EthioPoint: Ethiopians Analysis | Research Articles

Dear Mother- A young Ethiopian activist’s letter to his mother – Translated by Alem Mamo

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Dear mother,
By now you already know that I am an activist or should I say a freedom fighter (የነጻነት ታጋይ) Along side my best friends, I fight for justice, freedom and democracy in this country of ours. I assure you when I say I fight, I don’t mean fighting with guns or in any violent way. No, we fight with our pens, computers, with our minds, creativity and imagination. I want you to know that ours is uncompromisingly peaceful and non-violent struggle. It is the other side (the government that is) as you know, who is employing brute force on our peaceful struggle, including, mass arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings. Regardless of the government’s behaviour however, we are unflinchingly committed to continue our struggle for justice in a peaceful way because, we strongly believe, in the end those who are on the side of justice and truth always win not those with guns and bullets.
Dear mother,
You have thought me so many valuable lessons that I am applying at this critical juncture of my life and our country’s history. Do you remember when you told me to take other people’s pain and suffering as my own? You said, “we are all God’s children so that when one suffers we all suffer, when one weeps we all weep, when one mother loses a child we all share that grief, when some one’s child is tortured we are all tortured. So, you said “feel those sufferings as if they are your own. Feel them and most importantly act upon them” those lessons are my discipline, my motivation and my guiding principles. I am very proud to call you my mother. Thank you for all the motherly love you gave me.
Every morning when I wake up I remember those lessons and I make sure that my emotional and spiritual being is aligned with those important lessons you imprinted in me. They help me anchor myself on a firm ground. I remember as a little boy sitting next to you as you holding me close to your heart and asking you about your heart beat and you teasing me and saying “you have a big drum in your chest.” I also remember, you were expressing your wishes for me and what kind of person I should be. “Loving, caring, thoughtful and compassionate” you said. I think, with all my shortcomings and failings I am trying to be that person you wanted me to be. I do feel the pain of my people, their suffering is mine, their sorrow is my sorrow, when they bleed I do too. When they are locked up in the dark dungeons, I couldn’t pretend to be free simply I am in an open air prison. That is why, I committed myself to this worthy struggle. To bring about fundamental change. So that, our dream of building free and democratic society in the land of my forefathers could become a reality.

A woman soothes her hungry child in Gubalaftu, a village in the North Welo region of Ethiopia, during a 2000 famine.
A woman soothes her hungry child in Gubalaftu, a village in the North Welo region of Ethiopia, during a 2000 famine.
I confess that It is hard to be away from home and moving from place to place all the time. I wish we didn’t have to go through this difficult challenges to achieve our freedom. I wish I could spend most of my free time with you and my little sister. I wish I could use my talent, creativity and imagination on new scientific discoveries or academic research that will put this ancient and proud land on the path of progress and development. Unfortunately, we are not blessed with that privilege and that is why we are fighting for it. I wish, I could do this from home but we all left home because you know how it goes with the regimes security forces if they know where we are.
I know you also wish for me to have a good career, to be a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer and get married have a family and give you grand children. I know all these things are important in life as well, and I do understand your wishes and hopes for me but, I want you to understand this, at this moment in history there is something more important more urgent that needs to be done. Every generation has its own historical burden and responsibility and my generation is tasked freeing this country from the chains of oppression and injustice. I have committed myself to be part of this historical responsibility and pay whatever sacrifice is required.
I know this is hard on you and on my sister, I remember when I was jailed for 8 months 2 years ago, your frequent travel to the jail where I was it took heavy tool on you and my sister. I am so sorry you have to suffer with me, but I know deep in my heart you support what I do. I think about you and my sister everyday because you are the two most important people in my life. I know you worry about me a lot but I want you to know I am in the company of good friends. We get along very well, there is a higher purpose that binds us together, we look after each other. Sometimes, we argue but in the end we overcome our minor differences and move on. Here there is no time for complain. Everyone is resourceful and creative. Problems are solved quickly and decisions are made swiftly because life here is fast moving and there is no time for endless discussions and debates. We also don’t have the luxury of being pessimists or hopeless because our struggle is hopeful one. As we glimpse, at the rising sun above the horizon we are motivated to wake up every morning hopeful and inspired with the swiftly moving wind of freedom reaching the four corners of our country. The freedom train is rolling through our majestic mountains, farm fields, towns, villages and cities and we (my generation) is in the drivers’ seat as this is our fight, our journey and our moment to shine before the court of history. If we don’t do this, if we don’t get it right history will judge us harshly.
Our days are very busy here. Organizing, writing and communicating with others, once in a while we get sometime to sit and contemplate when that happens, I write short poems and short stories. Those quite moments are the special moments in which we visualize our freedom. We see that day when we speak freely, we organize and express ourselves with out fear and intimidation. The poem below is my most recent one. I hope you and my sister like it.
I am the change
Darkness hell that besieged this land
Our warm tears that wet the ground
The nourishment of our blood
That enriched our homeland
is beginning to show fruit
bright morning sun
smiling on our mountains
telling us to continue
to keep on struggling
to keep on marching
to keep on fighting
until that day, day of freedom
we sing the song of liberty
I am the change
You’re the change
We are the change
Let’s stand in unison
For our freedom, for the rising sun
ለውጡ እኔ ነኝ
በእምባ ደማችን ጠብታ የዳበረው ከርሰ ምድር
ፍሬ ማፍራት ሲጀማምር ደምቆ ሲያምር
ፈገግ ሲል የማለዳው ብርሃን ቀንዲል
የነጻነት ጉልህ ጮራ ብሩህ ቀለም ሲቀጣጠል
የእኩልነት የፍትህ አለም
ፍንትው ሲል ጎላ ብሎ ሲያስገመግም
ለውጡ እኔ ነኝ ለውጡ አንተ ነህ
ለውጡ አንቺ ነሽ ለውጡ እርስዎ ንዎት
ለውጡ እኛ ነን ሌላ አይደለም
እናቀናጅ ባንድ እናልም
ለነጻነት አብረን እንቁም ።
I know you need help with so many things, and I wish I could be there to give you a hand with the garden and other things but at this moment my country, your country our needs my help. I promise, as soon as our country is free from this brutal regime, I will be home to be with you and help you and will never leave you again.
I have to go now; we have been told that the security forces are conducting a sweep in the neighborhood. You know how they behave, their violent actions sometimes make us wonder what is happening to their very of humanity and decency. For the sake of the success of our struggle, we have to be a step ahead of them. We have to move to another safe location quickly. I will be writing another letter very soon.
Please give a kiss to my little sister on my behalf. I miss her dearly, I miss her smiles and giggles. I hope she is helping you with your daily household chores while doing her school work. I love you and thank you for teaching me all those valuable lessons. I will see you when freedom bells ring in the four corners of our country. Stay strong, freedom is coming!
Please destroy this letter after reading. I don’t want to cause trouble for you and my sister.
I miss you, I wish I could be with you.
The struggle for justice, freedom and democracy continues!
ለፍትህ ፣ ለነጻነትና ለዲሞክራሲ የሚደረገው ትግል ይቀጥላል!
With love,
Your son,
Name withheld for security reasons
Note: I have translated the letter from Amharic to English to the best of my ability making sure the authenticity and originality of the letter is maintained. The young activist also wants the world to know, the suffering and injustice that the Ethiopian people experience everyday under the rule of brutal authoritarian regime.
Translated by Alem Mamo
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