My letter to the New York Times (Tibebe Samuel Ferenji) 10/25/2019
On your October 23, 2019 news section, Mr. Simon Marks wrote a report titled “Protests in Ethiopia Threaten to Mar Image of Its Nobel-Winning Leader”. Unfortunately, Mr. Marks has misinformed your readers by stating that “The accusations made by the critic, Jawar Mohammed, founder of an independent media network, fueled simmering political tensions in the landlocked nation of 110 million…” Your paper painted Mr. Jawar Mohammed as an entrepreneur and a leader of the opposition. Mr. Mohammed is neither an entrepreneur nor a leader of any opposition. Your assertion that Jawar Mohammed is the founder of an independent media network is wrong. Mr. Jawar Mohammed is an Executive Director of the Oromia Media Network (OMN) based in the State of Minnesota. OMN was established in 2012 as a nonprofit organization and obtained its tax-exempt status from the IRS in February 2015. When the OMN was established Mr. Mohammed was not a part of it. He was hired by the OMN in April 2015, as the paid Executive Director of the OMN. Although the OMN is supposed to be a tax-exempt nonprofit organization run by a Board of Directors as required by law, for all practical purposes, Mr. Mohammed has “dissolved” the board without any legal authority and he is running the organization as his personal company. The attached tax return filed by the OMN clearly shows how the OMN reported a loss in its 2017 tax return. The OMN tax record shows it reported higher revenue in 2014 and 2015 than its revenue in 2016 and 2017. In fact, the record shows OMN lost more than 50% of its revenue in 2017 compared to its revenue in 2015. Moreover, the tax record shows the OMN lost more than $100,000.00 in its 2017 operation. This should be investigated by the IRS and the Minnesota State authorities on how the OMN revenue declined that much at the heights of the Oromo movement in Ethiopia and when most Oromos contributed to the OMN in 2017 than any time in its existence.
In addition, Mr. Marks indicated in his report “The supporters, of the Oromo ethnic group, denounced the prime minister….” Such a statement gives a wrong impression regarding the diversity of the Oromo ethnic group itself. Those who denounced the prime minister were the supporters of Mr. Mohammed. His supporters are less than 1% of the Oromo population and do not represent the “Oromo ethnic group” at large. Social Media discussions a day before the protest indicated the plan for the protest and Mr. Mohammed fueled the protest by his false claim that he was surrounded by the police and that the police are planning to attack him. Ironically, Mr. Mohammed is protected by the police force that the government assigned to him. If the police had any plan to attack him, why did not they use those police officers who were protecting Mr. Mohammed 24/7? His claim makes no sense at all. It is not clear why Mr. Mark neglected to report this fact. Mr. Mohammed hijacked the political struggle and peaceful movement of the Oromo students that began in November 2015. He did not lead the movement and he did not initiate the movement. Rather, since the end of 2016, he provided instruction for the youth to be violent using the OMN. Most of those who followed his violent methods are unemployed youth who come from low-income families. There was no support for Mr. Mohammed in Wollega, Showa, and other Oromo areas. I believe accuracy is important to your paper and your reporters should do more objective research before publishing half-baked truth and inaccurate information that lionizes a demagogue who is running a media network supported by the US taxpayers.
Tibebe Samuel Ferenji, Takoma Park, MD