By Mesfin Mulugeta
“Better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees” Dolres Ibarruri (aka La Pasionaria)
There is now a growing interest on the history of EPRP. The curiosity, however, is perverted. It is so because the attempt is not to recount its accomplishment, but the impoverishment of the Ihapa led generation. If a book specially defames the history of EPRP, then in no time people with a broad spectrum of political affinities, flock in to write reviews and critiques.
Why is there such a big concern on the part of Woyane to encourage, publish and distribute books on EPRP history or to be more exact on the Ihapa-led-Generation? Woyane like a petulant child totters in many historical issues, and does not seem to learn how to think straight. The organization stumbled when it made the error of rewriting the Ethiopian history. It slashed what it calls history’s “excess fat” and made the country a young nation of 100 years old. The scything of “excess fat” would be a welcoming news for celebrities, but a joke that goes over poorly for a nation. The unabashed Woyane with a single stroke of a pen deleted all civilizations between the Axumite to Emperor Yohannes. In so doing, it stashed the history away between Axum to Yohannes and bablemouthed “what is the Axumite civilization for the Woliatas”. After Woyane completes this “herculean” task, it tangles up itself with the mind-boggling calculus to show its devotees by how much Yohannes excelled Menelik. Gebrekidan Desta and Bisrat Amare went on a spree to black Menelik as he is painted. Nation wide agitprops geared in full throat during summer vacation for teachers. After spending lots of money and time to “attest” the supremacy of Yohannes, the hare-brained Woyane went havoc to disparage Haile Sellasie and Derg. These two were easy targets, though sometimes thorny too. Woyane’s attempt to block the erection of HIM statue in the AU compound is a case in point. Few weeks back, we have witnessed to what great frenzy Aboy Sebhat went through to argue the “irrelevance” of erecting the statue of Emperor Haile Selassie. Why is Woyane so keen to wipe out history? The purpose is to expunge historical “anomalies” that came in between Axumite civilization-Emperor Yohannes-Woyane linear leadership.
The Haile Selassie and Derg regimes are historical glitches for the myopic Woyane historiographers. Then comes a problem, a generation led by Ihapa. This one was different for it was a popular movement and never assumed the reign of government, therefore, a different enemy from Menelik, Haile Selassie, and Mengsitu. Compounding the problem, it was contemporaneous to Woyane, making it difficult to ignore it.
Woyane is worried to death that what it calls its “magnificent history” will recede whenever the Ihapa-led generation is casted. The odds are against it. The trolls have not suffered a colored terror (were accomplices, hence the reason for clemency to the Red Terror culprits). Second, Woyane is a rural movement, therefore, has no history to brag on urban resistance. Third it is ethnocentric and parochial, therefore, has no record of a multi-national movement. Fourth, it is limited within Tigray, therefore, suffers geographical spread. In all of these factors, and possibly more, Woyane grieves from history-deficiency-syndrome. A glaring naked Woyane patootie cannot possibly be patched up with scrubbed history. These factors blackout whatever militancy Woyane brag about on the Derg. As long as the story of Ihapa prevails, there will never be a smooth continuity on Axum-Yohannes-Melese paradigm. It is for this reason, Woyane goes way beyond in search of insiders to write damaging books on EPRP, thereby to darken the shining history of the generation. A cursory look at these books shows this consistent pattern.
In the beginning, Woyane employed Derg affiliated people to disparage EPRP. From the start, its approach was problematic. Selecting the mortal enemy to write the history of EPRP is analogues to ask a mouse to anecdote the behavior of a cat. Derg and Isapa busybodies got fervently active writing the history of EPRP, and books like Mesker, Neber Quter 1 and Quter 2 etc came into the market. The books were printed and distributed with the consent of Woyane. In fact, the obedient acolytes were highly encouraged by the moral and financial support; rejoinders soon came to the market.
Websites and Paltalk rooms shifted into full gear and flooded it with anti-Ihapa rhetoric. On its part, Woyane showed its favoritism to Meison by allowing the sale of “Ba Aceru Yeqqera Rejimu Ye Meison Guzo” on the streets of Addis Ababa, and edict a sales ban on books that favor EPRP. This is not a big surprise. Few days back, Abera Yemane Ab discloses that Meison was negotiating with Woyane and its leadership was invited to the liberated zone in Tigray. The waggish part was Woyne bedfellow, EPDM, was not happy with the Master’s flirting behavior, and many a time the Master interfere to stop arguments going on in its harem. Despite the consorted effort of the clean shaved Isapa members foray into writing, the undertaking has not gone far enough to the likings of the Woyane and the campaign failed short of tarnishing the Party and the generation it led. On the contrary, the books show the absurdity of the writers and their masters than it did the “blunders” of the Party.
The first generation books are, therefore, very general in their confrontation and maybe taken as instances of carpet-bombing. This is quite expected as the writers are outsiders (Derg and Isapa members) and limited by skill, scope and knowledge on the issues they write. In fact, in their zeal to show their loyalty, they make the embarrassing slip up (to the chagrin of Woyane Sancho Panza, EPDM) that EPRP was the handmade organization of the Algerian security apparatus. The Quixote nitwits slowly zeroed in on to the bulls eye. Standby hustlers arrayed themselves with the task of writing critics on the books.
Then came the sycophants who fawn on Woyane leadership. Mediated through matchmakers Woyane enticed the already salivating “dogs” into its fold. It cheered ghostwriters and/or ex-EPRP/A members to write memoirs and autobiographies. These writers did not need much cooing to fulfill Woyane dreams. The tack employed has too much of craftiness. Writers of this genre are not expected to smudge EPRP 100%. The cunning here is to laud the generation, by quarantining it from the Party and/or distancing members from its leadership. These writers went to the extra length to document the heroic feats of the generation, but inserted a few paragraphs here and there to spawn malicious rumors. Such was the case of, Yankee Go Home, Dembia to Washington Derso Meles and Tower in the Sky, Wore Negari etc. Ye Dem Zemen is not a book in a sense of an autobiography and does not deserve to be reviewed or critiqued. The book is a compendium of plagiarizing, falsification and fabrication of facts and events. The writer unashamedly borrows from other books and websites without due acknowledgment. He plunges directly into the political “history” and then narrates on third party rumors (Someone told me so manner). As it was not written on first person basis, one would be confused where to categorize the book. It is neither a history book nor a memoir.
Yankee Go Home is the most detailed novel (wrapped as a memoir). The problem of the book comes with the subtitle “the life of an Ethiopian revolutionary and the fall of Assimba, EPRP’s Red Base” To begin with, the title should have been “The life of prisoner Ayalew Yimam” for the book narrates facts and fictions of the author’s life at Senegde, but to dub his stay as a life of a revolutionary is nonsensical. His contribution to the student movement was minimal except to one article on the Eritrean movement, which favored ELF. He bloats the article to parallel himself among the “most wanted” list of the student movement leaders. His grandeur “contribution” made him consider himself equal with Meles Tekle. , As the saying goes from the sublime to the ridicules is only a step away to Ayalew. His paranoid behavior pushed him over the edge to traverse the desert. The “most wanted” flocked to the city and died in Addis while Ayalew was running away from the center of hell. They came to town to face their enemy while Ayalew was roving the desert in search of the land of Prester John, the epicenter of revolution and Internationalists. Moreover, Ayalew cannot talk about “The fall of Assimba, EPRP’s Red Base” for he was not there at the time and hence cannot write the book on the first person bases. In fact despite the title of the book, the narration he dedicates is just few paragraphs. The title of a book should encapsulate the central idea of a book, so “The life of Suspect Ayalew Yimamu: A narrative of captivity in Senegde” would have been a better title. The book is an attempt to fictionalize the existing facts.
When one reads in the “memoir” that his ex girlfriend, an Ethiopian, in Dessie had a golden hair, then one doubts the credibility of the writer. When he takes the liberty of detailing what he ate, when, with whom and at what time, on events that happened four decades ago, the reader will dismiss the book as imprudent and quixotic. When the author describes the number of women he slept with and his virility then one wonders how that could be the life of a revolutionary. When the writer “remembers” dialogues line by a line that happened 50 years ago, then a reader will question the sanity of the author.
Ayalew Yimamu took the liberty of swimming in the murky waters of fact and fiction and vows it a memoir. The back cover of the book says volumes, “For few years, he has served his country as a diplomat here in Washington, DC.” Hence it would not be difficult to understand why the writer opted to stick his knife in the EPRA belly. The book could have passed as a historical fiction or even as a first person novel, but labeling it a memoir is iniquitous, and marking it as “the life of a revolutionary” is a lampoon. Ayalew has no part in the organized political groups of the time (Democracia, Abyot etc) and was air dropped to Assimba by the courtesy of ELF. Once in Assimba most of his stay was in prison and had no access to the inner workings of the leadership, had no first hand knowledge on the problem the leadership faced and the options they were forced to adopt. He had no understanding of the challenging task of feeding, arming, training, organizing and keeping the army going in a stifling environment. Ayalew was incommunicado at Senegde. If the gruesome torture were done on him, that was indeed wrong and deserves an apology. If it were inserted purposely to equate Ihapa with the notorious Derg hoodlums, it would be a poorly managed parody. The most convincing way to sway readers would have been to include pictures of his “scarred” body.
Unfortunately, he has not dared to show his portrait, not to mention pictures of his alleged “scarred” body. Even if we give the author the benefit of the doubt that he was tortured (for he was in the war zone, a suspect and a solider and ought to be treated accordingly) why did he wait 30 years to pile up vitriolic accusation on the EPRA. As a student of history, he should have known better that personal wrongs could at best befeeders but narratives. The most absurd and incredulous part is when Ayalew plays the role as judge, jury and executioner of the EPRA in the Political Square run by Woyane. Ayalew Like Hiwot, distorts the ideas of Carols Maghellian to construe his weird theoretical presumptions to blame the urban fighting, which he has no clue. Yankee Go Home is the mirror image of Wore Negari except the setting. Mohamed Yimam’s Wore Negari took the grim task of tarnishing the generation and blackens the character of the party leaders. The author claimed that he wrote the draft twenty years back and just published it. He does not tell us why he waited two decades to publish it.
He seems to have waited the opportune time to launch it, but then, after such a long groundwork, how come the two Yimams’ books are “ridden with typos”? Wore Negari has been labeled as one of a “sick man” narration and could be useful as a manual for students of mental health to understand the inner conflicts of a neurotic person. His bogus story would not smooth ruffled feathers.
Hiwot, in Tower in the Sky, mostly lauds the generation, but tells her readers that the Party killed her boyfriend inhumanly. If she stopped there, she would not have crossed the line. She failed to tell her readers if he was killed by the decision of the party. By advertent red herring, she then overstepped her rational barrier to blame the leadership, not in the killing per se, but in its competence. Competence for Hiwot is Getachew, and without him the Party is ‘brain dead”. There is no me with out you argument. With such fallacy, she plunges into wrong assumption. EPRP is not up to its name to carryout the struggle, and hence her reason to abandon it. Again this would not have raised much of a dust. When she violates her liberty and start to insinuate the party leadership, then one suspect that she is not that buffoon to see which side her bread is buttered. When her detest is as much on the party as on organized politics, then one expects a rational justification for such a stand. In search of rationale, she jumps into the ideas of Eric Hoffman’s, True Believer, and Arthur Khostler’s Darkness at Noon. She cleverly thwarts the ideas in the books in a very uncanny manner to justify her arguments, but as the saying goes; a bad workwoman blames her tools.
As continuity to the genre and probably as the tail end of it comes the autobiography of Khasay, Ye Assimba Fiqir written in Amharic. The writer says many commendable things about EPRA fighters but casts a doubt on Delai, the heroine of EPRA. As a young fighter, Delai was the embodiment of the young women fighters of the time. The contention is on his claim of an illicit romantic relationship with Delai. There is no way to prove or disprove the relationship, and she is not alive to refute it. Since the author made it secret, he compounds the problem of evidencing it. Even if the reader gives the benefit of the doubt to his claim, the romantic element is a private issue and nothing to brag. Then why was the Delai story added to coagulate the narration? The reader will realize that the Delai plot does not enrich the narrative, but was inserted purposely. The attempt is to strip of female fighters pride and relegate them as sex chattels. To understand the Delai plot, one has to understand Woyane as a character. One consistent thing about Woyane is its attempt to show the excellence of the Tigrean made organization over and above what it dupes Abay Ethiopia organization. The same way Emperor Yoahnnes outshines all preceding and succeeding leaders of the country.
Khasay purposely avoids mentioning the battles where EPRA was victorious but mentions frequently how armed peasants routed it. Then insidiously inserts a vague but treacherous ethnic cleft within EPRA. The book starts with many commendable things but ends blemishing the EPRA female fighters with illicit affairs and ethnic discords. This is to the likings of Woyane. It helps it to demonstrate that EPRA was not a monolithic multinational as many people assumed, but a body devoured by cancerous ethnic disputes. Before the dust settles on Ye Assimba Fikir, comes Wore Negari, a selfproclaimed insider who asserts to know the inner workings of the party. This one has a different objective from the preceding books. It futilely attempts to annihilate the generation. Woyane battle tactics are well documented. When they fight they aim for the complete annihilation of their enemy with overwhelming forces. There is no accounting in the choice of battle tactics. Such were its maneuvers in all its fight with EPRA, Derg and Shabia. It literally floods the battle scene with foot soldiers. The same procedure is utilized here in its fight against the Ihapa legacy.
Sometimes, I usually reflect the need for responding to the false values and ideals the doofus big-mouth writers claim. It taxes me to read when dimwit cowards present themselves as champions of democracy and take the liberty to bunkum and balderdash the Ihapa led generation.
The absence of EPRP narrative and the silence of splinters and ex-EPRP members are allowing the Woyane narrative to spread and become accepted, as the voice. Some may have refrained for fear of stoking the flame and/or opting to focus on current issues. Others may be cognizant of Woynes’s attempt to play both ends against the middle. As stated earlier Woyane is one of a Quixote character in the Ethiopian history narrative. When it fights it floods the battle scene with its ragtag army, probably as a show of force and surprise to its opponents. The book industry is now inundated with all kinds of trash books, making it difficult to respond to all these books. The problem with overwhelming propaganda attack is that there will be a chance for cross-referencing mystifying the young generation with spurious narration. There is no doubt that the ad nauseam account has reached its peak (while leaving bewilderment in it wake) with few books to come down the line. The writers are like turkeys voting for Christmas. Needless to say, it has ended as it has outgrown its objective, but it will not blow over soon. In the years to come, we will not be surprised to see these rookie writers move to another genre, most likely novels. The two Yimams, Hiwot have proved themselves with novels and will do so in the future.
There is no doubt however that these poor writers have artificial intelligence for a brain, when they act like this and claim like that.