Reflections on Tesfaye Gebreab’s “Ye Gazetegnaw Mastawesha”

By Neamin

I have been following like many the great interests generated by “Ye Gazetegnaw Mastawesha”, a book written by Tesfaye Gebreab. While many have raised legitimate points regarding Tesfaye Gebreab’s past and his role as a press/propaganda official within the TPLF dominated ethnocentric regime, others have hammered on his book Ye Burka Zimeta, an apparently “inflammatory” work written by Tesfaye Gebreab more than a decade ago. As argued by few with an intent to incite the Oromo ethnic group against the Amhara, as part of the grand conspiracy of the TPLF to perpetuate its rule by pitting one ethnic group against the other. I have not read “Ye Burka Zimeta”. Therefore, I will limit myself to commenting on the relevance and importance of “Ye Gazetegnaw Mastawesha”, the very book he wrote recently and the cause for continued interest and heated debate in countless circles in Ethiopia and abroad.

Pundits of propaganda and public relations often argue that the power of a literary piece is measured by the level of noise it creates in the enemy’s camp. If we gauge the value of Tesfaye’s book by such yardsticks, i.e., by the degree with which it has created much anger, significant discontent, and much wailing and yelling that we hear from the quarters of the ruling Tigrayan elite and its supporters worldwide, it could well be compared to a surprise military blitzkrik by a guerrilla force right at the heart of TPLF’s power center and its leaders, somehow caught by surprise as they slumber due to their blotted hubris. The TPLF ruling gang and their cronies everywhere are indeed fuming left and right, both inside and outside of Ethiopia. Why in deed are they raving and ranting everywhere?

Although his language and style are very powerful and enticing, the power of Tesfaye Gebreab’s book stems from its vivid and picturesque storytelling with a Chekhovian streak, realistic assessment, and expositions of the nature and culture of the ruling TPLF and its leaders. It gives an insight into what has come to dominate the nature and character of the Ethiopian state. It tells stories about the personalities, the culture and mentality of the leaders of the ruling TPLF/EPRDF cadres. These features of the book give us the clue as regard to the reasons for the TPLF gang and their supporters raving and ranting.

They are furious because he unveiled them. They are now naked more than ever. Much of their pretentions have been debunked, shown for what they are. Some make believe stories, others delusions and illusions. As the saying goes in Amharic “Ye mayinega meslwat bequat”. They are exposed for what they are — noting but a bunch of crooks that have no vision that goes beyond their nose. Their only agenda and vision if that is worthy of being called a “vision” is the hegemony of the TPLF/Tigrayan elite in perpetuity by all means at the expense of any and all things in and of Ethiopia. This too has come out loud and clear in the book.

Their dirty laundry is out there for Ethiopians to see. The degree of deceit and treachery that infests the ruling cadres of TPLF, all their banality, all their crooked and vindictive personalities are laid bare. Think of characters like Bereket Simon and others who emerge from the book. Top it all with a glimpse of the deeply hidden plethora secrets of crimes committed against the Ethiopian people. Recall OPDO’s General Abadula Gemeda’s conspiracy and the operation he lead , ending up to the tragic assassination of a respected Oromo elder named Ato Derara in Ambo. We now have the tip of the ice berg as to who committed what crimes during the last seventeen years of TPLF’s tenure.

A small thank you note is due to Tesfaye Gebreab just for bringing to the fore such vital pieces of information and clues to their criminality and massive corruption. I would argue that Tesfaye has done us a favor compared to others who defected from the TPLF camp in the past. That the TPLF and its cronies are wasting oceans of inks and tons of paper in a futile attempt to kill the message by attempting to kill the messenger should not be surprising. An all out rampage to paint him with all sorts of narrow and broad brushes should not deter from his expose’. Hence, great care should be taken by all those within the opposition camp not to follow suit by endlessly harping on blunders of those who were once working for the enemy camp like Tesfaye.

We find in Tesfaye’s book what we otherwise knew at rumor and hearsay levels. There is also much that he has told us we did not know. Aside from the hilarious incidents and episodes scattered all over his book, the book has given us an additional knowledge as regard to the inner working of the regime, the mind set of leading cadres, how they think and what they think behind the appearance of their public persona.

The books also tells much about the relentless quest for power and hegemony, the TPLF/Tigrayan elite enjoy in all aspects of the Ethiopian state machineries and the public sphere at large —economy, politics, military, foreign affairs, security; and the list goes on and on. It was Voltaire, the French thinker and political satirist of the Enlightenment era, who once said that the Holy Roman Empire is neither holy nor Roman or an Empire, ridiculing the impotence of the byzantine edifice that once stretched across the Mediterranean. By the same token, no political piece of work coming from a once time insider of the TPLF regime has affirmed without a shadow of doubt– with so many incidents and data found in the book– to the fact that the so-called EPRDF claiming to be the ruling “Front” is nothing but a zombie that is used by the TPLF at will and whim. In short, the so-called EPRDF is none other than a bunch of stooges and a Trojan horse under the mercy of their creator, The TPLF, the Tigrayan organization ruling over Ethiopia under the guise of being a member of a front of other “Ethiopain organizations” constituting the “EPRDF”. Here too their stale and utterly cruel joke has been busted once again and big time.

All the information, personal experiences, daily encounters , observations packed and recounted in Tesfaye’s book, are first hand accounts coming from a person who was a one time insider and official of the TPLF/EPRDF regime. That is the difference and the reasons for its vital relevance. Even the higher ups like Gebru Asrat, Seye Abraha, and many higher or mid level officials who dismounted the TPLF horse –for one reason or another and at one time or another– have not given us the kind of insight, information into the inner working and relationship that exist among the leading cadres and officials of the TPLF and so called EPRDF. They did not provide us with what exactly went on within the TPLF and its satellite organizations like the ANDM, OPDO at various sages during the course of the past decades. But Tesfaye Gebereab has filled in many blanks for us. He has confirmed what many in the opposition have been saying all along buttressed by hitherto unavailable data and valuable information. It is for sure and by all means, not a complete picture and information. But it is a very good and promising start where others like him coming from the Intelligence, the foreign affairs, the military and others sectors of the TPLF regime can fill in the gaps.

Prudence then dictates that one should encourage such individuals who choose to leave the ruling ethnic party and its coterie of appendages parties to write and expose what they know like Tesaye Gebreab did in his work. We should accord them due welcome while urging them to also apologize if in fact they engaged in acts that were once harmful to the people of Ethiopia.

I find it utterly disagreeable; both from tactical and strategic considerations, the urge by some of our compatriots to demonize and pound on ad infintum against individuals like to Tesfaye who dared to write a piece of themselves, availing their historical memory and recounting their personal encounters. Perhaps, we may expect more that they did not tell us, but we should welcome their writing forays as a good start for more to come. In the past, there we have witnessed many who defected from , or had a fall out with the TPLF and the so-called EPRDF, but have not heard nor read what went on while they were part of the political system. Save for few exceptions that left at very early stages.

We should therefore give credit where it is due. For Tesfaye has opened at least one door among the gates of the flood. If managed wisely the discontented and disconcerted middle and lower echelons of the TPLF/EPRDF regime may defect in droves. Such happenings will further expose and bankrupt the decaying and ethnocentric Tigrayan gang ruling over Ethiopia.

On the flip side of the coin, the path of endless demonization for what one did once as part of an oppressive system does not give incentive for others to follow suit. Such acts do not encourage many discontented individuals in the enemy’s camp to leave the TPLF regime , and leave it for once and for all , followed by publicly exposing it for its many crimes and gross violation of human rights stemming from the ethno -terrorist features and political culture of the Tigrayan dominated ethnocentric gang. Such a trend is surely not a strategically wise move if viewed from our political objectives of exposing, weakening, and further exacerbating the contradictions and bankruptcy of an already decaying regime at the brink of collapse. It suffices to recall that the Derg/PDRE regime was further weakened and the morale of the then Ethiopian army declined when heavy weight officials and functionaries such as Col. Goshu Wolde, the then Foreign Minster, Maj. Dawit Wolde Girogis, the then Commissioner of Relief and Rehabilitation, and scores of others abandoned and exposed much of Col. Mengistu regime’s misguided policies , human rights abuse, and other excesses.

However legitimate the criticism leveled against Tesfaye for being a willing participant of TPLF’s ploy to pit one ethnic group against the other by writing the book under the title “Ye Burka Zimita”, I find his current book infused with a very good vision for Ethiopia and the Ethiopain people. Foremost, the recognition of lack of freedom and justice. Freedom for the writer, the journalist, the civil servant, businessman, peasant, professionals, etc to realize their potential. For self expression unhindered and unburdened by either the custom of the land or the powers that be ruling/miruling the land.

Indeed “Ye Gazetgnaw Mastawesa” is pervaded by a deep recognition the lack of freedom and an arrested and stultified development the human mind and spirit, and in this case the Ethiopian personality. The glaring lack of it in Ethiopia during the successive regimes, including the TPLF, the very regime the author served close to a decade even from the author’s early ordeals of life starting from his inability to find a work as a journalist, his passion, despite his demonstrated talent and abilities as a writer.

Contrary to what many impute to him, we also see the author’ s deep love for Ethiopia and an umbilical love and attachment to Bishoftu/Debrezeit, his place of birth and coming of age. His love of people and places extends to far away place like Gondar and other regions too. Writers and poets are artists after all, for they have a unique angle with which they see humanity, nature, and the world. Tesfaye has shared a piece of himself, including deeply personal matters with the world in his own attractive use of language and poetic style. One can argue that as far as what is expected of writers and poets; he has fulfilled his role of literary creativity in a work meant as a true story, a journal cum memoir. This argument does not meant that we have to agree with all his ideas and assertions, including characterization of individuals who have established a long and consistent track record in the struggle for Human rights and democracy in Ethiopia , like for instance, Ato Abraha Belay of Ethiomedia. We take what we think are important when it comes to such assertions and “revelations” about personalities as well as events.

Note: Few friends suggested that I share this piece with a wider audience. The article was written initially as a reaction to a discussion in Ethiopian Electronic Distribution Network (EEDN) on the subject and related topics. I therefore would like to apologize for writing a sort of review/reflection in the English language on a book written in Amharic. I hope to publish a compilation of important aspects of “YeGazetganew Mastawesha” in Amharic to stress the importance and relevance of Tesfaye Gebreab’s observation, information, and recording of facts based on his personal encounters as regard to the TPLF/EPRDF regime in order to point out to many compatriots who argue to the contrary, i.e. “the author does not tell us much we do not already know.”