For Eskinder Nega Fenta

  • Blogging ain’t ኣሸባሪነት

By T, Staffer of De Birhan Media

30 July 2012

Prisoner of conscience, 
Journalist Eskinder Nega Fenta 

I was hanging with my buddies on Bole road. 

It was the eve of the 2005 General election.

It was around 11pm when I reached home and was hosted by the contemptuous face of my mom. After giving me a lackadaisical hi, she went back to her reading. I hollered “give me my supper!”

Yes unlike today when I am making tasteless spaghetti as bachelor, my mom used to feed me her delicious hands.

“Ok let me finish this” she replied.  

“Is this guy not afraid?” she asked while gently folding MenelikNewspaper, one of the most read chain of newspapers that Eskinder had owned.

“Who?” I queried.

This journalist called Eskinder Nega. “Oh, Mary I was so frightened for him reading this bold statements that might jeopardy his life” she whispered.

My mom is not a lukewarm reader. She reads no matter what is written on piece. Influenced by her reading therefore, whenever she discussed about any issue with us, she often used this phrase to authenticate her points, “according to an international study”.

So I and my sis used to take a piss and joke on her whenever she made some claims or declarations that don’t make our day during chats, saying who told you this “is that according to an international study?”

One evening, while we were dining, she began gossiping about her favorite neighbor. “I heard Mrs. X is soon to head to the U.S. to visit her daughter” she set in motion. I then asked “who told you?”

My naughty sis quickly answered “She learned it from an international study”. Hahahaha

Her favorite papers mainly come from Abegaz Suk (Abegaz Kiosk). Abegaz is a slim friendly shop owner in our neighborhood who supplies us with our retail needs. Our morning breads, fruits, vegetables and other groceries came folded in newspapers and magazines from his shop. All kinds of papers that are sold in the market ranging from the international Time, State owned, Addis Zemen to the defunct privately owned, Menelik newspaper are at the end of the value chain used as folders and bags by these kiosks.

Abegaz was one source of her favorite papers. The second was my dad. She urges him to come back with a couple of Newspapers every afternoon he goes to a night out to chill with his colleagues.

Hence each time she read Amharic papers, she first went to pages that had Eskinder’s byline. She was addicted to his assertively authoritative write ups. The time was pre-2005. She often admired him for speaking the truth and being so valiant. A student then, I read few newspapers than herself. I used to hear about Eskinder from my mom’s weekly reviews.

Fast-forward 2007

I am not one of Eskinder’s closest friends. I  met him a few times in various press conferences and meetings around the 2005 election but we never had a time for a long chat. In few of the occasions that I met him, he unchangingly approached and talked to me with great humility, respect and humbleness. Eskinder has a superbly personable disposition.

I have two special personal memories of him. The date was when journalists and leaders of Collation for Unity and Democracy (CUD) were freed. I was going door to door to the houses of every CUD leadership with a photojournalist friend. The first house that we went to was Engineer Hailu Shawel’s. 

We knocked. 

Two men standing in the door, opened and said “what do you want boys?” We told them who we were and that we wanted to congratulate the Engineer and speak to him. With a mocking face the guards said, “You have no appointment so you cannot get in”. We begged, beseeched, joked and all. No chance. While we were discussing about going to Dr. Berhanu’s house instead, Eskinder Nega suddenly came out of the house with few friends. He said hi guys how are you? Any problem? We explained ourselves. He returned to the house and came back with Hailu Sahwel’s son who finally let us in. We thanked Eskinder, got in and did our job.  That was one of Eskinder’s invaluable favors to me. One.

The second time I met Eskinder was in a private Secretarial Office in Piassa while he was working on his draft book. I had good bit of discussion with him then. It was at this moment that I came to learn the dictatorialness of the regime and the braveness of this principled gentleman much more empirically. That was the second and last time I met Eskinder.

After graduating in one of the most prestigious schools in Addis, Sanford and living most of his adult life in the United States, Eskinder returned with a second degree to the country he loved most and paid his flesh and bone since, Ethiopia. It would be difficult to find any Ethiopian journalist or African, in that case, who has paid so much sacrifice for what he believed in. He was slapped, kicked, harassed, intimidated, and tortured several times in the last 21 years. He was imprisoned over 7 times.

Which politician, journalist, human rights combatant has endured what Eskinder had stomached? Didn’t all our opposition leaders flee as soon as they got freed at once? If we speak of any negligible civilized resistance, grilling and watchdog on the incumbent in the past 21 years, no political party or politician did do as Eskinder Nega’s pens.  

Eskinder’s health and physique have been injured by the prisons of Ethiopia but his spirits. Comparing his photographs before 15years and now illuminates his torment. Those of you, who spent a day or two in an African prison, do feel it in your nerves when the term is mentioned. This prisoner of conscience, if freed tomorrow morning, won’t run away like the rest of us but dice with death for the sake of his belief and profession. BTW, how many of us are helping his wife and son when the breadwinner is now in prison?

If I was asked to put my views about Eskinder, this was what I perhaps would have said “Eskinder has an indomitable spirit and principle; he is a superman and an icon to Ethiopia’s youth.” I grin like a Cheshire cat because I hail from a land that has produced journalists and figures sharp as a tack as Eskinder.

I just cannot get enough words to explain about Eskinder’s individuality. May I just wish him freedom!!!

Now suffering in Kaliti prison, Ethiopia, Eskinder is one of the five Ethiopian internet bloggers sentenced for terrorism few weeks ago.  

Ethiopia has now between 150 to 200 blogs and bloggers. Let’s make 1000 Ethiopian blogs and bloggers before September 2005/2012!!! Yes we can!!!

Blogging is not terrorism!!

Love Wins!!!

My man, Sam Cooke says “A Change Is Gonna Come”
I was born by the river 

In a little tent 

And just like the river 

I’ve been running ever since 

It’s been a long, long time coming 

But I know a change gonna come 

Oh, yes it will…


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