‘Elias Yalew Weyim Mot!’: Reviewing the Ethiopian Review – By Tesfaye Maru

June 22nd, 2008 Print Print Email Email

A lot of positive and negative things have been said about Elias Kifle, the publisher of the Ethiopian Review. There were times that he appeared like any citizen who is genuinely angry about the gross human rights violations that are taking place in Ethiopia and is doing his part to expose them. As such, many of his commentators on his web site refer to him as “the true son of Ethiopia”. On the other hand, there were more instances where he stooped to the lowest of lows to attack people with whose politics he doesn’t agree. (more…)

A lot of positive and negative things have been said about Elias Kifle, the publisher of the Ethiopian Review. There were times that he appeared like any citizen who is genuinely angry about the gross human rights violations that are taking place in Ethiopia and is doing his part to expose them. As such, many of his commentators on his web site refer to him as “the true son of Ethiopia”. On the other hand, there were more instances where he stooped to the lowest of lows to attack people with whose politics he doesn’t agree. In that respect, many accusations have been thrown his way. Some say that despite screaming out for what he says is democracy, he is hardly a democrat; that he would do the same thing this government is doing if he is to hold any power; that his disrespect for people he disagrees with does not promote democratic behavior and is sickening; that his frequent willingness to stoop to the lowest of places to attack people is disgusting; that he promotes “extremism” and so on. Of course, I have heard people praising him or crucifying him depending on who is being attacked. Personally, I have found it equally sickening when he said Tefera Walwa is “[the dumbest person in the EPRDF cabinet]“, that Hailu Shawel and company are all sorts of names, and Dr. Berhanu Nega was a Kehadi of some sort (that was before he became his new found “hero” now). Whether the victims are deserving of it or not, the ease with which he bad mouths people has always made me uncomfortable. As for the “extremist” views he promotes, I had given him the benefit of the doubt or even defended him, not just because he has the right to self expression, but also because I do not like to delude myself into thinking that those are opinions held by him alone. If the rating of his web site is any indication (despite all those annoying pop-up ads), it seems that he has a significant following and whether we like it or not, he brings that fact to light for us. What to do with that information is another question. All in all, as much as I have been sickened by some of his activities, I have also given him the benefit of the doubt in the face of many accusations thrown against him. But I have never brought myself to write a serious commentary about it.

However, one of the latest rumors circulating about him – that he is sponsored by the Eritrean regime – coupled with his recent activities, has caught my attention and is not a matter that I felt should be passed without some examination because his activities are negatively affecting people and causes many of us care about. Let’s get some things clear before we move on: first of all, no one has come forward with any hard evidence showing that Elias Kifle is paid by the Eritrean government for what he does. So far it’s all rumors. Second, we have to ask ourselves a question: does anybody really have to be paid by Eritrea to raise the prospect of cooperating with it? I do not think so. In fact, at one point, it appeared to me as if he was being used by some politicians who want to test the water before considering the dangerous option of cooperating with Eritrea. But that is only my suspicion, and those are only politicians. What do average Ethiopian say about this? During the last Great Ethiopian Run, it was reported that some youngsters were chanting “Gifa belew Shabian, gifa belew!” Furthermore, I have talked on the phone to random Ethiopians back home and have heard positive reviews of Isayas Afewerqi. My point is this: the fact that Elias Kifle promotes these opinions should not be the sole reason to suspect that he is getting paid for it. The truth is that, fortunately or unfortunately, however way you look at it, this opinion belongs to a significant portion of our populace. Although many Ethiopians understand the harm Isayas’ government has caused and the threat he continues to pose on our country, they are genuinely worried that Meles’ power in the region will be even more strengthened if the former is removed from power. There is also the short sighted perspective: though they understand the brutal hand he has been exercising on his own people, given the stubbornness of our people, they would rather embrace Isayas and the double standard that comes with it and score any point they could against Meles’ and company. I do not believe these people are treasonous or want bad things to happen to our country. Some have viable arguments, and others just feel suffocated and helpless in the current political situation. How to deal with these people and their opinions, and channel their energy into more productive and long sighted ways of freeing our country is a topic for another essay.

Under normal circumstances, I would not think it is productive to speculate about a person’s motive and would just stick to discussing the merit in the idea being promoted. And as I said above, the issue of cooperation with Eritrea is an opinion held by so many well meaning Ethiopians, so it is not something we can get past by denouncing the opinion holders and the opinion. Thus, the merit of the idea must be debated in a respectful environment. I am sure that if these people are presented with logical and convincing arguments as to how dangerous it is for our country in the long term to team up with Eritrea, they would be willing to abandon any thing, let alone an opinion, for the sake of our country. I am also sure that many of these people, despite entertaining such ideas of cooperation with a living enemy of our nation, do understand the importance of our different pro democracy organizations and are providing them with all the support they need.

However, when it comes to Elias Kifle, there is something that makes him different from all these people who just happened to hold those opinions; and that is what calls for the examination of what could be his real motive or any other underlying reason for his actions. As I have said, motive may not matter as long as we can debate the merit of an idea with reason. But in such cases when there is no merit to an idea and when, giving no room to discussions and debates, the man jumps to campaigns of destruction, it is important for us to learn if there is a hidden motive.

What makes Elias Kifle different from the average Tafese promoting any idea? It is not just the fact that he is the publisher of one of the highest rated Ethiopian web sites. First of all, the arguments he so fervently puts out in support of the ideals he promotes are mostly short sighted, and devoid of logic and detail. He makes his foreign policy advices in the kitchen and he doesn’t even seem to cook them. Secondly, despite the weaknesses of those ideas, he does not seem to leave any room for disagreement. After he comes up with those ideas, (heaven spare those on his way!) it is his way or death. He will then invest so much time and energy, and sell his own name and integrity (I do not know the man personally, but I am just giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he had one) to unleash some of the most disgusting and vicious personal attacks on people who are respected and revered by many. Never and nowhere have I seen the kinds of attacks Elias Kifle has at different times unleashed against different personalities in the Ethiopian political arena. Not even on those sickening government sponsored web sites! This man does not know the difference between young and old! He attacks opposition politicians, who have done nothing but risk their lives to face our gun-totting-mistake-for-a-government on a daily basis, the same way he attacks the child killers (in fact worse on countless occasions!)!

So please tell me: if a person is all about democracy and what is best for the country, doesn’t it make sense to you that he would present his disagreements with logical arguments and invite discussions open mindedly? And even in the case of loss of hope for such discussions, how about going off and supporting those political organizations he likes? Why so much drive to destroy others? And why the need for so much vicious attacks on the personalities behind organizations he doesn’t agree with? Let’s examine some of his recent activities and see if we can find answers.

The past couple of weeks, he has been trying to do two things: one is to pressure the newly formed Ginbot 7 into cooperating with Eritrea and embrace armed struggle fully among other things; and the other is trying to destroy the UDJ. There are two possible reasons that I can think of: one is that, as some say, he is actually receiving an incentive to promote the idea of armed struggle and the necessity it entails – Eritrea – at the cost of what is best for our country; the other is that he is genuinely concerned about our country, but is politically ignorant and lacks in strategic thinking.

Let’s explore the first possibility by asking an important question: who and what does Elias Kifle support? I will try to answer this question by pointing out two things. First, in his attempt to see the end of the UDJ before it even begins, he tries to portray himself as the supporter of Ginbot 7 and demands the leaders of the former that they free their support organizations across the world from their obligations so that they could support the latter. He also calls on them to close down all operations and join Ginbot 7. But he really isn’t a supporter of the latter either. Because, just the week before, he was giving them an ultimatum to “prove themselves in six months” and among the list of demands he was making was embracing armed struggle and cooperating with the Eritrean government. Looking at all the “recommendations” and demands he makes of Ethiopian political groups, the issue of armed struggle, and thus, cooperation with Eritrea seems to stand out. It seems to be the standard with which he judges all groups. What this means is that if Ginbot 7 does not “prove themselves in six months” by doing those two things (they are really one because seeking Eritrean support is almost a must if you are pursuing armed struggle), we should expect Elias to attack the organization, degrade its leaders, call them names, etc…Therefore, we can establish here that he is no genuine supporter of Ginbot 7. He is a supporter of what they can be if they follow his advices, with no room for disagreement, of course. (Never forget the rule: Elias yalew weyim mot!)

Second, he tries to portray himself as someone who wants a viable struggle waged against the status quo in Ethiopia and is accepted by many of his supporters as such. That doesn’t seem to be the case either; at least not to me. Because if it was, this man would keep an open mind like Ginbot 7 does and tolerate and be inclusive of all those who are in the struggle in their different ways as long as they are not harming the cause or our country. Even if there was to be a disagreement, a pro democracy Ethiopian would disagree with the ideas and support those groups he/she agrees with. But we all know that is not what Elias does. What he does is: the minute he has figured that his “armed struggle and Eritrea” policy is not being embraced by a certain organization; he would unleash a barrage of personal attacks on its leaders and start a campaign to destroy the organization in question. His behavior, let alone being of a democracy promoter, is an epitome of the very thing that has been destroying our countless organizations, associations, parties, etc…As such, by all measuring standards, it is very hard to say this man’s goal among other goals, let alone the only goal, is democracy in Ethiopia.

Therefore, what we infer from the two points raised above is that Elias Kifle is a supporter of armed struggle and cooperation with Eritrea above anything else. But to what end? We do not know and that is something only he can answer, but we have established that it sure doesn’t seem like it is for democracy. And this leaves the option of a hidden motive wide open.

If that is not the case and the man genuinely wants democracy for Ethiopia, then the only other possible reason left for his actions is sheer political ignorance and lack of strategic thinking among other things.

First of all, his attempt to portray Ginbot 7 and the UDJ as organizations that are opposites, as opposed to ones that can compliment each other, is lack of understanding of the very philosophy on which the former is formed. Ginbot 7 has made it clear that its goal is to bring together all democracy loving Ethiopian parties, movements, civic organizations, etc…for the purpose of joining efforts in the struggle against the dictatorship and shorten its time in power. They did not say they want to destroy any body. Even more importantly, the last thing the leaders of Ginbot 7 would like to see happen is their former Kinijit colleagues – whom they know to have integrity and dedication – denigrated, disrespected, and called names. I am sure that Elias’ former enemy but new found hero, Dr. Berhanu Nega himself, strongly disapproves the former’s attacks on UDJ’s leaders. As such, Elias is not only distorting or misinterpreting the stated goals of Ginbot 7, but also stepping all over the personal values of its leaders and portraying them in a bad light.

Secondly, he makes an attempt to portray leaders of the UDJ as complacent with the sufferings that are happening in Ethiopia at the moment, as fearful of prison, as people who want full time jobs with travel options, and as fake opposition who are only there to give the government legitimacy. He gives no substantive evidence to prove his points, and past and current records of the individuals point to the opposite. The only thing left for me to say is that he completely misses the point of why the UDJ exists under the current circumstances in Ethiopia. Before I go on to explain this, let’s quickly go over each accusation. 1. The leaders do criticize the government on various issues although it may not be to the satisfaction of Mr. Elias and his likes. All one needs to do is read the various interviews they have been giving. 2. They obviously are not fearful of prison because, if they were, they would have remained in the U.S. or Europe or simply stayed out of politics. 3. Most of these people are well educated individuals with better than average jobs or personal businesses before joining politics and they still have those options open. Or as I have said before, they could have decided to seek asylum elsewhere, create a web site, unleash all sorts of angry rants, score high ratings and live off ads. So, obviously, they are not in need of jobs. (Isn’t he mocking his readers when he suggests that people like Dr. Yaeqob Hailemariam are in need of full time jobs that let them travel around the world?) 4. Lastly, their past and present records of integrity and continued willingness to put their lives at risk to carry out the promises they have made to stand for democracy proves beyond doubt that they are not a fake party created to give the ruling party legitimacy.

So, what exactly is Elias missing? Many important points. First, if Ginbot 7 ever succeeds in pressuring this government to dialogue or even remove it, we need a viable party that will sit at the other end of the table or be ready to compete for power. Ginbot 7 is not a political party; it is a movement. Its stated goal of bringing other parties and groups together, and the way it is structured at the moment prevent it from quickly transforming itself into a political party and joining the competition in case this government is removed or pressured to open the political space. Therefore, for that day, we need a political party that was established and maintained openly and democratically, not clandestinely like Ginbot 7. We need a party that has gone to every end of the country to organize members, promote democratic ideals, and amass members and their support. Furthermore, the culture of peaceful struggle is badly needed in our country and people deserve a chance to experience it, practice it, live it and see its result at the end. They deserve a chance to establish from scratch a democratic party that does business in a transparent way, carry it to victory and call themselves the primary stake holders. UDJ is our best shot to achieve these purposes.

Secondly, in order to achieve the above stated goals of establishing a party based on grassroots support, UDJ leaders must do all it takes – including walking on tip-toes around those criminals occupying our palaces – without going against the democratic stances of the party. They must do all their best to escape prison for one more day, and save their party from being denied existence for as long as possible. The more days they could spend outside prison, the more chance they have to take the party to all corners of the country and sew the seeds of democracy. Establishing the party and strengthening its roots is more important for the long term benefit of our cause than going to war over the denial of their meeting rights. It is more important than issuing daily statements criticizing the government over its non-endless flaws, mistakes and blunders. First, who can keep up with these things? Second, there is no point to them banging their heads on a wall over issues the entire world already knows. The question is what to do about it! Elias screams his lungs out at the government every day; what has happened? Under normal circumstances, if there was freedom, opposing political parties would criticize the incumbent party over all sorts of things to make clear to the public where they stand. In our case, it could take them to prison any day. I am not saying anything will save them from prison, but the longer they stay outside, the better it is for our cause in the long run. UDJ is saying we must refuse to quit in the face of injustice. That we must not allow these criminals to run us out of our country! We must refuse to admit that we are not smart enough to defeat them even with their guns held against our heads! And by God, we have got to be the luckiest people in the world that we have people like Bertukan Mideksa, Yaekob Hailemariam, Gizachew Shiferaw, Hailu Araya, etc…who are more than willing to put themselves at the fore front in this dangerous ride!

All those who want democracy, are objective, open minded and understand the complexity of politics cannot look at the issue of the two organizations as one or the other. I understand if people who are adamant about supporting the peaceful and peaceful alone path the UDJ follows disagree with Ginbot 7. However, those who support the latter cannot argue, based on any stated stance of the organization, that they disagree with or denounce the UDJ. In fact, their cause is best served by supporting it in all that is possible. If not for the methods they have chosen, the leaders of UDJ need to be supported and blessed for their personal commitment to the cause of democracy and their willingness to be on the ground serving it.

Elias has a lot of explaining to do as to the real motives of his actions. I think we have the right to know who is behind these endless attacks against people and organizations many Ethiopians hold so dear and find them to be important to the future of our nation. I personally am sick and tired of the Eliases, the Hailus, and the Tayes of the world working day and night to steal from my future and the future of my children, as if the evil doings of , the Meleses, the Berekets, and the Sebhats of the world isn’t enough! It is time that supporters of democracy stand up to these people, and stand up strong as much as they do against the latter! In fact, it is well over due!

As for the ease with which Elias disrespects, bad mouths and attacks the characters of people he has once praised or professed to respect, my mother would have called such a person “sid adeg, balege!” Wouldn’t yours?

The writer can be reached at tesfamaru@gmail.com

  1. Desta
    | #1

    Elias has spoken the truth. Both Ethiomedia and Abugida can not dictate him to write what they like.

    Besides Abraha Belay of Ethiomedia, a well know Tigrian extermist can not and should not tell us when and how to speak to the Eritreans. Until 2002 Abraha Belay was a left out TPLF cadrie so he is campainging against Zenawi while trying to maintain a Tigraian hedgemony.

  2. sholla
    | #2

    Don’t try to kill them before they grow!
    16 Comments Published by Ephrem Madebo on Friday, June 20, 2008 at 7:00 PM.
    By Ephrem Madebo

    “Every time I plant a seed, he said kill them before they grow”. This is a living lyric from the late vibrant Reggae singer, Bob Marley’s classic – “I shot the Sherriff”. If Marley was alive, I am sure he would have sang another song with the same lyrics to the “Ethiopian Review” editor who like a bad tag boat shoves away every new idea that he doesn’t agree with. I had a close association with the Ethiopian Review editor years ago in the heydays of “Tigbar League”. In fact, I joined the “Tegbar League” group discussion forum at the request of the moderator [Ethiopian Review editor] and I was expelled out after a while when I openly criticized Lidetu Ayalew for his 2002 crude action. Mind you the ER editor is the very person that blames Meles Zenawi for muffling the free press, but he himself didn’t even think twice before he silenced me in his little world. What a hypocrisy! Regardless of the nature of the ideas, I usually keep small ideas at the personal level. This week after I read two indiscriminately misguiding articles on Ethiopian Review website, I decided to go public because I thought total silence does not do any good to the public.The rest read Enset Bloger

  3. | #3

    i agree with the above writer,since Elias is always engaged on trival(trash) issues& on character assasination.i found his oppinion /site’s as destructive in all aspects.
    his irrationality must stems from something unknown for the time….
    please stop Elias.

  4. mammo
    | #4

    We are again deceived by Weyane or Eritrean agent.

    Is not Elias who attacked Dr. Taye, preacher of unity, day and night?

    Is not Elias who attacked Hailu shaul and his supporters mercilessly?

    Why is Elias so obsessed with ONLF, which ultimately destroys Ethiopian image and future with the collaboration of Melese regime?

    Elias is either Weyane agent under Eritrean clothes who throws one punch on Melese regime but a fatal blow on the oppositions or a genuine Eritrean agent whose ultimate goal is Ethiopian demise with a gradual bleed from self inflicted wound.

  5. Tazabi
    | #5

    Why the fuss out of the blue?


    All these critics of Elias were sitting behind or encouraging him to character assassinate those politicians like Hailu, Taye because they differ in their view how the struggle has to move forward. When the same Elias turns his his useless teeth to bite them, all a sudden they become a moral leader.
    Respect for other opinion and democracy is not selective. If we need civility, it should apply to each and everyone of us.
    We allowed him to do the dirty work of others before on innocent people, so let him continue to do so.

  6. Tigist
    | #6

    Tazabi, you are right but, when people wake up and challenge the character assasin Elias we should not oppose them. I hope to see more articles like this in future. His site has a lot of visitors and they should be more catuious in absorbing his information.

  7. Maru
    | #7

    Ato Ealis hates Woyane but love Shabya which makes him former TPLF relative kkkk

  8. Tadese
    | #8

    I am really satisfied by articles of Ephrem Madebo,Tesfaye Maru and Getachew T. posted in Ethiomedia.
    Elias should be criticized about what he is writing. He might be doing that unknowingly, but I doubt it. Many people including me are wondering why he is advocating for ONLF and Shabia, a # 1 enemies of Ethiopia, while he is trying to destroy a genuine Ethiopian born party UDJ.
    I expect more articles in the future to stop Elias destructive propaganda.

  9. | #9

    pleas elias leve ethiopia for ethiopian. you are nothing but low life shabya agent.

  10. almaz
    | #10

    Elias is sick.I just read the opinion on Ethiopian women.If anybody write anything ngative about Isayas he never post that message and yet he posted all the disgusting and full of lies character given to Ethiopian women.Can anybody tell me if he is Eritrean.He is so negative and insecured individual.I hope time will teach him in a harsh way.mekerew mekerew embi kale mekera yemkerew

  11. latecomer
    | #11

    I think Elias Kifle is a result of Ethiopia’s tormented past and present in person. His generation went through a lot. They were free and well-read elite young hopefulls when Ethiopia could count the number of highschools. And then they were frightened and targeted victims of the Junta and their friends were excuted and most of them went through brutal tortures. I say Elias is the natural resultant.

    Elias Kifle was controversial way back when he printed ads of RED SEA PRESS which wasn’t Ethiopian; and also when he let Eritrean nationalists discuss on ER magazine. When the rival ET Register didn’t want to print some comments of world-reknowned Ethio scientists, Elias did publish those articles on ER.

    Nobody can agree with Elias Kifle 100%. And Elias I believe is a typical Ethiopian except the fact that he is more determined than most. Sometimes I think he truly believes that he can dictate party and movement leaders. And at other times I think he is a nut. Sometimes he comes thru at a smart educated and at at ther times he sounds just like the emotionally-driven Ethio-nationalist who just want to see change in the right direction but with lots of energy to spare for what is yet to come.

    I don’t think Elias can be bought by anybody let alone Shabia. I don’t think either that Elias want to be ‘YEDIL ATTBIYA ARBEGNA’ b/c I think he thinks of himself as ‘FANA WEGI’ who struggles not only from day one but before day one.

    Elias is too quick to make enemies than friends but that is a common trend and not only limited to him. He has a huge audience b/c he is bombastic and unpredictable. His friends and enemies will change but he’ll always have them. I figured him out a long time ago and I’m not very surprised when others are or pretending they are. At least he is serving a purpose and letting his ‘enemies’ and enemies know what a significant number of Ethiopians really think.

    I am glad Elias Kifle has a website that doesn’t allow opponents comment to balance out Woyane-TPLF websites’ one sided commentary. And for the fact that he goes on and on and never quits. The other Ethiopian websites allow Woyane-TPLF participate and without knowing it, they bring back the old feudal-submissive character.

    I mean it seems like other Ethiopian websites and blogs are told by TPLF that criticizing TPLF’s every move is boring or ‘we know that alreadey b/c we read BBC and Mr T’s TPLF’s comments on Reuters’ and ‘let’s hear some positive’ trick. Elias is not in feudalism era neither does he drag his criticism way back to Solomon and Saba to make TPLF happy.

    What I’m saying is: I’m surprised there aren’t too many Elias Kifles b/c I believe it is only natural.

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