[Watch the video here]
San Jose, California (May 8, 2014) – U.S. President Barack Obama has agreed with journalist Abebe Gellaw’s demand to support freedom in Ethiopia and help free bloggers, journalists and political prisoners jailed by the tyrannical regime.
While Obama was wrapping up his speech last night at a glitzy Democratic National Committee reception in San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel, journalist and activist Abebe Gellaw interrupted the president and called support for freedom in Ethiopia. The event jointly hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and and Y Combinator CEO Sam Altman was mainly attended by Silicon Valley business and political leaders.
Abebe began his message with a positive note. “Mr. Obama, we Ethiopians love you. We demand freedom for Ethiopia,” he said.
The President, who was talking about winning both Congress and the Senate from the Republicans in the next election, replied “I agree with you although why don’t I talk about it later because I am just about to finish. You and me will talk about it. I am going to be coming around.”
But Abebe continued his message and loudly called for help to free jailed bloggers and journalists. “Stand with the people of Ethiopia, don’t support tyranny,” he said to which the president answered again, “I agree with you.”
“We have tyranny in Ethiopia,” Abebe said and added, “We love you!”
“I love you back,” the present replied and noted that his speech was kind of screwed up.
“That is okay. And we got free speech in this country,” he said before wrapping up his speech.
In a letter Abebe handed to the President at the end of the event, he noted that he wanted to take the rare opportunity to raise the voices of the oppressed people Ethiopia.
“Mr. President, as an exiled journalist and freedom activist trying to raise the voices of the oppressed people of Ethiopia, I can tell you that Ethiopians have genuine respect for this great land of freedom and your inspirational leadership,” he wrote.
“But it pains and frustrates me and millions of Ethiopians to see that for over two decades the United States has overridden its core values and forged a questionable alliance with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a terrorist group that has continued to oppress, massacre, jail, torture and displace defenseless Ethiopians.”
According to Abebe, the rare opportunity was another unmissable chance to demand our freedom and expose the tyrants at such a high profile platform of the most powerful decision makers in the world. “I am glad I took the chance though security was extremely tight. At the end of the day,we should consistently demand the U.S to the review its questionable foreign policy towards Ethiopia. That was also the heart of my demand,” he said.
Full text of letter
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
May 8, 2014
Dear Mr. President,
It is a great honor and privilege for me to attend this unique reception organized in your honor at the Fairmont Hotel, San Jose.
There is probably no greater place in the United States than the Silicon Valley that truly exemplifies the transformative power of freedom. Transformative Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Oracle and HP, are more veritable expressions of America’s power and dynamism than its military might.
Mr. President, can you imagine Silicon Valley if all the visionary innovators and dreamers that have made it possible are unjustly locked up in harsh jails to break their spirit and silence them? Mr. President, the answer is simple and obvious. Fortunately, the United States is not ruled by mindless and ruthless criminals like Ethiopia.
Mr. President, as an exiled journalist and freedom activist trying to raise the voices of the oppressed people of Ethiopia, I can tell you that Ethiopians have genuine respect for this great land of freedom and your inspirational leadership. But it pains and frustrates me and millions of Ethiopians to see that for over two decades the United States has overridden its core values and forged a questionable alliance with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a terrorist group that has continued to oppress, massacre, jail, torture and displace defenseless Ethiopians.
So many Ethiopians were glad that you sent Secretary of State John Kerry to Ethiopia last week on a mission of promoting “democracy and human rights,” among other things. They were also pleased that Secretary Kerry demanded the tyrannical government to release Zone 9 bloggers including Nathnael Feleke, a young blogger he had a chance to meet and inspire last year in Addis Ababa. Nathnael, Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu and so many journalists, activists and dissidents locked up in rat infested prisons have committed no crimes except for dreaming about freedom, justice and equality for their country. Still worse, a few days after Mr. Kerry returned home, over fifty defenceless civilians have been gunned down and countless others have been detained and tortured for opposing land grab and displacement of the poor in Oromia region and Gondar.
The young men and women condemned confinement in dark jails are dreamers and visionaries that want to see the transformative power of freedom, dignity and justice. Like Martin Luther King Jr., they too have a dream that one day children of oppressors and the oppressed will sit together as citizens of a nation to decide the destiny and fate of their country. They do not dream of revenge and retribution but forgiveness and peace. As Secretary Kerry correctly said during his recent trip to Ethiopia, “Africans have an opportunity to bend the arc of history towards reform, not retribution; towards peace and prosperity, not revenge and resentment.” That is exactly what we aspire to see in Ethiopia, a country wallowing in the quagmires of poverty, tyranny and backwardness.
Mr. President, it is, therefore, with utmost hope that I urge you, to do your level best not to compromise our freedom and dignity in exchange for short-term security concerns. While the security concerns of the United States in the Horn of Africa is understandable, forging alliance with a terrorist regime will have far more destabilizing impact in the long term. If this tyranny and terrorism continues unabated, Ethiopia will be another Rwanda or Somalia. We Ethiopians do not wish that to happen, a specter that is becoming more and more imminent with each passing day under the terrorist TPLF regime oppressing our people with impunity.
Mr. President, we remember your speech and promise to Africa that you made standing in Accra: “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.” Mr. President, we Ethiopians need to end the corrupt tyranny that has made our lives meaningless. Help us to end Apartheid and state-sponsored terrorism in Ethiopia at least by desisting from propping up those who are oppressing and tormenting our people.
Mr. President I loudly and clearly appeal to you to help Ethiopia move in the right direction. Yes, you can!
– Mr. President, Ethiopia needs freedom and justice.
– Help us free our bloggers and journalists.
– Help us free Eskinder Nega and all political prisoners.
– Help us free Zone 9 bloggers.
– We need freedom, more than food aid.
– Mr. President, help us free all political prisoners.
– Help us stop the massacres and terrorism against Ethiopians.
– Unites States, don’t support dictators in Ethiopia.
– TPLF is a terrorist group. Don’t support it.
– President Obama, please stand with the people of Ethiopia.
– President Obama help us to end Apartheid.
– Mr. President thank you for inspiring us to tell the truth.
I sincerely apologize for the interruption and inconvenience. I do hope that you understand and stand with the oppressed people of Ethiopia.