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Unmasking the Deceptive Narrative: A Response to Yonas Birru’s Shifting Agenda

September 9, 2023

Bruke Lemma, PhD

“Better a good enemy than a bad friend.” – Plato

After being perplexed by the actions of Yonas Biru (PhD) for some time, it suddenly became clear to me that he has been employing a tactic that, while not that original or particularly clever, remains highly effective. This strategy involves initially telling one’s audience precisely what they want to hear, only to later use the credentials or the trust gained through these initial communications to undermine and cast doubt on everything that the audience believed.

It’s like removing the rug from under the audience’s feet, leaving them confused and dazed, potentially turning them against what they were supporting before. While I wholeheartedly support open and honest criticism, debates, and discussions, this particular practice is not only intellectually dishonest but also deeply misleading and insidious.

We were all initially captivated by Yonas Biru’s writings and the interviews that he gave in various media, where he passionately supported the Amhara people and their struggle while fervently criticizing the government of Abiy Ahmed and the ethno-extremists that he surrounds himself with, along with the crude and retrograde worldview, Oromuma, in very strong terms.

We eagerly consumed these articles and interviews. However, over time, the tone of these articles and the substance of the interviews, some of which I watched with alarm and disgust, shifted towards implicit and explicit attacks on the Amhara people and their leadership, undermining the very objectives of the struggle that he initially championed.

The above is a clip from Yonas Biru’s recent article titled: “The Passive aggressive . . .” in which he

makes crude references to the great Eskinder Nega and Shaleka Dawit Weldegiorgis

Yonas Biru’s relied on a combination of facts and highly crude rumours in these attacks, some of which could be easily disproven. Considering his apparent intellectual capacity, these cannot be dismissed as mere mistakes. It appears to be a deliberate and calculated effort on his part to spread false narratives, sow discord, and undermine the Amhara peoples’ efforts.

A case in point here is Yonas Biru’s recent article decrying what he perceives as passive aggressiveness in Amhara peoples’ politics. However, it becomes evident that this critique is nothing more than a case of projection and a glaring lack of self-awareness on his part. After ostensibly sympathizing with the Amhara peoples’ three decades of suffering, he proceeded to

launch both subtle and overt attacks against the very Amhara people he claimed to stand in solidarity with.

His targets included Amhara intellectuals, scholars, and the political elite, whom he criticized for their alleged failure to develop a cohesive national agenda. In stark contrast, he seemed to praise the TPLF and Abiy Ahmed’s government for their efforts in this regard. It’s truly perplexing how Yonas Biru has come to regard ethno-extremism, which promotes a politics of radical exclusion and an ethos of extreme greed that seeks to claim everything exclusively for a single ethnic group, as a praiseworthy comprehensive national agenda.

Without explicitly stating it, it appears that Yonas Biru is attempting to portray the Amhara as disregarding the existence and rights of others, promoting a self-serving agenda. He insinuates that the Amhara intend to impose their ways or preferences on others, much like the TPLF, Abiy Ahmed, and other ethno-extremists have been doing. This supposed disregard for others then serves as a pretext for Yonas Biru and others like him to conduct a campaign against the Amhara. Their tactics include generating fear among other ethnic groups, specifically, pitting different ethnic groups against one another, and ultimately undermining the Amhara’ cause.

However, the reality is quite different. The Amhara have an inclusive agenda that celebrates the rich tapestry of ethnic and religious diversity within Ethiopia. Thus, Yonas Biru’s criticism of Amhara intellectuals and political parties and others for not openly expressing a desire to transform the entire country into a unitarian state is not only malicious but also a deliberate misrepresentation. It appears to be a calculated attempt to set the Amhara up for criticism and attack, all based on a false premise.

In any case, the term ‘unitarian state’ remains vague and undefined, intentionally designed to stoke animosity towards the Amhara. It has long been exploited as a propaganda tool by the TPLF, Abiy Ahmed, and various Oromo ethno-extremists and others. The sole purpose of this narrative is to depict the Amhara as a threat to the interests of other ethnic groups in the country. However, in reality, the Amhara are advocating not only for their fair share but also for the rights of all communities, including an equitable distribution of power.

Their goal is not to replace one unfair system with another. This is the truth, and it’s high time someone called on Yonas Biru to cease and desist from spreading misleading gossips and malicious TPLF’s and Abiy Ahmed’s and other ethno-extremists propaganda under the guise of supporting the Amhara. The last thing the Amhara need is a friend like Yonas Biru, who is worse than an enemy to the Amhara people.

Though very vague and almost exclusively a propaganda tool, the term ‘unitarian state’ is sometimes used to falsely suggest that the Amhara oppose Federalism. However, the reality is quite different. The Amhara have never opposed Federalism; instead, like many of us, they are against Ethnic Federalism. They advocate for a Federalism model similar to the one in the US and other functional democracies, which they believe is the most suitable for the country.

Echoing the baseless accusations of Abiy Ahmed, the TPLF, and other ethno-extremists reveals a profound lack of intellectual integrity and a concerning intellectual bankruptcy. Unfortunately, this is precisely what Yonas Biru has been doing. Furthermore, he has resorted to name-calling, using embarrassing and crude language to target Amhara leaders such as Eskinder Nega and Shaleka Dawit Weldegiorgis and others. This behaviour raises serious questions about the state of his own mind and motivations.

Both Eskinder Nega and Shaleka Dawit Weldegiorgis an extensive history in the struggle that few, if any, could ever match. Their commitment dates back to the days of TPLF and continues under the current rule of Abiy Ahmed, which has sadly proven to be even worse than the cursed TPLF.

In particular, Eskinder Nega has endured a great deal, including lengthy imprisonments and years of torture, without wavering from the cause of the people. He consistently carries himself with remarkable decorum and dignity, despite all that he has endured at the hands of these monsters, TPLF and Abiy Ahmed.

When TPLF was still in power, I remember reading an article written in English by Eskinder Nega long before I knew who he was. I was extremely impressed by his wisdom, intelligence, insight, and courage, as he wrote while being threatened and continually harassed by the TPLF, who imprisoned him ten times or more.

Eskinder Nega, a man of great stature, convictions, and gravitas, has even gone to the desert now to continue fighting for the people, sacrificing his family and children for the cause. I am totally at a loss as to what gives Yonas Biru, who has done little or nothing and has no stature or achievements to match those of Eskinder Nega in any way at all, the right to make baseless and nonsensical remarks about him, beyond possibly sheer narcissism.

It’s frankly embarrassing even to address Yonas Biru’s behaviour. Even a high school student or a teenager would know how to communicate better. He isn’t engaging in any meaningful debate or raising substantial issues; instead, he relies on crude name-calling, rumour-mongering, innuendos, and recycling brain-dead Abiy Ahmed’s and TPLF’s and other ethno-extremists’ propaganda.

While the temptation is to simply ignore him, however, given that Yonas Biru writes multiple articles and reaches a substantial audience through other media, there is a risk that some might mistakenly believe there is merit to what he is saying. Therefore, it becomes necessary to respond to his attacks on the Amhara leadership, including figures like Eskinder Nega and Shaleka Dawit Weldegiorgis, as well as the broader Amhara cause.

This is why I have written this brief article to address these issues. However, there are other Ethiopian intellectuals, such as Dr. Aklog Birara and others, who may be better positioned than myself to effectively counter Yonas Biru’s continued dissemination of falsehoods and innuendos. In any case, I strongly encourage Ethiopian intellectuals to take up the task of countering Yonas Biru’s misleading narratives, not simply focusing on the propaganda of Abiy Ahmed, among other things.

Specifically, as many of us are aware, Yonas Biru was previously associated with Abiy Ahmed. However, he claimed to have become disillusioned by Abiy Ahmed and started sharply criticizing him in serious of articles. In these articles, he also supported the Amhara peoples’ struggle, highlighting their suffering at the hands of Abiy Ahmed and TPLF.

However, his tone soon after shifted to overtly and covertly undermining the Amharas’ struggle in general and its leadership in particular, along with making a host of other questionable statements in both his later articles and in his other media appearances.

Given this sudden change and the theatrics surrounding it, there’s speculation that he may have been sent by Abiy Ahmed to undermine the Amhara’ cause under the pretence of working against Abiy Ahmed. It’s hard to believe that he genuinely holds some of the views he expresses in his articles and interviews, especially considering his apparent intellectual level.

In any case, Yonas Biru has now become a regular contributor to some of the media, in particular, Anchor media. I strongly encourage everyone to scrutinize his claims and his true intentions. He has gained a platform and some following, which he is using now to subvert the struggle from within, making his actions all the more insidious.

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