by Obang Metho
I am delighted to be here among the family of Ethiopians in Norway. Part of my focus while here is to address the problem of the Ethiopian asylum-seekers in Norway and secondly, to focus on the plight of Ethiopian migrant workers in places like Saudi Arabia, many of whom have now returned to Ethiopia only to find few supports in place to help them assimilate back into society.
Ethiopia is no more hospitable than when they left it. As they return, other Ethiopians continue to leave and the cycle repeats itself. As we witness the desperate circumstances and often cruel treatment of so many migrant workers as they were deported from Saudi Arabia, it has stirred the reactions of many of us to do something.
My message today is about channeling those emotions and energy to bring about long-term sustainable solutions. Over the last several years I have listened to the personal testimony of countless Ethiopians who have undergone horribly inhumane circumstances in order to find a better life outside of Ethiopia.
These first-hand testimonies describe the great suffering many have gone through and comprise some of the most heart-breaking stories I have ever heard. Most of them are young people, the sons and daughters of Ethiopia – the next generation—and they are leaving in huge numbers. Many of the women who find employment in the Middle East experience severe physical and sexual assault, denial of salary or payment of only partial salaries, confiscation of passports and other identification papers, inhumane conditions, psychological trauma, denial of freedom of movement, inability to change jobs and even murder.
What are the solutions?
We, Ethiopians have to think beyond themselves. Running to get a job in the Middle East or get out of box of seeking quick solutions that may complicate real solutions. We must look seriously at the negative images to change Ethiopia. Film from movies, before digital, called the negative, it is dark and see little, but when put in front of light, get a beautiful and colorful image. Right now, to me, the country of Ethiopia is the negative, but Ethiopian people don’t see that they can make a good thing out of this, creating a colorful and beautiful out of that. Outsider cannot do it for them.
That color could be an organization, or people taking responsibility to support existing groups, people being determined to bring lasting change. Ethiopians can make it brighter future. The ending of suffering is that behind the negative image, you can produce a New Ethiopia where humanity before ethnicity, less greed, where only a few thrive groups and the rest struggle to survive, to become a livable country where humanity is valued and the rights of all are respected—no one free until all free.
I want every Ethiopian to see that the negative image of our country, the suffering of our beautiful people in the Middle east and throughout the world, behind it is the promise of change—only from Ethiopians. We don’t want someone else to free us or run to another country where their people have already freed themselves and become freeloaders. We have to liberate ourselves in our minds and actions.