Fekade Shewakena — Ato Sebhat Nega’s interview on the Voice of America, Amharic Service, recently sounds like a play out of Orwell’s, Animal Farm, but it also speaks volumes about the mindset inside TPLF, and the groupthink the regime officials are possessed with. Like all people intoxicated with power and anything that comes with it, Ato Sebhat had no limits or inhibitions to stop him from making bold faced lies. Ato Sebhat belongs to a category of humans that Orwell describes as people who use ordinary language “to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
The voice of America Amharic service has also invited listeners to put questions to Ato Sebhat for a future airing. But what is the use of asking questions when you know the person who takes the questions thinks the sky is the limit for lying? This man didn’t even stutter for a second when he told us that his TPLF invented Ethiopia and introduced the Ethiopian people to one another for the first time in history.
An interesting part in the interview was also Sebhat’s elaboration on the nature and work of EFFORT, the so called Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigrai, the TPLF business conglomerate. Sebhat literally told us what Mussolini would tell any journalist in 1935 about his “civilizing” ventures in Ethiopia when he told us about the role of EFFORT in building the Ethiopian economy. Now that is very interesting in itself but the man’s idea of what capitalism is and his vision of how he intends to build it is even more troubling. This robber baron bragged about EFFORT being the biggest investment company in Ethiopia and wants us to be surprised by that achievement. What would have been surprising was if a company supported by a ruling party, that has unlimited capacity to crush all its competitors and one that has the privilege of getting as much as 3.2 billion birr debt written off by the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia by order of the ruling class, was to rank in second place. It is ironic that the Ethiopian people have to subsidize the same company which in the first place was set up with money and property looted from them. But I credit Ato Sebhat for inadvertently but bluntly telling us that his idea of building capitalism is preparing the Ethiopian people for apartheid-like serfdom.
Why make big lies?
Absolute power often makes absolutely delusional. Understandably, some of the lie has its source in Sebhat and his friends being delusional. There is a pervasive groupthink inside the opaque TPLF clique that is heavily powered by its narrow ethnic nationalism. Like all autocrats, they often manufacture their own facts and after repeating that for a while tend to accept them as truth. Once they accept a lie as truth they often stick by it even if evidence proves them wrong. Anyone presenting evidence to the contrary is often considered criminal or the enemy and punished. This is why every opposition in Ethiopia, weak or strong, and citizens who dare to ask fair and hard questions are subjected to merciless persecution. That is why Birtukan Mideksa is languishing in prison. That is why we hear a barrage of draconian decrees being promulgated every now and then. That is why entire villages in the Ogaden were burnt to the ground and people killed like flies. Isn’t their crime only asking questions and demanding to be consulted before they were forcibly evicted from their land to give way for foreign oil finders? It is the same reason that led to the genocide of the Agnuak in Gambella.
Many people I know were dumbfounded to hear Ayatollah Sebhat, say that his clique invented Ethiopia in 1991. It is unbelievable how a very old man of his age pulled the energy needed to put a bold face as his mouth puffed the mega lie that the Ethiopian people came to know one another for the first time after his group took power 18 years ago. You may think this goon is off his medication when he spewed this offensive absurdity, but the truth is that this is right out of the talking points of the entire delusional TPLF cabal who are trying their best to rewrite history. There was a big public amazement about Ato Girma Woldegiorgis, the “President”, regarding a letter he wrote in condolences for Tilahun Gesesses death. Ato Girma is reported to have written thanking Tilahun Gesesse for breaking through a government ban of singing in Oromoffa. Many people cringed how this extremely old man of not so good health, and on his way to God, can make such a bold faced lie through his teeth. Ato Girma, I heard, is reported to have confided to people close to him, that he has not read the letter himself and that it was written in the Meles Zenawi’s office for him to sign and issue. I found Ato Girma’s explanation plausible. This is purely a TPLF kind of lie.
This self-serving clique thinks that Ethiopians don’t even know that the period between Menilik and Mengistu Hailemariam has seen a more ethnically diverse ruling class, than TPLF’s ethno-centered reign of the last 18 years. Sebhat, Meles and Bereket think that they have succeeded in hiding from us that, for the first time in modern Ethiopian history, since Menilik, there are no Oromo generals in any key position in the Ethiopian army. Sebhat and the whole clique think the Ethiopian people are not watching.
The assertion of Sebhat that the TPLF invented Ethiopia also tells us something more: this tribal clique thinks and acts as if it is still the Zemene Mesafint (Era of the Princes) in Ethiopia. They deny the existence of time in between. As far as the TPLF is concerned, the most revolutionary proclamation that made land public property in 1974 and that fundamentally took away the key instrument of oppression of one group of people by another, has not taken place. If they admit that this actually happened, and that there was a revolution that transformed ethnic relations in Ethiopia, they know their colonial and apartheid look-alike tribal politics would fall apart. They have also convinced themselves that there was no parade of cultures of nations and nationalities during the dergue. They think they have invented that too. They don’t want to think the Institute of Nationalities in Addis Ababa was even set up under the dergue. They think the Ethiopian people spent sleepless nights trying to find out the ethnicity (nationality) of Mengistu and the rest of their rulers. History and time exist only when it agrees with the TPLF. Since they are stuck in time, they have not lived to see the early periods of Mengistu who at the time used language similar as theirs as reason to slaughter Amharas. Meles and Sebhat still keep calling Mengistu the protector of Amharas. Those of you who may have been amazed by Sebhat’s phantom assertions should know that these are the ingredients from which Sebhat’s sick and thick mind is made of.
Yes, if you see what looks like a colonial or an apartheid model of governance in Ethiopia today, where 93% of the leadership of the country’s army is from Sebhat’s ethnic group (Tigreans) and the security and bureaucracy is almost exclusively controlled by TPLF operatives, the reason is that Sebhat and Meles and Bereket think we cannot see reality for ourselves but take their words for everything they claim and read the history they have tried to rewrite for us.
It is obviously a futile exercise to ask questions of people like Sebhat Nega, Meles Zenawi or Bereket Simon in hope of getting a straight answer just as the VOA journalist tried hard on Ato Sebhat. These people have eaten up all sense of cultural inhibition and decency to stop them at anything. For example, you may want to ask them, as the VOA journalist, Ato Addisu Abebe, tried on Ato Sebhat, about the ever narrowing political space for opposition groups in the country, even give them a quantitative measure of how narrow it has gotten or compile testimonies from everyday people in Ethiopia who are disgusted with their rule, or show them research by respectable international human rights groups, and academics who tell us that the political space for building democracy in Ethiopia has diminished and human rights abuse is at its worst. Sebhat and Meles would simply tell you that democracy is flourishing in Ethiopia and people are happy. “There are no angry people in Ethiopia”, said Sebhat in the VOA interview. How much evidence you may have to the contrary does not matter. Even the people whose children are mowed down on the streets of Addis Ababa are happy and love the Agazi as far as Sebhat is concerned. Meles in a recent interview with the Financial Times was asked about the draconian civil society laws recently instituted in the country. He simply said, “some people would say this is clamping down, we would say this is an empowering law”. In TPLF-speak you can say “we killed them in order to let them live”.
Ato Sebhat, if you happen to read this I will live you with the following two lines hoping that you will let them permeate through your head.
Ato Sebhat, if you have made your lies with some mix of truth, we would have engaged in a useful debate. It is sad that you limited my job to restating everyday observations, things that are as clear as the September sky over Ethiopia. In the words of the satirist I quoted above, “we have now sunk to a depth at which re-statement of the obvious has become the first duty of intelligent men”.
As for VOA’s call for questions to Ato Sebhat, I have only one question that I ask you to put to him. I have the same question put to Senator McCarthy in the US senate at a hearing known as the Army-McCarthy Hearings in 1954 by the head attorney of the US army – “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
The writer can be reached at: Fekadeshewakena@yahoo.com