Once we agree, we move to action. That’s what we aim and strive to do. So what do we hope for in the Blue Party? We hope for unity peace and hope it, eternal hope that tomorrow will be better than today and hope that the best days of Ethiopia are yet to come. I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that one of the common questions. I get asked is why an engineers like myself got involved in the rough and tumble
politics of present day Ethiopia. I have to say, Ethiopian politics is a tough job for any young Ethiopian of any profession, It is difficult for us to operate in a political environment that in not only repressive but also permeated by suspicion, distrust and dishonesty, It is difficult to get involved in politics and survive when everyone expects results overnight and is disappointed and ready to pin the blame when it does not happen. I and nearly everyone in the blue party. Joined because we believe we can make difference in our lives and the life of our country we joined because the alternative option was to stand on the side watching idly. The alternative of living in fear is no longer an option for us, our choice is to stand for unity, Peace and hope and recon citation. Before I conclude, I would just like to highlight some of our position on the important issues. I invite you to examine our party Program for the details. We believe human rights begin with individuals rights. If a person’s individual rights are protected. All of his or her rights are protected. That includes his or her cultural rights, language and faith. They say collective rights must rise above individual rights, but we believe collective rights are the aggregation of individual rights. We believe federalism because it offers the best option for governance in Ethiopia, We do not believe in “ethic federalism” because ethnicity, like a person’s race or skin color. Cannot be a basis for political classification. As there can no black of white federalism, there can be no Oromo, Amhara or Tigray Federation. True Federalism is a system of division of powers between that national and constituent government s. federalism has been successfully practice in the U.S. for over 225 years.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstones of democratic governance. We do not be lieve there is democracy where one party wins 99.9 percent of the parliamentary seats. The rule of law is important to us because it is the only means those who abuse their powers could be held accountable. Without the rule of low, there could only be dictatorship. Ethiopia’s sovereignty is inviolable. Our borders shall remain secure. We believe in peaceful resolution of disputes. We accept no limits on what we can do with our natural resources. In conclusion, let me say that we established our blue party because we love our country .we wants to the Ethiopia of our future free of ethnic hatred, religious and linguistic division. We want to see one Ethiopia people working together peacefully and harmoniously for their common good. We want to build a political party that is not partial to one or another group or ideology. We want to solve
problems through discussion, consultation, collaboration national reconciliation in an environment of respect and civility. Our aim is to create a new political culture in Ethiopia and engages in transformative actions based on that culture. We have been functioning for a little less than a year. I wish I could catalogue for you big accomplishments in that one year. But we have a few modest accomplishments given our difficult circumstance. We have succeeded in organizing ourselves despite extreme difficulties in getting certification from the election board. We have had had teach-ins four our members. We are live in educating our members in the theory and practice of democracy. We have opened contact points in rural areas. We have visited conflict areas and tried to study the situation. We have used social media extensively to reach out and mobilize inside and outside the country. But we face many challenges. Our members face daily struggle trying to feed their families every day. They face the hardships of economic deprivation and must try to do what they can to survive.
We need help both from Ethiopians and the international community. There are many areas of need; I will just mention a few of them. First, we need help to build capacity at the grassroots level to promote youth voices in local and national policy dialogue, to participate and build inter ethic and inter – religious coalition. As I mentioned earlier, we need to build a democracy culture first and foremost. Second, we need help to promote youth civic engagement; many young people do not have the opportunity to learn about democracy, democratic practices and values. If we are to have the next generation of young community, social and political leaders, we need to provide them leadership orientation and training and prepare them for constructive and responsible involvement in community affairs. Any assistance we can get to help us do that is very much welcome. We would like diplomatic support for our aims and goals. We are often subjected to unfair characterizations by the ruling party. They have tried to criminalize our efforts. It is important that the international community provide us moral support as we come under pressure, persecution and harassment. I just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce our party, our aims and goals and the challenges we face. I hope to meet with you again in the future to share with you the progress the Blue Party is making. I thank you sincerely for the opportunity to speak with you today. I invite you to visit our party program which has all the details of issues and topics I talked about today. Thank you very much again. I will be happy to answer questions you may have.