Sebhat Nega’s double language
Although he does sometimes needle Meles Zenawi, Sebhat Nega is still a steadfast defender of the present government team.
An executive of the Endowment Fund For the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), a consortium of companies supporting the government, and a member of the central committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, hard core of the coalition in power in Addis Ababa), even though he did leave this party’s executive committee in September 2006, Sebhat Nega has for a long time been the grey eminence of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He is currently on a trip to Washington, where he is staying in his late brother’s large house, and has taken advantage of his presence there to meet some members of the Ethiopian Diaspora from Tigray (in the North of Ethiopia). According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter in Washington from a well-informed source about these meetings, Sebhat Nega discussed mainly the “dangers which face the TPLF and the Tigrayans”?.He did not always have the same language during his private conversations with various people, blowing sometimes hot, sometimes cold about the opposition. But his overall message was to call the expatriate Tigrayans not to be duped by the “chauvinistic”? Amhara, citing the name of the owner of the ethiomedia.com web site. Justifying Meles Zenawi’s policies, he told his audience that he considered that letting the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUPD, opposition) win the election in 2005 would have come down to letting the partisans of the old regime come back to the surface, which would have led to a massacre of Tigrayans. He reiterated that “enemies like the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party”? should be neutralised “by all possible means”? and did not hide that he was personally in favour of condemning Hailu Shawel and the other opposition leaders imprisoned.
Still speaking in informal discussion with members of the Tigrayan Diaspora, Sebhat Nega considered that the military incursion into Somalia had been necessary to keep the support of the United States, but that the Ethiopian forces would leave Mogadishu as soon as possible. He admitted that differences of opinion had appeared with President Hassan Omar el Bashir of Sudan due to this Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia and due to the fact that Meles Zenawi had not supported Bashir’s candidature to the presidency of the African Union (AU). He also pointed out that at the same time the Eritrean President Issayas Afeworki had got closer to Bashir. Nevertheless, for Sebhat Nega, the EPRDF, in power in Addis Ababa, must maintain good relations with Bashir to stop the Ethiopian opposition from having the slightest chance of using Sudan as a base.