Stephanie Beasley, CNN • Updated 18th January 2021
( CNN ) — There’s a gentle death row inmate in Ethiopia and his problem is never finding a place to bury him.
But then, he’s not the oldest inmate in the country’s high-security prison.
That honor goes to “Greyman”, a mob-owned thespian whose real name is “Ishay Komba” — which translates roughly to “black child”.
The little guy’s crimes (according to his website) were impersonating a movie star, selling counterfeit merchandise and crossing national boundaries illegally.
He’s served more than a decade in prison. But now it looks like he’s finally come to his end.
And so, looking to be sprung, and still without a burial spot, his obituary has found its way to the country’s social media.
“When Greyman comes to Utherkan Erta Ale ,” read the brief published in the Ethiopia Daily newspaper on Thursday, “Archeological experts will be paid handsomely and Praveen Bhattacharjee will also be presented to Greyman by the Governors of the state in a floral arrangement.”
The digress would be comical were it not for the unexpected timing of the publication — when Ethiopia’s top military commanders were weighing an idea to kill the prisoner rather than see him die.
“Though its rough translation, the statement did not glorify death but rather proactively called for death,” say residents of the state-run transport daily.
And the fact that Greyman’s killing has made the news this week isn’t lost on his accusers.
Ethiopia’s president’s office rejected the remark, its press office told CNN.
The government says the column, reported by Ethiopian state-owned broadcaster ETV, was passed onto them by “anti-government elements” within their ranks.
“This so-called obituary is a malicious campaign which is interfering with state’s constitutional powers,” read a statement published on the presidential Facebook page on Friday.
Another rejected column reported on January 16 suggested a “special police” be formed to target the youth’s hedonistic lifestyle and stave off what it called “a dangerous mental disease” (don’t ask).
Still, this is Ethiopia, a nation said to be the “African model” for a modern democracy in East Africa, where many social media complaints see retribution against those making them — whether real or imagined.
In 2017, Turkey summoned the Ethiopian ambassador to Ankara for the first time ever, after calling him an “enemy of Turkey” for retweeting an article which accused the Turkish government of role in the movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is said to have orchestrated failed coup last year.
And those accusing Ethiopia of Gulenist interference have a bone to pick with a 2017 U.S. State Department country report, which puts Ethiopia in the top 25 of countries ranking human rights violations.
Should we really bury Greyman before his story is through?
For now, he’s in prison, ready to pay the piper.