I'm Eskinder Nega: Now 80 million strong

September 30, 2011
Eskinder Nega I am Eskinder Nega. I am not one person. I am eighty million strong. I will let one of my voices speak for me because today I am locked up in Makelawi prison. Those who are in power in Ethiopia have tried to silence my voice. They want to shut me up by locking me up. They don’t want me to be heard. They are afraid of the truth I speak out. They think by putting me in solitary confinement they will destroy my hopes and dreams. As you can see, that is an impossible task. I am but a reflection of my people. I am the echo of their voice. I am a proud father. I am a husband. I am a friend. I am a journalist. I am not now nor have I ever been a terrorist; but I am now and have on previous occasions been a victim of state terrorism and victim of a judicial system that works only for its creators.

I write because that is what I do – tell the truth. I am passionate about what I do. I write to expose what is hidden from the public eye in the dark recesses of power. I speak truth to power. It is my life’s mission to inform and teach. I write because it is my profession. It is my calling in life. I do not have an army. I do not belong to a political party, not even an association. I have no money nor do I have special powers. All I have is my pen. I try to use my pen wisely and fairly. I do not use my pen to stab others; I use it to educate those who are bent on hurting others. I do not use my words to demean, insult or humiliate others. I use my pen to teach, preach and do outreach. I use my pen to investigate and seek out the truth. That is how I keeping coming to this hellhole at Maekelawi time and again.

Why do I insist on telling the truth. Because I can! Article 29 of the Ethiopian Constitution says I can: “Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression without any interference.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says I can: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1.) They have locked me up and accused me of being a “terrorist” for telling the truth. I am no terrorist, but they are terrified by the truth. I am a political prisoner but they are prisoners of the truth guarded by an army of lies.

I love Ethiopia. I make no apologies about that. Some may say my love for my country and people have brought me and my family nothing but trouble and grief. My family and friends have suffered greatly because of the stands I have taken. I have persisted in asserting my God-given freedom to write and express myself; they persist in trying to break my will and dehumanize me. They want to teach others what can happen to them if they stand up and speak up. Meles Zenawi is determined to isolate me and kill my spirit, just like he tried to isolate and kill Birtukan’s spirit. I have been jailed before for speaking the truth, for expressing my ideas and for seeking peaceful change. I keep paying the price; but is all worth it if my suffering, and those millions who suffer along with me one day will have the opportunity to see peaceful change for themselves and their children.

I have lost much locked away as a prisoner of conscience. I almost lost our precious son, and my dear and courageous partner in the struggle for peaceful change in our country. We lost a thriving business and my profession was taken away from me. I am neither a hero nor a stubborn fool. I am just an ordinary Ethiopian that took the maxim ‘all people are created equal’ to heart. This story is not about me. It is about those who have chosen to imprison me because of my beliefs in democracy and human rights.

Do not think my case is unique. I am but just one of the thousands of Ethiopians denied justice and freedom. I have done nothing heroic. I am satisfied that if my suffering brings light on the horror taking place in the motherland, I will bear it with courage. My friends should not despair for I am at peace with myself. As I said before, it is not about Eskinder the man or Eskinder the political prisoner. It is about human, rights, democracy and the rule of law for which Eskinder continues to struggle.

Here I am today in solitary confinement in Makelawi Prison. I am a prisoner of conscience, a political prisoner. But my mind is free; my heart is full of love for my people and my spirit soars. My jailors think of me as an “enemy of the state”. But I am the enemy of no one; and no one is my enemy. I love my country, I love my people. I bear malice towards no one.

I am jailed but not silenced. My friends speak for me. My people speak for me. Stranger across the oceans speak for me. And I listen to the words of Martin Luther King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” I will never be silent or silenced because I have eighty million voices.

Let me speak my peace again as I did in my last opinion piece: “Ethiopia must and should avoid violence. If Ethiopia shuns violence so will most of sub-Sahara Africa. And only then will the advent of the African Spring be even better news than that of the Arab Spring.”

Join Eskinder Nega’s irrepressible voice on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-am-Eskinder-Nega/236369699747226

Free political prisoners Eskinder Nega, Debebe Eshetu, Andualem Aragie, Woubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu, Zemenu Molla, Nathnael Mekonnen, Asaminaw Berhanu and all other illegally held in Ethiopia.