Government mob gang attacks veteran patriotic singer

Only death would stop me from praising my country, says Hagos Gebrehiwot
ADDIS ABABA - A veteran Ethiopian singer known for his patriotic and folk songs recently survived an organized attack by government agents after families and neighbors turned up in numbers and chased the assailants, a source has said.

A gang of five men attacked singer Hagos Gebre-Hiwot on the night of February 7 when he was coming back home from work and was almost close to his residence. The commotion brought neighbors and friends out onto the streets. It was his neighbors who virtually saved the life of the singer from being taken away by the assailants. His attack was documented with the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.

Born in Agame province of Tigrai region, Hagos joined the Ethiopian Army at the tender age of 15, and fought in the Ogaden during the 1978 Ethio-Somali War in the eastern front. It was with the Eastern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces that he developed his interest in music. Typically, his songs are laced with strong patriotic sentiments.

Death threats over the phone have been pouring in, and defamatory articles have been published in TPLF-owned media, and fears were mounting the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi may add the singer's name to the long list of Ethiopian prisoners of conscience.

In articles published in the Amharic weekly Asqual and Menelik newspapers in defense of Hagos, writers expressed concern the singer may become another Kiros Alemayehu, a prominent Ethiopian singer and song-writer from Tigrai who was at odds with Meles Zenawi's TPLF, and condemned in his songs the division of Ethiopia along ethnic lines long before TPLF agents poisoned the singer to death in 1993 in Addis Ababa.

Before they killed Kiros, TPLF carried out intensive campaign of character assassination against the singer, because his songs were profoundly about love and Ethiopian patriotism, an artistic performance par excellence with the Ethiopian people but a pain in the flesh of the government of Eritrean agent Meles Zenawi.

May be Kiros has left a lasting impression that Hagos Gebrehiwot has dedicated his latest album to Kiros as well as to the late General Hayalom Araia, the latter being perhaps the most prominent TPLF army commander who was firmly opposed to Meles Zenawi's double-life as an Eritrean agent in an Ethiopian costume.

Hayalom's murder took place in 1996 when Eritrea was at war with Yemen over the Hannish Islands, and as Operations Commander of the Ethiopian Armed Forces, Hayalom rejected Meles Zenawi's request to deploy Ethiopian forces alongside Eritrea for its war against Yemen.

In laying the groundwork for murder, the Eritrean agents housed in the TPLF Trojan horse first carried out a long-standing virulent attack to discredit Hayalom, saying he was building a personality cult at the expense of thousands of TPLF fighters. After Hayalom's death, Meles erected a statue in Hayalom's native Adi Nebru'ed, northern Ethiopia, with the hope the statue might dispel public suspicions that Meles and Eritrean tyrant Isaias Afwerki were the masterminds behind the assassination.

The source said Meles Zenawi's orders of government beatings and killings are carried out by a certain Wolde-Selassie Gebre-Michael, head of the death squad within the Department of Internal Security in the Ministry of Security, headed by Getachew Assefa. Getachew was appointed when the late intelligence chief Kinfe Gebre-Medhin was murdered in 2001 upon the orders of Meles Zenawi, who was facing critical charges of treason of betraying the country in defense of Eritrea during the last war with Asmara.

Meles survived the ouster when his TPLF accusers failed to alert the Ethiopian public of what was going on in their secret chambers, and need the support of the people to remove what they later admitted as Ethiopia's public enemy No. 1. Meles exploited the silence of his antagonists, took the law into his hand, and in the mid of public confusion, summarily arrested some, and stripped others of their party, government and parliamentary membership rights, saying they were involved in corruption.

In spite of mock exercises to look like a leader of a government accountable for his actions, Meles has increasingly come under fire for his government's gross human rights violations. Recently, the U.S. State Department published a report on the dismal human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Obviously, the regime in Addis made a face-saving gesture, and responded angrily that the US human rights report was baseless.