International Youth Peace Forum Recognizes Mesfin Mekonen

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Washington, DC – At a reception at the National Press Club, the International Youth Peace Forum (IYPF) presented its Peacebuilder award to Mesfin Mekonen for his work from 2019-2021 on conflict prevention/ resolution, and peace building with youth.

Announcing the award, Tony R. Culley-Foster, Founding Director of the IYPF said Mesfin Mekonen’s “long-time personal advocacy for peace in your beloved Ethiopia is inspiring.” The IYPF is a platform that provide young people with the opportunity to present their concerns and ideas to Member States and help shape the direction of world development.

Receiving the award, Mesfin Mekonen discussed U.S. – Ethiopia relations and the conflict in Ethiopia. He noted that the U.S. relationship with Ethiopia dates back to 1903, when King Menelik II signed a treaty of commerce with a representative of the U.S. government. Ethiopia supported the U.S. during the Cold War and has sacrificed the lives of its soldiers in the war on terrorism.

The U.S. has provided generous support for Ethiopia, on a humanitarian basis and in support of American strategic objectives. For decades after the fall of the communist regime in 1991, American aid helped Ethiopians overcome drought and famine, even as the country was ruled by a corrupt, violent and repressive dictator, Meles Zenawi.

Mesfin Mekonen discussed with the attendees their Young Ambassadors for peace initiative and praised their efforts to train and educate the next generation of peace leaders. Young people everywhere particularly in Africa are vital force for change as they make up 70% of the population in Ethiopia, he said. We need to engage them in conversation across all platforms. Young people throughout the Horn of Africa, especially in Ethiopia, face political and economic issues that impacts their lives.

Turning to the present conflict in Ethiopia, Mesfin Mekonen said that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) provoked military confrontation when “in the early hours of November 4, 2020 [it] carried out an attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces.” He noted that the TPLF acknowledges that it fired missiles at two airports and rockets into Eritrea. It also describes how hundreds of “ethnic Amhara people were stabbed or hacked to death in the town of Mai-Kadra in the Tigray region” in a criminal act that witnesses attributed to the TPLF.

The root cause of the misery in Ethiopia, he said, is the nation’s constitution which is based on divide and rule ethnic federalism. Ethnic conflicts that threaten to tear Ethiopia apart are the result of the 1994 Constitution, introduced by then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front governing coalition. The constitution recast the country from a centrally unified republic to a federation of nine regional ethnic states and two federally administered city states. The system of ethnic federalism was troubled with internal inconsistencies because ethnic groups do not live only in a discrete “homeland” territory but are dispersed across the country. Non-native ethnic minorities live within every ethnic homeland.

Peace and stability depend on abandoning the ideology of ethnic division and launching a project to revise the Ethiopian constitution. The present constitution was created to exacerbate ethnic divisions. It will lead to the destruction of Ethiopia, Mesfin Mekonen said.

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