Tribute to Gebru Mersha, by Worku Lakew
I have known Gebru Mersha for over 45 years and he has been a good friend to me over the years. we have lost a great friend and comrade and the country has lost one of its best sons.
My memory of Gebru Mersha stretches back to our days together at the University Students Union of Addis Abeba, then during our working lives in Addis after graduation when he worked in the ministry of transport, and later as a district governor.
Our lives also crossed during the revolutionary struggle in the liberated areas of Gondar and later as refugees in the Sudan and during his days in Holland. I was also fortunate enough to visit him several times in Addis when he was working as a lecturer at the university where he entertained me during my visit from London at his favourite Kitfo Restaurants.
As a transport manager at the Addis Ababa office of the ministry of transport his appointment was electric on its effect on the city. With his magical touch, he immediately got rid of the corrupt and bribe based system of route allocation for the minivans and buses and bent system of requiring permission to load and depart that created so much aggravation for the poor drivers. His popularity went sky high within the first three months.
Later, he was instrumental for the huge support that the newly formed party, EPRP, enjoyed among the Guraghe businessmen in Addis as well as the wider Guraghe nation and among its youth. As one of the prominent members of the party from a minority nation he gave the party enormous national credibility and gravitas.
For most of his life he remained close to that great friend of Ethiopia, professor Markakis from Greece, who had remained a student of Ethiopian history all his life.
At the Institute of Social Studies in Holland, where he obtained a PHD in political science, he was a great presence and a great support for the Ethiopian progressive community in the country and in Europe.
In exile, he kept in touch with his ex wife and children who had migrated to the US showing his wonderful human qualities.
In the Student Union of the university during Haile Sellasie, his voice was always one of courage and unity and he was widely admired by the student union nationally and abroad.
His courses in Addis Ababa university where he taught political science were very popular among the new generation of students and completely packed.
Gebru Mersha, or as we used to call him Gazu, by his name de Guerre, was one of the most fearless and courageous leaders of our generation. Uniquely, he was also a very honest, straightforward and generous person. He had many great qualities including a very loving and warm personality and it is very rare that such qualities are also combined with a strong leadership and fearless nature.
When he spoke at meetings his voice had a hypnotic quality. It was strong, confident, decisive, honest and kind as well as that unique husky quality which was endearing.
As a military commander, he was highly regarded by all the people that he led and addressed all issues in a straightforward way.
Every time I met him he addressed me as Abiye making me feel that I was his long lost brother and this is very rare as I come from the Gondar area which was far from where he comes from.
He always looked everyone straight in the eye when he was having a conversation with people and this gave clarity to what was being said as everything was above board in direct opposition to the complicated culture of our feudal system.
As a true leader, he captivated any large crowd of people from students to fighters and ordinary people with his frankness and decisiveness.
In this age of parochialism where people’s ethnic identity seems to be everywhere, Gazu always united everyone whether you are from a small nation or a great one and treated everyone as a person rather than a member of an ethnic group. He was truly one of the great leaders that would have united the country in the past present or future.
During this sad time for all of us the memory of Gebru as a great son of his country, an icon of our generation and one of the true heroes of our people will always live in out heart and he is as real now as he used to be in the past.
We mourn his passing with great sadness but in our hearts Gazu is and will be alive forever reminding us of that fearless kind generous leader and friend that he was.
The writer Worku Lakew could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Worku is former member of EPRA,EPRP and USUAA Congress
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