Regarding heroes and cowards – By Yilma Bekele
He is in our face. We cannot avoid his gaze. The report said that he looked serene as he left that hellhole of a room they call ‘Court House’. (more…)
He is in our face. We cannot avoid his gaze. The report said that he looked serene as he left that hellhole of a room they call ‘Court House’. Does he know something we don’t? Why is he still defiant as he is led away to serve six years for a crime he did not commit? Is he shaming all of us? Is he our mirror?
It is so curious that we are more upset than the victim. Is our anger a cover for our impotence? A blanket for our indifference? I still have not met any one who is not saddened by the whole affair. That is the positive aspect of the situation. On the other hand when one is upset it is natural to take action to show grievance. Well, where is the rage?
Teddy is just another episode in our continuous tragic drama. Let us just say we are in sensitized to injustice. We reacted when the Kinijit leaders were imprisoned. For two years we kept up the heat on the regime. The bullies were forced to back down. It was temporary. The war crimes in Ogaden intensified. We kept quiet. The famine became public. The government denied the extent of the suffering. We kept quiet. They carried out a sham election. We kept quiet. The corruption is wide spread, the country is for sale and the poverty is unbearable. We shrug our shoulders.
But we were always happy to dance to Yasteserial. We understood what he meant. When he said
be asra sebat merfe betekomew kumta,
lelwet yalmertew zufan lai seweta
adis negus engi lewet meche meta
We all knew what he was talking about. Oh how much we loved him. We danced thru the night. Those in power were not amused. The dye was cast. He has to be punished as an example.
The regime is not that concerned about the Diaspora anymore. The chaos created by the demise of Kinijit succeeded in demoralizing the popular protest. The void created by the lack of leadership helped the dictatorship intensify the repression at home and intimidation abroad. Teddy Afro is the candidate chosen by the regime to teach a lesson to the rest of us.
Teddy is the voice of our bandira. In all his concerts our flag is part of the festivity. Ethiopia and Teddy are inseparable. He makes us swing in strange ways. It is just not the music. The lyrics are so vivid you can feel them enter your inner self. Teddy was Woyane’s nightmare.
Ezhe ga degmo lela tekusat,
Wegene aleke be wose bizat esat esat esat
ere aynegam wey aynegam wey letu
You can feel the pain in Yasteserial. It was a song of both the past and the future. He sings our pain but he also gives us hope regarding our future.
Kerb new ayreekem yeetypia tensae
Band lai kegebane ye fikir tensae
Thus those in power are doing what they have to do to stay in power. That is their job. That is their interest. No one has relinquished power without being asked to. In the civilized West they are not left with any choice. They usually leave peacefully. Our case is much different. They dare us to force them. They put us in a nasty dilemma.
Others, when put in a situation like we are in today fought back. Freedom is won not given as a gift. Human history is testimonial to such an assertion. The fight for freedom and dignity takes many forms. There is no one and one only prescribed method. Our forefathers fought the Italians when they tried to colonize us. Weapons were used in that struggle to avoid subjugation. The Students in the 60’s used marches, pamphlets and other peaceful means to expose the inequality in our society. EPRP, TPLF, OLF and others raised arms to demand for justice.
We find ourselves back to square one. Our freedom is taken away. Our human right is violated. We are made second-class citizens in our own land. If we value freedom we have no choice but to fight back. The Ethiopian people will decide the form of struggle suitable to their circumstances. Those of us outside the country commonly referred to, as the ‘Diaspora’ will have to contribute our fair share.
The struggle waged after the 2005 general election is a proud moment in our history for freedom.
The violent response by the Government of Ato Meles Zenawi drew the wrath of the Diaspora. It erupted like a volcano. There was an angry protest held in every major City in the world. We managed to gather, find the biggest Ethiopian flag there is, hand write or print some placard and march to City Hall or a major intersection in our town. We all felt the injustice and did something about it. We told the world that the universal ‘Declaration of Human Right’ as adapted by the UN is denied to the Ethiopian people by their government.
That was three years back. The same regime is still in power. The repressive organs have been upgraded and are functioning perfectly. Both physical and spiritual needs are denied to our brethren. In other words it is more of the same.
The behavior that shows a marked difference is our indifference to the silent cry of our people. For whatever reason, we have decided to bear witness to our own humiliation. The unjust imprisnment of our dear son/brother is a wake up call. If we value human dignity we have to act. It is not up to the West or any other well-meaning organization to demand our freedom. We are the only legitimate body to make such a demand. It does not require a force of a mob to protest. Each and every one of us is a mob. Our demand is both simple and direct. We demand freedom so we can prosper and build a strong Ethiopia. We have the capacity, the know how and the means to transform our country to the 21st century.
Being outraged is not enough. Acting on the outrage is the proper response. Our rage shows that we care. We should translate our care into actions. Signing the petition for Teddy is a start. We can investigate the many Ethiopian civic organizations and offer our services to one close to our way of thinking. The “Ethiopian Freedom Act’ is bound to come for a vote in Congress, we can lobby. We can call our Representatives and remind them of the lack of freedom in our homeland. We can make an effort to support those who are working on our behalf to teach the new Obama administration regarding conditions in our country. Most of all we can try harder to stay true to Teddy’s message of love and respect for each other. We have to stop this destructive habit of tearing each other down. Teddy is our hero, cowards fear his message of peace and love.