Divisive journalist accuses former Ethiopian Air Force of carnage – By Robele Ababya

September 30th, 2009 | by addis portal |

This article is written in support of the incisive rebuttal by Falcon to the virus of hate and malicious lies that were spread to tarnish the image of the former Ethiopian Air Force (EAF) by one Tesfaye Guebreab.

Having lived for three decades in Debre Zeit and forged very close ties professionally with the EAF – not to mention intimate friendship with some of its key leaders and members serving in various categories – I thought it my civic duty to write this piece in the belief that readers will judge the infiltrator journalist Tesfaye on just how much he knows about the former EAF given his claim he was born and raised in Bishoftu. The rebuttal by Falcon was written in Amharic and posted last week on Ethiomedia.com.

The children and grandchildren as well as relatives and friends of those illustrious heroes of the former EAF should not be made to feel descendants of indiscriminate killers misled by blatant and malicious lies such as the ones profusely spread by infiltrators of the likes of Tesfaye working covertly in concert with TPLF and Shaebia operatives because of their common aim to efface Ethiopia from the map of the world.

The new generation should know and pass on to the next generation the indisputable self-evident TRUTH that the former EAF fought against enemies hell bent to destroy Ethiopia and for that evil purpose these enemies were armed to the teeth with modern weapons purchased with petrodollar support of reactionary Arab countries traditionally unfriendly to Ethiopia.

Brief background to establishment of EAF

Notwithstanding His claim to divine right of kings and consequent insatiable love of power that led Him to cling on to it until old age as some say bordering on senility, Emperor Haile Selassie deserves a lot of credit in the modernization initiatives of Ethiopia, more so that successive regimes did worse in gross violation of human rights and mismanagement of national resources.

The EAFwas first established in Addis Ababa before it was moved to Bishoftu. His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie laid the cornerstone in 1937 (Ethiopian Calendar) in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) barely a year after the end of the raging flames of the Second World War died out. The inscription on the front of the Mess Hall for cadets overlooking the Military Parade Ground captured the establishment date in every photographs of the Monarch amid graduating classes. This writer proudly holds photographs of successive graduations over several years in his album. What a collection of photographs showing young Ethiopians of all ethnic groups (most of whom I had personally met) attesting to the sane policy of inclusivity right from the start.

Famous officers such as those mentioned by Falcon lined up every morning at the Parade Ground to honor the hoisting of the beloved Green-Yellow-Red Ethiopian Flag. Incidentally, there was no emblem on the flag. The flag with the emblem of the Lion of Judah was hand carried in a march past in front of the Monarch only at official graduation ceremonies.

Love for the Flag and Ethiopia was ingrained in the minds, hearts and souls of young cadets. General Amha Desta, Commander of EAF, was one of them and by far brilliant and distinguished as a professional soldier. He proved his qualities when he turned his gun on himself and paid the ultimate price; he was found dead clad with the Flag in one of the rooms of the Ministry of Defence following the failure of the coup plot against the coward Mengistu. That was a heroic deed by the General demonstrating love of ones Flag and Motherland, Ethiopia.

His Majesty single handedly, in the absence of support of the aristocracy or even outright opposition due to lack of aeronautical literacy, cultivated the development of aviation in Ethiopia, to wit: He established the EAF, Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Civil Aviation Administration. Two of the most successful General Managers of the Airline were from the EAF as were two top administrators of Civil Aviation Administration. Officers and men of the EAF played key roles in the creation, management, and training of the internationally reputed Flying School as well as the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering School of the Airline. In short the EAF served as a source of manpower for many years for both organizations. An officer of the EAF was at one time at the helm of Ethiopian Electric Light and Power Authority and several others served in the Authority for many years. There were many other government administrations to which officers and numerous highly skilled technical experts were either seconded or transferred.

The Monarch was so proud, (and deservedly so) of His achievement that He brought Heads of State including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Taffewa Ballewa of Nigeria et al for official visits to the EAF Base at Debre Zeit.

Community development initiative

Entirely of their own volition and mainly with their own resources, officers and rank-and-file employees of EAF set in motion community development schemes in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit) for which they earned high accolade. They developed the concept and the organizational structure that resulted in the construction of elementary schools such as at Keta and Delo as well as the famous Harar Meda Model School (combining elementary and secondary education programs) in the city of Debre Zeit. They contributed to water development efforts such as drilling boreholes to relieve the burden of women fetching water from long distances; sought advice from experts in Germany for those who dug ponds in which to accumulate water during the rainy season but were frustrated by the loss of water through cracks of the black-cotton basement.

I was honored for having been entrusted to serve as Secretary General in this noble undertaking.

Suffice it to say that His Excellency Ato Getahun Tessema said that the initiative of the EAF was one reason his Ministry of Social Community Development came into being. In sharp contrast, there were few who baselessly feared emergence of socialist tendency in the EAF.

Tenesa Teramed (Stand up and Stride)

Tenesa Teramed was the famous rallying song for change composed by members of the EAF. It was aired over the Voice of Ethiopia Radio for months in the aftermath of the Revolution in 1974. I was there purely by chance at the Cinema Hall of the EAF at Debre Zeit at the final audition of the verses and songs accompanied by uplifting musical melody. The message in Tenessa Teramed was a call for development, irrigation, unity based on equality irrespective of ethnic origin or religious creed.

It was in the premises of EAF at Debre Ziet that a mammoth crowd comprising men in uniform and civilians gathered to demand immediate formation of a civilian government and the return of the ruling Military Junta to barracks. It was at this point that Mengistu suspended the airing of Tenesa Teramed, threw some members of EAF to jail and grew strongly suspicious of EAF.

International Service

The Air Force units were dispatched to peace keeping operations in the Congo under the United Nations. It lost a jet fighter pilot in the forest there whose body was never recovered. Nigeria and Tanzania received assistance during their trouble with secessionists. Several African countries, including Somalia and groups struggling for liberation, were beneficiaries of the training facilities located at Debre Zeit.

Enthusiasm for learning

The Air Force had a sound training program for higher learning planned to produce a good number university graduates annually among others in engineering, legal, and management disciplines relevant to its operations. The library at Debre Zeit was only second to the Kennedy Library at the Haile Selassie University in terms of collection of books and other reading materials covering more than thirty (30) relevant fields of specializations to the operations of the Air Force. Moreover the library was richly stocked with books on history, social sciences, and humanities as well as abundant collection of writings about Ethiopia..

What is remarkable is that officers and non-commissioned officers were engaged en masse in self-development schemes through part-time education such as the ones offered by the Extension Program of the Haile Selassie University. There was a branch opened at Debre Zeit Town of which I was in charge. The branch enjoyed the support of EAF as the main beneficiary.

To enrich their knowledge further they established various clubs: Flying, Carpentry, Artifacts, Speech, Music, Sailing, Chess et al. Ashenafi Kebede, the renowned founder of the National Saint Yared School of Music was among others that came to Debre Zeit to give lessons to members of the Music Club. The football Team of the EAF was a darling to spectators in Addis Ababa both for the skill of the players and sportsmanship. Matches between saint George and the EAF’s Nib (Bee) invariably drew large to the Stadium in Addis.

It was my distinct honor and privilege to attend the unforgettable speech by a distinguished hero, Colonel Abdissa Aga sponsored by the Speech Club. I paid tribute to the distinguished hero in my piece posted on Ethiomedia.com some three years ago.

The point is that leaders and staff of former EAF were educated, cultured and sensitive to vital national interests and above all to issues of human rights. They often questioned what the threats to Ethiopia were for which they were being trained to deter or fight. They were quite capable of distinguishing between genuine dissidents and petrodollar supported mercenaries at home bent on betraying Ethiopia. It is a matter of record that the EAF refused to take sides in internal conflict, to wit: 1) in the coup of 1960 led by B/General Mengistu Neway prompting the US Embassy in Addis to exert pressure in favor of the Monarch; 2) pleading with the Monarch to look into the cause of civil disobedience staged in one of the provinces to which He agreed and later disciplined administrative officials concerned and; 3) refused to strike distinct military targets in Addis Ababa during the failed coup against Mengistu Haile Mariam


The Oromo dissident in Bale Province was pleasantly surprised to see Oromos in key positions when he landed at the Debre Zeit Air Force Base following reconciliation with the Imperial regime through the mediation effort of General Jagama Kello – a celebrated hero and revered Oromo Ethiopian in his own right. Dormitories in which cadets of all ethnic origins slept without distinction and got to know one another more intimately were named after the provinces.

On the whole the composition of manpower of the EAF reflected the background and ethnic origin of all Ethiopians. If anything Eritreans were favored more than others in terms of proportional representation.

Unfortunately, TPLF and Shaebia deliberately created the myth of demonic ‘Amhara’ oppressor for the demonic reason we now know. These messengers of Lucifer are now bankrupt and their sinister journalist cannot save them through his sugar–coated writings in which the venom of hate is concealed. The Oromos, Amharas, Guraghes, Tigres, Kambatas, Hadias, Wollaitas, Sidamas et al have awoken to the truth that only unity and mutual respect will guarantee their future.

The renegades

Coveted positions of Director of Personnel Recruitment, Chief of Staff (second in command of EAF), and Commander of the EAF were in the same period held by senior officers of Eritrean origin. The commander of the Air Wing at Asmara was Eritrean. There were pilots and technical officers serving in fighter and transport squadrons, intelligence services, communications (transmitting top secret coded messages) and management.

It was at the time that Tenesa Teramed was being aired nationally and Ziade Barre was launching his invasion that the chief of staff deserted the country; a pilot sped away with a bomber jet aircraft to Somalia as a present to Ziade Barre; the chief of cryptic services and many others joined Shaebia and led an attacking force to capture the Air Base in Asmara – a saga hard to believe until their corpses were seen strewn on the runway.

To the best of my knowledge no member of any other group deserted to Somalia or internal dissident groups hatching separation.

In all fairness, the Commander of EAF of Eritrean origin at the time was a true Ethiopian hero with proven distinguished service. Many other Eritreans were and still are no less Ethiopians than the rest of us.

Once beaten twice shy

Groups claiming adherence to Marxist Leninist ideology mushroomed everywhere in the aftermath of the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974. Even children under the age of ten were being indoctrinated; they were made to distribute flyers of one leftist group or another; brought home from school demands to their parents; refused to attend the traditional flag hoisting ceremony; some teen agers even carried small fire arms and participated in white terror.

A shocking episode lingering in my memory is that of a group of children perched in the chassis of a scrapped truck wishing in raised voice for a day that Ziade Barre would come to set them free! Unbelievable but true! Certainly the EPLF infiltrators in collaboration with immature EPRP operatives were responsible for this crime of brain-washing under-aged children to turn against their parents and their motherland Ethiopia.

I contend Tesfaye was and is now an infiltrator in the service of Shaebia. His sinister motive must be stopped.

So my fellow Ethiopians, be ware of this ethnic-poison dispenser in sheep’s clothing entertaining you with sugar-coated writings in which sinister plot to divide and weaken Ethiopia is concealed. The old adage: Once beaten twice shy should serve as lesson.

Lastly, I wish to state that even in so-called mature democracies mistakes are made in military operations due to inadequate or misleading intelligence data. The case of the sorrowful death of civilians at Hawzeen is extremely important that it has to be thoroughly investigated for the sake of truth and reconciliation.

Working for the release of Birtukan and all political prisoners is top priority!

No more political prisoners in Ethiopia!


Robele Ababya (robele_ababya@yahoo.com)

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