The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Hizkiel  Gebissa

Part I: Peddling Ethnic Hatred


Gemechu Aba Biya

In  an interview on August 1 with Semeneh Biafers of Walta TV, Hizkiel  Gebissa  makes many deceitful statements, as he has done in the past. It’s time to take him to task.  He describes himself as a public intellectual dedicated to defending human rights in Ethiopia. But a glimpse of his interviews, speeches, and writings reveal that the man is neither an intellectual nor a human rights advocate; rather, he is an intellectually bankrupt and dishonest imposter.  To fully expose his bankruptcy and dishonesty requires several pages, probably a book.  Instead, I’ll choose a few examples to illustrate my point.

Officially, Hizkiel is described as a professor of Liberal Studies (whatever that means) at Kettering University in the US but he calls himself a professor of history. He published his PhD dissertation as a book in 2004, Leaf of Allah: Khat and the Transformation of Agriculture in Harerge Ethiopia, 1875–1991. I suppose, this makes him an expert in the production, distribution, and consumption of khat in Harerghe.  I am not interested in reviewing his scholarly contribution on khat; I would leave that to the experts in the field.  My concern here is his consistently divisive, offensive, and untruthful statements about the political situation in Ethiopia, currently and in the past.

Although his academic expertise is limited to khat, he presents himself as an expert on Ethiopian history and the political economy of countries in the Horn of Africa.  Unsurprisingly, his knowledge of Ethiopian history and political economy is demonstrably superficial.  In a rare display of honesty, when asked by Semeneh about the ethnic background of emperor Menelik, Hizkiel responded that he does not know.  Yes, it is true he knows little about Menelik or the history of Ethiopia.

Since Ethiopia’s history is outside his academic field, he can be forgiven for his scant understanding of Ethiopia’s rich history.  The issue is not the deficiency of his knowledge—that is a given; rather, it is his ostentatious pretensions, his deliberate distortion of facts, his fabrications of stories, and his fallacious arguments to advance his extremist nationalist agenda.

In all of his interviews, he describes himself as a public intellectual dedicated to defending human rights in Ethiopia. Is he?  A public intellectual is an individual who is distinguished for his or her scholarly work and is engaged in advancing a just cause, whether it is economic, environmental, political, or social.  In the US, there are some well-known public intellectuals; for example, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Edward Said, and  Cornell West.

Read Aloud:   Dr. Tewodros Adhanom on Andargachew Tsige and Dr. Birhanu Nega (Audio)

We may disagree with their politics, but we all admire their dedication, consistency, and scholarly work.  It will be unfair to compare him with them.  But it’s understandable how in the la la land of extremist nationalism, an intellectually mediocre imposter can become a star.  In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, as the saying goes.

A human rights activist consistently and meaningfully defends and promotes the human rights of all individuals in Ethiopia, irrespective of their ethnicity.  Human rights activists often pay personal sacrifices for defending human rights violations; for example, being imprisoned.  Talk is cheap.  It is difficult to call Hizkiel a human rights activist.  First, there is no evidence that he has contributed anything substantial to promote and protect human rights in Ethiopia. Second, he has paid no personal sacrifice for defending human rights in Ethiopia. He was teaching at Kettering while many human rights activists in Ethiopia were being tortured in jail.

Third, his activism was at best limited to producing pamphlets or making speeches that denounced the TPLF government, selectively. Whenever the TPLF government violated the human rights of the Oromo people, he was quick to denounce the government, but when the human rights of non-Oromos were violated he was conspicuously silent.  Human rights activists don’t discriminate between victims of human rights abuses.

Fourth, under the Abiy government, his stand on human rights abuses are appalling.  When the mob that came out to welcome his boss Jawar Mohammad to Shashemene hanged an innocent young man upside down on August 13, 2018, Hizkiel  chose to keep quiet.  The victim was a non-Oromo.  When followers the OLF and Little Ayatollah massacred close to 60 non-Oromos in Bourayou on September 17, 2018, once again Hizkiel  chose to be silent.  Instead of denouncing the massacre, he condemned the coverage of the news as an anti-Oromo propaganda campaign.

Following the massacre, when the authorities in Addis Ababa arrested thousands of innocent youth and put them in a military camp, again he chose to keep quiet.  When 800,000 Gideons were displaced at the instigation of extremist Oromo nationalists in June 2018, Hizkiel  kept quiet.  Once again, he characteristically denounced the efforts to raise funds for the victims as a propaganda ploy to discredit the Oromo people.  He has yet to denounce the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing.  Can such an individual be called a human rights activist?  No way, not even by a khat addict.

Read Aloud:   Why are Oromos Opposed to the Addis Ababa Master Plan? | By Olaana Abbaaxiiqi

His selective denunciation reflects his ethnicist division of the Ethiopian people between “us”, the Oromos, and “them”, the non-Oromos.  A prejudiced activist cannot claim to be a human rights activist, even if we take his denunciation as activism.  He is an ethnicist charlatan.

A human rights activist, even a self-proclaimed one at that, who by his silence indirectly sanctions massacres, mob hanging, mass incarceration, and ethnic cleansing acquiesces to the crime.  He is an enabler of crimes against humanity.

A human rights activist works with the other fellow activists to advance a common cause, but Hizkiel  attacks other human rights activists in Ethiopia who disagree with him politically.  He disparages non-Oromo activists who defend the rights of the citizens of Addis Ababa to elect their own mayor directly. He calls them hoodlums who engage in political terrorism.  His condemnation demonstrates that he is a political operative masquerading as a human rights activist.

Not only does he engage in selective denunciation, he spreads ethnic hatred.  In most of his political discussions, interviews, speeches, and writings he instigates conflict between Amharas and Oromos.  In an essay that appeared on  Ethiomedia on October 20, 2016, he lists (by quoting another author) ethnic slurs directed at the Oromo more people supposedly by Amhara people, as an example of how the Amharas have oppressed, marginalized, and dehumanized the Oromo people for more than hundred years.

In the eyes of many Ethiopians, as Donald Donham keenly observed, the “Galla were pagans. They were uncivilized. Ye Galla chewa ye gomen choma yellem (it is impossible to find a Galla gentleman as it is to find fat in greens) or again Galla inna shinfilla biyatbutim aytera (even if you wash them, stomach lining and a Galla will never come clean).” In one Amharic expression, Oromos were equated with human feces: “Gallana sagara eyadar yegamal” (Galla and human feces stink more every passing day). In another, even Oromo humanity was questioned: “Saw naw Galla?” (Is it human or Galla?).

What was the purpose of listing these ethnic slurs?  Why stoop so low?  The khat expert knows the purpose well: it is to create resentment, animosity, and hostility among Oromos against the Amhara people. But what he should have realized is that ethnic, racial, or regional slurs are not unique to Ethiopia.  They are ubiquitous elsewhere as well.  Still, intellectuals don’t resort to using slurs to bolster their arguments.

Read Aloud:   Hailemariam Desalegn’s BBC Interview, Fraudulent Accomplice of Tyranny

I can list many Oromo ethnic slurs directed at Amharas, Keffas, Sidamas, or Somalis, but that will not strengthen whatever argument I am making other than fuel hatred.  Individuals like him who resort to using ethnic insults lack the intellectual capability to provide evidence-based arguments to support their dubious claims.

A sound argument based on verifiable premise, supporting evidence, and logical conclusion requires no emotional embellishment to convince its listeners or readers.  The appeal to emotion indicates once inability to produce sound arguments.  An individual who claims to defend human rights does not repeat offensive ethnic slurs.  The use of ethnic slurs to advance a political agenda is unconscionable, objectionable, and deplorable.  A sane individual will not use ethnic slurs in any argument, unless one is under the influence of khat.

Human rights activists don’t incite ethnic violence, but Hizkiel ’s stock-in trade is inciting conflict, particularly between Amharas and Oromos, as I have shown above.  Here is a more recent example.  In September 2018, appearing as a prop for Jawar as usual on OMN TV, he announced that there is a political party that is dedicated to exterminating the Oromo people.  The message was loud and clear: The Oromo people should be ready to fight against the impending onslaught.  This story was fabricated to incite violence between the Amhara and Oromo people.

The shameless Bekele Gerba repeated the fabricated story.  To his credit, Marara Gudina repudiated the story.  A man who fabricates such a story cannot be human rights activist. He is a fraud. He is a criminal.  Had he told a similarly manufactured story in the U.S, he would have been prosecuted for hate speech and put in jail. The khat expert has less integrity than that of a khat (drug) dealer.  The sooner people realize his duplicity, particularly journalists, the lower the chances of people being duped by his deceptive, divisive, and conflict-inducing statements.  May Allah help the author of the Leaf of Allah to come to his senses.


  1. The Oromos are proud and self respecting people but the likes of Hizkiel Gebissa who under the cover of Oromo nationalism try to promote their divisive and fascistic politics do not represent them. He seems to suffer from some kind of personality disorder because he is obviously afflicted with hatred and bigotry. His recent overtures with the TPLF also demonstrate that he is a kind of sell off and his willingness to collaborate with anti-democratic forces.

  2. Thank you, Gemechu Aba Biya. well said. You put him in his place and I hope he learns something from your article.he is out of his comfort zone from his small circle the world to see what person he is,

    Thanks again

  3. Gamachu Aba Biya your are probably right about this guy and his alleged character flaws. After all, he is bookman and he should know better than average street person. Nevertheless, your argument could have been brilliant and comvincing hadn’t yourself used other stereotypes such as khat addicts, khat scholar and so on in demeaning tone.The use of khat could be as bad and harmful as alcohol but some people use any way and they are not all bad or crazy people. Add on that the religio-cultural dimension senditivity associated with it in Ethiopia.Just saying.

  4. I say ‘Good Luck’ to this man of character, the author of this article. I wish him good luck because every sensible remark in his article will fall on deaf ears with careless ‘professors’ like the man referenced here. As one of the former red cubs of the dreaded Mengistu and now making his permanent domicile here in the most democratic nation in the world, he feels at liberty to say and write anything. I feel very sorry for those young minds who happened to sign up for his classes. From what I hear most professors who are originally from the old country spend most of their time bashing the ‘Woyane’ government and all other regimes before them. Their ‘liberal’ studies have turned out to sympathy seeking classes. When ‘scholars’ like him telling us how speaking Oromifaa used to land anyone in jail for just saying a single word in it. Such lies don’t just don’t drop from the sky suddenly. It must have been ‘revealed’ during one of those classes and gained watery eyed sympathies. Those young Americans who don’t have any means to verify it must believe the ‘poor’ professor who had ‘lived’ it. I don’t remember a single incidence. All I know is that the weekly market at that small railway station where I spent my formative years. There was not a single word uttered in Amharic. It was all Oromifaa. When I was there for the last time in the late 1960’s it was the same with the whole market buzzing in Oromifaa. That was the same in every locality in the western Hararghe region from Hirna to Arbaa(Bordode). But I did not stop there. I thought it might have the case after the late 1960’s especially during the dreaded Mengistu time. SO I called my merchant relatives who lived thru the carnage of the 1970’s. They thought something was wrong with me for asking such no-so-intelligent question. We just zoomed by and by. I felt embarrassed for asking such a stupid question.

    But that is how such bigoted individuals thrive. Who is his/her right mind post an article that included what our noble neighbors have been insulting their centuries old countrymen? What is the purpose of such inciting diatribe? In this day and age such reckless needling and prodding in the old wounds and ugliest part of our history would nothing but drive neighbors to go after each other’s throats. Calling others derogatory names is the smelly part of history. And no single ethnic group is innocent of it. I had heard what my Itu clan used to call the other clan of our won Oromos. I still remember what the Arsi Oromos were known by, what the Karrayoos were called. Don’t ask me about our noble people of Amharas, Afars and Issas. Such derogatory names I heard when I was a young boy will go to the grave with me.
    I bet you my last dollar this dirty laundry exists in every ethnic group. That is something we should all hide from our young generation so they will in peace and harmony with their fellow human being next door. The cardinal question he should have been asked was how did he, as Oromo, came to know all those blood boiling epithets? He must have been saying all those derogatory phrases pretending to be an ‘Amhara’? There is no other way because no Amhara would dare say that to his face.

    But this is how such bigots are. They think they have made it living in comfy homes privileged with acquired American, Australian or European citizenship. When vacation time is up, they are guaranteed to go back to their teaching classes mumbling and muddling in their thick as turtle shell utterances. That what happens to you after your ‘copy and paste’ PhD’

  5. You call yourself Gemechu? What an inciedence. He made his points openly and what makes you outcry in the dark? Selfacrediatation does not bring you awnywhere.

  6. You call yourself Gemechu? What an inciedence. Ethnic merchandise will not take you anywhere. Prof made his point in public. Now you outcry in drak. Ethiopian youth have struggled for democracy so that everybody can voice. We are tired of immigrants with feelings of selfaccredition. Leave Ethiopia for Ethiopians.

  7. Prof. Hizkiel,
    He is very authentic and a man of integrity. He said facts as it is. We are looking for others (the so called intellectuals) to follow suit.

  8. Before anything else, let me peel naked this charlatan and fraud about his name, “Gemechu Aba Biya” by using Oromo sounding name, he thinks he can get away with canards about Prof. Ezekiel Gebissa. Not only he misspelled his name, but he did also use names that do not fit into traditional Oromo regional designation/classification of names. the name Gamachuu is primarily used in central Oromia and some parts of north-western Oromia. Abaa Biyaa is mainly used in Jimma Royal Households–and this imposter did not understand the significance of names and how-to spell properly, hence he is not an Oromo and the dastardly coward was not man-enough to use his own identity to pen his invectives!

    Prof. Ezekiel is a friend of mine, I have known him for a long time and I appreciate his intellect. He has widely written on Oromo/Ethiopian history for the past two decades: unlike what is stated in the imposter’s article-that Ezekiel only authored a book on Khat, I have and read several of prof. Ezekiel’s books: 1. Taking the Place of Food: Khat in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press-2010 2. The Leaf of Allah: Agricultural Transformation in Hararge Ethiopia: 1875 -1991, James Curry-Addis Ababa University Press in Eastern African Studies Series, 2.Translated a Major Biography of Emperor Haile Selassie with the late Harold Marcus–the quential expert on Ethiopian history– My Life and Ethiopia’s Progress: Michigan University Press 1994.3.Contested Terrain: Essays on Oromo Studies, Ethiopianist Discourse, and Politically Engaged Scholarship. And several articles in academic journals

    Ato “Gemechu”‘s vilification of Prof. Ezekiel is a bogus battle cry and slimy drum beating from the Habashs crowd with mediocre talents, who post unpleasant and nasty screeds full of invectives and name callings! The pathetically tiresome and libel doodle does not have a single quotation from Prof
    Ezekiel’s media appearances, lectures nor from his books! He accuses Prof. Ezekiel of everything under the universe! Virulent distortion and ridicule of prof. Ezekiel’s scholarship indicates the inability of Habasha elites to understand the rising tide of Oromo nationalism and it illustrates also the primitive stage of their creativity and an underdeveloped political and social culture!

    Ato “Gemechu”s savage attack of the good Prof. and his entire hullabaloo and a very disturbing ad-hominem and craven canards will not elevate the political and social debate in the Empire! The abusive invectives and slurs he used to describe the Oromo people are vitriolic!

    It has been said that the usage of invectives, overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse are time-honored Habasha Virtues!

    Ato “Gemechu”s unmitigated rants and gratuitous vilification of an Oromo Scholar, Prof. Ezekiel, is no a panacea to the country’s political and social dilemmas, a sober analysis of the shortcomings of Prof. Gabissa’s academic opus would have been noted. Self-righteous and solipsistic observation is unacceptable!

  9. A man by the name Gemechu is a real intellectual who exposed those addicted racists like hizkel and a layman like Bekele Geriba(hizkel’s Khat leftover). Ethiopia will never worry as it has millions sons like Gemechu

  10. Please read that as: There is no other way because no Amhara would Not dare say that to his face.

  11. How dare you expect some one who is described as having hell on marriage from his wife divorced from this miserable guy couple of years ago.His own daughter also seen with Ethiopian falag recently refused to wear the his favorite Oromo flag because of her growO area around Aroge kera from respected Oromo family who prefer to be identified as Ethiopian with others. Hzikel was not afraid to condemn his church which was influenced by OLF politics because iof the late Pastor Gudina Tumssa who was mudrdered by mitary junta Derg but still having dedicated non compromising people from all part of the country to express the church as Ethiopian rejecting OLF factions who use the title Oormo Lutheran for hating the Ethiopian name.I don’t think it is necessary to give time for such immoral person who carry Khat along with his jihadist comrade J war who is responsible for the recent blood shed of Hawassa by hist instigating statement of fulfilling regional right by violence to the extremistsd there.

  12. The guy NEMICHO GABISA is the stupidest person in the planet of the earth. I don’t know where and how he got all his Degrees? Actually, all fanatic OROMO so called intellectuals are as idiot as GABISA they have never and ever become civilized and learn and think like a human being even if they get a chance to live in the most so called civilized countries. These people always think like primitive days and they are barbarians and have no such a humanity sense of humor.

  13. I see that Gemechu Aba Biya touched nerves by calling “a spade a spade”.

    If any of you have anything to say to reinstate Hizkiel Gebissa as an intellectual and a scolar who stand for democracy and human rights, say it. Persaonally, I take Hizkiel Gebissa as intelectual lightweight who has picked an easy subject – ethnicism – as his lifelong work.

    As far as I’m concerned, you do not need a PhD to put out all kinds of claims for or against an ethic group or groups. In fact, the past few years have shown that you do not even need a grade school education to make “us and them” kind of claim and counter claim.

    Better than Hizkiel Gebissa’s speechs which pervade the media for several years now and even if the speeches amount to hate speech punishable by law, the mob with no grade school education has transformed the country beyond recognition. Transformed the country from what to what? From bad to worse.

    My observation is that Hizkiel Gebissa has a serious ego issues and the only way to feed the ego is by jumping on sensitive issues such as ethnicity and making big claims. He overwhelms journalists with his verbal firepower to shame them and silence them. I don’t see him engage in any serious intellectual work or discussion with other scholars even in the area of ethnicity.

    All things considered, Gemechu Aba Biya deserves “thank you.”

  14. Dear Dorry,

    I think you failed to show Gabissa’s scholarship. His main works are the two copy and paste literature reviews on khat as he does not qualify to do proper research on this area. Leaving aside this issue, the point I want to make is that a true scholar does not fabricate baseless stories which could lead to devastating wars between two brotherly ethnic groups. As the Amharic saying goes, “Awaki sew washto yastarekal enji washto ayatalam”. In fact, God forbid this, if war breaks out, Gabissa and his mentor Jo-War will take the next flight to the USA leaving behind poor oromo kids to die.
    Gabissa: Wollo has been and will be to all Ethiopians as Wollega has been and will be.

  15. “Prof. Ezekiel is a friend of mine,–He has widely written on Oromo/Ethiopian history for the past two decades,-I have and read several of prof. Ezekiel’s books: 1. Taking the Place of Food: Khat in Ethiopia, The Red Sea Press-2010 2. The Leaf of Allah: Agricultural Transformation in Hararge Ethiopia: 1875 -1991”
    Shame on you. Eventhough, his articles are rotating arround Khat. He contemplates he he knows Ethiopian History and yet he dines the truth about Ethiopia and its people. A man who lives in the most Democratic country where he enjoys freedom and nationality being racist in no way acceptable.
    Imagine, immigrants like in Amerika, England share political power, gain wealth,–. But you want Oromo people tor be strained and locked harboring with hatrade and ambiguity.
    I can not distigush the so kalled professor Ezkiel and his followers fro the late Enterhamoy of Rwanda.

  16. Good job, Gemechu Aba Biya. You have articulated that the anti-Oromo extremists have nothing more to say about their decaying empire. They have said everything, walked all the way and completed their journey. Nothing else is left for them. Thank you for your great contribution to speed up the breakup of our beloved Ethiopia. Your article is truly the empire’s obituary.

    Don’t worry about Ezekiel’s personal life. What does his divorce have to do with his political views? Divorce makes a perfect sense if it does not go as planned. He did not start it and his will not be the last in human history. So many royal families (eg. Prince Charles) and presidents of powerful countries (eg. Donald Trump – twice) have divorced. Who knows about you or your parents marriage history? Having exhausted your political capital, now you Amharas have started to go lower and lower.

    The comment on Bekele Gerba shows how frustrated you Amharas have become. Continue doing like that but don’t forget that everything you do and say demolishes your beloved empire piece by piece. It’s over, the old ways of politicking has been effectively rejected. Thank you for your contribution to that.

  17. Oromo society is a mosaic as it can be.There is no single criteria to arbitrarily erect this name is from such and such region. And from there to conclude there fore the man who is referring as so and so is not really an Oromo. No reason to convince any one in this other than to say you arrived at than it is your preference or whims. The other thing is you filled up your comment with polemics,and cliches. By what criteria you have arrived to claim you as an Oromo are better in education, manner and civility than Habeshas?

    Let me pose this question to you.What if any do you uniquely posses as an Oromo that is not copied or adapted from Habwsha?Architecture?cultural foods such as Engera? Horse galloping,Literature,Farming,even the many christian names.
    So much for your belittling of Habeshas,without facts.You intensely hate Habeshas, yet every thing you have is adapted from Habeshas,how do you.Does this make you comfortable to boast as to say you are capable of teaching Habeshas.

  18. How can we all parties to discuss face-to-face? That matters to solve the issue of ambiguity. In fact no one evict Emperor Menelik II outstanding efforts to make love first.

  19. How can we all parties to discuss face-to-face? That matters to solve the issue of ambiguity. In fact no one evict Emperor Menelik II outstanding efforts to make love first.

  20. What a non sense? Hizkiel is a highly knowledgeable and poorhouse of the road map of struggle of Oromos for equality.

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