By Ahmed Yimam
Ato Eskinder Nega, a self declared journalist in Ethiopia, has been prolific of late, writing in English, commenting in English on diverse subjects ranging from Weizero Genet’s book on Mengistu H. Mariam to the proposed EPRDF pardon of the Red Terror criminals in Kaliti and beyond. With all due respect to Ato Eskinder and his right to scribble on anything under the sun I would like to advise him that there is a time to talk and a time to be silent and his time of silence has come.
Our political scene is richer in one sense that it has acquired quite few political commentators especially in the language of the British Queen. It is also impoverished by the fact that, English aside, some of the commentators seem to have no idea of what they are writing about and are just hogging the mederek to fan their own names and yearning for fame. More than once, Eskinder Nega has joined the latter specimen, trying to present himself as an objective commentator but appearing as a biased one. An example was his lame critic of Genet Ayele and his present ill-hidden defense of the Derg criminals. Professor Tecola Hagos has dealt with Eskinder’s wrong legal approach and overall bizarre argument calling, albeit covertly, for the pardon of the criminals by the criminal Meles regime itself which, if I remember correctly, had jailed and pardoned Eskinder himself. I will focus on his misinformation or lack of information on the 1974 Revolution itself for the simple reason that there is at present a concerted TPLF sponsored and supported campaign to falsify the history of that period and to besmirch the name of the EPRP. Take the criminal Captain Tesfaye Riste, who signed death orders at the time, writing a rag of a book in which he admires notorious torturers like Tecola by concocting Hollywood type western film hero actions in their favor. Consider that among those to be released will be the likes of Mekuria, Irgete, Fekade, Sergeant Teshome, etc, men who have killed so many with brutal tortures, men who have raped mothers and daughters at the same time and place.
Eskinder, in his rush to comment and appear knowledgeable, continues to blunder and exposed himself to ridicule, sorry. In His recent article on the possible pardon of the Derg criminals for example he states that opposition organizations sprang up when the Derg killed Aman Andom and the ministers of the imperial regime. This is how he put it:“The backlash was soon in full motion. Scores of opposition groups sprang up, and suddenly, the nation went from no opposition to host of the largest number of political organizations in Africa “
Opposition organizations like the EPRP for one were formed and active long before the Derg killed the ministers and Aman Andom. And the claim of the “the largest number of political organizations in Africa” is totally baseless. Those who claim to be commentators of worth on the Ethiopian reality should do well to research on the reality that was and is before they start typing away. Eskinder’s foray into the field of Bolshevik history also begs us to suspend our knowledge of that Revolution and to swallow and to believe the anti-Bolshevik historians’ assertion of Communists ordering murder indiscriminate. I am not trying to cover up for crimes committed by anyone but the Derg and Meisone resort to blanket copying of the Soviet experience to label their terror red and the EPRP self defense action as “ White Terror” is just self serving nonsense. Eskinder does buy this presentation. He believes that the so called white terror of the EPRP pushed the Mengistu regime to declare the Red Terror and this, as most Ethiopians know, is false since the Derg was killing left and right and declaring open war against the EPRP long before the latter resorted to firing a single bullet. But Eskinder says: “ The low-point came three years later, in February 1977, when Mengistu, no more hindered by moderate Derg members (Brigadier General Teferi Banti et al), whom he had just eliminated in a palace-coup, proclaimed the advent of “Red Terror” in response emphasis added) to the “White Terror” of the Derg’s most adamant opponent, the EPRP”. He goes on to add: “ the end, patently amateurish EPRP death-squads, whom Mengistu had fantastically equated with Korilov’s huge White Army, were to gun down less than 150 officials (the exact figure is disputed), to which the Derg and its civilian allies responded disproportionately with numerous human rights abuses and thousands of executions”. The Derg did not initiate the brutal repression from 1967 to 1969 (Eth. Calendar) but responded “disproportionately” to EPRP’s action—Eskinder recycles the worn out and false propaganda of the Derg. Eskinder also propagates the Weyane/ Tplf propaganda on the bombing of Hawzein and Massawa (!!??). Hawzein’s bombing was orchestrated by the TPLF itself and if Eskinder is ignorant of this he should read and learn about it. The bombing of Massawa is neither here nor there as the Derg was at war with the secessionist EPLF trying to break away Eritrea. Eskinder should do well to get his perspective and facts straight.
The confused call by Eskinder in favor of the pardon of the criminals has been well commented upon by professor Tecola. Eskinder should heed that he is calling for the release of mass murderers like Malaku Teffera (who killed en masse in Gondar), Tesfaye Wolde Sellasie (who made our country bleed and cry to death) and very many other killers and butchers. He could be young and maybe he lost no one in the Red Terror but if he had a bit of conscience and consciousness he would have said no clemency to mass murderers unless they repent or demand pardon from the people. And then again the whole process should be undertaken with a people’s regime in place.
I am sure Ato Eskinder has no clear idea of what went on in South Africa and under what conditions and what was its weakness in the end. His venture into the legal field has been adequately dealt with by Professor Tecola and I will not go there. Ato Eskinder wants to support the pardon and liberation of criminals and he resorts to non facts to justify his erroneous stand. This is not good at all. The on going reluctance to criticize him and other is not because they are right or championing the people’s cause but people consider that engaging in polemics with him or others like is not going to help the struggle against the TPLF. But if Eskinder and others refuse to take time to be silent and to ponder and study and learn then they should be told in no uncertain terms to be silent and, harsh it may seem, to just shut up.