Midnight terror on streets of Ethiopia

The year was 1974. I was in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The year was 1974. I was in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. There, I was working for the country’s only English daily —The Ethiopian Herald. At that time, Ethiopia was on the verge of a civil war. Supporters of Haile Sellassie, the last Emperor of Ethiopia were pitted against those who backed the Communist-influenced military that sought to overthrow Sellassie.

I was working as a proofreader at the daily. Our working hours usually ended at 3 am. We were ferried back to our residences in a Ministry of Information vehicle. We all had curfew passes for our safety.  In those days, the revolution was in full swing. The nightly trip back home was fraught with danger. While returning home in the wee hours, I have seen military officers shoot people. Mutilated human bodies were strewn along the roadside. My family never slept until I was back home. 

However, the fact that Elias, an expert driver was behind the wheels was a relief. We used to sing songs and enjoy the ride back home, despite the horror we witnessed on the streets.One day it happened. The  van screeched to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Elias tried his best to revive the vehicle, but his efforts came to a naught.

Then, he asked us to get out and push the van. It was dark outside and the area was infested with terrorists. But we mustered enough courage to alight from the van. As soon as we got out, we heard some gun shots. Those were the days when the forces would shot at almost any moving object. We tried pushing the vehicle for about five minutes. But it wouldn’t start. The sound of gunshots grew nearer.  I thought about my family. My wife was young. We had two children. I prayed to all my favourite saints.

We tried pushing the vehicle with all our might. There was the sound of gunshots again. It was closer. Soon, I spotted something moving behind a bush nearby. I thought I was staring at death in the face. I closed my eyes and tried pushing the van again along with others. All of a sudden, the vehicle started. We got in quickly. Before we could move, two terrorists emerged from the bush and started shooting at us. Luckily, the bullets didn’t hit any of us and we sped away. Reaching home, I knelt down and prayed to God. I can never forget that night.  

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