The Past is Prologue: Makonnen Araya (MA) – Master of Arts

By Obo Arada Shawl


November 11, 20011



Makonnen Araya wrote a book. It is not fiction, it is not novel and it is not either an autobiography of the author. The book is titled “Negotiating A Lion’s Share of Freedom: Adventures of an Idealist Caught up in Ethiopian Civil War – A Memoir” In my opinion, it is far more than a memoir of an individual but of communities and societies of Revolutionary Eathiopia. This article is not about review of the book, it is rather a reminder for all Eathiopians in the Diasporas.


Since there are no authentic books authored by the founders or the inheritors of these Liberation Fronts, parties or organizations, I am deeply worried that most of the works the struggles and the achievements we all have made will soon be irrelevant if not fictional. Besides, many new book writers are emerging with no qualm of finding the true stories and histories of generations of Revolutionary Eathiopians. The unsung heroes and heroines have become irrelevant whether by design or by chance. Currently Eathiopian heroes and heroines are those who can sing and dance to the tune of political and financial power holders as opposed to those involved in politics or civic struggle for Eathiopian people. Is this a tragedy or comedy for people who have seen it all?


Is there a common factor for Eathiopian Fronts, Governments, Parties and Organizations? The answer to this question is far deeper than my capacity to understand for all AREDV[1] Eathiopians seem to aspire either to lead or to follow instead of meeting and negotiating among themselves.


My own experience on Eathiopian leaders and followers forces me to reveal the image of EPLF, TPLF and EPRP in terms of the following plays and books:-

  • EPLF matches with Shakespeare’s famous play of Hamlet – a struggle of a hero to defeat two opposing forces namely, moral integrity and the need to avenge his father’s murder.
  • TPLF matches with 1984 of George Orwell’s book depicting on the dark vision of the future. George Orwell, on his deathbed has written a chilling depiction of how the power of the state could come to dominate the lives of individual through cultural conditioning.
  • EPRP matches with the life of Pi. The life of Pi aka Piscine Militor Patel is a story of survival for 227 days on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean. P. M. Patel was sixteen years old when he was confronted with science, religion of Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism.


Reading Hamlet, GO 1984 and the life story of Pi along with Ato Makonnen’s memoir may hold an answer to the question of “is there a common factor for Eathiopian Fronts, governments, political parties and civic organizations?” These four books should be prologue to our future Eathiopia.


Makonnen Araya: Master of Arts

The book is about an attorney (unlike Dr. Bereket H. Sellassie”s book: a lawyer turned into rebel) who joined a Revolutionary army of youths that went to the countryside of Ethiopia to be educated from the peasants’ life style, to teach their children about civics and above all to explain the antiquity of Feudalism, the character of Ethiopian reactionary Bureaucracy and the danger of the rising of local fascism also known as the DERG..


The title of Negotiating a lion’s share of freedom; adventures of an idealist caught up in Ethiopian Civil War has been written There are 81 letters and 16 words. But that is too much for a title but the writer’s intent is perhaps to teach the readers about each day of the week. He presented his memoir for discussion and therapeutic purposes.

  1. Monday – NEGOTIATION versus Arbitration or Mediation
  2. Tuesday – PERSONAL versus Public or Professional
  3.  Wednesday – FREEDOM versus Liberation
  4. Thursday – ADVENTURE versus Revolution
  5. Friday – IDEALISM versus Realism or Materialism
  6. Saturday – CIVIL versus Military
  7. Sunday – WAR versus Peace


The book, apart from tantalizing, down to earth; is full of truth without much fanfare and eulogy for the dead and the living of EPRP/A members or associates.


Ato Makonnen wrote it in a way that relates to him for nobody knows his own life and activities better than in his mind and heart. Ato Makonnen was both a private and a public person at the same time. Privately, he negotiated his way from being fugitive, refugee and asylum, onto America.  Public for he was an educator, revolutionary and a mediator. He was in fact the Barac Obama of Eathiopia. On page 174, he told us he became a teacher, social organizer, a mediator and an administrator all at the same time. Incidentally he flew straight to Illinois Chicago. A design or coincidence!


Concluding Remarks


The book has no dedication and no reference. It is unusual for a book. Personally, it is everyone’s story and must be read and reread.


Moreover, the attorney for National Bank of Ethiopia, turned into anthropology, specializing in cultural anthropology. I want to tell a story about the social science such as psychology, anthropology and sociology. Back in the 1960’s, there was no interest or encouragement to study Ethiopian by Ethiopians, Levine, Shack, Sumner and Punk rust were all foreigners. Eathiopians were not meant to be studied at least scientifically for they have melted in a melting pot via experience without emigration.


This book is the beginning of writing about Ethiopians by Eathiopians based on primary source and I hope many will come out of EPRP/A members, associates or supporters to write their own story. Writing books without references or research will help neither our people nor country. Many books are being written mostly based on hearsay, innuendoes and assumptions.


It will be easy for MA’s book to be praised and become a bestseller book. MA tells a social history of both unique and strikingly honest, the life of many Eathiopians. MA did not include in his memoir his growing up and his education but started straight from being a fugitive into a revolutionary fighter, a refugee in the Sudan and a political asylum in the USA. I presume he wanted to teach us first things first – I come before We without denying that we comes before I when the time and the space warrants.


The fascinating and illuminating true memoir of Makonnen Araya focuses on the life of peasants in Tigrai, Wollo, and Begemdir provinces and the daunting task of his comrades in arms to survive and make sense of the dehumanizing situation in which he finds himself. Everything Makonnen has encountered was vividly detailed making his narrative story easy to read but supremely uneasy to imagine for young Eathiopian readers.


I wish the TPLF and EPLF began to write their personal stories as Ato Makonnen’s has done. It will save the nation of Eathiopia from degradation and humiliation.


Bravo Ato Makonnen Araya MA –Master of Arts. I hope you will raise your MA into PhD – Doctor of philosophy.




For comments and questions

[1]  A for Asylum

   R for Refugee

   E for Education

   DV for lottery

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