The World Leaders Forum invitation to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is fueling emotions of outrage.
(TsehaiNY.com) – Founded by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in 2003, The World Leaders Forum has invited numerous heads of state from different parts of the world to take part in an open dialog.
The forum’s goal, according to its website is to ‘advance lively, uninhabited dialogue on the large economic, political and social questions of our time.’
And during its time, The World Leaders Forum has not been without controversies.
In 2007, during the UN General Assembly in New York City, The WLF invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew outrage from those who felt the invitation was giving a platform to hate. The front page of The New York Daily News read ‘The Evil Has Landed.’ Later, Ahmadinejad was confronted by the School President who in his opening statement said to the Iranian leader, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.”
This year the invitation that has sparked the most outrage is the invitation to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to the University’s newspaper.
Zenawi is scheduled to address The World Leaders Forum on Wednesday, September 22nd, during the week of the 2010 UN General Assembly.
Events leading up to the address on Wednesday continue to make headlines. In announcing the event with Zenawi, The World Leaders Forum website posted a short bio of the Prime Minister highlighting “progress” under his “seasoned leadership.” The next day, The WLF website removed the bio and issued a statement regretting the error, indicating it was a mistake made by its staff and:
“It is not the policy of the World Leaders Forum to take editorial positions of the type inadvertently suggested by this unattributed text and, as is the case with all guest speakers on Columbia’s campus, Prime Minister Zenawi’s invitation to speak at Columbia does not constitute endorsement of his views or his nation’s policies.”
A coalition of Ethiopian American Civic, political and Human Rights organizations are also planning a march to be held at the University on Wednesday. According to the organizer’s website, transportation arrangements are also being made available from the Washington DC Metro Area.
Obang Metho who serves as the executive director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia and one of the organizers of the protest said, “Columbia University has the right to invite whomever they choose, but yet, such an invitation will only be misused to further elevate a dictator who is oppressing the people of Ethiopia. Most Ethiopians consider Meles Zenawi an illegitimate and brutal leader—no different than Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who has taken control of Ethiopia by force while robbing the people of the country of their national resource.”