Ewinet Enatenesh? Are you actually my Mother? Recalling my Childhood Memories

By Maru Gubena


Scared that you, the highly loved, respected and wise mother, might possibly not enjoy the subject matter here and such talks in general, I seriously don’t know how or where to start – how to formulate the issues to be discussed and the questions to be raised. I will nevertheless do my best to pull my energy and state of mind together and put the issues as simply as I can: I need for you to understand my feelings, help me with the appropriate answers and provide me with your kind and unlimited advice.

As you can perhaps understand, I have been waiting so long for this opportunity to discuss these issues and questions with you, with my mother. Yes, I still wish to call you “my mother,” despite my increasing doubts and the unwanted but forceful feelings and questions that are pushing through, bothering me every day and causing me many sleepless nights. Yes, I would love and appreciate it greatly if I can talk with you about issues that I feel are relevant and questions that deserve to be answered. And I would like to ask politely and gently that you apply your well-known kindness, and create, re-create yourself as a human being – that you appear to me as one of your wise sons or daughters and listen as attentively as you can, so that my mind will finally be free of these interlinked and bothersome questions, once and for all. Then I will know who you are to me and who I am to you, and can have peace of mind for the rest of my life. I would also sincerely, lovingly like to ask in advance that these issues and the vitally important questions not become a reason for you to take away or devalue the love and attention you have for me, which you have been giving me for decades.

Before going further, however, let me just make it abundantly clear to you, my mother, that I dearly respect you and love you, exactly in the way all of your eighty million children love you, even those who might not dare to come out of their fortresses and express their feelings for you as honestly and clearly as possible.

Look, many people, including my brothers, sisters, friends, colleagues, neighbours, those close to me and also those whom I often meet and sometimes talk to, have told me, time and again, that you are my mother and I am your son. However, for many reasons – some explainable and others impossible to tell – I quite often (in fact so constantly, so relentlessly and so restlessly) ask myself, creating indirect and direct confrontations, not with anyone else but just with myself day in and day out, if this is really true – if you are a true mother of mine and if I am actually your son. Yet despite living permanently with these hard, confrontational questions, perhaps because I was born and spent my childhood years, including a good portion of my youth, in the same house where my brothers and sisters were born and grew up, and was brought up in the same way of life and culture as my brothers and sisters, I am now married to a lovely young lady among your children, to Zenanesh, whom I always call “my Zena,” Mama. I hope you don’t mind and will allow me to call you “Mama,” despite my doubts about your motherliness and whether you are my real mother, and in spite of my bothersome and persistent questions, at least for today, for this conversation.

My wife, Zena, has told me in a forceful voice, combined with anger and a frowning face – a face full of seriousness and emotion – that her mother is my mother too, that when I was born I came out of exactly the same womb as she and our eighty million brothers and sisters. “How on earth do you come up with such silly, senseless questions? Why on earth do you doubt the motherliness of our most elegant, historically and politically respected and feared mother, whose sons and daughters so successfully and gallantly defeated a powerful foreign enemy – an enemy who was both feared and respected throughout so called “civilized society?” questioned my Zena, so angrily and so emotionally, her head and sometimes her entire body shaking. Zena did not end there. She explained to me the many-sided, endless characteristics and elements that describe our mother, just as all mothers, such as the incalculable love and devotion of a mother, the sacrifices to her children, the limitless love she is capable of giving her children, even if one or more of them is ugly or in bad health. Whatever the appearance or outlook of her children, a mother loves them unconditionally. “So it is with our mother too! She fed you her breast milk and carried you on her back, her shoulders, her entire body, just as she did for me and for the rest of our brothers and sisters. How can you dare to have doubts about her being your mother, love? Is everything really all right with you, love?” asked my wife, Zena, without losing the sense of love she holds for me; she quite often ends her statements with questions. Though far from the answer Zena was expecting from me, I responded to her difficult, confrontational questions with “yes, love! I am quite all right, but, but, ….!?

Above everything else, what I found confrontational and shocking, Mama, was the reaction to my doubts and questions by my daughter, Menfesnesh, including the deep-seated affection she too holds for you even though she was not born in the same house where her mother and I were born. She had just celebrated her eighth birthday, and had not experienced the process of acculturation to your culture first hand – to our way of life, our way of behaving and doing things. My daughter, whom Zena and I always refer to as “Menfesie,” enjoys and even loves interrupting and interfering in our talks. She never hesitates, and, probably not surprisingly, always stands firmly behind the views of her mother. This time she said suddenly and spontaneously, “Mama, Papa, please stop talking! Stop it and listen to me. I too have the right to say something to Papa. It is my turn to talk!”

Her mother, Zena, who always has a soft heart for her daughter, Menfesie, could not hide her huge affection for her daughter; even though a bit irritated due to being interrupted, she smiled broadly and while staring at her daughter asked, “what do you want to say, my Konjo Woregna? Okay, it is your turn. Go on and tell us, my love?”

Before starting to talk, Menfesie sprung up so suddenly and unexpectedly from her seat and called, “Papa, I think you are getting a bit crazy and you are driving us crazy as well. What my Mama just said is absolutely right: her mother is your mother too, but she is also the mother of all our people, both those at home and those scattered throughout the world. And just as I always listen to my Mama so carefully and attentively, you too had better listen to her – to my Mama – if you want our unconditional love, Papa. Please stop with your nonsense philosophy. A mother is just a mother. You cannot and you are not allowed to doubt and question her motherliness. Do you understand, Papa? Are you listening to us, Papa?” Not surprisingly, Menfesie was reacting in exactly in the same way as her mother, with a bit of irritation and ending her remarks with tough, bossy questions.

Hey, Mama! You know, before beginning to discuss the issues and questions, I want to let you know that it is not just me, not just my wife and daughter and not just my brothers and sisters who love you so unreservedly, so hugely, and who endlessly admire your exceptional, most attractive beauty. Foreigners, Europeans, the entire population of the United States and the people of the Middle East, the Far East – every human being on earth is fascinated by your beauty. Everyone on earth remains fascinated, not just by your body structure, the attraction of your face and the way you talk, but also by the enormous variety of your natural beauty, the many-sided elegant landscapes, the enormous number of your mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and the wild and domestic animals that surround your body and give an additional, very special beauty and attractiveness to your appearance.

Yes, Mama, it is also true that the creativity and hard work of your early nationalist children and the steady pride they have held for you for centuries, including their fervent feelings, attitudes and behaviours, have left well-known western historians, social and cultural anthropologists intoxicated with fascination at the history that your children have successfully achieved, the artifacts they have creatively shaped, the religious institutions they have built and the fortresses they have constructed across past centuries to defend all of the areas and kingdoms that belong to you and your children.

Probably due to your beauty, the appearance, the body structure of your children is generally quite special, standing out from the rest of the world’s population and from the people of the continent to which you belong. Your children are said to be the most beautiful, the most attractive. Probably because I am also your child, with your blood and the structure of your face, a good number of non-Ethiopians often tell me that I am a good-looking person – with a face almost similar to yours. Thanks to you, they tell me this almost every day. Sadly, however, few if any of your children, my brothers and sisters act as if they don’t love or even like me. And it is not just me whom your children don’t love, don’t like or respect: almost 95 percent or even more don’t love, don’t respect, don’t like each other. They don’t trust each other or have the slightest confidence in each other. Each one of your children is against the others. Nevertheless they insist almost every minute that they love you and will love you forever, so madly and so unimaginably, and want to do something special for you – even though their talk never materializes. Yes, I constantly hear the majority of your children saying that they want to free you from the yokes and chains of economic poverty and from persistent drought and famine, and from the prolonged political repression under which almost all of your children have been languishing and suffering for decades now. They continue to say this, even while they, your children, never hesitate, never stop in hurting each other so painfully, to the point that the wounds they inflict on the bodies of their brothers and sisters cannot be healed.

These are the issues, in fact, the heart of the matter about which I want to talk with you; I also want to ask about the way you brought us up, the way you socialize all your children. I want to know why you don’t interfere, why you don’t do anything when your children choose to weaken, hurt and kill each other instead of liking, loving, respecting each other and working together. Why on earth don’t you appear even once in while, to stand up for your children and defend the weakest ones when they are being hurt or killed by the few – your own children – who have incidentally had the luck to obtain the means, the guns, that keep them in power?

If you are really my dear mother, please allow me to be very specific for you, to give vivid examples from my own personal experience – what has happened to me, what some of your children, my brothers and sisters with power and weapons, have done to me, to my brothers and sisters. If you are my beloved mother and you are listening when I cry out, shouting for help, if you are now listening to me, if you are willing to come and defend me, protecting me now and in the future, please listen to my love for you and to my cries! Please listen to my story, to what happened to me, and to the countless crying voices of your other children – my defenseless brothers and sisters.

Though it was long ago, more than three decades, it is so vivid, so clear that it seems as if it was just yesterday that some of your children did this to me, to my sisters and brothers, to my friends and neighbours. Yes, on that day, about ten of your children, my brothers, came to our school with their scary, aggressive behaviours and faces, in special cars, clothes and shoes, carrying machine guns. No one knew what they wanted. They violently pulled and beat me, and took me together with my classmates and other school friends to a place that we had never seen before. They didn’t tell us what our crimes were or exactly what we had done. They only thing your children – my brothers – were willing to say to us was that we were “bad boys and bad girls, who deserve to be punished.” Can you imagine, mother, what your children, my brothers did to us then, even though we are their brothers and sisters? Even though almost all of us were teenagers then, under 18 years of age, they kept us for about ten days, torturing and harassing us with nonsensical questions. We were only freed finally from the hell your children had constructed after the tireless efforts of our families and relatives. Why didn’t you come to help me then? Why didn’t you come to defend me and protect me from your aggressive, cruel children when they did not hesitate to hurt me, to destroy my body, to kill me? Does this mean you don’t love me? Why? How can that be, if you are my real mother and if I am actually your son? Are you not my mother? Tadiya Anchi Ewinet Enatenesh?

I believe this will be much to your surprise, Mama, but that was not the end. The worst was to come. Again for reasons that remain unknown to me to this day, just weeks after my release from the hell our attackers had created, more than ten of them with more or less the same faces, cars, clothes and shoes as the previous ones, came to our family’s home. Initially they said they wanted to search for guns in the house. But they were quick to humiliate my entire family, including my aging aunt. They began to beat us, striking all over our bodies with everything they had in their hands, including guns and sticks. In the course of committing their incalculable crimes, your children, my brothers, murdered my niece. Then five months pregnant, she had always been close to my elder sister, and had come to our house simply to vacation and have a pleasant time. Your children, my brothers, murdered her for no reason, except that she was so terrified by the behaviour of her own brothers that she had screamed. That was not the end. Your children, Mama, my brothers, took me with them, beating and striking me with their heavy shoes and everything else they could find. Once they had me in a small room, they began torturing me, hugely damaging my entire body. This continued for six long days. Again, through with many difficulties my family members persisted, and finally managed to rescue me from this complete darkness. How, Mama, could such inhuman, appalling crimes be committed against me, my family and other relatives, my friends and classmates, by your own children, by my own brothers? Why? Why didn’t you do something when you saw your children inflicting such unbearable pain and wounds on your other children? Why on earth didn’t you protect me? Is it because you don’t love me? How can I continue to see myself as belonging to you, to feel a part of you? Why did you neglect me, Anchi Tadiya Enatenesh? If you are my mother, why didn’t you treat me as a mother treats her children? What have I done against you?

But again, this was not the end, Mama. Just a few days after I came home from that nightmarish hell, a hell constructed by your most atrocious criminal sons, they came for the third time to my house, to take me away to another dark place and keep me in darkness, or to kill me on creatively invented false charges and accusations of participating in demonstrations and other criminal activities. But luckily, my elder sister pulled me forcefully, holding my right hand so firmly that I had to go with her. She dragged me to one of the windows and pushed me through it and outside the house, screaming and warning me to “run, run as fast as you can to our uncle and never come back to this house again.” After a few days of staying in a secret place, family members took me by car to Dilla, in the Southern part of your kingdom, your house. From Dilla, I went to another place, another land that is not a part of your kingdom. I began a new life with a different people who are not your children. Yes, they are not my brothers and sisters. But I feel completely safe and protected. Since then I have never returned to your house, to your kingdom, where I am scared of your children. Scared of my brothers and sisters, because I have seen that you never come to defend me. What could be your reason for not protecting me as a mother does to her children, Tadiya Anchi Ewnet Enatenesh?

Right now, I am living in a land far remote from your kingdom, with people who have a completely different outlook, colour, culture and social behaviour, and a variety of individual and collective freedoms. The people in whose land and house I live are not your children and not my brothers and sisters. But they are nice, kind and they are tolerant. They respect me and respect my rights as a human being, and have provided me safety and security. I therefore never feel scared and insecure. Here in this land and house, your cruel children cannot come and hurt me. Unfortunately, though, while I live safely and peacefully, without you, Mama, without your real love, without the love of my brothers and sisters and without the culture in which I was born and spent much of my childhood and youth, I feel that I am living in a small box. Yes, I am safe but I miss the social closeness and happiness I remember feeling with you in your kingdom. This is of course a direct result of the inhuman behaviour, the actions of your children. And in turn, a direct consequence of how you brought us up, and your apparent unwillingness to provide the means and tools for my protection. But why? Why didn’t you, why don’t you protect me? Are you not my mother and am I not your son, Tadiya Anchi Ewinet Enatenesh Weyis Aydeleshim??

Maru Gubena

Readers who wish to contact the author can reach me at info@pada.nl

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