By Fikre Tolossa
I am writing this note as a matter of principle. I have seen the anti-Tsehai Publishers campaign and Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s unbound book that is circulating around in the internet. The origin of this campaign indicates that it has connection with EPRP. However, Ato Eyasu Alemayehu’s name is not attached to it. Therefore, I cannot assert that it was he who did it, as Ato Elias Kifle, Editor of Ethiopian Review suggests. Whoever did this, is wrong in this case. First and foremost, whoever did it, is contradicting themselves. On the one hand, they are unhappy that Col. Mengistu’s book is out. In other words, they are for its suppression. On the other hand, they are circulating it themselves big time by making it available for free for the world at large, thus spreading it far more than Tsehai Publishers.
My stand of such matters is that, instead of suppressing ideas, let them roam about freely and target them openly. Fight some ideas with other ideas. By doing so, you will achieve two things. One, you will fight openly wrong and poisonous ideas. Two, you will encourage freedom of expression.
In this particular case, once Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s book is out, it could be scrutinized whether the author is presenting the truth, and the whole truth. Technically, we know that it is impossible for the Colonel to tell the truth, and the whole truth after what he has said and done in Ethiopia during his 17 years of reign of terror. Nevertheless, those who know the “whole truth”, if there are any that know “the whole truth”, could expose it refuting the assertions of the Colonel. In other words, we can use his book as a tool to find out the truth, the relative truth, since it is impossible to find out the absolute or whole truth of anything.
Imagine the Colonel dying without revealing anything about that turbulent period of Ethiopian history without leaving a trace of it after his full participation in it. That would have been tragic. It is a blessing in disguise that this book saw the light of the day. It is better to know his perspective rather than not know it totally. It is up to the reader to agree or disagree with it. Now that the book is out, the best thing to do is review it and criticize it thoroughly. Let all those people who endured through the revolution come out of their shells and challenge the author and educate us using his book as a means.
Pertaining to the director of Tsehai Publishers, Ato Elias Wondimu, I think he should be commended for publishing the Colonel’s book. I have known and worked with him for the past 15 years. He is a descent and competent Ethiopian who cares about the well-being of his country. He has been toiling 24/7 without any external financial assistance to publish about 50 books on Ethiopia within a short period of time, an outstanding performance by any standard of publication. It is obvious that he has spent tons of money to publish the Colonel’s book. To sabotage him in such a way is unfair, inconsiderate and unjust. It is he and not the Colonel that would be hurt most by the free dissemination of the book. It seems that the Colonel is comfortable in Zimbabwe. Besides, it didn’t cost him a penny to publish the book. Like I said, it is Ato Elias Wondimu who incurs a financial loss if people read the book freely. If I choose not to buy the book, I can do so, because I have the free circulation in my computer. However, it is ethically wrong for me to read it not paying for it. I don’t want to encourage such a dangerous trend either. Therefore, I won’t read the free circulation. I will buy one from the local store and read it. I advise those who have received it over the internet freely to do the same.
(Dr Fikre Tolossa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)