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By Fikre Tolossa, Ph. D.

Many countries in the world honor their heroes and commemorate them eternally by erecting statues, naming streets, parks, schools, universities and all sorts of institutions in their names. Ethiopia has failed in remembering her heroes in all spheres of life and fields including statesmanship, military, scholarships, arts, literature, music and sports. It would be too long to list all the great Ethiopian personalities from antiquity to the present. Even the heroes of the last 150 years who have not been recognized and honored are myriads. To mention just a few of the heroes that deserve a memorial among the heroes who contributed a lot to Ethiopia even in recent times are:

Yoftahe Negussie, Kebede Micahel, Tsegaye Gebre-medhin, Gebre-kirstos Desta, Iskender Bogossian and Assefa Abate for the arts, Abebe Aregay, Geressu Duki, Abdissa Aga, Zerai Derres, Melaku Beyan, Moges Asgedom and Abraham Deboch, for patriotism; Aleka Kidanewold Kifle, Desta Teklewold, Aleka Atsmegiorgis, Gorfu Gebremedhin and Tessema Gitsew for scholarship, and Abebe Bikila and Mamo Wolde in sports,

As stated earlier, the above-mentioned names are only a few of our heroes. One has to form a committee to identify the most significant ones and make a list of at least our major heroes.

A number of concerned Ethiopians have been working on the idea of erecting statues for three of our great patriots who made great sacrifices for Ethiopia; namely Moges Asgedom, Abraham Deboch and Siemeon Adefris. A committee consisting of prominent personalities such as Professor Richard Pankhurst, Former Ambassador Zeude Retta, Former Ambassador Zewde Hailemairam and Major Haile Gebre-Slassie, Olympian Gold Medal athlete, among other important figures, has been established to this end. But who are Moges Asgedom, Abraham Deboch and Simeon Adefres?

Moges Asgedom and Abraham Deboch were young heroes who were lived in the Italian colony of Eritrea. When Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1936, they deserted the Italian colony and joined Ethiopians in the struggle against Fascism. When the Fascist General Graziani was observing a public festival on February 12, 1936, Moges Asgedom and Abraham Deboch threw hand grenades and wounded Graziani. As a result, Graziani killed thousands of Addis Ababa residents indiscriminately and mercilessly. He even went to the extent of burning innocent people alive in their own homes. The two brave young men were transported out of town by another daring patriot, Siemeon Adefres, who owned taxicabs in Addis.

When the Italians searched the houses of the two, they found the Italian flag bayoneted and pinned to the ground, while the Ethiopian flag was flying honorably. This infuriated the Italians even more.

Semeon Adferes, risking his life, took them far from Addis Ababa and took them to Debre Libanos monastery, from where they fled to the western border of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, they died a tragic death at the border. Simeon too, was caught by the Italians, tortured and killed for helping them escape. Thus the three young men sacrificed themselves for a noble cause. 

Ethiopians were outraged. The true nature of Italian Fascism was exposed to the whole world, and the numbers of partisans increased. Partly because of this, Ethiopians intensified their struggle and inflicted heavy damages on the brutal invaders. Consequently, Ethiopia’s independence was expedited.

The patriots, Abraha Deboch, Moges Asgedom and Simeon Adefres were almost forgotten for the last 70 years by the people for whose love and freedom they sacrificed themselves.  The recent initiative to honor and remember them by erecting their statues at the site of the incident and the massacre around Addis Ababa University is a noble and commendable act. All patriotic Ethiopians should cooperate in this effort.


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