“Too may people are dying and instead of agreeing not to go to war to stop the carnage in the Horn of Africa,” Congressman Donald Payne, the Chair of Subcommittee of Africa and Global Health said in his characteristic rich voice laced with passion and concern.
Addressing East African community forum at the UM campus on the Horn of Africa Congressmen Payne and Keith Ellison expressed their sorrow for the people of the Horn of Africa whom they said are squeezed between hard rocks and limited choices; African dictators and geo-political interests.
The forum sponsored by US Congressman Keith Ellison’s Office from the Minnesota District Five and organized by the Somali Cause and Somali Action Alliance, grassroots community organizations for social change and justice. These organizations brought together East African communities for dialogue in order to build confidence among themselves and discuss peace, development and democracy in the Horn of Africa.
On Somalia, Congressman Payne said the people of Somalia lack food as others fight, terming the situation as dire. Acknowledging the brief tranquility of Somalia during the reign of the Islamic Courts, he said, their rule brought security with schools and markets opened but they also made some mistakes that rattled the International Community and sent out wrong signals.
It was wrong to blame and label some countries associated with Islam as terrorist but warned the Somalis as their own enemies. He said, “The Somalis are the very enemies of themselves and instead of supporting nationalism; they are loyal to clans and sub clans.”
Proposing Somali solution to the Somali problems, he said a military incursion is futile and destructive, maiming and killing will bring no peace…: the only way the war can be overcome is by cooperating with one another through peace and dialogue,” he added.
The Transition Government was the only hope for Somalia, but now the opportunity is waning with the Ethiopian military incursions and the situation of Somalia is going from bad to worse.
Congressman Ellison argued his constituents to engage Washington on issues close to their heart in order to influence policy changes. He said, “we also need your support for comprehensive immigration reform…I need your support for civil right,” he pledged, adding “we want to restore the image of America”.
Congressman Payne also warned on the dispute over the strip of rocky sun baking barren land, Badame (sorry for the misspelling), where Ethiopian Army and Eritrea are facing one another. The two countries fought a bloody war in 2003 in which more than one hundred thousand [100,000] people lost their lives.
He said, it was a senseless war…what we have now is a stand off…and an impending fight between the two twin countries as Ethiopia gets away with the refusal of the Hague ruling in favor of Eritrea getting the disputed land”.
Attracting laud applause and ululation on Ethiopian Somali Region / Ogadenia, he said, “we know there is discrimination taking place in that region and the New York Times has reported it. “I visited camps in Kenya and they talked of killing, arbitrary arrest, rapes of women and people hanged, forced into desperations.
Abdulkadir Abdirahman, panelist from the Somali Cause, an umbrella organization for Somali Diaspora in the North America expressed dismay at the lack of global attention at the worst humanitarian crisis in Somalia,
Zeynab Hassan, a respected Somali woman expressed the humanitarian crisis in Somalia pitied on civilians’ rights, protection and aid especially for women and children terming the Somali situation as the direst of all situations in Africa defying the Darfur debacle.
Others, Mohamed Abass, of Ogaden community warned “there can be no peace without justice and with their extra judicial execution of the people of of Western Ethiopia.
Odier Oliange of the Gambella community similarly spoke of unspeakable massacre committed by the Ethiopian Government of five hundred civilians in Gambella region of Ethiopia government in 2003.
Echoes of Oromia in Bilisunti, Oromia shall be free rented the air as a representative from the Oromo community, Baisa reported the killing of 65 people by the Ethiopian forces in the wake of Somalia invasion in 2007. He said, the right to self-determination for all people, as enshrined in the UN Charter with not exception is an imperative demand of the Oromo community.
Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopian fighting for a homeland, Oromia. There are forty million in a country of eighty million. They have been occupied for more than a century by the subsequent Ethiopian Emperors and government.
Sheikh Hassan took a wipe at Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. He reported thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in Somalia with not food, security and shelter.
Congressman Keith drawn the curtains of the forum said, “we need good solutions not problems and advised the people of his constituency need to tolerate others with differing views and grievances.
Summing it up, a lady asked to remain anonymous wondered why a people so much aggrieved by one party, Ethiopia with a a common threat and enemy; cannot united for a common cause. She said, that is the solution their grievances and the trillion dollar question.
Somali Action Alliances which organized the forum highlights East African issues nationally and internationally including immigration, education. Hashi Shafi, the Executive Director of the Somali Action Alliance reiterated the need for more open discussion for the East African Diaspora to participate in the nation and international issues and practice democracy.