BY YAFET ZEROU
On Sunday 23 June 2019 in a high ceiled room in the Ethiopian Embassy in London, UK, Mr Andargachew Tsige launched his latest book about his hopes and concerns for the future of his country.
As Andargachew sat facing those gathered for the book launch flanked on his left by the Ethiopian Ambassador H.E Mr Fesseha Shawel Gebre and by his fellow long time campaigner Dr. Tadesse Biru on his right, the enormous significance of such an event could not have been lost on those gathered.
As if the sight of Andargachew Tsige, an Ethiopian Ambassador and Dr. Tadesse Biru all sitting at the same table side by side was not spectacular enough, a few feet away sitting in the front row was the smiling Eritrean Ambassador H.E Estifanos Habtemariam, adding to the surrealism of the event. Just over a year ago, let alone witnessing these extraordinary scenes, it was well nigh impossible to even imagine them ever happening.
Coincidentally, exactly five years ago, Andargachew had found himself in the same room as an Ethiopian government representative, albeit in much different circumstances. It was exactly five years ago that Yemeni agents had detained him at their airport and handed him over to the TPLF led Ethiopian government, whom he was fighting against. He had been kidnapped, bound and gagged then flown to a prison in Ethiopia, where he remained for four years until the TPLF were overthrown by a popular movement which he was part of.
The presence of the Eritrean Ambassador at an event being held at the Ethiopian Embassy which for nearly three decades had been turned into the personal fiefdom of the TPLF, was testament to the great strides that the two countries were making in securing a peaceful and fruitful future.
The book was written while Andargachew was in prison. It was commissioned by the TPLF to gain insight into the mind of Andargachew, to find out what made him tick. Andargachew recounts that when he wrote the book, he never believed that he would leave the prison cell alive and yet as fate would have it, here he was in the heart of fashionable London answering questions about it to a captivated and mesmerised audience.
His book encapsulates his fears and hopes for the future of Ethiopia. It is a call for Ethiopians to learn from their past mistakes and forge a new peaceful future. Unfortunately, the sad events over the weekend in Ethiopia, highlighted the need to listen to what Andargachew has to say if Ethiopia is to free itself from the vicious cycle of violence it finds itself trapped in.
Ethiopia and the region are at the edge of a precipice where calm and clear heads are needed if we are to avert the catastrophe that faces us.
The sight of the Eritrean and Ethiopian Ambassadors sat face to face as friends and not as the bitter foes they had been for twenty years, the sight of Eritreans and Ethiopians mingling together peacefully in the very Ethiopian Embassy where until a year ago the TPLF representatives were plotting against both communities, is a symbol of hope for both nations.