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Response in a crucible: Dealing with M. Gettaw challenges

By Tecola W. Hagos
Tigrai Online, August 25, 2018

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In a short note titled “Prof. Tecola Hagos - Stop your vitriol and flip-flop” (Tigrai Online, 24 August 2018) M. Gettaw admonished me for my criticism of Meles Zenawi and for changing my views on Abiy Ahmed in several series of articles. He asked me to answer three specific questions. I do not respond to individuals critiquing any of my articles if they do not identify themselves properly. I insist that we must stop this habit of throwing dart hiding behind some fake names. I am almost one hundred percent sure that the name “M Gettaw” is such fake name, I checked in the Internet for such named person, and did not come across a single entry that establishes proper and legitimate identity of such a name.

Nevertheless, I wanted to remind my fellow Ethiopians that I do welcome criticism no matter how crudely it might have been written or how vulgar the language might be. Even I who had taught composition in colleges for almost twenty years fall victim of the temptation to lash out and use vulgarity to express my deeply felt concerns. I can assure you that it is my sincere belief and recommendation that there be no room for such form of unappetizing writing. I value these baby-steps that we are all taking in expressing our opinions in public forum even if we sometimes make mistakes. It is with such spirit I am responding to M Gettaw’s three questions.

Q1- Answer. Fame and Notoriety:

In terms of notoriety and achievements, there is no way I could see myself standing next to Meles Zenawi on the same platform. Meles Zenawi was the Leader of the TPLF and Prime Minister of Ethiopia for decades. In terms of being in high post and in being World famous, Meles wins hands down.  A simple Google search shows almost seven hundred thousand entry for Meles and about fifty thousand for me. There, you have it. Nevertheless, my life is not a wasteland either. I have lived also a clean moral life with no addiction to anything. I do not eat animals as most of you do either. On the other hand, Meles Zenawi has killed directly or indirectly many during his struggle as a TPLF fighter, and as a leader even after coming into power since 1991, he had imprisoned, tortured and totally destroyed families even of his close friends, such as Tamrat Layne, Seye Abraha, Aregawi Berhe et cetera. I have heard from his close associates that he was merciless and cruel. By contrast, I have never hurt or killed anyone in my life, never imprisoned or tortured anyone.

Even if I did not shine in the world’s political spotlight as Meles did, I have had plenty of recognitions for my academic and professional participations from distinguished public personalities and world-renowned scholars including a Nobel Laureate. I have entered here few brief Testimonials (extracts) from such distinguished People:

  1. “Dear Professor Hagos (Tecola): Very many thanks for sending me a copy of your extremely interesting book Democratization? Ethiopia (1991-1994). …written by you with an international perspective, combined with your very extensive expertise and scholarship. The issues are both disturbing and remarkably important.”  Dr. Amartya Sen, Harvard University Professor, Nobel Laureate, Economics 1998. [Letter,  February 14, 1996]
  2. “Tecola Hagos: I am most impressed with your point of view. It is so close to mine on almost every major issue.… I admire your passionate commitment to democratic society. Your final chapter “A case for Permanent Revolution” is an eloquent expression of so many things I believe in. You are courageous in being willing to criticize Ethiopia’s political leadership. You understand the importance of women in society. And I agree most emphatically with your final point about not being bound by history… Congratulation for a fine and outstanding book.” Professor Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus, Boston University. Distinguished World renown American activist, philosopher, political scientist, ethicist, and author of several great books on American history and current American politics. [Letter, August 3, 1995]
  3. “Dear Tecola: I want to acknowledge the timely and valuable addition of your book, Democratization? Ethiopia (1991-1994). To the list of required reading for my course at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government:STM-710 ‘Comparative Executive Government’ this Fall (1997)…Your book on democratization in Ethiopia speaks intelligently and with idealistic intensity to these issues. Grounded in your own experience and a current publication, the book is relevant for anyone concerned with the process of democratization that has become primary to the agendas of so many countries.” Dr. Thomas A. Axworthy, Former Cabinet Secretary of Pierre Trudeau, Canadian Government, Adjunct Professor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government. [Letter, December 12, 1997]
  4. “Dear Mr. Hagos (Tecola): I am writing to convey my deep gratitude and that of the Human Rights Program [of Harvard Law School] for sending us a copy of your magnificent and path-breaking work, Democratization?: Ethiopia (1991-1994), a soul-searching, deeply moving, and analytical study of the reconstruction of the Ethiopian state by the current Ethiopian Government. I am more than convinced that the voluminous work, which is the first by an Ethiopian academic/policy-maker, will stand the test of time as an authentic and original account of the difficulties, many of them apparently intractable, of instating democracy without the requisite leadership.”

Dr. Makau Mutua, Associate Director, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School. [Former Dean of SUNY Buffalo Law School] [Letter, June 2, 1995]

  1. “I am very pleased to write this letter of recommendation for Prof Tecola Hagos. I have known Prof Hagos since 1998, when he began teaching philosophy and English as a Second Language….As his colleague, I have been greatly impressed by his generosity in sharing thought-provoking materials and by his contributions to course group discussions.” Dr. Mary E. Owens, Former Chair and now Professor, Department of AELP, Linguistics, and Communications. [Letter, April 20, 2015]

Q2- Answer. Sacrifice and Service

Again, Meles Zenawi wins hands down if we measure the type of physical hardship Meles and his fellow warriors endured during their seventeen years armed struggle against the Derg Military until 1991. I too had lived through Hell in detention and simply struggling to survive as a political refugee from 1977 onward to date. I was one of the first few individuals who foresaw the danger of the establishment of a military regime soon after the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974. I formed a political group within a civil system and opposed the Military takeover and the establishment of the Military Government in 1974. I was detained without any trial for about a year in one of the high security facilities in Addis Ababa called Alem Bekagn. I was in that prison when Mengistu/Derg executed in the same prison ground sixty High Government Officials on the evening of 24 November 1974. I was called out with another political detainee to be executed and was only saved at the last minute with new order that I do not clearly understand why to this day. Can you imagine how terrified I was facing death? Later, I was released due to international pressure and was appointed to the Ministry of Ethiopian Foreign Affairs as Legal Counsel and was sent to represent Ethiopia at the United Nations General Assembly in 1977.

While I was on a mission at the United Nations 1977, there was a coup d’état that ousted the Military faction that supported my release and appointment to the United Nations.  I continued my political struggle in exile in the United States supporting liberation fronts in Ethiopia that were fighting the dictatorial Military Regime from 1977 to 1991. I promptly returned to Ethiopia with victory of the Liberation Front that I supported and was appointed as Senior Advisor to the Ethiopian Government for the President and Prime Minister of Ethiopia. I left my post in 1993 due to fundamental disagreement I had with the political Leadership of the Ethiopian Government on the democratization process underway at the time that I rightly predicted would lead to dictatorial schema of oppression and denial of fundamental human rights.  I left Ethiopia in 1993 and moved back to the United States.

I was appointed Fellow at the Law School of Harvard University for two Academic years. Before that I spent eight years at Georgetown University and the Law School doing graduate studies in Philosophy, Literature, Law. In my academic life and in exile, I have written several books (two in print). Such effort requires working long hours often alone:

a) Democratization? Ethiopia 1991-1994: A Personal View, Khepera Publishers, 1995. 372 pages.

b) Demystifying Political Thought, Power, and Economic Development, Khepera Publishers, 1999. 200 pages.

c) Several not yet published book length manuscripts on a variety of subjects on Aesthetics, Philosophical subjects on Phenomenology and Existentialism, including a Primer on Logic for College Students. Some copyrighted and archived at the Library of Congress, Washington DC.

d) And Journal articles, e.g., “Separation of Law and Morality: The Art of Constitution Making,” 9 International Journal of Ethiopian Studies, No 1 and 2, 139-169 (2015).

e) I have been actively engaged in both local and international politics through my numerous essays and articles posted mainly in Ethiopian owned Websites. I was the Editor and owner of a Website (2001-2010) where experts in various fields contributed serious works for publication. www.tecolahagos.com. I have written numerous articles and commentaries posted both in my own Website and in others [too many to list here].

Q3- Answer. Flip-Flopping

I am often criticized by friends as well as strangers who follow my writings for changing my mind on subject matters that I had criticized or defended for some time and even contradicting my own position in the same article I wrote. I am not a dogmatic person who would insist on having my own way. I look into ideas not as imprinted on granite, but as living dynamic process. I am rigorous in my critical thinking and use logic and intuition to reach conclusions. Thus, the fundamental problem that I struggle with every moment of my life is due to the tension I create in my seeing something good or interesting even in the most dire events or situations. 

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I do not hesitate to accept the views of others if I see merit in those views. I am not bothered at all in acknowledging my errors or in being corrected or in being criticized. Now coming to the heart of your question dealing with my “flip-flopping” I assume you are upset that I am not consistent in my views about the current Leaders and the New Government. You should allow me some space to find my equilibrium that can only be achieved in the process of sharing ideas with my fellow Ethiopians. Believe me when I write that a number of my friends are very much concerned about my change of mind about Abiy Ahmed and his thinking process, for I was supportive of Lemma Megersa before any of them became prominent due to their effort to protect people who were protesting in Oromo Kilil. As I pointed out in my writings several times, I was lifted high in spiritual ecstasy in hearing some wonderful statements by Abiy Ahmed and also by Lemma Megersa. Even Jawar Mohammed, whom I despise, moved me a few times with his newest political acknowledgment that he is an Ethiopian after all. 

The reasons why I changed my mind about PM Abiy Ahmed have to do with his ideas about “forgiveness” and “medemer.” I have expounded those reasons clearly in several of my articles that you may access. There are new concerns that I have now after learning how Gedu Andargachew and his group of genocidal criminals manipulated and instigated mobs in Amhara Kilil to murder Tygreans and loot and destroy their property. And I see Abiy Ahmed sheepishly doing nothing to curb such criminals from their evil plans. He has become the face of evil fronting for such despicable political midgets. 

I have no personal animosity with any of the new political leaders I criticized. All of them are my juniors, and never knew any of them when I was working with the EPRDF in 1991-93. The hate that they are promoting now pulling in Issaias Afeworki as a partner reminds me of the situation just before the Rwandan genocide.  This is why I am shouting out for old and new members of the TPLF and also the Ethiopian Armed Forces to take control and bring to justice the likes of Degu, Demeke et cetera. No democratic process will work under the new situation created by the narrow ethnic and primitive mind of ANDM Leaders. The added terrorist leaders from Ginbot-7, OLF, et cetera will only fuel more resentment and division and fragmentation. Why should Afars, Benshangule, Somalis, Tigrai stay within the Ethiopian Federal structure when such newly arrived desperado Diaspora political hyenas are butchering the old country. From what I have heard lately, they are seen by the locals as sex-starved beasts going after young vulnerable Ethiopian girls fulfilling their years of sex-starved lives in foreign countries.    

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I believe PM Abiy Ahmed is a victim of confined situation. I do not think he is an evil person per se even though he had caused tremendous damage to the unity of Ethiopia due to his lack of foresight and shallow systems of values. I find evil in those that surround him and imprisoned him blinding him from seeing the reality that is Ethiopia. We need a 3rd Woyane Rebellion movement to restart us on the right track. My support of the TPLF warriors has nothing to do with ethnicity, but has everything to do with their bravery, discipline, effectiveness, and above all with their singular commitment to achieve a goal with humility. I believe they are the only group with the added support from Afar, Benshangul, Kimanet, Dessie Zuria (Wollo), North Shoa, Southern people, and Somali that can save Ethiopia from such butchers. Time is of the essence.