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PM Abiy Ahmed, MISSION POSSIBLE! By Prof Al Mariam

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PM Abiy Ahmed, MISSION POSSIBLE! By Prof Al Mariam

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 … In the Western world, one cup of macchiato [coffee with milk] could cost $3, $4 or $5 U.S. dollars. But what I beg of the Diaspora is to take $1 from their daily macchiato expense and give it to their country.

We could establish a trust fund and open accounts in Ethiopia and/or America. If each Diasporan could give us $1 from their daily macchiato expense, that means we can get $1 million dollars a day. That means we get 30 million dollars a month. This money will not be part of the government budget. It will be administered through its own board.

If we get 30 million dollars a month, that means mothers in the districts who drink dirty water fit for cattle can now get clean water to drink. It means mothers who die for lack of medicine and ambulance services, will no longer have to die. It means we can build a high school for USD $1 million, or 30 million Ethiopian birr. That means one diaspora funded high school is built per day, 30 high schools per month, and multiply that by a year…  PM Abiy AhmedStatement before Ethiopian Parliament, July 6, 2018.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done… After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

                               እንደመርአንቀነስእንባዛአንከፋፍል!

Author’s Note:

Last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia put out a challenge to the Ethiopian Diaspora community asking for a mere $1 a day to help build critical institutions and provide essential services to the people of Ethiopia.

In this Memorandum, I accept the challenge on behalf of all Diaspora Ethiopians of goodwill and good faith. I accept with full confidence that each and every Diaspora Ethiopian will accept the challenge publicly like myself or privately before their own consciences.

PM Abiy’s challenge should be given the highest priority possible by everyone in the Ethiopia Diaspora.

PM Abiy makes a challenge at a time when Ethiopia has been cleaned right down to the financial bone. Ethiopia teeters on the verge of complete financial meltdown and bankruptcy. PM Abiy has repeatedly announced that Ethiopia’s “severe foreign exchange shortage will last for years”. No foreign exchange means no exports, no imports and no trade with the rest of the world!

In 2016, Ethiopia’s public debt was USD $40 billion. Ethiopia’s debt in 2016 reached 54.97% of Ethiopia GDP. If we add the trade wars heating up between the U.S., China and the European Union and others to the mix, Ethiopia is going to take a devastating economic blow in the next two or more years.

We may not have a political “state of emergency”, but we certainly have an economic “state of emergency”. We have high and chronic unemployment, high economic inequality, high cost of living, low investment rates, declining exports, increasing imports, devalued currency and depleted foreign exchange, among others. It is a dangerous situation.

We Diaspora Ethiopians must be Ethiopia’s “National Emergency Response Team”.

Like any emergency response team which responds to a disaster, we too must be prepared to respond to the foreign exchange disaster Ethiopia is facing by increasing our remittances using official banks. Our historic enemies, famine and starvation, will soon be stalking us as they always do. We must respond to that emergency looming on the horizon. The list of emergencies that will arise during the tenure of PM Abiy are too many to list.

To put it bluntly, direct Ethiopian Diaspora involvement and financial support for the Ethiopian economy is going to make the difference between a viable Ethiopian nation and a nation that will be consigned to the dustbin of perpetual beggar nations of the world.

Today, PM Abiy faces challenges of historic and epochal significance.

He has done the impossible.

In less than one hundred days, PM Abiy has single-handedly moved mountains.

He has done more in less than one hundred days than most African leaders have done in their lifetimes. The proof is plain for everyone to see.

So, the personal challenge for me and for all Diasporan Ethiopians is simply this:

If Abiy Ahmed can move mountains in Ethiopia in 100 days, can we move thousands of mole hills of $1 bills in the global Ethiopian Diaspora community in the next 365 days? Can we best his challenge-for-pennies by exceeding it in multiples of $10, $50, $100 and $1,000?

Let me put things in perspective.

In 2013, Harvard University, with a student population of nearly 22,000, launched a $6.5 billion fundraising campaign. By 2016, the university had surpassed its goal. During same period, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with only 1,100 students, raised $570 million!

In 2016, Morgan State University a small historically black college in Baltimore, Maryland, with a student population of 7,700, launched a $250 million fund raising drive.  Within a year, they were able to raise 70% ($170 million) of that amount.

In 1998, When South Korea faced deep economic crises, the South Korean people rose up to save their  country. They gave up their personal gold treasures to be melted down into ingots and be sold the international markets. The South Korean people saved their country.

In 2018, do Ethiopians love their country any less than the South Koreans did theirs in 1998? Is it too high a price for the Ethiopian Diaspora to pay pennies a day when the South Koreans gave their prized family gold?

Are we in the Ethiopian Diaspora going to rise up, pinch our pennies and save our country in 2018?

There are between 1-3 million Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Is there any question that we can raise pennies a day to meet PM Abiy’s challenge?

Let’s be perfectly clear. PM Abiy is begging us to try it for a year or two. Nothing more!

Are we going to let him down?

Are we going to turn him down and say, “Sorry, We will not give you pennies. A cup of obscenely overpriced imitation macchiato is more important to us than building a high school for our children or drilling for a water well for our impoverished mothers?”

I do not believe there is a single Ethiopian man, woman or child who will refuse to give pennies to the Trust Fund.

That is why I am supremely confident in saying to PM Abiy, “We will not only meet your challenge but exceed it by leaps and bounds!”

When I look at remittances amounts for 2016, I just want to cry!

According to the World Bank, in 2016, Vietnam with a population of 93 million, received $6.6 billion; El Salvador with a population of 6.5 million received $4.1 billion and the Dominican Republic with a population of 10.6 million received $4 billion.

Ethiopia with a population of 102 million received only $241 million!!!

It is just not fair!

That is why I want to cry out my eyes.

But I won’t, because I am going to do everything I can personally, and commit all of my efforts to  mobilize all Diaspora Ethiopians of goodwill and good faith who love their country unconditionally to rise up, stand up, count up and pay up. Pay up pennies. Then nickels. Then dimes. Then dollars, Then…

For those who say, “Why I am doing it?”, (just like they asked me over the last 13 years, “Why do you waste your time writing every week? Can’t you see it does not make a difference?) the answer is the same question: “If I don’t do it who will?” I will do it because I do not want future generations of Ethiopians to suffer the indignity of being called citizens of a beggar country.

I know I am not alone in this feeling; there are millions in the Diaspora who feel just as deeply as I do. They just want to see someone take the initiative and “git ‘er done”.

There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. There is never a right time to do the wrong thing.

During PM Abiy’s visit to the United States in late July, I call on every Diaspora Ethiopian, especially Diaspora Ethiopians in America, to make a pledge to not only  meet but exceed PM his challenge in 365 days.

If he can move mountains in less than 100 days, we can move mole hills of pennies in 365!

So, I have committed to what I call “Diaspora Ethiopian Campaign 100/365” (DEC 100/365).

I have also committed to the principle that Diaspora Ethiopians will put their money where their mouth is and exceed PM Abiy’s challenge.

Author’s Confession:

All confessions are hard to make. Mine here is no different.

I have to confess how I was moved to tears listening to PM Abiy’s challenge to Diaspora Ethiopians to take $1 a day from their daily coffee petty cash account and donate it to Ethiopia.

The truth is PM Abiy was not “challenging” us. He was actually “begging” us to spare pennies to help the suffering people of Ethiopia (Move video clip begins at 1:38):

In the Western world, one cup of macchiato [coffee with milk] could cost $3, $4 or $5 U.S. dollars. But what I beg of the Diaspora is to take $1 from their daily macchiato expense and give it to their country.

I am not the “crying” type of guy. I consider myself a “tough guy”, even a “macho man”, who will keep a stiff upper lip and expressionless wooden face under the most difficult of circumstances. I grew up being told “big boys don’t cry”. I learned that when the going gets tough, the tough “man up” and keep going.

But when I heard PM Abiy literally begging Diaspora Ethiopians for pennies in parliament, I just lost it!

What is deeply saddening to me is the fact that we have made our young leader a “beggar” barely three months in office.

The Trust Fund idea and initiative should have come from those of us in the Diaspora, especially from those of us in the professions who have various skills and resources.

But we did not take the initiative to present the initiative. PM Abiy took the initiative and challenged us.

I felt we had dropped the ball and just not stepped up. But we can fix that!

The lesson should be that we should take the initiative from here on and simply overwhelm PM Abiy with the things we can do for Ethiopia.

I also cried because I was so overwhelmed and confused by the situation.

I was overwhelmed because, for the first time, I saw and felt the tragedy of how low we had fallen as a people and a nation.

Listening to PM Abiy begging us for pennies was not some intellectual abstraction. Here is our young (only 42 years old) prime minister begging, “Diasporans, could you spare a dime, a dollar for your people?”

His words stirred deep emotions in my heart and perplexing questions in my mind.

Why is he asking us for pennies?

Does he think he would be imposing or creating hardships on us if he asked us for more than pennies? Why didn’t he boldly ask us to donate a week’s salary stretched out over a year?

I did not know what to think.

Could he have thought that we are such tightwads we will not give more than pennies? Does he not know that the Ethiopian Diaspora is full of kind and generous people who give and donate to charities, humanitarian and political causes until it hurts? I wondered if PM Abiy was aware that many of us are experienced in fundraising for all sorts of causes.

It is true many of us Diaspora Ethiopians have banished from our minds the idea of giving money to charities in Ethiopia. That is because we believed any money we gave will be stolen by those directly or indirectly affiliated with the pre-PM Abiy regime.

But our concern was grounded in fact.

As I documented in my January 2017 commentary, according to USAID’s Food Assistance Factsheet, the principal partner in humanitarian aid delivery in Ethiopia was the “Relief Society of Tigray”, an arm of the pre-PM Abiy regime, with decades-long history of humanitarian aid diversion, corruption and money laundering.

I wondered if PM Abiy’s very modest challenge was influenced by concerns about the public perception and actual practice of aid corruption of the previous regime.

I wondered, “Why didn’t he ask those of us who could afford more to give more?” Surely, he must know that to those much is given, much is expected.”

I wanted to cry out to PM Abiy, “We can do 100 times more than you begged of us! We can exceed your challenge to give pennies by giving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for our people.”

But I could not tell him because he was 8 thousand miles away.

When he comes to the U.S. at the end of this month, that is exactly what I am going to tell him. “You ask us for pennies? We will give you thousands!”

I will tell that because I know without a doubt Diaspora Ethiopia will back me up.

All the way!

As I tormented myself with these questions, I had an epiphany, a revelation.

It occurred to me that what PM Abiy Ahmed was doing by begging pennies was not aimed at making people like me cry, but showing the whole of Diaspora Ethiopia that if we pinch our pennies and put it in the same pot, Ethiopia will never have to be a beggar nation.

We never have to beg countries and governments for a penny if we share and pool our pennies, nickels and dimes.

PM Abiy speaking the people of Sidama recently said, “Ethiopia is a beggar nation. We beg [foreign countries] for handouts. To no longer be beggars, we must stop the hate. We must stop saying, ‘me, me, me…’ Let’s not pretend by saying Sidama has never begged.”

PM Abiy was not “begging for pennies” at all. He was showing us how we can be self-sufficient by putting together our pennies and dimes and stand on our feet in dignity.

A big smile wiped my tears.

I remembered my own words from March 2013 when I confessed my shame over the fact that Ethiopia had become a beggar nation under the pre-PM Abiy regime.

I coined a phrase to describe Ethiopia in my October 12, 2014 in my commentary, “The Rise and Fall of the “Baksheesh (Beggar) State” in Ethiopia. I was writing about how a kleptocracy (government of thieves) had bankrupted and reduced a rich and bountiful country to a state of mendicancy.

What was so devastating to me about watching PM Abiy begging was the fact that Ethiopia under the pre-PM Abiy regime had become the nightmare the famous Nigerian nationalist, author and statesman Chief Obafemi Awolowo had warned us about.

In 1967, at the 4th Summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity, Chief Awo sternly warned:

Today, Africa is a Continent of COMPETING BEGGAR NATIONS. We vie with one another for favours from our former colonial masters; and we deliberately fall over one another to invite neocolonialists to come to our different territories to preside over our economic fortunes…

… We may continue and indeed we will be right to continue to use the power and influence which sovereignty confers, as well as the tactics and manoeuvres which international diplomacy legitimatises, to extract more and more alms from our benefactors. But the inherent evil remains—and it remains with us and with no one else: unless a beggar shakes off and irrevocably turns his back on, his begging habit, he will forever remain a beggar. For, the more he begs the more he develops the beggar characteristics of lack of initiative, courage, drive and self-reliance.

For the last 27 years, Ethiopia had become the #1 beggar country in Africa.

Now, PM Abiy says, “No more begging!  We are going to pile up our pennies and help ourselves.”

So, I have taken the liberty, with full confidence, to respond on behalf of all Diaspora Ethiopians:

“PM ABIY AHMED. WE SHALL NOT ONLY MEET YOUR MODEST REQUEST FOR PENNIES. WE WILL EXCEED IT BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS!”

ETHIOPIAN DIASPORA - FIRED UP! READY TO GO!

ETHIOPIAN DIASPORA – FIRED UP! READY TO GO!

You don’t believe us?! Just watch Diaspora Ethiopians do our thing!

We are fired up and ready to go!

PM Abiy’s Challenge to Diaspora Ethiopians in Parliament July 6, 2018 (translation by author)

In his challenge to Diaspora Ethiopians, an impassioned PM Abiy said (move clip to 1:38:50):

…There are Ethiopian intellectuals and professionals who live in different parts of the world who have a deep desire to serve their country. If the assembly and the people accept and put into action the proposal I am offering now, I can speak with certainty that we will be able to register much better development rates in the years to come. There are opportunities which will enable us to achieve much better development rates.

First, the Diaspora. Ethiopia’s unfortunate children are found scattered in different parts of the world for different reasons. Because of their [challenging] circumstances, they have developed work ethics that are multiple times better than those of us have in our country. Those Diasporans in the Arab countries, in the West and in Africa work day and night. It is estimated there are some 3 million Ethiopians in the Diaspora. Because that number is not certain, I will reduce that number to one-third and call it 1 million Diaspora Ethiopians.

It is the obligation of citizenship for the 1 million Diasporans who send money into the country by different means including remittances to do so using the [official] banking system.

Why?

If you use the banks to send money, we could use that money in foreign exchange to buy medicine, oil and wheat without difficulty.

If you choose to send money into the country by illegal means thinking    the government will use the money for other purposes, what you need to realize is that the official government thieves and the moneyed class will always get your money because they have no difficulty exchanging your dollar for 40 or 50 birr. So, what you do [by sending money illegally]  indirectly supports them and hurts the poor. The aim should not be to hurt the poor.

Second, if you are concerned you will lose one or two birrs by using the official exchange rate, that is nothing compared to the greater development of Ethiopia or to help Ethiopians.

As I mentioned before, Ethiopian civil servants work for a month that some Diasporans earn in a few days or others in a few hours. These workers are not only those who cannot go [abroad for a better life] but also those who could go out and work. The reason we serve for extremely low wages is because we get the greater satisfaction from seeing our country develop. It is not proper for all of us here to work for extremely low wages. So, there is  great benefit to the people from the money Diasporans send through the banks. First, using the banks to send money reduces criminality in the country [by reducing contraband trade]. Second, it helps us be successful in our national goals. So, I am raising this question believing Diasporans will cooperate and do it [send money through the banks].

Second, in the Western world, one cup of macchiato [coffee with milk] could cost $3, $4 or $5 U.S. dollars. But what I beg of the Diaspora is to take $1 from their daily macchiato expense and give it to their country.

We could establish a trust fund and open accounts in Ethiopia and/or America. If each Diasporan could give us $1 from their daily macchiato expense, that means we can get $1 million dollars a day. That means we get 30 million dollars a month. This money will not be part of the government budget. It will be administered through its own board.

If we get 30 million dollars a month from a new income source, that means mothers in the districts who drink dirty water fit for cattle can now get clean water to drink. It means mothers who die for lack of medicine and ambulance services, will no longer have to die. Once that trust fund established with the specific purposes and given the name “Ethiopian Diaspora Fund”, we could, for instance, undertake a project of building a high-school. We can build a high school for USD $1 million, or 30 million Ethiopian birr. That means one diaspora funded high school is built per day, 30 high schools per month, and multiply that by a year. In two years, the Ethiopian Diaspora could completely meet our high school construction needs. That way, Diasporans work for themselves while contributing great value to their country.

What I beg Diaspora Ethiopians is to help us this way and try us for one or two years. I want to assure you that not a single penny will be lost, wasted or improperly used and will serve their intended purposes.

This will be a major way of ending Ethiopia’s culture of begging. I have no doubts the vast majority of Diaspora Ethiopians want to do this. If we can bring this about through careful study and planning, we don’t have to beg anymore.

This type of aid or that type of aid we have received [in the past] has not enabled to be agriculturally self-sufficient. Our own aid, however, can change all that. So, I’m asking the Ethiopian Diaspora to help us in this way…

Now is the time to put our shoulders to the wheel, our noses to the grindstone and our eyes on the prize– “The Diaspora Trust Fund”!

Since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister a little over 100 days ago, I, and one hundred million Ethiopians have been gripped 24/7 by Abiy Mania (a/k/a) “Hooked on Abiy”), a psychological condition in which we cannot stop talking about Abiy Ahmed. We wake up in the morning and scour the internet for information on Abiy Ahmed. We call each other and ask, “What did he do today?” We call each other to pray for him.  We always close our conversations with the question, “God heard our prayers.”

I don’t think there is a person in the Diaspora who is happier and more inspired by all of the positive changes Team Abiy Ahmed has brought about in Ethiopia in the past 100 days.

The time for us in the Ethiopian Diaspora now is to put our shoulders to the wheel, our noses to the grindstone, our eyes on the prize and do the heavy lifting!

There is one very personal question each and every Diaspora Ethiopian must ask of him/herself with the Diaspora Trust Fund: “If I don’t do it, if I don’t raise the pennies, who will?”

In my view, Abiy Ahmed has single-handedly moved mountains, stopped a great volcano from exploding just a few weeks ago, crossed (erased) borders and oceans to bring peace between neighboring nations. He has even walked in the valley of the shadow of death.

PM Abiy has done the impossible in less than 100 days.

So, all Diaspora Ethiopians MUST answer the following two questions:

If Abiy Ahmed can do the impossible in less than 100 days, can we do the possible in 365?

If Abiy Ahmed has done his share and moved mountains single-handedly, can we do our share by moving mole hills of pennies for  Ethiopia?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes, we can!”

I have declared from Day 1 Abiy Ahmed became prime minister that I am “in his corner and got his back”.

Well, I have got his back on the Diaspora Trust Fund. I will do whatever I am asked to do to make it happen!

I ask each and every Diaspora Ethiopian who has read my columns, followed my activities and supported me for 13 years to transfer that support to PM Abiy Ahmed and tell him you are in his corner and got his back.

Whatever social capital I have accumulated in the Diaspora over the past 13 years, I now transfer it all to Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopia Diaspora Trust Fund.

In my Memorandum No. 3: “Ask Not What Abiy Ahmed Can Do for Ethiopia, Ask What You Can Do for Your Ethiopia!” (April 29, 2018), I paraphrased the words of Robert Kennedy and said there are two types of Ethiopians today: Those who look at things the way they are, and ask why? And those who dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

PM Abiy is the kind of Ethiopian who dreams of things that never were, and asks, “Why not?”

By proposing a Diaspora Trust Fund, PM Abiy is not looking at things the way they are in Ethiopia, with all of the economic and social problems, and asking why?

By proposing a Diaspora Trust Fund, PM Abiy is dreaming of the possibility of pouring  all of our pennies in one pot and building schools, digging up water wells, providing medication and health services to the needy, helping young people get opportunities and so many other things.

But he can’t make that dream come true by himself. He needs each and every Diaspora Ethiopian.

He is asking us to dream in pennies, not even nickels or dimes. Just pennies.

He is challenging us to make a great dream come true with just pennies.

I share fully in Abiy Ahmed’s dream.

It is an Ethiopian dream, a dream deeply rooted in Ethiopiawinet.

I wrote in great detail about my prophetic dream in 2017 when I dared everyone to “Dream With Me About the New Ethiopia.”

PM Abiy has a dream that Ethiopia will soon rise up from its status as the beggar nation of the world and live out its true destiny and become the shining jewel of Africa.

PM Abiy has a dream that one day soon all Ethiopians will sit at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood and chart a new course guide by love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

PM Abiy has a dream that no one in Ethiopia will be judged by their ethnicity, language or religion but by the content of their character.

PM Abiy has hope that Ethiopia’s best days are yet to come. That her young people will rise up in the spirit of Ethiopiawinet and lift up Ethiopia from the pit of despair and mendicancy.

In the spirit of Dr. King, PM Abiy hopes “to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope” and “transform the jangling discords of Ethiopia into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

I share full in PM Abiy’s dream.

Let’s make Abiy Ahmed’s dream a reality!  It is our dream too!

Remember the kings we were, not the beggars we are!

As I think of what PM Abiy begging the Ethiopian Diaspora for pennies and Ethiopia as a beggar nation, I feel a deep pain in my heart.

Today, the world says we are beggars.

I ask you to take a walk down memory lane with me.

Do you remember, “When We Were Kings”? (in the song and lyrics of Brian McKnight?!)

In every [Ethiopian] heart, there is a drum that beats
Steady and strong, it does not know defeat
I feel it pound, and know the sound
Of true [Ethiopiawinet] beliefs

In every [Ethiopian] soul, there is a memory
Of standing tall, the proudest we could be
I cannot fall, for I recall
We were born in majesty

And when the long fight [for the hearts, minds and souls of Ethiopians], has been fought and won
We’ll stand [tall] in the [African] sun

[Chorus:]

And we will raise out our hands
And we will touch the sky
Together we will dance in robes of gold
And we will leave the world remembering
When we were kings, when we were kings

Now is the time, here is the mountain top
When one man climbs, the rest are lifted up
With every step we’re closer yet
To a higher [Ethiopian] destiny

Do you remember
When we were kings….

And when the long fight [for the hearts, minds and souls of Ethiopians], has been fought and won
We’ll stand [tall] in the [African] sun…

Let us join PM Abiy Ahmed, pinch our pennies, put them in one pot and stand tall as kings in the African Sun!

Special thanks:

I want to express my special thanks to all who have approached me (and others) in the past week and told to me, “We can’t wait! We want to start now.” I appreciate your commitment and unique and creative fundraising ideas for the Trust Fund.

I ask all Ethiopian Diasporans who are raring to go to hold on until the details and mechanics for the Trust Fund are worked out by the Ethiopian Government. PM Abiy has assured us that the Fund will be managed with the highest level of accountability and transparency. We are confident those structures will be in place in the very near future. In the meantime, keep saving them pennies, beginning today and every day for the next 365 days.

Special Notice:

I am informed and believe some self-interested “business entrepreneurs” are setting up shop following up on PM Abiy’s challenge and asking Diaspora Ethiopians for money for the “Diaspora Trust Fund” or to help Ethiopia. It is important to be on the lookout for anyone trying to use this occasion to perpetuate a scam. Until an official announcement about the Fund is made by the Prime Minister’s Office or other authorized officials, any claims of fundraising for the Fund should be completely disregarded.

 “It always seems impossible until it’s done… After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

                                               እንደመርአንቀነስእንባዛአንከፋፍል! 

ETHIOPIAWINET TODAY

ETHIOPIAWINET TOMORROW

ETHIOPIAWINET FOREEVER!


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