The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Hizkiel  Gebissa

Part I: Peddling Ethnic Hatred

By

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.

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.

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.

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.

14 COMMENTS

  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. What is the core point you wanted to get across?? Nothing more than the title of your scribbling! You brought up no scholarly argumentations against the Professor, other than exposing your deep hatred for the person. Shrouding your lowly insults in good English does neither make you a scholar nor does it tarnish the scholarly standing of Prof. Hizkiel. If you can not grasp the depth of his thoughts, it is not the fault of Hizkiel.

  3. I am very happy to see Oromo intellectuals open their eyes and come out to oppose those intellectual prostitutes who fabricate fake history that incites animosity among brothers and sisters of our beloved country with the sole goal of satisfying their unquenchable lust for power and self enrichment.
    I call upon Oromo intellectuals to take the lead in exposing those extremists and traitors whose sole interest is only self enrichment by looting the very people they claim to represent.
    Enough is enough , no more insulting the Oromo’s People intelligence !
    Abba Caala , if you comment for living ,please note you are doing harm than good to your sponsors. Otherwise you better consult Psychiatrist.

  4. My big question is: is Menelik ll the genesis of Ethiopian history? Doesn’t the fact that Menelik ll suggest that there was another Menelik l? Why do people desire to start the history of Ethiopia from Menelk ll time, is it so the atrocities committed on other nationalities by the so called oppressed people doesn’t get exposed?

  5. Dear “Gemechu Aba Biya,”
    Inadvertently you outed yourself.
    You admitted you don’t what Liberal Arts is. And I am not going to explain that to you.
    You also confused Professor Hizkiel’s book on khat as just khat and erroneously concluded he can not be a historian! It just shows you have no clue how history works or how khat affects community culture, economy, and future in contemporary political dynamics. Once you start on the subject of khat you are talking about not only Ethiopia’s eastern and southeastern regions but the Horn of Africa and the Middle East and Diaspora populations across the Horn. No wonder you ended up spewing invectives and innuendos. You also wrote “his knowledge of Ethiopian history and political economy is demonstrably superficial” because Prof Hizkiel did not know Menilik’s geneology!

    I myself don’t agree with Prof Hizkiel, especially on his insistence on victimization of ALL Oromos! As do Amharas. As do Southern nationalities. As do Tigrayans. Being a victim is now a favorite pasttime and cover from taking responsibility for ALL Ethiopians!

    Professor Hizkias is an intellectual. He is very articulate in both Amharic, Afaan Oromoo, and English. A rarity indeed among Ethiopian intellectuals! In other words, you are no match. You did understand that and so chose to engage in name-calling, in the end exposing yourself for the ignorant and hate-mongering you really are!!!

  6. Dear Abba Caala,
    It’s very obvious to understand that Hizikiel has been influenced by dogmatic idiots who think that Oromo people had been oppressed by other ethnic groups. But the truth is that the Oromos were harshly oppressed by Oromo rulers. Hizikiel’s life would have no meaning if he didn’t poop his hate as much as possible.
    He is a complete waste of a human mind because he is unfruitful in his contributions to his own people.

  7. BLESSINGS TO YOU ALL.
    I am not Ethiopian but it pains me to see the constant adherence to tribe or ethnicity in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa.

    That to me is why Africa will always be the way she is with terrible leaders and all ways having her hands out to the west or others that does not have its best interest at heart. And why should they when its own people care only for themselves or their ethnic group rather than their country.

    Ethiopia right now is on the brink of disintegrating because its people choose to follow only those of own ethnicity or tribe no matter how self serving or disingenuous they may be and the same goes for all of Africa.

    My way of thinking in life within my own family or extended family is blood does not make us family. What is right is right snd if wrong I have problem disagreeing and siding with those I believe are right.

    Common Ethiopians you can do better. Stop the ethnic name calling. Work for the betterment of the country.

  8. 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’

  9. Oromo activists such as Hizchiel have taken matters very far and drove the Qerroos to the cliffs. During the Weyanne resistance struggle the famous slogan of Jawar Mohamed “Ethiopia out of Oromiya” clearly shows the present confusion. The gullible Qerroos were thinking that the end game was “independent Oromiya.” On the contrary knowing that “independent Oromiya” would be messy, the adults in EPRDF, concocted a deal with the Amhara wing of EPDRF, and usurped power from TPLF. Now they are have hard times convincing the Qerroos why they need to stay with in a country Ethiopia, a country that the Qerroos don’t even want mention the name.
    The fact of the matter is that most Oromoos (except the hatful activists) don’t believe in separate Oromo. This fact has prevented people like Hizchiel OLF from moving even an inch towards independent Oromiya. Independent Oromiya will not happen even in a million years. Oromo is the pillar of Ethiopia and independence is out of question. Popular present and past Oromo leaders such as Tadesse Biru,Haile Fidda, Merrara Gudina Abiy and Lemma included believe in united Ethiopia where the Oromoos play a pillar role. Same is true of Addis Ababa or Finfine. All confusing arguments apart,It will stay the capital of Ethiopia.

  10. Dear Gemechu Aba Biya, actually it’s not your real name, anyways it’s your stupidity that he explained why he didn’t know him. You and the journalist are on the side of Amhara to black the professor. He is still intellectual. The journalist should read and know the history before he interviewed people. He doesn’t know any thing except hate.

  11. @Zega; Can an Oromo pen name make one an Oromo? I know your types are blinded by pathological hate for anything Oromo, and a religious dedication to the doctored Ethiopian ‘history’ that glorifiesy only one ethnic group and its kings. No amount of lecturing can make you change your religion nor heal your anti-Oromo psychosis. True Oromo intellectuals never need your ‘call’ to open their eyes to past and present suffering of their people. They are born and raised into it! ሺህ ጊዜ ብትደጋግመው ተራ ዉሸት የኦሮሞን ህጻንም አያሳስትም! ምናለ ለጤናችሁ እንኳ ስትሉ የኦሮሞን ህዝብ እንደህጻን ከመቁጠር ብትታቀቡ!!

  12. @Abba Caala,Bekele,Gabissa, Gemadda and the like ,
    ኣይተ ጫላ፣- የቅጥረኞችን ኣስቂኝ የፈጠራ ታሪክ ተከትሎ ጥላቻን ያላቀነቀነ በናንተ ቤት ኦሮሞ ኣይደለም።ትናንት በናንተ ቅስቀሳ ቦዶ እጁን ለሰልፍ የወጣን የኦሮሞ ወጣትን ከጨፈጨፉ ጋር ኣይኑን በጨው ኣጥቦ የማይሞዳሞድ ኦሮሞ ኣይደለም።
    ማፈሪያ !!
    ዘላለም ሌላው ኦሮሞ ላይ ስላለው ጥላቻ/ Oromo phobia ) ስተሰብክ ትታያለህ፣ ጥላቻ ምን እንደሆነ እንኩዋን የምታውቅ ኣይመስልም። በመቶሺዎች የሚቆጠሩ ጌድዎች፣ ኣማሮች፣ሶማሌዎች……etc ተወልደው ባደጉበት ፣ንብረት ባፈሩበት ሲፈናቀሉ፣ ንብረታቸው ሲቃጠል፣ ሲገደሉ፣ኦሮሞ ላይ ባላቸው ጥላቻ ነው ልትለኝ ነው።
    ‘የኬኛ ፖለቲካ’ የተስፋፋው፣ የኦሮሚያ ህገ መንግስት በክልሉ የሚኖሩትን በብዙ ሚሊዮን የሚቆጠሩትን ኦሮሞ ያልሆኑትን እውቅና ነፍጎ፣ ኦሮሚያ የኦሮሞ ናት ሲል ፣ኣሁንም እንዲህ የሆነው እነኚሁ ማህበረሰቦች በኦሮሞ ላይ ባላቸው ጥላቻ( OROMO PHOBIA) ነው ልትለኝ ነው። ኣስቂኝ!!
    To the contrary , your mission is to promote discord, disharmony, and OROMO XENOPHOBIA, I repeat OROMO ZENOPHOBIA , without which your masters won’t have a sleep, a necessary condition for your masters survival .
    የማታ የማታ እንጦርጦስ መውረዳች ሁ ኣይቀሬ ነው።
    Last but not least you are not an Oromo .Period. We know who you are and your masters.
    Now real Oromos are coming to the forefront to undo and repair your unspeakable damages to Oromo People. Enough is enough !
    የኢትዮጵያ ኣምላክ ሀገራችንን ይባርክ !!

  13. 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 the misspelled 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 quintessential 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!

  14. The big book saus that good fruit never come bad tree.Hizekel became bad tree when he abused hisown wife Seble who cplanued that she was in hell as married ladty to this paranoid man.After a family an indvidual staus is rdetrimed by a comuunity and in the case of Hizekel,his church MekaneYesus was condemned by him bveascue MekaneYesus elders were agnst Gudina tumsssa who was using the church offce for the meeting and operation of OLF before he was jailed by derg and killed with the bishop teflos.Gudina was still suing the chrstian inveolbement to give more rights to ormo while his brother baro was debating that Christianity will be diminished and Marxism would be the only way to give Oromo more rights.So Hzekiel was on the side of the two brothers more of on the side of Baro and any one who destroyed his own marriage and his church image could not help any one other than spoiling the mentality of those innocent ones with the cooperation of the jihadist J war who share with Hizkeil the promotion of the Khat drug.I dont know why the media give intervene to such destructive traitors like Hzekiel and Lidetu whose contribution is to dismantle progressive forces who may help the democratization of Ethiopia.
    I wish some one tale Hiziekiel to mental health that he may be healed from his paranoid and able to help his children and at the same time from his addiction of Khat.

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