Befqadu Z Hailu
Most of us are already convinced that the old regime has fallen and the new regime is here, cursing the past. No theory can easily define the type of political transition in #Ethiopia. It is the same ruling party that revolted against its umbrella, the coalition – EPRDF. It is no revolution enough, it is not coup enough, it is more than reform and etc. In fact, the easiest way of referring to it maybe a coup d’état against one member of the ruling coalition in alliance with dissenting protestors. Therefore, the past officials, corruption-figures, rights violators and other criminals are roving in the city freely with their victims, at times they are acting like change actors. The following is my story when I met my torturer in a “a repressive law reform consultation meeting.”
It was on the 18th of October 2018, in Adama town at Dire Hotel. Prison Fellowship (PF) in cooperation with the Federal General Attorney had hosted a two days discussion on the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) – on how it is used for abuse and how it can be revised. When we were out for lunch, I was bumped into one of my worst torturers back in April/May 2014 while I and my colleagues were detained in #Maekelawi. He was one of the participants of the consultation, representing Federal Police with other two. I was scared very much and my heart beat went bumping dherererererer… I saw the same person in Addis a couple of times, once with Mahlet Fantahun. He tortured her too. And, the feeling of seeing him had been as painful as was on this latter event.
I was angry because I had scared. It was supposed to be my torturer who have to be scared. After lunch, I got the first chance to speak. I collected my confidence and spoke: “why was I invited to a discussion with my torturer – with the very man who flogged me on my barefoot, who kicked and slapped me several times, forced me to do heavy sports, who insulted, intimidated me for several days, and who made me wish my death? Is that because you don’t know, or you don’t trust us when we told you our stories that you invited me with my torturer without caring for my emotions? I know you know because PF’s director, Pastor Daniel, he visited us in Kilinto prison and told him what they have done to us, who their names are and so on… you know and you didn’t care because you didn’t believe us when we told you that we were tortured, is that it?”
It was relieving to speak. I haven’t stopped here though. I added, “these torturers are servants to the powerful… they used the ATP to abuse rights, they are not victims but perpetrators so they don’t want it to be amended. If you have to invite them, it must be to a training to teach them how to respect human rights of people in police custody.” I am still perplexed how they thought the police would want the law reformed, if their intention is not to hear their excuses.
The coordinators explained the mistake was made by PF when they tried to invite diverse stakeholders to the discussion. Later that day, when Zelalem Workagegnehu, አሚር ሲቲ and I are walking on the street of Adama, I saw my torturer coming towards me with two of his colleagues. I was scared again. It was annoying I can’t help but anyway I refused to shake him when he stretched his arms for greeting. He begged. He said he wanted my apologies. (Amir, remember when you too refused to shake him taken by the incident? :D I think that was a funny incident as well.)
Zelalem interfered and said to me, “Befeqe, it is okay. Shake his hands”. I was embarrassed with the street drama myself that I shook his hand. He took me away from my and his friends and tried to explain. He said he has always regretted it. I asked him not to do this to anyone in the future and told him that I will forgive him if he promises to do that. He made a cross sign on my palm and swore that he won’t do that ever again. I have forgiven him. The next day, on the same program we met when we were out for break.
My torturer again said that he is regretting it and he is now the victim. I was embarrassed and told him not to mention this, and that we have passed it all. የውሾን ነገር ያነሳ ውሾ ይሁን፡፡
A few weeks later, in Addis Ababa, around Enat Bank Head Office in front of the new office of Federal Police investigation bureau, I was walking responding to texts on my cell phone. Somebody pushed me on my shoulders to call me watch. It was another torturer of mine. He was with another police officer with whom I had no encounter in Maekelawi. I said “Hey,”. This man asked me, “how are you?” The words that came out of my mouth are “are you still here?” (እስካሁን አላችሁ?) I hadn’t plan it, so I didn’t know what I mean. He replied, “what did we do?” I said “you didn’t do anything?” shaking my head. “Ciao,” he left with his colleague.
Since these two incidents, I was thinking about how the interaction of those victims/survivors after castration, after being disabled, etc. would feel if they meet with their torturers in the streets. Mine did not leave any scars other than a trauma which perished when the regime is changed.