Negaso and EPRDF: The Inside Story By Eskinder Nega

July 29th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Book publishing had its golden age in the 60s and 70s. So did theater. The singular genius of Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin, whose magnificent adaptations of Shakespearean plays are arguably the best of their kind anywhere in the world, (more…)

Book publishing had its golden age in the 60s and 70s. So did theater. The singular genius of Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin, whose magnificent adaptations of Shakespearean plays are arguably the best of their kind anywhere in the world, inspired and to a large extent sustained a rare, lively world of African theater. It may still be the best in Africa. Books and literary magazines thrived on multitude of talents, Behalu Girma, Sebhat Gebre-Egzabher, Berhanu Zerihun, and many others. Good books easily sold tens of thousands of copies.

The 80s and 90s were less pleasant. Tsegaye was distracted, first, by the nation’s new rulers, whose ethnocentrism he abhorred, and later on, by ill-health. (He died in the US in 2006.) And in the world of book publishing, the explosion of private newspapers in the mid-80s literally became an existential threat. Good books could barely sale 5000 copies anymore.

But there have been the occasional bestsellers. Mengistu Haile-Mariam’s book-formatted interviews probably hold the record in this regard, reportedly selling in the tens of thousands. Berhanu Nega’s take on Ethiopia’s politics in 2006, written, smuggled out and published while he was still in prison, was unavoidably a runaway success. Seye Abraha’s book was also successful but could have done better had less space been devoted to court proceedings and more to politics. (He has promised such a book in the future. A good book from him could set a new record.) And now there is a latest entrant to this select league, Negaso Gidada’s book-formatted interviews. (There were of course many more successful books over the years. But I can’t possibly detail them all here. Sorry.)

Entitled “Negaso’s journey”(Negaso’s menged) and written by Daniel Tefera, a young journalist, the 384 pages book was released in Addis Ababa about two weeks ago. Here is Negaso narrating his early life, reminiscing about student politics, revealing new secrets about the EPRDF and expounding his vision for the nation verbatim.

Naturally, at a time when public disapproval of EPRDF’s corrupt and inflation ridden authoritarianism has climbed to an all time high, the most alluring parts of the book lie in the chapters about the ruling party.

Here are 5 EPRDF inside stories revealed by Negaso in this book.(There are more but you will have to buy and read the book.)

1. On murder and impunity.

On page 213 Negaso addresses the issue of performance reviews in the OPDO, one of four constituent members of the EPRDF coalition. Even when apparent breach of law by officials was established, prosecution was not automatic, Negaso says. They were merely transferred to different positions.

In one shocking instance, “a stubborn and spiteful official, whom I would rather not name publicly, was accused of murder (but was not prosecuted,)” Negaso discloses.

2. On Major General Abadula (now Speaker of the Federal Parliament.)

Abadula Gemeda (nominal chief of the army in 2000) was in Paris when news of fallout between TPLF leaders broke out, recounts Negasso. But after his return he was quick to throw his lot with Meles. He and two other active-duty Oromo Generals, Bacha and Alemeshet, who were constitutionally compelled to stay out of politics, were soon lobbying for open support of Meles.

“We (Negaso and Kuma, leader of the OPDO) insisted that the military should stay out of politics,” says Negaso.

But the Generals were adamant that with the TPLF weakened by internal strife, the ANDM was becoming too powerful in the EPRDF. OPDO must support Meles and buttress its standing in the EPRDF, they maintained.

“We rejected their argument and opted to reconcile TPLF leaders,” says Negaso.

But access to palace grounds, where Negaso was housed as the nation’s titular President, was suddenly prohibited and people could see him no more, frustrating the effort.

“When I inquired with security, I was told the order had come from Tefera Walewa,” explains Negaso. The presidential title notwithstanding, he was unable to override Tefera’s order. He was transformed into a virtual prisoner in the grand palace.

“Meles cleverly used the ANDM,” he says.

But ultimately, even if unsaid by Negaso, devoid as the ANDM has always been of a capable leadership, it was never really in a position to dominate the EPRDF. Meles’ standing has always been secure, and he most probably knew it.

3. On Meles and Seye Abraha et al.

And there is Negaso’s gripping (and disturbing) narration of Meles’ account of the fallout between him and his best friends, Seye Abraha et al.

“We took away their jackets and threw them out naked,” bragged deranged looking Meles at an EPRDF meeting days after illegally expelling almost half of his party’s senior leadership.

“I was flabbergasted,” says Negaso. “I immediately told him he sounded like Mengistu Hiale-Mariam.”

For a brief moment it seemed as if Meles had gone too far. There was silence in the room. But Genet Zewde, an ANDM member, suddenly burst into tears.

“How could you compare him to Meles?” she implored sobbing.

And abruptly Negaso was on the defensive.

“I did not say he was Mengistu Haile-Mariam. I only said he sounded like him,” Negaso had to blurt out.

The tide turned. Meles was saved.

4. On corruption.

Worried by increased feedbacks from the public about the rising tide of corruption, Negaso approaches Meles demanding action.

“There is nothing I could do right now,” replied an irate Meles. “Securing conclusive evidences in individual cases is easier said than done. The smart move is to concentrate on culturally stigmatizing corruption.”

Negaso, however, was unmoved.

“My final impression was that he was not serious about fighting corruption,” charges Negaso.( A UNDP report has recently revealed that Ethiopia has lost up to 3 billion US dollar to corruption since 1990. Senior government officials are prime suspects.)

5. On Meles Zenawi.

“We never had a close personal or working relationship,” says Negaso. He has been to his house only a couple of times. “

Meles is a heavy smoker. “(Some leaders of the EPRDF) are heavy smokers, but Meles smoked much more than everyone else.”(Isn’t this a sign of ingrained anxiety?) His favorite drink is red win. He is, no surprise here, temperamental, and occasionally, “his choices of words are not always wise.”

There are also his arbitrary decisions, Negaso reminds readers. “General Tsadkan and General Abebe were dismissed from their positions arbitrarily (and illegally.) He should have consulted the party but did not.”

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The writer could be reached at serk27@gmail.com.

  1. beyu
    | #1

    Gidada, has not done anything positive to stop the smoke addicted dictator doing harm to the country and the people. Gidada has no need to tell us about meles’s character. Almost everyone knows meles is a bully, a dictator who intimidates his dummy parliament and rules by force.

    Why is Gidada cooperating and working with meles if he knows what meles is doing is wrong? the answer is because meles put him there and Gidada also knows that he was put there as a token (dummy) to appear as an opposition MP on meles’s order. Gidada has even to ask meles what he is allowed or not allowed to say in public.

  2. astra
    | #2

    What a pathetic book! It is no wonder that “negasso” was called the “horse-name” of Meles. How was he chosen for the glorified post? Does Negasso admit that he is not an Oromo but a “Kafficho” from Keffa, as everybody in Dembi Dolo knows. No wonder he is totally confused and making inconsequential comments.

  3. astwel
    | #3

    Beye and astra:

    Negasso sacrificed for his principle.

    Give him credit at least for that much.

  4. aha!
    | #4

    One can not discuss about the behaviors and/or actions of the above mentioned dignitaries out of context of the constitutional frame work of the TPLF/eprdf regime that led to autocratic, ethnocratic/ethnic dictatorship with underlying totalirianism in place, where the dignitaries mentioned are implementing ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies withunderlying totalianism of the derg regime and its own inclination of marxist ideology, and the lack of the balanced branches of the government not their profiles and/or behaviors and actions, the process of elimination within the TPLF members, an age old process stating from the days of liberation movement.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    What is the end game of the narratives: is it to say that another coalition Medrek/fdd/fdre, a mirror image of TPLF/eprdf has better candidates lined up to maintain the status quo, rather than dismantling ethnic and secessionist politics and/or policies with underlying totalianism to form a democratic government with economic, political freedom and god given liberty of the individual as basic unit of the the democratic government and society, where the the government rules by the consent of the governed.

  6. amazing
    | #6

    I am telling you, we keep saying Tigray, the most damaging to Ethiopa are those who are in kahoots with TPLF regime that are non Tigryans, they are in it for power, revenge and money. How low and sick can they be. I would not be surprised if they are the architects of the whole demise of Ethiopia’s society. I hope those who have been the kissing but of TPLF, I hope they come out and speak otherwise, they won’t even have a country to rule. I am sure they will blame it on others also. Unless the ex member such as Gidada completely denounce and try to fix the damage, even the so called Aba Dula is going to extreme and Mr. Gidada will regret that, they are the cause of Oromo’s demise when they superficially trying to save “oromia” The plan they made will come to bite them one day, Karma.

  7. Abu Anja
    | #7

    Why is the Ethiopian former President condemened severly the Tigryan Prime Minister in his memoir? He and his brother, the Ambassdor were the first to go cravenly crawled into bed with Meles. He was Oromo by injection then later become the true Siyoo. What a cruel jock for somebody who was the seceretary of Oromo movement in the whole of Europe for years. It hardly matters for me if Meles smock opium or eat chat. The point is he is odious to Ethiopians.

  8. Bantyirga
    | #8

    Oh poor Negaso. Wanna-be semitic Oromos say you are kafficho. What a good news. come and join the golden races Kitaw ejigu. Elitist oromos also suspect getachew bolodia to be kaficho and abitew, the singer also from the south. A shade of darker colour and thick nose is enough for the oromos to disown you. Poor negaso. You are human being first and ethiopian second and oromo if only by permission of wanna-be semitic oromos third.

  9. Abu Anja
    | #9

    Meles shoud go where he belongs.He is Ethiopia’s worst enemy. I do not need to read a book written by his one time gushing proponent, where he was rewarded the post of the country’s President. If Negasso have a pride he should left Finfine a long time ago, rather than live in a dirty hovel to the chargrine frusteration of his people. He is always broke fincially. He needs money. I hope Germany would be kind enough to get him a teaching post. Sorry I hate Meles and Negasso like poision.

  10. PEGAN
    | #10

    Dr. Negaso is “kafficho”. ?

    “Secretary of Oromo movement in the whole of Europe”.? WOW! Is that supposed to be a higher position than (EPRDF) ethno-coalition?

    Such is the road the ethno-jingoist and religious intolerant unbridled ambition of TPLF/OLF/ONLF is taking them.

  11. kesenalolai
    | #11

    Well,Mr.Negasso is a loser and the most who lost respect and integrity because he did join the bandit group without thinking twice.Good for him his gone for bad.Yes,Zinawians are the outlaws and are wanted for all sorts of crime;besides,Mr.Negasso,since he particiapted in many mischieves and illegal activities with the outlaws directly or indirectly,he too is responsible.

  12. DRAMA
    | #12

    ABUGIDA IS CONCERNED. WOW.

  13. nani
    | #13

    shame on oromos who subscribe to the discourse of ethniv puritz. the genuis of oromo is their effective assimilation / the oromo pot still melts and melts effectively. There has been a lot of infusion of blood between oromos and non/oromos!!!

  14. Gadda
    | #14

    Here’s Dr. Negasso Gidada’s political experience of the last 40 years – his ‘Long Walk from Oromia to NOromia’ – without the 384 pages of the new book, Dandii, which recounts the political life of Dr. Gidada from a different perspective. When great political leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and John Garang, lead their oppressed people on a long walk to freedom; Dr. Negasso Gidada’s accomplishment has been nothing, but a long retreat towards the era of darkness and oppression for the Oromo people, and other oppressed nations and nationalities.
    http://gadaa.com/oduu/10293/2011/07/30/oromia-ethiopia-negassos-long-walk-from-oromia-to-noromia/

  15. Dawi
    | #15

    “Political Evolution of Dr. Gidada” is like “The pot calling the kettle black”

    If you have an INDEPENDENCE clause in your program, you don’t have the moral high ground. …

    You say “Here’s Dr. Negasso Gidada’s political experience of the last 40 years – his ‘Long Walk from Oromia to NOromia’.

    The results may be valid but the OPPOSITE is true.

    John Garang had a vision of transforming all of Sudan, and was not focused so much on separation, as transforming all of Sudan into a more pluralistic and democratic country. After he died things went “SOUTH” (back words) to independence of the South.

    In South Africa, both Nelson Mandela and President DE Klerk were determined to work towards truth and reconciliation.

    Dr. Gidada working with the “enemy” is similar to Mandela. A walk from “Oromia” to ” All inclusive greater Ethiopia”. The Dr. is still following the same road with twists and turns unfortunately, for you.

    OLF without a doubt has wasted too much time. And can be considered to have taken

    ‘Long Walk from Oromia to NOromia’.

    The idea of Ethnic Liberation (OLF), in a primitive form in the 21 century is laughable. But if that is all you’re capable of only god can help you.

    God help South Sudan!.

  16. Moru
    | #16

    Oh! the OLF is up and running with its disgusting primitive “purity” ethnic jingoistic politics. An oromo friend of mine from wolega told me that the Mechas are superior race (straight nose fair faced etc) and the Tulemas are “slave-class” (darker and thicker nose etc). he told me that the tulemas work as slaves and tenants on the mechas fields and are rebelious and known for their “shifta” character. He pointed to the selale oromos as tulemas known for their “shifta” behaviour. The OLF is very much in to this tutsi-hutu type of tribalism. The OLF walks around with a ruler stick to measure the size of your nose (if you are an oromo) and a torch to verify the shade of your colour. The OLF has in stock a very denagerous philosophy for the oromos. My mother is from selale and I am an oromo and i feel appaled by the sentiment of the olf in this way. The characterisation of negaso as kaficho is part of this OLF “Nose-size” politics.

  17. Sheger
    | #17

    Congratulation Dr Negasso. Thanks for sharing. I like to thank you for your bravery and honesty dealing with this so called elections in Ethiopia and every thing you said about the TPLF/EPRDF. Thanks sure. No body feeds a TENQUAY
    But we only know when people with a detail accounts of what happened and the people involved knows and can tell us
    What happened and what is happening in Ethiopia wether it’s about election or some thing els despite what we already
    Know about them.

    Thanks again. Can’t wait to read the book.

    Long live Ethiopia.!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Sheger
    | #18

    Correction.

    Third paragraph..

    I meant to say ‘thanks sir.

  19. Olana
    | #19

    Regardless it is EPLF, TPLF, OLF or ONLF, they all have one track mind; they hate other ethnic Ethiopians and their main goal is to separate from Ethiopia like EPLF or control the entire Ethiopia with their ethnic group like TPLF, period! How can we put any wait on a man like Gidada said or written when we are all aware that he chose to keep quiet for years when Oromos and other Ethiopians tortured and massacred by TPLF?

  20. Tenkir
    | #20

    Gadda,
    I agree with you 100% except you had the sequence of the evolution pictures backwards. You can’t twist a common knowledge that societies (or individual) evolve from ethnic/tribal mindset to national, regional and internationalist mindset.

  21. Sheger
    | #21

    Gadda, Go to Zimbuabay…….

  22. thechosenone
    | #22

    Allah watches each and every one of you for what you feel in your heart. The only reason one would muster hate is becuase he/she is unhappy within oneself. At least Negasso has the power and guts, and faith in God to protect him, to share what he has honestly experienced. Yes, we all make mistakes…but how many of us can confess this and try to make things right agian. People, let us not judge those who try to make right their worngs. The man is brave, indeed the spirit of the Lion of Judah is in him. Forgiveness is due for those of you who speak without knowing. Leave your ethnocentricity behind. We are all equal in the eyes of God, and if you feel different you will suffer the consequences in this life and in the next..in the akira and in the dunya. So much confusion in Ethiopia and in Ethiopians abroad. Perhaps this is why our lord keeps our motherland in bondage and in suffering. Wake up people of Ethiopia. It is time to Love one another and put our differences aside…..please….for the sake of those that suffer because of the confusion of others…please I beg of you in the name of Allah…in the name of God who is most Merciful to those who change their ways of thought and action and come back to Him. If you hate others, it is because the Hate lives in you and you are not free at all to live this life. You do have a Choice however and it is never too late. Ethiopioans All of you, fill your hearts with Love and your country and citizens will Heal. I promise you, in the name of God. You choose, for the world around you will not change untill you change yoursef. Your loving brother…Yohannes

  23. abaleta
    | #23

    Negasso is Oromo.he not Kefetcho.that is lie.he is realtive to lencho leta.he is pure wellega.

  24. Cinquya
    | #24

    Dr.Negasso,finally tossed away and walked with his head down to the journey of shame that was set for him.He was used by his makers and breakers to disintegrate Ethiopia.Dr.Negaso,since day one,when he was brainwashed then recruited by enemies of Ethiopia,he was aware of what he would be involved in and the fair share that he would be given for the job done for the enemy.He got nothing and now had become agelast.

    Dr.Negasso is now more useless than he was before.

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