By Alemayehu G. Mariam
January 12, 2021
But Mengistu and Meles should never forget: ‘Justice is like a train that is nearly always late,’ but for the fiendishly wicked, justice always arrives in the nick of time… Beseferut qûna mesefer ayqerem (with the measure you use, it will be measured to you).’ Alemayehu G. Mariam, June 2, 2008.
“Without the TPLF, Ethiopia will disintegrate.” Sebhat Nega, Wikileaks, 2008.
TPLF Kingpin and Godfather Sebhat “Aboye” Nega
On November 3, 2020, the leaders of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) declared war on the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia by attacking the Northern Command in Tigray region.
On November 9, 2020, H.E. Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed declared the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) has been mobilized for three purposes in Tigray region including apprehension of the criminals who planned and implemented the attack on the Northern Command.
On November 30, 2020, in a nearly three-hour Q&A session, PM Abiy explained to Parliament the details (available in Amharic and English translation) of the law enforcement action.
On January 8, 2020, the ENDF captured Sebhat “Aboye” Nega, the undisputed TPLF godfather, kingpin, numero uno, supremo, mastermind, grand poohbah, head honcho, fat cat and mogul.
It was a stunning reversal of fortune.
No one imagined the onetime TPLF demigod and superhero could fall from his lofty position of disgrace into a crag in a desert canyon.
How the mighty TPLF have fallen! Literally, into a crevice on a rock face.
When ENDF troops hoisted Sebhat from his hiding place, he pleaded for his life. “Please don’t shoot/kill me.”
I prophesied in February 2013 that in the end the TPLF will be wiped from the face of the earth, gone with the wind!
Scripture teaches that ‘He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.’ Meles and his worshippers have profoundly troubled the Ethiopian house and they shall inherit the wind!
After the TPLF launched its attack on the Northern Command, I told them poetically how the end game was going to be played out:
TPLF, the end is near
It is simple and clear
You have a choice to surrender
Or go six feet under!
TPLF, I done told you the end was near
Now you can see it bright and clear
Man up and surrender
I sincerely don’t want to see you go under!
I am very glad Sebhat Nega manned up and chose to surrender. I hope the other TPLF leaders will also surrender.
I have heard many say, “Sebhat is 87 years old. How much time does he have left to live? He should have killed himself.”
Others were equally insistent. “He is a gutless coward. He should have fought and died in battle. After all, he made cannon fodder of tens of thousands of Tigrean youth.”
Still others wondered why ENDF did not execute him in the desert and let the wild animals do what they will.
I do not agree with any of the foregoing options.
I want justice served to Sebhat Nega and his friends, not vigilante justice.
I want them to stand trial in full view of the world, not martyred for their decades-long criminal activity.
I want Sebhat Nega and all TPLF suspects to have a fair trial with maximum protection of their due process rights.
Upholding the rule of law: Sebhat Nega and all TPLF criminal suspects shall receive a fair trial
For nearly a decade and half, I told TPLF leaders in my weekly commentaries that “justice is like a train that is nearly always late but it always arrives.” but for the fiendishly wicked, justice always arrives in the nick of time.
TPLF leaders are being loaded on the Justice Train, more accurately, the Justice Plane, and delivered to face long overdue justice.
I can imagine how the game could have been over for the TPLF leaders literally hiding under rocks and caves in the deserts of Tigray.
Few would have inquired if their corpses were left in the desert for wild animals. Truth be told, Sebhat Nega and his crew massacred and left the corpses of brave ENDF troops for vultures and hyenas.
But as PM Abiy has repeatedly said, the law enforcement operation in Tigray region is about justice not retribution; accountability in the judicial process, not extrajudicial action; bringing out the truth in full public view and not burying it with the TPLF (LF= Lie Factory); learning from the mistakes of the past and not repeating it again and ultimately letting “justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” in Ethiopia.
I remember kangaroo justice days in Ethiopia
I remember the days of “kangaroo justice” in Ethiopia time when TPLF leader Meles Zenawi was judge, jury and executioner.
Meles almost always injected himself in ongoing criminal trials condemning suspects and defendants as “criminals” and “terrorists”.
When Zenawi jailed editors of several newspapers following the 2005 elections awaiting “trial”, he declared, “For us, these are not just journalists. They will not be charged for violating the press laws. They will be charged, like the CUD leaders, for treason.”
When freelance Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were on trial on charges of “terrorism”, Zenawi declared, “They are, at the very least, messenger boys of a terrorist organization. They are not journalists. Why would a journalist be involved with a terrorist organization and enter a country with that terrorist organization, escorted by armed terrorists, and participate in a fighting in which this terrorist organization was involved? If that is journalism, I don’t know what terrorism is.”
All of them were convicted. That was a foregone conclusion.
It is noteworthy that PM Abiy Ahmed has made no public statements on the criminal case against the TPLF leaders and their allies that planned and executed the attack on the Northern Command except to say that suspects will be brought the bar of justice. He has made no statements on the criminal culpability of specific TPLF suspects. He has collectively referred to TPLF leaders as “junta members” or members of an oligarchic military dictatorship.
In my view, there is so much political windfall that could be obtained by talking about the TPLF suspects in the media. It is so much easier to try and convict them in the court of public opinion. But Sebhat and his TPLF crew will have their day in court.
Rule of law awaits TPLF suspects, not kangaroo justice
For 30 years, the TPLF provided the people of Ethiopia kangaroo justice in kangaroo court.
Today, a court of law awaits TPLF suspects.
I am very confident TPLF leaders suspected in involvement in the attack on the Northern Command will be given something they had denied to the people of Ethiopia when they were in power for 30 years.
Due process of law!
Due process of law is their constitutional right. (Articles 14-23 of the Constitution of FDRE).
Due process begins with the presumption of innocence.
YES, Sebhat Nega and all of the other TPLF suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by the Office of the Ethiopian Attorney General (OEAG) in a court of law.
Article 20(3) of the Ethiopian Constitution provides: “During proceedings accused persons have the right to be presumed innocent.” The presumption of innocence is featured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (to which Ethiopia is a signatory and incorporated by reference in 1) Article 13 (2) of the Ethiopian Constitution); 2) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (to which Ethiopia is a signatory provides under Art. 14 (2) (also Art. 9 (4); and 3) the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) (to which Ethiopia is a signatory) under Art. 7 (b).
The presumption of innocence and its flipside, the prosecution’s burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt represent the “golden thread” that runs through the fabric of the criminal laws of all civilized nations. (See Article 13 of the Ethiopian Constitution”; and Article 141 of the Ethiopian Rules of Criminal Procedure “When the prosecution case is concluded, the court, if it finds no case against the accused has been made out of which, if unrebutted, would warrant his conviction, shall record an order of acquittal.”)
It is the singular duty of the prosecution representing the state to present compelling and legally admissible evidence in court to convince the Court the accused is guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Therefore, Sebhat Nega and all other TPLF suspects are entitled to their day in court where the OAGE must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law in Ethiopia, not in the courts of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or what have you.
What constitutes proof beyond a reasonable doubt?
Proof of strong suspicion that the TPLF suspects were involved in the attack on the Northern Front does not amount to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Bits and pieces of evidence showing the TPLF suspects possibly, probably, plausibly, and likely were involved in the attack on the Northern Front does not cut it under the reasonable doubt standard.
Proof that there is overwhelming evidence the TPLF suspects were involved in the attack on the Northern Command but there is reasonable doubt (that is, a single doubt based upon reason and common sense, the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act) about their guilt, then the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt has not been met.
The evidence that transforms the “presumption of innocence” to a factual finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is evidence “which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the judges (not public opinion) in that condition that they feel an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge.”
Simply stated, the Court must have “moral certainty about the evidence presented against the accused to a point where the judges would act in reliance upon its truth in matters of the greatest importance to himself or herself.”
Ultimately, the universal rule is that if the fact finder views the evidence in a criminal case reasonably permitting either of two conclusions — one of innocence, the other of guilt — the fact finder is required to adopt the conclusion of innocence.
Such is the foundation of the criminal law in all civilized societies.
Let me make it crystal clear!
I am sure there will be some who read the foregoing and ask, “What happened to Prof. Al Mariam? Is he now defending the rights of the worst criminals in Ethiopian history?! Is he now defending the very individuals he prosecuted and convicted in the court of public opinion for the past 15 years? Has the professor lost his senses?”
No, I have not surrendered my sanity!
In September 2010, I defended Meles Zenawi’s right to speak at Columbia University. I was condemned and vilified for defending Meles. They said I had “sold out”.
My reasoning in defense of Mele’s right to speak was simple. “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” It would be hypocritical of me to argue for free speech and press freedoms in Ethiopia and justify censorship or muzzling of Zenawi stateside. If censorship is bad for the good citizens of Ethiopia, it is also bad for the bad dictators of Ethiopia.
As a criminal defense and constitutional lawyer with nearly three decades of experience, I have learned that even the worst criminal is entitled to a robust legal defense.
There is no doubt (not just reasonable doubt) whatsoever in my mind Sebhat Nega and his crew are guilty as sin in the attack on the Northern Command and untold other crimes.
They are guilty of untold murders beginning in their days in the bush over four decades ago.
They are guilty of untold crimes against humanity and genocide. in Ethiopia.
They are guilty of massive corruption.
They are guilty, guilty, guilty!
The fact of the matter is that what I believe in my mind about the guilt of Sebhat Nega and the other TPLF suspects is of no consequence. It is totally irrelevant.
What matters is that Sebhat Nega and his crew are proven guilty of the crimes in the attack on the Northern Command and any other crimes they are charged with beyond a reasonable doubt in an Ethiopian court of law! That is the only thing that matters!
Let me make it crystal clear again.
By standing up for the right to a fair trial for Sebhat Nega and the other TPLF suspects, I am standing up and defending the rule of law.
I am standing against 30 years of kangaroo justice in Ethiopia.
I am standing for the constitutional right of all Ethiopians that no one can deprive them of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
It is this rule of law I have defended in the United States for nearly three decades. It is the rule of law I believe to be universal.
In America, that rule of law is constitutionally framed as the “due process of law”.
“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” (Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, applies exclusively to the Federal Government.)
“No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, applies exclusively to the states.)
That is why I boldly made the following pledge on November 18, 2020 to TPLF suspects in the attack on the Northern Command who peacefully surrender. “You will receive a fair and just trial and I will do everything I can to make sure you receive a fair and just trial.”
It is necessary to ensure they receive due process in their trials. If this is done, the outcome will not be debatable. In the end, that is how we ensure justice. Due process is how we secure justice. As I mentioned to you earlier, is these people (TPLF suspects) surrender to the authorities, they will be adjudicated with due process. As long as their due process rights are protected, their rights as criminal defendants will be secured. I personally will do what I can to ensure their due process rights are protected regardless of what happens. I do not want them to be treated in a manner that offends due process. In every minute detail of the country’s laws, their rights have to be protected in every respect. If it’s not done in that manner, I shall personally oppose it. (Translation of video excerpt.)
I am supremely confident Ethiopia will prove to the world beyond a shadow of doubt that its justice system meets and exceeds global standards of due process
I must commend the Office of the Attorney General of Ethiopia (OAGE) for the extraordinary professionalism and care they have shown to high profile criminal defendants over the past year. They have refrained from inflammatory public statements that could potentially prejudice the rights of the TPLF suspects and defendants to receive a fair trial.
To my knowledge, the OAGE has made no pronouncement of guilt or criminality on TPLF suspects except to issue lawfully authorized arrest warrants. I have not heard any responsible government officials or judicial officers making any legal conclusions about the guilt of TPLF suspects.
OAGE prosecutors and investigators nor police authorities to my knowledge have made prejudicial statements in public that could seriously undermine the fair trial rights of any TPLF suspects.
I urge OAGE and all other investigative agencies to continue in their professional handling of TPLF cases and inform the public on the status of their investigation without making conclusions of law and consistent with their legal and ethical duty to do so in a factual manner and narrowly limited to the allegedly violated laws, while always exercising reasonable care not to unduly prejudice the defendant’s right to a presumption of innocence.
I commend the ENDF troops who captured the TPLF suspects in the bush for conducting themselves in the most professional manner.
I commend ENDF officers at all levels for going the extra mile to make sure the TPLF suspects are not mistreated and abused.
Our ENDF has taught all of Africa how to bring outlaws to justice.
It could have easily ended with a deep scar on the adminstration of justice in Ethiopia and left a deep stain on Ethiopia’s image and reputation.
Sebhat Nega and other TPLF suspects could have met the fate of Moammar Gaddafi.
They could have met the fate of Liberian President Samuel Doe.
They could have met the of fate of Saddam Hussein.
Indeed, they were accorded the dignity and process fit for any ordinary criminal suspect, fugitive from justice.
Let me speak my truth about Sebhat Nega and the TPLF suspects in the attack on the Northern Command
As I have already stated, it does not matter what I think about the guilt or innocence of Sebhat Nega and the TPLF suspects in the attack on the Northern Command.
But I have something I need to get off my chest.
To me the TPLF is a terrorist organization registered in the Global Terrorism Database.
The TPLF has remained in power in Ethiopia by terrorizing the Ethiopian people.
For me, Sebhat Nega has been the Capo Crimini, capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) of the TPLF EFFORT mafia-style crime family in Ethiopia (Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray).
For the past 30 years, EFFORT was the real state in Ethiopia.
EFFORT was the state within in the state, the shadow state, the deep state that has been running the Ethiopian police state for the past 30 years.
Sebhat Nega is the principal architect of the ethnic federalism (ethnic apartheid), kililistan divide-and-rule system which the TPLF used as their ultimate trump card, insurance policy to cling to power perpetually or as they said for “at least one hundred years”.
Sebhat Nega was the TPLF’s chief strategist of mind games (“The TPLF that shook the mountains”).
Sebhat Nega was the mastermind of zero-sum games, state of emergency games, con games, rip-off games, disinformation and propaganda games.
Sebhat Nega was the architect of election stealing games, antiterrorism games, war games with Eritrea, corruption games and persecution/prosecution games.
Sebhat Nega’s EFFORT organization is a racketeering criminal organization which enforced its iron-fisted rule by murder, arbitrary and mass arrests, corruption, bribery, abductions, extortion, money laundering, blackmail, coercion, securities fraud, and apparently even prostitution.
Sebhat Nega was the Super Boss of the EFFORT La Commissione.
Sebhat Nega is the TPLF mafia’s Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, Carlo Gambino, Frank Costello and John Gotti were to the American mafia, all rolled into one.
Like Luciano who is the father of the American Mafia, Sebhat Nega was also the father of the Ethiopian TPLF EFFORT Mafia.
The American Mafia had its “cosa nostra” (“our thing”).
The TPLF EFFORT Mafia had its own thing too. Its thing was “Sebhat Nega and his family.”
So, when I say Sebhat Nega presided over the TPLF crime family, I meant it in its most literal sense!
Like Capone, Sebhat made more money than any other TPLF gangster using his EFFORT organization.
Like Lansky, Sebhat was the chief shot caller, whatever he says goes.
Like Gambino, Sebhat commanded respect among his TPLF peers that enabled him to become capo di tutti capi.
Like Costello, Sebhat was the unofficial Prime Minister of the TPLF Underworld for his vast political influence.
Like Gotti, Sebhat loved the camera and waxed eloquent.
Sebhat Nega raised and taught Meles Zenawi, the deceased TPLF Prince of Darkness.
Sebhat Nega, nicknamed “Aboye” (“god/father”) was actually Meles’ godfather, making him the Godfather of Darkness.
“Without the TPLF, Ethiopia will disintegrate.”
The TPLF violently seized power in Ethiopia in May 1991. Since taking power, the TPLF has committed untold crimes against Ethiopians and humanity.
The TPLF fought in the bushes to accomplish one and only one objective: The disintegration of Ethiopia.
The TPLF’s most heinous crime is “ethnic federalism”, s system of ethnic apartheid implemented in a structure called “killil”, or kililistans patterned after the bantustans created by the white minority regime in South Africa.
The TPLF planted ethnic federalism as the ticking hydrogen bomb in the Ethiopian body politic supremely confident it will bring the total collapse of Ethiopia when the TPLF no longer holds power.
In the end, ethnic federalism became the graveyard of the TPLF.
In 2008, Sebhat Nega told U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto, “Without the TPLF, Ethiopia will disintegrate.”
Sebhat Nega and his crew now realize with the TPLF cancer removed from the Ethiopian body politic, Ethiopians are well on their way to forming a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all.
In December 2015, I wondered what the “end of the story will be for the TPLF in Ethiopia.”
I argued the only outstanding question was whether the TPLF story will end with a bang or a whimper.
Two months later in February 2016, I knew the TPLF’s end would come with a whimper.
I knew the TPLF was an evil beast with feet of clay. When gazed upon, the TPLF appears awesome, formidable and infinitely powerful. It has guns, tanks, rockets, planes and bombs. Though the TPLF has legs of iron, its feet are made of clay.
In May 2016 when the TPLF celebrated its silver jubilee (25th anniversary) extravaganza, I prophetically warned them their end is near but they cannot see it because they are blinded by arrogance and ignorance. “There is no doubt about it. The day of reckoning for the T-TPLF will come ‘unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.’”
And so, in January 2021, the end came for the TPLF thieves/thugs unexpectedly like a thief in the night!
The TPLF shall now return to the darkness of night from whence it came.
Why I shall do all I can to make sure Sebhat Nega and the TPLF suspects are assured a fair trial
For the past nearly 15 years, I have fought to defend human rights and the rule of law in Ethiopia.
I am proud of that record.
I believe I have succeeded in living out Elie Wiesel maxim, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
For nearly a decade and half, I was completely powerless to prevent Sebhat Nega’s and the TPLF’s injustice in Ethiopia.
Today, I stand to make sure Sebhat Nega and the TPLF suspects in the attack on the Northern Command are accorded the full measure of justice.
But really, really why am I doing it?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has explained my reasons better than I ever could in the in The Gulag Archipelago:
Young people are acquiring the conviction that foul deeds are never punished on earth, that they always bring prosperity. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations. It is going to be uncomfortable, horrible, to live in such a country!
Justice for Sebhat Nega and the TPLF suspects will be the foundation of a beautiful Ethiopia for generations to come!
That makes it worth all of my efforts to help build the New Ethiopia as that City Upon the Hill, a beacon of hope for Africa!
“Let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” in Ethiopia!