The condemned of Ethiopia By Teodros Kiros
“The unemployed graduate Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police brutality after they harassed and stopped him from selling fruits and vegetables, which was his only means of a livelihood.” (Horace Campbell,“Tunisia’s Self- Organization for Self- Emancipation,” Pambazuka News, 2/7/2011
A mother of five children, raising them without a father whisks flies away as she nurses sick tomatoes and onions, next to a garbage can, and is savagely asked to move away, by a policeman, who himself looks as if he has not eaten for days; a young black boy in his teens is struggling to sell a famished chicken for any price; a group of thirteen year old gorgeous girls are offering themselves to Diaspora Ethiopians and pleading that they take them to the USA as young wives. These scenes and millions of others are emblematic of the lives of the condemned Ethiopians, born to suffer.
There are millions of Ethiopians whose lives resemble that of Bouazizi, the vegetable and fruit seller, the new revolutionary hero of the 21st century. He sets an example for us Ethiopians, for us, who are silently suffering in the filthy streets of Addis, stargazing at night, and languishing in tin houses during the day. To those of us whose existential rights have been crushed for
years, our brother Boulazzi says,
“ Rise you the condemned, you have nothing to loose, but freedom to gain”
Brother Bouazizi did not die in vain. We must heed to his call, we must answer his revolutionary cry, we must put off the fire he started, the fire that continues to burn in the caves of our hearts.
Revolutionaries shed tears of sorrow and they back them us with action. They are actional beings with a mission-the mission of freedom for working people. Bouazizi says to us stand up and fight for your rights, say no to regimes who fool you, say no to bosses who intimidate you, death is a movement towards a new life on another zone of being.
With Bouazizi we sing:
No worry, people
No need to be afraid of death
You will be in the company of God
After you take your last breath
He wants you back
Back to where you came from.
Sit silently like a pebble stone
And you and him shall be one.
Revolutionary Death is a blessing,
But it is not a choice
Death is a blessing,
and so we rejoice!”
There is a lesson that the Ethiopian youth must learn from the words of Horace Campbell who recently wrote; I was in West Africa as this revolution unfolded. Everywhere I went, youths and other workers were anxiously following the revolution as the mass resistance spread to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. In all of the societies I visited there were young people who wanted to know more about what was happening in revolution. Bouazizi’s action sends a major lesson to youths across Africa and the pan-African world. This lesson is embedded in the significance of his self-immolation. Bouazizi’s self-immolation signifies self-sacrifice, different from the actions of suicide bombers. In a world where disgruntled elements take to suicide bombing as a weapon of coercion and protestation, Bouazizi stands out as an oppressed and disgruntled youth who wanted to make a sacrifice for revolution without violence and the killing of innocent souls. Youths do not have to embark on self-immolation as a sacrifice for a better tomorrow. But ultimately, they must be ready to make some sacrifices for self-emancipation, instead of being passive or offering themselves as tools of manipulation and suppression in the hands of the ruling elites.
Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts)
Berklee College of Music