By Tariku Abbadama
May 31, 2007
Assassin’s bullet ended Shibres life 2 years ago this week—and the scenario unchanged.
I wasn’t officially a part of that scenario yet. my mother would have been about three months pregnant living in Addis at the time of Shibres assassination.
I never thought to ask her what she must have felt at the time. I can only imagine the fear and doubt in she must have had in bringing a child into a world of Wayanes Ethiopia where someone like Shibre could be gunned down in cold blood, where young men—and women who looked like Shibre — were being hunted on the street and attacked by fully-equipped army. She must have been at a loss, wondering why rules of logic, decency and empathy didn’t apply because of indifference to political beliefs.
My images of Shibre now are from news channels that depict her attempt to participate in her countries political life. I remember her as the icon of peaceful resistance to tyranny. I know her because she was instrumental in showing us the road to peaceful struggle. She’s deified because of the inspiring “no to Wayanes rule” stand she showed on the steps of the capital city of the country she so loved. Ala. Shibre has long since gone from being a young, beautiful girl. She’s now a mythic figure.
But that’s a lie. To transform Shibre into a larger-than-life figure takes away from the courage a real man had to muster with every breath he took. She lived her final seconds being a target of the merciless Agazi army who wanted her life ended. This young girl—a daughter to the entire nation,—didn’t know that continuing to espouse her peaceful resistance likely meant she wouldn’t live to see those values of democracy grow and flourish.
How much progress has been made in the 2 years since a sniper fatally shot Shibre from a village she grew up in Addis, is a matter of debate. Kinijit leaders and a good number of political activists are languishing in prison, killing of innocent citizens is still rife, hundreds have been killed extra judicially, and the country is a virtual prison for every citizen. Lidetu Ayalew, among the people who inspired Shibre to resist to the end, has switched tone, very many times, and now declared himself to be “a bad time friend” to the killer regime.
So no, it’s not 1997. But repression still exists. Access to political power is determined by the type of one’s language. And mothers across the nation still are fearful of letting their children walk the streets for fear of them becoming the next Shibre, Nabiyu (14 years old) or Kumsa, 16, killed in Dambidolo.
Ever since Shibres death there’s been this call for our youth to fill the gaping void left by her absence. The best we can hope for is for each of us to muster some measure of the courage she displayed. Sometimes that’s as simple as calling a wrong a wrong, and having the nerve to try and bring about change