Prof. Al Mariam Translates Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Saturday Rally Speech into English

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, “We must separate the thorns from the roses.”

“We must separate the thorns from the rose flowers.” Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, June 23, 2018.

“We must not lose faith in our fellow Ethiopians. Ethiopia is an ocean. If a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty (applying Mahatma Gandhi’s wisdom to Ethiopia).

“One Love! One Heart! One Ethiopia. Let’s get together and feel all right. Give thanks and praise to the Lord and we will feel all right/ We will be alright. Let’s get together in One Love! One Heart! One Ethiopia and feel all right.” (applying Bob Marley’s wisdom to Ethiopia).

Translator’s Note: This is a full English translation of a speech given by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia at the “Day of Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation” Rally in Mesqel Square, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 23, 2018, and his remarks following a bombing incident at that rally.

It has been reported that more than 3 million of people came out to show their love and support for PM Abiy on June 23.

As the PM concluded his speech, a grenade explosion was heard near the VIP stage. An unidentified man clad in police uniform allegedly tried to lob a grenade in the direction of the stage where the prime minister was sitting with other officials.  The New York Times quoting Ethiopia’s health minister reported one person had died and 154 were injured, 10 of them critically.

I offer my deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones and the entire Ethiopian family for the tragedy caused in this cowardly and hateful attack. I pray that God will comfort them in their unspeakable losses.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The Ethiopian people, with the leadership of their extraordinary and dynamic prime minister, will drive out darkness from the Land of Thirteen Months of Sunshine with the most powerful weapons known to humankind: Love, reconciliation and peace.

No army, no government, no terrorist and no criminal against humanity can stop an idea whose time has come. The time for truth, peace, reconciliation and peace has come to Ethiopia now. Nothing and no one can stop our march on the two roads Nelson Mandela named for us: Goodness and Forgiveness.

I offer PM Abiy my highest respect and admiration. He was the personification of grace under fire. He was literally under fire, but he did not flinch or wince. He maintained his cool and composure certain in his knowledge that in the end good always triumphs over evil.

I urge all of my Ethiopian brothers and sisters to fully support PM Abiy. He is our leader who will take us to that shining city upon the hill called, “The Beloved Ethiopia”, which simply means the Ethiopia that love built.

I have prepared this translation so that people who do not speak or read Amharic, Ethiopia’s official language, will get a flavor of PM Abiy’s message. It is not easy to translate PM Abiy’s speeches. He is extraordinarily eloquent. His command of the Amharic language, his precision in expressing his thoughts, his logical rigor, his use of metaphor, his devastating evidence-based arguments and his ability to simplify complex things make it exceedingly difficult for an amateur translator like myself to convey the totality of his message. I apologize to PM Abiy in advance for any shortcomings in my translation.

I have attempted to translate PM Abiy’s speech together with others who are much better at translation than myself. However, I take full responsibility for any errors and messages lost in translation. I have omitted references to any applauses during PM Abiy’s speech. But it should be noted that massive applause followed much of his statements during his speech.

I wish to thank those Addis Ababans who responded to my request to deliver a messageon my behalf to PM Abiy on June 23, 2018. I am humbled by your overwhelming response.

Alemayehu G. Mariam

Translation of PM Abiy Ahmed’s Speech at the “Day of Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation”

My dear and honored Ethiopian people. Let me first say that seeing so many Ethiopians here today joining hands to show love, reconciliation and unity has triggered extraordinary hope in me and filled me with great honor and joy.

I ask you to permit me to use as the opening of my speech here the words I usually use to conclude my speeches.

May the Creator bountifully bless Ethiopia and her people!

We stand here before you to accept your gratitude even though we have developed the [institutional] capacity, served in our responsibilities even for six months and facing the immoveable mountain of darkness that is front of us.

Hatred has bankrupted and diminished us. But you are telling us and filling us with hope that love has great value. It will create a bridge for us.

There is no one who has started with love and hope and failed to accomplish his objective. Today’s “Day of Love and Thanks” shows us where we shall take our firm steps.

It is necessary for us to thank those who have not seen this day.

We must thank those who died so we shall live; those who bore shame, so we can be honored and dignified; those who were imprisoned to set us free and those who gave up their lives so we can live free. We must all thank these martyrs for their enormous sacrifices in this hallowed place.

They could live without us. But we could not live without them. This land —  the beginning of God’s infinite wisdom, Ethiopia; this land home to 80 beautiful peoples; this beautiful Ethiopia; this land where humanity took its first breath, Ethiopia; this land of black people’s pride and role model for freedom — does not need a leader who has worked for 2 months. She needs a leader who can uproot all of her problems from their foundation.

A leader without the love of his people is a stranger. A leader without the unity of his people is empty. Yes, a leader who does not have security in in his people is of no consequence. So, I am here today to thank you for the love and security you’ve given us so far.

Yes, I have come here today to show you how much I honor you for the support you have given us from the very first day we were given our responsibilities.

I am here today to tell you face to face that we have a country that is endowed with great bounty and wealth but is starving for love.

I am also here to announce to you that we waste much time losing what we have and searching for things we don’t have. The thing that has chained us for so long has been hatred and holding grudges. I am here to tell you that we can tear up hatred and grudge to pieces with love.

Therefore, when that day you show unconditional love to each other comes, that shall be the you would thank me and those who toil with me day and night.

When the day comes for you to say, “No more thievery and corruption”, that day I will consider as if you have personally thanked me.

When the day comes and you no longer say, “This kilil is mine; this borderline is mine, ‘Get out of this area because it is mine” and begin earnestly working in love for our country, that day I consider to be your thanks to me and the people toiling with me.

We await the time when we shall add to each other’s strengths in love from the eastern tip to the western tip and from the northern tip to the southern tip of the country and the palace and the parliament will be open to the people to see.

When you teach your children the alphabet, teach them also as much about love of country and enrobe them with Ethiopiawinet. Then we will have received the fruits of your gratitude.

When you receive and honor and treat with equality mothers and sisters, and all women, then the world will notice your gratitude.

When you feel deep love for development of your country and your local area and begin to do things, then your gratitude will be heartfelt.

Our aim is far, and our objective is extremely wide.

Never have a shred of doubt that Ethiopia will return to her former greatness. I want to remind you again that the bridge to greatness and prosperity is reconciliation, love and become force multipliers.

Change does not need a few active players and many who watch from the sidelines. Change is a process that requires all of us to get into the field and make our contribution. Change is not the kind of game that spectators watch and cheer when there is a good result and criticize and complain when the result is not desirable.

The difference is how we play with authority, responsibility, capacity and how much contribution we make. Intellectuals bring us sound ideas. Professionals show us new ways of doing things. Faith fathers eliminate prejudice and corruption. Stand up and say, “The poor are being mistreated and suffering injustice.”

Diaspora Ethiopians who live throughout the world, think of bringing your wealth and knowledge to your motherland.

Political competitors and parties forget about what happened yesterday. Become fore multipliers for reconciliation and work in good faith from your heart.

Young people tighten your belts and line up for work and development of your country.

Fathers counsel your children. Mothers encourage your children.

Young people lead. Teachers plant seeds of knowledge. Students study hard and march forward in earnest and hope.

If we love our country, we must live up to our obligations. We must demand our rights.

If we love our country, we must understand authority is a responsibility not a license to impose our arbitrary rule.

Being appointed to office is a way to serve the people, not a way of getting the people to serve us.

Stealing [from the people] should be a badge of shame not an object of pride.

If we love our country, let us stand for each and every citizen who is being displaced and mistreated as an Ethiopian.

If we love our country, let us feel sensitive for every penny that is being wasted because it belongs to Ethiopia.

If we love our country, every work hour we waste, we should feel deep concern that we are wasting Ethiopia’s time.

If we love our country and see property that is being wasted, we should shout out, “This is property of my mother Ethiopia that is being wasted.”

If we love our country, and we see the right of any citizen being violated in any part of Ethiopia, we should stand up for him/her and say s/he is a citizen whose right must be respected regardless of his/her ethnicity, religion or other things.

Let us stand up for him saying, “Ethiopia is harmed.” [Injustice to one Ethiopian is injustice to all Ethiopians.] Let us build Ethiopia collectively. Ethiopia needs all of us.

Ethiopia is vital for all of us. Nothing can ever be given to us that can possibly replace our Ethiopia. If Ethiopia’s children can unite, avoid laziness and toil day and night, we can move mountains and cast away the blanket of poverty covering Ethiopia.

To ensure Ethiopia remains the center of peace for Africa, we must strengthen our relations with our neighbors; and our relations must be based on the principles of love, mutual concern, benefit and intellectual growth.

Our country Ethiopia is a great and magnificent country. Our country that has a 2000-year history recorded on stone tablets and paper. Ethiopia is a country that sings her own songs, move in her own way, maintain her own pride and has always protected herself.

But what is the value of all this magnificent history and wealth if  the people do not freedom, justice, democracy and economic prosperity. It will only be empty pride and not put food on the table.

There is a difference in building a free country and a free people. If there is no free people in a free country, what is the meaning of freedom?

If kilil lines become border lines and we ignore the bridges that connect us and we build walls that divide us, then what is the value and meaning of thousands of years of history?

If we are afraid to speak, if we are afraid to write and if we hide and are afraid to organize ourselves, what is the meaning and value of thousands of years of history?

If one ethnic group says to the other ethnic group, “Don’t come to my area. Get out  of my area.”, if he says this part of Ethiopia is only mine and not yours, then how much worse did the colonialists do to us?

Lastly, the one thing I want you to keep in mind is this:  Let us separate private individuals from ethnic groups. Let’s separate the thorns from the rose flowers. Because a mouse has eaten the grain, we should not beat the dawa (weed) (a metaphor which counsels against blaming all for the mistakes of few).  Because of one crooked tree, we must not destroy the whole forest.

Let us remember every day that forgiveness is the best weapon to defeat the forces of hate.

On this occasion, at this event, the boundless love that has been given to me and  to all of my colleagues who work day and night with me, I want you to know our deep feelings that we do not take it for granted but accept your love to inspire us to greater effort and hard work.

I want to assure you that in each and every minute and hour, we will serve you with loyalty and love, good faith and clear heart, free from all corruption and hatred, and head in the direction of justice and democracy.

Before I make my concluding remarks, what I ask of you my dear sisters and brothers to be aware is that for the past 100 years hatred has mocked us, hatred has overwhelmed us, just-for-me selfishness and greed and individualism have hurt us.

My beloved and honored compatriots, after struggling and winning against injustice and hardship, our history of struggle, the things that shall enable us to cross the bridge [and reach the Beloved Ethiopia] are only forgiveness and love.

Revenge is only for the weak. We Ethiopians are not weak. Therefore, we will not exact revenge.

We will win with love.

I asked each one of you brothers and sisters to turn to the next person on this “Day of Love and Forgiveness” and embrace them and tell them you love them and forgive them. I ask you to do so in love.

Let Ethiopia live forever honored and her dignity defended by the strength of her children.

May the Creator bless Ethiopia and her people!

Thank you.

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