Let me share with you a letter Eskinder sent me the other day. I could’t give him honest answer, may be you can - ?
I am…, but who are you?
On the evening of September 14, 2011, I was sitting with my son just outside my front door and watching the daylight lose its glory to the unpleasantness of the darkness. As the night progressed, I called my son and said, “ …let’s go inside.” He never answered. He was in another world, eagerly waiting to see that lovely moment when day and night quietly brush shoulders as the sun peeks over the horizon. I shouted out, “…. son!” As if he knew what is coming next, he whispered, “…no.” That was my last night with my son.
As the prison guard slammed the door behind me, I closed my eyes and tried to relax. My mind raced back to where it was twenty four hours ago and stopped halfway. I was exhausted. I started singing the song from the 70s, “When will I see you again” by the musical group The Third Degrees. How ironic. The phrase “third degree” is used to describe the use of torture in prison to get confessions from prisoners. The guard screamed at me, “Shut your mouth!” I ignored him and continued signing. I was singing for my love, Nafkot, for the love of my love, Serkalem and for the love of all loves, Ethiopia.
The Central Prison in Addis Ababa is a depressing and a dreadfully scary place where inmates leave their cells walking upright and come back on a stretcher skinned and dismembered like a slaughtered animal. It is cold, heartless, and brutal house of horrors. When you open your eyes you see ghosts, when you close your eyes you see ghosts. This is not a normal prison. It is a prison of ghosts– human beings whose dignities have been shorn away, bodies abused, hearts broken and minds numbed. But these are ghosts with a spirit of defiance, audacity and honor.
In the past, especially in the last four months, I’ve repeatedly told you who I am and what I stand for. Now it is time for you to know about you. Who are you and what do you do? Are you fighting tyranny? Are you doing your part to get rid of corruption from Ethiopia? Have you determined to make Meles Zenawi the last dictator in Ethiopia? Do you know our failure to unite and our inability to lead has shaken the faith of our people?
To continue as a nation and to ensure liberty to our people, Ethiopia needs self-initiated citizen activism. Our nation has been bleeding for the last 20 years. Our country will not survive these atrocious times if you are waiting for others to lead you. You must be a leader and you must act as if the future of Ethiopia depends on you alone. I am ready to lead. Are you?
Listen fellow Ethiopians, the nation’s hope for liberty is hanging on your shoulder. Our country needs heroes and heroines who must challenge Meles Zenawi’s dictatorship. I am forced to live and struggle in Meles Zenawi’s “Meakelawi”. I am Eskinder Nega. Who are you? Where are you?
Some of us blame the past and do nothing for the future. Some of us dwell in the past and fail to see the future. Some of us simply blame past and current politicians and leaders. Now it is a turn around time! No matter what we do, we can never correct the past, but we can always draw lessons from it and shape our future. Let’s take back our country and choose “who we are” and “who want to be”. We can do this only when we no longer allow our past decide our future. I know I am in prison, but we can do this together if I am in you and if you are in me. I am Reeyot Alemu. Who are you?
I’ve heard you screaming for freedom in different mass rallies and town hall meetings. Do you really want freedom? Do you really know what you want? I am stressing on what you want because knowing what you want is less important than knowing what you must give up to get what you want. Besides, to be free and make people free, the most important thing is not what you take up; it is what you give up. I want you to stop talking about the sacrifices paid by our fathers and forefathers. Now you are a father, it is your turn to do for your children what your forefathers did for you. You are the elect of this generation. Liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness are the three most important things worth living for… and what is worth living for is worth fighting and dying for.
A generation or two ago, most Ethiopians subordinated their individual concerns to that of the nation. Young revolutionaries of the 1970s committed suicide than snitching on their friends and their cause. Just a quarter of a century ago, honesty was the norm of the day and most Ethiopians had integrity. Today, I see selfishness and lack of empathy for others. I see a lot of lying, selfishness, and corruption. My fellow citizens, this is a fatal disease that you and I must cure. We must teach our young people that they would rather be hated for who they are than to be loved for who they are not. I am ready and I am Bekele Gerba. Who are you?
As much as we hate the crimes and human rights abuses of the TPLF regime, unless you and me create a renewed sense of common purpose and finish the job we started we will remain subjugated by the TPLF. Twenty years of internal squabbling and mudslinging has weakened our ability to face the enemy as a united front. We have gone through twenty years of grueling struggle and twenty years of agonizing defeat. I understand that joy and grief, victory and defeat are the two inseparable sides of our struggle, but we are not condemned to lose and grieve and the TPLF is not destined to win forever. We must seek learn from our failure, and transform the pain of defeat into the joy of victory in justice.The difference between us and them is that, for 17 years they were ready to die for what they believed. We are not. My brothers and sisters, if you’re not ready to die for what it is worth dying, then how can you live? I am Andualem Araghe and I am ready to live and die for my belief – justice, dignity, democracy and human rights for all Ethiopians.
Who are you?