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Ethiopia: Yet Another Blunder at Columbia University

Posted: Fulbaana/September 21, 2010 · Finfinne Tribune | Gadaa.com | Comments

The following two emails were sent to us this afternoon. They expose that the topic of Mr. Meles Zenawi’s keynote speech posted on the website of the World Leaders Forum conflicts with that posted on the website of Committee on Global Thought, which is the co-sponsor of the September 22, 2010 speech of Mr. Zenawi at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum. The first website lists “environment” as the topic of Mr. Zenawi’s speech; the latter lists “economy” as the topic. Screen captures of the websites are given at the bottom of this story.

This is a second blunder; it is to be noted that the editorialized bio description of Mr. Zenawi was removed by university officials from the website of the World Leaders Forum last week.

This major blunder on the topic of Mr. Zenawi’s speech throws out the argument that Mr. Zenawi’s appearance at the World Leaders Forum serves an academic inquiry; for all practical purposes, academic inquiries start with a strong thesis (topic), and lack thereof makes the engagement an ordinary meeting.

This blunder emboldens those who criticize the appearance of Mr. Zenawi at Columbia University as a mere public relations stunt designed to re-brand one of Africa’s worst human rights violators. And in this engagement, while Columbia University should respect the right to free speech of Mr. Meles Zenawi, should this prestigious institution be used to promote Mr. Zenawi’s tyranny in Ethiopia?

Beyond the September 22nd speech, both on-campus and off-campus defenders of human rights, justice, freedom and democracy, have to continue the discussion whether the global community should continue to fund Mr. Zenawi’s tyranny and crimes against humanity in Ethiopia and the Horn of African region in the name of the environment, malaria, HIV/AIDS, the Millennium Development Goals, and other noble causes hijacked by Mr. Zenawi to further entrench his dictatorship in Ethiopia and the Horn region as described in the email below.

The First Email Received on September 21, 2010:

Responding to “Why we must engage on our Forum” – http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2010/09/20/why-we-must-engage-our-forum

Sara Jacobs and et al.,

Thank you for elaborating the need for freedom of speech and academic freedom in the university environment. However, I’m afraid you have missed the bigger picture of what’s being protested by the Oromo, Ethiopian, Ogadeni and other Ethiopian communities in the Diaspora.

Please make no mistake that the World Leaders Forum (WLF) is being used as a forum by the packagers of Meles Zenawi, a man who is on the watch list of the Genocide Watch (read: http://www.genocidewatch.org/ethiopia.html). The invitation of Meles Zenawi to WLF is not the entire story, and it is not the whole story.

In 2000 a Harvard University forum invited Meles Zenawi – in the month of September – to make a speech. At that time, Abiyu Geleta, who was the spokesperson of the Oromo Liberation Front, one of the rebels fighting the regime of Meles Zenawi, blasted Harvard University for inviting a human rights violator. Abiyu Geleta is a Harvard-educated lawyer (the same department that produced Barack Obama) and he was appalled with the idea of Harvard being used to promote a human rights violator. Read: http://www.oromia.org/News/AG_Letter_to_Harvard_University.htm

And in 2005, the same month of September, a new prize was created by Yara International, called the Yara Prize, to be given to Meles Zenawi as a pioneer of the green revolution in Africa while he’s still a human rights violator. Neither Africa nor Ethiopia have been food secured when he was given such an award; on the contrary, food security in Ethiopia has decreased in Ethiopia under the Meles Zenawi regime of the last 20 years. And, you may ask, what’s Yara Prize up to now? Well, the first prize was awarded to Meles Zenawi, then Yara Prize just disappeared — it’s just a moment of celebration now. Read: http://www.yara.com/sustainability/africa_program/the_yara_prize/prizewinners/index.aspx

And now in 2010, in the month of September, Meles Zenawi is being staged at the World Leaders Forum to speak about the Global Economy or Environment (even this is not clear from the WLF website itself, because the point here is not his speech, but his re-packaging as a “world leader”; otherwise, they would have made sure the subject of his speech is clear from the get-go).

You may ask, what’s common among the 2000 event, the 2005 and the 2010? Well, I’m pretty sure Columbia Spectator has investigative journalists who can do the job better than I do. A distinguished professor at CU (Jagdish Bhagwati) has not leveled the criticism at PrezBo or WLF, but other actors within CU: http://www.ethiopianreview.com/content/29391 – and he was right on the money.

WLF is being used to re-package a human rights violator and an election thief, Meles Zenawi, every five years in the month of September. Do you know that in 2000 he was accused of stealing the election held in May 2000? Do you know that in 2005 he killed more than 200 protesters in Addis Ababa and Oromia to steal the election held in May 2005? Do you know that he just claimed to have won 99.6% of the House of Representatives seats and stole the election held in May 2010?

WLF is not an isolated event. It’s one in a series of engagements held to re-package Meles Zenawi to the peoples in Ethiopia. Believe me, you are not the audience of this engagement nor its target. The audience and the target is the oppressed peoples in Ethiopia in whose defense no one speaks.

I leave you with the wise advice of a wise president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, of the U.S.A. In his farewell speech to the nation, he warned about the military-industrial complex. He worried that, although the industry helped the military revamp for WWII’s victory, their alliance should be put in check. Similarly, although noble causes, such as the environment, the global financial crisis, the Millennium Development Goals, poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, are worth fighting for, citizens all over the world should question and be vigilant about funds collected in the fight against these human calamities do not get used to silence political dissents, to wage crimes against humanity, to deny freedom to the voiceless, and to suppress peoples around the world, including Ethiopia.

Second Email Received on September 21, 2010:

Yes, indeed. The World Leaders Forum website says, Meles Zenawi will speak on “The Current Global Environment and its Impact in Africa”, and if you go to the website of the co-sponsor of the event, the Committee on Global Thought, Meles Zenawi’s keynote speech will be, according to this other website, “The Current Global Economy and its Impact”

– One (WLF) says the Environment: http://www.worldleaders.columbia.edu/events/prime-minister-ethiopia-meles-zenawi
– The other one (the co-sponsor CGT) says the Economy: http://cgt.columbia.edu/events/prime_minister_meles_zenawi_keynote_address/

Guys, this is not an ordinary flap; first, the bio, now what everyone has overlooked so far is exactly what topic will he speak on Sept. 22. Guess what? Even the organizers contradict themselves.

Therefore, stop arguing whether this is a 1st Amendment issue or not. No one has opposed on this “right” to speak, but the protest is on whether the Columbia University and the WLF should be used as a forum to legitimize dictator and tyrant Meles Zenawi.

The CU community will have to decide which side they’ll stand tomorrow as the editorial of this newspaper wrote on Sunday: http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2010/09/19/staff-editorial

My hope is they’ll stand with the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia and be the voice of the voiceless, and expose why CU is being used to promote Meles Zenawi.

*** Confirmed that the websites did have conflicting topics for the speech to be given by Mr. Zenawi – as of September 21, 2010 – screen captures are given below:
WLF’s website says “environment” as the topic for the speech:
Gadaa.com

CGT’s webiste says “economy” as the topic for the speech:
Gadaa.com

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