"...A column for Ethiopian culture, geography, History, literature, music, k'ne, humor, current affairs and the like...."

NUMBER 8 < < < < < For the EEDN community > > > > > > February 2,1993

Selam wd wegenoch! Indemn keremaCu?

"Variety Column" is back after a lapse of few weeks. Today, the column has a different message. The column could have taken you to a re-discovery of Ethiopian events and personalities. It could even have taken you to one of the many natural and geographical features of the nation. The column, in its own way, would have tried to entertain you as it reminds you about the people and events that had shaped our past and present.

But today, the column has something else on its mind. It will make it gentle to your conscious and ears; but it has a message to pass to you. There are people who want a story to be told; a story of things they thought would never happen. But, alas, it has happened. Disillusion, a re-visit to an unpleasant past have come to pass. What the future holds is some other column's duty. But today, "Variety Column" will be the voice to the disillusioned.

It began with a copy of a newspaper clip, the editor received from a friend a couple of days ago. The news, even after 4 weeks is still news. But the editor received another letter from Addis from another friend, who for his own sake, has to remain anonymous. The letter had nothing else except the same newspaper clip. The writer of the letter had written or said nothing. All that was in the letter was a clip from the newspaper. It is like as if the friend said: " That is all you have to know." It is a message well understood. Yes, that is all we have to know and people have to hear about it!

Without any further due, "Variety Column" will take you to those 4 fateful days that culminated in the death of 30 students of the Addis Ababa University. The editor understands that there might be a desire to forget, and move on because it has been 4 weeks since it happened.

But there are at least 30 families who haven't buried their dead. And tens of thousands of young men are roaming the streets of Addis with nothing to dream about. The least we could do for them is not only "book drives", "Unix labs" and "e-mail connections" but symphatise and at least listen to their stories. The rest is in the conscience of the reader.

The story is as told by an Addis Ababa newspaper called "Ethiopis". The particular edition was sold for 5 birr after the government "bought" a major bulk of it from all news-stands before it could reach a lot of readers. The regular price was 60 cents.

The Four Fateful Days at AAU

"Chif-Chefa Be Sidist Kilo"

Friday, January 1, 1993

All over the campus flyers calling for peaceful demonstration were distributed. That was the day that Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali was due to arrive in Addis for mediating the civil war in Somalia. But what was more of interest to the students was the news that The UN secretary general will be heading to Asmara.

Saturday, January 2, 1993

A general meeting of the students started at 9:00 o'clock in the evening. According to the paper, in both shear size and ethnic diversity, this particular meeting was very impressive. It was like the old times when AAU students stood together.

There was only one point in the agenda. It was all about "Eritrea". It wasn't long before speaker after speaker condemned the UN and TGE sponsored "referendum". They all expressed doubts about the presence of democratic system in the referendum. A contagious cheering set the mood for the passing of a resolution without further due. In the midst, students who support the referendum ask for their right to express their views. Their views were that every nationality has the right of self-determination including opting for secession. The paper says, the speakers reckoned that students from Southern Ethiopia will fall for the trap. The outcome was in fact quiet the opposite. The meeting was concluded at 3:00 in the morning after 6 hours and the participants decided that AAU students will participate in a demonstration.

Sunday, January 3, 1993

2:00 o'clock in the afternoon, Arat Kilo and Amst Kilo campus students join Sidist Kilo'ers for another round of meetings. The agenda, this time, was the wording of the resolution, banners and flags. The students pass the following resolution:

1) Condemning the UN's resolution to send observers to the referendum on the secession of the Eritrean region.

2) Condemning the letter written to the UN by the TGE's president, Ato Meles Zenawi. The students pointed out that the president doesn't have any mandate to make such decisions regarding the sovereignty of the nation. As a leader of a transitional government, he has no right or whatsoever to ask the UN to facilitate the break-up of the nation.

3) Condemning the anti-democratic restriction imposed on the opposition parties in the Eritrean region by the EPLF.

4) Stressing the need and urgency of the participation of the nationals of the rest of Ethiopia in this important decision (i.e. the referendum).

The students decide to hand the UN secretary a copy of the resolution.

It was decided to write the banners and resolutions in 4 languages i.e., Amharic, Tigrigna, Oromigna and English.

A sample of the banners goes as follows:

"We condemn ethnic politics", "Eritrea is always Ethiopia; and Eritreans are Ethiopians"

"The EPRDF leaders should feel and act as Ethiopians" etc.

Regarding the demonstration itself, the students decide to avoid physical confrontation with the police and proceed to hand over the resolution to the UN chief. The meeting is concluded by deciding to meet 8 PM the next morning.

Monday, January 4, 1993

8 o'clock, Monday morning witnessed a massive turn out from the student body. The Sidist Kilo campus was packed with Ethiopian flag waving students from all the other campuses. The procession started with chanting and patriotic songs.

In the mean time, the EPRDF troops barricaded themselves in the compounds of the near-by Planning ministry. Jeep-mounted automatic rifles and hand grenades were among the arms carried by the government troops. Scattered among the armed troops were government police dressed in Addis Ababa police uniforms.

The campus and student body were tense as the procession made its way out of the campus through the square in front of the AAU president's office. More undecided students join the demonstration. The front procession leaves the campus waving the national tri-color. In a couple of minutes, the front procession passes the Yekatit 12 hospital and makes its way to the park in front of the prime minister's office. Meanwhile, the tail of the procession just crosses the gates of the university.

As soon as the whole of the procession is outside the campus, 6 uniformed police men rush to the main AAU gate and close it. In a matter of seconds government security agents take out their automatic weapons from their coats and aim them at the students. Some of the security agents rush to the middle of the procession with their automatic weapons pointed at the students. Panic grips the students who see pointed weapons as they try to disperse looking for a cover. A certain young man, known in the campus as government security agent, fires the first shots in the air from a pistol. As more panic and disorder follows, the young man starts shooting at the student crowd. More shots were heard from government agents who posed as students. As wounded and dead students fall, more assault is carried on students leaders with bayonets and knives. More shots were fired by the EPRDF troops on the dispersing crowd.

Wounded students were carried away by other students before government troops arrive. The lightly wounded were taken to the AAU clinic for first aid while the fatally wounded were on their way to the Yekatit 12 hospital on 3 vehicles and 1 mini-bus brought by their fellow students.

EPRDF troops, according to the paper, stopped the 3 small cars and the mini-bus and threw out the fatally wounded. The faculty members and students who brought the wounded were beaten up by the soldiers. Meanwhile at the Sidist Kilo campus, the troops were on a student hunt. Female students and blind students were not spared. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the troops throwing the blind students over the fences of the campus. Troops outside the campus followed a group of students who were trying to help out the female students who had panicked. The troops beat the students with bayonets so hard that 2 of the students died in their friend's house the next day, Tuesday.

What was the most heart-breaking to the faculty who were watching their students being shot at and slain was the troops refusal to allow the Red Cross' ambulances from entering the campus. As wounded students were bleeding the troops proceeded to the Yekatit 12 Hospital where they went on beating the wounded and their friends. Even the doctors and nurses who were tending to the wounded were beaten with sticks. Meanwhile, the bodies of the slain was collected by the government troops and taken to undisclosed locations. Their bodies have not been returned to their families to this date. 30 students joined the ranks of the thousands of the unaccounted for martyrs of the AAU.

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