Remembering Captain Gebremedhin Birega Dagaga
Captain Gebre was known all over the Africa, a role model to his peers, the young and the elderly alike. He played a pivotal role to shape the kind of Africa we want, through his charismatic and passionate expression. During an inspiring tribute organized in May by MELCA Ethiopia, many friends, colleagues and his family spoke about his unique personality and passion for achieving what he believed in. His contribution to the ABN will not be forgotten, helping us to achieve our vision of ‘resilient African communities living in harmony with Nature.’
We take this opportunity to share some tributes to him below:
“Shambel Gebre boldly pushed for the cause he believed in to benefit small-scale farmers, consumers and Ethiopia as a nation. He was a very honest person, open-minded and with high integrity. He voiced his stand in many events with substantive evidence. He is always searching for every shred of evidence and following the progress closely. He was voicing for the voiceless farmers and consumer society. The seed laws, Farmers’ Rights, climate change and the GMO discourse are areas he followed with dedication. He learned continuously. He was concerned about sustainability on food safety (eat healthy food and stay healthy). His initiative to have GMO-free zones, especially where diversity of farmer seed varieties, was the first time I met with him, some 15 years ago. Since then, we met in different forums and served as colleagues. His encouragement was great for me to contribute to the discussions around the GMO case focusing on farmers’ perspectives to bring a dimension often overlooked.
As a dedicated mentor, he was concerned about the students he was teaching and spent most of his time helping graduating students spend extra hours at work. Nice to hear that his students also remembered him with honor. Although we lost such an energetic and courageous person, his legacy through his work and family lives on…”
Dr Bayush Tsegaye, Consultant
Two movements in Ethiopia will miss Gebre hugely, and he was passionate about both. The first is the consumer rights movement and the second, the anti-GMO movement.
Dr Million Belay, General Coordinator, AFSA
Gebre could be a one-man squad! He could tackle anything, anybody or people for the rights of the people and heath of the environment.
Mariann Bassey Orovwuje, Friends of the Earth, Nigeria.
Gebre’s spirit and cause live on with all of us who were lucky enough to have spent time with him.
John Wilson, Freelance
The Earth will remember you for your great impact, Rest peacefully, till we meet again papa Gebre, my very own Captain. Say hello to our great, Sue, who also left ahead of us all.
Shirley O. Ndagha MCD, Faculty, Messiah Foundation College Inc
We lost him not only as a close companion, colleague but also as an asset for the country and the region at large.
Dr Fassil Gebeyehu, General Coordinator, ABN
Captain Gebre has left a positive legacy to his family members, as witnessed by his children.
“I was mad at the moment he fell sick and expected me to go to school. I even told him, “We are leaving together. Unfortunately, I walked through the main gate alone, leaving him there. My father was my advisor, supporter, protector and my guideline. I can’t express my father only by these words. He is beyond these. All I want to say is, my father was the toughest man I have ever seen. I am not saying this because he is my father; I know him for what he went through in pursuit of a cause for the common good of all. “When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.
Brook Gebremedhine Birega
You weren’t only a great father to Brook and me. But you were also a father figure to many. I witness that at your farewell ceremony. Your students were heartbroken and your demise the people you touched. It eases the pain to know that you have lived an impactful and joyful life. You lived it very well in your way and it’s good to know that your presence brought laughter, enjoyment and positive energy to people around you. I am so proud to be your daughter… growing up under you always taught me to be my best version in everything I did, even on silly things like making my bed in a certain way, ways of folding my clothes, even socks you were strict about almost everything and those small things made me everything I am today. You always told me to stand up for myself and others. You would always say…Let people know what you think right away instead of keeping it inside… You raised me to be strong, confident, genuine and to always believe in myself.
Lelina Gebremedhin Birega
The African Biodiversity Network would like to appreciate MELCA Ethiopia and others who organized an online gathering to celebrate Captain Gebremedhin Birega at which Mr Solomon Kebede, Director of MELCA Ethiopia, shared the following tribute:
It is with immense grief, utmost anguish and a great sense of loss that we have come to learn the passing away of a brother, a giant comrade in public interest litigation, an ardent advocate of consumers’ safety and right, mentor protagonist and true to the cause leader, CAPTAIN GEBREMEDIHIN BERGA DAGAGA. He passed away unexpectedly, in the console of his beloved wife, children and family on the 4th of May, 2021, in Addis Ababa. He was an enviable environment-spirited and rural community right-conscious, a fearless and selfless zealous fighter who gave all his life to the cause. He was also an international hero for fighting for the causes of biosafety, climate justice, seed and food sovereignty of smallholder farmers in developing countries.
His special dedication to the causes of local communities’ rights, protection of local traditional and ecological knowledge systems, fair and equitable benefits sharing made him an outstanding and insightful person.
CAPTAIN BERGA was a graduate, professional cadet of the Ethiopian army. Thus, a national hero who put his life fearlessly to protect the country’s unity, sovereignty and spilled his blood for the cause. Comrade CAPTAIN BERGA was a stalwart fighter who set agenda of high public interest and brought change in all issues he engaged with at national and international platforms. He was widely known and greatly appreciated for a devastating blow that cracked false narratives regarding GMOs, local seed varieties, associated knowledge, food, nutrition security, corporate lies, their false solutions, unorthodoxy corporate conspiracy for state capture and transnational takeover of public resources and will-power. He was conscious of corporate neocolonial tactics and their interest to control nations through controlling the whole food system. Through the media, he courageously sensitized masses about the science of GMOs and their implications on their lives and the ecosystem services.
Comrade CAPTAIN GEBREMEDIHIN’s, commoditization of food and associated products were tantamount to controlling life in all its forms and contents. Thus, to him, it is grossly immoral, unjust and devilish. Capt. GEBREMEDIHIN has been fighting nail and tooth this irrational notion till his last breath. He will remain larger than death, stay alive, reverberate in all we do, think and reflect on public interest exemplary debate!
The loss of such a charismatic, down-to-earth honest and sturdy public interest advocate will create a gap that could not be filled so soon and easily. But his comrades and mentees will take the cause seriously sooner than later to join and keep up the fight, take his example and follow his footstep to advance the cause. Thus, the torch of his legacy will be upheld by many of his kinds. We are, therefore strongly convinced that his dream and desire will be actualized in not distant future. In this connection, we are the duty bearers for his dream to come true!!!
We at MELCA-Ethiopia, including General assembly leadership, members, board of directors, management and staff members, extend our gratitude for his colossal unwavering commitment and contribution to the diverse public causes at national and international levels. We send our heartfelt condolences to his beloved wife, children, family members, friends, Ethiopian consumer society members and all the networks and associates in which he actively participated.