Horn of Africa Conference – triumph of hope

By Yilma Bekele

There is a three days conference on Ethiopia to be held in Alexandra, Virginia. There are plenty of notables involved in this dialogue regarding our neighborhood. All are peoples of stature that have been involved in trying to make life tolerable for their fellow human beings.

If we have to drop a few names here we are tempted to mention Senator Russ Feingold, Congressman Donald Payne, Congressman Chris Smith, the Honorable Ana Gomez, Ambassador Emeru Zeleke, Ambassador David Shinn, Dr. Berhanu Nega and plenty more sitting around a circular table and discussing the dreams and hopes of creating a better future in our neighborhood.

The horn of Africa is a major trouble spot. No one can deny that. Our country Ethiopia is not in good condition. Our nation is epicenter of chaos in the region. Seventeen years after the TPLF assumed power we still find our selves exactly where we started. Famine is still with us, migration of the best and ablest is common and we always show up at the bottom of any and all statistics regarding human accomplishment. No matter how we interpret the statistics today’s Ethiopia is not famous for science, engineering and contribution to human knowledge base. We are famous for civil war, famine and un-relentless migration outwards.

The conference in Virginia is to discuss how to bring about a positive change and build a better future for our people. The participants are people that are working hard to make a difference in the lives of eighty million people. They are not getting paid to attend. There is not any net gain in their private lives for attending the conference. I am sure they spent plenty of their time to prepare for the conference to make their personal contribution a success.

Dialogue and discussion is a preferable method to resolve conflict over fighting. Human experience has proven that approach to be correct and durable. I am sure the organizers are following that footstep pioneered by our ancestors. Thus they have taken the time and resources to apply this proven method to solve the problem facing our old country. We are lucky to have such well-meaning people to take the time and assume responsibility to try to find a solution for our shortcoming.

The question is why are some working over time to derail such a noble cause? Why are a few disparaging such an attempt to find a solution for an old age problem that is evident in our life? Why are a few trading on hate and division to derail our train loaded with hope and goodwill? The short answer is because they don’t know any better. It has become second nature to their existence to put down others worthy contribution.

A friend of mine suggested I visit the web site of the nay Sayers to see the negative and hate filled venom expressed by our brethren. It was not a pleasant experience. It is a sad sight. It begs the question why? Why in the world would anybody oppose an open forum dedicated to find a solution for a problem spot that is affecting over a hundred million humans? There is no rational reason one can think of. May be they have been so comfortable bullying and ignoring the genuine demands of their population that they feel threatened by the mere attempt of others to find a solution to our common problem. Yes the saying ‘like father like son’ comes to mind. It perfectly fits the pattern.

A few weeks back the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was in Mekele, Tigrai celebrating his triumphant anniversary. Instead of using the occasion to celebrate his party’s accomplishment he used the venue to insult, demean and degrade those who do not agree with his views. He painted a dark and sinister picture of those who dare to differ with his blueprint for the future of our country. Their subjects do not view statements by leaders as an empty rhetoric. Words have ramifications. A few days after that hate instigating speech a candidate running for parliament was slayed by the Prime Minster’s supporter. That speech opened the floodgates of hate and negativity. Several candidates running for office have been killed, beaten and threatened through out the country for daring to dream of public service.

It is following that footstep that supporters of the regime have portrayed the ‘horn of Africa’ conference as a negative assembly of anti Ethiopians. The few websites they run has been dedicated to saw discord and ill feeling among people. They have used vile language to describe the participants and organizers of forum. They have resorted to defaming and insulting such worthy public servants because they took the time and showed concern for our country. Their behavior is a sad reflection of the current trend of disparaging and attacking individuals as a person instead of discussing ideas and opinions. It is not like the Ethiopia we know.

Their uttering is far from the truth. Their vain attempt to condemn and vilify is nothing but an attempt to cover their eighteen years of neglect and crime against their own people. Their hate filled diatribe is an attempt to deflect their failure to solve the problems facing the region. On the other hand the conference is an attempt to find a lasting solution rather than blame and finger point. Dialogue is superior form of forging a common path to find a lasting solution. When there is an open and transparent discussion, the outcome is always better and acceptable. It is with that in mind the Virginia conference is set in motion. That is why many East Africans welcome such a positive event knowing the good is definitely far better than the silence and indifference we got on the ground.
Guess what the organizers have decided to involve all of us and judge the event for ourselves. The Conference on the Horn of Africa events will be live-streamed, meaning that you could watch Live Video on your computer with your Internet access where you live in the world. The following is link for the Live streaming of the event on Saturday & Sunday. http://www.ethiov.com/events
We are indebted to the organizers for arranging such a worthy conference. We thank our foreign friends for taking time from their busy schedule and showing concern for our people and country. We are proud of our Ethiopian participants for their relentless work on behalf of their people. Our old nation is better off when her friends and children sit around a table and brainstorm to find a solution and build a better country for all of us. We hope and pray the Ethiopian government will involve itself in building a bridge to find a common ground that will include all the people in finding a solution for our problem. The attempt to bully the participants and vilify the organizers is not worthy of a national government. We hope hate is replaced with love.