Thursday, October 13, 2016

How I'm Made a Dissident, an Emotional Man, and a Usual Suspect

[WARNING: If personal notes get you bored, don’t read this.]

I was 11 years old boy when EPRDF took power. As a kid, I had a confused feeling during the time the then 'Woyane' controlled Addis on Ginbot 20. During the nights before, we used to listen to 'Dimtsi Woyane’, radio broadcasted by TPLF from battlefield. I remember the elderlies were very worried however I kind of loved the guys from what they, the Woyanes, spoke on the radio. In addition, my father, despite being a member of the then national guard in the Ethio-Somalia border, had said he doesn't care if Derg is defeated, or at least my sister had told me he had said so. As a child, I was looking at the opportunity of being reunited with my father when that happens. 

Even though the 'Woyanes' were portrayed like monsters by the time they took control of Addis Ababa, I liked them. I stared at them wondering at their never-cut hair, old shorts, and sandals. I told a couple of them that I love them when they come to our village for disarmament and search for illegal holds of arms.

Soon later, they are worn with good uniforms and 'kesikis' shoes which I had wished to have a pair. Their name became popularly EPRDF and the 'Woyane' turned a derogatory term for 'Derg' propagandists already associated it with equivalence to 'separatists'.

EPRDF took control of state-owned and widely listened radio station monopoly and preached a lot about democracy, national liberation, equal rights, and so on. It was my formative age. Everything I listened to was sweet and persuasive. On the contrary, the elderly in our neighborhood became so critical of the new regime. I didn't know why but I thought it was only because it is a government that EPRDF is hated and that only because newly formed opposition political parties are not given the governing chance, that they are preferred.

I didn't know why people became more concerned about their ethnic background. Discussions of the older people seemed always as if there is something to be worried about. I couldn't get the slightest idea of what bothered them until I turned 18 and went with my father to 'Kebele' to get an ID. I was asked what my 'nationality' (not citizenship but ethnicity) was. I never felt like belonging to any ethnic group before. I turned my face toward my father who took almost a minute to respond to. He looked like he lost an internal battle immediately after that. My mother and father are from different regions (at least by birth) and it never mattered before. Until now, telling the 'nationality/ethnicity written on my ID is embarrassing to me. I always felt it isn't representative of my identity. It is like I’m legally forced to feel belonged to one group and not to the rest.