SOLUTIONS WITH DEBTERAW, VIII
Call me by my name, address or title
By Wolde R. Tewolde
April 9, 2009
It is not about reaching out
It is about holding on to values
It is not about winning or losing battles
It is about achieving objectives
That EPRP should be judged
This article is the first in a three part series depicting Assegid Wolde Amanuel, the student, the professional and the public servant. AWA died on USA soil but was buried in Addis Ababa on March 29, 2009. This is a tribute and a testimony of a patriot who was misunderstood not only by his friends, colleagues and foes alike but also by his own sisters. Besides, many living murhuran would hopefully understand how the Eway Revolution – the very tenet that Assegid stood for - was and is functioning. By doing so, I hope that AWA and many others like him would be exonerated from the wrong perception perpetuated by all living Eathiopian souls. In addition, this may open up a dialogue with ምሁራን Muhuran versus ጽንሃተ ምሁራን Tsinhate Muhuran.AWA’s funeral service was held at St Michael’s church two weeks from today. Assegid was still popular even in his death. There is no better testimony than his wife and the church clergy who eulogized him to the best of their knowledge about AWA.
Assegid W. Amanuel and I have nicknames for each other. He used to address me as a Wollamo and I used to address him as a Dorze. Why did we address each other in that manner? My own experience with Assegid was during a football match when I have observed Assegid playing football on barefoot while it was raining. Gayo Haleke, the Godson of Germame Neway and Assigid were my favorite soccer players. Although both were playing barefoot and my eyes fell on Assigid’s. That was when and then that I related AWA to the Dorze ethnic whom I saw mixing mud with sand with their bare feet. I bluntly asked whether Assegid belonged to this ethnic group and he bluntly responded as if I was a “Wollamo.” Since that day, we had very close and warm relationships.
In other words, I have read his feet and he had read my face – physical readings. It was because of Assegid that I have maintained to tell to everyone and everybody that my mother had deliberately created scars on my face that would be equivalent to a car tag so that nobody will have difficulty in identifying me. I am glad that I have a definite identity since Assegid’s reminder. Assegid was not angry when I had addressed the way I did and I think he told me that he was one of them – a hard working people. For some period of time, I did believe him. This image reading was so destructive that thousands died or lived in anger. As we went to college our scopes had widen and literature readings have helped us all to change our attitude towards one another.
The Ethiopian Student Movement liberated us to be open and address the way we feel, of course with no qualms or malice towards none. But later on, from physiological to behavioral reading came to our senses and we had developed this name calling to a higher-level while in colleges and professional fields. For us and for thousands like us, to say Dorze, Wollamo, Agame, Galla, Amara, Gurage, Kimante, Tigri, Shankla or any other name-calling did not mean a thing. We were liberated from our ignorance not so because of available curriculum study or books written about sociology on Ethiopia but because of our engagement in the Ethiopian Student Movements, in sports and of course later on as a result of our working with the Eathiopian rural population.
But when I met Assigid in Washington, DC, I addressed him the way I did in Ethiopia. Assigid told me that things back home have become serious and advised me not to use such languages. What has happened? I asked him. Assegid told me only “ነገሩ የምር ሆነዋል” That was the end of that. We parted – he went to Ethiopia and I remained in America. One can compare this name-calling based on phonology with that of today’s addressing one another based on ethnicity and language. What a tragedy!!!
General Wingate High School
For those readers, who do not know about Wingate – he was the major leading a small British –led regular force known as “the Gideon Force”. Orde Wingate joined with the irregular Ethiopian patriots fighting the Italian occupation in Ethiopia. After the defeat of the Italians during the 2nd World War, Haile Sellasie I allowed to be named this prestigious high school after the British General.
What did this school produce? What kind of school was it? Who are the alumni? Where are they now? Have they contributed to the development of Eathiopia yet? Or to the destruction of Ethiopia? Although, the school is my alma mater, I have not appreciated the contribution of its alumni to Eathiopia’s development, especially when the school at the time was supposed to be on par with that of Harvard in USA, Oxford in Britain or Sorbonne in France.
Orde Wingate left Ethiopia without bidding goodbye to Emperor Haile Sellasie I. Writing on Wingate, Wikipedia put the following” Wingate was most concerned about British attempts to stifle Ethiopian Freedom, writing that attempts to raise future rebellions amongst populations must be honest ones and should appeal to justice.”
The British government - the sponsor of the school, had a good system of running the school. We were highly trained to be disciplined, respectful and responsible citizens of what country I do not know. After graduation, some left for England, some to France and others to the USA. I cannot account all those who went abroad for further studies. But Assigid was one of those who went back to serve his country and people and he did in his profession until his sickness took his life.
Assegid W. Amanuel as a bureaucrat in road transport
The first progressive graduate students were employed in the Ethiopian Road Transport Administration. It was the first test of their progressiveness. The sector of road transport was the ideal place for becoming rich albeit through corruption. But none of the graduate bureaucrats became corrupt officials. On the contrary all of them became careful not to indulge in any corruption. And what was interesting everyone and everybody were working in harmony and served the public in honesty and efficient manner. In my view, these graduates were the first group who honestly and diligently embraced to enter the old bureaucracy and change it upside down for good. In other words, Road Transport was a place for the continuation of the Eathiopian Student Movement by other means.
But who were these people besides Assegid? It was better for me to name them in accordance to my visits when I usually enter their respective offices. Amazingly, they were paired in their ethnic backgrounds. Assegid was housed with Lulseged both from Harrar affiliation; Ibsa Gutema and Bekele Geleta both from Wollega region sitting in one room; Gebru Mersha sitting with Yirga Tessema from Gurage region and Wallellign Makonnen and Sine sitting together. These five pairs I used to visit and have coffee or tea in their respective offices addressing them in their ethnic nicknames and we were all enjoying it. Deep inside, we were coming to together for a long haul to help the Eathiopian people for a fundamental change. And we did and still we are continuing the long struggle. I believe most of my readers know the whereabouts of these individuals and what they have done to the betterment of Eathiopia.
While working at the Commercial bank, I had come with many businessmen and bankers, but it was no match for my desire to quench the modern young bureaucrats that I have observed in the transport sector. The working relationship of these graduate students had given me a great hope for any kind of development that would have taken place in Ethiopia. I learnt right there that there was hope and desire for progress provided that certain dedicated individuals were allowed to exercise their power in government to bring a positive change. The type of bureaucracy that was in them was almost perfect. It was a model for me and probably for thousands of Eathiopians. Of course, one major part of their success story was because of their boss by the name Ato Shimellis Adugna. He gave them the power and the choice to conduct their daily business. That model of coming out fresh from a university, serving businessmen, the government and above all the public should have been emulated. I believe also that many have somehow followed their bureaucratic path.
It was undeniable that if not all, most of these young bureaucrats have continued to change the political landscape of Ethiopia simultaneously on a professional as well as on political levels.
It was in this setting that Assegid should be viewed as an expert in transportation and later on communications sectors. He was one of the best whom I call Tsinhate Muhur Akal. Why do I say this? Because, Assigid lived the live of the poor, he knew the living conditions of the land lords, and he understood the need of transport and communications in the country. He acquired the knowledge to qualify him to be a transport expert and all that was required of him was to put it in practice. For this, he was blamed for not helping his friends and relatives to become rich. Assegid was there to help when help was needed, I would think that he had helped his classmates to have jobs but that does not make him a corrupt person. It was a noble thing if he had assisted the Wingaters provided that they were qualified for the task demanded but not at the expense of the public trust. What I do not understand is that why some people complain that has worked with the DERG. Why cannot we understand that people work for their profession? Let us compare AWA’s public service with that of the banker’s (governor) profession of Tadesse G.K.
In reality, Assegid has helped the movement of people and goods from one region to another. We are were we are because, we have seen one another, fought against each other, exchanged goods and services and we even have communicated with one another. Isn’t this phenomenal? I think it is. One can argue that he facilitated the logistics of military and forced resettlement of people from the highlands to the low lands. But that was another matter. Neither the war policy nor the resettlement policy would have involved Assegid WA. He might have been a communist cardholder by default. AWA’s name should be deciphered as a person who volunteered to be a public servant and who had hoped to vote for a final victory (VVV). He died without seeing his wisdom (VV) being implemented. I hope his children will witness his vision and mission being accomplished. God Bless his soul.
TRUTH WILL PREVAIL