Former EU Amb. to Ethiopia
Boge will always have a special place in my heart. It was a real privilege and honour to know and work with her. She was a truly iconic figure – for me the most charismatic African woman I have ever encountered. Her passionate campaigning for women and girls’ rights on the African continent is matchless. Her legacy will live forever in the annals of Ethiopian history, and particularly Ethiopian women’s history.
She did it at a time when the Ethiopian authorities were hostile both to her personally, but also to the cause that she was fighting for. It is worth reflecting on what she could have achieved under the inspirational leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who, at a stroke, broke with the past and nominated three high profile women to top offices of State: Sahlework Zewedie as President, Meaza Ashenafi as Head of the Supreme Court, and Birtukan Mideska as Head of the National Election Board. Boge was subsequently appointed as one of relatively few women to the Ethiopian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but tragically did not live long enough to imprint her mark on the work of the Commission.
Her relentless personal courage, her drive, her energy, her passionate unending support for the most vulnerable and downtrodden in society was remarkable. Of course this all made a heavy toll on her frail body and may ultimately have led to her death.
As is often the case with such charismatic leaders, she could however be very stubborn. As she was getting older and more frail, I tried many times to persuade her to find a successor so that she could free up some time to relax and enjoy the other pleasures of life. But she wouldn’t let go.
Memories ? There are many. Her infectious Smile that could melt hearts. Her Oratory, which could move people to tears. Her Generosity of spirit. Her sense of Duty to her cause.
Maybe four particular memories come to mind.
The first, an invitation to myself and my wife Anne to Durame to witness a celebration by thousands of uncut girls of their wholeness. We participated in a scene of almost biblical proportions. I’d never seen so many girls in one place. And never seen such unashamed joy and happiness. The sounds of their ululations still ring in my ears.