Duel, Addis style
Sometimes a single incident manages to shine a spotlight deep into the soul of a society. There was such an incident that occurred in the year 1967 that shocked the city of Addis Ababa. Taffara Deguefe in his book “Minutes of an Ethiopian Century” (2006, Shama Books) relates it like this.
It was in the year 1967 that an incident occurred in front of the Ethiopia Hotel that shocked the city: the shoot-out between Lt. Jarra Mesfin and Ato Assefa Dula.They were clashing characters representing different segments of society. Jarra was the son of the powerful aristocrat Ras Mesfin Sileshi. He was himself a budding aristocrat, self-assured, pretentious, and arrogant and a man of definite opinions who would not brook contradicting. He was in his thirties and was home on holidays from his diplomatic post in Cairo. Assefa Dula was a radical, quick tempered and provocative. The Ethiopia Hotle bar had become a popular meeting place for young intellectuals just as the Itegue Hotel had been our meeting place some fifteen years earlier.
Jara and Assefa were at the bar and apparently some provocative words and ambiguous repartees were exchanged by them, no doubt egged on by the hangers-on. Assefa had objected to the hectoring tone of Jarra. They challenged each other to meet outside as men. The shoot out was played outside: facing each other with revolvers drawn, they shot at each other playing hide and seek between the parked cars. They wounded each other and both died as a result of their mortal wounds inflicted by this strange duel. This was a duel in the traditional molds but with no seconds present. For weeks thereafter, the shoot-out in front of the Ethiopia Hotel was the talk of the town. It was taken as sign of the social malaise afflicting Ethiopian society. Ten years later such shoot-outs in broad daylight between warring political factions were to become commonplace in Addis Ababa.