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May-31-2012 17:10printcommentsVideo

Blair's Heckler Televised; Zenawi's Heckler Untelevised

Zenawi uses brutality against Ethiopians who question his rule and perennial bogus elections. Tony Blair is also no saint. When the British electorate failed to be vigilante, he resorted to deceit.

Blair and Zenawi

(UGANDA) - Since there are many uninformed people despite living in a sea of information, it’s in order, to introduce the two gentlemen mentioned above. Tony Blair is a former prime minister of Britain while Meles Zenawi is the premier of Ethiopia.

Although, this position of premiership is the apparent correlation among the two, a vast difference between the duo exists. Blair entered 10 Downing Street through a time tested genuine democratic process. Zenawi catapulted himself through a barrel of a gun to Menilik Palace in 1991.

Using the same brutality against Ethiopians who questioned his rule and perennial bogus elections, he remains ensconced in the palace up to now. Yet, Tony Blair is also no saint. When the British electorate failed to be vigilante, he resorted to deceit.

Ranging from colluding with ruthless corporate giants such as Rupert Murdoch, he ended up plunging Britain into a scene of carnage on the basis of pure fabrication. Unlike Zenawi whose rule knows no accountability, however, Blair cannot survive as PM when his deception was discovered. When the Brits realized that they made a fatal mistake in electing and keeping this man to Downing Street, they made his life hell eventually forcing him to resign.

Farhia Mohamed Mahad Age: 20, arrested and jailed on mere suspicions of
being part of the Ogaden National Liberation Front Courtesy: Ethiopian Review

Speaking of these gentlemen brings us to other aspects of the former and current PMs from the two nations that are different as day and night. Blair during his tenure enlisted Zenawi for his pet project called Commission of Africa in 2004. Consequently, the more the Ethiopian despot clamps down on civil and human rights, the more aid money is poured to him. He catered well to the Western interest in Somalia by using Ethiopian youth as cannon fodder as well as massacring innocent Somalis.

In reward, he was chosen as the best darling of the west among his peers in the vicinity and permitted to hobnob in the power corridors of this world. Observations of credible newspapers like The Guardian that said rulers such as Meles Zenawi “found it easier to talk about the principles of good governance for other countries than actually applying it to their own” have continued to fall on deaf ears that invariably inhabit 10 Downing Street in London and the White House in Washington[1].

That’s why we witnessed recently the presence of Meles Zenawi for the umpteenth time in the G8 summit held at Camp David. And so the brazen faced Zenawi had the cheek to lecture about “food security” with statesmen such as John Atta Mills of Ghana.

Mr. Abebe Gellaw courtesy: Samuel M. Gebru

Unbeknownst to him, though, a man whom he forced to exile and still tried to gag him in exile through fabricated charges of terrorism had taken a seat at the venue, Ronald Reagan Building Hall.

That man was Mr. Abebe Gellaw, an award winning journalist who went to Stanford as the John S. Knight fellow for professional journalists and Yahoo International fellow. He’s currently a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and visiting scholar at the Centre on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law.

On top of his innumerable write-ups on his own site, his article appeared in the Far East Economic Review and Global Integrity’s “The Corruption Notebooks 2008, a collection of essays and abuse of power” written by leading journalists around the world.

In other words, contrary to being just a firebrand individual, he is a seasoned journalist with an instinct to be a voice at the right time and the right place for the multitude of his people rendered voiceless by the tin pot dictator Meles Zenawi. Grabbing this rare opportunity, therefore, Abebe smothered the insincere talk of his nemesis accustomed to smothering Ethiopians with live bullets. Accordingly, he addressed him as follows:

Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Free Eskinder Nega! Free Political Prisoners! You are a dictator. You are committing crimes against humanity. Food is nothing without freedom! Meles has committed crimes against humanity! We Need Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!

David Lawley-Wakelin

Naturally, the incident immediately went viral in the Ethiopian social media and on various websites which Zenawi’s regime blocked from being viewed in Ethiopia. The network that was instrumental in spreading the news was one called ESAT, i.e., 'Ethiopian Satellite Television Network'.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media supposedly reporting on Africa such as BBC Network and Focus on Africa failed to utter a word about it. Worse, the Amharic Service of Voice of America itself was accused of similar incredible omission.

In fact, following the incident, some Ethiopians in America began calling for the sacking of an Ethiopian journalist at VOA for not reporting the incident at all and for playing down other related activism of Ethiopians against the presence of Zenawi at the G8. While I was reflecting upon this, a similar incident occurred elsewhere that revived my interest on the matter.

Aljazeera showed a picture of Tony Blair being heckled by a man who burst into the courtroom while he was testifying at an inquiry into the British media ethics on Monday, the 28th of May. (see video)

Other media outlets also distributed the news and reported the identity of the man who described Blair “war criminal” as one called David Lawley-Wakelin. Though, I am well aware that it’s difficult for media practitioners to cover every incident, as a news junkie, however, I fail to see why VOA Amharic service, primarily launched for Ethiopians omitted the incident from reporting.

According to Henok’s admission on Shaka Ssali’s Straight Talk Africa, he was at the Reagan Building where Abebe Gellaw heckled Meles Zenawi big time.

Mimi Sebhatu’s syndrome on Henok? God forbid!

Again a need to introduce the person whose unfortunate name is linked with a syndrome one hopes will not be transmitted to Henok too who is currently a journalist for the Amharic service at VOA.

Mimi also worked as a VOA journalist at the Amharic service.Zenawi who had never been willing to give statement to this channel surprisingly granted her an interview which made her the first and probably the last to interview the dictator on VOA.

Mimi Sebhatu: journalist or agent?

When one saw what transpired a few years down the road, it became crystal clear why she refrained from raising hard questions at the time and why the despot also behaved graciously towards her. At any rate, the lady left her job in Washington and went to her hometown, Addis which is not evil per se.What followed,however,forces one to be skeptical of these journalists who at one time seemed to have espoused the independence of journalism as opposed to propaganda outlets.

Mimi on top of turning herself as a propaganda tool for Zenawi’s regime also offered her service alongside her family through espionage[2].

Right after the rigged election in 2005, Mimi launched a newspaper called Iftin with her husband. While all the independent newspapers were forced to go out of circulation following the incarceration of their respective editors and reporters, Mimi started publishing unethical reports about communications exchanged in private between human rights activists, opposition figures and European diplomats thereby causing the incarceration of some Ethiopians and expulsion of European diplomats.

She obtained this information through a family business engaged in overseeing security affairs for the Commission of the then European delegates such as Mr. Tim Clark. The delegation’s security was contracted out to Sebhatu & Brothers, a company managed by her brother.

Contrary to ensuring the delegation’s security, the firm photographed every movement secretly and bugged the office whereby it relayed the information to the regime’s “intelligence.” The regime in turn allowed Mimi to publish them as “exclusive” stories. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?

It’s this kind of sleazy behavior that finally caught up with Rupert Murdoch, the media tycoon which even had him pelted by a custard pie for which Tony Blair is currently being grilled too[3].

While powerful kingmakers like Murdoch in the first world are sweating it out publicly for their dirty tricks alongside the politicians they helped rise to the pinnacle, our so-called independent media practitioners cover up the humiliations of our tin pot dictators. On the May 23 Straight Talk Africa show, Shaka Ssali asked Henok “What would you characterize as the low light at the event you attended in the Ronald Reagan Building?

Henok Semaegzer Fent

And Henok pontificated like Zenawi’s “developmental intellectuals” who pretend to critique by employing euphemisms such as “African leaders and the civil society are not prepared against the bargaining power of corporate giants, etc.” Has Henok induced himself to forgetfulness that it’s rulers such as Zenawi who are an obstacle to the rise of a strong civil society in Africa?

Is he sweeping under the rug the fact that while people like me can access any sort of information including the live show of Straight Talk Africa on TV in a much smaller nation which emerged as an independent nation only five decades ago, that Ethiopians in spite of their long history as a nation in Africa are being kept in the dark deliberately by a man like Zenawi?

Obviously realizing that Henok is avoiding the core issue, Shaka confronted him again with a question which I paraphrase “Ethiopians complained about your covering of the event. That you sort of under reported it.

What’s it in your view that you did not bring up that was so important to them?” Again Henok attempted so pathetically to hide what cannot be hidden with excuses like he only gave primacy to news from the “news sense.”

The glaring fact was Abebe Gellaw in a thundering voice told some ugly truths to Meles Zenawi from a close up as never before, humiliating him in the process in front of his pay masters. And Henok, given the chance for the last time, chose to make no mention of this.

I wonder why?

Could Henok have been approached by those PR companies whom Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York based Human Rights Foundation and Founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum showed us as being so adept at “whitewashing the human rights violations of despotic regimes with fluff journalism?”[4]

Either the young Ethiopian journalist would offer some explanation that dispel our doubts or time will soon bare as to why he was so reluctant to report such juicy news to Ethiopians.

Ethiopian Human Rights Defender exiled in Uganda

[1] The Guardian Monday June 4,2007 “Tony flies in”

[2] Ethio-Zagol Post: The state of Ethiopia, Friday October 20,2006 “Alert & Breaking News; Ethiopian governments biggest conspiracy & espionage exposed

[3] Available at: ‘War Criminal:’UK ex-PM Tony Blair heckled during inquiry into Murdoch scandal

[4] BBC Focus on Africa Magazine, October-December 2011 pg 16


Kiflu Hussain is an attorney based in Uganda. He says his passion for writing came from reading, and that it’s inevitable that the more one reads, the more one develops the urge to write. Kiflu has published articles in Ethiopia on the English Reporter, then a weekly newspaper along with a few Amharic articles on the defunct Addis Zena. It was after he and his family found refuge in Uganda, that he began contributing writings to the local papers and various websites such as Daily Monitor, Uganda Record, The New Vision, Ethioquestnews, Garowe Online, WardheerNews etc.

The reason for this is clear. Ethiopia, despite being a seat of the African Union had never produced a regime that allows even the minimum space for dialogue that other people in Africa enjoy so naturally. So Kiflu's ending up as a refugee in Uganda is a blessing in disguise for it accorded him with the opportunity to write. He says at the same time he learned, unfortunately, that his refugee status would be what showed how deep the hypocrisy of the “international community” goes. We at are honored to carry this gentleman's work and we hope that in the process, western people may come to appreciate the struggle of refugees throughout the world.

You can write to Kiflu at this address: E-mail;

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