By Fekade Shewakena | 16 June 2011-
I was dumbfounded when I first read Abebe Gelaw’s discovery and exposure of Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso’s naked plagiarism 1. I have to redo the search and see for myself to believe it. Talk about stealing a camel and trying to hide it in an open desert.
I couldn’t believe the Honorable Ambassador can think of lifting a whole paper written by another person, claim it as his own work, write it on government and pro government media, have it copyright protected and try to hide it, in this day and age of Google. The honorable Ambassador may not know that there are in fact specific software and search tools that are used for the purpose of scrutinizing plagiarism and theft of academic and art work.
This shocking story led me to revisit some interesting exchanges I read between Professor Donald Levine and Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso about a year ago. What I found only added to my shock. I have a big respect for Professor Levine’s works and I always read what he writes carefully. This particular article by Professor Levine, which talks about foreign influence in Ethiopia, was one where I learnt some important lessons from and did not forget. I became curious to reread it and find out what the issue he took with the Honorable Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso was. Thanks to Google, I found the whole thing in less than a minute.
The subject of the article pertains to the CSO laws the Ethiopian government decreed a few years back and arguments in favor of it by Ambassador Habisso and others on the usefulness of the law to stop foreign influence in Ethiopia. There you have Professor Donald Levine knowledgably arguing that Ethiopians have a history and culture of what he called, “creative incorporation” of foreign cultures, a tradition where foreign influences are filtered and incorporated in ways that fit the cultures and traditions in the country. He was arguing that some radical rejectionist views of foreign influence forwarded by the proponents of the CSO laws are without cultural or historical foundation. Professor Levine appears to have been drawn to one radical rejectionist view 2 expressed by Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso. And he seems to have been drawn to it for obvious reasons. Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso is an important man in the Ethiopian government. He is a founding member of post dergue Ethiopia, a Speaker of Parliament and Ambassador of Ethiopia to two countries and a vocal advocate of the EPRDF government. And there he goes and wrote the following.
When what appears to be a rejectionist sentiment is expressed by so distinguished a writer, Tesfaye Habisso, former ambassador and speaker of the Parliament, it deserves to be taken seriously. I refer to a recent article of his, “Free Elections for Democracy or Creating Client Regimes?” (See whole article here) 3
But there was one serious problem with this article that Professor Levine did not know. The distinguished writer who wrote most of the content of the article word for word under a slightly different title, “Free elections for empire or democracy?” was not the Honorable Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso. The article 4 from the third paragraph on was lifted from James Petras, Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, who has written more than six hundred articles and over sixty books on this and other subjects mostly from his studies and experience in Latin America.
Our good friend Professor Levine, I am sure, does not have any reason to suspect that a highly placed functionary of the Ethiopian government, and a frequent “writer” and speaker on government news outlets would do this kind of fraud. After what he has studied and witnessed in over half a century of distinguished scholarship on Ethiopia, Professor Levine may never have seen highly placed individuals in Ethiopian governments who stoop to this kind of disgraceful fraudulence.
As the list of stolen exploits of Ambassador Tesfaye come out in drips and drabs, I am kind of beginning to feel sorry for him. It is possible that he is sick and may be suffering from a copy-paste compulsive disorder. In that case, I recommend he apologize as soon as possible and see some psychiatric help. But at any rate, he should not go unpunished, for not punishing him amounts to condoning a robbery of the highest order and allowing this culture to take root in our society. That is what stealing the hard work of other people and claiming copyright protection amounts to. It will set a bad example for the new generation. It is bad for the already tarnished image of our country. Hungry people is enough for us, don’t add thief Ambassadors, for heaven’s sakes. The story, by the way, is now news on a South African Newspapers 5 where he served as our representative. May be all hell may break loose when Professor James Petras finds out that he is also stolen by and Ambassador from Ethiopia. Imagine the name Ethiopia and a thief ambassador being paraded on news papers around the world. It is scary.
Here is what I suggest. First the Addis Ababa University which hands out honorary degrees in recognition of some people which it deems have made important contributions to the country, should now take back the Bachelor of Arts degree it gave Ambassador Tesfaye and honor itself and the credentials it issues to others. It may have to do this primarily to save its honor and the honor of thousands of us who have studied in that institution. I don’t know if Ambassador Tesfaye has other degrees from other institutions. If yes, they should do the same. Pro government and TPLF/EPRDF websites that have been proudly presenting this stolen material, some with copyright protection, should stamp “STOLEN” on Ambassador Tesfaye’s stolen articles, or just out of respect for the original owners, if not for themselves, remove them altogether. Keeping the status quo is the same as being collaborators with thieves.
As to the Ethiopian government, I don’t know if it has to take the lifelong title of Ambassador from Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso. If the government doesn’t say anything, it cannot blame us when, in the future, we see the title Ambassador behind the name of some Ethiopian official and ask, “IS He /SHE ALSO A THIEF?” _________________________________________________________