“If we divide along ethnic, religious lines, Ethiopia would not move forward,” Fordus Munir Yesuf


 As per our appointment, Ferdaus Munir Yesuf arrived at the venue for the interview in the most beautiful and favourite traditional Ethiopian dress called Habesha Tibeb. The day was on 19 January 2022, the celebration of the Ethiopian Epiphany, Timket. On this day Ethiopian men and women take to the streets to see off the tabots in their parishes wearing their favourite traditional costumes.

Ferdaus, as a moslem woman is usually a hijabi. But on this day she chose to blend with other Ethiopian women as she wore a white Habesah Tibeb. According to her, this is not a superficial deemed to serve for the interview. She always pursues a stance that bridges ethnic and religious differences among people and promotes identification of people only through their nationality, being Ethiopian.

Born in Addis Ababa, she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) she specializes in business and finance by trade. As a prominent member of the Ethiopian diaspora community in Atlanta, she actively participates in committees that have been waging a strong struggle to safeguard their motherland Ethiopia from the threat posed by pressures of the west linked with the conflict stirred by the terrorist TPLF.

Accordingly, she operates with Atlanta Task Force, Ethiopian and Eritrean Taskforce as well as Ethiopian American Cooperation Council. Currently, she arrived here in response to the call made by the government as part of the Great Ethiopian Home Coming Challenge. Along with that, she is undertaking various relief and humanitarian activities on her own as well as in collaboration with other diaspora community members that she represents. Her humanitarian assistance main focuses on rehabilitating houses destroyed during the various conflicts that flared up in the country in the past couple of years.

Ferdaus also shows special interest to engage in agriculture development activities which she strongly argues can help promote the country’s export earnings and job creation among others. For this to succeed she reiterates that ethnic-based designation of farmland as well as the whole ethnic-based political system should come to an end at this juncture. Have a nice read!

 Ethiopia is Home to many ethnic groups and religious . How do you see the relation between followers of the different religions?

Ethiopia is a unique place in the world where people live with utmost tolerance. It is historical. As I grow up I never heard of people being classified in ethnic lines. But when people identify someone as Muslim or Christian as they share the special holidays’ cuisine. Otherwise, we have never separated. We celebrate weddings together as we prepare the food and drink for each other’s choice. My mother’s close confidants were Christians. I never felt the difference. We have all our times closer together. Even though there are attempts to create a gap from abroad Ethiopian people are wise enough not to open a chance for them.

What do you do in US? And how have you been involving with Ethiopian diaspora community to support your country in various ways?

I studied business and finance. I have been in the field for more than 34 years. Owing to the situation in our country I am engaged in how to help my country to counteract the external pressure. We do a demonstration, speak senators and put pressure. For the time being, I have stopped my professional job and turned my attention to the national cause.

There is a big challenge in meeting senators  and holding talks with them. Georgia is a key point state. The Democrats were able to balance their power because of us. Since there is an election in 2022, we are discussing it with senators. As I came here my friends were discussing with senators. We are also discussing with members of the black caucus so that they can visit Ethiopia. We are focusing on African Americans. Now we are working with them so that they can use their influence through the church.

Our senator gives a general statement. He is a reverend pastor of Ebenezer Church. He is sympathetic to issues. Though he realizes the work of TPLF, he feels that they (Tigray people) are suffering from hunger. So a lot of work is expected from us. Since the election is approaching we have to do that.

Now we are on voter’s registration training. So we have to work hard in collaboration with Eritreans. Since we are both facing the sanctions we have to struggle together. We have seen a good result in Virginia. Ethiopians and Eritreans worked together. That is why we work hard with Eritreans. I believe that it can bring about change.

I have heard you speaking about agriculture. What is the reason for your inspiration for agriculture?

I focus on working on earth as it is where we go during our death. I want to engage in that area as I have made a study on that. The work needs a warmer climate. It is still under study. Its objective is for export. There are medicinal and therapeutic herbs that are highly demanded in the international market. It can earn foreign currency as well as create many jobs. For the time being, I have paused pursuing this project because our country is in trouble now. We keep aside the original aim and are striving to support our compatriots that are at risk. We will continue to do so until the problematic situation improves and stability reigns back.

Ethiopia’s potential is still untouched. Some friends export sesame. But it is still challenging. For instance, a group exported ginger. But it was diagnosed with fungus. So we have to work more on quality so that we can build a good reputation. Otherwise, it will hamper the efforts of those who wish to engage in agriculture. Ethiopian agricultural products are still at the infant level in the foreign market. Ethiopians abroad must use Ethiopian products and promote them among their friends, especially in agriculture.

 Many of the Ethiopian diasporas do not even know the existence of Ethiopian products. There are Ethiopian stores where you buy Shiro and berbere. But there are whole food stores where teff is sold. But these days teff is produced in different countries. SO they have to see where it is from. We have not nurtured this habit. There are various CSOs. In our zoom meetings, we should mention the existence of Ethiopian products in US markets. In markets, we see shirts made in Ethiopia. But we are not aware of them. SO it is our responsibility to use our products so that others also can be inspired to buy them.

How do you relate women and agriculture? How do you think should the diaspora help promote Ethiopia’s agriculture?

I believe that there is a big opportunity for the diaspora in the field of agriculture. All the herbal things that we see abroad are possible to grow in Ethiopia. Diaspora should focus on that.

Women mostly do not engage in agriculture. But I believe that agriculture should be the work of women. It is related to nature and we (women) are linked more to nature. I also believe that their participation in agriculture should increase. So I don’t see agriculture as a challenge for women. It means we raise what already belongs to us. It is only the long-held tradition of job classification that is holding them back. Otherwise, women are likely to succeed in agriculture as they are prudent and caressing.

The other thing is we have to stop the criteria of ethnicity to designate land for farming. Otherwise, people like me would not get land to do farming. I am born in Addis Ababa. There is no farmland in Addis Ababa. So regions should stop screening ethnic backgrounds to offer farming land. If they continue to do so the whole country would not move forward. The violence that we saw in recent years like setting fire on houses or farms of strangers is the outcome of such mentality. It should stop now as it also discourages foreigners who would like to come and invest here.

Many members of the diaspora community returned home this year following the governments call. You have also joined the many diaspora community members this time. How are you executing your main objective for returning home this time?

The diaspora has accepted the challenge and came back home. I came here to support my compatriots. I believe that I have done that job. When we came there was a challenge entitled one luggage. We have submitted that we have also raised money in Atlanta with which we bought equipment from the market here and delivered it to Debreberhan thanks to Disaster prevention commission Ato Mitiku who provided us vehicle. We have delivered direct to the victims and also served lunch for those who are recovering at the defense recovery center in Addis Ababa.

In my previous visit I have also gone to Konso and helped rebuild houses of those whose residences were set on fire during the ethnic conflict there. I believe that due priority should be given to build people’s houses because they have to get a place where they stay, rest and take shelter. The rest would follow after the houses.

But due care should be made to make sure that displaced people would not fall into the same problem again in the future. For example, Amhara State should provide the displaced people with land so that they can resettle permanently because they fear that they would be attacked again. I am worried about this. The country is in the middle of a war. But those areas where war is not taking place should provide help.

How long are they going to keep silent? How long should kids remain out of school? Every administration around there should afford to help about 10 households. You should see people who worked for decades have lost all that they have. They were good farmers. We have been eating what they produced. It bothers me. So all of us should help rehabilitate them. We can also raise funds and relevant government authorities must act responsibly. What we have to do is not to stitch the bandage, but cure the wound.

How is the government assisting your activities of supporting compatriots like those displaced by conflicts?

There are many improvements. I would like to thank the Ethiopians diaspora agency. They do much collaboration and they are rich in information. They also give guidance. It is important to widen this agency. They are highly accessible. For instance, if you want to meet Dr Mohammad Idris you can meet him directly. There are many staff members like him. IT doesn’t have any bureaucracy.

So when the diaspora wants service like taxation it doesn’t need to go to every office. So the agency has to get all the necessary support to become an umbrella where the diaspora can get services all in one. We don’t expect everything to be a bed of roses for us. But we wish to see improvements in service delivery like the alleviation of bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption.

What is your future aim in supporting your compatriots in trouble?

My interest is to resume my Konso project. I was aiming to go to konso for this project. But unfortunately, this situation came and distracted me from my original direction. I even want to come in the future and help the people of Konso, children and women. I have also seen a burning need for drilling water well as many people drink unsafe water. I plan to help build potable water and livable houses.

In the coming five or ten years what kind of Ethiopia do you aspire to see?

I wish to see Ethiopia prosperous economi­cally, enjoy dignity in politics, and achieve a big place in education. I believe that Ethio­pia would transform from source of asylum seekers to asylum giver. IT is example to other African countries and even will con­tinue to be in the future. But for this to be a reality the people should fend off ethnic different.

Thank you for your time; and I wish your dream come true!

Thank you

The January 20/2022

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