As the United States Presidential election enters uncharted territory with a cliffhanger coupled with a divided Democratic House and a Republican Senate, two Americans with roots in Ethiopia have become a City Councilor and a State Senator, achieving an Ethiopian–American political milestone.
Oballa Oballa, a former Ethiopian refugee, was elected to a council seat in Austin, Minnesota, becoming the second Ethiopian elected to such office in the history of Ethiopian-American political journey. The first was Tsegaye “Mike” Mekonnen, an Ethiopian American union activist, who was elected as councilor from Chelsea, Massachusetts. He died in 2011.
Oballa, 27, a Gambella native, grew up in a UNHCR refugee camp in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Complex, where also the Somali born, now Congresswoman Ilham Omer spent her youth. He became the first person of color elected to City Hall in Austin. He became an American citizen and moved to his adopted city in 2015.
Samra Brouk, another Ethiopian native, was declared a winner in New York as a State Senator, becoming the first Ethiopian native elected to such office. She received 53 percent of the vote against a Republican candidate, winning the seat previously held by a Republican.
“The enthusiastic outpouring of support from the voters of the 55th Senate District has been overwhelming and humbling. With 98% of election districts reported, and a 2-to-1 Democratic advantage on returned absentee ballots, I can now declare victory in this State Senate,” she said on the morning after the election on Twitter.
She joined the Peace Corps and travelled to Guatemala becoming an activist upon her return, working with young people and empowering them to be “social change advocates” and also fight in areas of inequalities in public schools.