In Jamaica Pan-Africanists Rally in Defense of Ethiopia Outside US Embassy

Peaceful protesters outside the US Embassy in Jamaica this weekend. Organizers of the gathering, which included pan-Africanists, Rastafarians and Ethiopians, said they were calling out the widely panned and misguided US posture in Ethiopia's conflict with TPLF. (Photos: Jamaica Observer & Jamaica Gleaner)

Jamaica Observer

By Observer staff reporter

‘America must mind its own business’

Local Rastas march on US Embassy protesting its backing of Ethiopia rebel forces

“Leave Ethiopia alone and mind your own business.” That was the message wrapped up in the chants of scores of Rastafari, Ethiopian, and pan-Africanist representatives yesterday as they staged what they called a peaceful protest outside the US Embassy in St Andrew.

The demonstration signalled the groups’ disapproval of the USA’s backing of rebel forces in Tigray, Ethiopia, who are fighting against Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Veteran Rastafarian reggae artiste Tony Rebel, who was part of the protest, said the move was to show solidarity with their black brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.

“When His Majesty Haile Selassie came forward, he said Ethiopia and Jamaica, we are one. We are saying to the United ‘snakes’ of America that they should take their hands out of Ethiopia,” he said.

One female protester, who requested anonymity, directed her rebuke not only at the US Government, but also Western media, which she asked to “back off of Ethiopia”.

“America must mind their own business. They are promising sanctions on Ethiopia and trying to demonise the prime minister. The US has been backing the rebel forces and demonising the Ethiopian Government. We in Jamaica have always seen ourselves as Ethiopians abroad because Halie Selassie came here in 1966 and said that Ethiopians and Jamaicans are blood brothers, so when there is a crisis in Ethiopia it affects all of us,” she said.

She stated that the average Jamaican will watch news from foreign outlets and think it is a tribal war that they should not care about.

She however said it’s our business, and Jamaicans should stand up to the USA and its propaganda.

“We were sending the US a message that they should leave Ethiopian people alone and stop taking sides with a terrorist group. Last week the Ethiopians in America went to CNN headquarters telling them to stop telling lies in the media that Ethiopia is creating genocide. Nothing like genocide is happening. All the prime minister is doing is defending the sovereign rights of the people,” she said.

Rastas protest US meddling in Ethiopian conflict

The Gleaner

Inspector Earle Grant speaking with Rastafarian protesters during a demonstration in front of the United States Embassy in Liguanea, St Andrew, yesterday. The group said they were objecting to what they termed as the meddling of the United States in the yearlong conflict between the Ethiopian government and rebels.

One of the leaders of a protest staged yesterday across from the United States (US) Embassy in Liguanea, St Andrew, objecting to what is said was that country’s meddling in the current Ethiopian conflict, has declared that he would have no objection to the US yanking his visa for his stance.

There have been mounting global concern and calls for a peaceful resolution to the yearlong conflict between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and rebels, who have joined a coalition of opposition groups, threatening his hold on power.

The United States has been one of the harshest critics of the Ethiopian government during the crisis, repeatedly calling for an end to the conflict as it urges the parties to hammer out a ceasefire agreement.

The United Nations has said that all parties to the conflict had violated international humanitarian law, citing reports of massacres, gang-rapes and ethnic cleansing with most of the offences carried out by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.

Yesterday, Haile Mikael Brissett, a deacon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica and one of the leaders of the protest, blasted Western media for what he said was its spread of propaganda regarding the conflict as he and scores of Rastafarians gathered across from the American embassy.

“We are proud Ethiopians abroad and we stand in solidarity with what’s going on in Ethiopia. We say, ‘All for one and one for all’. Ethiopia was the only African country that wasn’t colonised. Ethiopia also is the Horn of Africa, so we here in Jamaica want the world to know that Africans at home and Africans abroad should be saying the same thing,” Brissett told The Gleaner.

“What we are doing here today is very symbolic. It’s a peaceful protest and we really appreciate the solidarity of our brothers and sisters – not just Rastafarians, but also Pan African members, Maroons; members who really want to see freedom,” said Brissett.

Some of the Rastafarians told The Gleaner that they chose to protest across from the US Embassy as a form of outcry at the position they said the US has taken, along with its allies, mainly in Europe, which are in support of the rebel forces.

The protesters said they were standing in solidarity with the people of Ethiopia in their efforts to restore law and order and to put down armed insurrection from the rebel group led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and against all forms of foreign interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

Brissett, who still holds a US visa, once travelled to Ethiopia in 2012 for clergy training and he had a connecting flight from Jamaica in Washington DC before arriving in Ethiopia.

“You have to lose some things to gain some things, so if a visa is lost, no problem with that for me, personally,” he said. “So if they want to revoke my visa, Jamaica is full of so much potential, Jamaica is so rich, Jamaica has so much wealth, so if I’m to stay here for the next 20, 30, 40 years, or the rest of my life, I am good with that because Ethiopia is within me.”

Brissett’s view was shared by other members of the Rastafarian community who were protesting.

Although the permit granted by the police to the protesters outlined that they should have been located on a parcel of land across from the US Embassy and at the entrance to Standpipe, some minutes after 10 a.m., some protesters walked on to the sidewalk immediately in front of the US Embassy, with cops advising them to leave.

Inspector Earle Grant, Matilda’s Corner Police Station commander, also instructed the protesters repeatedly to go within the boundaries of the area within which they applied for 10 persons to protest, while observing social distancing, but they refused and took to the sidewalks of Liguanea with their placards, some of which read ‘United Nations and America Need to Repent’, ‘War in Tigray’, ‘Hands off Ethiopia’, and ‘Defend Ethiopia Now’.

“They were given permission to demonstrate within the perimeters of the fencing area. It was in their application to the commissioner of police, hence permission was granted for them to demonstrate within that land space and not on the outskirts,” Grant told The Gleaner.

“The police can take some action, but we don’t want to ignite the situation. We just want to have a peaceful protest with respect for the rule of law, and we ask for compliance, not to obstruct pedestrians and using the sidewalk, and not to cause a traffic congestion,” he added.

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