by Nebyou Woubshet
For the last four years the Ethiopian people have lived through silent suffering. The frightening silence, encircling the Ethiopian sky, some call it fear, some call it public wisdom, and others call it national despair. It is in such unprecedented national crisis and despair that the most courageous Ethiopian patriotic soul came into picture. That picture is the unflinching, heroic, spiritually and intellectually rich and yet humble and above all resilient, multiple international award-winning journalist, human rights defender and until very recently a popular political party leader Eskinder Nega.
Eskinder Nega, a man of true Ethiopian patriotic soul, has made countless sacrifices for being a voice of truth. He was harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by the old and the new EPRDF two-headed hydra – the TPLF and PP for continuing to be the voice of the voiceless. Regardless of the pressures coming from different directions to make him stay away from the truth, Eskinder was firm and committed to his beliefs in Ethiopian unity and the truth.
Eskinder lives not by lies, no public political figure alive in our time has proved to be as loyal and persistent enough to his idea of truth as Eskinder Nega. For over twenty-five years, Eskinder has been speaking the truth to the Ethiopian people, Eskinder has been inspiring young journalists to be vibrant, truthful, and fearless. For the last four years, Eskinder taught young members of Balderas to have the courage to peacefully fight for the true cause of Ethiopian unity, Ethiopian culture, Ethiopian history, and the Ethiopian flag. His spirit of resistance to tyrants and tribalists remains with the hearts and minds of the younger Balderas generation and the generation to come.
Eskinder personality embraces enormous qualities. I know no one like him who has so many qualities. Eskew is a God fearing, deeply spiritual, bold, and forgiving person. In his daily life when he walks around the city, he is not a stranger to anyone, everyone from the toddlers to the young and old pedestrian knows him. Every passer by calls him by name Eskinder/ እስክንድር/ “Eskew/እስኬው” and greet him with a genuine, emotional smile of hope and despair. In response, the kind words and heartwarming smiling face of Eskinder radiates love and compassion, planting a seed of hope and trust in the hearts and minds of those who greeted him. This is a day-to-day life he has been living in the streets of Addis. Observing each moment when people recognize their hero and greet him with warm hearts makes one who accompanies him engulfed with unique emotion. This kind of feeling can only be felt if one has got the chance to spend a day with Eskinder.
Late afternoon, March 5,2022 on the day where 42 Balderas young members were arrested for attending the Karamara victory day, I met Eskinder and Isayas Tsigu at the gate of the police station no 5 near “Mexico/ሜክሲኮ”. Briefly talked to our brave guys inside the prison, we drove to Lideta market to buy a kind of plastic carpet called “Jiba/ ጅባ” which our brave young men and women need for the night to sleep on. Esayas told me Eskinder and him didn’t eat any food the whole day. I knew Eskew was so angry, we couldn’t talk about food. We arrived at the market, in no time. We found what we were looking for, while Eskew was comparing the prices and the size and quality of the “Jiba/ ጅባ”, Isayas ordered a popular street fast food, a kind of potato burger called “Ertib/“እርጥብ” from a young pregnant women who was selling the hot potato burger nearby. By the way Eskew does not eat much but likes this street food. The women quickly stuffed the bread with hot boiled and fried potatoes adding some sauce. When Isayas asked her how much we should pay, instantly he was blocked even before he was sending his hand to fetch the money out of his pocket. At that moment the pregnant woman saw Eskew standing near her. So many hands from the young boys who were surrounding and waiting to take pictures with Eskew threw all types of birr notes to the pregnant women. The pregnant women ignored all the offers and refused to be paid. She said this order will be covered by me, it is my bill!. Watching Eskew with kind smile, she looked proud giving service to the man she respected and admired, she was saying “A voice for the poor/ለደሃ ተሟጋች ፤ እስኬያችን” to her friend standing next to her, Her friend giggled and nodded her head in agreement. It was after Eskew’s kind intervention that we were able to pay her.
Eating the potato burger, standing where we were, a middle-aged man walking fast down the edge of the street in our direction suddenly saw Eskinder and got confused. He stood where he was and started observing Eskinder for several seconds. Eskew did not see the man approaching, He was talking to the boys who surrounded him to show their love and support to him, also eager to take pictures one after the other. The young middle-aged man who was dressed with a baggy trouser with strong physical posture, his hair and face covered with flour, he must be working in the nearby grinding house, slowly approached Eskinder and stood still half a meter before him, gazing at him upward without blinking his eyes. Emotionally overtaken; he could not say a word. But he wanted to greet Eskew. We started to watch him with suspicion. It was Eskew who broke the silence and offered him his hand with smile, “how are you boss እንዴት ነኽ አለቃ! ሰላም ነው? “They shook hands and Eskew hugged him and thanked him for his greetings. An enormous smile and happiness in the man’s flour covered face emerged. He left us slowly dragging his legs without uttering a word. I never saw such a deeply emotional nonverbal communication. It was deeply touching!
In his political life, Eskinder is a politician who believes in dialogue and discussion. He does not know any arrogance. He respects people’s opinions. He articulates his ideas and arguments. He is an excellent listener as well. He has no problem admitting mistakes or buy-worthy ideas. He is gifted in generating breaking political ideas that proved to put pressure and shook the nerve of the tribalist PP regime. He is the most genuine political leader who anyone can freely talk to. In Balderas, any member can walk into his office and get a warm reception and make his case. This was the practice he established in Balderas. It was unfortunate for those who have a wrong perception of Eskinder not knowing him in person. They talk about him and try to characterize him a lot but do not know him well. The most ardent enemies of him, if they had got the chance to know him in person for a day, their mind would be changed. I saw Eskendir during lent, tirelessly working all day empty stomach to bring the unheard voice of the poor people to the public, who can hate such a selfless person like Eskinder. If once you get to know Eskinder, leave alone to speak against him, you will have him in your heart for a lifetime.
Founded in February 2020 by Eskinder Nega and thereafter actively and boldly protesting and confronting the OPDO PP dominated city administration of Addis Ababa, Balderas was able to protect some of the historical places and statues in Addis Ababa from being demolished. It is mostly by Eskinder and his party colleague’s effort that the aggressive moves to change the Addis Ababa demography was slowed down. If there was no Eskinder and fearless and vibrant Ethiopian nationalist young members of Balderas like Sintayehu Chekol, things would have been more different to Addis Ababians. It is right after his immediate disappearance that we now see things getting openly aggressive and worse.
What makes Eskinder and his political party Balderas unique from all the political parties and elites of our time? Eskinder is not afraid of the oppressors while most of the elites of the opposition parties preferred to live with the lie perpetually aired by the PP. Unlike him, they are afraid to confront the incompetent and dishonest tribalist PP regime, which is responsible for the current unprecedented suffering and misery of the Ethiopian people.
In connection with Eskinder and Baldera’s contribution, the Ethiopian people never lacked the intelligence to identify where the truth is, and have a tradition of showing respect to their true national hero. This was openly demonstrated when the opportunity occurred at the 126th anniversary celebration of Adwa at Menelik II Square. Decorated with the true Ethiopian flag, Eskinder and Balderas’s leaders along with young Balderas patriot’s were welcomed by the huge crowd of Addis Ababa people with great love, cheered and admired him by waving the true Ethiopian flag, chanting together with great joy and anger “Here comes our mayor Eskinder Nega/, ይሄ ነው ከንቲባው! ይሄ ነው!” lifting Eskinder up to their shoulder to be seen by everyone circling Menelik Statue. What a great moment of typical Addis Ababaian expression of Ethiopian nationalism and patriotism.
Under the political leadership of Eskinder Nega, Balderas for true democracy has registered many achievements in the short span of time since its establishment, The following achievements can be mentioned,
- Exposed the deceptive and aggressive strategy and moves of the OPDO to change the Addis Ababa demography.
- Created public awareness and opposed the deliberate bulldozering of the historical places and heritages of Addis Ababa by the OPDO lead Addis Ababa city administration.
- Served as a voice to the voiceless and displaced people in Addis Ababa
- Predicted a genocide threat in Ethiopia and appealed to the international community and to the UN three years ago when clear signs of genocide emerged.
- Served as a voice to the genocidal atrocities committed against the Amhara in Wollega and other Ethiopians from different communities killed in Oromia region.
- Produced a pre-election and post-election study that exposed the sham election of June 2021.
- Protested and debated against the undermining and deliberate distortion of national history, national values, and demonizing national heroes of Ethiopia by the PP regime and other tribal political parties.
- Took the leading role in defending the true Ethiopian flag.
There is no doubt that we greatly missed Eskinder in Balderas, but as one Pakistan political analyst known by the name Sajid, who followed the daily Ethiopian politics put it, “Losing Eskinder Nega in the current political space is a great loss for Ethiopian Politics”. At Balderas Eskinder worked relentlessly like a hundred people. More than anything else, we missed his face, that generates endless energy and hope that makes us courageous and strong. But we have inherited his spirit of strength and commitment, we will double down our effort and commitment to fulfill the cause he stood for, which is above all Ethiopian unity.
Ameha Dagnew, a man of commitment, a son of an Ethiopian patriot who fought the Italians during the years of the fascist invasion of Ethiopia is appointed by Eskinder to take over the helm as the leader of Balderas Party. His experience and great intellect and composure could, if properly tapped, help the party. We the members of Balderas stand by him to take Balderas to the next level, where it can mobilize the people to intensify the peaceful struggle and stop the incompetent PP regime and other tribalist forces from dismembering our beautiful Ethiopia. These PP cadres only know how to stand for their illegal enrichment. Byond their ill motivated ethnic political background that is inimical to the unity of the people of Ethiopia and to the country’s integrity they are using the backward ideology of Ethnic politics to hide the rampant economic corruption they are immersed in. Corruption is dragging down our country from all kinds of development. It is actually eating the hope of the future generation.
It is for this reason that Balderas, is calling to the silent intellectuals who have kept silent so far when they should contribute their part to save their country from the brutal backward ideology of ethnic politics that is devouring everything Ethiopian. It is high time for the Ethiopian nationalist intellectual to fulfill its moral duty by joining the peaceful struggle that few intellectuals have currently stood for in Balderas. At this critical moment, where Ethiopia’s mere existence as we knew her is in jeopardy, the people need intellectual leadership which is missing now. You in particular the Addis Ababa intellectuals, if you don’t show up now, it means you don’t exist. Please show yourself to the people, the people are desperately in need of your active role. The diaspora is doing everything it could. We at Balderas are very grateful for the support we have been given by the diaspora.
Media is key to raising political consciousness, which is crucial to success in politics. Balderas is fortunate in this regard to get the most airtime coverage by the most popular private and free Ethiopian media outlets, Merja TV is one of the top media that hosts our great supporters Ethio 360, Zemede ዘመዴ ነጭ ነጯን, Ras Media and the like. Balderas is also thankful to all the social media owners and youtubers for their fantastic contribution and timely dissemination of Balderas political messages. Balderas proudly hopes that the support of the free private media will continue to be intensified as the struggle for Ethiopian unity is continuous.
Laureate Tsegaye Gebremedhin once asked an audience of fully packed Ethiopian political elites, Do you believe in miracles? Do you? The audience was hesitant; I do believe Tegaye answered his own question. No matter how gloomy it looks, it is my belief that the ideas of truth Eskinder fought and sacrificed his whole energy for thirty years will shine in the Ethiopian sky sooner or later. Eskinder was different in so many ways, he is a man of his own class no one can stand next to him.
Our hero, wherever you are, Let God be with you!
Let God bless our beloved Ethiopia!
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