The Junta & Me

During the 17 year reign of the DERG Communist Regime in Ethiopia, I was living in Washington, D.C.

At the time, and to this day, D.C. has the largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. Exiled from our home country, the Ethiopians around me in D.C. carried me through those difficult times. We all cared for eachother and uplifted eachother as a community.

At the time, I remember thinking to myself that if I should ever have the ability to do anything for these people, my people, I would do it without a thought.

1990 came around and I received a call from my late brother and friend, the yet-to-be-Sultan (at the time) Hanfare Alimirah. He told me that the DERG Regime has completely collapsed and he had just landed alongside then President Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia. He told me that he needed me to start a new government. He told me that it was finally our time to do something for our people.

At the time, all I could think of is my fellow countrymen that were abroad with me.

That opportunity I had always waited for to do something for them had finally presented itself.

And so, without hesitation, I quit my job at the Qatar Embassy in Washington, D.C., abandoned my belongings, and got on a plane to Ethiopia to try to build a new nation for all Ethiopians.

The belief I had at the time was that, regardless of the TPLF's inexperience, there couldn't possibly be a government as evil and inept as The DERG.

I was, unfortunately, terribly wrong.

The exact day I arrived in Addis Ababa, I found out that the TPLF Military was murdering Afars in Gawani.

Hanfare Alimirah had grown frustrated with the government as they were, on purpose, refusing to take his calls.

I got ahold of President Zenawi as soon as I heard of the conflict and told him that it was Hanfare's impression that they were avoiding him. He alleviated this concern and told me that he was as interested in peace as much as we were and sent me directly to Sadikan, the Army Chief of Staff, with orders to be taken to Awash Arba right away to start negotiating a peace amongst the warring factions.

At the site of the conflict, we were escorted by General Yohannes Gebremeskel, who was in charge at the area.

Over the next two months, we negotiated a cease fire and eventually peace thanks to Aydahis Allo, an elected Afar representative, and General Yohannes.

What took up 2 whole months and uprooted the lives of soldiers and civilians alike was met with no reaction at all at the capital. Not a single official acknowledged the conflict that was occurring, let alone extended thanks for stabilizing the region for a new transitional government.

The second time the government showed a similar complete lack of regard was during the beginning of the Ethio-Eritrean War.

Meles Zenawi wanted the complete support of all the peoples of Ethiopia in his effort to wage war against Eritrea. Unfortunately, prior to this, him and then Sultan Alimirah Hanfare, had fallen out. In order to consolidate The Afar People's support in his war, Meles decided to make amends with The Sultan and sent me to retrieve him from his self imposed exile in Saudi Arabia. Again, I went on a mission, and though it took some time, accomplished it.

The Sultan was brought back under the promise of renewed relations and respect for his traditional position. Not only was the promise not honored, but there was no acknowledgment of what had just been accomplished. The Sultan had returned after a long exile, and there was no reaction towards the significance of this at all.

The only person to recognize what had occurred was the Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Yamane Kidane aka Jamaica, who simply said, "you delivered."

Slowly, but increasingly, I was losing faith in the TPLF. I was starting to doubt their public agenda of being a government of ALL the people of Ethiopia.

It was the late Sultan Alimirah who told me that I was expecting too much from these people who he called "Gorilla Fighters who happened to find themselves in charge of a government."

After 20 years of service as an Ambassador, I found myself stationed in Kuwait. Kuwait has 80,000-100,000 Ethiopians living as domestic workers. While the majority of those Ethiopians live profitable and positive lives in Kuwait, some, unfortunately, suffer abuse that has them seeking refuge.

As a representative of their country in Kuwait, many thought to find solace and refuge with me. As we couldn't use the embassy as a shelter, I used my connections to find a home that we used as a shelter for runaway Ethiopians. We hired cooks, lawyers, and provided these runaways with all the amenities they would require.

While you might think these are services that an embassy should provide to its citizens outright, you would be surprised by the TPLF's response.

Upon hearing about where the embassy's resources were going towards, they sent Ambassador Nega Tsegaye, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to let us know what they thought about this.

He told me that the "higher ups" were unhappy about this usage of government funds. To quote, they wanted me to know that they, "are not any less Ethiopian than you( (me). There are so many poor homeless and destitute people here in Ethiopia outside of government buildings," he continued to say, "but what should we do? We just clean our shoes and carry on. You are running an Embassy. Not a charity."

I was so shocked by the bluntness of the​statement. After 20 years of working with these people, I didnt expect them to support my efforts to help the Ethiopian domestic workers, but I expected them to at least make up a reason for why they were against it. Not wanting to be the only person to have heard such a jarring sentiment, I demanded that Ambassador Nega say this to the entirety of the embassy staff. Nega, however, agreed to only speak to the diplomats on staff. When I called them in, he repeated it, much to everyone's amazement. In view of all the diplomats, I declared that if this was coming in the form of an order, I would refuse to follow it.

20 years prior, I left a life of comfort in Washington to give back to my fellow Ethiopians. 20 years later I was leaving another life of comfort, this time, because I was being stopped from serving my fellow Ethiopians. I quit a month later and moved to Toronto Canada where I still reside today.

Upon reflection, I see that the TPLF had no intention to serve the people. Not only that, they took advantage of many patriots who wanted nothing more than to have an opportunity to work for their country, evident in the amount of diplomats who have since defected from them.

To this day, I only wish to serve my country and its people. ​

I am reminded of those early Ethiopians who were in Washington with me and how they uplifted me during those times. They were cab drivers, waiters, and restaurant owners. They needed no power or government position to serve their fellow countrymen.

It is from their example that I learn that these things are not necessary for one to serve, and that is why I, and many others, will continue to serve.

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