Yodit Negusse opened her front door to a young boy sent by a family friend. He told her the kebele, a neighbourhood squad of armed civilians, would search for her tonight, in their nightly ritual of trawling the streets. Yodit thanked him for the warning. She was home alone and grabbed the only resource there, a gold ring belonging to her sister, and left.
At first, Yodit hid during these raids, on wooden boards beneath the rafters in her mother’s home, tangled in electrical wiring. Other nights, she joined demonstrations and littered pamphlets on the street. Her mother was still alive then. Her older sister, who refused to join in politics, had scolded her. Think of the stress on our mother, she said. But Yodit could counter: Think what the President and his men are doing. Thugs with guns had been central to Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorship since 1977, the year his “Red Terror” hit Addis Ababa, targeting students like Yodit, and other dissidents, real and imagined.