A new civic engagement group based primarily in the Washington, D.C. area, called Voice for the Voiceless Ethiopians, held a protest in front of the U.S. State Department Tuesday, where several dozen gathered to urge the Biden administration to take action against the Ethiopian government for its indifference to and perpetration of acts of genocide against ethnic and religious groups.
Through their efforts, the group hopes to create “public awareness about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Amhara and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia.”
They also called for an end to “the illegal imprisonment without bail of leaders of Balderas for True Democracy in Ethiopia: Eskinder Nega, Sentayehu Chekol, Aster (Qeleb) Seyoum and Askale Demele who opposed (the ruling) OPDO-Prosperity Party’s acts of human rights abuses in Ethiopia and its policy of complete marginalization of residents of the metropolitan Addis Ababa,” the country’s capital and largest city. Balderas for True Democracy in Ethiopia is a registered political party in the country.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Yohannes Gethaun, the public relations officer for Voice for the Voiceless Ethiopians, elaborated on why his organization decided to hold the protest event. “We demand that Ethiopians shall be governed through a transient period led by technocrats, no politicians. They’ve failed us for the last 47 years so we prefer a government run by technocrats, which will have a term limit, those people, the technocrats, will arrange an election process, lead the transition period through a peaceful process.”
Gethaun slammed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, a member of the Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization, who has held that position since 2018, for his lack of action as churches have been destroyed along with entire towns. “He doesn’t care,” he maintained. Another person who attended the event, also named Abiy, alleged that “he acts like he doesn't care, but he’s behind the whole thing.”
“As long as he’s in power, for the next 10 years or 20 years, that is his plan,” Abiy continued. Contending that “the election is already rigged,” he explained that “it’s just another dictatorship we’re going through again.” Abiy contended that Ethiopia has never operated as a true democracy since the first Tigray People’s Liberation Front took power in 1991.
Another attendee, Waussihan, told CP that he was attending the event to raise awareness for a “very serious situation in Ethiopia” where Abiy Ahmed is just waging war against Amhara people.” He asserted that “Abiy Ahmed organizes his own militias and sends these militias to the farmers to kill children … mothers and they even just cut the abdomen of the mother and to just give her the baby because the baby was Amhara.” He also expressed disappointment that “the international media is denying this fact.”
“Abiy Ahmed is waging war against Tigrays and he’s allowing ... other external forces to just rape children,” Waussihan insisted. “He’s killing people because of their identity, because they are ethnic Amharas.”
“What we want is the international community to know what is really happening in Ethiopia,” he said. “That is the only thing we need. We don’t need any help, we need the international community to learn what is … happening in Ethiopia.”
“It is high time that Abiy Ahmed Ali be removed from power,” Voice for the Voiceless Ethiopians Task Force Chairman Shimelis Legesse wrote in a press release announcing Tuesday’s protest, which was obtained by CP. “The fate of Ethiopia’s 116 million people should never be left at the hands of this narcissist person. Politically independent Ethiopian technocrats shall be given the opportunity to form a transitional government with a legally binding term limit.”
“Therefore, we call upon the U.S. government to use all its diplomatic channels in support of the Ethiopian people’s quest in which rule of law is respected and democracy flourishes,” he added.
While expressing dissatisfaction with the U.S. government and the international community’s “deafening” silence regarding Ethiopia overall, Gethaun praised the Trump administration for halting “military and security aid to the existing regime” and commended the Biden administration for continuing to withhold the aid.
Legesse had previously written a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlining complaints “on the absence of due attention by the USA administration” regarding the “current alarming human rights violations in Ethiopia; vengeful imprisonment of leaders of Balderas for True Democracy in Ethiopia by the regime of Abiy Ahmed Ali.”
As Legesse explained in the March 15 letter, also obtained by CP: “The Apartheid-like regime of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) was set aside from power on April 2, 2018, and Abiy Ahmed Ali became prime minister of Ethiopia.” While “Ethiopians from all walks of life were full of hope and optimism with the ascendancy of Abiy to the helm of power,” Legesse lamented that “it did not take long for Mr. Abiy Ahmed Ali to betray the people of Ethiopia bestowed upon him.”
The letter included a short list of “gross human rights violations,” including the ethnic cleansing of about 1 million people in southern Ethiopia, the murder of “scores of Orthodox Christians” and the subsequent burning of their churches and the “ongoing genocide against members of the Amhara ethnic group.”
According to Legesse, “The U.S. government has not shown any concern for the plight of the Amhara and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia, who face genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
“Though the U.S. government’s stand for an independent and internationally coordinated investigation on the atrocities committed by all combating sides on civilians in Tigray during the ongoing civil war is commendable, I am dismayed at U.S.' stand in support of negotiation between leaders of the internationally registered terrorist organization, the TPLF … with the ‘Ethiopian government,’” he wrote.
Legesse added in the letter to Blinken that “TPLF’s 27 years apartheid-like rule was marred by divide and rule on Ethiopians based on ethnic background and religious affiliation.”
Legesse was the primary speaker at Tuesday’s event, which was conducted mostly in a foreign language. However, some of the chants directed at the State Department were in English: “It’s ethnic cleansing! Amhara genocide must be stopped now!”
“Amhara lives are being massacred!” they chanted. “Enough is enough! Stop the genocide!”
In addition to urging the U.S. government to “Stop Amhara ethnic cleansing,” protesters called on President Joe Biden and Blinken to “break your silence on Amhara genocide” and asked, “Where is your American moral values?”
Gethaun, who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years, indicated that his organization had yet to receive an adequate response from the State Department following the submission of the March 15 letter, thereby making the protest a necessity.
CP has reported extensively on the violence in Ethiopia. Earlier this year, a famous Ethiopian monastery dating back to the sixth century was bombed, killing one monk and leaving 12 nearby buildings, including the monks’ ancient dwellings, destroyed.
In January, approximately 750 people were killed as an Ethiopian Orthodox church said to contain the Ark of the Covenant described in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, fell victim to an attack. A recent report from Amnesty International showed “satellite imagery analysis” which “corroborated reports of indiscriminate shelling and mass looting” as well as “signs of new mass burials” near two recently destroyed churches.