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Prof. Tecola W. Hagos’ Commentaries


Pay attention Ethiopians: new national matrix defying Ethiopian toxic ethnic politics

By Tecola W Hagos
Tigrai Online, Dec. 11, 2018

I have never supported federalism based on ethnicism or on language for Ethiopia. I believe in a “unitary” system with guided limited local autonomous provincial administration, with few incorporated urban structures as needed. I justify my position of a unitary administrative structure based on two sold grounds: 1) the primitive state of life in Ethiopia cannot allow or sustain a modernist structure such as federalism of any kind, least of all one based on ethnic identity; 2) lack of skilled and enlightened managerial manpower and the low count of efficient second tier assistants and committed field operators to advance governmental policies and government backed projects.

The fact remains that a handful of Ethiopians created the disastrous socio-political experimental ethnic state structure in the Transition Government of 1991-95, but its gestation goes back decades to the era of the Ethiopian students movement of the 1960s that lead directly to the rustic blood soaked Military regime of the 1970s and 1980s. I, along with very many Ethiopians, wrongly had blamed Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard for the type of “Federalism” as practiced in Ethiopia since 1995 to date. However, published material vindicates Huntington, for he had warned Meles Zenawi and his Government the risk of basing a political structure on ethnicism. Meles Zenawi is the one and only mover and shaker responsible in the creation of the current Kilil system, supported by Sebhat Nega, Endreas Eshete, and Fasil Nahum, and fully backed by the Members of the Central Committee of the TPLF in toto. They were all responsible for the Federal structure adopted in the Constitution of 1995. To some extent, Members of EPDM, OPDO and SEPDM (later as an amalgamated group) helped the establishment of the current federal structure that is now tearing Ethiopia apart in the hands of the current mediocre Leadership.


What is ironic under the Government of PM Abiy Ahmed is the fact that the two most fiercely antagonistic Kilil Leaders, Gedu and Debretsion, who are fighting for political dominance, are the staunch supporters of the Federal Kilil structure. The legacy of the Kilil divisive system is having now a new and coercive lease on life. When I listen to the polemic of the two leaders and read statements coming out of both the Amhara Kilil and Tigrai Kilil, I concluded that they are playing a dangerous political game that could easily go out of control and plunge Ethiopia in to deep and long-lasting civil unrest. The problem is compounded by the many media outlets/websites, such as Z-HabeshaACEDFBorkena, et cetera that demonize Tigrians as a group and censor dissenters like me on behalf of Abiy Ahmed (whom they consider as the second coming of a Messiah). They are promoting genocide and would be answerable to the International Criminal Court and any national courts. (The exceptions to some degree are Eskinder Nega of Ethiopisand, and Abebe Gelaw of ESAT who practice the journalist’s art with restraint and self-discipline).

What I find alarming and truly dangerous is the fact that Ethiopian media outlets in the Diaspora are fueling ethnic genocide against Tigrians, as the Rwandan Government radio station RTLM did broadcasting on July 8th to the Hutu to begin killing the Tutsi minority group identified as “tall trees” and “cockroaches” prior to the genocide committed against the Tutsi minority groups in Rwanda in 1994 (the genocide took place over a period of 100 days, from April 6th, 1994 to July 16th, 1994). Abiy Ahmed and hatemonger Diaspora Journalists and media outlets use the term “የቀን ጅቦች” and “ሌቦች” to identify TPLF Officials but is understood in its expansive meaning to include all Tigrians even those that are mixed with Amhara or Oromo parents. All such targeting of a group is in violation of the Genocide Convention and other international norms and practices. It is quite understandable the fact that a couple of Websites Tigraionlineand Aiga tried to counter such coordinated assault, with their far more open forum allowing diversity of opinions. I am not being partisan here, for my interest is the whole of Ethiopia that even includes both Eritrea and Djibouti. I am for all Ethiopians and against hatemongers and chauvinistic individual leaders in every Kilil who use ethnic hatred to promote their own individual political ambitions and private lives. All forms of attack and displacements based on ethnic identity must be stopped dead in all parts of Ethiopia.

  1. The Best Proposal

The point of this article is the proposal by two Ethiopian Engineers on restructuring and replacing the Kilil States system. The administrative state structure proposed by Engineers Engidashet Bunare (Water Engineer) and Shiferaw Lulu (Hydrogeologist) goes a long way both as concrete solution to the ongoing ethnic conflicts and an inspirational futuristic proposal. Engidashet Bunare and Shiferaw Lulu have laid out a truly constructive science-based and statistics backed proposal to replace completely the divisive Kilil system of state structure in a white paper titled “New Ethiopian Government Administrative Boundary System for Unified Nation Building.” [hereafter “Proposal”]


What impressed me the most in the proposal is the fact that the boundaries of the eight States are based on river-basins that are not limited to any particular ethnic groups but do enclose several ethnic groups within each basin state. [Figure 1] Having witnessed in the last eight months millions of Ethiopians suffering wherein thousands killed, tens of thousands brutally kicked out of their homes, and millions displaced, thus, faced with such grim situation, the two engineers wrote in the introduction of their proposal, “One of the ways out would be basing the administration on non-ethnic based criteria. The main aim of this paper is to present one way out for discussion and debate among Ethiopian people for their better future.” [Proposal, page 8] Most of my friends and I worried sick from the get-go that ethnic based Kilils would turn out to be in the future the killing-fields of East Africa, a morbid and frightening prediction. It did not take long for that prediction to be our nightmarish reality currently in Ethiopia where tens of thousands were either killed, dehumanized, driven out of their homes, and live in make-shift temporary shelters numbering in millions. It is that form of catastrophe the two Engineers wanted to tackle and create a system of equitable life to all Ethiopians.


Accordingly, the new state administrative structure proposed by the two Engineers will constitute of the following administrative states: 1. Abay basin state; 2. Awash, Ayisha and Denakil basins states; 3. Baro-Akobo basin state; 4. Genele-Dawa basin state; 5. Tekeze  and Mereb basins states; 6. Wabi-shebele and the Ogaden basins states; 7. Omo-Ghibe basin state; and 8. Rift valley Lakes basin state. [Proposal, page 11] Moreover, I suggest that the two Engineers change all references in their Proposal to a “Basin State” or “Basin States” to “Administrative Region or Regions”. It is important also that we avoid any reference of a separate sovereign entity within the State of Ethiopia.

New administrative map of Ethiopia based on river basins
Figure 2. Proposed Basin States [Proposal, page 11]

“In practice, giving hydrologically bounded administrative states on national agenda; creates greater cohesion among different ethnic groups, decision-makers responsible for economic policy; creating more effective channels for communication and shared decision-making between government agencies, organizations, interest groups and communities; and encouraging people to think ‘outside the box’ of traditional sectoral definitions….Ethiopia has historical, social, economic, political, cultural, religious, moral/ethical, and legal values that are key agent for unifying the Ethiopian Empire. Thus initially, we have to recognize the common national historical, social, economic, political, cultural, religious, moral/ethical, and legal values in order to pave the way for nation building and for future sustainable and safe development by giving emphasis for diversity and unity. In addition, we have to carry out national reconciliation events/program to conclude once and for all past mistake agenda.” [Proposal, page 91]

It is not an exaggeration when I state that there is much more animosity and hate in the lives of Ethiopians in the time of Abiy Ahmed’s reign of speechology, especially in the political lives of Ethiopians back home and/or in the Diaspora, than ever before. The proposal by the two Engineers is like a breath of fresh and clean air wafting down the stale and stinking writings of bloggers and chat-room intellectuals and those who write ad nauseam with a single theme of “I hate Tigraians or Woyanes,” in hundreds of variations. Writing in the best interest of the public without biases or prejudices is a mark of a wise person, but it requires also moral courage and excellent academic training and native intelligence.  The two Engineers are truly gifted patriotic Ethiopians for whom I have unbound admiration, respect, and gratitude.



My call for a 3rd Woyane or for a Military takeover was meant to counter any civil war and future genocide based on ethnicity, and especially so by hindsight considering the recent agitation by the rustic ignoramus little big-man Gedu and his shadow dancers. Consider Gedu’s belligerent speeches, which he delivers with hate edged on by the disfranchised and maladjusted immature Diaspora groupies in Washington DC, as if he is innocent of ethnic cleansing and murders of innocent Ethiopians. Gedu used our B-787 Jetliner as his private Jet, wasting our money that could have been used to help victims of ethnic cleansing of the direct results of Abiy Ahmed’s inept leadership. Such activity sets precedent that every Kilil President is also entitled to such privileges. Please, somebody tell these peasants that a Boeing 787 is not a toy to be used on flimsy excuses to fly to foreign lands. Such activity is also corruption and an abuse of power.

It is absolutely impossible for me to promote divisive views in order to create a dominant exclusive tribal group. I do not want any Ethiopian getting hurt anywhere within Ethiopia or outside of Ethiopia. My fellow ethical Ethiopians, I address you all directly not to follow the current Leadership goading you to attack minority groups, for people are armed and will fight back and the result will be civil war where everyone will suffer. How could I and why should I promote one ethnic group over another or others, for I am a person who proudly identify my birthrights in every major ethnic group and who proclaimed rather pompously and repeatedly that the whole of “Ethiopia is mine”. To this day, the breaking off of Eritrea is an open wound for me and it is aggravated further with the recent Peace Agreement that solidified the 1993 secession in concrete.  I may never be healed even after the cause of all the turmoil is gone.


A number of people have asked me by mail and in writing on the question whether Tigrai State should declare its independence due to the current relentless campaign against Tigrians by Abiy Ahmed and the Leaders of Amhara Kilil. For the nth time, I am stating here that I do not support such an idea and never had, for to do so would be to fulfill the destructive anti-Ethiopia wishes of Egypt and some Arab nations. I am for building an Empire that would reconstitute the old glory of Ethiopia as a world power that encompasses the whole of the Horn of Africa under the name of Ethiopia. All human beings need a national long history in order to maintain social order. No sane person dares undermine the unifying power of our historic Ethiopia.  If any one is to be booted out, it has to be the new incompetent Leaders.



By Tecola W Hagos


It is reported by several media outlets and international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, that on 8 July 2014, the Ethiopian Television (ETV) had announced and presented a video of Andargachew Tsige, Secretary General of the outlawed Ginbot 7 movement, under custody. It is also reported that Andargachew Tsige, who was in transit to Asmara, Eritrea, had disappeared on 23/24 June 2014 in Yemen after his plane had landed at Sana’a Airport, and that he was handed over to Ethiopian security authorities the same day and flown out to Addis Ababa where he is now in detention in undisclosed location.

It is not a print/clerical error that I wrote “abducting” in reference to the tragic event that took place on June 23/24 in Sana’a, the forceful arrest and delivery of a legitimate international traveler in transit at the Sana’a Airport in Yemen to Ethiopian authorities. I read in reports of journalists and official press statements of governments using the term “extradition” in referring to the arrest and later transfer of the opposition leader Andargachew Tsige to Ethiopia.

The legal term “extradition” is being used loosely by some parties to the conflict. Extradition is carried out in a formal process either pursuant to a treaty or in international comity in the absence of an extradition treaty. Neither process was undertaken in this particular case. There is no extradition treaty between Ethiopia and Yemen, and the international comity process would require either judicial or administrative formal hearing, but neither form of legal process was carried out. Thus the use of the term “extradition” is improper and does gloss over the illegality of the actions of the two governments against the individual rights of Andargachew Tsige.

Ethiopian Government Priority Number One: ArrestMengistuHailemariam

Starting with MelesZenawi, the most controversial Ethiopian leader ever in the history of Ethiopia, Ethiopian leaders after the Second World War had shown very little regard to the well-being of individual Ethiopians. Despite the fact that Ethiopian past and present leaders claim how intensely committed they are/were to the development of Ethiopia, they hardly ever translate their claims to reality on the ground by dedicating themselves to helping individual Ethiopians. The Ethiopian Government leaders and their officials in key governmental authority seem to have no sense of what is in the best interest of the State of Ethiopia and/or its citizens.

It is absolutely Kafkaian what the Ethiopian Government is doing in abducting Andargachew Tsige    while the internationally condemned criminals MengistuHailemariam and his close associates who are/were the Red Terror perpetrators, the murderers and torturers of thousands of innocent Ethiopians, young and old, men and women and children, are freely living [for Mengistuin luxury] in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the Western World, and yet an individual who has not murdered, or tortured, or detained a single Ethiopian is hunted down and illegally abducted while in transit on an international flight stop-over. How could any rational person explain or justify such ridicules activities of the current Ethiopian Leaders and their Government?

It is simple common sense not to draw attention to ones flawed system of government by getting involved in horrendous public criminal activities such as abductions, arresting opposition leaders, arresting journalists and bloggers et cetera. But that is precisely what the Ethiopian Government leadership is doing. Such bad governance and abuse of individual human and democratic rights of Ethiopians erodes the image of the current Ethiopian Government. At a time like this where there is the looming controversy with Egypt over the GERD, and no less devastating controversy with many of the Arab countries including Saudi Arabia on the flow of Ethiopian migrant workers et cetera, Ethiopia does not need to draw attention to itself due to the violent activities of its leaders.

Ethiopia’s current leaders, no matter how their backward and antiquated political behavior was shaped by their primitive upbringing in rustic environment of deprivation and brutality, they have had some twenty years of power, wealth and luxurious life, and full exposure to the outside world. There are no excuses to behaving like street gangs and thugs terrorizing and brutalizing citizens. I have heard some street talks that Prime Minister HailemariamDesalegn did not know of the government‘s action to arrest Andargachew Tsige. If the abduction of Andargachew was done without the knowledge and order or consent ofHilemariam, the country is in real controversy, indeed. I have written at my own risk advocating that we Diaspora politicians give time for HailemariamDesalegn, that change cannot be achieved overnight et cetera. I still believe in evolutionary change, but I am not as optimistic as I was early on whether HailemariamDesalegn is the right person to bring about genuine and transformative change in Ethiopia.

The politics of Ginbot-7

Lawlessness by anybody in any form is unacceptable. Personally, I do not like the political stand of Andargachew Tsige, and even more so that of his political Organization, Ginbot-7. In fact, I have absolute contempt for their vainglorious willingness to submit themselves to the dictates of a determined anti-Ethiopia dictator IssayasAfeworki who had taken steps against Ethiopia’s national security and economic interest both openly and covertly for several decades. I cannot accept any excuse by anybody to side with any enemy of Ethiopia. I have even condemned MelesZenawi and his members of the leadership of the TPLF for receiving aid from the Sudan, Somalia, and Egypt in fighting against the brutal MengistuHailemariam and his soldiers, and to this day I still consider that as a betrayal of Ethiopia because those countries were not friends of Ethiopia. However, help from any other country such as the United States, Britain, France et cetera would not have been as offensive to me as help from Governments that are enemies of Ethiopia. 

The issue of the abduction of a person who is in a legitimate aviation transit violates all kinds of international law including international aviation conventions and practices. Whether I support the political program of Ginbot-7 and/or its leadership is immaterial. The issue now is much deeper and of much intense magnitude than mere support or opposition of a political organization or its leadership.  It now involves the fundamental rights of an individual subject of international law and norms that is so foundational that the principle of Jus Cogens is applicable as well.  [Jus cogens (from Latin: compelling law; English: peremptory norm) refers to certain fundamental, overriding principles of international law, from which no derogation is ever permitted.  See Ian Brownlie, Principles of Public International Law (5th ed., Oxford, 1998).]

I happen to be a believer that the means used to achieve a noble goal need be noble itself. I do not accept the cynical idea that that the end would justify the means. Here is where most of our political perceptions falter. There are very many compelling reasons given by knowledgeable individuals that sometime using certain illegal or immoral means is justified if the result is beneficial to society. I do not support such outright opportunistic method that might even be illegal and hurtful to some. I did advocate in few of my past articles for compromise and accommodation of weaknesses in some members of society in order to create an overall harmony within communities.

Addressing Endargchew Tsige, Have Courage

I have watched with dismay the disheveled image of Andargachew Tsige on a video presented by the Ethiopian Government Television program. I heard him making statements that are incomprehensible and utter nonsense about him being desirous of rest that he does not harbor any grudges or ill-will toward anybody. Now I am addressing you Andargachew directly: No matter what you do to placate those in power who abducted you, it will not work. You might as well show courage and public defiance in dealing with your captors. Do not make pathetic remarks how you are tired and want some peaceful rest, or that you do not harbor any resentment to anyone. I was reminded by that statement how BirtukanMidekisa was reduced to a pathetic figure by the statement she signed in order to secure here release from prison, a statement that was drafted by MelesZenawi. You seem to be reading from scripts provided you by Amnesty International. Whatever your fate maybe at this late stage, accept it and leave your Family members and political followers something to be proud of.

The authorities that are detaining you are not monolithic and some have no honor or compassion. Some of those same leaders have displayed time after time their brutality and violent nature. I am sorry that you were caught off guard, for I assume that you might have taken some precaution to ensure that you will not be victimized this easily. Now, we are talking about the morning-after: to what extent the outside world and your followers would help you attain your freedom is very tenuous, but if pursued with vigor and in large numbers, it might succeed.


The native people of this country used an aphorism by stating that walking in someone else’s moccasins is the best way to understand that such individual. I understand Andargachew Tsige, for his motivation though extreme and not politically wise or savvy, has elements of a school-boy’s idealism. Though I have never personally met him, I have heard him presenting ideas when he was a member I believe of the EPRDF through his political organization the EPDM, at a crucial and tasking time for EPDM and EPRDF in general, and later in the Washington area in one of those endless presentations at hotel auditoriums.

I have read the official statements made by the Ethiopian Government officials on pronouncing the death sentences on individuals tried in absentia for plotting the murder of some Ethiopian Government officials. It is absolutely a flawed judicial process that provides for the condemnation of anyone to death based on the hearsay (not properly cross-examined by defense counsel) testimony of codefendants. Even if we admit that hearsay as the exception to the rules on hearsay evidence/testimony, there is an insurmountable test of criminality of realistic evaluation whether what was conspired for was within possibilities, for individuals can fantasize on any number of things but that does not translate into a criminal activity automatically—some showing is necessary.

One might also consider the problem why we Ethiopians failed repeatedly to produce good leaders as a consequence of a social and a cultural system that systematically eliminated the Alpha-male from the community through brutal leveling discipline right from childhood throughout one’s life. And those that survive that form of abuse from family members, teachers et cetera finally would meet their demise in the hands of dictatorial regimes. What might be left behind, after all the negative pruning is a population that suffers from deep seated psychological destructive energy unable to channel properly such energy into constructive social responses. What we have become in general is narcissistic—shallow, uncooperative, and megalomaniac individuals suffering from a Napoleonic syndrome of grandeur on one hand, and a devastating feeling of insecurity on the other hand.

My last words are meant to the ears of the Ethiopian Government Leaders: By violating international law and norms, you are not helping the causes of Ethiopia. There is no need to arrest, detain, torture, kill et cetera anyone for political reasons or otherwise.  There is a bright future for Ethiopia if only you become transparent and approachable to all Ethiopians. There is much to be done and there is no need for adding controversy after controversy to an already fragile Ethiopia.  What do you gain for Ethiopia by imprisoning individuals like EskinderNega, ReeyotAlemu, AndualemArage, the young bloggers, and countless others, or now abducting Andargachew Tsige? As political leaders you must not act because of bruised ego, selfish motives, ethnic biases, religious intolerance et cetera. Above all do not be afraid of your fellow Ethiopians, for the public has a fifth sense, and can sense insecurity in its leaders even from a distance. There is nothing worse than losing the trust of your fellow Ethiopians. The use of force cannot solve everything especially political controversy. Now, I urge you to release all political detainees and prisoners including Andargachew Tsige. Thank you All.

Tecola W. Hagos
July 12, 2014
Washington DC

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