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The Ethiopian Media: Whipping Up Political Emotions and Drowning in Their Own Rhetoric

Ethiopian Media _ Yonas article
Yonas Biru (file)

Yonas Biru, PhD

There are few popular Ethiopian outlets that I have not appeared on to discuss Ethiopian politics, ranging the gamut from government owned Television programs to pro-government YouTubers, and from independently run TV and YouTube anti-government outlets to international media with dedicated Ethiopian programs broadcasted in Amharic.

To name just a few from the home front: EBC, ESAT, EMS, Anchor, Andafta, Nahoo, Roha, Mengizem, የሀሳብ ገበታ, HermelaTV, Reyot, Ethio-360, Adebabay, Abebe Belew, and Ethio Voice Network (Abebe Gelaw), among others. On the international media front, I have appeared multiple times on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), Deutsche Welle (DW – Germany) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS – Australia).

Overall, internationally run outlets are professionally run. Obviously, they have their own predispositions and quirks, but by and large they are reasonably professional. On the other side of the spectrum, Ethiopian government owned media outlets and pro-government YouTubers are propaganda machines of varying degrees.

My focus in this article is on independently run anti-government media outlets. At the risk of disappointing friends, I will divide them into three groups.

In the first group, I include የሀሳብ ገበታ, Mengizem, and Andafta (ሞጋች). They are reasonably independent and less polarizing. Unfortunately, የሀሳብ ገበታ and Mengizem have limited followers in terms of viewership and sadly have limited influence. Though their target is the silent majority, they have not found the proverbial Da Vinci Code to wake it up.

Ethio-360, Abebe Belew, Roha, and Ethio Voice Network (Abebe Gelaw) are extremist pro-Amhara outlets with varying degrees. Ethio-360 is the flag-bearer for the Amhara Shene colony with the remaining three serving as bouncing platforms and dancing floors for Amhara extremism of different genre. Adebabay is part Ortho-Amhara program with some level of modesty to tame extremism.

I am not clear about the overarching strategy and guiding principles of ESAT and EMS. To me they seem to waste their time and energy to resuscitate the fallen angel out of the Abiy Administration not understanding its heritage as the bestial remnant of risen apes. The government you have is the government you deserve or so say people in the know.

Nahoo is an excellent program for general issues. My take is that its financiers at home are careful not to anger the Prime Minister whom they see as the proverbial invincible Minotaur from Greek mythology who was half human and half animal. On the other hand, Reyot (Tewodros Tsegaye) is a random walking outlet. By the time you go to a store and return it has gone from Eskinder worshiping to Eskinder Bashing and TPLF condemning to TPLF worshiping forum.

Anchor is a potentially dynamic stealth rocket. In practice it is a dud. It is an epitome of wasted energy and unrealized potential. Its problem starts with its effort to shape the political agenda rather than providing a forum for debating various political strategies to build consensus. This has led it to provide his forum to people who peddle certain views on key political issues, including on Fano.

Fano has many strong points. It also has many self-destructive shortcomings. The solution is open and bold discussion not touting fiction about its strength and stifling discussions about its weaknesses.

Let me repost what I have written in the past.

The truth is that Amhara extremists and Ethiopianists are driven by a unitarist agenda. In the meantime, they are aware that championing a unitarist agenda is an uphill battle. Consequently, the Amhara agenda has become anti-ethnic federalist without providing an alternative agenda, strategy, and roadmap. This is not only cowardly, but it is also self-destructive.
Amhara does not have an organized party pushing for a unitarist agenda. What it has is more of an off-grid and high-bandwidth network of activists who aim to dial back the time to when the Amhara played a dominant role in state politics.

The network’s ideological doctrine coalesces around Amhara nationalism at its nucleus from whence a unitary mindset radiates outward and expresses itself as a national identity. The network has neither a written manifesto nor an organizational platform. But it has a network of intellectuals of known quantity.

You have heard Shaleka Wolde-ማነው ስሙ who said “ኢትዮጵያ የሚያስፈልጋት አማራ አማራ የሚሸት መንግስት ነው.” You have also heard Eskender Gebre-ማን ይሉታል who often talks about “አባቶቻችን.” አባቶቻችን are long dead and we are living in a completely different world. We cannot rely on አለቃ ገብረሃና’s wisdom in the 21st century. We cannot go forward in a reverse gear.

The Shaleka and Esku political machinery pushes a passive-aggressive strategy to take the Ethiopian political center stage, using grievance politics both as the power cylinder and transmission belt of its political machinery.

You can jump up and down until your face turns purplish ቢጫ. The reason why extremist forces do not want to talk about Fano’s political agenda, strategy and endgame is because they know their agenda will be rejected by the people of Ethiopia, including moderate forces in the Amhara tribal land. That is why they say Fano Has Manifesto but will not share it (Geletaw Zeleke) or insist that Fano does not need political manifesto (ሻለቃ ዳዊት). Even worse promise Fano has a manifesto and present አሮጌ የስኩዋር መጠቅለያ ወረቀት (Engineer Yilkal).

Our media outlets need to change their modus operandi. Make themselves a forum where varying political views are debated, and consensuses are built. There is no pint in presenting misguided souls parroting fiction with compassion. Masters of whipping up political emotions have no transformative value. Ultimately, they drown in their own rhetoric and take the people with them to the bottom. I call this the ኩሩሩ-ization of political discourse and the dumbing down of the nation’s elite.

In the worst case the consequence is the clowning of the entire political system where clowns will destroy the nation. 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com


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  1. Pareidolia… comes to my mind,
    Great article.
    We have been justifiably too radicalized in our own opinions. We, as a multiethnic and multihistory, collections have traversed so far from TRUSTING eachother and the ideas of civility, critical thinking, civil discourses and intelligent conversations that usually require trust, integrity, tolerance, admitting to blindspots and limitations, and inquiring clarifications to ambiguous or controversial points. In short, most of us are radicalized in our own justifiable prejudices and opinions. We sadly see this trend even among the so called intellectuals/ elites who are supposed to be reasonable/ logical and the lights of the society.
    Overall, our collective executive function is highly calcified with debris of funky historicity that bore the complex mesh of factors that led to our boringly predetermined personal views on issues.
    Thus, we settled in to hearing only what we want to hear- PAREIDOLIA- selective listening, and thriving in an echochamber of shared extremist opinion makers and platforms that further multiply and consolidates our funky views, even if it is faulty! .
    Hence the need for platforms of the likes of OMN, Radio Woyane, Ethio 360 and others that cater or accomodate only the ones who propound the political agenda of that media outlet and its predictable audience. Hence the loop, or vicious circle
    Sadly, we need to crush so HARD to the bottom of bottoms for us to awaken and realize our collective self-harm, ignorance and lack of civilty and maybe only then shall we rectify our phantom collective ignorance

  2. Yonas Biru’s persistent false narrative is remarkable. He tirelessly advocates for Fano to develop a political roadmap and manifesto. Neither Abiy Ahmed nor the TPLF came to power in Ethiopia with a political manifesto. Yonas is eager to see a political manifesto so that he can continue voicing his criticism as usual. Fano is not interested in engaging in back-and-forth arguments. They do not have time for this kind of debate. Ethiopian history clearly shows that political programs were not the path to power. It is how committed, generous, and respectful you are to the people that gives you power. Fano will definitely win. Fano’s goal is not to write a political program for people who are lazy and do not want to fight. Fano is not interested in writing a political program for Oromos, Sidamas, Somalis, Afars, and other nationalities. They have to fight for themselves. Fano can only promise something to these nationalities – that it will not impose its will on others by force. Help Fano, join the fight, and make a difference. By the way, Yonas, have you ever contributed money to Fano? We want to hear about it!!! Yonas also criticizes pro-Fano and pro-Amhara media for not giving him a platform or for exposing his lies. He is merely antagonistic towards pro-Amhara media like Addis Voice and Ethio 360 for being unyielding to Abiy Ahmed, them being the ignition fuels for the Amhara revolution. Abebe Belew from Addis Voice asked him to join and help the Amhara movement long ago before Fano came to this stage. Yet Yonas Biru backed down, saying he is not in the business of confining himself to such a movement. Yonas is an attention seeker. He wants to be a crucial figure in demand to write the political roadmap of Fano. Unfortunately for him, no one has given him due consideration. Because of this, he chooses to criticize everyone who looks unfriendly to him.


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