The meeting was chaired by Mr Wondimu Mekonnen, chairman of ETA’s Support Group in the UK. The first speaker was Mr Gemoraw Kassa, former General Secretary of former ETA which was disbanded by the regime by politically motivated court ruling of the Court of Cassation at Federal Supreme Court on 27 June 2008.
On behalf of teachers in Ethiopia, Ato Gemoraw brought two sculptures of Mr Steve Sinnott all the way from Ethiopia. One was for Mary and the other for NUT. The message printed on the sculptures both in Amharic and English read as “Mr Steve Sinnott is unforgettable dearest friend of teachers in Ethiopia. This art is to pay tribute to his invaluable solidarity, April 2009 Addis Ababa.”
After unveiling the sculptures, Mr Gemoraw added, ‘I am here to convey the message of teachers in Ethiopia. It’s to express their deepest sorrow caused by missing Mr Steve Sinnott, the late General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers. It’s also to deliver symbolic works of art dedicated to Steve and his union. In the mean time, it is to enlighten that colleagues in Ethiopia always remember Steve not only as an individual committed friend but as an institution for inspiration, knowledge, social justice, and democracy. Colleagues in Ethiopia remember Steve as our dedicated, competent and charismatic hero to promote education for all scheme, defend human and trade union rights in Ethiopia and across the globe.’
When one of the presents was handed to Mrs Mary Sinnot by Mr Alemayehu Dessie (Director of ECB), she was given a standing ovation. In her words of thanks, Mary said: ‘ ……There is no doubt Steve loved Ethiopia and Ethiopian people…………. The great friendship between Steve and Gemoraw did not stop at their work life. Gabi (At Gemoraw’s wife) and I along with our children are also enjoying close bonds…..’
The next key note address was made by Ms Christine Blower, NUT’s General Secretary. Ms Blower promised to keep the sculpture of Steve in one of the meeting rooms of NUT Headquarters at Hamilton House where meetings are frequently held through out the year. She also restated the existence of a vibrant and real bondage between NUT and ETA. Most importantly, Ms Blower stressed the need for Mr Steve Sinnott’s legacy to continue and she further promised to do what ever she can in her capacity to this effect.
As an example to the continuity of Steve’s legacy, she cited her recent booking of appointment for Ato Gemoraw with TUC (Trade Unions Congress) and like Mr Steve Sinnott used to do, Ms Blower accompanied in person Gemoraw to Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID (Department For International Development) where she brought the plights of Ethiopian teachers to the attention of relevant authorities of UK government. She further promised to champion the cause of teachers in Ethiopia. She was applauded by the crowd as a result.
It was remarkably great that the organizers of the social event managed to raise a total of £1065 (one thousand and sixty five pounds) from Ethiopians in London as contributions to The Steve Sinnott Foundation. Ato Yeneneh Mamo handed the donated fund over to Mr Graham Clayton, NUT’s Senior Solicitor and one of the Directors of The Steve Sinnott Foundation. After receiving the donation, Mr Clayton remarked: ‘ …Steve used to call himself a special friend of Ethiopia and now I am happy to call myself a friend of Ethiopia.’
The next programme was the chance for Ethiopians to express their true feelings towards their dearest friend, Mr Steve Sinnott. To put it in a nutshell, those who got the chance to speak articulated why Mr Steve deserved to be called a friend in need and why he is a true internationalist who championed Education for all and trade unions rights across the glob. Besides, they remarked their contributions to The Steve Sinnott Foundation will not be a one of contribution. Second, they pleaded to the Director of The Steve Sinnott Foundation to let them know if there is a chance for Ethiopians to volunteer or to be a member to the Foundation. Lastly, they emphasized the need to keep Mr Steve Sinnott’s legacy to continue by keeping the special and vibrant relationship between NUT and Ethiopian teachers.
Finally, a moving closing speech was made by Mrs Janice Eastman, Educational International (EI) Deputy General Secretary. Mrs Eastman was in London at Hamilton House on 12 May 2009 to attend the launching event of The Steve Sinnott Foundation held 2:00pm – 4:00pm at Mander Hall of the Hamilton House, NUT headquarters. Immediately after the launching event, Mrs Eastman, left for The Hague as she had to address an international Conference on Child Labour Prevention on 13 May 2009. She then flew back to London on 14 May 2009 to attend the Ethiopian Social Event organized in remembrance of Steve. Such was her dedication to the cause and we Ethiopians and friends of Mr Steve Sinnott are greatly indebted.
Finally, I on behalf of the organizers of the event and myself, would like to thank Ethiopian sisters who volunteered to prepare varieties of delicious Ethiopian traditional foods served and enjoyed by our guests. We would also like to thank ECB for facilitating us the meeting hall. We further extend our many thanks to Ethiopians who attended the event and took part in the contributions. We also remain grateful to our distinguished guests for coming to the event.
Once more we thank you Londoners and our guests for making the event a success. Thank you for showing the solidarity.
Long live ETA’s (NTA’s) and NUT’s special international solidarity!!