A resurgent Ethiopian opposition in a new form

By Elias Kifle

Ethiopian Review held a highly successful town hall meeting in Washington DC Saturday afternoon, overcoming Woyanne scare tactics, boycott campaigns, and so many difficulties. I was pleasantly surprised by the high attendance after the Woyanne junta in Ethiopia and its cadres abroad did every thing it could to intimidate Ethiopians to not show up at such meetings. The 4-hour town hall meeting was a show of defiance against the fascist junta in Ethiopia and an expression of solidarity by Ethiopian patriots in the Washington DC area.

The participants at the meeting were happy to see representatives of 5 major independent Ethiopian media organizations coming together to share their views about the media’s role in bringing change to Ethiopia. There seems to be a growing appreciation and understanding that the media can play a leading role for positive change. However, as one of the panelists, Dereje Desta of ZEthiopia, said, the change must start from us. The problem is not just Meles Zenawi’s Woyanne junta. There are a number of things we Ethiopians must change if we are to free ourselves — and the most prominent among them is conquering our fear of, and obedience to dictatorships. There are many Ethiopian journalists who reside in free countries such as the United States and yet they are afraid of freely expressing their ideas.

The other panelists, Esayas Lisanu of Netsanet Le Ethiopia Radio, Abebe Belew of Addis Dimts Radio, and Abebe Gelaw of ESAT, all took turn to share their views and answer questions from the audience. There was a persistent call from the audience for the media to cooperate on common issues if they want to get stronger support from the community. One of the suggestions from the audience that has received the loudest applause is for the 5 media organizations that were represented on the stage to hold a joint fund raising event.

Following the Woyanne junta’s all out campaign to dismantle and eliminate any opposition to its rule, hundreds of Ethiopian journalists and political leaders are forced to either go into exile or underground. Currently in Ethiopia it is impossible to operate an independent newspaper, hold opposition party meetings, and organize protest demonstrations. Woyanne’s campaign extends beyond Ethiopia’s borders. It is pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to infiltrate and control every Ethiopian institution in the Diaspora, including places of worship, sports and cultural groups, and the media. It recently allocated $2 million to regain control of the Ethiopian Sports Federation in North America (ESFNA) after the board kicked out the Woyanne hoodlums from the executive committee.

There are a lot of Ethiopians who have fallen prey to the Woyanne campaign. But yesterday’s meeting in Washington DC shows that there is a resurgent opposition that is led by not just political parties alone, but coordinated and facilitated by civic groups, youth groups, the media, political parties, religious leaders and others. The Ethiopian media in particular is playing an increasingly leading role in opposition to the Woyanne rule.

Woyanne acknowledges the power of the media, and has been relentless in its attack against us. Even those of us who are 20,000 kms away from Ethiopia are not spared. But since there is no single target Woyanne can come after, it will be impossible to defeat us. And the growing recognition of the importance of the media in the struggle will hopefully prompt the public to help us build our capacity.

Ethiopian Review will hold similar events in Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and others cities in the coming few weeks as part of our 2012 program to build our information infrastructure inside Ethiopia and around the world. We have also launched a sponsorship program where we ask supporters of Ethiopian Review to contribute $5 per month. Please read the details here. Additionally, we are in consultation with the other media to organize a joint fund raising event in the near future.

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