Back to Front Page




Ezana Sehay 07/07/2017

It is hard to keep track of all the developments in the frenzied circus of tom foolery and gutter politics that is the Ethiopian Diaspora. But one thing is certain, it has become an embarrassing mess, a degrading and degraded spectacle, driven by rivers of frantic speculation, feeding on fake news, conspiracy theories, and hyper-tribal narratives, and ultimately powered by self-serving certitude of the side that has lost civil and political legitimacy.

Unfortunately, such toxic atmosphere is beginning to poison the political environment of the country. The past year [2016] has turned in to a painful mess – for the EPRDF government, of course, but also for the country. Back then Ethiopians were awakened to the realization that shrieking vulgarities and unceasing assault on both reason and common sense by the extreme Diaspora had dragged the country in to what it looked like the point of no return.

Such had puzzled many Ethiopians as well as friends of Ethiopia. Because, despite some obvious political and governance deficiencies, the country is still one of the few countries registering an all-encompassing progress in perpetuity.

But here is what should be noted. In fact, it might explain the unexplainable. Part of the engine that drives the frenzied extreme politics is a livid, infantile loathing of any thing EPRDF – including questioning the legitimacy of the federal system on a non-stop basis. These fringe elements have found voice in the vast diaspora internet media Westland.

The most notable resident of this Westland is the ill-famed Ethiopian Satellite Television [ESAT]. What makes this medium dangerous is its viability as a lunatic – fringe outlet that acts in permanent angry opposition to the government of Ethiopia, no matter it does.

ESAT figured how to exploit the Diaspora extremist mix of tribalism, xenophobia, and grievances. In other words, it appeals to the community of chronic blamers, anxious to locate the cause of their inadequacies.

ESAT realizes as the rest of us do, that there are people with extreme ideology, ready to listen to anti-EPRDF, anti-heterogenous bigotry, while also blaming their political failure on the incumbent. This particular constituency has never accepted the argument for the concept – unity in diversity. Its natural heroes through out history are monarchies who campaigned fiercely against diversity on behalf of “unity” and assimilation.

Many of us believed or wished those ideals died with the EPRDF coming to power, but staunch adherents of the ideology never changed their mind. The “unitary state” as a stream of thought was hibernating - -  It was rarely articulated but passionately held, waiting for some or something like ESAT to lead it.

ESAT was launched in 2010, in Masawa, Eritrea, by President Isayas - -  in the presence of high ranking Egyptian officials and the leadership of the then newly formed terrorist group: Genbot 7 [G7].

The timing was deliberate, as it was a time when Ethiopia was gearing up for the 2010 general election. At the time [Its maiden directive] was laid out – to disrupt the election process by any means necessary. True to form, in no time to waste, throughout the election campaign, until election-day, ESAT began floating outrageous, vaguely outlandish and untruths. It began broadcasting rumors, fake news, and encouraged its audiences inside the country to engage in multitude of sabotages, such as cutting communication and power lines – create chaos and bloodshed – all in the hope of re-creating the post-2005 election mayhem and delegitimize the election.

But all that was in vain as the election was conducted peacefully and orderly without a hitch. Nevertheless, ESAT has presses on.

When the founding of ESAT was announced, at first, the idea of Diaspora satellite TV engaged us as fodder fun – what on earth would such channel broadcast? We wondered. On the other hand, there were those who warned us what might fil it is to be feared.  They foresaw, the dangerous possibility that the Dergist and tribalist controlled media outlet would foment not just anger but violence as well. Boy, were they right.

Since joining the monolithic, suffocating extreme swamp of Diaspora media landscape, ESAT has degenerated Ethiopian Diaspora politics in to haplessly dystopian reality TV spectacle and metastasized in to anti-civility, anti-diversity, parochial and xenophobic Weapon of Mass Deception [WMD].

ESAT has never cared for press ethics, nor does it know it. Evidently, its so-called journalists have made a habit of lowering the journalism’s limbo bar only to bend under it - -  every time we think it couldn’t possibly go any lower, it keeps surprising us.

Monkey Business  

For years, Ethiopians have been debating whether ESAT constitutes as an opposition media or a treasonous entity that serves the interest of foreign forces to the determent of Ethiopian national interest. All of it’s activities have very little, if anything, to do with promoting democracy – much to do with creating havoc and maelstrom of anything in nature. Should ESAT succeed, who would be the beneficiary? You be the judge.

In a few words, folks at ESAT are people who have sold their souls to the higher bidder. One can’t get any more treasonous than that. 

ESAT is unmoved by such accusations. To the contrary, it has upended the ante and went for the jugular. That come about because of a threat by its financiers [Eritrea and Egypt], to cut funding unless it does something persuasive.

According to a report, albeit unverified, that warning come about last year and was delivered by president Isayas’s right-hand man: Yemane Gebreab a.k.a. Yemane Monkey.

Mr. Yemane is reported to have chastised the folks at ESAT for failing to do what is expected of them, whatever that is. He is quoted as saying “the [Ethiopian] economy is growing un abated, the [Renaissance] dam is on schedule” - -  If this progressed is not challenged it’ll be very difficult to topple the Woyane [Ethiopian] regime.”

The perturbed folks of ESAT assured Mr. Yemane that they are doing their best. But Mr. Yemane wasn’t impressed, apparently their best was not good enough.

According to the report, he [ Mr. Yemane] said “if you want us to keep pouring money in to this project [ESAT], we expect you to deliver.” He then added “here is an idea that might help, play the race card – that never fails in Africa.”

[Side bar: I would like to point out that, I have no way of verifying the authenticity of the aforestated   report. However, considering the relationship between ESAT and the Eritrea regime, it is more likely to be true than not.]

Hence, With the above words of wisdom from the man they call monkey, the folks at ESAT went on to do their monkey-business – pan intended.

Since then [around this time last year] ESAT is engaged in carnival of shrieking vulgarities, a meticulously stage-managed incitement of the lowest and ugliest impulses in the Ethiopian political character - -  openly promulgate for ethnic strife targeting Tigreans.

Targeting Tigreans

To most Ethiopians ESAT’s spiteful campaign against Tigreans is baffling to say the least. But once you know the background of the people running it [ESAT], you’ll understand. You see, members of the extended family of ESAT, were once ideologues of the murderous Derg regime and accomplices of its crime.  The people of Tigray, on the other hand, were the fulcrum of the popular revolution that led to the Derg demise. There for, their hostility towards Tigreans is not unexpected.

ESAT’s persistent dissemination of slanderous lies about “Tigrean domination”, “Amara land grab by Tigray state” and fabricating and exaggerating civilian causalities during a violent conflict with security forces [ which ESAT labeled TPLF forces] had found some following in the Amara regional state. As a consequence, many Tigreans were killed, their property looted or destroyed and tens of thousands were displaced.

ESAT’s plan was much more sinister than that. The treacherous clan running it, assumed Tigreans would retaliate ensuing a full blown civil-war between Tigreans and Amaras.  Fortunately, Thanks to the prudence of the people that didn’t materialized, but that is very little conciliation. In a matter of weeks, ESAT has managed to destroy the trust and cohesion of the Tigrean and Amara societies are built on: unwind centuries-old fraternity – the Tigrean-Amara synthesis.

As we speak, there are popular initiatives under way to bring back to normalcy between the two societies, and I’m confidence of their success. Nevertheless, the abrasion left by last-year’s incident is going to take some time to heal.

Useful Idiots and The Puppeteer

President Isayas of Eritrea’s obsession with Ethiopian [internal or external] politics is all too well known. What’s so surprising is how easy it is for him to find Ethiopians willing to do his dirty job. For the last 17 years, the Isayas regime has been incubating useless alphabet soup of terrorist groups among, them is the bogus Genbot 7: Isayas’s terrorist progeny.

ESAT was formed to serve as the media out let for G7. It’s no wonder then, through ESAT, the group under the leadership of Berhanu Nega is making up in visceral energy what it lacks in polish and, some might say, sanity. The group’s 200+ terrorists don’t occupy a square inch of space in side Ethiopia. But according to ESAT’s daily nauseating news reels, the it has full control of Amara region and is marching all the way to Addis Ababa or is it Finfine?

To put it in its proper perspective, the news you see or hear on ESAT and affiliated outlets are straight conspiracy theories, fake news or fabrications masquerading as facts – thus trading accuracy for cheap propaganda.

ESAT’s Conspiracy Theory

Members of the ESAT kinship are supremely canny at peddling conspiracy theories about contemporary Ethiopian politics. They use coded languages that may seem innocuous to the average listener but ring a rewarding bell in the brain of people with the right receptors. ESAT’s barrage of conspiracy theories about EPRDF in general but TPLF in particular, is meant to exploit the psychology of suspicion and cynicism prevalent in some segments of the Ethiopian society.

Since it’s outset, ESAT has been advancing the notion 1) EPRDF is controlled by TPLF 2) TPLF is a nefarious cabal, with a hidden agenda of controlling the whole region and create “Greater Tigray”.

In case you missed it, according to ESAT; TPLF has been busy relocating factories from the rest of Ethiopia to Tigray. It suspended the operation, because it run out of space, as Tigray was crammed with manufacturing plants. Or what about the “TPLF led” government’s scheme to cede part of Amara land to Sudan in exchange for adjacent Sudanese land to be given to Tigray. Or how Tigreans are in control of all the critical economic sectors including public utility infrastructures – the likes of the Baher Dar city drinking water facility.  or during last-year’s protest in some parts of the country, Ethiopian airline was instructed to stop all domestic and international flights and put on a stand-by to transport TPLF leaders and their families out of Addis. Etc.…

If you find this amusing, keep watching ESAT, there is more. In fact, ESAT’s newscast is so droll, Fox, the American Cable Network, is planning to create a comedy show based on it.

But seriously folks, there were days when we would lough at such nonsense theories, before they took over the mainstream and become not crazy talk, but just talk. What used to be the province of past decade thrillers and night-time bar dwelling insinuations and innuendos are now, thanks to ESAT and the like, everywhere – Dropping from the mouths of “experts”, “ex-TPLF/EPRDF members”, “insiders” - - and airing on YouTube in sans-serif outrage memes from extremist and tribalist web masters, which bristle with exclamation mark like rabid porcupines.

As entertaining as ESAT’s crazy train is to watch, I liken it to the adage, “it’s all fun and game until some body loses an eye”. ESAT’s claptrap about TPLF conspiracy”, “secret agenda” etc. especially in developing countries like Ethiopia has proven to be a dangerous pointed stick with which Ethiopia ultimately injured it self.

Such corrosive suspicion of the governing party doesn’t just taint the government’s image – it leads to the decay of the whole foundation of civil society based on trust. If successful, you end up with a country where sizeable number of people believe the unbelievable – and the consequence could be dangerous as witnessed last-year.

ESAT’s Fake News

They say we are living in a “post-truth” world, where all facts are open to interpretation, spin, and doubt – thus we are living in a “post-trust” world. Experts concur these are exacerbated by the fake news phenomenon.

The issue of fake news, news that is not true, was brought to the fore front of global attention in 2016, during and after the US election. But for Ethiopians that is old news, as their political life has been preoccupied with the phenomenon and its effect for years, thanks to the likes of ESAT.

Fake news is of two kinds. The first kind does not intend to be true, but serves the purpose of satire, or comedy, and sometimes malice. The later is a serious matter, as the multiple prohibition on fraud, slander, and other forms of deceit testify.

The second kind of fake news presents itself as really true, but is -  or at least is chimed to be by others – false. This latter is deleterious of common life, for such can not be built on a foundation that is suspected to be fraudulent.

ESAT’s fake news [almost all its news], is definitely not satire – rather it is malice, venal, and spiced up with delusion.  ESAT is well aware of that, in developing societies like Ethiopia, lying works, albeit for a short while.  It also believes the bigger the lie, the more likely to be believed. So, its motto is, when all else fails, just lie. Make it up as you go along. ESAT’s approach to news is, therefore, fake it – till – you – make it happen. Hence, every day it brings us a doze of fresh and more inventive lies.

They say if one keeps throwing mud on to a wall, most of it will fall, but some might stick. ESAT’s relentless dispersion of fake news about the Ethiopian government and the country no doubt has negative consequences. It has led to trust in the government as well as institutions to fall precipitously.

The Pundits

Vulgar conspiratorial mind-set and lies is the norm at EAST land, that is not surprising. What is, is, they are being legitimized daily by “truth-telling” ex-diplomats, intellectuals, and tribalist leaders, who keep making evidence-free and even deliberately false claim against the EPRDF government behind a cloth of “experts”.

Most of these so-called experts are bunch of out-of- touch high brows who haven’t a clue about the Ethiopia out side heir protective babble. Their mind-numbing oration is a testament to that fact. They often fail to offer constructive and concrete alternatives other than the usual hollow boring dooms day scenario for the country. Sure, they have a vision of Ethiopia they’d like to see, one in which diversity is stimmed – take the country back to the dark yesteryears.

These pundits, guests, commentators that constitute what is derisively known as experts are missing the point, there is still a big hitch in the notions of their narratives. It is this; they may have identified some problems in the country, but they are manifestly not the men to solve it.

To Sum Up: it goes without saying, every anti-EPRDF extremist media outlet has a not so hidden longing for social and political chaos – turmoil of a kind it actually advocates. ESAT is no exception.

Entirely formulaic in presentation and predictable in substance, ESAT serves the purpose of misleading the Ethiopian people and manufacturing consent for its funders [Egypt and Eritrea]. In other words, the brute economic incentive of its trade requires that, folks at ESAT have frightening phenomena about Ethiopia to interpret and reassure about.

But it is not just a question of incentives. Day dreaming about Ethiopia going to heck seems to be a fundamental or at least, very common impulse for the inhabitants of ESAT. Look how much of the stuff in their news or analysis involves calamity scenarios whose failure to materialize – over the years – would have shamed them, except this folk have no shame.  

The peddlers of evil at ESAT keep warning of a famine, violent conflicts, brutal collapse of the government, instantaneous economic collapse, etc...  All these are not forecasts in the sense that the weather report is. They are a form of speculative fiction.

It is no wonder, then ESAT’s cries of “wolf” are begging to induce wide spread audience fatigue and annoyance by the average [reasonable] Ethiopian.

Nevertheless, this pariah media outlet has constantly appealed to the vanity of those who run it, fund it, and its pseudo-journalists.  But pointless vanity project is not what it has become. It is mad, bad, and dangerous and with hard core fans and resourceful backers. The frenzied circus of tom foolery and gutter politics would go on and on.

ESAT’s Hate Crime

All things considered, most Ethiopians have no ambiguity as to the transgression of ESAT’s enterprise. Promoting pogrom, intra-ethnic animosity, and unrelenting assault on specific group of people [Tigreans] doesn’t qualify as part of a free-speech. To the contrary, it is presumed as a criminal code offence: a prosecutable offence in any country.

It’s astounding how stupid or negligent the people running ESAT are. They are so consumed with hate, they fail to realize their daily broadcast is self-incriminating.

The issue of hate crime: a crime directed at an identifiable group or individual, based on race, color, religion etc... is now occupying center stage in all corners of the world. Even European countries, arguably, the freest are in the midst of grappling to deal with it. Most of them have issued stringent legislations; under which those engaged in hate crime would be subjected to prosecution as capital offenders. Some have gone even further, as far as, making search engine companies and social media operators for providing plat forms to hate mongers or failing to identify and restrict hate content material.

In light of this development it’s high time for the government of Ethiopia to take its job seriously and protect the people and the country, not just their behind, excuse my choice word. Nevertheless, I am trying to make a point here.

Part of the success of ESAT lies on the government’s pathetic public relation [PR] exercise and negation of its responsibilities.  Should it be willing to heed public demand for the sake of the country’s peace, stability and development, here are a couple of pointers:

First, it [the government of Ethiopia] should pursue legal action against ESAT and its sponsors.

Second, it should take a measure that should’ve been taken years ago. That is, hit ESAT where it hurts: block it. It’s unfathomable, while legitimate journalists in the country are being muzzled – ESAT on the other hand is allowed to spew its poisonous manure in to the Ethiopian household – go figure!



Back to Front Page