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ESAT News: Ethiopian activist Yenesew Gebre sets himself on fire

ESAT News:- By Abebe Gellaw

A young Ethiopian activist and teacher, Yenesew Gebre, died after he set himself on fire in Dawro, Waka, Southern Ethiopia, to protest against the injustice, corruption and atrocities the local community as well as the people of Ethiopia at large have been suffering under the brutal dictatorship of Meles Zenawi. The 29-year old Yenesew Gebre, who was a respected teacher, set himself alight  on Friday, November 11, and died at Tercha Hospital on Monday, 14 November, from the severe burns he suffered, family sources told ESAT news desk.

In what appears to be a tragic climax linked with a local uprising in Waka town, which was sparked by maladministration and injustice, there have been protests in the past few weeks. As a result of the growing movement, a number of people including elders have been jailed. Yenesew was also detained for nearly a week but was released on bail pending further court hearing.

After a spate of protest rallies and a lengthy dispute between representatives of the Meles regime and the Dawro community that tried to air their grievances, a public meeting was called on Friday November 11 by senior government officials including Alemayehu Assefa, a deputy governor and political affairs chief of Southern region. It was during the meeting that Yenesew Gebre stood up and spoke out bravely telling the authorities that the people of Ethiopia have had enough of the corruption, injustice and oppression they are suffering at the hands of the Meles regime.

When securtiy agents tried to stop him and throw him out, Yeneneh calmly started walking out of the meeting hall but he suddenly poured benzene on himself and set himself alight infront of the shocked gathering. The incident threw the meeting into total disarray and the community members at the meeting reportedly started wailing and venting out their anger at the local officials and security forces that were trying to control the situation.

According to ESAT sources, Yenesew was very angry at the injustice the people were subjected at the hands of ruling party officials. It also appears that Yenesew had been fired from his teaching position due to his political views and unswerving stand against human rights violations, tyranny and oppression.

“Yenesew clearly wanted martyrdom when he told the gathering that people should no longer suffer from tyranny and injustice. While fire was enulfing his whole body, he was calling for justice, freedom and democracy and urged people to rise up against the oppressors. He wanted martyrdom and I have no doubt that Bouazizi was on his mind when he chose to sacrifice his life for the sake of liberty and justice,” another local source who witnessed the shocking incident said.

According to close friends, Yenesew suffered great pains as a result of the burns. He was widely respected and a star teacher at his school. Well-read and highly conscience activist, Yenesew was known for raising serious issues and challenging authorities. Before he chose to follow the footsteps of Bouazizi, he was said to be one of the organizers of the peaceful protests that rocked Waka town for several days.

In a bid to quash the uprising in Dawro zone, the federal police and government secret agents have reportedly sealed off the town. The regime has cut telephone lines so as to prevent the news of Yenesew’s martydom from spreading across Ethiopia. ESAT will have special coverage on the Waka uprising, signaling  the birth of an Ethiopian Bouazizi that wanted to inspire Ethiopians to emulate the Arab Spring toppling and crumbling entrenched dictatorial regimes in North Afria and the Middle East.

”I call upon the people of Ethiopia to immortalize Yenesew just like Tunisians have done in recognition of the sacrificy of Bouazizi. It is our time to claim our freedom,” a close friend of the martyre told ESAT.