Born in pain, growing in torture By Ephrem Madebo
Six years ago – a predisposed Ethiopian prosecutor accused journalist Eskinder Nega and his wife, Serkalem Fasil, and charged them with treason. The young couples who love their country and profession were expecting their first child when they were sent to the notorious Kality prison. While in prison, Serkalem gave birth to the couple’s first child and the life of Nafkote Eskinder started in Prison. The prematurely born Nafkote was severely underweight when he was born due to a deliberately imposed physical and psychological hardship on his mother. The prison doctor ordered to place him in an incubator to save his life, but the heartless prison authorities who have no regard for life denied the newly born baby the only chance to save his life.
Six years later, [last week] another predisposed prosecutor accused Eskinder Nega. Though Eskinder Nega has nothing to do with terrorism, this time he was charged with the act of helping terrorist organizations. Well, thanks to God, this time Nafkote Eskinder is a grown boy and he has seen his fifth birth day, but the kality saga once again followed him and he was mentally battered by the callous Ethiopian authorities. Last Wednesday, when the savage TPLF security forces handcuffed and dragged away his father, five years old Nafkote was wailing in torment and confusion. At the moment, the only words uttered form the crying boy’s mouth was – “Where are you taking my daddy?” He kept on repeating these words until the ugly car that carried his dad disappeared in the direction of ‘Makelawi Prison’ or simply Zenawi’s butcher house. The criminals never bothered to answer Nafkote’s legitimate question, but make no mistake, Nafkote’s question will be answered!
I’m sure most of us have heard the inspiring interview given by Serkalem Fasil after the arrest of her husband. This courageous woman, who has already endured mental and physical abuses in Kality, clearly knew where her husband was going, but when asked about the arrest of her husband; her concern was not actually him, it was the absence of liberty, equality, and democracy in Ethiopia. To her, the arrest of her husband was one little price that they as a family have decided to pay for freedom. She is absolutely right, but let’s not forget that this is a debt to be paid!.
The Ethiopian security forces are known for their savage killing of children, but at the age of five, Nafkote Eskinder is the youngest known victim of Ethiopia’s ruthless crackdown on journalists and political dissidents. Nafkote Ekinder’s life will never be the same. The soft kisses of his mother, the pats on his shoulder and the “I love you” rituals cannot wipe away those horrific memories from a little boy whose father was snatched by human in-humans right in his face. According to Serkalem, the trauma form that unfortunate day has already started taking its toll on her five years old boy. He has refused to go to his daycare or to even play outside his home. To Serkalem, to hubby Eskinder, and of course to the entire nation, this is a wound that hurts the most. To some of us especially to those of us who are innocent, Zenawi’s disparcable crime on a five years old boy might seem a random act. Not at all, and this has never been the case because ethnicity and ethnic supremacy have powerfully shaped the formation of the TPLF and its ideology ever since. Everything Meles does has ethnic motivation. To Meles Zenawi and his gangs, there is no difference between Eskinder Nega and his son Nafkote as long as Eskinder is not part of the “Golden Race”.
In the last 6 years, we have witnessed horrific cases of extreme violence against innocent citizens including children. In 2005, we vulnerably agonized as the skulls of our children were pierced by 50 caliber armor-piercing cartridges. In the aftermath of the 2005 election, thousands helplessly watched when their loved ones were rounded and sent to concentration camps. The free world watched and wondered how anyone could be so cruel. But, the obnoxious enemy strikes again and this time the strike casts a dark shadow on the future of a five years old whose life started in prison. This is a hateful and malicious act that can be undone only by removing the actors.
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in shackles” – I’m pretty sure if Jacques Rousseau is allowed to read wiki leaks or if he looks down at the crimes committed by Zenawi’s regime against the Ethiopian people, I have no doubt that he would change his classic quote to “Ethiopians are born free; and everywhere they are in chains”. Yes, Ethiopia has never been the land of freedom and arresting citizens has always been the major part of government activity in Ethiopia, but Ethiopia has never seen a regime that uses one ‘branch’ of the government to institutionalize crime and the other branch to criminalize innocent citizens.
I love Fridays. Who doesn’t? Fridays have that good feeling about the end of the work week, staying up late, sleeping in till you wake up rather than the alarm waking you up, and of course there is a that gleaming night life for party animals. After all, it’s ‘TGI’ – “Thanks God its Friday”. I love Fridays for all of the above, but lately, especially, in the past two years, it is the true voice of freedom from Ethiopia by the name Eskinder Nega that had me fall in love with Friday all over again. His lucid, substantive, and incisive articles on ethiomedia have literally made me love Fridays and start the Friday count down on Wednesday. I can forget many things, but I can never forget Eskinder’s thought provoking articles that start with substance and finish with a classic message . . . “Fight tyranny from your PC”. Yes, that is all Eskinder did! He fought tyranny with no fear what so ever!
Eskinder is a man of courage who was born with passion for freedom long before he became a journalist. He was here in the US like most of us, but when the comfort of western life kept most of us here in Europe and America, his love of freedom, his desire to fight, and his determination to be free on his own land took back to Ethiopia. He knew there would be no passion in life if he never fought for what he loved. And what he loved was freedom, not a pile of money, land or party positions from a corrupt regime.
The two young heroes, Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage knew for sure there was danger in their way. They knew they were on the radar of a vicious dictator, most importantly, they knew they were walking on the path of death. But, they courageously kept on fighting because they believed what death inflicts on them and on their loved ones is by far less than what their death inflicts on the enemy. Andualem and Eskinder are born with a natural desire to resist oppression and they are the unadulterated brands of past and present Ethiopian heroism.
Evidently, what I said so far might sound strange and bizarre to a coward that thinks with his legs, but this is exactly what Andualem Argae said a day after his arrest. When he was asked by the federal judge to comment on his arrest, this is what Andualem said- “I don’t care what this court does, even if I get the death penalty! I know this drama is staged to perpetuate oppression by weakening opposition parties” When asked- “don’t you believe in the independence of this court” by the fuming judge, Andulalem uttered what could be his last word in Zenawi’s political court- I don’t believe it is! Forget the savage agazis, or for that matter the entire security apparatus of the regime, this is the voice of freedom, passion, and determination that no force on earth can silence. We will be free because we have millions of Eskinders and Andulems in all corners of Ethiopia. The freedom sound of the tireless voices of Eskinder Nega and Anualem Arage is the price we as a society pay for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Eskinder Nega’s sharp and focused articles have attracted many Ethiopians including supporters of the repressive regime. In fact, some of the regime’s apologists have responded to him very harshly, but the far-sighted Eskinder knew very well that he did not have to agree with them to defend them from the injustice and the humiliation that they ignorantly seem to enjoy. What Meles Zenawi and his gangs don’t understand is that, the invincible spirit of Eskinder Nega and Andulaem Arage is bound to uproot 20 years of ethnic dictatorship in Ethiopia. No matter what Zenawi does and no matter how many he arrests or kills; Andualem and Eskinder have rung the last bell, and we will never rest until we put dictatorship to rest.
Journalist Eskinder Nega and UDJ leader Andualem Arage are both young and staunch advocates of non-violent struggle. Debebe Eshetu is an accomplished artist and political activist. Reeyot Alemu is a young teacher and a columnist, and Bekele Gerba is a college professor. Jesus Christ! Why would these people would even think of committing an act of terror? What do these individuals have in common? Religion, ideology, or what? Terrorism is the tactic of demanding what you want at gun point. However, every crime committed at gun point is not an act of terror because there is fanaticism, ideology, religion, and weapon of destruction behind every act of terror. In fact, if anybody is a terrorist in Ethiopia, it must be ideologue Meles Zenawi himself who uses force practically for everything he does.
I don’t think Reeyot’s parents knew each other when Debebe Eshetu acted in “Shaft in Africa”. Eskinder Nega may have been a toddler or may not have been born when the “Gang of Seven” entered that infamous Dedebit wilderness. Andualem Arage, Bekele Gerba, and Woubshet Taye are people who lived most of their life in Zenawi’s lawless Ethiopia. If these citizens of different age group and profession have anything in common, it must be their indomitable spirit and their thirst for freedom. Trust me, the word “Freedom” has the same meaning to the Ethiopian regime as the word “Al Qaeda” has to the US administration. Freedom and democracy have never come and will never come from the government. The true sources of freedom and democracy are the people, people life Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, Woubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu, Debebe Eshetu and many other unsung heroes.
Our most destructive fear, the one that we have been wrestling with is the fear of TPLF’s false image of invincibility— which ironically is the easiest thing to do if we get our house in order.We live in a world where there is fear; in fact, there is no human being that does not get frightened when she/he faces danger. The famous American psychiatrist Karl Menninger said: “Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out” Yes, fear is educated and it has been the vital curriculum of the TPLF regime in the last 20 years. Thanks to Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage, they have educated out the fear from us. These two heroes taught us to face our fear, not to avoid it. They restored in us that original Ethiopian courage- which is the courage to conquer fear when we face danger. This is the greatest message of 2004 from Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage. There is more peace, reason, valor, and compassion in these two young heroes than there is hatred, ignorance, and violence in Meles Zenawi and his cronies. This alone is a guarantee that we shall win!
My heart moves for Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, Debebe Eshetu, Wubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu and for every hero, every survivor of Zenawi’s horrible crime, and every citizen of Ethiopia. May God bless Ethiopia- We shall overcome!