Lee C. Bollinger
202 Low Library
535 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
I am writing this letter to express the concerns of Oromo-American National Foundation (OANAF) members and urge you to reconsider your decision to invite Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi of Ethiopia to speak at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum.
This is very troubling considering the fact that Prime Minister Meles is one of the worst human rights violators in the world. Columbia University, a preeminent academic institution, need not host a murderer of thousands of Oromos as well as other nationalities in Ethiopia. The atrocities committed by Mr. Meles and his henchmen on Oromo people and others in Ethiopia are well document by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, US State Department’s Annual Survey of rights violations and scores of other civil rights groups.
Today, as Columbia is arranging to host Mr. Meles, thousands of Oromos are suffering in prison and concentration camps, facing torture, extra-judicial killings, disappearance, arbitrary detention and rape. Oromos are the single largest political prisoners in Ethiopia. Mr. Meles’ former Defense Minister, Siye Abraham in a public forum in Arlington, Virginia, affirmed this fact by declaring, “the language of the Ethiopia prison is Afaan Oromo (Oromo language).” Mr. Siye Abraham was a prisoner in the said prison before he was freed by Meles Zenawi. This is a
grave indictment by someone who is not an Oromo, but from Mr. Meles’ own ethnic
Today in Ethiopia, neither democracy, rule of law, nor any sort of freedom exists for the Oromos
and other Ethiopians. The Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF), a Stalinist bunch chaired by Mr. Meles, has usurped the state power by military means and has a total monopoly of power imposing terror and massive human rights violation of Oromo people who are the single largest population in Ethiopia.
We understand that Columbia University has the duty and responsibility to enrich its students and faculty by bringing noted personalities to its campus to listen to views some times controversial. However, Columbia University should also have a moral obligation to listen to those who object to the presence of notorious dictators and genocide perpetrators like Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia and his likes.
We expect a lot from a venerable institution like Columbia University to stand on the sides of those who are oppressed and brutalized by despots. Columbia University need not cavort with people like Prime Minister Meles Zenawi whose hands are stained by the blood of Oromo people and other Ethiopian. Hence, we humbly ask you to disinvite Mr. Meles from the World Leaders Forum.
J. T. Shaböraa
Oromo-American National Foundation (OANAF)
September 20, 2010