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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prof. Ted Vestal asks Colombia to redeem its reputation

September 21st, 2010
Dear President Bollinger:
I am a constitutional scholar who has admired your writing about First Amendment freedoms.
I am also an Ethiopianist who must take strong exception to your posting an ill-advised encomium of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia prior to his speaking at the Columbia University World Leaders Forum on 22 September 2010.
I was pleased that the words of praise for the Ethiopian leader provided by the embassy of Ethiopia have been taken off the World Leaders Forum website, but the damage has been done. By publishing such editorial comment even for a short while, you have violated your own self-proclaimed neutrality of sticking to “basic factual information” in such activities. I hope the party responsible for demeaning Columbia University’s good name as a bastion of free speech will be
appropriately disciplined and that you will have the courage to make such action known to the public.
The only way you can redeem the damaged reputation of the World Leaders Forum is by
publicly making known the shortcomings of Prime Minister Meles and his government in your introductory remarks—a refutation similar to what you did in introducing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejab of Iran in 2007.
The deficits of democracy and abuse of human rights by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) are too well known and documented for you to miss. If you need additional information about the totalitarian practices of the Ethiopian leader you honor, please see my book, Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State (Praeger).
With best wishes,
Theodore M. Vestal, Ph.D.

Protest Letter from Oromo American National Foundation

Lee C. Bollinger


Columbia University

202 Low Library

535 West 116th Street

New York, NY 10027

E-mail officeofthepresident@columbia.edu
Dear President
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

Map of oromia

Map of oromia