Bekele Gerba’s Shallowness and Fascistic Impulses  Part I: Oromo Irredentism  (By Gemechu Aba Biya)

Bekele Gerba’s Shallowness and Fascistic Impulses 

Part I: Oromo Irredentism 


By Gemechu Aba Biya


Generally, I am disinclined  to use emotionally loaded terms, but Bekele Gerba’s recent invective against the Amhara people  can only be characterized as fascistic. When Bekele Gerba was languishing in jail, I mistook him to be a man of principle, a Nelson Mandela of Ethiopia. When the Amhara youth demonstrated in Bahir Dar, Gondar, and elsewhere carrying placards that read “Bekele Gerba is our leader”, I applauded them. I respected Bekele Gerba. 

Now, my respect for the man has evaporated.  If prison made him a hero, liberty has exposed him as a phony. He turned out to be a third-rate politician, a know-nothing academic, a fraudulent individual, a paid TPLF consultant and publicist, and a dangerous bigot who is inflicting harm on the Amhara people.  

No sooner had he left prison than he started spewing his anti-Amhara vitriol. Commenting on the release of a fellow prisoner, Andargachew Tsige, he said something to the effect that “the Oromo youth did not die for the release of an Amhara politician”.  When I heard his comments, I was shocked like most Ethiopians, but I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.  I thought maybe he was misquoted; maybe he was too tired to think straight; maybe he was tortured so much that he had temporarily lost his marbles.

Little did I realize that the man is a rabid bigot.  He is a dangerous man who exhibits the classical symptoms of someone intoxicated with a fascist ideology: a delusional belief in the superiority of one’s ethnic group, war-provoking irredentist ambitions,  advocacy for the purity of one’s ethnic group, stirring fear among one’s ethnic group, scapegoating an ethnic group for society’s problems, campaigning for the elimination of an ethnic group, and having a potential political base in a disgruntled social group.  I will elaborate each element. 

He pretends to believe that his ethnic group is superior to all other ethnic groups in Ethiopia. Lacking any credible evidence to support this blustery claim, he and the other Oromo extremists mythologize the Gada system. The Gada system, they declare, is a more advanced political system than any other traditional system found in Ethiopia, Africa, or even the world to tackle Ethiopia’s economic, political, and social problems.  It will bring about harmony, peace, and understanding among the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia, they sermonize, if only Ethiopian politicians have the foresight to adopt the Gada system. They advocate it as a silver bullet that will solve all problems, in all places, at all time. They haven’t demonstrated how the Gada system will do all of this; they simply assert it. 

The Gada system, they proclaim, is the Oromo people’s contribution to humanity, but can the Gada system deliver what is advertised? It may contribute to solving Ethiopia’s political problems, but it can’t be the only traditional system to do so. Ethiopia’s diverse cultures can contribute to the emergence of a unique form of democracy in Ethiopia, I have no doubt, but I reject the claim about the supremacy of one traditional system over other similar systems found throughout Ethiopia.  

The fetishized, mythologized, and romanticized description of the Gada system, whatever its potential contribution towards establishing democracy in Ethiopia may be, is off putting for non-Oromos. The Gada system, weaponized by the Oromo incipient neo-fascists to claim superiority, has generated a backlash against it from non-Oromos.   For example, Ato Tadious Tantu a Waliata scholar, who is much more erudite than Bekele or Hizkiel,  argues that a system that promotes wars, requires the cutting of the male sex organ of an enemy, and denies the democratic rights of women cannot inspire democratic governance in Ethiopia. It has no place, he concludes, in a modern, civilized, and democratic society. 

Currently, we are witnessing a large-scale campaign of mystification, falsification, and glorification of regional Oromo cultural practices, such as the Gada system and Irrecha, as the universal cultural heritage of the Oromo people, but independent historians, for example Haile Larebo, reject the claim. 

The independent scholars point out that the Gada system was confined to the Borana people and Irrecha was celebrated only in Bishoftu. I can also testify that in the Oromo region where I grew up, there was no Gada system, nor was there the Irrecha celebration.  The universalization of these regional cultural practices by Oromo nationalists is a political decision to homogenize the Oromo people for a political project: an independent Oromia. 

When furthering their goals, extremists like Bekele rely on emotional appeal, blackmail, and manipulation as their modus operandi.  Bekele’s utterances are heavy on emotion and light on logic, sometimes intentionally and more frequently because of his incapacity to think logically. It is obvious that the man has not mastered the basic critical skills assumed of an academic.  He may teach English 101, but lacks the rudimentary knowledge of logic 101. I will provide several illustrations throughout the essay on his acute lack of logical thinking.  

When he appeared on LTV to defend Oromo nationalism last year in October,  he argued that individuals can have different identities based on their appearance, ethnicity, profession, country or other social variables.  So far, so good. But then, he goes on to assert that there is no political hierarchy of identities; one identity is just as important as any other identity.  For example, he sees himself as “a tall handsome man” (his words, not mine) and that his male identity is neither higher nor lower than his Ethiopian identity.  

He goes on to tell the interviewer that his male identity doesn’t conflict with her female identity and shouldn’t prevent him from interacting with her.  Is it supposed to?  Does he think he lives in Saudi Arabia?  As for nationality, he dismisses it as a legal status stamped on one’s passport. (This is the talking point of all the little anti-Amhara, anti-Ethiopia, anti-unity neo-fascists like Hizkiel, Jawar, and Tsegagye).  

Just is his hatred for the Amharas is limitless, his ignorance of civic knowledge is astounding. Bekele needs an elementary school lesson on civic education. National identity embodies shared history, culture, and values.  Nationality entitles citizens to certain rights from their government and imposes on them certain obligations to their country, as stated in law. As “a tall handsome man”, Bekele shares no citizenship rights or obligations with other tall men from Holland, Iceland, or Nigeria. There are no such legally sanctioned rights or obligations for tall men across the world. Logic 101, Bekele. 

Bekele dreams of creating a greater Oromia that includes all Oromos.  Asked about where the boundary of Oromia begins and ends, he answered that Oromia incorporates all the regions that have significant Oromo communities. By this tortured logic, Minnesota with its large Oromo community, will one day become part of Oromia.  

He repeats his claim that Addis Ababa belongs to Oromia because it is found in the middle of Oromia, but geographic location bestows no ownership.  Brussels is found in the middle of the province of Flanders, but Flanders does not own Brussels. Berlin is in the middle of the state of Brandenburg, but Berlin is a self-governing federal city. Logic 101, Bekele.  Bekele’s expansionist dreams are not only illogical but dangerous as well.  Since there are large Oromo communities throughout the other regions of Ethiopia, his irredentist view of Oromia is a recipe for perpetual civil wars throughout Ethiopia.  It deserves to be denounced.

Bekele Gerba may not have the material, political, or intellectual resources to become a full-fledged neo-fascist, but the recent spree of concerted propaganda campaign by extremist Oromos against the Amhara people underscores the danger facing them and the other people of Ethiopia. As the election approaches, as the conflict between Abiy and the Oromo extremists amplifies, as spineless, second-rate, Jawar-puppet Oromo politicians like Shemilis Abdissa a realize their sagging political fortunes, the anti-Amhara propaganda campaign will most likely intensify. We must be ready to defend the individual and civil rights of the Amharas and other Ethiopians. Organize and unite, we must.

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