By Solomon Gebreselassie
I recently read an essay on Borkena.com by Koki Abeselome(a pen name whose real identity has been publicly self-acknowledged) demonizing Meskerem Abera, one of the youngest female warriors in contemporary Ethiopia fighting for good governance in the trenches and in the jails of PM Abiy Ahmed. In heaping scorn, Koki lumped Meskerem along with Major Dawit WG and Vision Ethiopia. While the latter two can ably defend themselves should they choose to consider the blasphemies worthy of their time, Meskerem unfortunately is in PM Abiy’s jail for the second time separated from her small children and family and cannot respond to Koki’s defamation. About Major Dawit and Vision Ethiopia, regardless of one’s differences, suffice it to say that at the minimum they should be admired and respected for their courageous submittal of alternative ideas to get us out of the progressive worsening of human and socio-economic conditions taking root since the PM took power.
Koki has extensively delved into analyzing what she calls “Oromo Politics” with groupings, genus and species aplenty. Because nothing of substance by way of evidentiary support is given to authenticate these classifications, we will not waste time providing counter arguments to the whims, speculations and hearsays. However, fairness demands standing with the voiceless and those unjustly put behind bars when their good names are maligned, such as the octogenerian Tadewos Tantu, Meskerem Abera and human rights lawyer Wondimu Ibssa. These are current victims of Koki’s “strategic and visionary leader Abiy”, whose ሳናጣራ አናስርም pledge of yesterday has been gathering dust on the wayside.
Back to Meskerem: what is her political demeanor and record? As anyone fairly familiar with her works and statements readily attests, Meskerem is an activist who stands with those who have been denied justice and fair treatment. Years ago, she has championed the cause of the suffering of the internally displaced Oromos from the Somali Regional State. Following that, she has untiringly exposed the injustices meted out to Gedeos whose domicile is nearby the college she then taught at. As the grave human rights violations and genocide severely targeted the Amhara community, particularly spiraling out of control in the last two years, she has focused her attention towards getting a permanent solution to this scourge, earning her a name by her detractors as an “Amhara activist”. In their small world, they were diminishing her as a local ethnonationalist to bring her down to their level. However, she proudly wore the badge and continues to fight for the genocide of Amharas to cease in the largest cause of the day staining the “strategic and visionay Abiy” leadership. One of Meskerem’s detractors, recently accused her of seeing Ethiopian politics through the prism of Sha’abiya and Prosperity Party. No sooner had he uttered these words than she was hauled back in jail for the second time by none other than the PP party.
After her first stint in jail, Meskerem could have compromised her principles upon release and lived her life in the good graces of the regime and its supporters. But the duty of courage beckoned. Her clear conscience kept reminding her to continue truth telling. The price was a second jail term.
Meskerem’s style is thoughtful, balanced, and piercingly analytic. This is best displayed in her Ethio Nikat YouTube program where she fields tough questions from her co-anchor, Amha Degefa. For those who know the program, Amha does not throw her soft balls. They try to give a balanced view on all the sides of the issues, oftentimes the co-anchor playing the devil’s advocate. Fair-minded and close followers of Ethiopian politics can find out for themselves and would appreciate Ethio-Nikat’s immense contributions towards modernizing Ethiopian politics. Teacher, journalist and human rights activist Meskerem is now in jail for her troubles in defending the truth in the most reasonable and rational manner. To its credit, the Committee to Protect Journalists(CPJ) has recently issued a bulletin for the immediate release from jail of Meskerem Abera.
She is one of the few female voices that is in the public square today defying patriarchy and male chauvinism to carve a niche for the female, and humane voice. Among her struggle models are the bevy of EPRP women who gave their lives in the struggle, women such as Smegne Minale(Dilay) of Assimba and Belessa, Smegne Lemma of Addis, and Abebech Bekele of ESUNA and Assimba. Instead of throwing a lifeboat and a hand of support to such voices, the last thing we need to do is to tear down such national treasures by allying with seemingly powerful forces owning the tanks and the banks.
Since the coming to power of PM Abiy, our hopes for change have gradually turned to nightmares, and only a sustained, and coordinated peaceful struggle for good governance, respect for human life and the country’s unity guarantees a return to the course and women like Meskerem play a pivotal role in this struggle.
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