It was Ms. Ayele who spoke last. And she spoke powerfully. She seemed to be in her late forties. Her face was round and soft, rather than sophisticated and refined. She stood about 1.7m tall and looked rather pale. She was wearing a dress with a low neckline. Her message was clear, direct and surprisingly frank. It was a message that was coming from an ex-convict and a former drug addict. She derided a society that placed too much value on power, money, work and tribal affiliation. Her bone of contention was that, it is so easy for us to come to the view that some lives are more important than others, and it is always so easy for us to be complicit in perpetuating new varieties of discrimination.

She was of the view that even though the slave trade had been abolished two centuries ago, some blacks in this modern-day still harbor a slave trade mentality. She couldn’t understand why some blacks discriminated against one other due to tribal differences and skin texture—the lighter your skin, the better chances you have in a society where everybody was black.

She admitted that she’d been a drug addict, and had already paid a heavy price for it by serving her time in jail. She also gave a poignant account of her life as a single mother who had to always work near the limits of what was always possible in order to give her only daughter a decent education. She advised parents to try to keep their children away from drugs. She lamented the fact that, in time, the whole West Africa region will become awash with drugs. She had no any evidence to support her claim—just only inferring from her long experience with buying and distributing “the hot stuff”. She mentioned her secret encounters with some influential men who were also in that trade.

To be continued…

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