5 September 2009 –Two years a go, the TPLF, government has made a deal with the Sudanese president Omer Al Bashir and among the deals, TPLF led government agreed to cede a vast fertile farm land of Ethiopia to the Sudan, in return, Sudan agreed to hand-over Ethiopian political refugees and prevent any political movement against the tplf regime in the Sudanese soil and also Sudan agreed to supply oil with a discount price.
The first victim of the deal was our father Shaleka Atanaw Wasie, and many others. On September 21, 2007, our father and 15 others were handed-over to the tplf security services and were detained at notorious Ma’kelawi prison in Addis Abeba. No family visitation was allowed, nor formal charges were filed.
On July 2009, when our father health deteriorated at Ma’akelawi prison cell, they throw him at Kaliti concentration camp/prison. After back and forth with prison officials, finally he was admitted at hospital for treatment escorted by watchfully eyes of armed guards. But sadly it was too late. The doctors tried hard whatever they could do, but he was already weakening by lack of proper treatment for long time. He passed away 8 am Friday 8/21/2009 at the age of 77. He was buried in the town of Gondar, on Sunday 8/23/09.
Shaleka Atanaw Wasie was born from his father Ato Wasie Desta Kassa Akalu and from his mother Emahoy Genet Bilatawold Minteweledu in the locality of Adagne-Ager Sehari Giorgis, in Gondar province.
Prior to the ascend of the military junta, he was one of to develop modern farming close to the Sudan border- Metema, Shimelegara, Delelo and Work-amba. Above all, he was instrumental defending the Ethiopian farmland bordering the Sudan, by arming and settling Ethiopian on the border area in order to prevent the Sudanese farmers and army Intruders. For his bravery, the crown government awarded him 60 additional armaments to be distributed for local people under his auspices. He paved 65km-feeding roads in his own resources from Metema to Shimelegara and to Delelo, along Ethiopian Sudanese border which follow with the line of the Guang River – the natural border of Ethiopia with the Sudan. He encouraged people to farm near the border, because Sudan was settling its own farmers along the border. Under “ Metema Yegeberwoch Mahber” he browed from the government $3 million Birr (at that time a lot of money) and distributed to farmers.
Every summer hundreds of armed local men used to go with him to Alatis (Ale Tiss) and Nebes Gebeya to check out if the border was secured. On their way, they hunt Lion and Zihon. In their way back they chant Guro Woshebaye, and a big Fukera ceremony used to be held. All mentioned area above are currently, partly or in its entirety are ceded to the Sudan, thanks to the current government in Ethiopia. In the late 80’s, Crown Prince Asfawossen Haileselse confers upon him the rank of Bitwoded.
After the Dergue ascend to power, he felt that given the experience of military dictatorship around Africa and the military junta handling of Aste Haileselasie’s case, he was not comfortable to live with it, as a result, he prepared him self to oppose the junta in all available means. In 1968, he managed to contact Ras Mengesha Seyoum and General Nega Tegne in exile and brought them back in Ethiopia in Metema area in a strict confidential undertaking for consultation. Ras Mengesha and General Nega, stayed at Shaleka Atanaw’s farm for 24 hours, after lengthy discussion, they agreed to form a political party, and also both agreed to work in two fronts, namely, domestic (in Ethiopia) and external (foreign), accordingly, Shaleka Atanaw took the responsibility of the domestic recruitment part and Ras Mengesha and General Nega, the foreign part. Political party – later known as Ethiopian Democratic Union (EDU) was formed.
In 1969/1970, under his leadership, all western area of Gondar region, Tach Armachio, Metema, Quara Adagne-Ager, Denbia, Chilga, Delgi, Alefa Takussa, Chaco, Dawa and Qounzila in Gojam, to mentions a few, were liberated except few towns from the brutal dictator, the Dergue. Most notably, when Metema was liberated the brutal dictator Mengistu Hailemariam personally declared in national TV and radio that “abiotachin Tekelebese Yekerun Samintat Nachew”. Also two of his sons, Wondimhunegne and Digissu were executed by Melaku Tefera in Gondar town, in 1969. The Dergue confiscated all his properties – residential and commercial houses, heavy-duty tracks, tractor, in Gondar and over 4000 Quintals of sesame ready to export in Addis Abeba. .
Although the EDU weakened by internal strife since 1971, however, Shaleka Atanaw continued his resistance against the Dergue till its demise in various forms. And later, his men fought against the tplf wing EPDM of Bereket, in Tach-Armachio, in many occasions, till finally his men were pushed out into the Sudan, in 1991.
Although Many can be said and written about Sahleka Atanaw, however, suffice to say that he never fear death and always he is true to his words and deeds. He always faces adversity head-on. It is to be remembered his predictive speech when EDU split in two camps and told the gathering of EDU members “ We have to remain together as one entity, other wise our fate would be that of the Palestinian –we will live as a refugee scattered in a foreign land forever”. He was a fearless man: In 1970, he was traveling in Denbia about 50 fighters with him. Suddenly, the Dergue commando unity ambushed him and a war game resumed, after few hours of battle, the fighters with him suggested to retreat because the say the enemy force are much higher and most of the good fighters are dead or wounded, so that at least they have to save his lives. What was his reaction? He did not respond by words, instead, he took-off his shoes and threw it away. “I will not retreat I have no shoes to run – If any one of you chooses to save your own lives please do so”. The Tagay alarmed by his response, but encouraged and they won the battle.
He has sustained 3 wounds throughout the struggle. In one of the heaviest battle with Dergue’s 25th battalion brought-in from Harar commanded by Lt Colonel Mekonen Hailemariam, I was in the side of my father, and both of us were wounded at the same battle. Mine was very serious. He said to me: hey son remember those who died before you and don’t fear death. I survived.
Around June in 1970, when he was in Alefa Taqussa, he received a message from Simeneh Desta of Gojjam. The message says that he needs a help to break the siege around him as soon as possible. Shaleka Atanaw never knows Simeneh before, but he heard about his struggle against the Dergue in Gojjam. He asked the people and the fighters around him if any among us knew the place where Simeneh is. One of the commanders of the fighters stands up and said I’m from that area. He was pleased. Under the command of that fighter 15 fighters were dispatched along the two messengers came from Simineh. Later after 15 days Simeneh arrived and joined Shaleka Atanaw. After three days of rest, Simeneh were sent to me in the liberated town of Metema with a letter from my father saying, I have to escort Simeneh to Gedaref in Sudan to the EDU headquarters. I did.
In another note: In March 1968, I was with my father when he traveled to the town of Gedaref, to talk to the Sudanese authorities regarding the situation in Ethiopia and we were staying at a hotel called Amir Hotel. There we met newly arrived Ethiopian from Tigray. They were two contending groups in Tigray: (1) Teranafit Committee (an Ethiopian rebellion) (2). Tegadilo Harnet Tigray (a separatist group – now in power Addis Abeba). In Amir Hotel we were at room 9 and the separatist group led by Gessesse Ayele and another man now appears to me Seyoum Mesfin, in room 15. The other group – Teranafit Committee members were staying at a private house. Our father used to talk to them regarding the situation in Tigray region. The leader of the separatist group Ato Gessesse Ayele used to come to our room and talked to my father for hours. Some of their conversation was about the conflict between the two groups in Tigray. Our father took the initiative and offered to mediate between Teranafit Committee and Tegadilo Harnet Tigray. Both groups accepted his mediation. In our hotel room, Aleka Tesfaye Woreta and others representing Teranfit Committee and Gesesse Ayele and appears to be Seyoum Mesfin from Tegadilo Harnet Tigray were present. The two groups were operating in Tigray, but disagreed on many political issues. After many discussions, both agreed to seek peaceful means under the leadership of Ras Mengesha Seyoum. My father has told both groups that he has met Ras Mengesha and General Nega, but they has left for Rome the previous week – I will relay the situation and as soon as I got a response from them, I will let you know, he said. After these agreements both promised not to attack each other and both promised they would present the agreement to their leadership back home, and both left to Tigray through Kassalla.
After one month, from Teranafit Committee, our father received a message saying that Teranfit Committee fighters has clashed at Shere Awuraja with tegadilo Harnet Tigray and has killed Ato Gesesse Ayele and another person named Muse. My father saddened by the news. His wish of reconciliation was dashed. Teranafit Committee later becomes part of the forming of the EDU. When we see it back, our father’s effort to reconcile the two groups if it was succeeded could have averted the current agenda of the TPLF ethnic politics in our country.
After the TPLF, become a new ruler on Ethiopia, our father choose to stay in Sudan, but decided to send his families to the US and family members repeatedly asked him to leave Sudan and move to the US, but declined. He said, “I’m already afar from Ethiopia and I could not go further than this”.
The TPLF administration has complained to the Sudan government about his presence in the Sudan, and has requested his extradition in many occasions. For example our father was detained by Sudanese security services in 2005 for 9 month in Khartoum, but despite his arrest the government of Sudan refused to hand-over to the woyane regime. Two years a go, however, after Sudan and the EPRDF reached agreement on the border land issue – which surrendered huge Ethiopian fertile land to the Sudan, Khartoum become a free land for the tplf security services, as a result, he was handed-over to the Addis Abeba regime.
In Addis Abeba, he was detained at Ma’akelawi hell without charge or visitation by family and friends. When his health deteriorated they threw him to Kaliti concentration camp. When family members visited him at Kaliti, he was seriously sick, and later he was allowed to be admitted to the hospital at watchfully eyes of armed police. It was too late to save his lives, and passed away on 8/21/09 and buried at Gondar town on 8/23/09.
The inhuman treatment of our father by the hand of the tplf regime is disgusting but it is also the daily practice of the regime against many Ethiopians in wider scale.
Finally, we would like to express our deep appreciation for the outpour support we received and indignation by fellow Ethiopians for the loss of the giant lion. Especially our many thanks go to Soccep and Amnesty International human Right organizations for their unqualified support throughout our ordeal.