“Food Aid for Bullets”                   

What is shaping Siye Abraha to become who he is now

  Part I


     Adal Isaw

     March 7, 2010


The complexity of human behavior, especially as it relates to politics is almost unfathomable.  The intricate nature of our humanity requires us to go beyond what we can barely comprehend about political behavior.  Social, psychological and economic reasons compel us to learn and understand why individuals behave the way they do in politics.  Many thanks to studies in political psychology; we can now explain to a measurable extent why individuals behave the way they do in politics.  Conventional and long-held belief about behavior assumes that individuals are driven by self-interest, but as proven by many scholastic political psychology findings, psychological factors affect individual political behavior in ways individuals rarely recognize at the time their behavior is expressed[1].


Courtesy of 2010 Ethiopian pre-election campaign; we are now subjected to brazen political behaviors, thrown at us by some aspiring Ethiopian leaders.  The focus of this article is on one of these aspiring leaders—Siye Abraha—a disgruntled ex-TPLF member and a celebrated high-ranking guerrilla fighter.  His recent and recent past political behavior is of a great interest to this writer and hopefully to many others.  A single word has inspired this writer to inquire about Siye’s newly found political behavior—why?  But then again ‘why’ is the mother of many questions and we should ask as many questions as we possibly can, to find out why these days Siye is behaving the way he does in politics.


Few points have to be noted; a political campaign is not the proper venue for individuals to vent their personal issues, nor is it the ward that hospitalizes a political psychology patient with complaint-rigged resume of contradictions.  From time to time, individuals run complained-rigged political campaigns, frustrated that they’re not in a position of power that they thought they should have been endowed with.  This type of behavior is common days after inner-organizational conflict, although the life of it might have been conceived prior to any noticeable inner-organizational wrangling. 


Some times, inner-organizational conflicts are born out of quite, seemingly benign and restrained but yet dangerous feud about the distribution of power at the highest level of an organization.  Issues of greater interest at other times are the reason for such conflict; corruption is another.  But in many cases, inner-organizational conflicts are brewed by individuals giving themselves undue credit and ability, with yearning for a political power that they’re not usually qualified for.  You know how it is; self is kind to itself more than it is to others.  The inclination to boost ones own ability is in standby automatic mode in all of us humans, but it is more pronounced in few others than it is with most of us.  For this reason, the political psychology of very few Ethiopians, like Siye Abraha, to use plain earthly word, is screwed.


What is shaping Siye to become who he is now in terms of his political life?  What are the specific political programs and or reasons that gravitated Siye toward Medrek but not to other parties?  On personal level, why is Siye more comfortable with Dr. Merara but not with Ato Lidetu Ayalew?  These are questions that need answers, especially at a time when Siye is at luxury with the spotlight he sought for himself by making Medrek the forum to vent his long-lived political qualm from his Weyane days.


In terms of his newly found political behavior, what is making Siye who he is now may be is attributable to many things in the past that we may not know commandingly.  Nevertheless, it is always great to start only with what we know for sure.  What we know for sure is this:   Siye was imprisoned on corruption charges and he was unhappy about it.  Unhappy is an understatement; he was and he still is extremely irritated.  And ever since he is out of prison, Siye has been searching for his new political soul and soulmates—not to get even, but to headbutt Weyane to death—the lasting daydream of Dr. Merara and few others.


Almost all political personalities resent with a driving vengeance to do something about that which has impeded their ambition for political power.  As a result, they seek the assistance of any group that may facilitate their drive a chance for success.  Such is how the bastard political psychology that is now binding Siye to Medrek is born—with hope to dismantle the formidable political life of TPLF.  Because in both Medrek and Siye’s eyes it is the TPLF that has impeded their ambitions for political power.  As a result, Medrek sees a vital political role that can be played by Siye; much like Siye sees a political vehicle in Medrek for his own vendetta to succeed.   In a way, both Medrek and Siye are riding an infructuous political vehicle with Merara and Siye alternately turning the steering wheel far to the right. 


In addition, Siye and Dr. Merara are openly sharing a common political agenda of dislodging EPRDF by very ambiguous means.  To succeed in this endeavor of great undertaking, tarnishing TPLF in every aspect of its political life is their preferred prerequisite.  Consider Siye’s article, “The Politicization of Food Aid under One-Party Rule in Ethiopia,”  dated, February 1, 2010, on Ethiomedia—a site that calls for the annihilation of Weyane, dubbing it cancerous:  In this said article, Siye boldly writes about the “sin” of TPLF that he  ‘perpetrated’ but now repents in hindsight politics.  ‘We used to sell the food aid to buy bullets,’ Siye declares in this said article with ‘contrite words’ halfway to full repentance. 


A full-blooded repentance to sharpen one’s own moral ground is in fact essential, especially if it comes from a corrupted political personality.  But if one follows Siye’s moral argument attentively, he is just halfway from fully repenting his “sin” of the past.  That is, there is even greater repentance that Siye should take in time if he wants “real” redemption and full acceptance from his newly found “spiritual” comrades.  As “contrite” ex-TPLF member, Siye should repent the greatest TPLF “sin” of all times. The greatest “sin” of TPLF is not the “fact” that it ‘sold the food aid to buy bullets,’ but the “fact” that it might have used the ‘bullets that it bought’ to help dislodge those who made a grieving mother pay for the bullets that killed her child.


Ideas that Siye asserts and deeds that he repents are what Medrek strongly believes are true.  The “sin” of TPLF that Siye now repents in hindsight politics, is that which has been shared by his newly found comrades and Dergists for many years.  In light of this fact, the ‘we used to sell food aid to buy bullets’ blubber is a catch phrase of impetuous politics.  It is intent is to delegitimize TPLF on moral grounds and also an attempt to absolutely pull Siye’s political soul out of TPLF.  This is what gives Siye’s political career a breathing room for now.  But then again, since he is reaching out to those who believe in the annihilation of TPLF, no political person should be surprised in the near future if Siye is to share the idea of eliminating TPLF in the open.


The preceding assertion is not a baseless stretch but a hypothesis drawn by this writer from Siye’s own political behavior.  You see; Siye is now very willing to tarnish the legacy of TPLF by telling the ‘we used to sell food aid to buy bullets’ story of his.  Why it took him a million political years; he should be asked.   Nevertheless, Siye’s recent political behavior gives this writer cues as to what Siye is likely to do or say next.  Siye is willing to tarnish TPLF on mediums that seek the elimination of TPLF; he is very sorry for having used ‘bullets bought with food aid’ to dislodge a killer regime; he wants to befriend the West and invite it to Ethiopia with open arms for the success of his own vision; he sees no real opposition except his own group; he acknowledges no ruling party other than TPLF; he sees no leader except Meles Zenawi; he sees no true opposition in Lidetu Ayalew; he embraces “classical Ethiopiawinet” and sees no need for nations and nationalities to self-govern themselves; he has declared himself bigger than life and politically unbeatable, giving his ego liquidity greater than the collective priceless value of Weyane—one of the greatest Ethiopian assets.  These and many other are the political personality traits that are shaping the recent and recent past political behavior of Siye Abraha—giving this writer cues as to what Siye’s  next political move is likely to be—an all out political war against TPLF.


[1] See Introduction to Political Psychology. Contributors: Martha Cottam - author, Beth Dietz-Uhler - author, Elena Mastors - author, Thomas Preston - author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of Publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication Year: 2004.