Zami Mille – not in Rwanda during the genocide, but in Ethiopia today!

27 Feb

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)


In the eve of Rwandan genocide, Radio Mille played an important role instigating the violence towards Tutsi’s. According to a historical record the radio station was rowdy and used street language – there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. Sometimes the announcers were drunk. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.” (Linda Melvern) it was set up and financed by hard-line Hutu extremists, mostly from northern Rwanda: wealthy businessmen, government ministers and various relatives of the President. Its backers also included the directors of two African banks and the vice-president of the interahamwe (militia). Some people – including the Belgian ambassador and staff of several aid agencies – recognized the danger and asked for international help in shutting down the broadcasts, but it was impossible to persuade western diplomats to take it seriously. They dismissed the station as a joke. “

The world knows what happened after. The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 70% of the Tutsi and 20% of Rwanda’s total population.

During that time, radio Mille reporters used codes and asked fans to “go to work” and one of the most disturbing slogan of the radio station was “The graves are not yet full”

Now the behavior of a radio program called “qoyita ke mimi sebhatu gar” at Zami radio reminded me of radio Mille. Here is how.

Ever since the uprising of Oromo protesters in early Dec, 2015 Ethiopian government security forces brutally crackdown the protests by killing children, students, civil servants and older folks. The age of the victims span from 7 – 74 year old. So far 200+ killed, more than a 1000 injured and 5000 imprisoned. Starting from late December, the government took control of Oromia regions by replacing the local police force with Federal army forces and what followed was unprecedented kind of cruelty and flat out murder of protesters. Yet, the problem that persisted in the Oromia region for decades kept the protestors out and their request for a peaceful halting of a Master plan met with bullets and prisons. No matter how brutal the government forces seemed the protest started getting bigger and bigger as time progressed. The frustration of the protestors also resulted on burning of government properties, road blockade, loss of life (police) and boycotting of government and their cronies businesses.

Now let me return back to Zami Radio and its host Mimi Sebhatu. It was at this volatile time in Ethiopian politics, she hosted a show about what was happening in Oromia.

In the show, she seemed to clearly try to connect the Oromo protests to religious and ethnic clashes even if the fact in the ground clearly shows no religious or ethnic clash happening and we also have a video proof in which elders teach the protesters not to involve in any hate related activities. The same video also shows the protesters giving their word not to involve in hate or revenge of any type.

She also urges the government to give serious response to the protesters as if the government is not doing that. Her words and demeanor seems to ask for more killing and she sounded frustrated by the government. She said “These scavengers use this opportunity try to exploit the situation to benefit from it. They need to be picked up and put in their place and the national security apparatus have to work together to make this a reality”

Her name calling and utter disrespect to protesters remind us the radio Mille journalists in their days. Calling oromo people “scavengers” Gojjam and Gondar people “retards” “ideots” using an airwaves that millions tunes to is simply bothersome and unacceptable.

Above all, what make me write this blog post is the fact that the prime mister come out and announced exactly what she asked on air. In a nationally broadcasted interview with the local journalists PM Hailemariam Dessalgne vows to crush ‘forces of destruction’ in Oromia region.

This said, one understands governments responsibility to keep peace and to protect life and property. It is without a question one of the primary duties of the government. If the protesters in Oromia violated rights and committed crime then the government have a responsibility to prosecuted those using a due process by bringing them in front of a judge. The problem in Oromia, is that the government lost credibility for violating protesters right by playing judge jury and executioner for more than three months. To this day the number of dead students and injured protesters kept on adding up while the government officials pointing fingers among themselves. No apologies or remorse offered instead officials kept on demonizing protesters for exercising their freedom of speech.

I am also bothered by the sudden surge in name calling and disrespect towards Ethiopian people by EPRDF officials. The root cause of Oromo Protests was the utter disrespect of Mr Abay Tsehaye when a sound recording leaked in which he screams “we will put them in their place”. Then the spokesperson Mr Getachew Reda called a press conference and called the protestors “demons”. Now the low level cadres and journalists filled the air waves with their insults adding insult to injury.

The real problem started a while ago and it is about to get out of hand very soon. The airwaves filled with ruthless journalists like Mimi Sebhatu and’s Biniyam, the streets covered with trigger happy Agazi Brigade soldiers and the PM office run by hot heads that vow to crush, the coming days and months will without a doubt be the worst days of our life. The anger of pro and against government forces is in all time high and reasonable minds are hard to find. These, my friends, are the receipts of genocide about to happen. May God proves me wrong and I will forever be grateful.
*Picture credit:

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