Ethiopia: Citizenship or race? which will win the coming election?
Askal Berihun, a 32 year old resident of Werk Dengaye, a suburb of Lalibela is set to wedge an international battle against her elderly ex-husband, Takeda Kazu Shige, the father of her children with Japanese citizenry who she feels are not adequately supported and are receiving the education they are otherwise are entitled to.
In an exclusive interview with The Reporter, Askal reflected on her life, challenges and the difficulties of raising two adolescent children of Japanese ancestry in a heterogeneous society with little infrastructure.
"I met my ex-husband when I was 17 and he was 57," she told The Reporter. "I was a high school student when I became pregnant and was forced to quit school, in order to raise our first daughter as my husband was working on a forest project on behalf of the Japanese government in Laibella".
The children, now aged nine and twelve, moved to Nagano, Japan for a year as children, along with their mother, after their father belatedly returned to Ethiopia, in order to reconcile with their mother. However, that was short-lived.
The mother was not able to adapt to the Japanese culture and the age gap between them became an issue. "I learned Japanese quickly but was overwhelmed with the loneliness. My only contact became the personnel at the (Ethiopian) embassy, who spoke to me at length to help me escape boredom and loneliness but I was overwhelmed," she told The Reporter.
"My then husband always suspected I was cheating on him but I was not. He became controlling and I became depressed on such a foreign land and he decided to return us to Ethiopia and without warning, he disappeared."
The now remarried Askal and pregnant with her third child lost contact with him. With no communication, she approached the Japanese Embassy for assistance about a year and a half ago, but had little success. "I had a meeting with the then Japanese ambassador and he promised to help, at least connect my children to my ex-husband, but there was little success. They have forgotten about my plight and they even neglected updating me. "
The children named, Mune Hiro and Sara Takeda Kazu Shinge have now lost the little Japanese they learned in Japan and have now fully learned Amharic but are known, in the neighborhood as the "Chinese kids". Mune is now in grade six, while his sister is in the third grade.
"I love sushi and that is what I miss most about Japan," Mune said, as she brewed an Ethiopian traditional coffee. "But, honestly, what I miss the most, is my father. I wish I will get to see him but more importantly, I will receive a great education that is not available in Lalibela," (The Reporter was not able to interview her brother as he was as school).
Within Lalibela, an interracial relationship is not unique. There have been children born out of wedlock, often time to much older men, who had come to the historic, dusty tourism area. Most of the posh hotels and restaurants that were started here were born out of a relationship born between locals and foreigners.