Breaking Ethiopian News in Southern Minnesota
MN -- The response to my column three weeks ago, in which I reported on a genocide
has been so extraordinary
I’d like to
I got 55 e-mails and more than a dozen phone calls from places like
The Hague, New Dehli, Cape Town, Melbourne, Geneva, and Washington DC,
as well as from southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.
Report was the first place anywhere to report on a new genocide
occurring on the other side of the planet. I wrote the
column because more Anuak refugees live in Minnesota
than any other state, and they have been thrown into a panic
about family and friends back
My account of the massacre was based on interviews with two dozen Anuak
in St. Paul and Minneapolis who had spoken by telephone with eyewitnesses
in Ethiopia on the day of the massacre and in the days immediately after.
“You were the first to report on this and we’re very grateful,” wrote
Greg Stanton, president of Genocide Watch in The Hague, in an e-mail.
On January 8, after having done its own research in Ethiopia to corroborate
the Post-Bulletin report, Genocide Watch put the Anuak killings on its
genocide alert list and published an article filled with damning new
local news, we broke global news. Anuak refugees all over the
world who were desperate for news of friends and relatives from
sent The McGill Report column zipping around the Internet.
Samantha Power, the author
of the Pulitzer prizewinning book, “A
Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” e-mailed to
say she was outraged to learn about the new genocide and was going spread
news of it.
Most meaningful of all to
me were two dozen e-mails from Anuak refugees around the world who
wrote to say – often in these very words – “God
bless you and thank you.” These letters were filled with a heavy
grief but also with a great dignity and a profoundly touching gratitude.
Just that someone had listened to them, had moved many Anuak deeply.
“Sir, I would like to thank you for being a real friend of this
small and defenseless tribe,” wrote Ujulu Goch, from Washington,
DC. “God has always worked through someone to help needy people
like the Anuak. But Sir, this is not the end of the tragedy. It’s
the beginning of the extinction of my tribe from the face of the earth.”
Obang Metho, from Saskatchewan,
Canada, sent me six attachments in his e-mail – letters he had
written to U.S. Secretary of State Powell, U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan, and other diplomats and aid groups.
He also sent a poem called “Why Do I Rebel?” that
captured a note of inspired defiance:
I rebel because honor
And justice are the work of duty and destiny.
I fight because honor and justice
Are the fixed demands of duty and beauty.
I speak up because love of liberty
And the well-being of every human
Are the splendid ornament of the moral life.
Here in Rochester, we can
be an early warning system for crimes and atrocities committed all
over the world, which would never receive the
cleansing light of international attention if not for us. We are free;
most of the world is not; therefore it’s our opportunity and our
We can do this simply by being open to what our immigrant neighbors
have to say.
Reverend LeRoy Christoffels, the pastor of the Worthington Christian
Reformed Church, which has many Anuak refugees as parishioners, said
his church was raising money for an Anuak relief effort.
John Frankhauser, of Spokane,
e-mailed to say he had brought an Anuak pastor, Reverend Okwier Othello,
to their church last summer to meet
with Anuak members of their church. “He spoke of the danger he
faced when he returned to Gambella,” Frankhauser wrote. “We
were impressed with his gentle spirit and the way the other Anuaks respect
him as their pastor.”
Reverend Okwier Othello is the first name on the list of the dead that
I have. Frankhauser had received eyewitness accounts of his murder and
gave details of his death that are too grisly to recount here.
It was Martin Luther King
Day when I wrote this column, so I went to his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to
find some lines that seemed relevant.
There are parallels between the way King encircled Birmingham and Atlanta
within a single moral sphere, and the way the ripples of grief and outrage
from the Anuak massacre had so quickly spread around the world.
“I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what
happens in Birmingham,” King wrote in his jail cell. “Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever effects
one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Copyright @ 2004 The McGill Report