Ambassador Johnnie Carson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
United State Department of State
Dear Ambassador Carson,
Your office has always been regarded in high esteem by many for being considerate, knowledgeable and prudent policies towards the people of Ethiopia in general and among us the Oromo in particular. We have always been the most immediate beneficiaries of your human rights policies and actions. However, your alleged recent decision to exclude respected Oromo scholars from a planned conference on Ethiopia is causing a serious concern among the Oromo community and leaders who deeply care about the welfare, identity, economic and political integrity of the Horn of Africa. I believe it is not only a serious flaw with undesirable consequences in relation to the policies and values you uphold. It would also inconsiderately narrow the political spaces and opportunities to entertain the aspirations of the Oromo and tap into the potential to advance the collective interest of all in the region.
While the great people of the United States have always lent a helping hand to the people of Ethiopia in both good and bad times; the the Bureau of African Affairs at the Department of State has sometimes made some unwise policy decisions that has contributed towards hindering the people of Ethiopia from making a democratic breakthrough.
For instance, when Ethiopians finally got rid of the communist dictatorship in 1991, they trusted the US to play a constructive role in helping to make a democratic transition. To the dismay of many, the majority of political groups were however excluded from taking part in the process. And it is widely believed that one of you predecessors, Mr Herman Cohen, had something to do with that. In particular, the forced withdrawal of the Oromo Liberation Front ( OLF) and certain other groups from the transitional government that allowed a minority group to exclusively control state power has serious undermined any hope of a democratic transition. In the last 19 years, as reports and statements by the state department consistently show, we have observed that the minority regime has no interest in establishing a democratic system either due to fear or greed.
Dear Ambassador Carson:
The Oromo are not asking for special privilege. We would like to see to it that your policy shall not affect our future and our destiny. No power can build a just society without a just course of action, and justice demands listening to the voices of all, especially the hitherto systematically disenfranchised political minorities. The 2005 national election could have been much better had the process been all inclusive. Despite being the great demographic majority, the Oromo were marginal participants in the political space of Ethiopia. Despite the great leverage it had over the key Ethiopian political players and its active involvement during the pre-election processes, the US did not show visible concern for the inclusion of this majority in the Ethiopian politics. Thus, it should not be a surprise that the election and the Ethiopian political governance in general did not lead to democratic transition. Basic security and stability concerns are still pervasive due to the silencing of this majority.
I doubt if your good office would continue to exclude the Oromo from forums that immensely affect the Ethiopian political destiny such as the one you are said to be planning. Your values are not inconsistent with your perfectly understandable security concerns. In fact, security that inordinately undermines justice is not really security. The exclusion of the majority and the concentration of power in the hand of a minority is the major factor that continue to destabilize the region.
Sir, I believe you agree with me that democracy and rule of law is the indisputable key to stabilizing the horn of Africa. And history has not shown us any country that has made a democratic transition without participation of the majority. The alleged decision by your office to exclude the Oromo from the said conference negates this simple fact.
The Oromo is the epicenter of East Africa. There is no short cut to democracy and stability without active participation and leadership of the Oromo people. Exclusion of the Oromo from the democratic process is a betrayal of the principles on which the US foreign policy are founded – promoting freedom and democracy and protecting human rights around the world.
Sir, the election of president Barack Obama has given young Africans like me reasons to believe again that it is possible to carry our continent towards a democratic, peaceful and prosperous future. In his uplifting speech in Ghana, the president called up on African youth to work towards establishing a strong democratic institutions. He also promised to support “strong and sustainable government”.
Millions of Africans have been inspired by his call and have began taking action to pave a bright future for the continent. I am one of them. Upon graduation from Stanford, I have been exploring ways in which nonviolent struggle might help my country build an inclusive democratic system . That is why this alleged exclusion of the Oromo from an important conference does not only contradict the President’s promise, but also is quite discouraging to young people like me.
Upon concluding this letter, I appeal to you to implement policies that are consistent with the President’s words. I envision an Ethiopia whereby all of its people enjoy equal, fair and democratic rights, and through the ingenuity of its mosaic people, we can make it happen. I appeal to your good office not stand in our way, but stand by our side.
Jawar Siraj Mohammed