Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Those who wonder what just happened"

I thought I’d better pop in and check in just in case someone reports my untimely death. With most profound thanks to Gooch for keeping Wonqville alive, here is another entry from him. Gooch, I’ve asked so many people to help with this blog… you being the only one who took me up on it. You’ve walked the talk.

Briefly…., managed to self medicate enough to see some medal ceremonies… Shani Davis taking the gold. It was almost surreal… snowy night, a black man in the middle podium, the American national anthem. For several complicated reasons, I wanted to cry. Congrats to Robel!! Representin’! I saw on TV that he had some ET fans waving him in. “Robel with a cause”… hmmm… wonder if he’s heard that one before. Turin… yes, it is Turin. If we don’t say Roma or Florenzia, then why is it Torino? Coz the marketing people thought it sounded better. It does. Anyway, when the Italians won the relay the town went almost nuts. I saw it from my hotel room… the revelry. The only thing I could think of was how I don’t even know the Ethiopian national anthem. Sad.

Qirb new ye Ityopiya Tnsae.

A group of fur-coated Italian women who were daintily sipping on espresso decided to strike up a conversation with us by asking us if we knew Oprah. Of course we did. For those of you here and who like vodka, the Russia House serves it all night long… free. Back to being sick.

Thanks again Gooch!

---------------------------------

At a Kinijit seminar that I recently attended, the (superb) speaker, urging his audience to actually do something, remarked that there are three types of people:

Those who take action.
Those who watch while the action takes place.
Those who wonder what just happened.

Well, it was funny in Amharic.

In the last comments section, Kuchiye asked if we, the readers of ETW, I assume, should take action in the form of creating a lobby group, the W-ET organization.

From my experience, I'd like to share some of the considerations that go into building successful lobby efforts. Nothing systematic, I'm just throwing out a bunch of suggestions.

1. You need like-minded people who trust each other. This means people have to get together, talk, perhaps socialize, get to know each other, and establish a relationship. So you can't quite do this over the Internet, or at least not exclusively over the Internet..

2. Generally, the fewer and bigger the organizations, the better. If there are twenty 'pro-democracy' or 'human rights advocacy' Ethiopian organizations in the
US, and a dozen political party support groups, they won't be taken very seriously. But one or two large organizations would be taken seriously. So there is a benefit to getting involved in existing organizations and putting one's own stamp on them.

3. On the other hand, the existing organizations could be far away, non-functioning, or too cumbersome and ineffective. In this case, it is better to work individually or in a small group, but on a small scale. A particularly effective strategy is to target your local congressman or senator and one potentially influential member of the media, and build a relationship as a constituent or member of the local public. Sensitize them about the situation in
Ethiopia and how American taxpayers' money is going to a dictatorship that will probably, in the long run, lead Ethiopia to failed-state status and ruin American interests in the area. And show them that there are hundreds or thousands of others in your area who are just as concerned.

4. I think it is helpful to think of two types of participation - light and heavy. Light is just sending money to a lobby organization, calling or sending form letters to your congressman, once in a while attending events where a show of numbers is important, such as ones attended by the local congressman, donating to your local congressman's campaign. Volunteering for your congressman's campaign starts getting on the heavy side. Heavy is actual direct lobbying - building relationships with and lobbying congressmen and media members, administering lobby efforts, writing press releases and policy statements, etc.

5. Most people have other things to do, of course, and want to keep things as simple as possible and participate lightly. To these, I would suggest sending money to Kinijit Support -
USA, phoning or writing your congressman once in a while, and giving him a largish cheque for his campaign. Simple and easy, but quite effective, especially if done by a bunch of people.

6. Heavy involvement requires that one invests time to acquire the skills and knowledge, especially knowledge about the situation in
Ethiopia, US government policy, policy trends, ... Not many people want to do this, but not many people need to.

7. We must understand that the Ethiopian lobby groups and opposition party support groups in the
USA are still very much at the infancy stage. They are not at all well-organized, publicity and outreach are poor, accountability is not transparent, ... I think we must learn to accept this reality and move forward, hoping to slowly improve things from the inside. In other words, I would rather send an opposition party support group $50 a month, knowing that there is a probability that the money will just sit there or even that it may be misused, than not send any money at all. If we all reach the level of dedication required to do this, then we will reach the level of dedication required to demand and successfully obtain accountability and efficiency. That's the way to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

8. The most effective lobbying is done by non-partisan 'pro-democracy and human rights' groups, rather than political party support groups, as the former are seen as unbiased and more credible, and they can embrace people from various political parties. However, from what I know, in the
US, as a matter of momentum and practicability, it seems that it may be better to hitch one's wagon on Kinijit rather than invest in a new or current pro-democracy group. I stand to be corrected, but that's what I see.

9. In
Canada, a situation I'm quite familiar with, lobbying by non-partisan groups was effective enough to get the Conservative Party, which incidentally has won the recent elections, to officially take a tough stance on the Ethiopia issue back in the summer of 2005. This stance was re-iterated in the recent elections, and now it's a matter of time before this is translated into concrete action. Many Ethiopians throughout the country campaigned and contributed funds to various candidates in these elections, and this is slowly bearing fruit.

10. An underlying concern for many is their want of privacy out of fear of what will happen to them if they want to travel to
Ethiopia or what will happen to their families. This, I think legitimate, concern, is easily dealt with by participating at arm's length. Money can and is probably best sent anonymously. Letters sent to local politicians are private. No problem!

11. Solidarity with like-minded folks and a spirit of 'tolerance' and inclusion is absolutely crucial. Kinijit and Hibret supporters should reach out one another and to OLF supporters, too. The bottom line for all is democracy. On other issues, one can agree to disagree, but by actually engaging in dialogue, you may be surprised at how much you have in common and how much you can learn.

12. Do not fear the 'knuckleheads' - those poor politicos who seem to dictatorial and hardheaded and unwelcoming. Treat them nicely, be empathetic, try and understand what makes them so edgy, and you will soon be best pals, or at least be able to work together.

To summarize, here's what you can (easily) do:

1. Contact your congressman once a month or so, preferably by phone or letter mail.

2. Spread you message to any influential people you know, such us members of the media, but others as well.

3. Give money to a Kinijit or Hibret support group, and once in a while, ask what they did with it. As you can see from their web sites, it's easy to send money anonymously if you like.

4. Get five other people to do the above.

If you manage to do this, I guarantee your efforts will be felt in Congress.

Next time, I'll talk about what we're actually

16 Comments:

Anonymous not anonymous said...

Gooch, how about this: Sending a few dollars discreetly (and regularly if possible) thru private channels to known survivors of the victims?

2:11 PM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous qq said...

That will surely be something, not anonymous.

The over-arching goal of Gooch's list, however, seems to me about what we, in the Diaspora, can do to ultimately bring about FREEDOM and democracy to Ethiopia.

I appreciate the pragmatism in Gooch's suggestion of supporting existing Kinjit and Hibret support groups. But I am very concerned about the perpetual treatment the OLF keeps getting as a side show while carrying perhaps the biggest(even merely sentimental) support base. Other's have blogged extensively on the issue of the OLF, but I feel that more concrete efforts are needed to engage the supporters of the OLF in a civilized manner. Almost all of the oromo friends I have (they are many...; I grew up in the region) are very suspicious of anything related to Kinjit et al... or any nationalistic agenda for that matter. It seems to me that we need to organize multiple forums in places where OLF supporters congregate and bring them to the struggle. I mean really listen to them!! As Dr. Berhanu Nega allegedly found out after his 2001 incarceration, many non-oromos do not really understand the sentiment among OLF supporters. Given that some 30% of the country's population are oromos, any real progress we can make that doesn't include consulting them seems doomed to fail. Of course, I am making very general statements here...all oromos are not for OLF, etc... The point is we need to talk about it!! We need to lobby the Kinjit support group to engage the OLF. I mean demand it! It is one simple thing we can do towards the bigger goal (in addition to Gooch's list)! A house divided cannot stand!

A second point I would like to make is that, we should not underestimate the power of the punditry in cyberspace. Never put down the talk, just try to add (a little) walk to the talk!!

3:34 PM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous not anonymous said...

qq,

here’s an article by Saqattaa Shummii titled “You Guys don’t get it! A note to CUD leadership and the neo-chauvainsits.” (December, 2005) It seems to capture your sentiments somewhat: http://www.wafido.org/you-do-not-get-it.pdf

excerpt from the first paragraph:

“ . .I am just a concerned Oromo who is trying to understand the opposition agenda especially of the CUD regarding the never answered question of the Oromo people for freedom and equality. I am a bit at a loss because, on hand hand, you-CUD-claim that you have the support of the vast majority of the Ethiopian people, but on the other hand, facts on the ground suggest that the Oromo for example did not and do not support you at all. I am addressing this article to “you”, it being not Hailu Shawel as a person but CUD as an organization. Hence, I am not expecting a reply from those CUD leaders who are in detention but rather from their supporters at home and in the Diaspora . . .”

4:24 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Honest too said...

qq,

I am glad you bring about the question of the Oromo into the picture, any dialogue there is about Ethiopia has to involve the Oromo if we are aiming to have a cohesive and peaceful society in Ethiopia. And since the OLF enjoys the support of many Oromos, it gives the best opportunity to create this channel of communication between all concerned Ethiopians who would like to work towards peace, equality and prosperity.

4:37 PM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Gooch's point about an active civic group because perhaps I have worked with such a group, the Ethiopian National Congress, ENC. Founded in Oct 1997, the ENC has attempted to focus on advocating for a democratic system of governance and rule of law in a united Ethiopia.

At the height of its life ENC had 20+ chapters accross the USA and all over the world. The organization is still around, though it seems to be on lfe support.

As far as engaging OLF, ENC was instrumental in bringing OLF to the all party discussions that led to the formation of UEDF.

I hope the ENC leadership will take up the challenge of reinvigorating the movement to help feel the gap.

Thanks

11:17 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Dabus Nibor said...

Thanks. not anonymous (shorter handle,please) for the link with a well written Oromo perspective. I would recommend the article you qouted to everyone, especially for non-oromos:
http://www.wafido.org/you-do-not-get-it.pdf

I will share one shoking experience I had when chit-chating with an Oromo family at a wedding in Minneapolis. The American born teanager in the family had a visit to Addis (she strictly used 'Finfine') and Welega. While excitedly raving about her visit experience she spoke of 'getting our land back'...Oromia this Oromia that....And closed by saying 'I hope we get our land back'. The father- an Oromo immigrant-concurred and repeated her closing sentence. Ignorant as I was of this 'extreme' feeling, I was shocked. I silently blamed the father for disillusioning the kid.

But the incident still makes me wonder how many Oromo kids are being raised with such notions? What kind of Ethiopia are we going to build if so many are told it is an unworthy cause?

11:29 PM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous phiqr said...

Gooch,

This is great. I'm glad that we are focusing on what we can do.

I think we should intensify our effort in every direction. Some of these organization are doing a great job. Before the Jan. election in Canada the Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners (SOCEPP) sent questions to both the main parties to explain their stand in Ethiopia issue and they got written response from both. It was interesting to see the carefully crafted response of the challenger party which end up winning the election.

The other one I like is Tegbar, which seem very active currently. Pls everyone share your experience with this orgs so we help out the write group.

At this stage rather than worrying to much on ideology we should support any party that we think will "help" on establishing a democratic political system. I think all the parities should work together to build a consensus on the framework of democratic system not the political ideology. So I think it is the responsibility of both CDUP and OLF to reach out to each other and "agree to disagree". They should restrain themselves from antagonizing the other on basis of ideology. Let the people decide which one they want when the time comes. Leave the other with chance to correct and try again.

Those of you who live in DC area join us on prayer service for Dr. Yacob H. tomorrow 24th at Virginia Bitch freeyacob.com it will be a good 3hrs drive.

7:10 AM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous dube said...

No, it's too easy. I'll let go.

2:13 PM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous ye filwiha said...

you did it again Gooch -- right on brotha, right on!! my greatest fear is as time goes on, it seems natural for people to just let go and give up on the fight... I hope we keep on keeping on -- you compiled a good set of pointers and I'm sure it would help some who have been contemplating on what to do for their part..

5:43 PM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous Abdisa said...

Gooch,

I appreciate your suggestion for a successful lobby effort. Unfortunately, it is a timely suggestion. I said unfortunately because it really looks like the effort may have to be started from scratch in US.

I don’t see any coordinated effort. Even if there is an effort which I don’t know about, there is no result to show for it. One can site the paucity of media coverage in US. In the little coverage Ethiopia gets, it looks like the writers think OLF is at the center of the crisis. CUDP doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

If you look at recent articles in Washington Times and LA Times, it is as if CUDP doesn’t exist. It is clear that the writers are influenced by OLF. This is baffling because most politically active Ethiopians live in DC and LA and they can’t mange to influence News Papers in their area.

It is also a mystery to me why there are no house members from Maryland, Virginia, LA, Atlanta, and Dallas who are willing to co-sponsor Chris Smith’s initiative in Congress.

It is already 10 months since the election and our progress have been slow considering Ethiopians dedication to bring change. Instead of passing the buck, each one of us needs to take the initiative. Existing organizations don’t seem open, ready and capable to coordinate the outpouring of support.

It will be a good idea to start some initiatives in this form as most of the readers are capable individuals.

Abdisa

7:38 PM, February 23, 2006  
Blogger kuchiye said...

I also attended a recent CUD meeting in DC. The panelists were refreshingly articulate both in content and in delivery. Among the top priorities of the party, according to the panelists, is the drive to open better relationship with all Ethiopian stakeholders. “CUD”, they proclaimed, “does not consider any of the parties as enemy and will travel the extra mile to start negotiation and chart out a path for common struggle."

Regarding CUD and OLF, I can foresee a period of civic discourse and reconciliation ensuing, which by itself propels the Ethiopian cause into a winning orbit. However, as in any conflict resolution exercise, the parties concerned and their followers need to prepare the requisite environment in which substantive issues can be discussed and resolved.

Desisting from all forms of demagogy, name-calling and temper tantrums is one such precondition.

To be fair to CUD, I have not come across any CUD literature or utterance that is abusive of the OLF organization and its supporters. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for OLF and its supporters as evidenced by Saqattaa's article. But then I stand to be corrected.

3:20 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous qq said...

Kuchiye,

I think, Saqattaa, while using a rather harsh language, was trying to force an invitation towards some form of dialogue between supporters of the OLF and the CUD.

And my mentioning it here, is to actually include such demands of dialogue among Gooch's list of things we can do as individuals.

Abdisa,

The fact that the OLF supporters seem to be effective in getting much foreign media attention and get the focus of human rights watch/amnesty reports actually supports my contention that cooperation between the CUD/UEDF and the OLF is a very good and timely call.

6:57 PM, February 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The engagement with OLF is highly commendable! It is long overdue! The extent of engagement, however, does not have to be limited to 'CUD' and 'OLF'. More has to be done at grassroot level. Social groups and gatherings such as churches, sport clubs, etc.. must open themselves to people from other cummunities. How about some blessings by the holy priest to Oromo/Tigre/Gurage compatriots in their own langauge? Oromo songs/dances in an Amhara/Tigre/Gurage Wedding? These kinds of low level engagements will bring about understanding and will have great benefit in the long term. As communities, we should engage at all levels.

8:26 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Honest too said...

dabus nabor,

The extreme feeling of being let down by Ethiopia and Ethiopians has existed among many Oromo elites for a long time. It is based partly on history of Ethiopia and on personal experience. But the solution to bring dialogue between Ethiopians is not brushing off the feelings of these Oromos as unworthy but understanding where these feelings came from and trying to deal with them. Or else I am afraid that people who are open for dialogue will be radicalized and there will be no place for mutual understanding.

10:36 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger enaseb said...

psaqattaa's article makes a timely (and clearly eloquent) entrance in this forum. like i said earlier...we need to deal with the consequences of history by talkin about what happened thus connecting the dots to what is happening now.

3:36 AM, February 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonqette, great stuff as always but just thought I should point out that it is not 'Florenzia', it is 'Firenze'.

10:15 AM, March 01, 2006  

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