Sibhat Nega Medhaniye, 81, is one of the founders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). He is commonly referred to as “Aboy Sebhat” – a heading for a father figure.
He attended primary school at Nigist Saba School, Adwa, Tigrai region and high school in Mekele and graduated in Economics at Haile Selassie I University (now Addis Ababa University) in 1964. Later, after the armed struggle, he studied Masters of Business Administration from Amsterdam University.
Sebhat quit his job as Ministry of Finance’s officer in southern Ethiopia and took a job as school director in Adwa. Shortly afterwards, he teamed up with a group of college students and locals and started armed struggle in February 1975 – where he dropped his birth name Wolde-Selassie and picked his nom de guerre Sebhat.
TPLF’s Central Committee elected Sebhat as chairperson unanimously, following the first, the second and third congresses, 1978/79, 1982/83 and 1989/90, respectively.
Photo – Axum University awarded Sebhat Nega Honorary Doctorate
Photo – Axum University awarded Sebhat Nega Honorary Doctorate [Photo: Mulualem Asfaw]
In a rare move in African politics, Sebhat resigned from his post, despite the resistance from the Central Committee, citing the need for a younger chairperson as TPLF moves to forming the national coalition EPRDF and to capturing governmental power. Sebhat’s chosen successor, Meles Zenawi, was adopted by the Central Committee in 1990.
Aksum University lauded that:
Sibhat has made a historic move in the smooth, democratic and peaceful political power transfer to young and capable successors by becoming exemplary in handing over his power to his successors enthusiastically and purposefully.
The relation between Sebhat and Meles, however, deteriorated in the second half of the last decade.
He was perceived as unhappy with the direction of the party when he left the executive committee of TPLF and EPRDF in 2008. He left the central committee of TPLF and the council of EPRDF in 2010.
Sebhat has been in charge of the economic department of TPLF until 2001. He was also the CEO of the TPLF parastatal EFFORT from 2001 to 2010. Currently, Meles Zenawi’s widow Azeb Mesfin runs the conglomerate.
Nonetheless, Sebhat continued to wield considerable, albeit dwindling, power in the party and the government,.
Sebhat’s power in the party dramatically increased in post-Meles Ethiopia, though he is merely a head of a government think-tank, of the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development.
Editing: We corrected the years of the TPLF congresses. We added a sentence about Sebhat’s second degree. We also corrected the years of his tenure as EFFORT CEO. We regret the errors and the omission.