She was a rarity in the early days of the armed struggle. Rare in that she was a woman and a graduate in the field of Sociology, with a degree from the Haile Selassie I University. She is the type some would call a political animal, referring to her engagement in the student movement during the revolutionary years, prior to her two decades of commitment to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – key members of the parties that form Ethiopia’s government today.
She dared to leave that too, but not politics as a whole. The brief yet grave Ethio-Eritrean War was the critical juncture of her third chapter.
Now, she is in the leadership of the Tigray for Democracy & Sovereignty – an opposition party predominantly formed by veteran TPLF members.
We questioned her about her life now compared to 20 years ago:
Fortune: Key Priorities
AA: Twenty years ago, I was Secretary of the Tigray Region’s Council. My early years in the Tigray Region were the most important in my life. I was always motivated and worked for the realisation of values and principles that we fought for in the bush. But the values and principles that we were fighting for were yet be to realised – I was out to see them practised.
Later, what happened during the Ethio-Eritrean War indicated a major shift in principle.
To date, those values remain important to me. Since I spent most of my life fighting, I decided to continue the struggle and here I am.
What Tickles the Taste Buds?
AA: It has always been salad and meat, but nothing spicy.
Evolution of Earnings
AA: My salary as Secretary of the Region’s Council was close to 1,500 Br. Now I have no regular income. My last salary, in the last days at the Office of the Prime Minister in 2001 was 2,000 Br.
Splashing Out on Fashion
AA: The “liberation” myth from university, that women are not commodities, has created a strong wall in my mind-set. I never cared or thought of wearing expensive clothes. Even now, I make sure they are clean and that is it.
AA: Swimming. But the whereabouts have changed. For over 20 years, I swam at Ghion Hotel and National Palace pool. I don’t do that much now.
AA: To bring all these changes to Ethiopia; to change the life of the farmers and bring them out of poverty and create a stable nation. This was something that inspired me. And this aspiration is still there. Though I cannot move in the same way I used to do back then, I believe we can push, or convince the EPRDF, and make a change in things that are wrong.
Perception of Death
AA: Back then, as a fighter I was young and death was an everyday reality – very near. Therefore, I was never afraid. And now, not being young anymore, it is again near – something I expect might happen.
In Your CD Collection
AA: Nothing has changed. It has always been Mahmud Ahmed, Aster Awoke and Kassa Tessema
AA: The student movement at the Haileselassie University and the revolutions against oppressive governments around the world and movements for democracy and equality I believe inspired me to be part of the youngsters who stood for change in Ethiopia. After the fall of the Derge my belief and commitment to work for a change inspired me to work diligently and devotedly. The situation of the Ethiopian people which even now I believe did not change as much as I want it to be is an inspiration to me to still make an effort to bring change.
Tipping the Scales
AA:I am short but people say that I was a good looking woman. I was a person with well-built body, now however I have lost weight.
AA: No brand choice, just comfort and durability.
AA: I was engaged in meaningful tasks, rehabilitation, a member of Parliament and many more active engagements. Now, we are starting over – as an opposition.
AA: Family and friends – a homey, cosy celebration is my way.
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