10 mins read

Girma Kassa (Chicago)

January 23 2008

Allow me to share with you a story from Seattle. It is about two Ethiopians who do not know each other before but were connected by a coincidence, at a great event in Seattle, a march of born again Christian evangelicals, called “March for Jesus”. The marchers were walking on sidewalks of one of a major street in Seattle.

All of a sudden traffic was blocked. The light was green, but a cab driver was not moving forward. He was standing outside of his cab and staring at another person, an Ethiopian who was “marching for Jesus”. Drivers behind him made the place very noisy with the horns of their cars. But the Ethiopian cab driver did not budge at all. After few minutes, he got back in his taxi and continued his usual routine.

The cab driver did not walk out from his cab just to stare at one “marcher for Jesus”. He walked out from his cab because he saw a big “green-yellow-red” flag of Ethiopia carried, with pride and honor, by the Ethiopian marcher. The cab drive could not just stay in his car and pass by, without saluting Ethiopia which was symbolized by its flag.

“I do not care if the others make noise outside; I do not care if I get a ticket; I do not care if I had to reach at my destination very shortly….Ethiopia is coming first; everything else has to wait” the cab driver said with his actions.

At that moment, the flag of Ethiopia or Ethiopawinet connected these two brothers of ours. Ethiopawinet connects. Ethiopiawinet is something that is the only one that can bond us together. Ethiopiawinet is something that is precious and that we cannot hide from. Ethiopiawinet is not a jacket that we can pull off at anytime. It is not something that we lose when we become citizens of another country. It is deeply mixed with our flesh, with our blood vessels, with our bones and also with our soul and with our spirit.

We may think that we have changed. We may refuse to be recognized as Ethiopians. Since we are living in the Diaspora we may assume we had nothing to do with Ethiopia.

However, we cannot change our Ethiopiawinet. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” says the Bible in Jeremy 13:23. Ethiopiawinet is “us”; it is our identity. To lose our “Ethiopiawinet” is equivalent to losing “ourselves”. If there is no Ethiopia, There is no “us”. PERIOD.

For so long, “Ethiopiawinet” has been considered as unimportant and secondary; for so long the strong bond that connects all Ethiopians, which is Ethiopiawinet, has been challenged by the politics of division and ethnicity.

Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam shared to us an extraordinary act of Ethiopiawinet in his letter from Kaliti prison. [1]During the early years of the TPLF rule, only the flag of the TPLF was seen on the streets and in public places of Tigray. However, in defiance to the un-Ethiopian policies of the TPLF, small green-yellow-red flags of Ethiopia were posted either on the doors and the walls of each household. These were clear and unambiguous signals to the TPLF leaders. “Don’t waste your time. We will not forget our flag. You may take it out from the streets, but you cannot take it away from our heart” the people of Tigray defiantly declared to TPLF leaders. This is Ethiopiawinet.

As has been reported on major Ethiopian media outlets, Ato Siye Abraha has been touring major U.S. cities to address Ethiopians of his vision and the need for national reconciliation. Some may have doubts because of Ato Siye’s prior association with TPLF. (which is justified) However, I for one, am very happy to see a man who has been one of the architect of ethnic division, emerging with stature and confidence as a messenger of Ethiopiawinet and advising every “Ethiopian to be weary of ethnic divisions as the prevailing regime is ruling by dividing Ethiopians across ethnic lines, so that it can prevent a united Ethiopian resistance, by replacing ethnicity with Ethiopianess.”.[2]

Fellow Ethiopians,

This is what we call the Spirit of Kinijit. (i.e. I am not talking about the party but the movement). Kinijit the party may have a new name and a new election symbols. However the movement of Kinijit is very much alive and the same. The movement of Kinijit does not need approval or consent from any authority. This movement has surely penetrated everywhere. Genuine calls for democracy, accountability, rule of law, and Ethiopiawinet are coming now from all corners. The politics of fear, intimidation and behind the scene conspiracy are being shown the “bye-bye” signals.

“Kinijit is dead” [3]declared Ato Zeru Hagos on his article posted on Aigaforum. Another fellow Chicagoan Ato Mezgebe Christos wrote that “Kinijit is broken beyond repair”. However, what we see these days, is not a “broken beyond repair”[4] Kinijit. What we see is a Kinijit that is winning the battle of ideas and issues. Ethiopiawinet, which is one of the core principles of Kinijit, is winning. TPLF and its old and rejected policies of ethnic divisions and hate are losing.

As we have witnessed with the Democratic EPRP and now with people who used to be TPLF officials, Ethiopians are converging from different directions and from across the section of our population to the same noble cause:- the establishment of a prosperous, democratic and united Ethiopia where all its citizens, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion, gender and are equal. It is a clear indication that the journey of democracy and peace has started for real. There will be no turning back.

With dictators drinking their whiskies in Minilik palace, the prospect of success may seem remote. Some may be discouraged. However, as Havelock Ellis wrote:” the Promised Land always lies on the other side of a Wilderness”. If we march forward with faith, confidence and solidarity; if we avoid looking back and focus on the future; if we carry on our back those who are weak and cannot walk; if we stop fighting among ourselves and pointing fingers at one another; if we make Ethiopia first more than our self interest and our political party affiliation; if we forgive and love one another.. . we can easily and quickly cross the wilderness.

“We may go to the moon, but that’s not very far. The greatest challenge we have to cover still lies within us” said the great French leader, General Charles De Gaulle. If we bring out our potential and start believing in ourselves; if we open our eyes for the truth, recognize our God given right and decide to claim all that is ours, it means we have traveled far away from the moon. It means we have already crossed 90% of the wilderness.

My fellow Ethiopians, we are there. As Dr Tewodros Kiros coined it on an article posted on Ethiomedia, “the new topic is Ethiopiawinet”. We are in good shape. Let us come together and give no room for hopelessness. With more determination and the help of the Good Lord we will prevail.

May the Lord Bless Ethiopia!


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