Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sebhat Nega stirs things up in Ethiopia

Indian Ocean Newsletter N° 1216 16/06/2007

The interview of a leader of the governing party broadcast on 28 May by Radio Dimtse, owned by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF, government), has made significant waves in Addis Ababa. Sebhat Nega tried in this interview to put himself over as the voice of Ethiopian nationalism. He hence defended a very hard line against the Ethiopian opposition, while nevertheless presenting the TPLF as the spearhead and guarantor of Eritrean independence. He went as far as to state that the current Ethiopian government was “the sole force able to defend Eritrean independence”. This extreme position came over as the expression of a muffled power struggle at the top of the TPLF, in which Sebhat Nega was positioning himself as an alternative to the present Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Accordingly, Sebhat Nega, who holds a post of responsibility in the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (Effort), could be the target of an investigation into the financial management of this consortium of companies with links to the government coalition. Certain Ethiopian MPs have already called for precisely such an investigation. He has therefore mobilised his sister Kidusan Nega, the mayor of Mekele, her husband Tsegaye Berhe the President of the Tigray Regional State, and other members of his family and friends to prepare to fireback against a possible accusation of corruption that could be levelled against him. Such a tactic had already been used a few years ago against the TPLF dissident Seye Abraha. The mobilisation of his partisans confirms Sebhat Nega is planning to return to the limelight of the political scene. They have been fuelling the reproaches made against Meles Zenawi for keeping Seye Abraha, “a TPLF hero” in prison and call for him to be freed. Sebhat Nega has tested the feeling of the Tigrayan Diaspora about him by gaining the support of a former TPLF dissident now living in exile in Ohio (USA), Bisrat Amare, who went back to the TPLF after the general election in July 2005.