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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.

Categories: City Journal
  1. $
    April 14, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Arefe, it is interesting story. I googled for Shamma books website looking to buy the book and found the website. Before placing an order, do u know if the website is a ligit.

  2. April 15, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Hello $,
    Unfortunately this book is out of print, you can only buy used copies, a new edition of this book is needed.

  3. paulos a. dula
    April 23, 2010 at 1:34 am

    This is a santized book by “a poor-weaver’s son Ankobrite”who is not a member of Haile Selassie’s aristocrat-yet an invaluable friend and factotum to all the people with many and power. For any honest and incrediably well-informed Ethiopian, the fatal shoot out on Sept. 14, 1967 at the offbeat Ethiopian Hotel between Assefa Dula & Jarra Mesfin stemmed from rather a law suite on behalf of an English couple & their six-week old daughter, who for non-payment for rent, with no preliminary warning,were locked out of their house during the pouring rain by the land lady Mulu Ras Mesfin. Assefa brought a legal action seeking redress for this griveance. Evidently the court ruling roused Mulu’s, Jarra’s and the husband’s,who was a Minister of Tourism to hysterical rage. Like all feudal aristocrats, they ardently view the law as an authority for their nefarious intersts, not as an instrument of justice. Again, there is something odd, almost a western like character in the way the facts were laid out and significance down played in the book. At best, Teffera’s account is another urban legend about the gun duel.What makes it worse is that facts is not his best allies. Jarra was an absentee land lord since 1964 not on vaction from his post as Teffera implied.While there are no doubt many good things in his book, I find two mistakes in less than a page, I can only wonder how many mistakes it may contain about other stories with which I am not as familiar in 730 pages? It must be subjected to the rigirous of critique it so richly desreves. Worst of all, the book screams for a firm ediotrial hands, especially one with a fact checking staff. To quote Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great 18th-century English writer, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.The new generation of Ethiopia deserves a better,more accurate account of its history than this malevolent agend driven wall-to- wall rubbish.
    For any one who is intersted about this factual incident, one can find it: Ethiopia-A View from Within by Micheal B. Lentakis,PP 343-45 Janus Publishing, London. (II)Geizot and Gezit by Ayala Boja commercial Printing Addis Ababa. III Unpublished Memoir by Robert Day Scott. (IV) Ethiopian Reporter, ” A Son’s Testimony”, May 11,2008. And a court record and police report based on witness account. How some of the witness like Dr. Yohannes Habtue, Sergent Kibert Cheiko and Meles Gebrue who was hit by a stray bullet during the shoot out, all menaced and intimidiated by furious looking General Yilma Sibesh who was a Police Chief to keep silient. In the mean time, the family of Assefa were told to bury him immediately by the Storm Troopers headed by General Gashow Kebede while undercover securities mill around the residence before and after the burial.

    With books on its way to be published by the late Minase Lemma, Dr. Aklog Birarra of World Bank and Taddesse who were Governors of the Bank right after Ato Teffera, Ethiopian are agog by this development.

  4. Alem
    May 10, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Paulos certainly has issues with Taffara as well as sensible version to the same story. The problem is he too needs “a firm ediotrial hands” to fully convey his ideas!

  5. Abebe Jarra Mesfin
    June 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Thank you for refreshment but I have a copy of the newspaper “Polic ena Ermigaw”. I will print or post it for anyone who is interested.

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