[*This series triggered a flood of questions, comments, criticisms, kudos and threats. As promised, I shall address the most common ones in this part.]
The other week a friend said to me: “I am sure your series on Eskinder Nega is not intended to have him sentenced to death. Right?”. Obviously, he was was looking for a “yes” – a confirmation my virtuousness. But, I couldn’t help replying: “Or,… maybe I don’t care”.
Indeed, I could have answered by reminding her that I delayed this series until Eskinder’s trial, on unrelated charges, was over (as indicated in the first part of this series). I could have also stated my opposition to capital punishment in general.
A somewhat brute reply, however, is sometimes necessary to highlight the flaws of questions like this.
For one, it diverts the focus from the main issue into my motive, which is less relevant and sufficiently stated in the previous parts of this series. Second, the question presupposes as if one’s sympathy for Eskinder’s fate is indicative of a commitment to press freedom – a false notion which I intended to shatter with this series.
An appeal to pity is also a common criticism on this series: “Give the man a break, he already paid for this”. Whatever the value of pity might be in political discourses, it doesn’t fit here.
Eskinder was never brought to court in connection to the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns. Again, we have no reason to believe he was psychologically tormented by it, as he never tried to denounce or apologize for it. Though Askual newspaper is defunct since 2005, it is routinely mentioned by western media and organizations alongside Eskinder’s name.
So, what makes one think Eskinder is ashamed of it and wants a ‘break’ about it?
At any rate, my intention is to show the real face of the right-wing extremists, not a personal agenda with Eskinder, whom I barely know. Indeed, several right-wing politicians, including Dr. Hailu Araya, declined to condemn the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns when asked, in public and private, at the time.
So, Eskinder Nega is simply a demonstration of the irresponsible and unprincipled character of the camp.
The timing of this series is another common criticism. Some insist that I shouldn’t have exposed Eskider Nega at a time when he cannot defend himself.
To begin with, I originally mentioned this matter on an article on June 2011 – about four months prior to Eskinder’s arrest. I have sufficient indications that he read it and chose not to respond. His loss!
Secondly, his wife, who also received western awards for, among others, managing Askual newspaper, can respond if she wishes to. In fact, anyone concerned had about 8 years to clear this mess. If they consider it a ‘mess’, that is.
A subtle defense, with regard to this series, is the attempt to mystify the matter by raising an abstract debate on freedom of expression: “Eskinder was merely giving space to a viewpoint, isn’t it the right thing to do? At least in general terms, though this particular piece may be a little extreme?”
Often than not, one question suffice to lay bare the insincerity of this attempt to portray genocide promoting and holocaust justifying writings as part of freedom of expression. That is: Do you support the blanket and unqualified ban of pornographic megazine in Ethiopia?
Or, I can reply: If Eskinder did nothing wrong by publishing the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns, then this series should not concern Eskinder’s fans now.
The legality of publishing the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns, and why the government didn’t prosecute it, is another irrelevant issue raised in reply to this series. That topic is not the original focus of this series and I don’t intend to be digress now.
One; as the issue involves a lengthy legal discussion based on laws in force at that time, I would rather treat it in my forthcoming article on the “Freedom of Information and Mass Media” legislation. Two; as far as I know, the government doesn’t plan to charge anyone with the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns, so it will be a hypothetical mental gymnastics.
Moreover, the legality question is a mere diversionary tactic. Most of the time, it is brought by people who do not recognize Ethiopian laws and courts. Thus, citing and explaining provisions of criminal and civil laws serve only to lead the discussion astray.
Fortunately, I don’t have to engage in abstract debates, as Eskinder Nega conceded at least one of the ‘Get Lost Judae’ columns was “shameful”. That is, according to a comment on Facebook by Dawit Kebede, who was owner and chief-editor of the now defunct Awramba times and now in self-exile in USA and runs a website by that name.
Dawit commented on Oct. 22, 2012, in response to a previous part of this series:
“I read this piece on Askual ten years ago. And as I was really surprised why the editor approved such article for publication, I once asked Eskinder about it. Eskinder replied “it was an editorial negligence” and told me that he was really ashamed by the inconvenience there is no doubt it was a mistake”.
I asked Dawit whether “we [are] talking about one instance? or, about 150 editions of the newspaper?”. He didn’t respond.
If you consider Dawit’s statement truthful (I have no reason to doubt it), it shows Eskinder Nega’s double-faced manner, a trait he shares with most of the right wing politicians.
At any rate, I brought the matter to the court of public opinion. You decide if you find it responsible and acceptable. Again, you decide if this is your ideal type of newspaper.
Read below translation of the June 22, 2004 the ‘Get Lost Judae’ column on Askual Newspaper. (Translation of the preceding editions are provided in the previous parts of this series.)
Note: The translation is mine. I decided to make word-to-word translation of almost the entire column to preclude any doubts on the context. Moreover, the column rambles at length and presents history in present tense, thus making it difficult to pick a representative paragraph and/or to use a liberal translation approach.
In the translated text below:
* ‘Banda’ – literally refers to individuals who worked with Italy, when it invaded Ethiopia during WWII. It is also commonly used to as an insult to a person claimed to be allied with enemy of the country.
* ‘Secessionists’ and ‘secession enablers’ were terms regularly used by the Dergue regime to refer to EPLF(now Eritrea’s ruling party renamed PFDJ) and TPLF (a Tigray region wing of the Ethiopian ruling party EPRDF), respectively.
“Get Lost Judae”
(June 22, 2004)
[Starting at the second paragraph]
The Ethiopian people was not furious enough to take action against the secessionist and secession enablers. We can repeat it again and again. Eradicating a race, tribe or community needs the blessing of a furious people. The beginning and end of the action goes along popular wish. But, the Ethiopian people didn’t have the conscience to take an irreversible action against traitors. A people that choose to eat and die on its bed can only think of the day-today life. Thus, the Ethiopian people failed to wipe out traitors, secessionists and secession enablers. History will hold us responsible.
Our rulers have lied. Dergue didn’t have a genocidal mission on our ruler’s people. Of course, we real Ethiopians do not deny that is a sacred mission. Our mind immediately grasps its merit for our unity and sovereignty. Who cares about a soul whom history knows only for its crimes? Saving Ethiopia comes first. But this didn’t happen. Our useless armed forces went became trashes of history after running our history. The Ethiopian people wasted a golden period of history. How can eradicating the chaff be contemplated without public participation? A race, tribe or community that is a cancer for national unity, sovereignty and existence shall be eradicated! The chaff shall be removed.
The Germans changed the course of history according to their wishes. They took a decisive action against the Jew. A public work was performed by the people themselves. The people make history. The people make miracles. The German people have marched in fury. It has taken a concrete stance that the Jew shall be eradicated. The German people intensified its destruction of Synagogues and properties of the Jew. Heroisms is witnessed wherever there is a hero. The German has stood resolutely. A brave translates his wishes into action.
Is it the case that being ruled has become part of biological nature? We are standing among nations with a stature unfit for a people. We only think of and die for our belly. Several tribes have become tools of a single tribe? Did we learn from history? The German fury has been observed. A concrete action of the Germans rather than mere chatter has been recorded. We don’t talk without historical reference. Thus, we shall cite the following as an example.
“In the early morning of 10 November 1938, between the hours of 4.30 and 6.00 o’clock, the Synagogue at Bruchsal burned down to the foundations. The crowd broke all shopwindows of the Jewish stores in the city; the alerted SA put guards before the Jewish stores to prevent plundering. The Rabbi and several prominent Jews had to be taken into protective custody for their own safety. This was done by the Gestapo. The Synagogue at Philippsburg also burned down at the same time.
The infamous Rabbi Neuburger, who is known because of his foreign connections was taken into protective custody by instigation of the SA. During the night the Synagogues at Wiesloch, Walldorf and Malsch were also destroyed. The male Jews had to be taken into protective custody for their personal safety.”
There cannot be a peace in a country with a cancer race, tribe or community. Economic development becomes localized rather than national. Minorities ride the majority through bribery. Poverty becomes rampant. Unemployment rate increases. The few suffer from obesity, while the people starve. The country becomes epicenter of sufferings.
The situation in Ethiopia is a demonstration. The traitors, who have been cancers of this country for centuries are now amassing our national resources. The Baandas, who have always been bleeding our country in cooperation with foreigners, are now in charge of our national treasury. The Jewish community’s economic prosperity was irreversibly demolished by the heroism of the Germans. How can the mountain of our traitor rulers’ tribal prosperity be flattened? We shall not allow the Baandas, who came disguising as Ethiopians to solve their economic problems, to continue comfortably sitting on our neck with a Cesarean power.
Let’s start thinking, as we are human beings. Our rulers are very secretive from the country and the people. No one, except Satan, can know their moves. Their servants do not grasp the hidden agenda of their masters except filling their bellies with leftovers. A cancer race, tribe or community shall not live in this country. We are human beings, let think like one. We are lacking the aptitude to distinguish allies from enemies.
Nothing can succeed without popular mobilization. Several millions of Germans took part to demolish the economic base of the Jewish. We cowardly chose not even to question our rulers as they climb to great economic height in this poor county. To the contrary, one hundred thousand Germans directly participated in removing the Jewish and other anti-German forces. This is a historical irony.
You may read or download here (link) the original Amharic copy of the Askual newspaper edition quoted above. (I’ll scan and upload it later on Wednesday).
Check the Human Rights archive for related posts.
Acknowledgement: Mahlet Woldemichael, USA, made crucial contribution for this series.
You can download the original here – sorry for the delay.