In announcing the invitation to Ethiopia’s brutal tyrant, Columbia University had posted the following appalling statement on its web site:
Under the seasoned governmental leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, now in his fourth term, and vision of the Tigrai Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Ethiopia has made and continues to make progresses in many areas including in education, transportation, health and energy.
After being bombarded by angry Ethiopians yesterday, the university removed the statement and left only the following:
An address by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi followed by a question and answer session with the audience. (read here)
Removing the statement is not enough. The University needs to investigate how such a blatantly false statement that is offensive to 80 million Ethiopians was posted on its web site to begin with.
Columbia University needs to also rescind its invitation to the tyrant.
Make your voice heard. Write or call:
Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University
Phone: (212) 854-9970; Fax: (212) 854-9973
University Programs and Events
Office of the President
Columbia University in the City of New York
202 Low Library, 535 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10027
Dear President Bollinger:
We are astounded to learn Columbia University has invited Meles Zenawi, a cruel dictator whose legacy is the repression of his own people to the World Leaders Forum as a keynote speaker on the topic of Ethiopia and African Leadership.
The Ethiopian-American Community and other advocates of human rights are outraged that Columbia University is willing to give a forum to the head of a repressive regime that has maladministered Ethiopia for the past 20years.
In the May 23, 2010 election, Meles Zenawi stifled all voices of freedom and declared a sham 99.6% victory that further de legitimized his brutal regime. In a May 25, 2010 statement, http://www.america.gov/st/democracyhrnglish/2010/May/20100526144415esnamfuak0.5419123.html , National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said, “An environment conducive to free and fair elections was not in place even before election day.”
Five years earlier, he had thwarted the democratic aspirations of the people of Ethiopia and ordered the brutal massacre of over 193 unarmed peaceful protesters and jailed the entire opposition leadership and many of their supporters.
As the President of Columbia University and as a distinguished advocate of academic freedom, we acknowledge your right to invite speakers whom you believe will add to the academic experience of Columbia students. It is the essential element of American democracy and value system. We appreciate it and believe it is what makes America great.
But, neither freedom of speech nor academic freedom requires Columbia University to give its podium to a dictator who has actively and brutally suppressed academic freedom. On April 9, 1993, the Meles regime fired 42, some internationally acclaimed, professors from Addis Ababa University with negative implications for the university as well as the nation.
Using famine, illiteracy, and ethnic division as potent weapons, he has condemned a whole generation of Ethiopians to perpetual poverty and suffering. He has criminalized dissent and violently suppressed any threats to his despotic rule. He has sent to prison opposition party leaders, including the courageous political leader Judge Birtukan Mideksa, (the only woman political leader in Ethiopia). Journalists, and human rights activists are routinely jailed on trumped-up charges. In the name of bogus development, Meles Zenaw has embezzled international aid money and the country’s meager resources; and used land, jobs, and educational opportunities as tools of subjugation.
Does you University seriously believe that hearing the views of a brutal dictator sitting at the helm of a failed state would add to the “academic experience of your students”?
We respectfully request Columbia University to rescind the invitation to Meles Zenawi.
We also ask that you make a strong public statement against giving a podium to dictators like Meles Zenawi who are known for egregious human rights abuses and send a strong message to Ethiopians and all people suffering under the yoke of dictatorship .
We urge you to take this opportunity.
Tel: +1-212-851-7421; Fax: +1-212-851-7410