Ethiopia Update: Why Did A Teacher Burn Himself to Death?

Yenesew Gebre, a 29-year-old teacher in Southern Ethiopia, burnt himself in public last week. He died from his injuries two days later in a hospital.

Tadias Magazine
News update

Monday, November 21, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – The chilling case of a young man who burned himself to death in public on November 11th in southern Ethiopia is raising more questions than answers.

Yenesew Gebre, a 29-year-old teacher, doused himself with benzene and set himself on fire in Dawro zone in the town of Tercha in a disturbing act of self-immolation. He died from his injuries at Tercha Hospital two days later and was burried at a nearby church early last week.

Walta news agency reported that the deceased had been mentally ill for the past few years and was undergoing treatment at Tercha Hospital.

But VOA Amharic reports are skeptical of the mental health claim, maintaining that he was a disenfranchised citizen who was protesting the government’s crackdown on dissent.

The motives ascribed by officials regarding the reason for Mr. Gebre’s suicide remain disputed.

The news has sent shock waves throughout the Ethiopian community abroad.

The BBC and VOA are among the various international news media organizations that have covered the November 11th incident. Some of the reports are shown below. We will continue to update this story as it develops.

Listen to VOA’s most recent report on the former teacher’s suicide case

Listen to Watla’s Report: Interview with Yenesew Gebre’s family, hospital and local officials

Listen to BBC Report: A teacher in Ethiopia has died after setting fire to himself

23 Responses to “Ethiopia Update: Why Did A Teacher Burn Himself to Death?”


  1. 1 Dubale Tariku Nov 21st, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Very sad news.. RIP

    Rest in peace Yenesew MY MAN!!!

  2. 2 Zelela Amha Nov 21st, 2011 at 12:06 am

    This is heartbreaking! Not least because he was an educator, a high-school teacher only in his 20′s. Teachers are pillars of every society. I believe that Yenesew Gebre was teaching us a lesson. He was teaching us to listen. No one should go through what our brother went through to be listened, to be heard, to be counted as a human being, as an Ethiopian citizen.

    May his soul rest in peace!!

  3. 3 Ethiopian man Nov 21st, 2011 at 1:14 am

    he’s martyr …for justice and opposing horrible living situation aggravated by the current regime. May God rest him peace!!!

  4. 4 ammmmmmm Nov 21st, 2011 at 6:47 am

    i said sorry 4 all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. 5 mekdes Nov 22nd, 2011 at 5:41 am

    he give us his life for our freedom,there will gone be more until we reach it.

  6. 6 ASCHALEW Nov 22nd, 2011 at 8:32 am

    hi thanks to comments this man he kill himself truely due spoil administration hidden dictatorship economic inflation yenesew gebre is our camp we are very sorry about his death the governments seriously accountable for this act.

  7. 7 ASCHALEW Nov 22nd, 2011 at 8:38 am

    some says yene sew have mental illnesses this is untrue because yenesew during his home land he is brave in his education this wrong information to make governments not accountable considered the case seriously specially human right commission.

  8. 8 taye Nov 22nd, 2011 at 9:22 am

    his death shows that we can’t live without freedom

  9. 9 Y. Anteneh Nov 22nd, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Independent investigation is needed. The elders of Ethiopia should form a commission to investigate this case and inform the public the truth. Otherwise, how do we know this case is not going to duplicate itself all over the country? This is serious business.

    Scandalizing a dead-man, calling him mentally ill (ebid) is beyond media spin. It is mean spirited, it’s rude, it is insulting, and it’s disgusting. It’s not in our culture to act this way. It is not in our culture to either burn-our-self or disrespect the memory of the dead. Are we not afraid of GOD anymore?

  10. 10 Z Nov 22nd, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    In Ethiopia evidence can be fabricated. The regime is a master of it.

  11. 11 mesfin tadesse Nov 22nd, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I am so angry at this news. For an ordinary, detached observer like me, clearly something is screwed up here. Com’on justice, if the use of chat, smoke, chis and drink were the standard for mental illness in Ethiopia, then the entire goddamn country, including the government officials, are mental baskets. They should be classified as one.

    Wondimachin,Yegnaesew OUR MAN. Ayzoh, your name is not forgotten. Rest in peace!

  12. 12 tsetse Nov 23rd, 2011 at 10:20 am

    The so called sister works in the ‘ketema astedader’. Any one who works in this place is EPRDF. There is no way the poor woman can testify in any other way than she already did. Ask any Ethiopian if what I just claimed is wrong. As I try to understand Yenesew, you can not graduate from university with mental disorder. many young ppl smoke, chew quat partly coz of depressing poverty.

  13. 13 belay Nov 24th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    The recent action of young Ethiopian burning himself to death has clear message and of course it shows that the suffering, misery and abuse of our citizens reach to the level of unbearable. No one takes his/her life unless the circumstance is between the Devil and the deep blue sea. Apparently, Ethiopia become the prison of its own citizens are tarnished, mocked, vilified and treated like a dog by their captors, and there is no hope to escape from such unspeakable suffering.

    However, unfortunately, our brother prefers to take his life…

  14. 14 Guta Nov 24th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Its sad! Its really hard to belive the sister as she is part of the governing body (she is a government official as she claimed). If she is to say otherwise she would definately lose her job, may be imprisoned. The claim that he hit her could be believable given how strongly he felt against the government that led him to burn himself alive; Her (His own sister) being part of the government he so strongly opposed could be a reason for him to beat her.

    The fact that Walta spoke only to people who have connection with the government speaks volume.

  15. 15 Mamush Woldu Nov 25th, 2011 at 7:41 am

    he died for the absence of freedom, justice and democracy

  16. 16 Helen Michael Nov 25th, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    mmmmmmm, crazy?? I don’t think so. This dramatic act of self-immolation will not disappear by waving a magic wand or by simply calling the guy crazy.

    How many crazy people do you know in Ethiopia that burn themselves publicly in self-immolation? Only one.

    How many chat addicts in Ethiopia burn themselves in self-immolation? Just Yenesew.

    How many alcoholics in Ethiopia burn themselves in self-immolation? One.

  17. 17 Mamush Nov 29th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Rest in peace!

  18. 18 mekdes Nov 29th, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Yenesew, God gives you rest. what can i say more than this you are our hero

  19. 19 Addis Dec 2nd, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    It is sad an educated man willing to work in the rural area fate turned in to self-immolation in protest of the regime. Even sadder is the regime mouthpiece Walta calling him mental case. Tadias You can do better than putting Walta as a credible source of information. In the absence of independent media in the county you either demand for one or stop transmitting the regime’s propaganda.

  20. 20 Chole Dec 2nd, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    “I crave for knowledge
    I envy tolerant, peaceful folks.
    I am frightened by ignorance
    I loathe violence.”

    - Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, 1936-2006
    Poet Laureate of Ethiopia

  21. 21 Mengonte Dec 2nd, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    May the good lord rest his soul in peace. And may justice be done.

  22. 22 nazen Dec 17th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    this is work of shabia. we ethiopians are doing good with EPRDF, a developmental government. long live to meles zenawi

  23. 23 ethio Dec 17th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    nazen,

    yeah and we’re all Chinese jet pilots :-) who are you kidding? yourself?

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