Addis Ababa University Press, 2012
Reviewed by Ghelawdewos Araia, PhD
Tigrai Online, October 19, 2013
Hiwot Teffera has produced a very powerful, scintillating, and captivating book on the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the Ethiopian Revolution. It all began with the author’s exposure to the uncharted waters of political philosophy and ideology when one time student leader and revolutionary, Getachew Maru, whom she affectionately calls “my hero”, baptized her. Tower In The Sky is an enduring literary power, especially for the Ethiopian generation that was engaged in protracted wars against the feudo-bourgeois regime of Haile Selassie and the most brutal Derg regime in Ethiopian history.
Tower In The Sky wholly and thoroughly examines the struggles of the EPRP in a very lucid and cogent way, but not only in terms of narrating the complex Ethiopian politics of the time and praising the fallen heroes in due course of the struggle, but also in criticizing the shortcomings and failures of the Party. Hiwot Teffera eloquently captures in a dramatic fashion EPRP’s clandestine operations from the outburst of the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974 to her incarceration and her release in 1986.
On top of documenting the chronology of the unfolding events surrounding the political performance of the EPRP, Tower In The Sky is also very much a literary work that could be classified as a non-fiction genre. Hiwot successfully blended non-fiction literature with authentic political discourse that virtually affected the entire social fabric of Ethiopia. Though for the most part Hiwot narrates the experience of the EPRP vis-à-vis the Derg and other contending forces, she also utilizes metaphorical language that goes into recreating allusions. She uses verbal patterns, including cadence, to dramatically depict some frightening scenarios that, in turn, capture, the horrendous torture and killings of Ethiopian youth in general and her own comrades in particular at the hands of the Derg murderers.
With a conscious manipulation of form and language, she echoes the gallantry of the Ethiopian Student Movement (ESM) and the combatants of the EPRP. In relation to the latter, thus, I am tempted to claim that Tower In The Sky is one book that represents the decades of indomitable spirit by the Ethiopian fallen heroes and of some comrades who survived to tell the tale. Hiwot is one of the latter.
The book is beautifully written and easy to read because the author has exhibited extensive creativity and meticulous craftsmanship in putting the pieces (including the enigmatic encounters) of the complex and intricate Ethiopian politics of the 1970s and 1980s in one quilt. For this reason alone, I would like to attribute ‘virtuoso in political literature’ to Tower In The Sky. Each chapter in the book opens up with a relevant parable or maxim, but all the quoted people, except for Zara Yacob, are non-Africans or non-Ethiopians. Quoting Africans in general or Ethiopians in particular would have given authenticity to the Ethiopian resistance led by the EPRP and rendered additional flavor to the struggle. However, the apparent dearth in Afrocentric thought in no way diminishes the import of this great book.
As we shall see in some detail later, however, Hiwot would become disillusioned with the Party not only because the latter committed egregious and series of mistakes and as a result encountered significant challenges, but also due to the murder of Getachew Maru by his own party that she never expected and suspected.
Once the author met Getachew, she would slowly and gradually delve into the world of ideology and theoretical framework that would, in turn, enable her grasp the essence of class and class struggle and beyond. She would first learn, thanks to her mentor Getachew, the elementary notions of class relations. “I learned that one population in eastern, western, and southern parts of the country,” says Hiwot, “owned over ninety percent of the land.” “I was incensed when Getachew explained to me that these people lived off the sweat of the majority of the people…” But at this stage, Hiwot was not polished yet in terms of class analysis; her perception of class was individual feudal lords who could be nice human beings until Getachew made an eye-opening statement. He tells her, “We are talking about a social system…In any case, he [the feudal lord that Hiwot knew] might be good as a person but remember that he is part of the system, a system that oppresses and exploits people. Once an egg is rotten…it is rotten. You cannot crack it and separate the good from the bad. You have no use of it once it is rotten.”
There is no doubt that Getachew’s paradigmatic class analysis in very simple terms “was so overpowering” as Hiwot herself admits. However, Hiwot was not only overpowered by the spoken word emanating from Getachew; she would also be in love with him because she “had never met anyone who talked like him.” “I was taken by his timidity, humility, and decency,” says Hiwot. Who would not be in love with Getachew Maru? He was two years ahead of me in campus and after reading Tower In the Sky and sensed the time line I gathered that Hiwot could have been two years behind me at Haile Selassie I University (now Addis Ababa University). I have known Getachew very well especially during the USUAA presidential campaigns. I vividly remember when one day in 1971 the Interest Group met at the New Arts Building, Sidist Kilo campus to campaign for Tariku Debretsion (president) and Getachew Maru (secretary general) in the USUAA electoral proceedings. In the middle of the meeting Getachew came and rendered a passing remark before he departed; he said, “We must make this a historic campaign not simply for the sake of holding office but also for elevating the consciousness of the people and mobilizing the masses.” We were listening to him while at the same time looking on his eyes; he, on the contrary, was looking down as if he was communicating with our planet earth. The more I knew Getachew Maru, the more I sensed that he was a brilliant thinker and an electrifying speaker on stage and/or public platforms, but he was very shy on one-to-one encounters.
What started out as a political orientation between the tutor (Getachew) and the tutored (Hiwot) would galvanize in romantic ventures when Getachew, after much hesitation, broke his silence and told Hiwot, “I don’t know how to put this…I am desperately in love with you.” “I was speechless”; “I almost fainted with trepidation,” says Hiwot, “When he held my right hand.”
Romantic relationships, though beautiful and natural, were secondary in a political movement poised to bring about social change. In light of the latter reality, thus, the author continues to narrate student restlessness in all campuses and the role played by student vanguards such as Meles Tecle. Incidentally, many of the student militants mentioned in the book such as Meles Tecle, Agerie Mihret, Getachew Kumsa, and Girmachew Lemma were either my classmates or compatriots at the university.
On pages 86 to 116, Hiwot superbly documents the student movement, how Marxism-Leninism was used “for trashing dissenting voice,” the schism and internal strife among student groupings (radical seniors vs. radical juniors), reconciliation amongst these groupings, imprisonment of student leaders at Gibe, and the outbreak of the 1974 Ethiopian revolution. While Hiwot is right of Gibe (Boter) where USUAA leaders were detained, she forgot to mention that other students were also detained at Chinagsen, Hararghe during the same period. I was in the latter group and we were detained at the 33rd Battalion in Chinagsen for 53 days although initially we were sentenced to three months hard labor.
On the question of fascism in Ethiopia discussed on page 118 of the book, it is interesting to know that Getachew had the same view like mine although we were worlds apart during this time and we had no connection at all. I have discussed it in my debut book, Ethiopia: The Political Economy of Transition (1995). While Democracia, the official organ of the EPRP, declared the Derg as fascist regime, Getachew had reservations on the definition of fascism and he did not view the Derg as a fascist regime. In my book mentioned above, I have argued, “the Derg could best be characterized as a state of exception regime of the military dictatorship variety and a populist one.” I still uphold this idea and I believe that Getachew was right and the EPRP was wrong in viewing the Derg as a fascist regime. My argument, of course, is substantiated by the political economy definition of fascism and the unique historical circumstance that played a role as a catalyst for the emergence of this type of regime and not in the adjective connotation that some people use to depict brutal dictators.
On page 119, Hiwot states, “Meles Tecle took Azeb and me to a place where Struggle, organ of the students’ union, was duplicated. We helped out with stapling in the pamphlet.” If Hiwot and her friend were helping in stapling Struggle, we were then in the same loop. I remember stapling the USUAA organ along with many other colleagues. The edition of Struggle that Hiwot is making reference to be the last USUAA publication of 1974 and Meles Tecle was the editor-in-chief; English editor was Abay Tsehaye, the current EPRDF leader; Girmachew Alemu was the Amharic editor; Getachew Begashaw was the president of USUAA and Aboma Mitiku, the secretary-general; and I contributed an article entitled New Democratic Revolution in Ethiopia in this last edition. Meles Tecle and I went to the Commercial Printing Press for printing the red banner of the front page of the organ before the printing and duplication process began.
On the same page, Hiwot recalls the altercation she had with Meles because he screamed on her friend Azeb: “You contradicted Abebech on the national question last night. How dare you? Don’t you know that she is your mastermind?” And Hiwot retorted by saying, “How can you talk to her like that? Who do you think you are? And who do you think Abebech is? She is not our mastermind!”
Irrespective of Hiwot’s reaction to Meles’ condescending attitude, despite his brilliance and his many qualities and unparalleled commitment to the Ethiopian cause, Meles was too rough in his dealings with people. I vividly remember one day when Meles, myself, the late Meles Zenawi, and a female student I can’t remember her name, were going to dine somewhere near Nazareth School, and when we were about to cross the street from Sidist Kilo campus toward the then Haile Selassie Hospital, Dean Akalu was walking by with his wife on the other side of the street. All of a sudden, Meles verbally attacked the Dean by saying “Dean Akalu CIA” and the Dean furiously jumped on Meles and fistfight was about to usher in earnest if it where not for the good wife who managed to restrain her husband. We were all embarrassed and we directed serious criticism against Meles.
On page 148, the author mentions the “sizzling debates” between the EPRP and Meisone that were published, according to Hiwot, on “the government-owned Amharic daily Addis Zemen – New Era – and Goh – Dawn – magazine over the kind of democracy needed at that particular point in time.” I don’t quite recall the publication of these debates on Addis Zemen but I remember very well the series of debates published on both Goh (EPRP-controlled) and Tseday (Meisone-controlled) magazines. The debates were short-lived but magnificent, and it was then rumored that the main actors in the debate were Yohannes Berhane for EPRP and Haile Fida for Meisone.
After reading 150 pages of the book, the reader would begin to get the flavor of Hiwot’s full-fledged revolutionary engagement including developing study materials, thanks to Getachew Maru. At this point, a new Hiwot would be born, a transformed Hiwot, so to speak. The early Hiwot Teffera would undergo metamorphic changes akin to a caterpillar that would become a butterfly; a revolutionary transformation from virtually a crawling creature on the ground to a flying and floating airborne being, and looking down from a knowledge-based vantage point. All these transformation took place when Hiwot became a member of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Youth League (EPRYL) or simply League, EPRP’s youth organization.
“Having plunged into the League,” Hiwot declares, “I now saw the texture of my existence changing rapidly and completely. I had peeled off the layers of my former self and felt like a new person was emerging out of the old skin. Life became imbued with meaning. It seemed that I was leading a conscious, purpose-driven, value-laden, fuller and richer existence.”
The author continues with her elegant literally virtuoso in depicting her newly found person and I personally found pages 157 to 162 quite moving, and in reading these powerful statements I have come to conclude that Hiwot indeed is a gifted writer. Short sentences that go between prose and poem elegantly depict the very feelings of the new Hiwot and here is how she puts them: “A Feeling of plentitude ascended in me”; “Almost before I knew it, I had been tossed into a solemn but fascinating and fulfilling adulthood”; “My Afro shrank. I descended from my platform shoes”; “My wandering soul finally found an abode”; “The struggle was my present, my future, my life.”
Hiwot continues describing her relatively polished new person and says, “Revolutionary songs rekindled in me a sense of sacrifice, altruism, justice and human dignity,” but even at this level of transformation her love to Getachew would intermittently visit her conscious being. “Even from the beginning, I had seen something in him that I had not seen in other men,” recalls Hiwot, “As I got closer to him, I knew I was destined to be with him. He represented to me not only the Party but also what is best in it. The love I had for him was meshed with the love I had for the Party.”
The Icarus analogy made in regards to EPRP on page 170 is a sharp depiction of the roller coaster that the Party had encountered and it is right and palatable to me because I have written about the strengths and weaknesses of the Party in a similar vein and tone and here is how Hiwot puts it: “EPRP reached its zenith of popularity in 1976. Its fame crossed land and water. Everybody whispered its name. It appeared mighty and invincible. It soared into the sky. The clouds and the moon seem to fall under its dominion. But, like Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and got the wings of his chariot burned, it came too close to the “sun” for its own good, too.”
To be sure, the EPRP’s rise and fall is complex and complicated. The EPRP was one sole political organization that shook the foundations of the Derg and became a nightmare to Mengistu Hailemariam and Mieosne alike. It was also the only party of its kind that had successfully recruited members from virtually all Ethiopian ethnic groups. But its main weakness was the urban guerrilla warfare it conducted instead of strengthening the EPRA, its armed wing. On top of this major weakness, schism hit the EPRP and it cracked itself as in self-inflicted wound; it had confronted too many enemies that fought the Party from without but also some that had infiltrated the organization and began to undermine it from within. The objective conditions surrounding the EPRP inevitably escalated its downfall.
One other thing I like about the book is the fact that the author accompanies the many anecdotal incidents with a piece of history, as for instance “Dessie as home to Negus Michael, Lij Eyasu, and Weizero Sihen…It had also produced students of revolutionary credentials such as the famous Berhanemeskel Redda and Walelign Mekonnen.” Perhaps Hiwot is not aware of the fact that even Meles Tecle was educated at Weizero Sihen. By the same token, some pieces of history and personalities like Zerai Deres (p. 176), Abune Petros (p.181), Enda Iyesus (p. 193), and Maichew (p.196) etc. are mentioned.
On top of a touch of history in giving flavor to her description of events, the author also does appreciate the beauty of nature while at the same time engaged in her Party assignments. On page 193, for example, Hiwot poetically explains the splendor of the Alamata, and this is how she presents it to the reader: “I marveled at the beauty of the magnificent and rugged Alamata mountain chains, particularly Amba Algahe. It was breathtaking…It was a hair-raising experience riding through those majestic mountains. I thought it was soaring into the sky. I covered my face with my netela to avoid looking below but, unable to resist the temptation, I would now and then look down and tremble like a leaf when I saw buses and cars slowly climbing the formidable mountains. …The seemingly bottomless pit would send a chill up my spine every time I looked down.”
Hiwot, the born-again butterfly that was soaring on the air would soon find herself with wounded wings and unable to fly no more when she learned that Berhanemeskel Redda (Ha) and Getachew Maru (Le) were expelled from the Party central committee. She was in “disbelief and confusion.” “I was profoundly disturbed,” she says, “not just by the shocking news but also by the very idea of confusion creeping into my heart…In fact the very fabric of my being was shaken.”
Getachew Maru’s testimonials with respect to the expulsion of Berhanemeskel and himself from the Party and their difference with other central committee members of the EPRP is clearly stated on pages 208-09. Apparently, according to Hiwot, the two Party leaders that officially confided the expulsion of Ha and Le to the rank-and-file members of the Party were Tselote Hezkias and Girmachew Lemma. In relation to the former, Hiwot says, “One of his own comrades would later kill Tselote in Assimba.” It is true that his own “comrade” killed Tselote but the so-called comrade at the time of the homicide act was acting insane, but an intriguing mystery followed soon after Tselote was killed. When Tselote was shot and killed, Tsegay Gebremedhin (Debteraw) and Dawit Seyoum were passing by, as it was rumored then and as it became public knowledge later on. Coincidence? Perhaps! And they shot and killed the murderer. Why couldn’t they apprehend the assassin, investigate the case, and bring him before justice? At that time I was very far away from the crime scene but upon hearing of the tragedy, I wrote a letter to one of the leaders and requested an explanation on the incident but I did not get any answer. Mysteries abound within the EPRP!
As I have pointed out earlier in regards to multiple enemies of the EPRP, Hiwot correctly documents the Derg-allied forces against the Party on page 223: “On March 23, 1977, the Derg launched a five-day assessa – search. The Dreg, Meison, Nebelebal, Abyot Tebaki, the army, and Marxist groups such as Woz League (Workers League) and Malerid (Amharic acronym for Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Organization) all rolled their sleeves up to crack down on the common enemy – the EPRP. All the Marxist groups around the Derg, including Meisone, had their own differences and were in one another’s way, but what united them was hatred of the EPRP.”
The search and destroy policy initiated by the Derg and its allies was designed to liquidate EPRP members by wantonly and indiscriminately killing Ethiopian youth and professionals suspected for being EPRP sympathizers. Despite the senseless mass killings of Ethiopians and in spite of “the streets of Addis Ababa and other major cities turned red with blood,” however, Hiwot believes that “there was nothing enigmatic or mysterious about death, it was simply a sacrifice.” “As far as we were concerned, the fear of death had long been vanquished” because the comrades have “died so that the Party could shine”; “death was the least price we could pay for the noble cause; for the people…It was a sublime, even a holy act.”
Hiwot’s defiance and negation of death reminds me of Amiri Baraka’s ‘Malcolm as Ideology’, in which the writer claims that the revolutionary Malcolm X was made after their house was burned to the ground by racist tugs, followed by the murder of his father by unknown people, and subsequent nervous breakdown of his mother. For Amiri Baraka, the young Malcolm was a “conscious victim” and I truly believe the fearless men and women of the EPRP were also conscious victims.
Consciousness comes with price and the Ethiopian conscious victims, in fact, will be killed one by one or in groups and readers of this book should brace with the loss of Getachew Maru, Girmachew Lemma, Tesfay Debessai, Berhanemeskel Redda and hundreds other Party leaders and thousands of rank-and-file members, as it is fully documented on pages 268 to 281. After the murder of Getachew Maru, understandably but sadly, Hiwot would countenance the most heart wrenching sorrow: “I saw the world I had built in the last four and half years crumbling in front of me…the world suddenly turned opaque…I felt life had closed on me.” These are Blues Ethiopian style, Engurguro (songs of sorrow) or expressions of sadness and gloom.
Poor Hiwot “wanted to hope in spite of doubt and confusion clouding” her world, but “Getachew’s brutal death had left an indelible scar in [her] soul.” At this point, the flying butterfly had not only lost her flying ability but she had gone back to square one because her being “was shattered to the core” and “revolution, change and progress became tainted with cynicism.” Moreover, during these trying times Hiwot could have abandoned the Party but she admits that she had no choice but to stay with the Party for her own survival. I think the author is trying to be modest here; she could in fact have betrayed the Party, as some did, and find herself in the camp of the Derg, but it seems to me she was very much caught in a major dilemma like the Ethiopian proverbial cow that gave birth to a fire and could not lick it because it burned, and could not abandon it because it was her only child.
Adding insult to injury, the reign of terror consumed Ethiopian youth and devoured Hiwot’s comrades. Mengistu Hailemariam, the devil incarnate or Satan in uniform and his henchmen like Melaku Tefera, were out in full force to decimate the generation that was pride of Ethiopia, and for this apparent reason Hiwot says, “Hopes were dashed. Euphoria turned to despair. The rainbow, cast on Ethiopian skies during those revolutionary times, was rolled up.”
The author gives credit to her comrades who paid the ultimate price, and she believes (and I concur) that “they were genuine revolutionaries who wished their country the best…they were indeed tragic heroes. No matter what their flaws, they were the ‘golden generation’- a generation of ‘shameless idealists’ with a great vision and altruism. … Ethiopia will always remember them with weeping eyes for their selflessness and vision and with a forgiving heart for their follies. Alas! She was orphaned of her children in the twinkling of an eye.”
By the time I have read three hundred pages, I have come to conclude that Hiwot Teffera is brave, brilliant, and broken heart (the three Bs) and yet steadfast, staunch, and solemn (the three Ss) in her observations and down to earth evaluations of circumstances and phenomena much bigger than herself. In spite of the double trilogy that I have accorded to Hiwot, I also am compelled to fathom her inability “to come to terms with his (Getachew’s) death.” She is after all human! Unfortunately, however, not only will the flying butterfly lose her ability to fly and reverse her metamorphic journey, but she will in fact would become a caterpillar again and find herself in a dungeon known as Keftegna and later at Kerchele. These are two prison houses but it is in the latter that Hiwot will meet many of her comrades including Tadelech Hailemichael, the widow of Berhanemeskel Redda. She would be delighted to see Tadelech but she would also witness the most horrific torture at Kerchele.
The Keftegna and Kerchele prisons, by default, would propel Hiwot’s psychological makeup to a completely different angle, but it is going to be for the better because, oddly enough, it is at Kerchele that Hiwot will explore her third new personality. In fact, the imprisoned new Hiwot reminds me of Gwendolyn Brook’s ‘Poetic Realism’, especially her poem entitled ‘To Disembark’, the message of which could easily be attributed to Hiwot’s disengagement from her routine party assignments. “Slowly, I felt a new person surging in me,” says Hiwot, and “I gained confidence in the knowledge that can define and redefine myself. I could determine who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. I did not need a Party or a group of people to tell me who I am or where I am going. I tasted the beauty of freedom. I embraced it and vowed to stand by it no matter what the ramifications.”
Despite the pleasure of ‘the taste of freedom’, however, “life did not make sense,” and at times Hiwot had nightmares associated with the continuous death of her comrades and she even thought that death was hovering over her as well. It goes without saying that the death of Getachew was most devastating to Hiwot but the death of Berhanemeskel also “felt like an end of an era” to her. Hiwot is a sensible revolutionary who had not lost her humanity in spite of her exposure to dehumanizing practices perpetrated by the Derg murderers. She even took care of a tortured and helpless prison-mate by the name Emebet who happened to be the wife of a Meisone central committee member. Irrespective of ideological differences and mutual destruction between EPRP and Meisone, Hiwot thought it would have been “the ultimate betrayal of [her] humanity” to stand by idly while Emebet suffers.
I wish the EPRP leaders could have emulated Hiwot’s conscience and moral imperative and extend it to their comrades who entertained different ideas other than theirs. I wish the EPRP leadership had extended some humanity and camaraderie respect to Berhanemeskel Redda after the Derg executed him. On the contrary, as I have stated in my debut book, “Upon his death, instead of mourning, the EPRP celebrated and officially declared ‘Death of A Renegade’ in Abyot.” Berhanemeskel Redda could have made a mistake and to err is human, but to condemn the one time legendary and selfless leader of the Ethiopian Student Movement and one of the founders of the EPRP is tantamount to trashing Ethiopian history and betraying the very cause that the EPRP stood and fought for.
As indicated on pages 391 to 402, prison life after all was not a completely shattering ambience. Thanks to the many political prisoners, schooling, self-reliant initiatives, social interactions, debates, sense of humor, and stores such as Hebret Souk flourished. The political prisoners contributed to human dignity especially in humanizing convicts of all sorts. Prison life was a blessing in disguise, and as Hiwot correctly puts it, the prison experience reflected, “proof of the triumphal power of the human spirit.”
After page 406, the reader would be forced to enter dialogue with Hiwot in her quest for human nature. The author has physically encountered convicts and murderers like Zinash, Zergi, Bogeye, and Biri. One of the crimes committed by one of the convicts that comes as a revelation and a surprise to me is that of Biri, who murdered her husband and buried him in the same house she lived with her “life partner” when he was still alive; I thought this kind of crime was only palpable in Western societies and I never thought it would occur in relatively puritan and religious societies like Ethiopia. At any rate, these kind of crimes could have served as impetus behind Hiwot’s attempt to explore “the mystery of the human mind.” Interestingly, however, the very person who presides over mass killings was Mengistu Hailemariam who also murdered Emperor Haile Selassie and buried him beneath his office. So what is the difference between Biri and Mengistu? The answer could be one small devil that commits homicide and another giant Satan who is responsible for the death of thousands and upon thousands of Ethiopians, although I must admit that Mengistu was not a lone actor and there were his henchmen who were known to the public and there were also some invisible hands whom history has yet to expose.
Human nature is complex, but it seems to me humans for the most part are good in spite of the tinge of monstrosity embedded in all of us. Martin Luther King, Jr., in one of his sermons, ‘Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience’, once said, “there is within human nature an amazing potential for goodness. There is with human nature something that can respond to goodness…there is a strange dichotomy of disturbing dualism within human nature.” The ‘potential for goodness’ in humans is what I already have stated above, and the ‘disturbing dualism’ is what Hiwot encountered and observed among the convicts at Kerchele. In point of fact, on page 423, Hiwot says, “I learned in Kerchele that I could still believe in the beauty of life and the fundamental goodness of people.”
There is some soul that defies death in all of us, and it is this very soul that kept Hiwot moving with full vigor and stamina, and above all with gratitude. “I am grateful for all the good things I learned in the Party,” says Hiwot, “It helped me tone up with discipline, commitment, hard work, composure in the face of hardship, and detachment from material possession.”
In regards to the cholera outbreak at Kerchele that claimed many lives, Hiwot believes it was an “existential threat” that, in turn, was unacceptable to her. Death had become a common occurrence and second nature and Hiwot was not afraid of death, but dying of cholera could be quite astounding to her. She says, “It had me thinking that it would be a tragedy to die of dysentery in prison after surviving the Derg’s bullet and after being there for eight years.”
I can perfectly understand Hiwot’s frightened soul desperately trying to grapple with the etiology of death associated with cholera, and that reminds me of what I have read to my students in class two decades ago. It was Claude McKay’s ‘If We Must Die’ and here I offer to the reader so that s/he appreciates the contradiction between our wish and the conundrum of death. I truly believe that ‘If We Must Die’ written a long time ago during the Harlem Renaissance is very much relevant to the fallen heroes of the EPRP:
If We Must Die
If we must die, let us not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mud and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die.
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderers, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
I am delighted to have read and reviewed Tower In The Sky. I am grateful to the unspoken embodiment of the universe that enabled Hiwot to overcome the pain of existence, the prosaic disillusionment of realities, the political engagement fraught with frustration, and the endless nightmare that engulfed Ethiopia during the Derg rule. Tower In The Sky, in fact, is a monument on earth for the fallen heroes. Tower In The Sky is not only a vibrant sophisticated synthesis of the Ethiopian revolutionary period and experience, but it is also the repository of hopes and aspirations. I would be remiss and unqualified if I recommend Tower In The Sky only for accolades and a ‘must read book’, without suggesting a grand literary prize for Hiwot Teffera.
All Rights Reserved. Copyright © Institute of Development and Education for Africa (IDEA, Inc.) 2013. Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia can be contacted for educational and constructive feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org