by MeKonnen H. Birru, PhD
Charles Dickens in his book Hard Times wrote ‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, Sir!”
A year or two ago I heard a couple of ESAT journalists introduced you as ‘young and intellectual’. I was excited first because such adjectives mean to me courage, reasoning and facts. Unfortunately, I found none of them in you rather you are small, illiterate, prejudice, and very narrow.
In 1940’s Hitler used Jews as a scapegoat for the loss of World War I, and labeled them as disloyal and not true Germans and decided to wipe them out. It is and was nothing but hate! I smell the same in you. In Rwanda, More than half a million our African brothers and sisters were killed because of hate. Very recently, we witnessed the same tragedy in Europe. The same hate flame is burning in Nigeria and Syria so many have preached such evil doctrine of racial and religious purity and cause unimaginable sorrow and horror in humanity. You, sir, are trying to play your evil share and I urge you to stop!
In 1991, I was one of the nine thousand Ethiopian college and university students who volunteered to go to Belati Airborne Military Training Center. I lived, trained, laughed, and cried with so many of my fellow Ethiopians; not as Oromo, Amhara, Muslim, or Christian. It was though and dangerous but beautiful. Every single night in Belati, we used to sing and discuss about Ethiopia, our motherland.
In Kenya, as refugee, so many of as spent difficult time. The summer rain was powerful. Showing in deluge the whole day, it also beat down heavily during the night. The firewood we used for cooking our food got soaked through with water and we found themselves in severe problems. We were compelled to eat raw the soybeans and corn flour we had been given the second time from the European aid organization. Most of us had become pale and hollow in the face, and only our noses remained peaked as a monument. With hunger and cold becoming our fate, many of us to rack with cough. However, in that foggy and rainy difficult time, I used to feel warm and happy because I was among my brothers. We were comforted by love: Love of each other, love of history, love of courage, and more than all love of our motherland, Ethiopia. Hence, on July 25, 1991, so many of us decided to go back to our home, Ethiopia. Same day, I wrote the following Journal while sitting on a rock in Moyale, Ethiopia. I want you to read it, sir.
July 25, 1991 Moyale, Ethiopia
Today, when I saw in front of me a wide, watercolor painted steel door, a shiver went through my spine. My head felt giddy. I was moved with so strange a feeling. Something inside made me cry; “You, motherland!” called out in a raised voice. Although I didn’t set my foot in it yet, I said, when I saw the hampering door at the gate of the Ethio-Kenyan Boarder, “there’s nothing like freedom. We undesirable of the time! – We, to whom he meaning of freedom has become out of tour depth – ! We, rich with honorable history – ! We, proud of wonderful heritages –! We the riffraff, who do not feel proud of being the off springs of the honorable country, Ethiopia –! We are the dead and buried, who have died not only once but repeatedly time and again!” I said, now coming back to set foot in it from my refugee’s life
Crossing the gate, I came to the road, which had been made of asphalt from Addis Ababa all the way to the order point where I was now, and there I stood on my bended knees. As though I were at the gate of a church, I made the sign of the cross and raising my hand to the high sky, said, “You Ethiopia! In keeping with my solemn words, I’ve come back to you – stretch out your hands to accept me!” and got on my feet.
“Do you have anything for sale?” a short, thickest Ethiopian woman asked me, her eyes pointing to my clothes and blanket, bundled in my suitcase.
“I’ve nothing,” I said, looking her in the eyes. I missed greatly everything that smelt of Ethiopian’s – Ethiopian complexion, Ethiopian cultures, the Ethiopian…
“Then what’s it that you carried?”
“It’s some property,” I said with a smile
“Do you have money?
“I’ve two Birr”
“Don’t you have other than that?”
“I don’t” I answered, staring her deeply.
“Follow me.” She said, walking forward; going into the downtown from the boarder point, there were modern build at each side of the road to the upward stretch of the narrow asphalt road. The varicolored bars that had mushroomed in town could meet the eye everywhere.
“Sit down here.”She said, directing me to a bench at the same time looking at me with a turning face. In that much plastered, two-roomed house, I sat on a bench in the main room.
I ate the Teff injera and its complementary, shiro wot, greedily. “Ah, everything of the motherland gets missed!” I said. I had felt at the beginning that nothing would make my belly fill, but here now I felt satiated not yet having gone through half of what she put on the table.
“Thank you very much indeed.” I said; stretch out my hand to give her the two Birr.
She gave me a smile, “ I don’t want it. I won’t accept money from you. I know where you coming from. I know why you here. You and the likes of you are true Ethiopians. I too have a brother, a blood brother I mean. But you too are my brother, Ethiopian brother. “She said, pushing aside my money held hand.
Tears gathered on the edges of my eyes. My inner feelings, which I had never been able to understand, now seemed to me to get the gist of something. Moving my lips, I said to myself, “Ethiopian. Ethiopia, the sign of fellow feeling,… loving one another,… benevolence, … the sign of all good things, … Ethiopian” then I said to her, “I again thank you very much, I’ll never forget you…You are my sister” and took her hands in mine to say good bye to her; my Ethiopian sister. It was almost twenty years ago, in the month of July.
Now, too, Jawar; I need not a hate monger, but an Ethiopian brother.
Long live mother Ethiopia.
You can reach the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
by MeKonnen H. Birru, PhD