An Unofficial Translation of Tesfaye Ghebreab's Account on the Assassination of Darara Kafani
February 8, 2009
Why Was Darara Assassinated?
Don't say it can't be it has been as it did
Buried buried lie the remains
Uplifting the stone who knows if it rises?
"The rocks piled the dirt mixed
That lives quietly wearing the grass and leaves
The remain is a mountain has neither mouth nor ear
Doesn't hear can't be cultivated it is huge deaf"
You said and ignored without knowing what is within it
I am afraid for you that it might explode and you get destroyed
(Poem Hanit Panit)
One of the pieces of papers that I have in my luggage narrates the assassination process of Darara Kafani. The narrative has been with me for years, but it has been a challenge for me to believe the evidence. However, because I got additional hint in the month of September 2000 [Ethiopian Calendar, September 2007] about the story of the sad assassination process of Darara, and that I heard that the person who gave me the evidence also died, I decided to include the story in this volume.
After the OLF [Oromo Liberation Front] left the transitional government after 1984 [Ethiopian Calendar, 1992], it is believed that the situation in Oromia was becoming complex and challenging. Specially, rebellion and opposition in rural parts of Oromia became forceful from time to time. To put the Oromia region under control, one of the tactics devised by the security office was thus to hit in towns those famous people believed to support the OLF, those Adbars [Adbars are places of spritual significance] that are suspected to cause rebellion by the people, to break the moral of the people to make them submit and be governed. The execution of this plan was drafted in a meticulous tactic and was put to practice. The leading personalities that the Oromo people consider as Adbars in all Oromia's main cities were hit on their foreheads and assassinated. In this storytelling, I would tell you who was assassinated and how it was executed to make the people of Ambo bow down.
The question of "Who should be executed at Ambo?" was decided by a committee. The convener of the committee was General Abba Dula Gammada, who was at that time in charge of Defense Information; five people participated in the membership of the committee. These are General Haile Tilahun, who was at that time in charge of the Central Zone Politics, Teklay Ashebir (Wedi Ashebir) who was at that time in charge of the Central Zone Campaign, a representative of the office of security whose name is not known, Colonel Diriba Mekonnen who was at that time the deputy commander of the Oda regiment that was stationed around Ambo at the time, Major Jemal Yusuf who was at that time in charge of the Politics of the Oda regiment. Umer Yusuf who was the commander of the Oda regiment at that time was sent to Fincha'a on the day of the meeting with the pretext of security affairs because it was said that his political position was suspicious and decided to not have him present at the meeting.
The members of the committee gathered at Ambo Palace and gave an answer to the question of "Who should be assassinated in Ambo?" Three leading Oromos of the town of Ambo were brought up as the candidates. They are the father of the vocalist Abebech Darara, Darara Kafani, Daqa Mulata, and the name Dandana. In his favoritism among the people and on the suspicion of his support for the OLF, Darara Kafani won the vote [of the committee.] After drafting a detailed plan, the date, time, and place of Darara's assassination was decided and the meeting was adjourned.
The assassination was undertaken according to the plan.
In the evening of that day, Darara Kafani lost his life after having been hit on his head outside his house by two bullets fired from a Land Cruiser. After the gunfire was heard, as planned, Colonel Diriba and Major Jemal went to the commander of Oda regiment and explained to him that Darara Kafani was killed, and urged him in a disturbed way for the army to urgently surround the town of Ambo and conduct searching. As Colonel Umer Yusuf was a stranger to the theatre, he accepted the pretentious ideas presented to him by his deputies in good faith and ordered the army. The Land Cruiser that was carrying the assassins of Darara made a U-turn and became the coordinator of the searchers. In the strict searching that was conducted that day, including the police officers that had arms were apprehended. Ambo became chaotic and spent the time in the tumultuous searching. Those who were under the committee of Abba Dula, Colonel Diriba and Major Jemal, executed the drama successfully.
He was assassinated because he won the vote to be assassinated!
However, the result was the opposite. The morning of the next day, the people expressed clearly and openly that they understood the drama of the night. The people turned out in mass for Darara's funeral. No one was seen crying but expressing rage. In the history of Ambo town, there was no funeral service at which so many were present, the people were heard saying, "Dear Darara! We knew they were going to take you out. May the almighty receive your soul! How naοve are our enemies not to know that this day thousands of Dararas are born?!" The funeral service was filled with intonation.
* * *
One night a year before I left the EPRDF [Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] for exile, I received a call on my mobile phone.
"May I know who is calling?" I said.
"I am known as Major Jemal. You dont know me, but I know you."
"OK! What can I help you with?"
"Because I need you for some issue, if it is convenient for you, I would like to have a meeting with you at two o'clock in the evening [Ethiopian time, 8 P.M.] at Ras Hotel."
"For what issue do you need me?"
"It can't be over the phone. I will tell you when we meet."
"Well! How will I know you?"
"Since I know you, I will come and talk to you."
As a journalist, situations that are similar to this encounter me, so Jemal's phone call didn't attract my attention. At the time of the meeting, a slim tall person with penetrating eyes with a grace of sadness and whose hair on the forehead has receded came to me and shook my hand and told me that he is called "Major Jemal Yusuf."
We spent together about two hours.
After he shared with me what I narrated for you earlier, he pulled out two pieces of papers and said to me this as he was handing me the papers:
"So that you don't forget the names, I have put the main points on the paper. As long as I am in Ethiopia you can't write this history. Since those of us who know this history are few, if the history became known, I could be caught easily. Therefore, keep the history with you and we will advise each other and make it known at an appropriate time. How we assassinated Darara Kafani, the father of Abebech, the people of Ethiopia must know. These are my last words, my brother!"
After Major Jemal finished saying this to me, he gulped in one sip the whisky he had poured. His face looked a burned plastic. Even though I noticed that regret was burning his inner heart and making him suffer, since I know the closet of Kinfe [Kinfe Gebremedhin who was a top official of the EPRDF was assassinated several years ago] I suspected about the possibility of the Major orchestrating a drama, that he may have a voice recorder under his armpit. By thinking that it may help me verify this, I threw at him some questions.
I asked him saying "Knowing that I am a cadre of the TPLF [Tigray People's Liberation Front] how could you trust me and tell me all this secrets?"
"It is impossible not to trust you" he said affirmatively, "because of your writing Ye Burqa Zimmita, I know that Abba Dula and Kuma [former Defense Minister of the EPRDF government] consider you an enemy. Wedi Embaytey also considers you an OLF infiltrator ... they say that if Sebhat Naga weren't defending him, he is a person to be dispelled. Since I know why they hate you, it is impossible to suspect you ... I also heard recently that you are an Eritrean ..."
I came close to believing him. Since I had heard previously that the TPLF General called Wedi Embaytey had a conflict with a high ranking officer called Colonel Gammachu over the same book, I was inclined to believe Jemal. Even then, I prolonged my question by being careful not to show any sentimental expression.
"When did you regret about your deed?"
"The day of the funeral!" said quickly, and he melted in sentiment, "... the next morning when the people of Ambo came out in waves to Darara's funeral, fear was shivering me like yellow fever. I am an Oromo. I assassinated my own kin on the order of the TPLF. My ancestor's culture was not this. You make your enemy a member of your family through Guddifacha instead of assassinating your brother. Where did I get this betrayal from? The next morning when the people of Ambo were howling and flooding to the funeral ... what can I say to tell you? ... I don't have words ... I devalued my soul ... that day Darara Kafani did not die. It was me who died. You see, I was a dog, not a human. In the same way that General Taddese Birru was changed momentarily after one event, I was also changed that day not to betray the Oromo people again and entered an oath to myself ..."
After spending minutes in silence,
I asked him saying "Are you now working with the OLF?"
"I don't hide it from you. I have connections!"
"Have you told them about Darara's assassination process?"
"I have sent them in writing. They haven't transmitted it to the media for the sake of my safety. Since it is possible that they hear about stories worse than this every day, they may not be surprised by the process of Darara's assassination. I decided to tell you because you are an author, that I thought you may put a special emphasis on it. As I told you, as long as I am in Ethiopia, the secret must be kept ..."
Thus, we departed. Before we departed, though, I returned back to him the paper he had given me.
"Why?" he said to me.
"I have registered all in my brain," I said to him.
I wasn't truthful. After we departed, I guessed that there could be people who would follow me, that is why I returned the paper back to him. After leaving Jemal, I took seclusion and wrote down on a piece of paper the points that had been written down on the paper before I forgot them. Even if the Major was a spy who was sent from Kinfe, he got no hint from me, so I was not worried.
* * *
Thus after five years, one friend of mine mentioned in an e-mail message that Major Jemal had died. In general, except being told that he died of illness, I could not get the details. Henceforth, the time when the sad history becomes open has arrived. To fulfill my professional obligation and to narrate Darara's "triumphant" history, I started to rummage around my pieces of papers ...