Melles Zenawi-The Color of Eritrean Eyes Have Not Changed
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
February 6, 2004

“The Ethiopian government has the unrestricted right to expel any foreigner from the country for any reason whatsoever. Any foreigner, whether Eritrean, Japanese, etc., lives in Ethiopia because of the goodwill of the government. If the Ethiopian government says ‘Go, because we don’t like the colour of your eyes,’ they have to leave.”
Prime Minister Melles Zenawi of Ethiopia, July 1998

In what was described then as “Africa’s Kosovo”, the shameless racist leader of the minority regime in Ethiopia, in 1998 and 1999 deported over 80,000 innocent Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin and confiscated over a billion dollars worth of their hard earned belongings.

Many deportees who arrived at the Eritrean border had spent all their lives in Ethiopia, been in possession of Ethiopian identity cards and passports, had voted as Ethiopian citizens, worked in government offices and owned established businesses all over Ethiopia. All social groups and ages were included in the policy of mass expulsion; from Ethiopian disabled war veterans to United Nations employees, Embassy employees, religious leaders, bedridden elders, rural farmers, students, humanitarian workers, pregnant women and infants and a former Supreme Court Judge. Some of the Eritrean deportees had Ethiopian spouses. Thousands were interned in Blatein, Dedesa and Jalmeda camps and many other secret dungeons.

This racist heinous crime was condemned by a significant number of prominent personalities and international organizations:
“While the detainees were in custody at police stations, officials searched for and confiscated their Ethiopian identification documents, including identity cards, passports, work papers, and driving licenses. Some detainees managed to hold on to some of their identification documents by hiding them-or because they had not had a chance to bring the documents with them when they were detained. The systematic removal or destruction of such documentation was a peremptory measure to deny the individuals concerned basic evidence to substantiate claims to Ethiopian nationality at any future time. This confiscation of documents prior to deportation appears on its face to be recognition of the potential for such documents to counter Ethiopian government claims that it expelled only non-nationals. By stripping deportees of their Ethiopian papers the government was in a sense validating their claims to Ethiopian nationality by foreclosing the option of their close and independent examination”

It was stupid and ignorant for Melles Zenawi to mention “Japanese” in his racist statement. This bigoted Tigrayan Prime Minister must have not known that he was stepping on a landmine that would come back and haunt him forever. That is what happens to those that are street smart and callous. Trying to justify his inhumane actions against Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin and look smart, he shamelessly uttered words like “color of your eyes”, “Japanese” etc. As a leader of a nation such as Ethiopia, one that is endowed with a significant number of educated citizens, he should have consulted with some of them before he manifested his bigotry at a global level. I am sure they would have given him a lesson on racial sensitivity and how all men/women are created equal. They would have also given him a History 101 lesson, on what happened to the Japanese in the United States during World War II:

· On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forcible internment of people of Japanese ancestry. More than two-thirds of those interned under the Executive Order were citizens of the United States, and none had ever shown any disloyalty. Approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were evacuated from their homes.

· Families had 48 hours to dispose of all their possessions and property and to gather only those household and personal items they could carry.

· Internment camps were scattered all over the interior West, in isolated desert areas of Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming, where Japanese-Americans were forced to carry on their lives under harsh conditions.

· Returning home after the war, the Japanese Americans discovered that nearly everything they owned was gone. Stored belongings had been stolen. The government had seized Land, homes, and businesses for unpaid taxes.

· Decades later, in 1988, and after several lawsuits on behalf of victims, the US government paid $20,000 in compensation to each of the surviving sixty thousand internees. It was acknowledged at this time that nothing could reverse the enormous wrong of the past. But the action by Congress helped Americans to close this unfortunate chapter in their history.

Today, in the Horn of Africa, it is not only the Eritrean people or Ethiopians of Eritrean origins that have become victims of the bigotry and expansionist policy of the Tigrayan minority regime in Addis. In Ethiopia, silent genocide is taking place in Gambela, Oromo, Somalia, Awassa etc. etc. Doug McGill in his January 19th report stated:

· "…On Saturday, December 13, in a single bloody burst of targeted mass murder, Ethiopia became the world’s latest sovereign to attempt genocide as a way to solve its problems …Ethiopian soldiers murdered more than 400 members of the Anuak tribe"

Moreover, a written statement, which was transmitted on August 20th, 2001 to the World Conference against racism discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance stated:

· “The government of Ethiopia has directly and indirectly fostered conflict and bloodshed between Oromo, Amhara, Isaa, Degodia, Gedeo, Gabre and Sidama peoples...”

Constant incursions into Somalia, provoking and threatening Djibouti, border frictions with Kenya and Sudan, have become a common trait of the regime in Addis.

It is my sincere hope that peace loving and visionary Ethiopians can put an end to this ugly chapter in their history (as the Americans have done vis a vis the Japanese issue) by uprooting the Tigrayan, myopic, racist and expansionist regime, who are a nuisance to the region.