What Ethiopia Is Up Against

September 18, 2012

by Messay Kebede

A friend recently sent me a video presenting Sebhat Nega’s defense of the TPLF constitution. My friend was rightly

Sebhat Nega refers to a hypothetical situation

Sebhat Nega

amazed at the dismissive and arrogant nature of the defense.  My reaction wandered a bit in the direction of assessing the origin of the defense: I could not help but ask what torturous path led a Tigrean to a defense erasing the shared legacy of a very long history.  Let me first briefly summarize the content of Sebhat’s discourse.

Sebhat refers to a hypothetical situation where opponents intent on dismissing the TPLF constitution succeed in seizing power. Sebhat emphatically predicts the inevitable disintegration of Ethiopia and the outbreak of war. According to him, the TPLF constitution is the foundation of Ethiopian unity. It originated from a consensus of all the peoples of Ethiopia and remains the sole guarantee of equality. Since equality is the basis of unity, any change altering its main principles inexorably entails the collapse of unity. In his assumption, this almost happened in 2005 when forces inimical to the constitution scored important electoral gains. If the movement had not been violently crushed, it would have certainly resulting in war and disintegration.

By way of illustration, Sebhat takes the case of the United States. The foundation of the American federation is the Constitution, which, if changed, will entail the disintegration of the country. For Sebhat, what Ethiopians have in common with Americans is precisely that for both of them constitutional consensus is the source of nationalism. Just as American nationalism is tied to a constitutional document, so too Ethiopian nationalism derives from the TPLF constitution.

I leave out Sebhat’s illusion that the TPLF constitution originated from a consensus of all the peoples of Ethiopia when we know too well that said consensus was imposed on powerless peoples by the victorious Tigrean and Eritrean guerrilla armies. However, the illusion metamorphoses into arrogance when Sebhat compares the TPLF constitution with the American Constitution. The latter promotes individual rights while the TPLF constitution gives primacy to group rights, that is, to ethnic belonging, the consequence of which is that it works against national integration by isolating and nurturing ethnic states. States in Ethiopia are not administrative units that decentralize power and empower local communities but ethnic enclaves that create national borders within the nation and grant them with the right to secede.

What is most appalling and utterly false is Sebhat’s declaration that the fundamental act of being Ethiopian is an outcome of the TPLF constitution. How could it be so when what we all know so far is that the Ethiopian state and society have their origin in the distant history of the Aksumite kingdom and that their cultural features and history testify to a long and uninterrupted legacy that equally involved Tigreans and Amharas?  Even our recent history defines Yohannes, not as the emperor of Tigray, but as the emperor of Ethiopia. The unequivocal reality is thus that Ethiopian nationhood is defined by history, and not by the acceptance of the 1994 constitution. Here we can extend to Ethiopia Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement, to wit, “Europe was created by History; America by Philosophy.” Rather than the constitution begetting Ethiopian nationhood, it presupposes it as the object of its rectification. This reversal of the correct order is typical of the thinking of the TPLF and is reflected in the first statement of the preamble in the form of “We, the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.”

Let me ask a question: when the guerrilla army of the TPLF marched into Amhara territory and finally into Addis Ababa and seized state power, were we supposed to assume that Ethiopia did not exist yet? But then, there is nothing that prevents us from qualifying the march as an invasion of foreign troops, nay, as a colonial conquest. Since I am sure that Sebhat will contest such a characterization, then why does he keep defining Ethiopianness by a constitution when the country existed for a long time prior to the writing of the constitution?

What Sebhat is in reality revealing is the conditional nature of his Ethiopianism. He is Ethiopian so long as the constitution, imposed by the TPLF and conducive to its hegemony over Ethiopia, is the supreme law of the land. What this means if not that Tigray will not agree to remain within Ethiopia if the TPLF loses its hegemonic position. I cannot speak for all Tigreans, among whom many are dedicated Ethiopians, but Sebhat’s position shows that the leadership of the TPLF has been and still is appropriated by individuals who have always posed the issue of Ethiopian unity in conditional terms.

This conditionality explains why many pro-Ethiopian activists and intellectuals consider Sebhat and his likes as nothing more than stooges of the EPLF. Yet, their support for Eritrean independence is just a logical conclusion of their conditional Ethiopianness. One cannot be conditionally Ethiopian while being a resolute defender of the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. Moreover, the hegemonic goal of the TPLF could hardly accommodate a rival organization like the EPLF. Both ideological consistency and interest dictated the TPLF’s determined effort to oust Eritrea from Ethiopia.

Obviously, the perceived fragility of the system subsequent to the demise of Meles Zenawi now drives TPLF people to blackmail Ethiopians. If the TPLF does not rule, Sebhat promises the deluge. Is this not to admit that two decades of forceful enforcement of the constitution were not enough to generate even a semblance of consensus? What a brilliant achievement! Sebhat sounds like those children who agree to play with other children provided they always win.

26 Responses to What Ethiopia Is Up Against

  1. meron

    November 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    This people are possessed by demones, what we need to focus is what is the solution to free the 80 million people.

    Their plan is very narrow minded they try to do the way the helped eritrea, they will build tigray on the resources of Ethiopia, and and educate only their ethnic group, and the military and planes and resources will be taken as much as possible to tigray. They will have their Tigray Republic and with out any cost whatever the debt they took from IMF and China…will be left behind for Ethiopian.

    But what they don’t know is as a thiny country they will never make it they might go to merge with eritrea that might be a short term solution but what they are counting on is by distroying the unity of Ethiopian through ethnic division and selling their land and dislocating people from their vilage will confuse them and feeling of abandonment will be against each others throught as you lose your livelyhood and your existance is threaten you’ll have that animal instinct as we hear now today through tplf manipulation our people are killing eachother for ethnic and religious issue all this is master minded by ignorant tplf who have no clue and no vision of the future. They sold or gave our land to indian, china, arabs….while our own people could be trained and use the land to feed their own family and society and sell the surplus in world market. What’s been done is very clear this people tplf’s agenda is to dismantle Ethiopia and to have a strong tigray but it shows their ignorant that would never hold.

    What the muslim and christian all Ethiopians need to do is to wake up and stick together and overthrow this illegitmate government. Instead of been killed one by one if you stand up together you’ll concur anything. The power is in your hand as of now they are turning our innocent society in to tplf like viscious bitter and angry society. We need to stick together and fight and no one no one should suffer under this ignorant tyrant self serving group. There’s no need for you to fear they are just a bunch of thugs.

    Ethiopia will live for ever we are children of Israel!

  2. kenyetlhal

    October 2, 2012 at 10:24 am

    what the hell this dirty old man talking about cant any one keep his mouth shut.
    i can not belive it,when shabia and weyae why they don.t sort out their shit.

    they had every thing in their hand megentel blha belha when they let eritrea get independent that was it they should have left all together i mean all banda weyane,

    teknikaly any weyane or shabia they dont represent any indivedual .

    they all are basturd,m——- f——–ers

    specialy sebhat this blood sucker.
    we all are ethiopians there are millions of people from eritrea stile blive they are ethiopians give them a chance they will prove it to you.

    wesha yewesha leje gemo sebhat .

  3. Wogene

    September 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Sebhat Nega is an opportunist and murderer he should be brought to justice or hanged for the killing of many Ethiopians together with Samoray which is a bush General, which Ethiopians never recognize they been doing it in their kangaroo court and palace.

    Justice for Ethiopian

  4. Ancient Ethiopia

    September 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    That stupid sibela nega will die soon by HIV. look at his face how he looks like. that idiot man said us that ethiopia did exist untill 1991. TPLF created ethiopia. what a shameless man. if ethiopia did not exist before how could he and all other cowards came to addis ababa and studied in AAU? Were they political refugees from tegeray to shoa? if sibelas’ nega’s answer will be “yes” what kind of political refugees? I hope the tegeray people will never give their ears for this HIV carrier, criminal and idiot man speech.

  5. Agame

    September 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Sebehat OLD DOG, you are Eriterian citzen get the hell out of Ethiopian political affairs.


    September 19, 2012 at 7:55 pm


  7. aghere

    September 19, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    “Only God can Help Muslims From Ourselves”
    This is an article from The Toronto Sun news,Wednesday september 19,2012.This is written by Mr Tarek Fatah.
    I have taken part of the article for it is useful and fits to the Ethiopian political atmosphere.I am not talking about Muslims.The hot political temperature in the Muslim world because of the film titled “INNOCENCE Of MUsLIMS”.
    “When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to calm Muslims Thursday by denouncing the video,she was unwittingly playing along with the ruse the radicals set up.The United States would have been better-off focusing on the only outrage that was of legitimate interest to the American government: lack of respect_shown by a complaisant Egyptian government and other Islamists_for U.S. diplomatic missions.” If it were possible(and I know it’s not),I hope for divine intervention putting my Muslim ummah in a medically induced coma so that the source of this spasmodic convulsion that makes us behave as the world’s most irrational people can be exicised from our souls.For only God can help us Muslims from ourselves.”wrote Mr Tarek Fatah.
    “I hope for divine intervention putting my Muslim ummah in a medically induced coma so that the source of this spasmodic convulsion that makes us behave as the world’s most irrational people can be exicised from our souls.”This is my prayer too for my Tigrian brothers and sisters that God put medically induced coma so that the source of this spasmodic covulsion that makes them behave as the world’s most irrational people exicised from their souls.I borrowed Mr Tarek’s words for they best describe the Woyane intellectuals and cadres.
    I can’t understand the WOYANES and their supporters.God only knows what is going inside their mind or soul if they have one.I pray for them to be relieved from this evil that leads them to spasmodic convulsion.I think we need to sympathize with this abnormal behaviour that possessed them.Even USA,their partner,is not having the expertise to set them free and live a normal life.
    When you cut the head of a chicken and release it immediately it will behave as if it has life.It tries even to run and make certain drama to show it is alive but the reality is it is without the head and there will not be life and rationality.THe dead body can’t deal with the normal situation.The head of WOYANE is cut and the body alone is not going to survive.It will die.It has to take the last breath and go where its head is buried.
    The WOYANES have demonstrated who they are when they took two months to organise the funeral festival all over the country.They have shown that they are “the world’s most irrational people” by make the people of Ethiopia weep for two weeks and put the economic activities at a stand still.
    Let God release them from this demon that makes them irrational and dumb.
    Leave a Reply

  8. Ancient Ethiopia

    September 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    please aboy sebhat, do not separate tegerya from the rest of ethiopia. if you do so what are we going to eat? everything comes from tegeray. so we are going to die by hunger. idiot . endzih ayinet keletam shimagel ayiche alewukem. esty yigenetel ena keziya behuala kemekemechaw laye eyekorete yimegebachewual leziyaw mene alew mekemechawun eko HIV cheresital.

  9. Askale Dama

    September 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm


    In my view, HM is being sworn into the office of PM this coming Friday for a reason. They specifically picked Friday in order to sabotage the Muslim protest and divert attention of the media from the protest. I have no doubt that leaders of the movement have plans to defeat the tactics of the regime. The leaders of the movement need to begin to surprise the regime.

  10. wole

    September 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    The terroriat TPLF thugs do not know what they are doing. They say one thing today and reverse themselves the next day. Only last Saturday the pathological liar Bereket Simon said that there was no reason to rush the swearing in of HD and that it would be done when the rubber-stamp parliament resumes its regular session in early October. In two days time every thing changed and they are reversing their earlier decision and calling the sham parliament into session on 9/21/2012. They do not know what they are doing. If they cannot get this simple stuff right two three times, how can they get the other complex things right? This is ridiculous and stupid to say the least. Bereket keeps lying and lying and lying. Just to mention a few: Bereket first denied and lied the sickness of Meles and the nature of his sickness, then he lied about his recovery and resumption of office, then he lied about his death, then he lied about the swearing in of HD as acting PM on 8/23/2012. Bereket continued his pathological lying and he lied about the so called EPRDF council meeting whch he initially said would be Sept 16, 2012 and then reversed it and said Sept 14-15, 2012. He refused to disclose the third candidate and lied about the vote counting for the so called nominees. Now again they are changing the swearing in of HD from early october to 9/21/2012. Bereket is known as the most discredited propaganda chief and a liar-in-chief of the terrorist TPLF group. BTW, it is understood that the latest change of plan is due to international pressure. These pompous liars boast of working at their own pace but the reality is the TPLF terrorist group is budging under the international pressure as demonstrated once again by this reversal of decision.

  11. SEBEHAT NEGA speaks

    September 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    “We fought for Eritrean independence from the colonial rule of Ethiopia. Even now, if Eritrea is attacked, EPRDF would jump into Eritrea, join the Eritrean people and engage the enemy.” – Sebhat Nega on Radio Woyane (May 28, 2007)

    Sebhat nega is a woyane moron who gets delight in serving the shabia.

  12. miko

    September 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Is Ethiopian opposition politics is becoming only rhetoric, which is a continuation of EPRP? I guess. Person like Sebaht Nega and his apostles are imposing their only idea on the rest as a medication.We needs to create a devoted individual who can led for better solution
    otherwise “Sebhat do what he thinks and opposition will argue for it.”

  13. Ancient Ethiopia

    September 18, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Sibela nega [ sebhat nega] is simply an idiot man who can not think as his age. according to journalist’s aray woldu’s interview, sebhat nega raped two women at a night and sluaghted [ killed ] two of them in the morning, and threw them in gorge in northren shoa.
    no wonder if sibela nega shouts above the roof like made dog.

  14. ቤንጃሚን

    September 18, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    ይሄ ያረጀ አሳማ መቼ ነው የሚሞተው ? እርግጠኛ ነኝ በሰው እጅ መሆን አለበት !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Gubena

    September 18, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I would like to remind all Ethiopians that Sibhat does not represent Tegaru. Nemshetu zeabeda eyu. Let him talk but no one will heed to his ajewjew. Tigray is the heart of Ethiopia. there cannot be Ethiopia without Axum. Sibhat and his co have killed many tegaru patriots in order to achieve his ambition but now he is naked let alone separate Tigray he cannot keep tplf together. He is set adrift.

  16. Askale Dama

    September 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Sebhat and his friends are known for their grandiose delusions. Did Ethiopia evolve into nationhood as the result of historical processes? Was Ethiopia constituted into nationhood as a political community by means of constitutional construction?

    A mind in the caliber of Sebhat Nega is incapable of dealing with such questions. Sebhat is acting out his near psychotic delusional grandeur which is a defensive reaction to his deeply buried low self-esteem and sense of inferiority. There are 90 million of us who can decide on the origin, evolution, nature and character of Ethiopian Nationhood. Woyane Tigres need to resolve their identity own crisis in the first place and leave the theorizing and historicizing about Ethiopian nationhood to those of us who believe and happen to be Ethiopians.

    My only disappointment is this: It is the intellectual task and moral responsibility of Ethiopian intellectuals to articulate the Ethiopian national agenda and our national purpose, not the job of impoverished characters like Sebhat Nega. I know a lot has been done on this subject in the past, but our nationhood is always a living and dynamic part of our life as one people and one political community. In fact, articulating our common purpose and common destiny is and needs to be an integral part of the on-going democratic opposition to ethnic ideology of TPLF.

    Woyane Tigres are permanently organized to disorganize the Ethiopian nation. They set a Woyane vision of Ethiopia far into 2040 & 2050. This is not acceptable. The united opposition needs to produce a white paper on Ethiopian National Vision, now not tomorrow. Ethiopians need to lead Ethiopia.

  17. lemu

    September 18, 2012 at 11:23 am

    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia’s new prime minister is to be sworn into office on Friday.

    Hailemariam Desalegn is the hand-picked successor of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died Aug. 20 after ruling Ethiopia for more than two decades. Hailemariam is a former deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister under Meles.

    Hailemariam’s ascension to prime minister has been delayed for at least a month after an emergency meeting of parliament was canceled last month.

    Shimeles Kemal, communications state minister, said Tuesday that Hailemariam will take the oath Friday morning.

    The extraordinary parliament session follows a meeting by the leadership of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, which on Saturday named Hailemariam its leader. The party controls 545 of the country’s 547 parliament seats, ensuring Hailemariam will be approved Friday.

    Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/afr … story.html

  18. Dawit

    September 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Well, here we go again. The TPLF and its thugs are still living in the last two decades of the 19th century in which with the death of Yohannes, power shifted to the center of Ethiopia, Shoa, which, has always been resented by the TPLF since then. In fact, the sickness of the party and its deeper sense of insecurity and inferiority complex is captured by Times magazine which quotes Legesse Zenawi as saying: ‘“It has always been fear. Fear that this great nation, which was great 1,000 years ago but then embarked on a downward spiral for 1,000 years, and reached its nadir when millions of people were starving and dying, may be on the verge of total collapse…’ Read between the lines here, please. For Legesse Zenawi Ethiopia was in chaos for the last 1000 years, and what happened 1000 years ago? Axum ceased to exist as a center of power and the southward attraction of power continued first to Lasta – Shoa – Gondar- Tigray-Shoa-Tigray. The whole party needs to examine itself and in my humble view they really need psychological treatment.

    Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/08/21/the-strongman-who-may-be-missed-meles-zenawi-1955-2012/#ixzz26qS0itnB


  19. ben

    September 18, 2012 at 8:39 am

    i concur. what a thoughtful presentation!

  20. Alem

    September 18, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Dear Prof. Messay: I know you know Sebhat is not unaware of what you are saying. The issue for him is to keep Ethiopians divided [and pit one against the other] by raising apocryphal histories such as the one you mentioned. Was not this exactly what the late Meles was good at? Another aspect of Sebhat’s strategy [and of scholars Ghelawdewos, Tecola, Kiros, Asayegn, etc] is to send “scholarly” distractions so the important and the urgent remains confused. The same thing happens when a group dutifully waits at the ready to neutralize any comment or article disfavoring the ruling minority. In other words, Sebhat and his cadres are much more organized and effective than the majority who seem not to be able to find their voice!

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