December 31, 2020

Unpaid salary takes a life: the Death of an Ethiopian immigrant

City: Addis AbabaFeatured

Agitu was murdered brutally in her home in Italy. Ghanaian employee working in her farmland has confessed to killing 42-year-old Agitu Ideo Gudeta .

Unpaid salary takes a life: the Death of an Ethiopian immigrant

Agitu Ideo Gudeta, the audacious Ethiopian refugee who came to be an emblem of integration in Italy has a shining legacy. After fleeing Ethiopia in 2010 after infuriating local authorities by taking part in protests against government 'land-grabbing', Agitu moved to a remote mountain valley of the Trentino-Alto Adige region in 2010 and founded a farm designed to protect the rare Mòcheni valley breed of a mountain goat.

Agitu was born into a tribe of nomadic herders. She graduated with a degree in Sociology in Italy then returned to Ethiopia, but this path came to an unexpected end as she was forced by predicaments to leave her homeland.  Agitu was bold enough to publicly condemn the unfair practices and abuses committed by those trying to steal land. For reasons of outspoken activism against land grabbing, she and her family were forced to flee Addis Ababa. Agitu then returned to Italy. 

After the move to Italy, she reclaimed 11 hectares of abandoned land in the San Felice Valley, in Trentino, northeastern Italy, and started rearing 50 laying hens and 70 Pezzata Mòchena goats, an endangered, indigenous breed of goat. Agitu was able to build a thriving cheese business in the Alpine countryside of Italy. 'I created my space and made myself known, there was no resistance to me,' she told Reuters in a 2018 interview. 

Considered among the leading producers in the province, she was honoured and awarded by Slowfood. From milking her goats of the “Pezzata Mochena” breed, she makes homemade milk, yoghurt and cheese in different phases of seasoning. Her small farmland business built on previously abandoned land thrived, and she became well known for making goat's cheese and beauty products on her farm, La Capra Felice (The Happy Goat). 

There was more to Agitu than owning a farmland business. The immigrant who had made her home in the Valle dei Mocheni was seen as a shining immigrant success story at a time of rising hostility towards immigrants in Italy. She became a national symbol for environmentalism and integration after Radical Party politician Emma Bonino singled her out as an example of successful integration and courageous female entrepreneurship. In 2019 she was nominated for the Luisa Minazzi-Environmentalist of the Year prize by the Italian environmentalist association Legambiente.

Her journey to success was met with many ups and downs. In her area of work, some could not stand Agitu’s presence and her flourishing business. She faced racially motivated and shameful resentment that ultimately turned into violence. As one of the few black people farming in the region, she had overcome persistent racial harassment to become a beloved figure in the valley.

Agitu once stated: “I was alone, my assistant was out in the pastures, I was cleaning the milking machine when I felt someone grabbing my shoulder, telling me that I had to leave the valley.” The assaults Agitu faced were not only limited to her and her family, but also targeted her farm animals and she made statements that they just might get worse. 

Despite the racism and numerous other impediments, this spirited woman built a successful business from scratch that contributes immensely to the preservation of the environment and endangered animals. She had employed a fellow migrant to help out at her business and was looking to hire at least two more foreigners. Agitu became a role model for women and immigrants through her success story. 

Sadly, the life of this heroic woman was cut short. Agitu was murdered brutally in her home in Italy. Ghanaian employee working in her farmland has confessed to killing 42-year-old Agitu Ideo Gudeta before raping her as she lay dying according to the reports of various media outlets in Italy. The suspect, 32-year-old Adams Suleimani, is said to have killed her with a hammer in a disagreement over an unpaid salary. 

According to Infomigrants, neighbors reportedly found Agitu dead in her bedroom after being contacted by one of her friends who was concerned because she had not turned up to an appointment.

Carabinieri police in charge of the investigation had initially questioned a man who had been reported to police by Gudeta in 2018 and was convicted of violence. However, he was cleared of having played a role in the murder, sources in the investigation said.