The condemned of Ethiopia By Teodros Kiros

February 8th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

“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.

Teodros Kiros
Professor of Philosophy and English (Liberal Arts)
Berklee College of Music

  1. Sam
    | #1

    I read Tedoros’s article. I agree with him “there are millions of Ethiopians whose lives resemble that of Bouazizi.” But to say Bouazizi the revolutionary changed Tunisia might be,I believe, a stretch. In fact, it is a very questionable understanding of what happened. Yes, he took his life. But the death by itself not necessairly fired up the population per se. Tunisians were languishing under their presidents for years. Especially the youth had found the future to be totally grim. unemployment was high, and it continued to be skyrocket high in each coming year . There was a dormant opposition in place in Tunisia. It was already there, expected to ignite when the stimulus cracked open. With Bouazizi’s death the tipping point was reached. Not to discount his contribution, Bouzazi did not create the “revolution” as Teodros seemed to have believed.” The revolution, which I say the uprising, might have occured with any other stimulus. In the coming years as more and more young Arabs and Africans keep growing up in the world of unemployment such kind of uprising would become the norm is a very good reading of the future. Back in 2001 when Alqueda’s future intent was discussed, there were intellectuals who predicted the danger of the future might not be Alqueda, rather the unemployed Arab youth. With the current popular uprising in Arab countries, that trend was already started. With the current Arab and African countries leadership, it is almost a given to say unemployment keeps growing not necessairly incremantaly, in some cases exponentially. Well, we reach to a point that killing self to make a political statment, to ignite uprising is something that could not be considered as shocking as the death of Bouzazi was.

  2. kaka
    | #2

    Teodros kassa,
    No worry, people
    No need to be afraid of death
    You will be in the company of God

    Mognhin felig eshi. You first come and kill yourself. You will be in the company of God. Jilajil. This is an self imolation is an aRAB CULTURE AND NOT hABESHA’S. No one will be there to dioe for you. mogn.

  3. Kiros
    | #3

    Hi Tedros Kiros.

    I assure you that I will be the first one to follow you if you do what Bouaziza did. Let me see actions not words.

  4. Molla
    | #4

    Tedros

    Instead of looking for a hero, what not you became one and save the day? I guess it is kind of hard to put yourself in danger and you found it easy to call others to die for your cause. This is a clear indication of how some of our well educated Diasporas are out of touch and selfish.

  5. Deer
    | #5

    Wow!!! we are all dreaded phussas; noting will inspire us. The Tunisian person who took his life for his own cause, can not be transformed in another person’s life. It has to come from within. We must know that the whole concept of taking risk in itself is a compendium of risky ventures which involves both side of the divide:to win or to lose, to die or to live. Here we see many people from my country don’t want to do the dirty job but some body has to do it for us. NO! NO! NO! that can’t happened. Take the risk to yourself and the rest of us will be inspired.

  6. to be true
    | #6

    dear Teodros Kiros as you say “Revolutionary Death is a blessing” so go to Addis and do what Bouazizi do for his country, then we are remember you as our hero.

  7. US Puppet
    | #7

    The same problem with this article as with most others written by Ethiopians. We should not try to hide obvious facts that explain why Ethiopia is ruled by a tyrant,like the fact that the tyrant is there because it is getting all kinds of support above all from the USA.
    Hide that fact at your peril.
    Even worse than the situation in North Africa is that our tyrant Meles was brought to power by an external enemy,namely the USA.
    Even worse than that is the fact that the regime is an enemy of the country it controls.
    The USA knows that fact,still it keeps on providing support to the regime anyway.
    These are points authors can only ignore at their peril.

    P.S. Any article about Ethiopian politics should contain terms like US puppet,CIA brought to power Meles Zenawi or Ethiopia is a US proxy colony otherwise people will suspect the authors who are often naturalized citizens of the USA.

    አንድ አዋቂ ኢትዮጵያዊ ምን አለ መሰላችሁ:
    ” በውጭ : የሚኖሩ : ኢትዮጵያውያን : በተለይም : አሜሪካ : የሚኖሩ : ለምንድን : ነው : የአሜሪካን : መንግስት : መውቀስ : የማይፈልጉት ?

    - የሆድ : ነገር : ሆድ : ይቆርጣል ::”

  8. Lucy in America
    | #8

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    Ethiopia’s regime most illiterate – Brian Stewart

    February 10th, 2011 | | 3 Comments

    Brian Stewart, a journalist for CBC and one of Canada’s most experienced foreign correspondents, writes that Ethiopia’s regime has a blasé attitude about food shortage in the country and that he supports The Economist’s description of the regime as one of the most economically illiterate in the world. The following except is taken from Brian’s 2009 article, but still applies today as the U.N. is making yet another call for emergency food aid alert on behalf of 2.8 million Ethiopians.

    Ethiopian regime’s blasé attitude about food shortage

    The Ethiopian government has said it doesn’t expect this year to be much worse than last, and it is “confident it has done everything it can to feed its hungry people.”

    This almost blasé attitude in Addis, gives no comfort at all to aid officials who tend to agree with an Economist magazine’s characterization of Ethiopia’s government as well-meaning but “one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world.”

    President Meles Zenawi is unlikely to be reckless enough to downplay a real emergency, but there is always concern that regional officials might dismiss rising malnutrition figures to protect their own political hides.

    From what I have seen, Ethiopians hate their nation’s image as a perpetual victim of disasters. And donor nations have clearly grown weary of annual calls for aid.

    One can sympathize with both views. But such sentiments cannot be allowed to obscure facts.

    Yes, development efforts on the ground are indeed starting to yield progress (and I intend to write about these another time).

    But Ethiopia, the 12th poorest nation on Earth, will simply not be able to fully feed itself for many years, likely a generation at least.

    The abject poverty of land and population are simply too stark, too intractable to offer a quick end to this recurring nightmare, no matter what economic or market reforms are tried.

    Back when I was covering the famine in 1984, I never imagined — or perhaps let myself fear — that Ethiopia would be such a difficult problem for the world to fix.

    I underestimated what a grinding, unrelenting effort would be needed to confront its timeless poverty. This time back, I fear we underestimate it still.
    Share

    3 Responses to “Ethiopia’s regime most illiterate – Brian Stewart”

    1. Tulu Oda says:

    TPLF is indeed the most illiterate regime in the whole world

    February 10th, 2011 at 11:29 AM
    2. Shaebia says:

    Why state the obvious now? Is it because the US propped up tyrants are finding themselves in hot water? Is it because Meles is the inevitable next in line to face the music that got Ben Ali & Mubarek who is expected today to relinquish his 30 years of carreer as a water carrier for the US’ & EU’s IMF & World Bank, taking orders.
    Meles has kept the Brave people of Ethiopia under severe poverty life so as to fend them off from any Latin America or North Africa type of revolution. Besides, Meles has a reputation for mowing down peaceful protesters and invited a G8 meeting & dinner woth his financiers in the immediate aftermath of his Agazi private militia massacred innocent people in the streets of Addis Ababa.
    No pseudo revolutionaries from outside or their western allies can save Ethiopia except those brave men & women inside Ethiopia.

    February 10th, 2011 at 11:31 AM
    3. TT Camara says:

    The cause of Poverty in Ethiopia and its inability to feed itself has less to do with natural disasters and more with mismanagement and greed. Those in power are not different than looters. They never has had any national vision or concern for its people. All they have is greed for power and money, and they do not care if millions die as long as they remain in power!

    February 10th, 2011 at 1:09 PM

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  9. Lucy in America
    | #9

    Ethiopia’s regime most illiterate – Brian Stewart

    February 10th, 2011 | | 3 Comments

    Brian Stewart, a journalist for CBC and one of Canada’s most experienced foreign correspondents, writes that Ethiopia’s regime has a blasé attitude about food shortage in the country and that he supports The Economist’s description of the regime as one of the most economically illiterate in the world. The following except is taken from Brian’s 2009 article, but still applies today as the U.N. is making yet another call for emergency food aid alert on behalf of 2.8 million Ethiopians.

    Ethiopian regime’s blasé attitude about food shortage

    The Ethiopian government has said it doesn’t expect this year to be much worse than last, and it is “confident it has done everything it can to feed its hungry people.”

    This almost blasé attitude in Addis, gives no comfort at all to aid officials who tend to agree with an Economist magazine’s characterization of Ethiopia’s government as well-meaning but “one of the most economically illiterate in the modern world.”

    President Meles Zenawi is unlikely to be reckless enough to downplay a real emergency, but there is always concern that regional officials might dismiss rising malnutrition figures to protect their own political hides.

    From what I have seen, Ethiopians hate their nation’s image as a perpetual victim of disasters. And donor nations have clearly grown weary of annual calls for aid.

    One can sympathize with both views. But such sentiments cannot be allowed to obscure facts.

    Yes, development efforts on the ground are indeed starting to yield progress (and I intend to write about these another time).

    But Ethiopia, the 12th poorest nation on Earth, will simply not be able to fully feed itself for many years, likely a generation at least.

    The abject poverty of land and population are simply too stark, too intractable to offer a quick end to this recurring nightmare, no matter what economic or market reforms are tried.

    Back when I was covering the famine in 1984, I never imagined — or perhaps let myself fear — that Ethiopia would be such a difficult problem for the world to fix.

    I underestimated what a grinding, unrelenting effort would be needed to confront its timeless poverty. This time back, I fear we underestimate it still.
    Share

  10. Anonymous
    | #10

    When a man kills himself in such a dramatic fashion by burning himself alive as young Bouazizi did,one may,with deep emotion,notice the following couple of things.
    The situation that the person faces must be long standing,simmering and oppressively desperate.
    And the solitary act of committing suicide may be an ultimate individual protest and a cry for help by an extremely helpless person.

    Of course no body wants to die.I am sure Bouazizi never did.

    Like any one us,by dint of his hard-work,educational attainment and youthful ambition, he must have desired to make it;succeed.But he was not allowed to.
    He was not allowed to live a life exempted from penury,fear and insult inflicted while eking a living under a corrupt dictatorship.

    His hard-work,honesty and humanity did not bring him any meritocratic rewards by way of social mobility.
    In fact,the more he practiced these things,he was,like the many,
    sidelined and made some thing of a ‘looser’,while a few others who,co-opted by the corrupt politicians-the men of the people,’smartly’ played it by ‘the rule book’,he witnessed, were showered with ‘success’ by the system. These few opportunist ones who did not care about truth,did not bother about dictatorship and said ‘governments come and go but their individual welfare and interests stay permanent’,he saw,shared in the wealth and the power the venal autocrats while his life,he felt,was rendered worthless.

    He felt he was cramped.He was oppressed.He was cornered.He,like a harassed beast,was at bay.He reached no point of return.

    He believed in the core of his being that these things were morally untenable and absolutely wrong.

    While living under a corrupt security state,every one around him was either eager to get a few crumbs from the table of those who run the show or was a virtual prisoner of his own fear.And that fear,therefore by destroying human solidarity,deprived him of having a bosom friend whom he can share the injustices and the agony of his dire situation.

    He was a helpless loner who cried out his loudest for sympathy by his dramatic act of setting himself ablaze.

    Was he helpless,though? No! no! That would be a superficial psychological reading of his individual act which went on to trigger a huge social action.The helpless helped us,the ‘condemned’ ones.

    His cry for sympathy therefore did not go unheeded.
    Hundreds of thousands,if not millions,have already heard him and that has given us the miracles of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions,just to mention only two.
    The echo of that cry is still reverberating else where with the promise to arrive,in its own blessed hour,to our country too.

    Revolutions have their own dynamics.Rather,they have their own wits.
    They know how to wrong foot the omnipotent oppressor,his omniscient pundit or the mimicking cynic commentator.

    Those who heard that blazing cry of the young Bouazizi and took to the streets are now new persons.

    The great Egyptian novelist,Alaa Al Aswany,tells us why.
    ‘…Everyone who takes part knows what kind of person he was before the protests started and now he is going to feel different…WE HAVE DIGNITY.WE ARE NOT SCARED ANYMORE…’

    In deed to live with fear is to live with out dignity.
    And to live with out fear is to live with dignity.

    Thanks for being sensitive,as usual,to that significant message and amplifying it through your beautiful article,dearest Teodros.
    Thanks again.

  11. teodros kiros
    | #11

    I thank you for your sensitive reading of the article. As you notice, I was insulted by a few, but it comes with the job.

    Teodros

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