I'm Eskinder Nega

November 5, 2011
"If a person hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m Eskinder Nega – I am Voice of the Voiceless. I open my mouth for those who are left desolate and I seek justice for the poor and powerless. I am Eskinder Nega, master of my destiny! I am the captain of my ship and I am navigating to a new Ethiopia where my fellow citizens are judged by the content of their character. I’m on a journey and my destination is a land called liberty, equality, and justice in Ethiopia. I travel on a road that is shadowed by death, but I fear not for I am ready to die for the cause of liberty.

My persecutors rejoice in jailing me and have already buried me in their minds and declared “Dust to dust and ashes to ashes”. But there are millions and millions of Eskinders, Andualems, Reeyots, Woubshets, Bekeles, Debebes, Olbanas and everyday heroes who are destined to continue to lead the struggle.

I am Eskinder Nega and I have a message to my fellow Ethiopians: the intimidation, the abuse, the long prison sentences, or even death are daily threats we must face. But we should never back down in defending our dream of freedom and democracy that is killed every day in Ethiopia. There are times when we feel overwhelmed or powerless in defending freedom and democracy against those who rule by brute force. But let’s not forget that our strength comes from our unity, persistence, and determination. If we keep on pushing, Zenawi’s regime will tumble like a house of cards or erupt like an uncorked bottle.

By jailing me in the dark cells of “Maeklawi” prison my persecutors might believe that they have silenced me for good. They have not. How can they silence the voice of freedom? The more they keep me silent, the more my voice is heard for there are millions of Eskinder Negas. I am the inhibited voice of freedom and my voice is heard in all corners of Ethiopia, from Dolo Odo in the south to Zalambessa in the north and from Aysha Dewele in the east to Assosa in the west. I do not need to be radio, TV, or in the news paper to be heard.

I am Eskinder Nega, I love my country and I see my own fate in terms of my country’s destiny. I cannot be a bystander when I see my country being destroyed. I shall fight those who are destroying my country with my pen, ideas, thoughts and prayers. I will not lower myself to the levels of the brutes and use violence because returning violence for violence multiplies violence. I fight the enemies of freedom with the truth, understanding, tenacity and love.

I am Eskinder Nega, a citizen of Ethiopia without freedom and human rights. I have been forced to my profession as a journalists; my newspapers have been shut down. I have always held solid social, political and economic convictions. I shall always be on the side of the people. I am against corruption and crime, but corruption is the from of government in Ethiopia today.

As I sit in solitary confinement in prison, my cell mate is Truth. Truth is also serving a life sentence with me. They can jail me and Truth but they cannot hold us down for both of us fly on the wings of the spirit of freedom. Thought my countrymen and women cannot see my face, I can see their faces and rejoice in the fact that my struggle, and others like me, are giving them hope for a better tomorrow.

I am Eskinder Nega. I am Andualem. I am Reeyot. I am Debebe. I am Bekele. I am Wobshet and millions more. I believe we have the power to subdue Zenawi’s dictatorship with the power of collective civil disobedience. We must refuse to cooperate in every way with those who oppress us and deny us our rights every day. We must learn from the people of North Africa who have peacefully removed their dictators. No one can liberate us except ourselves. No one can struggle for our freedom but ourselves. Unless we defend our rights and stand up to dictators, we cannot expect to achieve freedom.

I am Eskinder Nega. Currently, I may be in jail, but in reality, I am at large. I am chained but my spirit is free. And I am not alone. There are millions and millions of free spirits in Ethiopia today even though the country has been made a large outdoor prison. I think freely and my voice now broadcasts in the voices of my countrymen and women.

Last February when I was forced to appear before the police commissioner, I was warned what will happen to me. The commissioner tried to lecture on the constitution he had barely read and understood even less. He could not even see that he was being used as a tool of oppression. He was using the constitution that was intended to protect me as a hammer over my head.

So, I say to the police and members of the armed forces of Ethiopia, your constitutional obligation is to defend the civil and political liberties of the Ethiopian people not to kill, jail and intimidate them. Your job is not to be personal body guards of those who abuse and mistreat the people but to become shield for the people. You always need to be mindful of the fact that in everything you do, you must stand by the side of the people because you are their sons and daughters. You must not stand on the side of a dictatorship that is quietly dismembering the country and kill the people. You must not stand indifferently because your mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are dying at the hand of this brutal regime. Remember your forefathers– Balcha Aba Nefso, Abdissa Aga, Zerai Deres, Alula Aba Nega and millions of other unsung heroes. They stood up to the enemy and you must never forget their examples and sacrifices.

This is not the time to be silent. Even I am not silent in prison. It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, or where you are. You must stand up and speak up against dictatorship. All Ethiopians must share the responsibility of freeing our country. Ethiopia is not the sole responsibility of Eskinder Nega, Andualem, Reeyot, Debebe, Wobshet and others. She belongs to all of her children, including those who have chosen to injure and wound her so badly. If we don’t stand up for her in this dark hour of her need, when will stand up for her? We must come together now to save Ethiopia from the clutches of dictators and tyrants. We shall overcome!