I have come back here to die,” Desta Abdissa told me in Addis Ababa, “and the sooner the better.” Desta is an Oromo, the largest of Ethiopia’s eighty ethnic groups, comprising as much as half the population. He comes from Wallega in the west, born into the generation of students that rose up against feudalism, intoxicated itself on Marxism, and was in turn nearly destroyed by communist dictatorship and factional fighting. He has been jailed eight times, the first as a teenager under Haile Selassie, thereafter by the Dergue, the military council that overthrew the emperor. He was tortured until half his body became temporarily paralyzed, and once he was forced to endure his own mock execution.
In the early e...
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