#54DegreesAcrossAfrica: Who is Mesfin Woldemariam?

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Mesfin Woldemariam, born April 4, 1930, has passed on and Ethiopians are mourning the veteran activist.

Mesfin received his early education at Teferi Mekonnen School, and was a student of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, until his ordination as a deacon in 1946. He completed his further education in London in 1951, and won a scholarship to study abroad. He received his BA from Punjab University, Chandigarh in 1955 and his MA and Ph.D. from Clark University in 2007.

Mesfin was professor of geography at Haile Selassie University (now Addis Ababa University or AAU), and for a time was head of the geography department. He was also a senior Fulbright scholar in 1971, 1986 and 1987. He retired from AAU in 1991.

What more did we find out about Mesfin?

  1. He and some others were arrested on the allegations that a panel they held incited a student protest at AAU the next day, but released on bail and neither were ever tried.
  2. In November 2005, the government of Ethiopia detained Mesfin on charges of treason, genocide and outrage against the constitution, along with other leading members of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). He was held at Kaliti Prison.
  3. Mesfin took part in two hunger strikes in December 2005 and January 2006, protesting his detention and trial. He later contracted pneumonia, collapsing in his prison cell 18 August, and was taken to the hospital. The court was supposed to deliver the verdict on 19 February 2007. However, Mesfin, and 37 others were pronounced guilty on 11 June 2007. This judgment occurred after Mesfin refused to defend himself, insisting that the arrest, charges, detention and trial was politically motivated and that the trial was not likely to be fair. Along with 37 others, he was convicted on the basis of the prosecution evidence and prevented from making a statement in court after the prosecution case ended.
  4. Mesfin, along with the 37 other Ethiopian opposition party officials, were freed on July 20, 2007. They received a pardon and had their political rights restored four days after most were sentenced to life in prison and others to prison terms of up to 15 years.

The whole Ethiopia mourns and Mesfin fought for something worth looking into. But then, how many of us young Africans are ready to die for the truth? If we do not find what we would die for, then we have not found what we should live for.

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