PRELUDE TO THE 1974 FEEBRUARY ETHIOPIAN REVOLUTION: ACTORS, IDELOGUES, CONNECTIONS, DELUSION AND THE AFTERMTH (View by the late Dr Aleme Eshete, died in exile in Italy) Title adapted by me-Oda Boru Dori
As if invited to celebrate an organised uprising and regime change , in the same way we have assisted on other secret occasions, by 1969 Eshetu Chole, Henoch Kifle, Tamrat Kebede (and Enderyas Eshete ?) had returned from America to Addis Ababa. Not all of them were known for beiong “leftist” or “revolutionary” but for the occasion they had arrived attired as one to fully fuel the Addis Ababa University anti-Haile Selassie leftist student agitation. Indeed we have seen the names of all four, together with Desalegn Rahmato and Professor Hagos Gebre Yesus in August 1968 amongst the founding members of Meison. Of these we now know the CIA connections and repeated apperacnces as American proxy of Henoch Kifle and Enderyas Eshete. They must have been the firs Ethiopians t to be recruited by the CIA in the United States itself with Abdul Mohamed Aba Bora. Both Enderyas and Abdul Mohamed are believed to have been selected in Addis Ababa by U.S recruiters to be sent for short periods in “leadership” formation to the United States. The selection which must have been done by the CIA itself (posing as American Embassy) had a special name which I have now forgotten. Since his recruitment Endryas, changing his position regularly on every major issue, from one public to another, changing from Marxism, to Socialism and to capitalism as the situation required, changing his names for every occasion, he has managed to stay on undiscovered until almost the advent of the EPLF-TPLF in May 1991 when at last he dared to come out clearly.. I am sure our patriotic compatriots who have lived in proximity and followed him day by day would be better judges of the duplicity of Enderyas. Anyway with such a reputation now, and the secrecy so well kept to this date, It was with great surprise that I learnt from Andargachew (Andargachew Aseged p.14) that Enderyas and Henoch were amongst the founders in absentia of Meison. My immediate reaction was, “infiltration” of Meison. More so when I found that such an insider of student politics as Zeru Kehshen did not know of the fact and would not believe me when I told him of Enderyas and Henoch as founders of Meison. In any case their utter inactivity in Meison as well as their claim to be left as independent (observer) group inside Meison not bound by the party’s decision – pretext naturally refused and served as excuse for leaving Meison in 1972, plus Zeru’s information that the same group had also applied for group membership of EPRP following the establishment of the EPRP in Berlin in 1972, had convinced me that it was really a story of “infiltration” .Daniel Tadesse was known to have been regularly complaining against Enderyas whom he had assigned to create cells within the Addis Ababa university to only find him completely inactive. Enderyas had other “chats a fouetter” as the French would say. A few years later following the bitter attack and name calling of Meison by the same group as “opportunist”, “Salon Marxists” etc. following acceptance by Meison to collaborate with the Derg with its “critical support”, and particularly the formation of the Mass organisational Office, Negede Gobezie will blast in a tract the whole group, including our Wingate friend Tamrat, as “CIA financed aristocracy”.
Among the leading European activists the French educated Dr. Worqu Ferede and Daniel Tadesse both founding members and leaders of Meison were back in Addis Ababa since 1968. Dr. Worqu, a serious, quite , unassuming, and dedicated revolutionary, who was employed as a lecturer in the Faculty of law was particularly active in agitating student politics. In the same way, it is clear with the assistance of such highly experienced political agitators student politics must have made a long stride forward and gained in maturity. In this connection did you know that Meison was divided into Meison at Home” and “Meison Abroad”. The “Meison at Home” would be Worqu and Daniel, who after years of Western theoretical studies and discussions had come to face the reality in Ethiopia, read more on Ethiopian history, and were gradually departing from some of their basic tenets and drifting away gradually from the “Meison Abroad” Haile Fida, Negede etc. And this was most obvious regarding the so called “national question”. After seeing and knowing what the Ethiopians were and how they lived he will completely abandon the ” the rights of nations and nationalities propaganda and becomes a convinced champion of Ethiopian unity. (Edget Belo Wedqet -Ye Wetader Socialism” ,Addis Ababa, 1998) With the rise of the Derg and the subsequent return of Haile Fida, Negede and the rest, Worqu will be completely eclipsed .
Another most important figure in Ethiopian politics who has returned to Addis Ababa in 1968 was Dr. Tesfaye Debesay, the future Secretary General of the EPRP. Tesfaye Debesai a native of Irob (Agame) like Zeru had followed his elementary and high school education at the catholic mission school in Adigrat. He had been sent by the Adigrat seminar to continue religious studies in Rome at the Catholic College formerly known as Propaganda Fide, now called Universitas Urbania where he studied philosophy.. He was destined to become a priest. However at the end of his studies, or even before Tesfay Debesay had become an atheist, or a positivist as he like to say, Positivism is a philosophical system founded by Auguste Comte which in ordinary language teaches one to believe in what he sees and what he touches, positive facts excluding speculation. Tesfaye had decided to abandon the Church and engage in Ethiopian politics. Following prearranged agreements at the end of his studies at the Propaganda Fide he had to return to Addis Ababa. When he arrived in Addis Ababa in 1968 he did not belong to any party nor did he have any known experience in politics. He was employed in teaching part-time at Abba Dina Police College, and working at Ministry of Information. Tesfaye Debesay had soon become a frequent visitor of Addis Ababa University where he went to meet his old friend Zeru Kehshen and bye and bye engage in the world of student politics. According to oral informants, students used his house for meetings and publishing and reproducing agitation propaganda.
The presence of these subversives must certainly have had an impact in further radicalising and emboldening student protest and direct challenge against Haile Selassie’s “feudal” government. Although the administration had returned the mimeographing machine to the student union, it was clear that tracts and pamphlets did not come from the student Unions alone. It was in general becoming more and more clear that a new source of finance had been introduced. The technique had also changed with clandestine anti-government tracts and pamphlets over pouring everywhere. In those tracts and pamphlets Haile Selassie was in person targetted ridiculed in manners unknown never before. One six page pamphlet entitled “Haile Selassie’s Feudal Fascism” was pushed under the doors of African delegates at the Hilton Hotel. It described not only the general poverty of life in Ethiopia but also the divine absolute rule of the Emperor keeping the country without freedom of speech, and total absence of opposition , particularly the absence of political parties, and the ruthless suppression of any opposition. (Balsvik, op. cit.p.247). It also described Haile Selassie as a puppet of U.S imperialism, perhaps a contribution of the French educated subversives. The most common personal attack was treating the Aged emperor as senile. Very often however, the student anti-government propaganda, or in any case spread in the name of the students, was addressed to the people directly, as “Dear Ethiopians”, “Our Fathers, and Our Mothers, Ours Sisters and Our Brothers”. The pamphlets may also be addressed to particular groups , a real sign of sophistication. Thus certain pamphlets were addressed to the workers, to coolies. Tracts in the country side were addressed to the farmers (the tenant farmer or “Tisegna” with the “land to the tiller slogan”).The national question was always behind the issue of land which according the anti-Ethiopia propagandists was land belonging to what they call “aborigines” occupied by “Amhara” colonial settlers, as we have seen. At this date the study of the nationakl question on the basis of the text sent by Meison had reached the final stage. And while the original text wass reserved and moderate, the Eritrean secessionists like Yohannes Sebhatu, and others like Berhane Mesqel Redda had stretched the text to its extreme so as to render it perfectly anti-Ethiopian and an instrument to dismember the State, as we shall see it presented by the surrogate Walelegn who would repeatedly refer to the rebelklion in Bale and Eritrea. Certainly also the returnees from America like Enderyas and Henoch, must have contributed to giving an extremist touch to the formula of the “the rights of nations and nationalities. The home-based Meison leaders in particular, Daniel Tadesse and Worqu Ferede who were amongst the founders of Meison who under Haile Fida’s supervision drafted the text of the national question as rights up to secession, must certainly have fed some more propaganda to the students if they have not also contributed to push them to the extreme. Worqu has taken many years to modify his position .
In the same way Tesfay Debesay, the future EPRP Secretary General appears also even at this early date to have had particular interest in the national question. His very close friends inform us that he had a particular interest in the “liberation of the Galla”. Not only he must have been following the so called “Bale rebelklion” and the story of the “Macha and Tulama” association, but he could also have been receiving or reading German Protestant missionary pro-secessionist pro-Oromo liberation literature while in Italy. Was Tesfaay Debesay already in contact with Egypt, the Sudan or Somalia on that issue We d o not know . All we know therefore is that student tracts addressed to peasant farmers at this date appealed to them to rise and fight the Amhara “colonial settler” in armed struggle as in Bale.
Pamphlets were also addressed to the soldiers calling on them to join to end the Haile Selassie feudal regime.. Tracts addressed to the Orthodox Church priesthood, and denounced the growth under Haile Selassie , of Protestant and Cathollic missionaries, described as agents of imperialism.” “. Pamphlets were written in Amharic , and very rarely in English when addressed to the educated.. Balsvik had intelligently concluded :
“A pamphlet had to be written by only a handful of people, the whereabouts of the duplicating machine had to be known to as few as possible. Also it was not always stated who was behind the various pamphlets…and certainly some handouts circulating in 1969 did not come from student quarters.” (p.249)
Following student demand for free education to all and their threat
to strike and boycott classes the government had pre-empted the action by closing the university and high schools on March 3, 1969 for an indefinite period. Early the same morning large forces of armed, regular army and bodyguard troops had taken up positions in the city and the university and schools evicting students and pupils. The students went into the city singing anti-government slogans. A large number of students were arrested. The government which , as usual, accused external enemy hands using the students, had assigned police to protect Embassies, government offices and hotels. The University having arranged for the students to return and classes to recommence some students had started to frequent the campuses. But most refused to go back until their arrested friends were released. The agitation did not however stop in the campuses. Finally in early April the police will intervene heavily to arrest several hundred students and taken to Sandafa.. Students were beaten and tortured. A total of one thousand students were arrested in March and April and subjected to such treatments. When the large majority were released after a few weeks, the ring leaders were taken to court and five (including The students who were responsible for the preparation of tracts in Amharic namely Walelegn Mekonnen, Getachew Sharew, and Fantahun Tiruneh, Gezahegn Mekonnen, as well as Yohannes Sebhatu were condemned to five years rigorous imprisonment. .They were accused ” of serving as tools of foreign agents against the interests of the nation.” Tsegaye Gebre Medhin, Zeru Kehshen,Yohannes Berhane and Mesfin Habtu all future EPRP cc members (with the exception of Mesfin habtu) were condemned to six months imprisonment. Berhane Mesqel Redda, Yohannes Mebratu …were sentenced from one to four months imprisonment. Seven students were expelled from the University indefinitely .Mostr were future EPRP leaders, including Berhane Messkel Redda, Zeru Kehshen, Gebru Gebre Wold, Yohannes Sebhatu, Tesfaye Kidane, Mesfin Habtu, and Mesfin Kassu (Meison founding member).
ARREST OF SUBVERSIVE RETURNEES FROM AMERICA AND EUROPE
In April 1969 “Henoch Kifle, Eshetu Chole, Tamrat Kebed and Dr. Worku were arrested at the Special Cabinet of the Emperor. No one was allowed to visit them. Yirga Tesema has been subjected to torture…the duplicating machine has been found in the house of Dr. Hanna Gobezie and she too is arrested. The photograph of the mimeographing machine has been all over the press.”
Haile Selassie’s judges and supporters presented the story in their own fashion. Here is how Berihun Kebede in his voluminous “Ye Atse Haile Selassie Tarik” (Addis Ababa, Meskerem 1993 -September 2000- page 771), describes the case : .. .
Henoch Kifle, and Tamrat Kebede had plotted by inciting people in Ethiopia and abroad, in order to overthrow the government of Emperor Haile Selassie. What is surprising is that not only their fathers are high ranking officials and they are Amhara. Regarding Tamrat Kebede, although his father is Known to have been Ato Belay Hadegu, her has been educated and raised with the utmost care
by General Kebede Gebre the former Defence Minister of Atse Haile Selassie. Fikre Merid is the son of the former Defence Minister Lieutenant General Merid Mengesha. Henoch Kifle is the son of the former high ranking official of Haile Selassie who had been promoted to the rank of Governor General and promoted to the rank of Dejazmach.
Andargachew (p.33) summarises the charges. The charge against Tamrat Kebede was that he paid the students who spread anti-Government tracts
with money that he received from abroad, that he had brought a duplicating machine from abroad which he has hidden at the house of Hanna Gobezie. Henoch was accused of allowing the preparation and duplication of anti-government propaganda in his house, and Worqu was accused of “receiving and paying students money sent to Tamrat from abroad”. Dr. Hanna was accused of having hidden a duplicating machine she received from Tamrat. The sentence given on Sene 3, 1961 (June 1969 ) was that from the date of their arrest Tamrat, Henoch, Walelegn, Zeru should remain in prison for seven and half years . Dr. Hanna was released as Tamrat clarified her from any responsibility for she was told that the bag left at her house contained books and not a duplicating machine. According to Berihun Kebede (op.cit) Abune Tewflos, Dejazmach Kifle Dadi, and Afe Negus Abeje having pleaded to the Emperor for mercy, the prisoners were liberated hardly three months after,
PAUL HENZE CIA AGENT IN ADDIS ABABA ARRIVES IN May 1969 (-1972)
Among the arrival of important subversive elements in Addis Ababa, impacting also on student politics mention must be made of the arrival of Paul Henze as the CIA agent to Ethiopia in May 1969. coinciding with the change of American policy towards Ethiopia and in particular ending support to Haile Selassie in Eritrea where, coupled with Vietnam, the Americans did not want to be involved . Haile Selassie was received very coolly at Washington in July 1969. The talk of a military coup d’état was rampant (News Week, July 1969) or of a regime change. We know for certain that at this date Leul Ras Asrate Kassa , the Enderasse of Eritrea, in direct contact with the CIA and the -american military base of Qagnew near Asmara, and in collaboration with Mossad the secret agency of Israel, in contact with Christian anti-ELF secessionist elements like Issayas Afework, was being openly talked as a successor to Haile Selassie. Issayas’ secret collaboration with the Ras Asrate was not a secret to Addis Ababa. Haile Selassie’s cabinet security man, General Daniel Menghistu, has in fact confirmed recently that Issayas Afwork served indeed as one of the Ethiopian spies infiltrated inside the ELF to report on the Muslim pro-Arab secessionist movement’s activities. (Interview in Menelik Megabit 1993 – March 2001- journal published in Addis ababa journal)
“And one of these was Issayas Afeworkwhom they had recruited to follow the Eritrrean situation and report to them. It 2was precisely for that purpose that he was sent to join the ELF. Issayas was financed and equipped with all that he needed by Ras Asrate kassa (the Emperor’s enderase 1964-1970). Our agent in ther Sudan 2was also coordinating the activities orf our spies in the infiltration of the ELF. Our spies were largely Christians as the Christian highlandfers in Eritrea were afraid of being overwhelmed by the Muslims.”
We have little doubt , therefore, that the talk of a coup d’état, and the Western press propaganda about the need of a regime change in Ethiopia was referring to Ras Asrate. The family, who confirm that Ras Asrate was being approached by the U.S. Britain and Israel to take power, argue that he was not interested in overthrowing Haile Selassie and that his loyalty to the Emperor was stronger than his proverbial “ambition”. It is not also clear how regime change was to be brought about. – through a military coup, a palace coup, or direct intervention of the Americans and Israelis soldiers in Ethiopia. Further, somehow we also suspect some link of the regime change talk with the Oromo liberation propaganda of the German Protestant missionaries of Welega, for one source speaks of a new government headed by Yilma Deressa, an Oromo speaker !(Andargachew Aseged, op. cit. p.37) Asrate Kassa who was opposed to the militarisation of the Eritrean conflict and advocated instead for a political solution (of which his collaboration with the anti-ELF Christian highland movement of Issayas, in one chapter. On the other hand the Emperor, advised by the Prime Minister Aklilku Habte Wold, Ras Asrate’s arch rival, was for the declaration of martial law in Eritrea and finish off the uprising militarily. In any case Ras Asrate will be removed from Eritrea in 1970 to become a Crown Council member and his star will wane as of that date.
In the context of the Cold War, and the fight against communism , American policy of supporting a change of regime and placement of pro-American governments, may not have involved Ethiopia alone but the whole of the Horn of Africa.ted onl In May 1969 we have witnessed the military coup d’etat of General Nimeiry in collaboration with the Sudanese Communist Party. We will know later that Nimeiry was operating under CIA. Supervision, and that the whole enterprise was a trap for the Sudanese Communists who will be massacred en masse by the same Nimeiry. Somalia’ Siad Barre has also taken power masquerading as a Socialist revolutionary. It was a CIA strategy to in those days to dress its agents in Marxist vest. Siad Barre will jump first, as Nimeiry into Soviet arms, then into American arms and decimate Somali leftists. Who was the Ethiopian “socialist” general to be acclaimed by the “socialist leftist” students take power to crash away the genuine change seeking revolutionaries. Was something similar being planned in 1969 for Ethiopia too in the light of the right of the rise of leftist movements. If that plan failed in 1969, it will succeed perfectly in 1974 and the strategy of annihilating Ethiopia’s progressive elements shall be accomplished by the Derg and its opposition parties, including the EPRP.
FROM STUDENT POLITICS TO ARMED STRUGGLE :THE ERA OF MASS EXILE
The 1ST.Student Hijacking Experience
Following the mass arrest of students and brutal repression of student principal student leaders seem to have reached a general conclusion and agreement that student political agitation has reached its final station and that there was a need to to pass into action – the armed struggle – to bring about the changes in regime and impact on the national question as reached through their studies. Thus a group of students led by Birhane Mesqel Reda , and opertionally led by Amnuel Gebre Yesus hijack an Ethiopian Air Lines plane in Bahr Dar and land in the Sudan in August 1969 . As the following list shows, the linguistic composition of the group suggests that the armed struggle for the liberation of the “oppressed nations and nationalities” was taken under consideration.
Berhane Mesqel Reda
Amanuel Gebre Yesus
Haile Yesus Welde Semayat
The Ethiopian students in Europe who were then meeting in Lund (Sweden) will celebrated the event singing revolutionary songs in a 20 kilometre march to Malme.
Issayas Afework himself was recruited by Richard Copeland of the CIA in November 1969. Richard Copeland may be Paul Henze himself who is known to constantly change his name for every operation as befits a secret agent
of the World’s superpower. In the context of the Cold War, given the rise of a socialist movement in Ethiopia (Meison at least) and among the students, plus Haile Selassie joggling with the Soviet Union when needed, plus his advanced age, the Issayas -Copeland agreement takes us back to the talk of the coup in 1969..As we wrote in our paper on the subject (” EPLF the Mother of all CIA Political Surrogates in Ethiopia – How Richard Copeland of the CIA Recruited Issayas Afework: 1969″ updated in June 2002) here is the story
as told by a member of the delegation , Tesfa Mikael Giorgio:
” On the appointment day (Hedar 28 1961 or November-December 1969),…The Americans told him indirectly that as they were worried that following the fall of the debilitated government of Haile_Selassie , there might come a military regime, unfriendly to the United _State, they were ready to ally themselves even with anti-unity secessionist forces. Indeed they stressed the point that desired to ally themselves with anti-Socialist force committed to defend the Qagnew Base as well as similar other bases in the Red Sea…Ato Issayas Afework stressed that they wanted full independence and that they will not accept a federal solution that may be proposed by the new government after Haile Selassie. In reply Richard Copeland had assured Issayas that as long as American interests were safeguarded, they care less about Ethiopian unity. If you satisfy our conditions and you want independence in return you shall have your independence.” Issayas was told. Ato Issayas was further assured that if Selfi Netsanet (his movement) could succeed in bringing the Red Sea coast under its control, they promised to supply unlimited quantity of arms by sea.”
With or without a push from the CIA -Richard Copeland or Paul Henze, and certainly with a push of the now newly reinforced ELF-PLF with CIA backing, student politics at Addis Ababa University had reached an unknown peak. The clique of Eritrean secessionists – Yohannes Sebhatu and the rest , and will dare to publishing in the November 10, 1969 issue of Struggle, using Walelegn as a surrogate their violent article on the national question calling for the tribal dismemberment of Ethiopia.
As well as supportive of Eritrean secession. The articles called for an armed struggle of the oppressed peoples of Ethiopia all over, as if they were already in the bush , in a liberated zone , where the State did not reach. Those days were really strange. “Struggle” the official student paper in Addis Ababa at the centre of Haile Selassie’s power, unchecked and uncontrolled the University administration, and without any consideration of Government repression, thus publishes openly the conclusion reached on the national question and calls for armed struggle using Walelegn Mekonnen as their surrogate. The editorial of that same issue was entitled: “It is the Obligation of the Oppressed and Plundered People to Protest by Taking Arms ” for the dismemberment of the State. The article which appeared in the name of Walelegn was a bitter anit-Amhara diatribe calling for the “oppressed nationalities” to rise and liberate themselves from the settler coloniser in accordance with the rights of nations and nationalities to self-determination up to secession.. The general reaction amongst students and staff was consternation. The Eritrean secessionists and other activists who masqueraded in the name of Marxism was supportive. As Balsvik wrote p.279: “There is abundant evidence in student publications of enthusiastic pride in and loyalty to Ethiopia…” The opposition to Eritrean secession among Ethiopian students was general. She has also noted that the antagonism between Tigrians and Amharic speakers was greater than between Amharic and Oromo speakers. (p.280).
Naturally Haile Sellassie’s Government reacts with another unprecedented violence which the students themselves noticed and feared…Struggle was abolished.
The student leader Tilahun Gezaw who was not an outright supporter of the tribal dismeberment of Ethiopia, was against confrontation with the government and had to stressed to the students that students alone did not have the force to overthrow the government and warned students not to fall into government repressive trap.
And yet Tilahun himself will fall the first victim to government repression as he was assassinated by presumed secret agents while walking home, just outside the University on Tahsas 19 (December 1969) in the evening. On the morrow an estimated 25000 elementary, high school and university students had gathered at Addis Ababa university to bury Tilahun. However the Imperial Body Guard will arrive in trucks in the University to recklessly open fire on the crowd killing at least 10 and wounding a large number. The repression was repeated for successive days in the university and the city’s high schools ending in more deaths and still more wounded people. This was an unprecedented level of Government repression that will close the chapter of student politics in Addis Ababa University.
Large numbers of University students will go into exile. The majority of them including Zeru will go for further studies to the United States in what appeared a predetermined American plan to welcome subversives.
Walelegn himself will die in a second hijack attempt in December 1971. together with a number of other activists. The only surviver will be Zeru’s future wife and long time friend, Tadelech Kidane Maryam. Her presence may be taken as proof of the identity of the group as future EPRP members. Among the hijackers killed on that flight was also Amanuel Yohannes an Eritrean secessionist and activist in Addis Ababa University who had joined ELF-PLF of Sabbe and Issayas in the Sahel with Musse and Yohannes Sebhatu..Hence a another proof of the association of the future EPRP with the Sabbe-Issayas Eritrean secessionist wing. After staying for a short time with the group in Sahel, Amanuel had returned to Addis Ababa under a false name of Belay Tadesse ( and Mohamed Osman Mohamed) and one or two false passports. Amanuel who had already had one hijack experience had certainly returned to organise the hijack of Walelegn and others. The complete list, of the seven hijackers (again seven), once again selected by nationality for the forthcoming armed struggle to dismember Ethiopia, is as follows:
2.Marta Mebratu ( daughter of General Mebratu Fesseha)
3. Amanuel Yohannes (appearing with the false name of Belay Tadesse, and Mohamed Osman Mohamed)
5.Tadelech Kidane Maryam
6. Yohannes Feqadu
Although appearing victorious, the long ad tortuous passage from the beginning to the end of student politics, to the talk of armed struggle, had critically debilitated the State. As Balsvik says, the events of 1969 demonstrated a most critical erosion of government ‘s authority .”Never had such a vehement verbal opposition against the Government been heard in Ethiopia…It reverberated through all the major towns of the country…The number of active supporters was much larger than before, and the geographical distribution much broader. Events proved beyond doubt that solidarity between university and secondary school students , which the unions had attempted to promote the last few years, was now a significant force.”
TO BE CONTINUED
EPRP – ON ARAB PETRO-DOLLAR CONNECTIONS TO DISMEMBER ETHIOPIA::
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