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It’s time to be back

Andualem Arage was the Vice President and Press Secretary for Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJP) party. He has two children from his wife Dr. Selam Aschalew. He was serving a life sentence on terrorism charges and was imprisoned on September 14, 2011. It was his second time in prison. A couple of months ago he was pardoned by the government and set free from the prison in Kality.
He argues that the current political protests in the country will stop if discussions occur between the government and other stakeholders both here and abroad. Andualem sat down with Capital to talk about his future plan. Excerpts;

Capital: We hope you are having a good time with your family and friends after a prolonged imprisonment for over 6 and half years.
Andualem Arage: Yes I am having a good time after languishing for so long in solitary confinement for most of the duration of my imprisonment. The reception and recognition from the public is so gratifying and elating. I really feel humbled.
Capital: Do you think it is time for you to notify to the Ethiopian people about your future political involvement?
Andualem: I think it is time. I have been scanning the political environment for the past three months. I understand that I did not have much rest and enough time to reflect on things. However, I believe it is time for me to go back to politics. I cannot have respite by simply sitting during such a momentous time.
Capital: We are told that you are traveling to Europe this week in particularly to Germany and Holland, what is the purpose of your trip?
Andualem: As you know there is a large Ethiopian Diaspora community in the US and Europe. This community has been working day and night to get us released. The Ethiopian community in Frankfurt, the Ethiopian Forum Dialogue and Cooperation in Germany has extended its invitation to me as a guest of honor at its conference. Members of the Ethiopian Diaspora in different countries in Europe too have invited me to visit them. I believe it is time for us to thank the Diaspora for its unrelenting support and struggle and express my love and appreciation.

Capital: Bekele Gerba and Eskinder Nega are in the US currently, have you not been invented to the US with them?
Andualem: The Atlantic council had extended its invitation to me too, to discuss on policy issues with American policy makers in relation to Ethiopia. The respected Ethiopian Muslim leader Ahmedin Jebel and the young politician Yonatan Tesfaye were also invited. I was also planning to meet with the vibrant and the largest Ethiopian Diaspora community in the US, unfortunately all three of us were denied a visa.
Capital: What reason was given for the denial of the visa?
Andualem: I don’t clearly understand the reason why Ahmedin and Yonatan were denied but in relation to my specific case, when I was a high school student, back in 1995, I had applied for a visa and I was denied, the reason why I am once again denied is because it is in the file. I clearly understand the situation but I believe that what I have been through is a living testimony that I have serious agenda in this country and what kind of a person I am.
Capital: So that is it, no change of mind?
Andualem: Well, I am receiving many invitations from different bodies; I have recently been invited by Amnesty International in New York, in June to speak among few other respected speakers, like Anna Gomez. I am hoping this time the embassy will issue me a visa.
Capital: What is the focus of your speech?
Andualem: It will focus on the transition of democracy in Ethiopia and its relevance for the respect of human rights in Ethiopia. I am also excited to speak with the Ethiopia Diaspora about tolerance, peace and reconciliation and try to help bring the Diaspora together in way that helps bring positive change back home.
Capital: How long do you intend to stay?
Andualem: A maximum of five weeks. As you know the bulk of the job is in Ethiopia, so, I will have to come back as early as possible.
Capital: Do you have plans to stay in the US?
Andualem: Why do you think a man of my stature would plan to stay in the US? I have my sons and wife whom I love here, and as you know they have been paying a dear price in the absence of father figure in the house for 6 and half years and it is very tough to let them suffer by themselves any more unless taken back to prison forcibly as usual. Don’t forget my country Ethiopia, is here. I have unfinished business here, the cause of democracy, peace, reconciliation and brotherhood in Ethiopia, because these are my convictions that I cannot change for anything less. I was forced to pay an underserved sacrifice for perusing this cause. This is where I was born, where I struggle and where I die, I have everything that I need here, in my country.
Capital: So you don’t intend to apply for asylum?
Andualem: If I am desperate to apply for asylum, why don’t I apply in one of the European countries?  My dream is to change things in Ethiopia so that Ethiopians come back to their country. So my answer to you is an absolute no. I don’t have the slightest intention to live out of Ethiopia.


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