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They Spoke Tigrinya.


They Spoke Tigrinya.


Paulos Irgau.



Right after the iconic artist Hachalu Hundessa was killed, the newly appointed Mayor of Fin-Finne said to reporters that the alleged assailants spoke Tigrinya. What she had in mind and meant to say was in fact, they spoke the language of the enemy. The language of the sworn enemy. The language of the blood enemy. And it was a foregone conclusion that the owners of the language had to be eliminated and the project to carry out the assault was set for November 4, 2020. It was the day when Democratic Institutions in America attested their resilience when they had been under attack for almost four years, and it was equally the day when Ethiopia resigned into the abyss of darkness after the owners of the language of the enemy reinvented the nation into a beacon of hope that had lasted for almost three decades.


The sharp contrast doesn't end there when it takes me personally onto a lane of macabre memories when rabid men in military fatigues with blood shot eyes barged in hapless households in search of people who spoke the language. They found us terrified when we implored them to spare our lives but relented only when they killed my own father. That dreadful night — only five years old, I knew who they were. They spoke Amharic. And my father's only crime was, he spoke the language of the enemy—-Tigrinya. It was March 1976.


The burden of proof was irresistible and equally the moral conundrum was hard to shake off if language including anybody who owns it can be seen as an enemy. Precisely because what happened circa forty years ago was not an isolated incident but a cacophony of issues where brave men and women with a deep sense of history and grander vision dug the archeology which had spanned for almost six hundred years — 1274—1974 save few punctuated interruptions when a single language, value system, culture and mid-set inter alia reined in on the nation with unhinged imposition. Ethiopia, the brave men and women reasoned that—was never a single entity so much so that up to 1907, Ethiopia was two-thirds of what it is today when expansionist Menilik raided and pillaged the South, South-East and South-West where hundred thousand lives were lost in Welayta, for instance. Again, Menilik and his posse spoke Amharic.

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In the 1970s, when Marxist credo was the ethos of the day, the brave men and women refused to subscribe and buy into it when they surgically identified the malady of the nation when the supremacy of one language, culture and value-system as opposed to class struggle was the culprit. As such, the hard-fought struggle came to an end in 1991 and the nation found equality in diversity when the political consensus was sealed not in a barrel of a gun but in a Constitution that guarantees the equality of all nations and nationalities with autonomous leverage to exercise and execute. Primus inter pares became the color and emblem of the nation.


The brave men and women turned into true believers when they set out to put Ethiopia on the pedestal of nations where the skinny poster child was synonymous with the nation no more but a country in a serious mission to replicate what had happened across the oceans when the Far East was dubbed “Tiger-Nations.” Sadly, the true believers had been duped by perfidy and immaculate deceit when behind the veil of solidarity was embedded a sinister motive to hunt down those who speak the language whose only crime is being the others far from the center — the center that had ruled Ethiopia for six hundred years.


The irony of all ironies is that the true believers had to sacrifice the people they belong to lest the center accuses them of partiality. The searing indictment didn't end there when the true believers were accused of rendering Ethiopia a land-locked nation, but the accusation took a life of its own when the accusers in cahoots with those who own the seas attacked them determined to break their spirit. Break they cannot for the true believers are on the right side of history with an army of people who say no more keepers of the gate when Ethiopia was under assault from invaders in the past hundred years. If the Celtics say, “Sinn Fein”, the true believers say, “Ourselves Alone” when the rest of the nation is a burden and liability not worthy of being part of.


The famed historian Margaret MacMillan, in her book, “War: How Conflict Shaped Us.” writes, “.....Bored Gods decide to play with humans and set in motion a train of events so that a man steals another man’s wife; kings fall out over a piece of territory or succession to a throne; a British sea captain loses ear; an emperor’s representatives are pitched out of window in Prague; an American battleship explodes in Havana harbour; monks fight in a shrine in Jerusalem; an archduke is killed in Sarajevo; or Japanese soldiers fired on near an ancient bridge in Beijing, and so there is war. Soldiers die, ships sink cities and towns are sacked and civilians always suffer.....Ideologies, whether idealistic, messianic, wicked or simply crackpot lie at the heart of some of the greatest conflicts in history......” Within that context, you would be excused if you cannot resist the question as to why Abiy Ahmed in a rhapsodic trance wanted to attack Tigray, expunge and destroy Tegaru?


The reason is none of what Margaret MacMillan conceptualized on the above for in his Imperial allusion, Abiy Ahmed felt disrespected when Tegaru refused to be dictated by his right of the cuff dictatorial whims. And little did he know that Tegaru, as paraphrased Rousseau put it, are every person a soldier by duty not by profession much less to be walked on with impunity And no one can defeat, and break people’s fighting will particularly when they are united by a strong sense of destiny and clarity of vision as well.


As I write, I hear disturbing reports where the regime is cracking down on Tegaru living in the rest of the country including the wealthy where the accusation is as lame as playing Tigrinya songs in coffee places and hotels. This I say is not only an omen for much worse to come but it has Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” dystopian novel written all over it where the regime burns any and every literary work written In Tigrinya. That as it may, Fortress Tigray is off limits where the rich culture, tradition and unique place in World history including the entire body of literary work and arts are preserved in every Tigrawai’s mind and heart for posterity. Moreover, the relentless crackdown will embolden Tegaru’s steeled resolve to fight back and fight to the end with inevitable victory. Precisely because as Cardinal Richelieu put it centuries ago, “Man owns immortality for his salvation is here after, the nation [Tigray] doesn’t own immortality for her salvation is here or never.”


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