Merara Gudina: Activism to Exile, Egypt to Education, Teaching to Politics

As most of the youth of his generation, Merera Gudina (PhD), now in his early 60’s, began his political activism back in 1970’s. He was active in the student movement during the imperial regime and, upon the fall of the feudal system and the coming of the socialists, he faced a seven-year term of imprisonment without charge. Upon his release, he lived in exile in Egypt where he continued his education at the American University in Cairo.

Following the coming of a new EPRDF on to the scene, he came back to his homeland and established a political party – the Oromo National Congress. His party managed to secure a seat in the 2005 election, where he himself was elected in his constituency in Guder, Oromia, and became an MP. He is now among the few senior political figures of the time who stand in opposition to the ruling party, chairing the Medrek party – a member of the forum.


Fortune: Key Priorities

MG: Twenty years ago, the EPRDF promised the realisation of a multi-party system, the equality of nations and a free market. So many of us had hoped that this would be a reality. These were considered to be important for me. All our lives, in one way or another, are connected to these three things.

However, all those hopes and promises have now gone up in smoke and they are still not solved. So, now fighting for these values is essential for me.

What Tickles the Taste Buds?

MG: From the Ethiopian dishes, Kitfo, Tebesse and Doro Wot. And from the Oromo culture, especially from my childhood, Cheko and Chechbessa. But, I generally don’t like dishes that are not ours.

Evolution of Earnings

MG: I started with 500 Br, as an assistant lecturer in 1986. For most of my years, I was paid less than 1,000 Br and then in 2004 it was somewhere around 6,300 Br. Now, since I left the university, I earn 3,650 Br as a monthly pension.

Splashing Out on Fashion

MG: I always prefer simple clothes, like jeans and sneakers, both at university and now. And sometimes, when I have a formal meeting, I wear a suit and tie.

Switching Off

MG: To be frank, there is no pattern in this respect. But I usually spend free time reading books, chatting with friends and having meetings. Back then at university, I usually spent my time talking with colleagues.

Major Aspirations

MG: Above all, the late PM used to say he always wished to see every Ethiopian have the chance to eat three meals a day. And this was also my inspiration too. Further, people have to live in peace. But, passing through all these years of governance in Ethiopia, it’s getting worse.

So, in general, I aspire to see a better Ethiopia ahead.

Perception of Death

MG: I remember during my childhood, there was a fortune teller in our locality, who told prophecy about people’s ages. So, my uncle took me there, paid him a quarter and he told me that I will live long and pass 77 years of age. So, back then, during my young ages, knowing this helped me to have aspiration and pursue my education further.

And now, as a person who lives in the third world, I mean I have already passed half this age. So, at this age [59], I have no fear.

In Your CD Collection

MG: Back in the days I was a fan of Tilahun Gesesse and Bizunshe Bekelle. And from the new artists, especially from our region, I like songs by Hachalu Hundessa and Tsegaye Dandana.

Your Inspiration

MG: I am happy that the struggle has continued. And I am still inspired by a people in the political arena who remain committed and continue to struggle for the rights of the people.

Tipping the Scales

MG: Since twenty years, it is only a matter of 2-3 kilos up and down. My average weight has been 80kg.

Favourite Brands

MG: I use no eye glasses twenty years ago; now, I have to use them how for reading. I used to never wear hats; I used to have a watch twenty years back, now I use my mobile.

Lost Passions

MG: Twenty years back, I was a teacher at Addis Abeba University, but now, since I left the university, for the past one year I mainly focus on my party issues.

Celebrating Festivities

MG: I usually spend holidays as the rest of us do.

Published on May 03,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 835]



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