On April 25 2014, the day Abel Wabela was taken to his cell at Ma’ekelawi, he was overcome by a feeling of confusion and physical exhaustion. Once inside the center, “they took my belt, my shoe; they opened the door of the cell and [pushed] me inside,” he remembers. The room was pitch-dark; he couldn’t make head or tail out of it. Other inmates who had already been inside gave him blankets and “I fell asleep right away”. It was only the next morning when he woke up that Abel was able to fully grasp his new reality.
It was January 1978, the height of Derg’s Red Terror campaign. At 21, I was a last year student at the business department of the Addis Abeba University (AAU). Derg’s campaign of terror was targeting university students. Its brutal crackdown against the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (EPRP) and the All Ethiopian Socialist Movement (MEISON) forced students to give up on peaceful struggles and take arms. The majority of students from Tigray and Eretria in the north have already left the campus en mass and the remaining, especially Oromo students and students from other parts of the country, were participating in urban student movements, which made universities the prime targets of Derg’s brutality.
Kalkidan Yibeltal & Tesfalem Waldyes
In Piassa, an area many consider to be the heart of Addis Abeba, rests the Ethiopian Federal Police Force Central Bureau of Criminal Investigation, otherwise known by its Amharic name, Ma’ekelawi (Amharic for central). Notorious for the sever torture detainees are subjected to inside its enclosures, Ma’ekelawi is a time defying institution which has been in use for more than half a century in Ethiopia, sadly for the same purpose.