On The Road To Entoto: Encountering the Languages of childrem in Despair – By Prof. Teodros Kiros

December 13th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Thirteen years ago, I attended a wedding of my sister Aida Kiros to Dr.Shewit Bezabeh, in Addis, at my mother’s villa. The wedding introduced me to Ethiopia’s cultural landscape. (more…)

Thirteen years ago, I attended a wedding of my sister Aida Kiros to Dr.Shewit Bezabeh, in Addis, at my mother’s villa. The wedding introduced me to Ethiopia’s cultural landscape. There in that beautiful house, basking under the generous Ethiopian sun, I welcomed to our home a huge number of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and from all lifestyles. They were young and vibrant, fragile and emaciated, wrinkled and beautiful, poor and proud, rich and vain. Wearing subtle smiles, they all came to share my mothers’ happiness. This was the wedding that cleansed my mothers’ sorrows, since a few years ago we had lost my youngest brother, Solomon, at the tender age of twenty-four. Solomon was an exceptional human being.

A few days later, after a conversation with a relative about places to see, I settled on visiting Entoto on foot. The visit I thought would blend my daily regimen of walking ten miles with the cleansing of my soul through meditation.

Ato Mekonnen, the family driver, took us there. At first, he insisted that we take the car. I refused and he relented. I managed to recruit my reluctant wife May to join the adventure. We began ascending slowly but steadily. Ato Mekonnen was following us with the car.

It was midday. The sun was scorching hot. The meandering road to the summit of Entoto, the first capital of Ethiopia, was breath taking. The Eucalyptus trees, which Emperor Menilik introduced to the country, stood tall, protruding through their prolific branches, announcing to the world that they have adapted to the Ethiopian soil, and have become new forms. The scene mesmerized us. For a brief moment, I lived life as art.

Sadly, the sight of burdened women carrying huge loads of firewood on their backs, and hating every minute of it aborted my joy. Dozens of them formed elegant lines and kept on walking without end. Women and girls stooping low, barely walking, with their heavy eyes focused on the road, occasionally talking to one another, weighed down by wood on their abused backs, forcing themselves to walk up, to unkwn destinies that I did not want to imagine. Such women are fated to die in the prime of their lives.

Two young women turned their faces and gave my foreign wife and me an ambiguous gaze. I was awestruck by that stern look directly at my eyes.

That ambiguous look is so unlike the look that I am accustomed too on the streets of America. The racist gaze in America judges you directly and unambiguously. It tells you that you are out of place, that you are not supposed to be where you are, on the turf of the white person. That you must move to another space with your own kind. The gaze of these overburdened women is that of envy and resentment. They are shocked by your privileged appearance. Their sustained look indicts you. They are repulsed by your privilege, perhaps unearned, or gained through luck, or simply by the amassing of power and wealth through corruption and greed. One young woman literally stood and stared at me. She did not open her mouth. She hated my sympathetic looking eyes. She came close to tell me to move out of her sight. Instead, she stared me away.

Indicted and shamed, I moved away. Unlike me, the intrusive hypocrite, well fed and well clad in the west, desperately seeking an encounter with despair, my respectful wife had stayed away. She told me that ” she cannot bring herself to look at these women’s eyes”.

A few kilometers pass by. Three little girls, whom I wrongly identified as exceptionally good looking boys, joined us. The little girls diplomatically corrected me when I addressed them as boys. We exchanged our names. The oldest one was eleven years old, strikingly black, comely, with round black eyes and very modestly built nose topped by elegantly cut short hair. Her younger sister, looked exactly like her sister, but was an inch taller; the youngest, six years old, was young in every sense: curious to a fault, unrestrained, cutely conversational and very happy with herself. They asked me where I lived and what I did for living. I told them that I lived in the United States and that I am a college professor. They inquired about my wife, and I told them that she is from Lebanon and that she too will soon be a professor. Our conversation lightened, and flowed well, until I discovered that they were beggars supporting a bed-ridden mother, and living in a tin shack to which they pointed. With tears in her eyes, Attiti said, ” I dream that one day my mother would suddenly stand up from her bed and discover that she is now living in a clean little room”. I could only say to her that it may indeed happen, that she should never stop hoping. I quoted from Corinthians. ” There are three things that remain, hope, faith, and love.

Of the three, love is the strongest.” She told me that she loved the biblical statement. I said to myself that for most people in prosperous cities, what many consider a dream has been a reality for thousands of years. For most people, like Attiti, living inside a room is not a reality yet. They have never lived in a home. They are not homeless, perse, but rather have yet to experience being inside a home.

For most Ethiopians, dwelling inside a real room is a dream. They can only imagine it.

The girls told me that they climbed Entoto every single day, rarely with full strength. As Attiti put it, ” We do not expect to eat everyday. Sometimes what we bring home is barely enough to feed a single person. Therefore, we take turns. Many times, we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of mother. When we go to bed hungry, we struggle to wake up the next day, to go up and down that mountain.” These words of sorrow were conveyed with a brittle voice and quavering lips. Attiti continued, ” On many rainy nights, our bodies are drenched in water. The next day, we sit naked at home, until our closes dry”. “Do you ever wonder why you have to live like this, when there is arable land in the countryside that you can farm, when the rains permit? You then can build your dream house. You know you can do that,” I said. She laughed and gently replied, ” Gashe. People like us are cursed by God, that is what my mother says, sometimes”. I embraced her and told her that her mother is mistaken. That the new government in Addis is going to change the situation with the help of public action.

We arrived at the summit, visited the beautiful church. Shortly before we took of, May, who loved the girls, took their pictures, which we keep at home, until I return to Ethiopia, to give them in person, assuming that they arethere, and that people will identify their home, from the picture.

These shattered young lives are part of everyday Ethiopian topography. These wasted bodies belong to the realm of the familiar, the natural, where policy does not dare to go, and cameras never document. Some readers know of bitterer stories.

However, the point is not comparing unfulfilled lives. What should shock us all is the fact that they exist at all, and that there is no systematic public action that addresses them Medical technology has practically eradicated all diseases, except cancer and AIDS. They too will be cured, in time.

Look at us Ethiopians. Surely, the regime in power tries, and is succeeding. Some remarkable projects are on the way. The gigantic Sheraton, the future Satellite City, the slowly but surely booming economy for the rising middle class, is notable and impressive achievements. The public is dormant. How about endemic deprivation, which we have relegated to the familiar? Where is the comfortable public? Where is its conscience? Why is the church attending and religious public not concerned with the emaciated bodies squandering their lives in the desolate mountains and ravines of Ethiopia, like hunted deer running for their lives?

The public must wake up. It should not rest and sleep long hours after partying at our expensive hotels. Ethiopia is still like a sleeping beauty, and a vibrant and responsible public must shake it. It is shameful to party on the backs of those women who literally abuse their backs for the sake of merely existing. They too are moral subjects. They too have a right to live. They too have bodies that must be fed, sheltered and clothed. The life of our poor citizens is being played with. Too often, their misery and bitter suffering are used against one another. The cause of their sufferings is hidden from them. Their causes are mystified and are given quasi-religious explanations, which victims, such as Attiti above, internalized.

Nothing has changed now, as 100,000 children are presently burning in the fire of poverty in contemporary Ethiopia.

That is why we need a regime change, Now; and we solidfy our splitered struggles, we can bring the change that we need, and which the Ethiopian people deserve.

  1. Mesfin
    | #1

    I read Dr. Kiros article with amusement, sometime even with detest. He sounded like a tourist who never knew the extent of the misery our people as if he stumbled on it. For a learned man it makes it even worst to know that this highly stemmed professor, at least on what he writes on the available media sounds as if his article is wrote to be published on one of those entertainment magazine in the usa were westerners read and talk about fund raising and adoption as a causal conversation and activity to move on.

    Why our intellectual elites are so far detached to the misery of the majority of our people has been what puzzling many all theses years. As we learned more for the last 20 years when we had the opportunity to get some reliable information (not from TPLF media), with the exception of a few of our learned men, we witnessed silent or cheering the tyrant who rule us with impunity for the last 17 years. The PHD, Professor, engineer etc. have yet to galvanize Ethiopians to do the right thing to alleviate the suffering of our people and make those who are responsible accountable. Instead artist, media people and community leaders are the only one who tries their best to get their voice heard.

    Where is the solution to poverty from the intellectuals who romanticize in their articles and make a living researching it to death? Where is the call to address it honestly in that the problem of absolute power by the ruling party, its strangle hold on the means and ways of economic production and use it as a weapon? Where is the action to the corrupt business community exploiting the population in the cover of development with no transparency in collusion with the ruling party? Where is the cry to the extortion of the ruling party business empires and those learned persons bribed in to submission?

    Dr Kiros, your credential and your romanticized article does not worth the paper it is written on for Ethiopians until you address the fundamental cause of poverty and misery of our people and act on it beyond article writing and part time protest.

    You said: “Look at us Ethiopians. Surely, the regime in power tries, and is succeeding. Some remarkable projects are on the way. The gigantic Sheraton, the future Satellite City, the slowly but surely booming economy for the rising middle class, is notable and impressive achievements. The public is dormant. How about endemic deprivation, which we have relegated to the familiar? Where is the comfortable public? Where is its conscience? Why is the church attending and religious public not concerned with the emaciated bodies squandering their lives in the desolate mountains and ravines of Ethiopia, like hunted deer running for their lives?”

    What does a highway robbery of the TPLF business empire have to do with development and governance but mafia style crime against Ethiopians? Why the learned men and women like you refused to expose it for what it is and speak on one voice to stop it than calling the traumatized public dormant? Where is the accountability of the ruling party’s’ economic and political crimes?

    When you claim the regime tries and the Sheraton, booming economy that created middle class…. as a testimony, have you asked who owns the booming? Where the wealth is created going? Who is monitoring the criminal enterprise you alluded to be the cause of the booming? Are you saying the robber barrens are good enough as long as the ‘economy is booming’ and hopefully trickledown for the masses? How come your knowledge seems to depart when addressing the issue?

    We appreciate your call for the public to wake up, thank you, but for a learned man on the top of for a person who live in an accountable system to overlook the fundamental cause of the problem is a mafia run governance and for what ever reason you choice to blame the public sleeping says more about your desire to overlook the real problem. The public waked up long ago and begging for leadership that tells the truth and brave enough to do something never came.

    I advice you at least tell the truth to power, though you are not willing or able to lead the struggle. The people are awake with our eyes wide open and looking for the missed in action leaders that can tell the difference between what they wish and the sovereignty of the people..

    God bless Ethiopia, with or with out the spiritless intellectuals she will overcome.

    Yours,

    Mesfin B

  2. Alonso – Toronto
    | #2

    Mr Kiros, your article is written with two intentions in mind, I guess. The first one is that you seem to introduce us with your family bio. Why you chose this particular time to tell this is a little ambiguous. The second one is that you intend to tell us about the impact of the misguided economic policy upon ‘100,000 children…in a manner of qualified analyst.
    Shortly, you fail in both ways: no one is ever interested to read or know about the life style of an ordinary person like you. With regard to the children, it is very unfortunate that you fail to understand the magnitude of abject poverty under which millions of Ethiopian children are currently living. If your knowledge of poverty in Ethiopia was kindled by what you saw on the hills of Entoto, then that is misleading impression.
    I expect a better way of understanding and analysis from a ‘college professor’.

  3. Meles Bilash
    | #3

    Proffesoer kros is a proffesor only in woyaneziim and rascizm

  4. Ras
    | #4

    ፕሮፌሰር ኪሮስ-ለምን መቀሌ ተሳፈርው ስለ ኢኮኖሚው እድገት ስለመሃበራዊ ሁኔታ አይተርኩም ነበር?

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