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Zenawi’s death, the claim of Diaspora extremism, and opportunism

September 12, 2012

by Kirubeal Bekele

Thank God, Zenawi is out of the picture for good. But the impact of his death, slowly and surely, and as expected, is unfolding. TPLF may be going through its baddest (worst) days ever but Zenawi’s death may have also brought an unexpected and somewhat negative impact on the opposition. A few has erroneously equated Zenawi with TPLF even though his overwhelming influence on the organization is unquestionable. They have developed a false sense of security that it is going to be a cake walk ahead of them in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Ethiopia.

Ethiopians anti woyane rally Washington D.C. June 2012

Ethiopians anti woyane rally Washington D.C. June 2012

A very few minority are contemplating and testing the waters to use Zenawi’s death as an excuse for surrendering and bowing to opportunism. They have already started singing TPLF’s song of “Diaspora’s extremism” even though until now they have been part of the Diaspora and the opposition in general. They have already started bashing the Diaspora of intolerance and extremism while at the same time seeking dialogue with TPLF without putting any legitimate preconditions.

Many of us seem to give little attention to TPLF’s minority status and its very weak political base that ironically have served the organization very well in the last 20 years and more. Besides being able to keep secrets, these vulnerabilities have helped TPLF to stick together despite many disagreements and even splits that have occurred among them. These two weaknesses mentioned have put them on a survival gear to avoid any dangerous moves against each other. Even after Zenawi’s death, we can see it clearly how they are navigating with caution through their greatest crisis ever. They know they survive or die together. In the final analysis and despite the popular assumption, we may witness their survival with their top gun out of the picture. And I have no doubt, they will continue to depend on their relative unity and their determination to stay in power by any means necessary. And they have the means as well as the experience to do it unless they meet a stiffer and a more determined resistance from the opposition.

And some of us in the opposition may have already started to make TPLF’s job easier by borrowing their fairy tale and song of “intolerance and “Diaspora extremism”. Yes, the Diaspora opposition is intolerant to ethno-centric fascists, racism, and plunder. Yes, the Diaspora opposition is intolerant to lack of freedom of speech. Sure, the Diaspora is intolerant to the despicable act of TPLF that executed 200 young Ethiopians in broad day light. Even as we speak, Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage, our Muslim brothers and thousands of others are being tortured in TPLF’s prisons. Is vehemently opposing this evil act “intolerance” or “extremism”? What is intolerant about rejoicing over the death of our killer? What is extremist about responding aggressively to a lose US diplomat who insulted us in public? Why would any body who considers himself an opposition member makes a big bone about our legitimate response to Susan Rice and criticize the Diaspora?

As has been demonstrated before,TPLF will negotiate only if it finds itself in a vulnerable situation such as the one it is passing through now. Until TPLF once again becomes stable down the road, it will negotiate as it is doing now with ONLF, or send Shimagles (Professor Isaac, Haile Gebreselassie) to opposition figures, Muslim detainees or show some temporary measures such as releasing Wubshet Taye and others from prison who they consider relatively harmless. All these measures are insignificant prices to pay to help them get out of the crisis Zenawi’s death has thrown on them. And they are getting a good break from the opposition with new opportunism springing up among its ranks that starts sounding like TPLF and claiming Diaspora’s “intolerance” and “extremism”.

Even though we have some suspicion, it is not clear who is (are) involved in this campaign. It looks like a coordinated effort to pacify and possibly to divide and conquer the Diaspora and it has began with the name calling such as “intolerance” and “extremism” of the Diaspora. This unconditional and unprincipled conciliatory gesture toward TPLF is taking place even before putting any preconditions to negotiate with TPLF such as an immediate release of all political prisoners and journalists, freedom of the press and a free and fair election, to say the least. Hopefully, the Diaspora opposition takes a good look at these unintended consequences of Zenawi’s death on the Diaspora politics and carves out a timely and wise strategy to keep itself intact and intensify the genuine struggle for freedom and democracy in Ethiopia more than ever.


K.Bekele “[email protected]

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5 Responses to Zenawi’s death, the claim of Diaspora extremism, and opportunism


    September 14, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I find it amusing that anyone has a nerve to label Ethiopian diaspora politics as “extreme”. Maybe those accusers don’t know the meaning of the word. A lot can be said about Ethiopian diaspora politics but “extreme” is not one of them.

    Extremisim is going above and beyond using all your means to achieve a goal. My memory fails me where the Ethiopian opposition as a whole, be it diaspora or home based ‘go all out’ to fight woyane dictatorship. The usual suspects-like public demonstrations, exposing and condemning woyane, petitions, meetings, speeches, fund raising, blogs…etc. can hardly come close to extremism.

    Sending sucide bombers to destroy soft and hard targets, assasinating members of woyane leadership, kidnapping family members of woyane leadership for the purpose of prisoners swap, occupying woyane embassies around the world, hijacking planes…etc are all extreme acts for the average Ethiopian although they are normal forms of struggle to others. None of them apllied so far by Ethiopian opposition. So, the extremism tag is an attempt to demonise and sabotage the Ethiopian opposition with baseless accusations.

    While some opposition websites apply censorship to participants for extreme views, the trigger happy woyane would not hesitate to shoot you on the spot for expressing different opinion other than their own. If anything woyane should be accused of extremism. Without going into details, shooting over 200 innocent Ethiopians in broad day light is the ultimate extreme act.

    If the Ethiopian opposition was extreme, woyane would not have lasted this long. Amongst the insults thrown at anti-woyane Ethiopians in Washington D.C., one stuck in my mind. “for twenty years you have been talking and talking-sipping cofee/around cofee table-for what? what have you achieved? (makes sense in amharic). What a sad commentary coming from a woyane female supporter! We don’t even have the courage to unite amongst ourselves let alone get branded with”exremism tag. The question we should ask is as an opposition “are we better off now than we were 5, 10, 20 years ago?”. Extremism might not be a bad idea after all!!


  2. Ethiopialove

    September 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Thank you so much for the wonderful writing and comments above. First of all i would like to address about the position of Ato Siye Abrah. History never forgets why TPLF disintegrated that time, it was not for the sake of Ethiopia, it was never about democracy and human rights in Ethiopia. It was all about pursuing their own interest-so period i dont expect him to stand for Ethiopia. I agree TPLF is TPLF…Susan Rice..come on she called the oppositions, the media “IDIOT” that is not excusable at all and ” freedom of speech” US constitution works not only for her. And this diaspora politics is a cover for the stupid things TPLF is doing in that country. We all know that the diaspora took it in this way because there is no room for political opposition and differences in Ethiopia and that is extreme bad governance.

  3. Tenesa

    September 12, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Kirubeal, it is a great article but it is a little too general in nauture. My guess is that you are talking about Siye’s speech in a meeting in Seattle last Saturday. I also saw it on Ethiomedia today.

    The reports that are coming from the meeting are almost unanimous that Siye Abraha sounded more like TPLF than an opposition from Medrek. They said his speech highlighted the following points.

    1) There was a relative peace in the last 21 years under TPLF. What peace? Close to a 100,, 000 young Ethiopians were killed at Badme in the war with Eritrea. Many were executed in broad day light in Addis. How about the genocide in Gambella? Was that peace to Siye?

    2) There is a relatively good economy that has a good chance of flourshing. Whose economy is Siye talking about? Who owns the high rise buildings and other businesses? What is the GNP of Ethopia today? 350 dollars? Multiply that by 11% growth TPLF is claiming. You will get $38.50 for one person in Ethiopia per year. Now add that inflation of 20-30% almost through out the year. One person will have only $11.24. And add corrupiton and price fluctuation to it, our people won’t even have enough money to buy bread. This is what Siye calls an economy with a good chance of moving forward. If Siye means EFFPORT will prosper, I agree. If Siye means TPLF and its puppets will thrive, I agree.

    3) He praises and proudly reports how the People of Addis recieved his coffin from the airport and escorted it all the way to the palace. Siye even rejects those who are rejoicing over the death of the tyrant namely the Diaspora.

    4)We are seeing an opportunity for democracy in Ethiopia today. What has Siye seen that we did not except Zenawi’s death? Has anybody seen anyone where TPLF shows some gestures for reconcilliation? NO. On the contrary, the tortures in TPLF’s prisons are intensifying. TPLF is also vowing to continue what Zenawi has staarted. And we know what this means.

    5) He addressed TPLF’s crimes as “mistakes”. What mistakes? Is TPLF’s genocide on Anuak people a mistake? How about executing 200 protesters in Addis in 2005? Was that one a mistake too?

    6) He addressed our relationship with TPLF as “political differences”. For Siye, may be. But for us, it is a relationship between predator and prey. It is a relationship between a killer and its victims. It has been a matter of life and death not a political difference.

    7)He urges everyone including the Diaspora to drop “extremist” postiions and from using hard languages and come to the center. What center? What extremism? Kirubeal, you explained it very well. There is nothing extreme about fighting an ethnic and racist tyrants. Mr. Siye is more worried in the oppostion’s response and the language used to Susan Rice’s insult than what Susan said about us.

    Conclusion: Siye may be contemplating going back to the fold(TPLF)after some consulatation with the TPLF veterans who are now reaching those TPLF old timers one of whom is Siye himself. And Siye may even be taking some of the Diaspora opportunists with him, subtly and quietly executing the divide and conquer strategy on the Diaspora in the serivice of TPLF, his new love affair with it,after Zenawi’s death. That is why many have said that once a TPLF is a TPLF forever. They will eventually come together.

  4. sema

    September 12, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you Kuru. You said eloquently all that needs to be said. Well done. The TPLF parachute has been punctured but it has not hit the ground yet. The TPLF does not seem to have come to grips with the reality as of yet. TPLF is still in the state of denial but it is doing so at its own peril. One of the reasons they are choosing to stay in the state of denial might be that the reality has not sunk in yet and it might take some time. The second might be empty bravado emanating from simple stupidity. The third and may be the major reason might be that they have beem dumbfounded and do not know what to do. Meles rendered the TPLF useless without him. As Sebhat said recently Meles died after buring the TPLF. They do not have any clue, none whatsoever, how to get out of this mess and deep scary hole they find themselves in. They have just chosen to freeze the time in their head at right before they announced Meles’s death and stay in the state of denial. However, they cannot freeze the time in reality. They cannot stop the political dynamics that has been triggered by the creation of vacuum due to Meles’s departure. In reality they are in a free fall because the parachute has already been punctured. Sooner than later they will find themselves hitting the ground breaking down into irredeemable fine debris. Some confuse the pucturing of the parachute with hitting the ground. The demise of Meles only represents the puncturing. It takes some time before it hits the ground. There is no illusion about it. If any one expected the pucturing and hitting the ground to occur at the same point of time, well that is unrealistic – the laws of physics do not allow it, neither classical nor quantum mechanics. One thing is certain. The damage has already been done and no number of DPMs can save the TPLF. HD, Girma, Abba Dula, Kuma, Addisu, Demeke, Bereket, Arkebe, Abay, Seyoum, Sebhat, Berhane, Tewdros, Azeb, Samora, Getachew, none of them can save the TPLF from its final resting grave it is heading to. Did you think all that wailing of the TPLF a couple of weeks ago was for Meles? No, it was for themselves. In the heart of their hearts they know THE GAME IS OVER.

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