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Ethiopia prime minister speaks at Galen Center

Hon. Dr. Abiy Ahmed

Marie Y. Lemelle NNPA Newswire | 8/16/2018, midnight
When the word spread among the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians scattered across the...
Abiy Ahmed

When the word spread among the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians scattered across the United States that Dr. Abiy Ahmed, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, would visit Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Minneapolis, Minn., the expatriates prepared to travel to those cities by plane, bus, train or car.

Just as the election of President Barack Obama lit a spark in the imaginations of the hundreds of thousands of Americans that traveled to Washington to take part in his 2009 inauguration, the rise of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed not only excited the Black community and Africans living in the U.S., it also inspired them to see and hear the charismatic leader in person.

Much like President Obama, who was 47 when he won the presidential election, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also rose to power at a young age (41 years old), with the swag and attire of a rock star. Ethiopia happens to be the oldest independent country in Africa. But young or old, Abiy’s message of hope has connected to a nation of many people, who lost hope and never considered returning to their homeland.

As the proverb goes, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” That’s why Abiy traveled to America to speak directly to Ethiopians living in the U.S., to let them know that change is coming and that they were not forgotten.

Ayuko Babu, the executive director of the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) said that members of the Ethiopian Business Association asked him for permission to distribute thousands of tickets on the parking lot connected to the Pan African Film Festival office to ensure everyone could attend the free event with the prime minister at the Galen Center on the University of Southern California campus. Babu added that, with the support of Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson, he was able to provide operational unity for the historic visit.

On July 29, thousands of Ethiopians from the western region of the U.S.—from Seattle, Wash., to Denver, Colo., and beyond—lined up to get their tickets to come together and see and hear the words of the forward-thinking, young leader who represents change for Ethiopia.

The throngs that assembled at the Galen Center, celebrated the unity, peace and a new beginning for Ethiopia; many wore the country’s colors, enthusiastically waved flags, danced with joy, and sang songs while awaiting the appearance of their leader.Babu attended the event and remarked on the energy in the USC Galen Center.

“The prime minister’s trip to the U.S. is symbolic, because people now know that their leadership is in tune to the issues that caused many Ethiopians to leave their homes,” Babu said.

From the moment the prime minister stepped into the arena, a thunderous sound of approval rose to the ceiling. Ahmed’s speech was preceded with prayers from religious leaders and other dignitaries. The crowd began to chant, “Ahmed! Ahmed!” The crowd was ready for his words of hope.

“Tear down the wall, build bridges,” Abiy said. “Ethiopians need to tear down the walls of ethnic division, sectarianism, distrust, ill-will, lack of civility and respect, selfishness and conflict that has separated them for decades and build bridges across ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional lines to construct the New Ethiopia, the future Ethiopia.”