I Honey, honey "Yes, I kidnapped several of my wives," says the tall, thin market trader, in a bland matter-of-fact tone.Abebe Anebo is a wiry 45-year-old man, with sunken eyes that are partially concealed in the shade of a grubby white baseball cap.If she tried, she was beaten by her captor, who said good women never speak of such things.So she tells her story slowly, haltingly, her sentences punctuated by sudden high-pitched laughs that seem to erupt involuntarily from her gut.After three days, he finally left her alone in the hut. Soon after that I was pregnant, and what could I do? Now many years have passed and I have six children. She stares past me, to where white wisps of cloud are swirling past the bare, bright-red soil.She ran for miles barefoot back to her family, wanting to return to her life, and to her childhood. "But my father told me that now I had had sex with him, nobody else would want me because I was ruined goods, and I had to go back to him and be a good wife," she says. Nurame has a distant sense of another life, one she will never lead now. I would have been educated and got my own work and lived my own life. I have to be happy – at least I have children; I love them." She adjusts her black bandana and looks down. He is a very good man." She gives a big gap-toothed smile of apparent sincerity.Every woman remembers her wedding day with a tear in her eye – but, here in Ethiopia, the tears are different, and darker, and do not stop.Nurame Abedo is sitting in her hut high in the clouds, remembering the day she became a wife.
"It is only hard for the first five years," one of them tells me, quite seriously.
Nurame was in her bed when she was woken by an angry mêlée.
In her family's hut there were grown men – an incredible number, 10 or more, all in their 30s, all standing over her father, shouting. At night here, where there is no electricity, perfect darkness falls, and everything becomes a shadow-play of barely visible flickers.
I knew her family and I wanted to be part of it – it's a good family. Fortunately, he had seized a second wife, so he wasn't left alone. They cultivate land, they make pots, they treat animal skins... If I tell one of my wives to do something, she does it." Why should she? She just had to get on with it though." How would he feel if one of his daughters was abducted? " he says, and everyone falls about laughing again.
I told her cousin I was going to take her and he said it was fine." He says it as though he is describing buying a tin of beans. But he grieves for that wife because she was a good worker. But then suddenly the conversation slams into a 180-degree reverse, as it seems to everywhere on this subject. II Blackout I uncover the story of how the fight-back began in the middle of a blackout – both electrical, and political. Nobody listens to the explanations from the dictatorship on the radio – the power plant is failing because wicked contractors inexplicably ripped off the government, and the government is doing all it can to stop this sabotage etcetera.
I try to match his casual tone as I ask 'Did you rape her? It is not an embarrassed laugh, but an anticipatory guffaw, and he leans towards me, like he is about to offer a punchline. " With that he cracks up, and all the men standing around laugh with him. ' "Yes, I did, obviously," he says, as though I am grouchily missing the gag. He says, with a solemn look: "I think abduction is illegal now. It's wrong." He says this with great solemnity, as if describing the death of a loved one. " Then his tone shifts again, just as quickly and just as entirely. The capital city, Addis Ababa, has been without electricity for three days. No: the people are irritated instead because, one-by-one, their mobile phones are dying.