By Yilma Bekele
I am sure you have all heard that Ato Sebhat Nega aka Aboy Sebhat, the Prime Minster’s mentor and a very high official of the ruling TPLF party was a guest on Voice of America. I was very glad. We are always happy when TPLF officials submit to unrehearsed interviews. It seems that it is the only way we get to know them close and personal. I fondly remember Ato Meles’s appearance on Hard Talk with Stephen Sakur in 2005 and Zenib Badawi in 2009. Ato Sebat’s interview is another gem to be savored.
Ato Sebhat was interviewed by Ato Addisu Abebe of VOA Amharic program. Ato Addisu is a consummate professional. He did his job very well. He was not there to prove Ato Sebhat right or wrong. He knows it is up to the listener to make that determination. Like a language surgeon he is, with his soothing voice he lulled his subject into an incredible comfort zone. Then it was a matter of pealing the public fake persona TPLF have constructed for him. Ato Addisu was able to draw Aboy Sebhat out of his skin and reveal the inner self. It was not a pleasant sight. The Sebhat Nega we saw is a very embarrassing figure. Full of hatred, suffering from an inferiority complex, very angry and a pathological liar are the descriptions that come to mind.
I do hope that Aboy Sebhat took some lessons from his experience with VOA. Although his party controls all media outlets and does not allow the airing of ideas different than the ruling party’s here in America it is the responsibility of the press to present different views and let the public be the judge. It has served them very well for over two hundred years. We hope Aboy Sebhat’s outfit Ethiopian Radio and TV will invite leaders of the real opposition and have them explain their vision for their country. The opposition is more than happy to comply.
This was a two-part interview. In this short piece I will concentrate on a few of the ill conceived ideas he was trying to disseminate. I knew it was going to be interesting when I heard his title in the introduction. He is a member of the Ethiopian Parliament, I guess from Tigrai (one never knows since Ato Berket represents Wollo) and President of International Center for Peace and Development. There is no one opposed to peace and development, but this one in Addis it is nothing but. The truth is it is Orwellian double speak at its best. The Center is one of those TPLF created outfits to swindle cash from European Union and Western aid agencies. Ato Sebhat and his organization have never known peace nor developed any enterprise using legal means. As for being elected, I am sure he garnered 99.9 percent of the vote and he did not even have to campaign for it.
He started the interview with a bold lie. There was no need to lie. He can’t help it. His quick motor response is to lie at a drop of a hat. There was no stopping him after that. Blinded by his hatred, emboldened by his false sense of self worth Sebhat Nega was swimming in a cesspool of lies, falsehood and ignorance. We wouldn’t give a damn what he have to say if it wasn’t for his influence and advice to that other powerful person sitting in Arat Kilo with a loaded gun in his hands aimed at our country.
To start him off Ato Addisu thanked his guest for accepting the invitation and out of curiosity asked him regarding TPLF’s policy of not granting interview to VOA’s Amharic programming. That they do not is an established fact. The question was simply what the reason is for such a policy. His response was outright denial of the existence of such a decision.
Could this be true? There is one Nation wide radio station in Ethiopia, Radio TPLF. By all accounts VOA and Deutche Welle are the two most listened to independent news services favored by the population. The minority based government views unfiltered news as a threat. Thus on numerous occasions it has officially complained to both the US and German government regarding the radio stations. The TPLF regime has invested millions of dollars in purchasing radio signal jamming devices from Chinese and East Europeans to silence independent voices.
Is Ato Sebhat’s claim of the Politburo not discussing VOA and formulating different policies credible? To top if off he said he personally does not listen to VOA! When you consider that the Prime Minter himself anonymously participates in Radio call in shows isn’t this assertion a little difficult to swallow? So he claims that he personally does not listen to VOA and since he came to the US he has been told that ‘VOA lacks objectivity, that it is not balanced and it is in the camp of the opposition’. The word he choose to translate the word ‘camp’ into Amharic is very revealing. He said ‘yetequamiwoch Beret’. As far as I know ‘Beret’ is where we keep animals. Enclosed so they do not escape, watched by guards and dogs so wild animals do not harm them. Is that how he views his fellow Ethiopians. Which of these two are we? The domesticated animals fattened for labor or dinner? Or the stupid and gullible sheep and cows and have to be watched by TPLF cadres from undue influence? A curious choice of words but it speaks a lot about the mindset of the individual and his friends.
The crazy part of this farce is that he is telling all this to Ato Addisu Abebe, a VOA correspondent and victim of TPLF injustice. You see Ato Sebhat’s government charged Ato Addisu and twenty-one Ethiopian journalists with ‘involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government’ in the aftermath of the famous 2005 elections. Ato Addisu is lucky. He has the US government behind him. The Ethiopian journalists suffered a lot. They all lost their livelihood. Some are still in prison. Some were jailed for over two years and their license revoked. A few were hounded out of the country. Many were scared for life. Our country lost its brave and brightest sons and daughters. Ato Sebhat as member of the Politburo is personally responsible and will be asked to account for his actions. Whether this will happen or not is not relevant. He is responsible in the eyes of the Ethiopian people.
The next discussion was about EFFORT (endowments fund for the rehabilitation of Tigrai). The eight hundred-pound gorilla. Ato Sebhat’s claim is that it is the premier corporation in Ethiopia both in asset and reach. After confirming that it is audited both internally and by external government agencies he feigned memory loss when asked to disclose the capital of the multi national in numbers. What he said was ‘it is not important’. It was very curious answer for a person who has been the CEO and President of the company. A company without a balance sheet and net worth unknown to the CEO can only happen in TPLF fairyland.
What was absolutely laughable is the claim that TPLF brought the capital from outside to establish the company in Ethiopia. That is insulting the intelligence of eighty million people. For the life of me I do not remember our Tigrai cousins being known for their special skills in being traders and merchants in our Ethiopia. Here we are in 2009 and the most visible conglomerate is EFFORT and the richest and smartest merchants are our Tigrai cousins. Wonder never ceases. Keep talking Aboy Sebhat.
The next line of questioning has two threads and it is full of the most bewildering mish mash of ideas put together in a very haphazard manner. The first one consists of TPLF’s philosophy of what he refers to as ‘bourgeois revolution’, followed by the party’s view of our country Ethiopia.
Ato Sebhat’s attempt to describe the theory of ‘bourgeois democracy’, ‘revolutionary democracy’, ‘emerging democracy’ or ‘developmental state’ (depending on the mood) the society his party is trying to build in Ethiopia completely went over my head. His claim is that TPLF masquerading as EPDRF is accelerating the growth of capitalism in Ethiopia and will wither away on its own is a very lame interpretation of the Marxist idea of the ‘withering away of the state’ as the final stage of capitalist development. Suffice to say that it is proven to be a fairy tale. So, at a certain point in time EPDRF will hand power to the new classes and disappear. That is what he said and he is sticking by it. He did not elaborate when this is projected to happen or who these new classes are. Why there still are classes upon the withering away of the state is left open. May be the theory is in a developmental state. Let us just say it is not well thought of.
The second thread is where Abboy Sebhat’s version of Ethiopia is defined. When he started the journey to liberate Ethiopia this is where he began. His assertions are very troubling. In computer speak there is something they call GIGO. It stands for garbage in garbage out. A ‘computer will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data and produce nonsensical output.’ The same with leaders saddled with faulty, incomplete, or imprecise and utterly wrong data they come up with wrong and imperfect solutions that cause harm and agony to their people.
His claim that we stayed enclosed in our own regions isolated from each other is utterly false. His assertion that we have been fighting each other for hundred years and lived with our hands in each other’s throat is both ugly and abhorrent. His very violent statement that we do not know each other uttered in such forceful manner is very alarming. He repeated ‘Anetwawekem! Antewawekem!’ twice. It made me very sad. It is far from the truth. It is not the Ethiopia I know and I am a typical Ethiopian.
How he is able to hold two contradictory thoughts at the same time is bewildering. He said that he embarked on the struggle to get rid of national oppression. Well and good. But the solution he came up with is very strange to describe it mildly. In order to foster equality they decided to divide the country into Kilils. Everybody was ordered to get an identity card with his/her ethnicity registered by the authorities and was encouraged and forced to go settle in his own enclave. Those with mixed ethnic identity were forced to pick one. I am sure this did not pose a problem in Adwa, but in the rest of Ethiopia many people were put in absolute quandary. How being strangers to each other was going to foster one people one country is not clear. This was a sad moment in our history
So the theory goes the TPLF as an advanced and vanguard party under the tutelage of Meles Zenawi, Sebhat Nega, Azeb Mesfin, Seyoum Mesfin, Arkebe Uqbai and their immediate families will preside on this lofty Nation building endeavor. The Military and security forces with Woyane Generals and high-ranking officers will work in bringing the Oromos, Amharas, Sidamos, Wolamos, Anuaks and other assorted Nationalities to a newer level of preparedness to build the new emerging Ethiopia.
One can see the common thread in this new philosophy of Nation building process. Our Tigrai masters seem to be the center of the Ethiopian universe with wealth and power emanating out until it engulfs the whole society. Le Ras Sekorsu Ayasnasu comes to mind. What do I think? I think Komatan Komata kalalut Gebeche Lefetfit Yelal is most approperate. I believe for so long no one have bothered to tell Aboy Sebat ‘with all due respect sir, you are full of crap!’ I know it is not grown up, but it serves the purpose. I could put it delicately in a more civilized way. But what is the point?
To come up with such preposterous idea it is possible Ato Sebhat’s Adwa was different. That must be the glass he is using to see Ethiopia. But he lived in Addis while going to Haile Sellasie I University. Did he not see how the others lived together? Wasn’t the cry ‘land to the tiller’ by the privileged University students of the time? Surely the students were not fighting for a plot of land. How about during the fight against the Derg? We are told that the TPLF army was composed of all Ethiopians. Weren’t Addisu, Kuma, Tefera, Aba Dula in the TPLF military or did they have their own regiment? Did they fight for the freedom of all Ethiopians or freedom for their ethnic group?
During the process of Nation building animosity does arise between people. Solving such problems and emerging stronger is a difficult task. Some countries are blessed by visionary leaders that harness the positive power of their people and lay a strong and unshakeable foundation. Some are cursed by the likes of the Rwandan Hutu leaders, Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Stalin in Armenia. They bring war and destruction on their people. They go away but they leave animosity and mistrust behind. It takes a long time to undo the damage they cause. In the mean time the rest of humanity marches forward. Evil has to be stopped at its inception before it takes roots. Silent people allow evil to flourish.
Lots of things were said by Aboy Sebhat. The assertion that there were no national Organizations that fought the Derg is not correct. Without going far both EDU and EPRP were National based and stood for the unity of our country. Both were violently attacked by TPLF. Both were expelled out of Tigrai by TPLF. The EDU leader His Excellency Prince Ras Mengesha Seyoum was warned regarding an official trip to his beloved Tigrai. His presence in Tigrai was a threat to the mighty TPLF. The existence of EPRP was denied. When he said that TPLF was ‘overjoyed’ when they found the existence of Ato Kifle Wodgajo’s party in the USA it was nothing short of wonder about the capacity of Aboy Sebhat’s brain to have woven such a tapestry with imaginary yarn of silk. Listen to it and you be the judge my friends in the Diaspora. You can go to VOA website and listen to it from the archives. Unfortunately our people in Ethiopia cannot do that. There is no electricity; when Internet service is available it is a slow crawling modem with all the independent Ethiopian websites blocked. That in a nutshell is the Ethiopia TPLF is building deaf, blind and ignorant.
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