The Student Voice of Austin Community College
Story by Shireen Fatehi-Sedeh, Reporter
ACC visiting scholar and a conflict studies specialist Alemayehu Weldemariam described Ethiopia’s political climate with the following analogy:
A man thinks he is a grain of corn, so he’s treated for his delusion at the hospital. He’s cured and leaves the hospital only to come running back yelling, “There’s a chicken out there”! The doctor reassures him that he is a man, not a grain of corn. “Yes, but does the chicken know that?” the man asks.
Weldemariam likened the Ethiopian prime minister to the delusional man during his first lecture of the International Visiting Scholar Speaker Series. An audience of about 100 people attended the event at the Riverside Campus auditorium.
During his lecture on “The Transnational Solidarity of Scholars-at-Risk and Human Rights Campaigns in Ethiopia,” Weldemariam said the Ethiopian government has engaged in the surveillance, detention, and torture of political opponents, academics, journalists and Muslims. As a result, the country has the highest rate of brain drain in Africa, he said.
ACC student Barka Tekie shares a similar heritage as Weldemariam, but sees things differently.
“I was born and raised in Ethiopia,” she said. “He knows a lot of stuff, but there’s a lot of things that aren’t clear. What he said about the Muslims, I don’t get it, because I’ve been in Ethiopia many years, until the end of 2009. I never saw anything like that. We all got along.”
ACC psychology student Heather Pendergrass took note of her fellow attendees during the event and said, “Most of the people here were actually interested in what was being talked about … in what was going on in other nations with other peoples.”
Saif Kadhim said he came to the event to support his Ethiopian friends, but expressed doubt. “I don’t think the U.S. is ready for another problem. [Weldemariam's] right, but what can you do? What can other countries do?” Kadhim asked.
According to Weldemariam, the United States has a vested interest in the fate of Ethiopia, since it is a key partner in fighting al-Qaeda and al-Shabab. But he didn’t call for direct involvement.
“Our response to the present crisis must be to make people aware of what is wonderful and valuable about Ethiopia,” Weldemariam said.
“It is not the primary responsibility of the West [to affect change in Ethiopia]. It is the primary responsibility of Ethiopia.”