In 2010 Ethiopian American writer Maaza Mengiste’s literary debut, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, was hailed as a courageous and deft envisioning of the Ethiopian civil war. She is currently writing her second novel, The Shadow King. As invited participants to the 2013 Callaloo Conference held at the University of Oxford, an annual gathering that uniquely cultivates dialogue between creative writers and scholars of African and African diaspora literature, we took the opportunity to meet in London and discuss her process as a historical novelist who takes up the stories too often untold.
Z’étoile Imma: So, I want to ask you about what you are working on now, but let’s go chronologically, so to speak, and begin our conversation with how you came to writeBeneath the Lion’s Gaze. What made you decide to write a historical novel?
Maaza Mengiste: Well, it goes way back. When I came to the US I knew it was because of the revolution. I was a kid, so I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I was trying to figure out what brought me here, how to make sense of some things I remembered, what I was supposed to think of the transition. I was interested, whenever I heard something about another country that was in conflict or at war, I was paying attention, trying to see if it would give me clues into my own situation. When I got to the US, I met a group of students from Libya who were fleeing Kaddafi. When they started telling me their story of fleeing persecution, of being students, and being afraid, I realized that that was exactly what was going on in Ethiopia.
ZI: How old were you when you migrated from Ethiopia?
MM: I was four.
ZI: So you were very young—
MM: Yes, so talking to those students from Libya gave me some kind of context. And I knew them for years, so over the years, I was beginning to understand more. But I wasn’t reading any stories about Ethiopia or about the situation that my family went through or about what the people that I knew went through. That’s the motivation [for the novel]. I was always interested. And when I started researching I thought, maybe there is a way I could do this.
ZI: So did you know at a young age that you wanted to write? When did it come to you that you wanted to be a creative writer? Did your interest in your history and writing develop at the same time?
MM: You know, you always hear about people who say, “I always knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid,” but I’m not one of those people at all. All I knew was that I liked to read. I could get lost in stories, I loved books. That’s all I knew, even in college. In college, professors would tell me, “You’re a good writer, you write your essays beautifully,” but I had never done creative writing. But after college, I got a job in advertising. That’s when I felt that I had a level of creativity I could explore. So, I didn’t think being writer was what I would do. It wasn’t in my framework, I didn’t know any writers, I didn’t grow up like that.
ZI: So, at some point after college, you decided to apply to MFA programs? So you graduated college and you were working—
MM: I worked a lot, I was out of school for a really long time. I was in a career, but I hated my work. I was in the film industry, and it was supposed to be the dream job, and it was terrible! I was working in film development. It sounds creative, but it was really about which films would make more money and how do we change a script to make it more marketable. It had nothing to do with the creative aspect of creating stories. And that was what I was interested in—
ZI: Once again, narrative—
MM: So I was in this position, all the people above me, I didn’t want to be like them or have their jobs, but that was the track I was on. So I thought, Either I try to write this story about the revolution I’d been thinking about, or I’ll never do it and I’ll be here. So I applied to grad school.
ZI: Wow. That’s great, I’m sure the aspiring writers out there will love this story!
MM: I didn’t come about writing “the normal way.”
ZI: That’s great. I mean that’s so impressive because you got into NYU, that’s a very competitive program to get into.
MM: That was a long shot. I didn’t think it would happen. My plan was apply, and apply, and apply again the next year if I didn’t get in. And in the meantime practice writing. And it worked out.
ZI: So, you began developing Beneath a Lion’s Gaze as an MFA student. How did you find that process? Because I know there is a tension in the writing community regarding MFA programs, there has been an ongoing discussion about whether MFA programs are liberating spaces for emerging writers or are they spaces that, by design, command a kind of conformity. What was your experience—did you find it liberating to be surrounded by other writers?
MM: Yes, because I hadn’t been around other writers, this was my introduction into the writing community. I was introduced to literary festivals, readings, and lectures. I wouldn’t have that experience outside an MFA program. It allowed me to cultivate a more critical voice through closely reading my classmates’ work, and learn how to analyze literature, how to accept criticism, how to revise. I found it invaluable. I know people have hesitations, earning an MFA isn’t going to make you write a book, it isn’t going to guarantee publications, but it is a way to experience the world of writers. And once in a program, you can stay within the world of student writers or you can use it to meet writers, to move in the world you want to be after graduation. It’s an experience you must largely make on your own, and I tried to do that. For me it was really great.
ZI: Who were some of your teachers who especially inspired you?
MM: One of the teachers that I really credit with supporting my work is Breyten Breytenbach, the South African poet. He was the one who really encouraged me to write the book. I was worried about taking on this huge project, with such a complex history, and taking it into fiction. I felt in a way it really should be a historical text, nonfiction, a journalistic essay . . . but he told me, “You have to do this because sometimes fiction tells the truths that history can’t access.” And in some way, that was the go-ahead that I needed. I realized what I could do was focus on individual consequences of war and revolution, rather than attempt to contain an immense political discussion.
ZI: And you do that so effectively; I commend your bravery on taking up such an important history. As someone in the classroom teaching stories—from the wide body of work that can be categorized as African literature—I can tell you that it’s invaluable for students to read fiction about the diverse possibilities of the human experience, whether that be stories of migration, revolution, post–civil war stories, love stories. Especially for the US student-reader, who oftentimes knows very little about African lives outside of what writer Chimamanda Adichie has called the “single-story” in the mainstream media, it’s fascinating to see them develop a critical engagement with the African world through literature. It opens them up in ways I think are very distinct from their engagement with academic texts. Of course, I, as an English professor, am very biased! But I do have to say that my colleagues who teach African history or approach African studies through anthropology tell me they assign fiction by Buchi Emecheta and Aminatta Forna in the their classes. So, they too appreciate and make use of the power of what world literature—and, more particularly, African fiction—can do.
MM: I think fiction gives us a door into what is actually happening around us. There are those who don’t trust fiction, they will read history or biography, but they don’t understand that those forms of narrative are also constructed.
ZI: It is very impressive that your debut novel takes on the question of history so boldly. Did you feel nervous or did anyone attempt to discourage you from writing fiction about the Ethiopian revolution and the Red Terror that followed?
MM: I think I was too naïve to fully understand the challenge of the story I wanted to tell. I just wanted to write the story. I find that with the first novel I just leapt, and now with the second novel, that is where I’m finding all the questions coming in. At the time, there were a few people who asked, “How can you write about the revolution?” But I wasn’t thinking of getting published, I was only focused on finishing the book and doing it well. I didn’t think about what would happen next. I realize now, that was a bit of a luxury.
ZI: That’s wonderful that you didn’t feel that pressure. Because I know so many aspiring writers, inside and outside of MFA programs, who are so anxious about “getting it published.” It can frustrate the spirit of how they approach their work, as the editor is already internalized and speaking very loudly. That pressure can be paralyzing for a writer.
MM: It’s true.
ZI: So as we were discussing, there is a significant way in which fiction can engender the individual story, and bring the reader in. One thing that strikes me when I think about your novel is the subject of masculinities and manhood. I’m working on a research project that analyzes masculinities in the work of African women writers, African feminist writers. I’m considering what an African feminist perspective might lend to our understanding and perhaps reimagining of masculinities. I’m especially interested in how this newer generation of African women writers, of which I consider you to be a part, constructs African masculine characters with a different set of politics than the earlier generation of writers such as Ama Ata Aidoo, Buchi Emecheta, Mariama Bâ. There was a way that the earlier generation of African women writers, writing in the 1960s to the ’80s, felt compelled to make visible, most often through the voice of a central female protagonist, the gender hierarchies that impacted women’s everyday lives.
However, I find writers such as Chimamanda Adichie, yourself, Forna, Delia Jarrett-Macauley, Monica Arac de Nyeko, Doreen Baingana, and others pay such fine attention to the range of complexities, contradictions, and performances that make up masculinity in African contexts. So one of many interesting elements in Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is that you give us this story from the vantage point of male characters, and while there many characters in the novel, at its heart is this intergenerational trio of men—Dr. Hailu and his sons, Dawit and Yonas. And yes, there are very significant characters who are women—Selam, Sara, and of course the young woman in the hospital come to mind—but in an important way this is very much a story about a father and his sons. Can you speak about why you decided to tell the story in this way?
MM: It wasn’t something that I initially set out to do. One thing I was conscious about deciding was who would best tell about the human cost of the revolution. I thought a doctor would be dealing with the material and direct impact of that. He would be looking at the consequences of this fight. Who would that realistically be in Ethiopia in the 1970s? This doctor would have been trained in the 1950s, the doctor would most likely be a man, so Hailu became that character. It felt like a natural inclination, also because of the fact that as I was writing the book, I was hearing more about my uncles. But I did know that the women in my family had also been strong—the women who were part of the revolution, and the women who survived it. The mothers, the sisters were part of it, the female students were as strong and determined as the male. I didn’t want to negate their efforts in any way. But once I had Hailu, that seemed to open up this generational conflict. So Dawit became important, in that regard, and he also embodies the stories I knew about young revolutionaries at that time.
I have gotten questions from female readers about why I’m not writing more specifically about women. But why must I write about one gender or another, why would I be any more obligated than a man to bow to pressure about gender and force it into a story? If it’s a political choice, if it’s trying to resist something , then it’s not really writing. That’s not a creative process, that’s a political process. I think what writing should be at its essence is a creative expression, it should be informed by the needs of the story, by the dictates of your characters. In the second novel, I have more female characters who are central to the story. But it wasn’t a political choice, it was, again, Who’s the best person to tell this aspect of war? It turned out it was women. I feel like I can write any character I want—an African, a European, a writer can do anything, it just has to feel true to the story.
ZI: Another thing about Beneath the Lion’s Gaze that is so powerful is that the novel is about war, but the way you write about death and dying—the way death is not the climax to the plot, but is instead woven throughout the story. Particularly, I’m thinking about how Dawit and Sara begin to bury the dead as an act of resistance. Such a profoundly dangerous and yet intimate act to perform. I imagine that leaving out the corpses of those murdered by the Derg has a historical basis?
What interested me about this particular act of resistance was that it was a way I could imagine forms of resisting repression that didn’t entail picking up a gun and shooting someone. What are the other ways to stand up for human dignity, or a sense of self-determination, without violence?
MM: Yes, leaving out the bodies was a way to frighten the students, or anyone who wanted to resist against the government. It was a warning sign. Collecting the bodies was something I wanted to imagine actually happened. When we are writing stories, we are in a sense re-creating what happened but also envisioning what we wish could have happened. I wished that someone like Dawit, that someone like Sara, could have made a such a humane gesture. And it’s not to say that no one did, but I did not know of anyone doing that. Later, an Ethiopian reader of the novel told me, “I did everything that Dawit did, but I have to tell you, collecting the bodies would have been logistically impossible.” I said, “Yes, this is fiction, I wished it could have happened.” And he said, “We tried.” It was a very powerful moment. What interested me about this particular act of resistance was that it was a form of resisting repression that didn’t entail picking up a gun and shooting someone. What are the other ways to stand up for human dignity, or a sense of self-determination, without violence? So for me, it wasn’t about dying but about what happens after that. What remains of the world that we know after death happens?
ZI: Do you feel that African writers have to grapple with the burden of history in ways other writers from other parts of the world do not? Clearly, you were very inspired to write Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, yet as you work on your second novel, which also sounds like a historical novel, do you feel a weighty responsibility to contend with aspects of Ethiopian history that haven’t been told?
MM: I don’t think I could sit for five years with a book if I felt burdened. I have to be inspired by it and see beyond the surface layer of the war story. If I can’t see beyond that, to see all the complexities of the story, of the characters . . . My first book is a story of revolution, it is set in violent times, but it is a story about love. It’s a love story within a family. So I didn’t feel like I was writing a war story or story of violence, it is about characters who attempt to continue to love people in whatever way that they could. And again, with the second book, which is set during the period I’ve always been fascinated by—it’s pre-World War II, it’s fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, their attempt to colonize Ethiopia. I heard all these stories growing up about these brave men—I have these heroic figures in my head who captured my childhood imagination. But as I got older and started to read about this history, I realize it was much more complicated than what is often talked about. I began to wonder, Who were the women whom people said supported the men, and where are their stories? So beyond the surface story of war, I’m looking at the complicated relationships that emerged during this period, not only between Ethiopian men and women but also between Italian men and Ethiopian women. So it’s set during the war, but it’s not simply a war story.
ZI: Well, my second book project is called Love Stories from Africa, so it sounds like you will continue to offer me material for my research! Given the time during which your book is set, I’m wondering about your thoughts on the history and mythology that builds Ethiopia as the exceptional nation that does not get colonized by Western forces. Many of us have studied about how Ethiopia, for over a century, has circulated as a triumphant symbol throughout the collective imagination of the African diaspora. So as you are researching and writing this book, does the history and impact of Italian aggression against Ethiopia trouble that victory narrative? Some scholars, art historian and curator Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis for example, apply postcolonial theory to describe what is at stake culturally and politically in present-day Ethiopia, even as we talk about Ethiopia as unsullied by colonization. There is an interesting tension there. I spent time in Eritrea, where I had the best cappuccinos and folks are eating spaghetti for lunch. As an outsider, I was struck by these seemingly trivial traces of cultural imperialism and occupation, as there is a way that Italian culture still permeates the everyday, similar in some ways to how English culture is so present in Ghana, for example. So, I wonder how do writers and intellectuals from Ethiopia situate, in their own imaginings of nation, what we could at least tentatively describe as a paradox?
MM: When I think about it, a lot of the stories told about Ethiopia are based on what it symbolizes. What we need to spend more time talking about are the realities of the country versus its mythologies or historical symbolism, which could contain very different identities. Ethiopia did not have a history of colonization like Sierra Leone or Kenya or Nigeria, but that does not mean that Ethiopia was not subjugated. Maybe that’s the word we have to use. It was a five-year occupation. There was a moment in Ethiopian history when, despite the brave struggle for independence, the country was under the rule of a different nation.
When we talk about colonization, we are assuming, that for Ethiopia or any other country that has not been “colonized,” that it has never been under an unwanted rule, yet the Derg was [an unwanted rule], in its own [way]. Does it have to be free from repressive domination by a foreign power to say that a country has always been free? This question gets complicated. In terms of what is happening now, the kinds of freedoms Ethiopians have, the numbers of journalists who are in prison, is the country really free? When it isn’t a European or Western form of domination that is doing that, does that mean the country is more free than another country that has had a colonial experience? These are issues perhaps for political scientists and not for a writer of fiction, but the questions: What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to be independent? How are we defining independence? How do we understand freedom of expression? Is freedom just about economic growth? Is that the way we decide to measure democracy or our progress in the country? Ethiopia raises all those issues. I think it’s complicated, but fundamentally, all we have to do is look at the prisons now, to see where things are.
ZI: We can ask very similar questions regarding the United States as well.
MM: Absolutely. These nations and their histories complicate the notion of freedom.
ZI: One thing that I thought was so courageous of you to do in your first novel was to write Emperor Haile Selassie as a character within the story. You could have gestured in his direction, but amazingly you took that risk to write from his perspective.
MM: Yes, after several drafts of the book, I thought to myself, How can I do this without writing him? There would have been blank spots in the story. This great figure, how do you write a story about a revolution without the person that people rose up against? Although he died in the early days of the revolution, I still felt I had to grapple with his presence and how he shaped the thinking and actions of so many. For me, that was the question. Again, it was the naïveté of writing the first book.
ZI: Part of what makes your imagining of his perspective so intriguing to read is that part of the aura that surrounds Haile Selassie is his mystery—he remains an enigma and a mythical figure and, for some in the African diaspora, a divine figure. So to write him, I imagine, was a difficult task.
When you enter the world of fiction, you have to figure out a way in. Would I stand in a room with Emperor Haile Selassie, maybe not, but could I stand in the room with an old man who is being locked in his room by a group of his soldiers every night? That I could do, that I could imagine.
MM: When you enter the world of fiction, you have to figure out a way in. Would I stand in a room with an emperor, maybe not, but could I stand in the room with an old man who is being locked in his room by a group of his soldiers every night? That I could do, that I could imagine. I could imagine an old man who’s watched every member of his family being jailed, and that point I could imagine—he was not thinking like an emperor, he was thinking like a man. That I could do.
ZI: So interesting, as someone from the Caribbean, I feel we could speak at length about how the iconography of Haile Selassie reverberates across the spaces of the African diaspora.
MM: I was invited to give a reading from the book in Jamaica, at the Calabash Literary Festival. So I decided to read a section that featured the emperor. I read the section where he dies, not understanding the implications of that for Rastafarians. There were people in the audience, I found out later, who had actually seen Haile Selassie when he visited Jamaica. It was a very touching moment, when after the reading, they came up to me, and very kindly and with a lot respect, said, “Thank you for being here. We just never imagine H.I.M. dead, he is not dead to us.” But they were willing to give me that space. It was a very poignant experience for me.
ZI: Yes, to diaspora dialogues, that is a conversation that hasn’t been fully explored. It will take the kind of sensitivity you describe to allow for meaningful exchange. For me, it’s important to re-center and reclaim Rastafarianism as a resistance movement that articulates an important pan-African theorizing and praxis against domination. The way many people understand it now—only as a marijuana-imbibed musical subculture—is a discredit to the radical politics at its origin. So in that regard, how do Rastafarian politics contend with the worship of an emperor, on one hand, and the repression of Ethiopian people that, to some extent, undergirded the monarchy on the other? Especially as Rastas understand what it means to be marginalized, criminalized, not listened to by the status quo. These are important concerns, and it will be interesting to see how that dialogue continues to develop.
MM: Yes, to talk about Haile Selassie, Ethiopia, and his legacy, we have to talk about the poverty and inflation that were in the country as much as anything else, including the building of infrastructure, hospitals, and schools.
ZI: Exactly, those realities need to be factored into our conversation. Ethiopia is so important in that it pushes us to the edges in our thinking about socialism too. Through an analysis of Ethiopian history, we can see how the progressive rhetoric of socialism can be manipulated and used to propagate division and violence. The Derg—
MM: It was destructive. When the military regime came into power, it was Marxist in name only. There have been a lot of wars in the name of socialism, in the name of equality. This is not say to that capitalist governments have done much better. Still, I think we can see similar moves happening in Egypt and Syria. What is fascinating in watching the Arab Spring unfold is how, in many ways, it reminds me of Ethiopia.
ZI: Indeed, and we have to ask ourselves, given the impact of the Cold War on Ethiopia’s revolution, can a country today have a revolution under the shadow of US imperialism? I don’t want to be too pessimistic . . .
MM: What is profound about fiction is that it creates a place where we can imagine the possible futures of these kinds of movements. Those are the kinds of questions we have to ask as writers.
ZI: That being said, I place you in the cadre of new African women writers asking these kinds of important questions through their fiction. I was thinking about writing a blog post on the year 2013 in African literature. Between overwhelming loss of the great Chinua Achebe and the tragic murder of Ghanaian writer Kofi Awoonor in the Westgate Mall attack, there was the emergence of a bounty of critically acclaimed work by several African women writers. There is of course the wonderful work by Teju Cole, Chris Abani, and Helon Habila, but right now these new African women writers are catapulting a certain kind of literary energy that is unprecedented in the history of modern and contemporary anglophone African literature. Speaking of the those writing in English, there is you, Adichie, NoViolet Bulawayo, Taiye Selassi, Aminatta Forna, although in French there is the prizewinning Marie Ndiaye as well. What do you make of this?
MM: I think it’s great! I admire Chimamanda Adichie’s work. I’m excited to see NoViolet doing so well, I’m cheering for her. There’s also Chinelo Okparanta, with her exquisite and spare prose, from Nigeria, who has a new book. There is another new writer, Yvonne Adhiambo Owour, whose book Dust is just out. I remember when I was the student editor of a literary magazine at NYU, one of Yvonne’s short stories crossed my desk, I thought, Wow, who is writing this, who is this writer? And here she is, her book is out. We are all telling very different stories, with different voices, about different parts of Africa. Yvonne lives in Kenya, but many of us are in diaspora. But one thing that is especially interesting is that those of us who are here are looking back to the continent to see about the other writers that we can help bring to the forefront. That for me is just as important as the process of writing: who are you going to help bring along with you? If there is no other obligation to me, it is that. It’s not about subject, or writing about history, there is no other obligation except that if I make it, someone else should also benefit from those resources. I’m excited about those writers and their stories.
ZI: It’s great—especially, my students are enjoying engaging with some of these new voices. We read Adichie’s Americanah last semester, and they loved it.
MM: Yes, it’s wonderful. I read the work of writers from Africa or who are writing about Africa in some way. What has been interesting for me, as a novelist interested by history, is trying to read everything I can in that particular genre as well.
ZI: Who are you reading in that regard? Or whose work has particularly drawn you in as you’ve been writing your novels?
MM: One of the writers who has especially influenced me is the great American novelist E. L. Doctorow. On the level of craft, the fearless way he structures his stories and views the world, the way he writes about the working class, poverty, aspiration, all while taking creative risks—repeatedly—reading his books has been absolutely pivotal for me as a writer. And then there’s my favorite, Homer, and novels by Hilary Mantel, Adam Johnson, Henning Mankell’s book Daniel, all books that negotiate that no-man’s-land where individual desires are enmeshed inside something larger than the self. So that it doesn’t necessarily have to be an African story, but it speaks to something that I think many diverse sets of writers grapple with too.
ZI: Speaking of Mankell’s Daniel makes me think of how, in Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, you attend to the stories of children with such empathy. While the novel is not a bildungsroman, the children, though minor characters in the novel, offer an important vantage. They seem to factor in the work more allegorically perhaps that the central adult characters. I’m thinking of especially of the little boy, Berhane. Do children appear similarly in the novel you are working on now?
MM: You know, when I began writing my first novel I thought I would write it from the perspective of the little girl, Tizita, because in many ways that could have been my perspective, and so it felt like an easy entry into the story. But she had a limited perspective; I could not show everything I wanted to show through her, so it just kept expanding and expanding to include stories of other characters, until the end when she witnesses some crucial incidents. With Berhane, I didn’t plan him, he just sort of came into the story, and he tells a different side of it that I thought was very important. In trying to figure out what happened to children, I would hear these reports of children who just disappeared or who were taken to prison and their parents never saw them again. I felt I could tell these stories, and they felt like they fit inside the structure of the story.
In the new book, it’s technically the adult world of war, but of course it affects the children, so as I’m continuing to work on it, I’m thinking about the children who are on the periphery. There is no war that does not impact the lives of children, so children and what happens to them in migration or conflict are important to me, and we generally don’t hear enough about it. And it’s difficult because they don’t know yet how to express their perspectives very well, so I’m interested in that, how their vocabulary doesn’t yet capture what they are seeing and feeling. As a writer, that becomes an interesting vehicle through which to tell a story.
ZI: So tell me more about the novel you are working on now: The Shadow King.
MM: This is a story I’ve known for a long time I wanted to tell, but I knew it would take a lot of work. The first novel was in many ways a step toward this one. The Shadow King is set in the early days of World War II, and it involves both Ethiopian characters and Italian characters. It’s a story of these two groups of people and their interaction, told from both perspectives. I find it really interesting and challenging. The thing that is exciting about any project or any book is that you have to push yourself, you have to push beyond what makes you comfortable. And that’s what I’m doing with this, so it’s also terrifying.
ZI: So you are doing a lot of research for this novel? When we bumped into each other at Heathrow Airport, you were on your way to Bath. I know archival research and collecting oral histories can be an ambiguous process, but what are some of the things you are seeking out and/or finding as you work on telling this story?
MM: I lived in Italy for close to a year doing research in the archives of the fascist government. I kept finding materials of propaganda, the documents that were produced which were state approved. As I looked at the newsreels or carefully crafted news articles, for example, I realized it was telling me something, but not necessarily giving me insight into the human story of that era. So I realized what I had to do was start looking for soldiers’ letters, diaries, and photographs, those types of personal artifacts, as well as personal stories from people. It has been a really fascinating process. Most of the Italian men who fought in Ethiopia have passed away, but I was able to contact the descendants of some soldiers and veterans of the war, who have the letters, personal objects of their family members, they shared the stories they heard, so that helped to fill in some of the blind spots in the official history. In Ethiopia, I’m constantly collecting the stories and comments about that era, that come up in casual conversation, alongside the more formal research in libraries and archives.
ZI: Has there been much scholarly consideration of the period of Italian occupation of Ethiopia from Ethiopian and/or Western historians?
MM: There is a growing interest, but surprisingly there is not as much work as the period deserves.
ZI: Even in terms of Italian historiography?
MM: Not really. In terms of their national history, they are only beginning, since the 1990s, to admit and interrogate what actually was done in Ethiopia during the World War II period.
ZI: So, who is the “Shadow King”?
MM: Well, I think several characters will inhabit that position throughout the story.
ZI: Translation: read the book! It’s literature, it’s complicated! So where are you in the process of writing?
MM: In the middle of editing.
ZI: So, great, you are in the thick of things.
Regarding World War II, so much of how we understand the contemporary, what it means to be humane, heroic, nationalistic, patriotic, how we define genocide, really arises at that moment in history.
MM: Yes, and the research has been fascinating. Regarding World War II, so much of how we understand the contemporary, what it means to be humane, heroic, nationalistic, patriotic, how we define genocide, really arises at that moment in history.
ZI: So true, we take it for granted, as if it were always this way, yet so many international cultural norms were codified at that time. Also, it’s interesting being here in London and considering how the war transformed the architectural landscape of the city: how buildings were bombed and destroyed and what we experience now as visitors were part of a long rebuilding process.
MM: Yes, we live in the shadow of those events that were recent enough to still be felt with a certain immediacy. That is what is fascinating to me, the stuff that is carried forward. I think of a book like Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan, which takes up these issues in highlighting the experiences of Afro-Germans.
ZI: So many diasporas . . .
MM: And we are just really beginning to unravel the impact that these conflicts had on African and black people. So what is fascinating to me is seeing what I bump into along the way as I conduct research for my novel. It opens up many, many questions.
ZI: Is The Shadow King set primarily in Ethiopia, or do you write about characters living in Italy?
MM: It goes back and forth. I’m so interested in writing about what was happening in Italy during that time as well. For example, at the beginning of the crisis, Italy didn’t have enough to fund the war, but they said they did. They had to the find the capital, so among other initiatives, they told all the women that through a public rite of faith they would marry the state. So every woman in Italy was encouraged to give up her gold wedding ring and give it to the state. Things like that are such an interesting part of the story of Mussolini’s fascist regime, but it is those stories of women that are often forgotten. I’m not sure if that particular event will fit into the novel, but for me the writing will be informed by my knowledge of those moments of history.
ZI: Given the growing presence of an African migrant population in Mediterranean Europe, your book takes up a very timely subject, and I am so looking forward to reading it, as there is a way that the Italian participation in the underdevelopment of Africa was been marginalized within the larger history of European imperialism. It is important that we examine how an aspiring imperial country attempted to participate in domination, and the legacy of that attempt on its own citizens and those in the occupied territories. Because as you said, we live in the shadows of these histories. The Shadow King, indeed.
በኦስሎ ዳይመንድ ሊግ የ5000ሜ ፉክክር ኢትዮጵያውያን አትሌቶች በሁለቱም ፆታዎች በአሸናፊነት አጠናቀዋል
ትላንት ምሽት በኖርዌይ ኦስሎ በተከናወነው የዳይመንድ ሊግ 5000 ሜ. ውድድር ኢትዮጵያውያን አትሌቶች በወንዶችም በሴቶችም ከአንደኛ እስከ ሶስተኛ ያሉትን ደረጃዎች በመቆጣጠር አሸንፈዋል፡፡ በዝናባማ የአየር ሁኔታ ውስጥ በተካሄደው የሴቶች 5000 ሜትር ፉክክር ዳዊት ስዩም በመጨረሻዎቹ መቶ ሜትሮች ውስጥ ፍጥነቷን በመጨመር ጉዳፍ እና ለተሰንበትን ቀድማ አንደኛ ወጥታለች፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ፌዴሬሽን ለኦሪገን 2022 የአለም ሻምፒዮና ከመረጣቸው ዕጩ አትሌቶች ዝርዝር ውስጥ ያልተካተተችው ዳዊት በኦስሎ ያሸነፈችበት 14፡25.84 የሆነ ሰአት የራሷ ምርጥ ሲሆን እጅጋየሁ ታዬ (14.12.98) እና ለተሰንበት (14፡24.59) ባለፈው ወር በዩጂን ካስመዘገቧቸው በመቀጠልም የዘንድሮ የአለም ሶስተኛው ፈጣን ነው፡፡ በውድድሩ ላይ ከነበሩት ሌሎች ኢትዮጵያውያን መካከል በዘንድሮው የውድድር ዓመት በርቀቱ የመጀመሪያ ተሳትፎዋን ያደረገችው አልማዝ አያና በ14:32.17 ስድስተኛ ሆና አጠናቃለች፡፡ ሀዊ ፈይሳ በ14:33.66፣ ፅጌ ገብረሰላማ በ14:43.90፣ እና አበራሽ ምንሴዎ በ14:47.98 በቅደም ተከተል ሰባተኛ፣ አስረኛ እና አስራ አንደኛ ሆነው ሲያጠናቅቁ ሶስቱም ያስመዘገቡት ሰዓት የራሳቸውን ምርጥ ያሻሻሉበት ሆኗል፡፡ ጥሩነሽ ዲባባ እ.ኤ.አ. በጁን 2008 ዓ.ም. ያስመዘገበችውና 14:11.15 የሆነው የኦስሎ ዳይመንድ ሊግ የሴቶች 5000 ሜትር የውድድር ስፍራ ሪከርድ ይሰበራል ተብሎ ተጠብቆ የነበረ ቢሆንም ሳይሳካ ቀርቷል፡፡
ዳዊት ስዩም ውድድሩን በድል ካጠናቀቀች በኋላ ለውድድሩ አዘጋጆች በሰጠችው አስተያየት ‹‹ዛሬ ለእኔ ደስታን ስላመጣልኝ በውድድሩ ሰዓት የነበረውን ዝናብ ወድጄዋለሁ ማለት እችላለሁ፡፡ ጠንካራ ተፎካካሪዎች የነበሩበት ከባድ ውድድር ነበር እናም ሁሉንም ለማሸነፍ በቅቻለሁ። በርቀቱ የራሴን ምርጥ ሰዓት ማሻሻል መቻሌም አስፈላጊ ነበር፡፡ በስታድየሙ ውስጥ በከፍተኛ ስሜት ድጋፍ ይሰጡን የነበሩ ወገኖቻችን ነበሩ። ለሰጡን ድጋፍ እናመሰግናለን።›› ብላለች፡፡ በኦስሎ የወንዶች 5000 ሜትር የመጨረሻ ፉክክሩ በኢትዮጵያውያኑ ጥላሁን ሀይሌ እና ሳሙኤል ተፈራ መካከል የነበረ ሲሆን ጥላሁን የ1500 ሜትር ስፔሻሊስቱ ሳሙኤልን በአጨራረስ ፍጥነት ቀድሞ በ13:03.51 በአንደኛነት አጠናቋል፡፡ ሳሙኤል ተፈራ የራሱ ምርጥ በሆነ 13:04.35 ሁለተኛ ሲወጣ ጌትነት ዋለ የግሉ የዓመቱ ምርጥ በሆነ 13:04.48 ሶስተኛ ደረጃን ይዞ ጨርሷል። በውድድሩ ላይ የነበሩት ሌሎች ኢትዮጵያውያን ሚልኬሳ መንገሻ በ13:05.94 አምስተኛ እንዲሁም አሊ አብዱልመናን የራሱ ምርጥ በሆነ 13:16.97 አስረኛ ወጥተዋል፡፡
ጥላሁን ሀይሌ ውድድሩን በአሸናፊነት ካጠናቀቀ በኋላ ለውድድሩ አዘጋጆች በሰጠው አስተያየት ‹‹ሶስት ኢትዮጵያውያን የመጀመሪያዎቹን ሶስት ደረጃዎች ይዘን መጨረስ መቻላችን ጥሩ አፈጻጸም ነበር። እየጠነከርኩ እንደሆነ የተሰማኝ ሲሆን በውድድሩ እና ባስመዘገብኩት ሰዓትም ተደስቻለሁ። ለረጅም ጊዜ ጉዳት ላይ ስለነበኩ ወደ አሸናፊነቱ መመለስ መቻሌ በጣም ጥሩ ነው።›› ብሏል፡፡
በኦስሎ የሴቶች 800ሜ. ውድድር ላይ ተፎካካሪ የነበረችው ኢትዮጵያዊቷ ድሪቤ ወልቴጂ በ1፡58.69 አምስተኛ ሆና አጠናቃለች።
የዘንድሮው የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ብሄራዊ ሻምፒዮና በእኔ እይታ
ከመጋቢት19-24/2014 ዓ.ም በሐዋሳ አለም አቀፍ ስቴድዮም የተደረገው 51ኛዉ የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ሻምፒዮና ከሞላ ጎደል ስኬታማ በሚባል ሁኔታ ተጠናቋል፡፡ ከአምስት አመት በኋላ በድጋሚ በአካል በመገኘት ስለተከታተልኩት የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ሀገር አቀፍ ሻምፒዮና የግል ምልከታዬን እንደሚከተለው አጠናቅሬዋለሁ፡፡ የበለጠ ትኩረትን በሳቡት ውድድሮች ዙሪያ የተመዘገቡ ውጤቶችን በወፍ በረር በመዳሰስ ስጀምር ከፍተኛ ፉክክር በታየበት የመጨረሻ ቀን የወንዶች 5000ሜ. የአለም ከ20 አመት በታች ሻምፒዮና የ3000ሜ የብር ሜዳልያ አሸናፊው አሊ አብዱልመና 13፡45.0 በሆነ ሰዓት ከጥላሁን ሀይሌ፣ ጌትነት ዋለ እና ዮሚፍ ቀጄልቻ ቀድሞ አሸናፊ ሆኗል፡፡ የፉክክሩ አካል የነበረው እና የርቀቱ የወቅቱ የአለም ሻምፒዮን ሙክታር እድሪስ ስድስተኛ ወጥቷል። ከ20 ዓመት በታች የ3000ሜ የአለም ሻምፒዮኑ ታደሰ ወርቁ በ28፡12.0 የወንዶች 10,000ሜ. ሻምፒዮን ሲሆን በ1996 ዓ.ም. በአትሌት ስለሺ ስህን ተመዝግቦ የነበረውን 28፡16.23 የሆነ የሻምፒዮናው ሪኮርድ ለማሻሻልም በቅቷል፡፡ በ10 ሺህ ሜትር የሴቶች ፉክክር ግርማዊት ገብረእግዚአብሔር በቀዳሚነት የጨረሰችበት 31፡21.5 የሆነ ሰዓት አዲስ የሻምፒዮንሺፕ ሪኮርድ ሆኖ ተመዝግቧል፡፡ በርቀቱ የከዚህ ቀደሙ ሪኮርድ ለተሰንበት ግደይ ከሶስት ዓመት በፊት ያስመዘገበችው 32፡10.13 የሆነ ሰዓት ነበር፡፡ ሳሙኤል ፍሬው በዘንድሮ የወንዶች 3000ሜ. መሰናክል አፈፃፀም ከአለም ሁለተኛው ፈጣን በሆነ 8፡22.5 ሰዓት አሸናፊ ሲሆን ጌትነት ዋለ ከአራት ዓመት በፊት አስመዝግቦት የነበረውን 8፡28.98 የነበረ የሻምፒዮናው ሪኮርድም አሻሽሏል፡፡ በሴቶች 3000ሜ. መሰናክል ከ800ሜ ወደ ረጅም ርቀት የተሸጋገረችው ወርቅውሃ ጌታቸው በ9፡41.8 ሰዓት መቅደስ አበበን (9:43.8) በማስከትል በአሸናፊነት አጠናቃለች። አድሃና ካህሳይ (3:51.0) የወንዶች 1500ሜ ፉክክሩን በበላይት ሲያጠናቅቅ በሴቶች 1500 ሜ አያል ዳኛቸው (4:10.0) ተጠባቂዋ ዳዊት ስዩምን (4:11.1) በመቅደም በአንደኛነት አጠናቃለች። በ800ሜ. ወንዶች ቶሌሳ ቦደና (1:47.1) በሴቶች ወርቅነሽ መሰለ (2:02.1) አሸናፊ ሆነዋል። ዮብሰን ብሩ በ400ሜ/400ሜ መሰናክል (45.9/50.5) ድርብ ድል ሲቀዳጅ፣ በወንዶች ጦር ውርወራ ኡታጌ ኡባንግ ብሔራዊ ሪኮርድ በሆነ 73.28ሜ. አሸንፏል፡፡ የኋልዬ በለጠው እና ዮሃንስ አልጋው በእርምጃ ሩጫ የሻምፒዮንነት ክብርን ተቀዳጅተዋል። ጥቂት አስተያየቶች፡- የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ስፖርት አፍቃሪ እንደሆነ እና ለዕድገቱ እንደሚቆረቆር ሰው በብሔራዊ ሻምፒዮናው ላይ ስለተመለከትኳቸው አዎንታዊ እና አሉታዊ ጎኖች ጥቂት አስተያየቶቼን እንደሚከተለው አስቀምጣለሁ፡- አዎንታዊ ጎኖች • ባለው ነባራዊ ሁኔታ ውስጥ ሊገጥሙ የሚችሉትን ተግዳሮቶች በሙሉ በመቋቋም ፌዴሬሽኑ ውድድሩን ከአዲስ አበባ ውጭ አካሂዶ በሰላም ማጠናቀቅ መቻሉ አንደኛው ስኬቱ ነው፡፡ • በሻምፒዮናው ላይ ጥቂት የማይባሉ ታዋቂ አትሌቶች በሀገሪቱ ትልቁ የአትሌቲክስ ፉክክር ላይ ተሳታፊ ሆነው ሲወዳደሩ መመልከት የተቻለ ሲሆን በተለይም በወንዶች 5000 ሜትር ፍፃሜ ላይ የታየው የኮከብ አትሌቶች ፉክክር ልዩ ነበር፡፡ • በውድድሩ ወቅት ለአትሌቲክስ ዳኞች የብቃት ማሻሻያ ስልጠና መሰጠቱም የውድድሩን ጥራት ለማሳደግ የሚረዳ እንደመሆኑ እሰየው የሚባል ነው፡፡ • እንደ ኢትዮ ኤሌክትሪክ ያሉት ክለቦች ለአትሌቲክስ ስፖርት የበለጠ ትኩረት በመስጠትና ተጠናክሮ በመቅረብ ከዚህ ቀደም በጠንካራነታቸው ከሚታወቁት መከላከያ እና ኢትዮጵያ ንግድ ባንክ ጋር የቅርብ ተፎካካሪ ሆነው መታየት፤ የኦሮሚያ ክልል፣ ደቡብ ፖሊስ እና ሲዳማ ቡና ክለብ አትሌቶችም ጠንካራ ተሳትፎ ሳይዘነጋ የሻምፒዮናው ፉክክር ድምቀት ነበሩ፡፡ • የአንዳንዶቹ ተገቢነት አጠያያቂ ቢሆንም ብዛት ያላቸው የሻምፒዮናው ሪኮርዶች የተሻሻሉበት ውድድርም ነበር፡፡ አሉታዊ ጎኖች • የሀገሪቱ ትልቁ የአትሌቲክስ ውድድር ውጤት አሁንም በኤሌክትሮኒክስ የሰዓት መቆጣጠሪያ የማይደገፍ መሆኑ በተለይም በአጭር ርቀት እና በሜዳ ላይ ተግባራት ውድድሮች ላይ የሚሳተፉ አትሌቶች ልፋት ተገቢውን እውቅና እንዳያገኝ እያደረገ ይገኛል፡፡ የሻምፒዮናውን ውጤቶች በዘመናዊ እና ዓለም አቀፉን መለኪያ በሚያሟላ መልኩ አለመያዝ በአህጉራዊ እና አለም አቀፋዊ ውድድሮች ላይ ለተሳትፎ የሚያበቁ ውጤቶችን በማስመዝገቡ ረገድ የሚኖረው አሉታዊ ተፅዕኖ ከፍተኛ መሆኑ ከግምት ውስጥ ገብቶ አሁንም መፍትሄ ያልተበጀለት ጉዳይ ነው፡፡ • የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ፌዴሬሽን ወደ ሚዲያ/ለአጠቃላዩ ሕዝብ የሚያስተላልፈው የመጀመሪያዎቹን ሶስት ደረጃዎች ይዘው የሚያጠናቅቁ አትሌቶችን ውጤት ብቻ መሆኑ አወዳዳሪው አካል የሚያደርገውን የራሱን ውድድርም ሆነ አትሌቶቹ የለፉበትን ውጤት ከማስተዋወቅ አኳያ በቂ አይደለም፡፡ • በወንዶች የጦር ውርወራ እና የሴቶች ምርኩዝ ዝላይ ብሔራዊ ሪኮርዶች እንደተመዘገቡ ይታመናል፤ በሴቶች 100ሜ መሰናክል እና የወንዶች 400ሜ መሰናክል የተመዘገቡት ሰዓቶችም የምንግዜውም ፈጣን ሊሆኑ ይችላሉ፡፡ ነገር ግን ውድድሩ በኤሌክትሮኒክስ ታይሚንግ ያልተደገፈ እና የንፋስ ንባብ ያልነበረው መሆኑ ውጤቶቹ በዓለም አቀፍ ደረጃ ተቀባይነት እንዳይኖራቸው የሚያደርግ ነው። • በ20 ኪ.ሜ የእርምጃ ውድድር ላይ በሁለቱም ፆታዎች የተመዘገቡት ሰዓቶች ከሚጠበቀው በላይ እጅግ በጣም ፈጣን እና እውነታዊ አለመምሰላቸው በውድድሩ ላይ የተፈጠረ አንዳች ስህተት መኖሩን የሚያመላክቱ መሆኑ፡፡ እንዲህ አይነት ለማመን የሚከብዱ እና ጥርጣሬን የሚፈጥሩ አይነት ውጤቶች ሲመዘገቡም የተፈጠረ ስህተት መኖር አለመኖሩን ለማጣራት አለመሞከሩ፡፡ • የሴቶች 10 ኪሎ ሜትር ውድድር ላይ ለውድድር የማይፈቀድ የጎዳና ላይ መሮጫ ጫማን በመጠቀም የተመዘገበ ውጤት በሪኮርድነት ጭምር ተይዞ መፅደቁ። ብሔራዊ ፌዴሬሽኑ ከተከለከሉ ጫማዎች ጋር የተያያዙ ዓለም አቀፍ ሕገ ደንቦችን ማወቅና መተግበር ቢገባውም በሴቶች 10 ሺህ ሜትር ውድድር ላይ የተከሰተው ነገር የውድድር ሕገ ደንቦቹ መረጃ በፌዴሬሽኑ ውስጥ በትክክል የተሰራጩ እንዳልሆነ የሚያመላከት ነው፡፡ • በሴቶች 1500 ሜትር የግማሽ ፍፃሜ ውድድር ላይ አትሌት ዳዊት ስዩም የሻምፒዮናውን ሪኮርድ ያሻሻለችበት ውጤት እንደተመዘገበ በውድድሩ ወቅት በተደጋጋሚ ሲነገር ከተደመጠ በኋላ ግልፅ ባልተደረገ ምክንያት ውጤቱ በሐዋሳው ውድድር ላይ ተሻሻሉ ከተባሉት የሻምፒዮናው አዲስ ሪኮርዶች ዝርዝር ውስጥ ሳይካተት መቅረቱም የፌዴሬሽኑን ግልፀኝነት ጥያቄ ምልክት ውስጥ የሚከት ነው፡፡ ከላይ የተዘረዘሩት አዎንታዊ እና አሉታዊ ጎኖች ለረጅም ግዜ የኢትዮጵያን አትሌቲክስ ስፖርት እንቅስቃሴዎች በቅርበት ከመከታተሌ አንፃር በራሴ እይታ ያስቀመጥኳቸው እንደመሆናቸው አንዳንዶቹ ሀሳቦች አከራካሪ ሊሆኑ ይችላሉ፡፡ ሆኖም የውድድር ደንቦችን በአግባቡ ከማስፈፀም አኳያ በታዩት ክፍተቶች ዙሪያ ምንም የሚያከራክር ጉዳይ ስለሌለ በወቅታዊ የውድድር ደንቦች ዙሪያ የግንዛቤ እጥረት ላለባቸው የስፖርቱ ባለድርሻ አካላት በሙሉ አስፈላጊውን ገለፃ እና ትምህርት መስጠት የፌዴሬሽኑ ኃላፊነት ነው፡፡ ከውድድር ጋር የተያያዙ ደንቦችን ከመጣስ አኳያ በሀገር ውስጥ በሚደረጉ ውድድሮች እንደቀላል ነገር የሚታለፉ ጉዳዮች በዓለም አቀፍ ውድድሮች ላይም ተደግመው እንደግል አትሌቶችን እንደቡድን ሀገርን ትልቅ ዋጋ ሊያስከፍሉ ይችላሉና አስፈላጊው ጥንቃቄ ቢደረግ መልካም ነው፡፡ ባለፈው መስከረም ወር በቪየና ሲቲ ማራቶን ውድድሩን በአሸናፊነት ጨርሶ የነበረው ኢትዮጵያዊው ደራራ ሁሪሳ የገጠመውን አንዘንጋው! ሀገራችን ኢትዮጵያን በመልካም ጎኑ ስሟ እንዲነሳ በሚያደርገው እና በትልልቅ ዓለም አቀፍ የውድድር መድረኮች ላይ የኩራታችን ምንጭ በሆነው የአትሌቲክስ ስፖርት እንደጎረቤታችን ኬንያ ዓለም አቀፍ ውድድሮችን የማስተናገድ የብቃት ደረጃ ላይ ደርሰን ማየት የዘወትር ምኞቴ ነው፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ፌደሬሽንም የውድድሮቹን ጥራት ለማሻሻል በትኩረት እንደሚሰራ ተስፋ አደርጋለሁ።
በመጨረሻም በሀዋሳ በተካሄደው 51ኛዉ የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ሻምፒዮና ከመሮጫ ጫማ ጋር የተያያዙ ደንቦችን በማስከበሩ ረገድ የተፈጠረውን ክፍተት እንደማስተማሪያ ብንጠቀምበት በሚል የሚከተለውን ለማለት ወደድኩ፡-
የመሮጫ ጫማ ደንቦች ለትራክ ውድድር
64 ደቂቃ ከ14 ሰከንድ በሆነ ሰዓት የዘንድሮ የራስ አል ካይማህ የግማሽ ማራቶን ውድድር አሸናፊ የሆነችው ግርማዊት ገብረእግዚአብሔር በሐዋሳ በተከናወነው 51ኛው የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ሻምፒዮና ላይ 31 ደቂቃ ከ21.5 ሰከንድ በመግባት የ10,000ሜ. አሸናፊ ሆናለች፡፡ የኢትዮጵያ አትሌቲክስ ፌዴሬሽንም ዓለም አቀፉን ደንብ ከግምት ባላስገባ ሁኔታ ውጤቱን በአዲስ የሻምፒዮንሺፕ ሪኮርድነት ጭምር አፅድቆት አልፏል፡፡ ይሁን እንጂ መጋቢት 20/2014 በተደረገው የሴቶች የፍፃሜ ፉክክር ላይ በኢትዮጵያ ምድር የተመዘገበ የምንግዜውም ፈጣን የሴቶች 10 ሺህ ሜትር ሰዓት የሆነው ውጤት በአለም አትሌቲክስ ዘንድ እውቅና ሊሰጠው የማይችል ነው።
አትሌቷ የሶል ውፍረቱ 40ሚሜ የሆነ ዙምኤክስ ቬፐርፍላይ (ZoomX Vaporfly) ጫማ አድርጋ በመወዳደሯ ምክንያት።
● ደንቡ ምን ይላል?
በትራክ ውድድሮች ላይ የሚፈቀደው ከፍተኛው የሶል ውፍረት ፡-
– 20ሚሜ ከ 800ሜ በታች ለሆኑ ውድድሮች እና ለሁሉም የሜዳ ላይ ተግባራት (ከስሉስ ዝላይ በስተቀር)
– 25ሚሜ ለ800ሜ እና ከዛ በላይ ለሆኑ ውድድሮች እንዲሁም ለስሉስ ዝላይ
– 40ሚሜ ለትራክ ላይ የእርምጃ ውድድሮች
እነዚህ ደንቦች እ.ኤ.አ. እስከ ኦክቶበር 31, 2024 ድረስ በሥራ ላይ ይውላሉ። ከኖቬምበር 1 ቀን 2024 ጀምሮ ለ800ሜ እና ከዚያ በላይ ለሆኑ ውድድሮች እንዲሁም ለስሉስ ዝላይ የሚፈቀደው ከፍተኛ የሶል ውፍረትም ወደ 20 ሚሜ ዝቅ የሚል ይሆናል።
● የትራክ ላይ መወዳደሪያ ስፓይክ ጫማ ከሌለኝስ?
ደንቡ የጎዳና ላይ የመሮጫ ጫማዎች በትራክ ላይ እንዳይደረጉ አይከለክልም ነገር ግን በ25 ሚሊ ሜትሩ ገደብ ምክንያት 30 ሚሜ ወይም 40 ሚሜ የሆኑ የጎዳና ላይ መሮጫ ጫማዎች በትራክ ውድድሮች ላይ እንዲደረጉ አይፈቅድም፡፡
● ለበለጠ መረጃ :-
On the TPLF’s Love Affair With ‘Genocide’
Today, the joint investigation report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and the UNHR
on human rights violations committed in Tigray concluded that there is no evidence that genocide has taken place so far. While this is a bit of a setback for the TPLF, which has wanted the world to believe—since the 1990s, even as the TPLF was dominating power in Addis—that a genocide has been perpetrated against the people of Tigray, unfortunately the group still appears to be determined to make genocide a reality. This is confusing for people who don’t understand why the TPLF is obsessed with genocide, why its internet cadres began using #TigrayGenocide in April 2020, months before the war began. So many weapons have been deployed in this war, and among them: confusion and obfuscation.
In the past several months and more so in the past few weeks, we have been getting
testimony after testimony from allied Amhara forces fighting the TPLF that Tigrayan residents of cities in Wollo have been collaborating with the TPLF by a) attacking ENDF and allied forces from behind; b) forcing ENDF and allied forces to withdraw from towns and cities afraid of committing large scale massacres by firing back at the civilians (Tigrayans) firing at them; c) helping the TPLF locate and execute young Amharas believed to be a threat; and d) in at least one horrifying account by an IDP who managed to escape occupied territories, handing TPLF soldiers a list of women to rape. Another shocking development in the past several months has been the widespread use of child soldiers by the TPLF, which, according to experts who have studied the practice, is an “alarm bell” calling attention to possible plans to commit mass atrocities. The use of child soldiers by the TPLF and its attendant implications, along with the widespread deployment of civilian sleeper agents in Amhara cities the TPLF has taken over, serves to create an overall perception of every Tigrayan as a potential enemy, sowing fear and mistrust.
Many Ethiopians are looking at this and wondering: why are Tigrayan elites on the internet
either celebrating the TPLF’s advance via these toxic methods or silent about all this? How can they not see how dangerous this is for everyone, especially for Tigrayans who live outside Tigray? How can they not see that there is no “winning” after stoking all this lasting animosity? Do Tigrayan elites not understand that there can be no justice for Tigray—whether Tigray secedes or not—unless there is justice for her neighbors, for Tigray does not exist in a vacuum? The questions are being asked but nobody is answering them. Our academic class has largely failed to offer viable analyses of the ideas driving this war, as they failed over the past fifty years in regards to coming up with a fitting paradigm for understanding Ethiopia’s unique situation.
Here is my humble attempt to explain what I think is happening with the TPLF’s obsession
with—and with its active attempt to inspire—genocide:
The most successful psychopaths in any field understand that, in order to win anything, one
must risk everything, including the very thing one is supposedly fighting for. In the case of the
TPLF (and associated Tigrayan political elites), whose motto appears to be “give me supremacy or give me death,” that “everything” they are risking is the lives of ordinary Tigrayans in whose names they are fighting. We have seen over the past several months the extent to which the TPLF is willing to go to sacrifice ordinary Tigrayans in order to get what it wants: wave after wave after wave of young poorly armed and inexperienced Tigrayans were unleashed upon ENDF and Amhara and Afar forces in order to force the latter to waste ammunition and energy before the more experienced soldiers are sent.
So, for a political group who sends tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of
young Tigrayans towards open fire, violence against hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans is nothing if it means the TPLF will in the end win the “prize” it has been obsessed with for decades: genocide. You see, merely attaining power in Addis Ababa is not enough for the TPLF, whose core driving ideology is Tigrayan supremacy. Power is temporary; anybody can take it away from you, and the 2018 uprisings demonstrated that. Genocide is forever. Nobody can take away from you the story of genocide committed against your people.
The TPLF looked at countries like Israel and Rwanda and realized what a potent instrument
genocide is for establishing perpetual minority rule. We have some indications suggesting that the TPLF views Israel as a model. When the war between Ethiopia and the TPLF began in November 2020, Sekoutoure Getachew, a TPLF official, went on TV to tell us that the TPLF’s decision to launch a preemptive attack on the Northern Command was inspired by how the young state of Israel, feeling threatened by her neighbors, launched preemptive attacks against them in the “six-day war” of 1967. Another indication is the manner in which the TPLF, during its 27 years in power, invested heavily in creating a wealthy and strongly networked Tigrayan diaspora which has been used to lobby and influence western governments and organizations much in the same way as the Jewish diaspora aids the state of Israel. The TPLF has figured out that truth does not matter in politics, especially in international politics. If you have the wealth and the personnel to peddle your preferred narrative, if you have the military power to subdue the people you want to subdue, if you are willing to make concessions to external forces (US, Egypt, etc), you can do unspeakable things to others (much like the state of Israel does to Palestinians) and still manage to portray yourself as the victim.
This calculation is so far working for the TPLF, but nothing would seal the deal like the actual
commission of genocide—or something that looks like it—against Tigrayans. As we have seen over the past twelve months, western governments and organizations have shown their willingness to adopt TPLF’s narratives without scrutiny and can easily reward the TPLF with its much pursued prize, genocide, even if actual genocide doesn’t take place.
But why does the TPLF need genocide to establish minority rule? Because, as we saw in their
first tenure in power, you can only rule with an iron fist for a limited period of time. Leaders of the TPLF are adherents of Tigrayan supremacy: the idea that Tigrayans, as the “only” heirs of the Axumite empire, are the natural rulers of the Ethiopian state, and cannot be ruled by “barbarians” south of them. The only acceptable power arrangement for the TPLF is one in which Tigrayans are either directly dominating political power or are the perpetual kingmakers pulling all the major strings. Anything outside that, any system that forces Tigrayans to live on equal footing with everyone else, is unacceptable. And this kind of domination by a minority cannot coexist with a democratic system that the majority of Ethiopians clearly prefer. So, the TPLF needs something more potent than pure political/economic/military power to justify bypassing democracy to establish itself as the permanent ruler/kingmaker of Ethiopia. It needs a new and powerful raison d’être to justify its domination not just to Tigrayans and the rest of Ethiopians but, and most importantly, to the rest of the world. If a genocide were to be committed against Tigrayans (or if the U.S. decides to reward the TPLF with the genocide label even in the absence of it), then the TPLF can license itself to impose all manner of drastic measures aimed at “protecting Tigray and
Tigrayans.” This could be anything from redrawing internal borders (and taking debilitating
measures against the peoples whose lands are being robbed—most likely Amharas and Afaris—so that they will never be in a position to assert themselves) to ethnic cleansing and genocide against populations considered to be a threat. And when you oppose it, the TPLF will say “you committed a genocide against Tigrayans” over and over and over, and its western backers will repeat the same chorus. If they have been this loud over a non-existent genocide over the past twelve months, just imagine what it would be like if the U.S. or UN rewards them with that label.
And this is where the Ethiopian government’s major dilemma comes from: if ENDF and
Amhara forces fight to regain their cities and towns, they risk committing large scale massacres. The TPLF networks reported to be operating within these cities wear civilian clothing and fire at the armies from inside civilian establishments, in an apparent attempt to set up pro-Ethiopia forces. Pro-Ethiopia forces are essentially being dared to commit large scale massacres in order to win back their own cities. So far, they are choosing to withdraw from these towns and cities. But that is another problem: not only is the TPLF committing unspeakable violence against civilians and destroying infrastructure in those cities, the takeovers are emboldening it to continue pressing, giving young people back in Tigray false hope that they are winning and—this is very important—the false idea that they are being “welcomed” by locals in those cities. Then more and more and more young Tigrayans are sent to their deaths.
So the Ethiopian government is stuck between a rock and a hard place. One option is
allowing its forces to do whatever it takes to take back territory, thereby offering protection to its citizens in Wollo and elsewhere, but also risking the “genocide” label by western governments who have been eagerly waiting for such an opportunity so that they can blackmail the government into submitting itself to their wishes on GERD and other issues. Option two is avoiding large scale violence and allowing the TPLF to take power in Addis Ababa and do to Ethiopia what it wishes. One of the things it might do to Ethiopia, according to its leaked strategy document, is force a confederation that will no doubt privilege some states, i.e. Tigray, more than others, and that will no doubt be designed to subdue some populations—mainly Amharas and Afaris—who are considered obstacles to Tigray’s aspirations of domination and expansion (in the TPLF’s original manifesto, Afar is claimed as Tigray land).
And there is absolutely no doubt that the TPLF will make big concessions on the GERD in
order to compensate its western and Egyptian backers, if not redraw borders to make Benishangul Gumuz Tigrayan territory. If you think this is wild, read about the history of the state of Israel, the TPLF’s model state. The redrawing of borders that the TPLF undertook in 1991 was also wild at the time; people don’t think of it as outrageous anymore because the fact that they held onto the territory for 30 years has normalized the event in our minds. And that’s all the TPLF needs: another thirty years to normalize all the outrageous things they will do next.
One may argue that this is a false dichotomy, that there is a third or even maybe fourth option: winning these cities back without mass violence much in the same way the ENDF managed to do during its first campaign in Tigray. We all should pray for such a miracle, of course. However, one can also say that in the early days of the war, the TPLF was mostly withdrawing from Tigrayan cities to avoid urban warfare. And even when they engaged in urban warfare, it was not at the same scale and intensity as has been the case over the past four and half months or so. Starting in mid June, the TPLF’s use of civilians as human shields and fighters stopped being just another weapon in its arsenal and became a center of its operations. The near collapse of the ENDF inside Tigray right before its withdrawal was precipitated by the TPLF’s intensified use of “civilians” to trap the ENDF. Many ENDF soldiers chose to surrender rather than fire at those “civilians.” It is still possible to avoid large scale violence in the attempt to retake towns in Wollo, but the risk for it is very high, and is possibly behind the federal government’s reluctance to take decisive actions.
The point is: barring miracles, the Ethiopian government is positioned to lose something
one way or another. All that is left is choosing its preferred poison. Perhaps one thing to consider for the federal government is: the rights of Amharas and Afaris to defend themselves against the existential threats posed against them by the TPLF is much bigger than the national government’s concerns about its place and relationships with the rest of the world. If the federal government decides to risk the disintegration of Ethiopia, like it has done so far either due to incompetence or severe fear of committing large scale violence, that is fine for the federal government. But when you allow that disintegration to happen, please don’t leave the people of Amhara and Afar in a vulnerable position, unable to defend themselves and their lands. If we must return to the State of Nature, at least give these two peoples, who have so far shed more blood than anyone else in defense of their country, a chance to preserve their lives and their lands. Give them the resources they need to defend themselves before it is too late for them even if you feel it is too late for Ethiopia. Anything less is just a continuation of the gross criminal negligence that the federal government has been guilty of so far.
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