A letter with no destination: The “before and after” for learning and action.
In memory of my ultimate Oromo heroes and heroines who certainly are in the heaven.
“Without heroes, we are all plain people and don’t know how far we can go” – B. Malamud
November 3, 2020.
(This article is being translated into Oromia language thanks to my friends and will be posted on OMN and other Oromia-based websites soon.)
Please join me on a ride back in time where I met and lived with superhumans. This very writing may make you feel down. It is kind of tough and torturous. It is a linear and earthly truth though and everything I will say under this article is based on a true story down to every sentence. Yes, there are times I can not tell anyone, except the people who are not here anymore, and it is for this reason that I kept this memoir with me for many years saved, unopened and unread. However, this time I have decided to tell as it is. This very memoir was written twenty-plus years ago and has been saved in my laptop. I have never opened and read it as it shakes my emotional wellbeing every time I try to open and read.
Today, seeing what is happening in Oromia and on its Citizens, I have gotten an absolute courage to open, revisit, tweak, and add some notes or updates and share it with, my readers. It is a tell of loss where their aspirations seem illusive and taking long time to come to fruition even after many decades of their ultimate sacrifices. Beware also, I am not trying to stir and drive the grief pot by mentioning the deceased. I must tell my experience of living in jail along with the heroes during the derg era. Luckily or unluckily, that was what life threw at me.
To those of you who are lucky enough and alive, I wish you every possible good thing. This very letter is meant for those who were not lucky enough like us who were uprooted from their God-given Earthly life prematurely, bizarrely, and quite unreasonably.
Dear my fellow Oromo ex-prison mates: Gabbissa Lammeessa, Ganamoo Jaara, Gazahegn Kassahun, Gazahegn Dalassa, Getachew Baayissa, Girma Ar’Aayaa, Hailu Deargea, Ibssa Guutama, Jamal Kadir, Jamal Abbaa Foggii, Kabbabaa Worku, Kebede Demissie, Kidane Debela, Legesse Jarsso, Lemma Jabessa, Lemma Warqee,Merrara Ejjetta, Martha Kumssa, MohammedZayib, Mekonnen Gallan, Muhie Abdo, Mukta Muummee, Mulissa Gemechu, Mulugeta Mossisa, Aba Biya, Naamat Issa, Fikru Kebede Daba, Daniel Daffa, Aberra Tola, Negash Kumsaa, Nagari Fayissa, Negash Tekle, Nuredin Ahmad, Senbetu Cirachoo, Shiferw Balcha, Shorro Gemechu, Temam Hussien, Teshome Yohanse, Toflos Waawayaa, Ulumaa Uchula, Walde Yohanse, Wondimu Geleta, Tolessa Ibsa, Tsehay Tolessa, Tsegaye Namerra, Tilahun Hirphasa, Yigezu Waaque, Yosuf Ayele, and Zegeye Asfaw.
That you are resting in peace in the Heaven is always my best wishes and prayers. I wish I could send this very memoir to wherever you are. You will have to excuse me for not mailing this letter– but I do not know your new addresses neither do I know your burial grounds. I wish one of you escaped from the last minute of your murders, like Kiros of Mekelle back in my high school days, to tell where your remains were buried so we can come and drop flowers. I wish we could stand at your graves and weep, weep, and weep. Be assured though, we are only unable to find your remains or bodies, not your legacies, sacrifices, and spirits. You are always living in our hearts and minds.
It is true what they say…the good die young. For what? Why? I will never know the answer to that neither does anyone. Death will pick us off all one by one. The journey you had taken is a journey that we all will eventually take even though yours is most honorable and memorable. You had died as you had lived. During our darkest moment in the prison, you had shown us wonderous shining path, a path of perseverance and endurance.
The way we bumped into each other like that in that notorious prison place was unfortunate, very panful, unfair and torturous. It has been many years since you departed from this unfair Earth, a departure without hug exchange, a departure that happened while you were in prison. It was a departure with full of courage. When you were heading out, you did not seem to leave us forever and made it look like ordinary trip while knowing that you were being led to your death. You made it look like It was short trip with a plan to return. When your names were called, you knew where you were heading and yet you accepted it and seemed as if you were heading out to your family homes. It was for love of your people that made you honorably and fearlessly accept your death. How courageous could one be like that?
It is beyond me to comprehend the degree of heroism you had shown. It is a tough lesson to learn and emulate. It is just like impossible. You left us one by one with final smile. After your departure, there was a complete silence for days and days. I vividly remember that very evening you were taken out, no one ate dinner. We all went to our sleep empty stomach. For days, there was a pin drop silence all over the prison camp. We all were deeply wounded, the wound that we still sustain, unable to heal. We were all staying in our cells. No one dared to leave their rooms. You had left a big hole in the prison that we were not able to fill at all. Day time was dark like night. It was like a heavy and dark cloud on top of us that was not going anywhere. There was prison-wide destress and sadness for days, weeks and months. Your families were asking about your whereabouts and were given wrong information by telling them that you were transferred to Assab and Showa’robit Prison centers.
Almost on everyday basis, your faces, your courage, your emotional strength, your high-level emotional intelligence, your unselfish supportiveness, your mentorship skill and desire, your persistence, your perseverance, etc. come to my face non-stop. You were the best. I have been meeting so many people across in my post prison life, in few or short time they all seem ashes compared to you.
It is giving me a sense of healing and a feeling of warm all over inside me to mention your names one by one. You all and the Tegadelti of Tegaru who paid their dear life courageously are standing in my way of admiring and loving anyone else. You are so much better than anyone else alive. I do not think most of the Oromo people in general and the youth in particular, fully know about your history and heroic sacrifices you had made.
To bring you up to speed of what is going on since you left, I could say that much has changed since you left, yet also much has stayed the same. But only the cruel or incurious would suggest such because all of us who loved you are profoundly changed by your loss.
Many bad and good things had happened. The good thing is that not long after your departure, the tables turned on your incarcerators and murderers and had faced an absolute defeat and karma got back at them. Karma had threated them well. The bad thing is, the people you died for are still facing the same challenges you had faced, if not more and the saddest thing is that life on the green planet that we are leaving in seems not changed a bit after you left. Their civil rights are being transgressed on daily basis. They are running in every direction to avoid prison and persecution. Most of the schools found in Oromia are being used as prison places as the number of them out weights the capacity of the prison places. Hundred-fold of our old Maikelawi and Alembekagn are created all over Oromia. Your children need your prayers from the Heaven you are in. Please show up in their drams if you can so they can continue to fight resolutely.
Ever since you departed gracefully and honorably , the goals you set, the visions you had, the sacrifice you made seem not to produce much as your people that you died for are still going through the path you had taken. They are being jailed for no good reason, they are tortured and harassed for no other reason other than being from that Oromia, the mother of the braves. The current leader of the country who claims coming from Oromia seems to destroy the region and its people. He is acting worse than Mengistu, the butcher. He is heartless and traded the sacrifices of all to his personal gain and power. Their true leaders are languishing in prison and thousands are being jailed without seeing the doorsteps of any courthouse. Political assassinations have become not only common but also rampant. People are being killed and thrown out in the wilderness. Rules and laws have become scarce.
I know you are numb and in shock by what the current regime of abiy is doing to your people. I can feel you tossing and turning in your graveyards. My intention here is not to take advantage of your loss.
I do remember everything vividly because it was my first experience living in prison and incredibly young jailed along with you all, the greatest, smartest, self-less and good-hearted people. You had assisted me a lot in my emotional and mental growth. Through your guide and mentorship, I was able to mature fast and I thank you for that. Every time I see up the broad and infinitively wide sky and stare at it absently your images and your names come to my face and mind and make me tear up. Every time I think about you, my heart bends in the wind like the palm trees of Los Angeles and Florida.
You were defying the degradation of the prison life, the fire of the terror and the pernicious process of disintegration. Your jailers did not and could not jail your mind except your physical nature. They were not able to shut you up. You were speaking up your mind, reading, and that was what you were teaching us: to continue reading, clandestinely write our experiences, to make continuous self-reflection, make eye contact with ourselves, and searching ourselves. That was the reason why you were telling us “we do not have mirrors or even reflection surfaces anywhere in the prison compass. We are not lucky to own such luxury. Our viewing mirrors are our minds.”
I also remember Abo Zegeye Assfaw’s advise “They cannot and should not jail your mind, and they can not shut you up. You better die than being told and act.” You were teaching us how writing between those thick walls could give us the feeling of self-liberation. Thanks to you and the lion-like Tegaru prisoners, we were very much aware that fear itself is always more dangerous than the thing you fear. The fear of death is worse than dying. No where is fear more fatal than in prison. As the result of your exemplary teaching, we all were awaiting death fearlessly without even thinking about it and what really amazes me most about you was that you applied what you were preaching by exiting our prison camp on the final call of your names for no return departure with ease. I remember how you headed out fearlessly knowing that they were walking out to the “Death Valley”. I even remember some of you giving your personal precious belongings such as your wrist watches and the money you had in your pockets while leaving. I had never seen any one of you showing any not even an iota of a scared face. What an honorable way to die.
You guys are hard to forget. If I forget remembering my prison mentors, shining examples, “Dutch mentors”, and educators, the World will whip me with its displeasure. How can I forget your generosity, kindness, self-less support and guidance, your humility, your discipline, courage, and your exceptionally mind-blowing personality? It is just impossible not to remember you all.
Sadly, your flames were extinguished prematurely. I am not like lifeless robot. I have emotions and I am being overwhelmed writing about you, mentioning your names, remembering your life in prison. My tears are streaming all over my face covering up my view. I am being distracted by my tears. You took all the well-fed brains with you all to nowhere. I wish all your personalities and knowledge could be retained so we can benefit from it. You represented a living wall separating civilization from dictatorship, terror, and murders. Your death is the death of all of us.
Once again, that you are resting in peace is my best wishes and prayers. I want to tell you that not only do I admire you but also will admire you always until I head out to my grave and re-join you. Getting to know you all had been an incredibly joy and honor. You were my greatest teachers along others. My prison life was bittersweet because of you. It was a blessing in disguise. My prison life was way better than the years I had spent at Addis Ababa University. There is no comparison to it. You guys were my better professors and I dearly thank you. As we say in Tigray, let the stones, soil, and plants above your remains in the grave be weight less or light like feathers. I am very hopeful that we will once again run into each other. That second time will be the opposite of what we experienced before. I will see and meet you on the other side of the eternal World where misery, pain, abuse, and separations are virtually non-existent. I am a believer in GOD. I love you; I love you, and I genuinely love you. Like my daughter usually say, I love you to the moon and back. Nothing loved is lost and love is stronger than death. I believe there is a World above where parting is unknown, and I cannot wait for it.
Once again, I will always remember the “blessed in disguise” wonderful time we had shared during your short time here on Earth. So long for now until we meet next time again. Continue resting in peace. The only thing is that you cannot be seen, and yes no more your face to look upon, your beautiful smile to see, but you can be heard. We are hearing you. You have not died in vain. Thank you for being the most influential people I have ever met. I have so much left to say to you.
Oh, Oromia you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. You are a place where superheroes were born and raised like the self-less fighters mentioned above. Your womb is like the womb of Tigray, the constant replenisher, who never cease to give birth to heroes and heroines. Oromia would not be much of Oromia if it were not home to these super humans.
Sincerely and appreciatively yours.
To the Oromo youth: The pains and sufferings you are sustaining and being caused by the current government are our pain and suffering as well. We do share genuinely all your sufferings. A grief shared is a grief halved. I am writing the above piece mainly for you, the young who have a societal responsibility to carry out the vision of your founders to the finish line. To my fellow Oromos, you and we, had lost a lot, a loss that has no equal. If I say that you will never have any one or group like them in your lifetime will not be an exaggeration by any stretch of imagination. They were unique, superheroes, and selfless. My short transformation memoir put in the afore-mentioned paragraphs is a slice of your founders’ prison story and their ultimate death that should make you sleepless.
You owe them a huge and a huge debt that must be repaid. You do have a historic responsibility to discharge off your responsibilities. Please read and follow your history particularly about your fathers and forefathers who paid dearly for you. Please continue their legacy. Please build a statue of glory or monuments in their names so we can perpetually look and learn. Please do not let them die in vain. Brothers and sisters, please fight hard. Let the roads, buildings, schools, mountains, parks, and highways of Oromia be named after them. That is how you can honor them.
That is how you can help them not to toss and turn in their graveyards. Anything less is tantamount to crime. Anything less is selfishness. Anything less is self-denial. Anything less is “un Oromo.” Anything less is uncivilized. Whether I am right or wrong, I feel like you kerros are walking in a muddy ground with bare feet where it is full of sharp and broken glasses all over the ground. Please be careful. As to abiy who is showing breath taking disregard for the life of many ( the unscrupulous, double faced and childish who couldn’t deliver one single manifesto pledges he made ) and his enablers and supporters, I am not sure even how they are sleeping at night committing grave crimes to the children of the heroes and heroines who made miracles while in the hand of enemies for the sake of you. You are being led by a narcist who is committing crime of moral turpitude and crime of larceny. We are breathing same air. And we are being affected and infected by it. Let us fight this enemy together. He is our common enemy. Anything less, is uncivilized and long path to take. There is no one, not even close, better partner than Tegaru in your fight against your enemies. Let us go together to the path of common struggle and our victory is as certain as a sun rise.
Remember, no matter how much one can tell, or I can tell, about them or even write a book about their heroic life while in prison, there are always more stories to tell about them. Keep digging to find more. It is your responsibility to do so.
If you do not push and push the lever for your future, you are helping or assisting abiy. I challenge all of us who ever and wherever we are to challenge the system. I put the onus on us to do everything to remove this shameful dictator as soon as possible. The gravity of abiy’s atrocities and sickness means that time is of the essence. Let us act fast and the ultimate triumph is upon us. And remember, do not let your emotions cloud the logic of your fight and negatively affect the lives of innocent non-Oromos. Seeking justice and committing injustice on others are mutually exclusive and disjointed. Anything less, is uncivilized, damaging, and time buying for little abiy. May our Almighty GOD speed up your time for your ultimate victory and healing. Amen!
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