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Efforts at politicizing the plight of Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia are atrocious and abominable

By Dilwenberu Nega
Tigrai Online, November 15, 2013

In truth, it would be impossible to imagine that there exists an Ethiopian, inside or outside Ethiopia, untouched by the cruel and rapacious punishment meted out on “illegal immigrants from Ethiopia” inside one of the richest countries in the world - the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. What makes this latest episode ghastly and inconceivable, however, are not only the anger and violence shown towards Ethiopians, but the thought that this outburst of unbridled antagonism had to come from a nation long regarded by Ethiopians as a genuine friend, with Ethiopia-Saudi Arabia relations having survived the vicissitude of a fast changing world for centuries. In point of fact, this unsavoury episode comes at a time when an unprecedented number of Saudis are in the process of investing in Ethiopia’s highly lucrative agricultural sector.

Ethiopian boarding buses to live Saudi Arabia
Thousands of Ethiopians leaving Saudi Arabia returning to Ethiopia. The first 400 Ethiopians arrived a few days ago in Addis Ababa.

By responding promptly to the crises in a friendly, but firm manner, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has once again proved to the international community that Ethiopian diplomacy today is clad in decencies and restraints of the finest order. Having summoned the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during which time Ethiopia demanded the end to hostile acts against Ethiopians, and asked for an immediate and thorough investigation into the killings and rape of Ethiopians, MoFA wasted no time in putting in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the smooth and speedy air-lift of Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia to their homeland. ETV News footage show delighted and relieved returnees expressing their thanks and appreciation for the Government’s prompt emergency response which, according to them, was “present from the detention centres all the way through to  Ethiopia.”  The message from Ethiopia couldn’t have been clearer: even if the Ethiopians were illegal migrants, they still enjoyed the universally agreed right to life and dignity.

On the other hand, the reactions, and the envisaged reactions of Ethiopians abroad is both welcoming and annoying. Welcoming, because the great majority of the Ethiopian diaspora remain willing and able to relate the entire issue of the maltreatments of Ethiopians apolitically. Annoying, because in a bid to score some brownie-points, critics and opponents of Ethiopia’s ruling party abroad are employing claptrap and platitude in order to discredit and discredit the ongoing swift return of Ethiopian illegal immigrants from Saudi Arabia.

Within the past hour, I received a surprise call from an acquaintance of mine who happens to be a die-hard critic of EPRDF - mind you he is still as unbending critic  as I kew him 14 years ago despite that is he has built a house in Addis and he is a frequent visitor to an Ethiopia he unabashedly describes as “a living dead nation..” Anyway, after exchanges of common greetings, he asked if I could join him and hundreds of Ethiopians at a demonstration outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London in order to protest the plight of Ethiopians in Saudi. I told him what a good idea it was to give vent to our pent up feelings of anger and disappointment at the Saudis, and told him that I would jump on his bandwagon. But, no sooner had I finished talking to him than he said, “The real purpose of the demonstration is, of course, to demand the Saudis to immediately halt the airlift of Ethiopian migrants, because what awaits them in Ethiopia is imprisonment and death,” at which point I just hanged up my mobile. I am sorry, but ushering in party politics to what is for all intents and purposes an unmitigated humanitarian crises, is to me a damn right weak, inefficient, stupid and futile way of opposing your political opponent.

Like every sane and sensible Ethiopian, I, too, share the pain, sorrow, disaster, unhappiness and bereavement of my fellow Ethiopians anywhere in the world, let alone in notorious Saudi detention centres, and I  am prepared to do whatever I can to show my care and concern for their continued well-being. However, what I would not  be prepared to do, come hell or high-water, is to be a cheer-leader for Ginbot 7 at a demonstration called for specifically to protest the maltreatments meted out to Ethiopian illegal migrants  in Saudi Arabis, for using the plight of Ethiopians for the aggrandisement of Ginbot 7 would be doing a disservice to the memory of the deceased, as well as an insult to the intelligence of the returnees.