Q & A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers

Elias Wondimu, Publisher & Editorial Director of Tsehai Publishers, at his office at Loyola Marymount University in Southern California on Wednesday, February 1, 2012. (Photo credit: Missha Scott)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In sixth century Ireland, a king was asked to adjudicate one of the world’s earliest legal cases concerning book piracy. A monk named St. Columba had admitted copying by hand, apparently without permission, a manuscript that belonged to another writer. The original author accused St. Columba of theft and illegal copying, arguing that the book was his brainchild. In his famous ruling against the pirate-monk, the king pronounced: “To every cow belongs her calf, to every book belongs its copy.” In other words, only the publisher has the legal right to control its intellectual property.

This brings us to the modern day piracy of Mengistu Hailemariam’s memoir that was recently scanned and distributed without authorization from the book’s copyright holder Tsehai Publishers. Unlike St. Columba, however, the responsibile party in the Mengistu case remains, at least for now, faceless behind the computer screen, and communicates only via a website based in Europe. The copyright infringers claim justification under the “Son of Sam Law,” an American law designed to prevent criminals from profiting from the publicity of their crimes.

We recently spoke to Elias Wondimu, Publisher & Editorial Director of Tsehai Publishers about the controversy.

TADIAS: Thank you Elias for your time. Please tell us about the recent unauthorized distribution of Tsehai Publishers’ Mengistu Hailemariam’s memoir. What exactly happened?

Elias Wondimu: On Jan. 14th, Debteraw, an EPRP affiliated website based in the UK along with Finot Radio, scanned the book and distributed it for free on the Internet. The group explicitly stated that their actions were in protest of Col. Mengistu Hailemariam’s book. This was done maliciously, attempting to punish the publisher for daring to produce the book. They also hoped to discourage us from publishing future books by Col. Mengistu or similar authors that they don’t agree with.

In “About us” section of their website, it states that they are “campaigning” for “free and independent media.” But, their recent actions have shown the hypocrisy of their claims. By trying to silence me as a publisher, they violated all notions of freedom of press and freedom of expression. Apparently, for this sect of the EPRP, “free and independent media” refers only to publications that align with their own views.

TADIAS: Where were you when you first learned of this? How did you feel?

EW: When I first heard the news, I was in my office working on our next book, a memoir by Rita and Richard Pankhurst, which was to be released next month. Since we’re in the final stages of editing, I was working late on a Friday night. At 9:00pm I received a phone call from a friend. He asked me in a distressed voice if I knew what had happened. When I said that I didn’t, he directed me to the website, where I saw the article. I clicked on the link and saw the entire book I had worked so hard on download onto my computer. At first I thought it was just a prank or some sort of a bad joke and didn’t take it seriously. I couldn’t even fathom something like that being done.

The first thing I did was to see if there was any altered content in the scanned file. I noticed that, while it contained all the front matter such as the contents, copyright page, and publisher’s note, I noticed that six pages at the end had been removed. These pages contained our best books that we thought that our readers should know and other upcoming Tsehai Publishers books. Even now, I am still puzzled why they did this.

Thinking they will take it down when they realized what they have done, so I didn’t do anything. But, when Monday came around I realized the gravity of the situation, and that I would have to take legal action. There are no words to describe the frustration I felt. After working so hard and devoting my life to the cause of freedom of press in Ethiopia and around the world, I could not imagine that something so devastating could happen. But, although I was discouraged and angry, I knew that I had to keep fighting for what I believed in.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about the book. How did you obtain the content?

EW: It has now been almost seven years since I was introduced to Col. Mengistu. Since I received the first manuscript, my staff and I have worked tirelessly to bring the book to press, preserving the highest quality of publication that is accustomed with Tsehai. As I wrote in the Publisher’s Note, this book is the first time in our long history that an Ethiopian leader has written a book, sharing his experiences after leaving office. Even though Emperor Haile Selassie was the first to write a two-volume political memoir while in power, throughout Ethiopian history, none of our leaders lived longer to tell us their experiences and challenges while ruling the country. However, we have had many chronicles, most of these were written much later on by people who had a political bias either for or against them.

This book gives us an unparalleled window into how the government was run. It also presents some of the major issues in our history, such as how the Derg was formed, and how some of the major governmental decisions were made, how the Somali war was started, and Ethiopia’s victory came about. Despite what others or even I might think about Col. Mengistu himself, I am proud to give the first unadulterated first-hand account from an Ethiopian leader. The publication of this book is a historical moment, and I wholeheartedly stand behind its publication.

TADIAS: Debteraw.com has issued the following comments in justifying their actions: “Mass murderer and brutal dictator Mengsitu Haile Mariam (exiled in Harare, Zimbabwe) has written a 500+ pages book that has been published by Tsehai Publisher[s] of Los Angeles. This mass murderer has not yet atoned or paid for his horrendous crimes and the mass killings of the Red Terror. He now hopes to benefit from the sale of his book of lies. We strongly feel that this criminal should be tried before a court of law and should be hindered from benefiting from his crime. Thus, we have published the book in PDF and we are posting it for free usage of all interested readers.” They also say that they are legally justified. What is your response and what steps are you currently taking to halt the piracy?

EW: Professional publishers publish books coming from various political and ideological quarters and by people who have been involved in all kinds of activities. This does not mean publishers agree with the contents of the book they publish. Publishers are not politicians or judges. They are not agents of censorship. They believe in freedom of expression, in the intelligence of the reading public, its capacity to separate the wheat from the chaff and to make informed judgments. This is precisely the perspective of Tsehai publishers also.

The claim “that they are legally justified” is a false one. There is no law that permits the violation of copyright laws. In fact, what they did is nothing less than a blatant violation of internationally accepted copyright laws.

Currently, we have retained a law firm known for its intellectual property law, including copyright and book publishing works. Our attorney, Steven Rohde, is the Past President of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and vice president of PEN USA. Among many accomplishments, representing a different client a few years ago, Mr. Rohde personally took the California Son of Sam Law to the California Supreme Court and the law was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment protection for free speech and free press. So, Debteraw and its associates have seriously misunderstood the nature of the Son of Sam Laws and their legal status.

TADIAS: We also understand that this is Tsehai Publishers’ 10th year anniversary. Congratulations. Do you have any plans for the anniversary?

Thank you! Even though Tsehai was started couple of years earlier, it was ten years ago this time that I dedicated my full time attention into it. So we are very excited to celebrate a decade at Tsehai.

To celebrate the anniversary, we decided last year to publish a book every month in 2012. Because of the recent events, we were forced to postpone the publication of our first book this month. But we are determined not to let the unfortunate circumstances hold us back any more than this. We plan to get back on track and plan to release a book every month from February on.

We are also planning to host public events in selected cities in the coming months. If your readers would like to be informed or to get involved, we highly encourage them to visit and Like us at our Facebook page.

TADIAS: Please tell us briefly about Tsehai Publishers’ inception and key works in the past ten years.

Living in Los Angles in the mid 1990s, I noticed a major void in the publishing field on the subject of Ethiopia. Hardly any literature was available on Ethiopia, and what was there was seriously incomplete and flawed. I was tired of waiting for change to happen, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I founded Tsehai in 1997 with just this aim. Tsehai was named after and dedicated to my mother who had passed away the same year. In 2001, I left a job at UCLA and began running Tsehai full time. Since then Tsehai has published over 60 books, started three academic journals, and founded three imprints—African Academic Press, Marymount Institute Press and Chereka Books.

Over the years we have published many books that I am very proud of, one of which is The Conquest of Abyssinia. In the current religious and social climate in the world, Ethiopia is at the crossroad of fundamentalism, and has experienced it all. This book gives the first hand account of what happened during the tumultuous religious conflict in Ethiopia. Another notable book is Ethiopia and Eritrea, which was published originally in 1952. The book documents the struggle between the Unionists and Separatists in Eritrea. Currently, situations in Eritrea are not going well. Although the areas are separated politically, people are beginning to understand that they need a common ground. Because of the Separatists hold a monopoly over the literature available, the young Eritreans are not able to access information about their grandfather’s struggle to reunite with Ethiopia. This book is our contribution to the people of Eritrea, giving them back a piece of their lost history. Finally, our book The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews addresses the ever-increasing number of Ethiopian Jews that now live in Israel. The book documents their incredibly complex history, from a captivating Ethiopian perspective. Similarly, all our books are selected and published to address issues that are affect our understanding and engagements among ourselves today.

TADIAS: What about the various journals you have started. What inspired them?

EW: Early in 2000, I was working at UCLA for Azlan a journal of Chicano Studies. The journal had been founded 30 years ago by Chicano students who were looked down on because of their Mexican heritage. These students realized that if there was to be any hope for their own academic future and next generations, they would need a forum for Chicanos to publish, which was non-existent at the time. The journal is now a major international academic platform and most scholars who published in it are leading figures in the field internationally. This story inspired me to do the same for Ethiopian Studies, which was just as lacking on the market. Except the one at Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University, all the scholarship on Ethiopia was produced by European and American institutions. This was the impetus to begin the academic journals at Tsehai.

Our first journal was the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies (IJES), which is now currently available on JSTOR. IJES was the first academic journal to be started by an Ethiopian institution outside of Ethiopia. With the help of leading scholars in the field, we created a nurturing environment where academicians could publish scholarly theoretical and empirical papers and their research findings on Ethiopian social, political, economic, cultural and historical issues.

Our second journal is the Ethiopian Journal of Religious Studies (EJRS), which tackles the complex religious climate of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the home of the major religions in the world, but there was previously no forum where we can study or document its development. EJRS is the first religious Ethiopian journal, and is breaking new ground on this fascinating subject.

Our most recent journal is Ethiorica, which combines the words “Ethiopia” and “America” or “Africa.” Although Ethiopia has a very long and rich literary culture, there is currently no platform for burgeoning writers to show their talent. Because of this, there is no stimulating forum for inspiring and promoting Ethiopian literature, particularly among the youth. Ethiorica was our way of addressing this issue. The journal gives a platform for the best new writers to showcase their writing.

TADIAS: We know that you are also in the process of launching a children book series, tell us about it?

EW: We created an imprint called Chereka Books and it is dedicated to bringing accessible, joyful, and child-friendly illustrated books to children and young readers. These books are intended to entertain, inspire, and educate the children their culture and history. Currently, we have about twenty books in different stages of development and we will announce the details soon. In the mean time, you can be sure that the stories, illustration and production of the books will be as good or better than the many books that we have produced in the past.

TADIAS: Please share with us about yourself as well (where you grew up, how you developed your passion for publishing)

EW: I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. Although I had originally planned to pursue a career in medicine, I gave up that path and resolved to become a journalist. I believed that this would enable me to make the greatest difference for my country and in the world.

In September 1994, I left Addis to participate in the Twelfth International Ethiopian Studies conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing. But, my three-week travel plans became indefinite when the government clamped down on the press. Later that year, I joined the Ethiopian Review magazine in Los Angeles, serving as its editorial staff for the next six years. In these years, I got to work with many scholars, political activists and public intellectuals on issues of local and global interest.

As a journalist, I had fought for freedom of press and expression, and these experiences made me realize that I wanted to continue this through publishing. I cared deeply about Ethiopia, and wanted to make my contribution by publishing and distributing works of scholarship on Ethiopia by Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians throughout the world. After founding Tsehai, I realized how very rewarding the experience could be, and devoted myself fully to it. Today, with our three imprints, we publish a diverse list of books and journals, and we endeavor to encourage the acquisition of knowledge, and to bring quality and diversity to the publishing industry for many generations to come.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers that we have not asked you about?

EW: I would like to remind your readers of one fundamental issue. Circumstances in Ethiopia and elsewhere show how precious freedom of expression is. Without freedom of expression, there is no progress, no development, no democracy, and no vibrant culture. Ethiopia has lost many of her brilliant children because they stood up to defend freedom of expression. According to my humble opinion, it is our duty to struggle for freedom, equality, and justice to defend the freedom of expression of all Ethiopians, at home and in the Diaspora.

Last but not least, I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you to the many who came out in our support, donated money, purchased books, called and emailed to show their solidarity. We are also grateful to the wonderful editors, authors, staff and interns who work so hard to contribute knowledge that heals our wounded souls. You all are our heroes, so thank you!
—–
Related:
Illegal PDF of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Memoir – By Donald N. Levine (TADIAS)
Ethiopia: Copyrights and CopyCrimes – By Alemayehu G Mariam (Ethio Media)
In defense of Tsehai Publishers – By Fikre Tolossa (Ethiopian Review)

32 Responses to “Q & A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers”


  1. 1 Tirusew Tebarek Feb 2nd, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    As disgusting and abominable as Mengistu is, I totally agree that it is important to understand the mind of the mad-man to know what happened during those, dark 17 years in our history. Bravo Ato Elias and Tsehai Publishers! You can never go wrong when you stand on side of enlightenment and education.

  2. 2 Elias Mastawal Feb 2nd, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    It seems like the Debetras have a chronic problem that they can not read without assistance. These misguided groups mangled the writings and speech of Fidal Castro, Che Guveira, Hegal, and Marx. Worst of all misread and misinterpret the whole range of texts that deal with socialism in the mid 1970′s. Now after all those years they can not understand:”Son’s of Sam Law” which is written in a plain easy-to- understand- English to take a copy right that belongs solely to the publisher. Whoever it is,they need to grow up their 3-inch mind. This is not the first time that they are doing this kind of nefarious activity. Decades ago they were selling a faded xerox for $10.00 in 1991 at soccer field in California to raise fund the writings of the late Aklilue Hapt-Wald’s about his life (whose administration they hate with fiery-passion) presented during the inquisition headed by Dr. Berket Hapte Selassie and Professor Mesfin. This is an infringement on the right of the late Prime Minister. This time I think they should suffer the legal consequences for their folly. With due consideration.

  3. 3 Mintesinot Feb 2nd, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    It is blatant stupidity and ignorance by those jerks! It is actually very wise to understand what Mengistu was thinking and why he has done all the damage to the country. Hitler has written “Mein Kampf” – such books are actually treasures and are used for academic purposes and understand the thought process of such crazy outliers in the history of man kind!

    Why did Mengistu decide to kill the best and brightest of the nation’s best, from the Best Military Generals in the country (perhaps even the continent by then), to the brightest elites, artists, writers, doctors, politicians, students, youth activists – who could have carried the nation forward! Why? What was he thinking? What was the rational behind? This book should actually be an opportunity to learn the hard-wiring of a savage dictator’s mind who did so much damage to his own country and people – while he apparently ‘loved’ (this could be disputed or ‘love’ redefined) the country and never questioned its sovereignty!

    Whether Mengistu gets money or not is so trivial to even discuss about – that is for small minds! In stead, people should read the book and scrutinize, discuss in forums so that anything like that wouldn’t happen again in that country! That way we all learn and look forward for better and civilized leadership in that country!

  4. 4 Derege Shewa Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Ooops, Debeteraw. This smells like the outdated guerrilla flayer warfare gone wrong. The offending website should either issue public apology or and pay Tsehai Publishers!

  5. 5 BiniAM Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Elias Wondimu says “Currently, situations in Eritrea are not going well. Although the areas are separated politically, people are beginning to understand that they need a common ground. Because of the Separatists hold a monopoly over the literature available, the young Eritreans are not able to access information about their grandfather’s struggle to reunite with Ethiopia. This book is our contribution to the people of Eritrea, giving them back a piece of their lost history”

    First of all, from the above statement his bias against Eritrea is quite apparent. Secondly the statement above is so patronizing towards Eritreans it is downright insult to their intelligence. Eritreans know their history in all its gory details; they don’t need an Ethiopian elitist to enlighten them of their own history. Mr. Wondimu is clearly ignorant of the numerous books written by Eritrean scholars and other foreign historians that have thoroughly analyzed and dissected the roles of the Unionist groups and the pro-Independence movements. Eritreans are also well aware of the political subterfuge played by Haileselasie and its minions during this time and the consequent atrocity unleashed upon the Eritrean people by the late King and the regimes that succeeded his reign.

  6. 6 Ittu Aba Farda Feb 2nd, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    I have been waiting to hear from the publisher himself. I was really saddened by what happened to him in this case and had my outrage known through my comments on other websites. Those folks who illegally scanned and posted this book on their website are not only bootleggers but also ‘Literacy’ terrorists. It is a disgrace to their reputation (if they retain any from this disgraceful act) and should be held accountable in a court of law. This shameful action they took only shows their true picture and evil potentials if they were in power before or after that blood thirsty Mengistu. Mr. Wondimu should continue to come out public like this and talk about this injustice inflicted upon his esteemed business setting. This interview has given me confidence in him that he won’t be cowed down by these lawless miscreants. Right on Brother!! Right on!!!!

  7. 7 Temesgen Feb 2nd, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    “Although the areas are separated politically, people are beginning to understand that they need a common ground. Because of the Separatists hold a monopoly over the literature available, the young Eritreans are not able to access information about their grandfather’s struggle to reunite with Ethiopia. This book is our contribution to the people of Eritrea, giving them back a piece of their lost history. ”

    I am a young Eritrean (23), and I see very little discussion regarding the “question” of independence amongst my Eritrean peers but rather I see this only as a discussion amongst nostalgic Ethiopians of a relationship that did not really exist. Ethiopians did nothing to defend their Eritrean “brothers” while Mengistu Hailemariam and Haile Selassie committed acts of genocide against Eritreans who only wanted the right to self-determination. Regardless past attitudes, Eritreans made their opinion clear during the 1993 referendum! We do not have to be one country to have a cordial relationship.

  8. 8 Henry S. Commager & Potter Stewart Feb 3rd, 2012 at 1:18 am

    The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.

  9. 9 Ethiopiawit Feb 3rd, 2012 at 8:14 am

    This is supposed to be a discussion about copyright infringment. How is Ato Wondimu’s comment about the book ‘Ethiopia and Eritrea’ insulting? He is a publisher who is trying to let you know the content of the book. Neither he nor an Ethiopian wrote the book. If you have an issue with Ethiopia that’s something else.

  10. 10 Michael H/mariam Feb 3rd, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Thank you Tadias for getting this interview to us. I very much support the work Mr. Wondimu is doing and standing for our freedom of expression. I will look forward to your books coming out this year. However, as for the case with Debteraw, I hope you can bury the hatchet outside of court. The last thing either of you need is a dragged out court process that wastes money and tarnishes Ethiopia’s image. As far as the memoir of Mengistu H/mariam is concerned, I think there is some hypocrisy on both sides. I think Mr. Wondimu’s surprise to the book piracy issue is overblown and perhaps underestimates the emotional pains inflicted on reading how a murder spends his weekends playing golf and tennis. It is safe to say, in the 21st century, piracy is part of the publishing business. This doesn’t make it right but it shouldn’t either be a reason to slow you down. As for Debteraw, the site has given Mengistu an undue publicity, and has done it in a way that stands against the freedom of expression we cherish so dearly. If they expected to get any node let alone respect for this act, they have surly taken our tolerance of their biases for absolute ignorance.

    New York, NY

  11. 11 Meron Feb 3rd, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Elias,

    You are my Ethiopian Hero. Keep doing your publishing work. What Debterew did is not only stupid, illegal, and retarded, but also hateful. Haters and bullies are always cowards. They like to hate for one of three reasons. 1) They want to be you. 2) They hate themselves. 3) They see you as a threat.

    Don’t be discouraged my brother. I know you will prevail in court!

    Meron,
    Michigan

  12. 12 Chombe Feb 3rd, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    It is total baloney to suggest piracy is part of the publishing business. No, it is not. You have to be outside the publishing industry to make such outlandish claim. What is true is that there is a debate in the industry about the distinction between fair use and infringement. What is fair use? U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.” (And BTW, there is no mention of “Son of Sam Law” in U.S. copyright law. I don’t know where they got that one.) But the brazen act of creating a PDF of an entire book and distributing it for free is not fair use. It’s theft. It is illigal. It’s stealing. The only way to resolve this is throught the legal system in court. This type of illegal behavior should not be excused. Debterw must be held financially responsible for it’s old-school sleeze campaign that caused emotional and monetary damage to the publisher. They must pay their crimes. That’s the only way they you will learn, if they learn at all. They did not have mercy when they committed this crime, why have mercy on them?

  13. 13 Abdi Feb 3rd, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    You have to sue. The only way to expose their identity is by law to force them to come to court. You can’t just break the law and get away with it. If you do, then what happens tomorrow? And after that? What is this crap about “it’s not good for Ethiopia’s image”? Do you think it is good for Ethiopia’s image when some uneducated thugs break the law to intimidate our publishers, scholars and educators?

  14. 14 Meron Feb 3rd, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Speaking of intimidation of our media professionals, don’t forget to include Journalists and Bloggers to the list. I am thinking of Skinder Nega, the Swedes and others. I think of Eskinder all the time. I pray for him a lot. I have never met him but I sincerely feel sorry for him. He always reminded me of a nice man who loved his job, he has passion for writing, providing critical view of government. He has that indomitable Ethiopian spirit. He loves democracy. His wife also a journalist and publisher gave birth in prison few years ago. I love that family! Can you imagine if the PDF guys were in charge in Ethiopia and Elias Wondimu was also doing his work in Ethiopia? They would probably hang him. I am sorry to say but that’s the reality on the ground. And yet, I still believe somehow, from the bottom of my heart, that Ethiopia’s best days are still ahead of her because we have committed professional people like Ato Elias Wondimu. My admiration and respect goes to him. And I so wish Eskinder Nega was also at home enjoying his wife and baby and doing what he loves most…he would most likely share with us a well reasoned commentary about the Mengistu book saga, offering us another brilliant Ethiopian perspective on the important copyright matter. Oh, well, it’s not to be today because he is in prison and silenced. It is this illegal silencing of our brilliant men and women that I wish to change forever. I long for new Ethiopia. I pray for it each day! I pray for Skinder and people like Elias Wondimu.

  15. 15 Tazabi Feb 4th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    As far as books go, I read Bereket Simon’s recently published book. The author takes lying into a new art form. He makes Baghdad Bob look amature on how to BS. The book is full of crap. Anyways, I will not infringe on his right to express himself, even as he leads the biggest anti-press-freedom operation in Africa today. What is fascinating to me though in the Mengistu book scandal is that in addition to the comical silence of the EPRP in the face of such public outcry, is the fact that how their stupid mistake turned Mengistu Hailemariam (The bucther of Addis) into an instant poster-child of freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. The opposite of what EPRP intended. Thank you EPRP, how smart was that? You gave the dictator a renewd notority.

  16. 16 Yeseladengai Feb 4th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    We should all Thank the publisher for his outstanding contribution to us. And i am very happy to see this incident has encouraged the publisher to work harder and stronger!!!

    God Bless!!!

  17. 17 Ras Mitat Feb 4th, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    “Nostalgic Ethiopians of a relationship that did not really exist”?? Really? Honestly speaking, I don’t think Ethiopians are that Nostalgic about it anymore. That’s wishful thinking and fantasy. They’re busy with with so many other things that’s seems least of their worries right now. Plus, as Mr. Wondimu said, publishers are not “politicians or judges.” Their job is to provide you with information so you can make informed decisions. I agree 100%!

  18. 18 Tedla Asfaw Feb 4th, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    For all who are interested to know what happened during Mengistu Hailemariam’s communist dictatorship for 17 years there are many books out in Amharic printed in the last twenty years. Unfortunately, Ethiopians back home have no extra time to contemplate the time of Mengistu because their current rulers are repeating what Mengistu did with the support of the West. Ethiopia is still a country that exports its people all over the world including children and could not feed itself after 35 billion dollar foreign aid. We are Republic of Aid !!!!

    Ethiopia is now good for foreigners as tourist destination and a farmland bonanza for India and Saudi Arabia and all who have Dollar. Ethiopian Diaspora tourists are another type of tourists who are showing their “fortune” on poor Ethiopians. Most of the people live on a dollar a day and unfortunately a magazine like Tadias ignored this reality and advertise about business opportunity in Ethiopia. What about 60 percent of youth who have no hope and spending its time chewing Chat ? Can you build business without the youth ?

    Yes you have a right to advertise business in Ethiopia for foreigners but we know that business by Ethiopians is totally under TPLF/Woyane control, total monopoly. I do not share your magazine interest on Ethiopia’s “upper middle class”. This class is a criminal class who are looting more than 11.5 billion dollar out of Ethiopia in the last twenty years. I hope Tadias will cover the fortune of our Woyane’s wealth in the diaspora. Good to start by posting their million dollar house in our area.

    Tadias Magazine who came out in defense of Freedom to Publish should also be part of the Freedom to Inform without fear.

  19. 19 Tadias Magazine Feb 5th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Dear Mr. Tedla Asfaw:

    As always we welcome your comments and participation. TADIAS recognizes and highlights the talents of our people and our strong connection to a country vastly diverse and rich in culture. The talented, successful, innovative, and yes even ordinary individuals making a difference in the community are showcased. We are proud of our heritage, and are aware that Ethiopian-Americans are not merely a distinct immigrant group, but also vibrant members of the American tapestry. This is reflected in our profiles and features in TADIAS.

    We strongly disagree with your comment that equates success with criminality. It is precisely this kind of negative stereotyping of groups that we reject. The purpose of TADIAS is to serve not only as an outlet for our growing Ethiopian community to exchange ideas and learn from each other, but also to serve as a counter voice to the dominant, disadvantaged paradigm found in the portrayal of Ethiopia and Ethiopians in western media outlets. More importantly, we encourage freedom of expression and discourage the muffling of journalists and members of the press from contributing to a free and democratic society.

    The Tadias Team

  20. 20 Afro Feb 5th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    The best quote in this interview: “There is no democracy without free press.” Free press is the foundational-stone of real democracy. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

  21. 21 Tazabi Feb 5th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    The credibility gap with the EPRP argument is also a left over inheritance of class war fare of the 1960s and 1970′s that help cement the derg in power at the expense of countless lives. The discredited Communism imported from foreign philosophers and experts on class warfare such as butchering of people without due court process as mentioned by Mastawal these misguided groups mangled the writings and speech of Fidal Castro, Che Guveira, Hegal, and Marx. Worst of all misread and misinterpret the whole range of texts that deal with socialism and now Now after all those years they can not understand:”Son’s of Sam Law” which is written in a plain easy-to- understand- English to take a copy right that belongs solely to the publisher. This is not the first time that they are doing this kind of nefarious activity. Decades ago they were selling a faded xerox copy as an infringement on other’s right. My sentiment also.

  22. 22 Derege Shewa Feb 5th, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Ato Tedla, this is what happens when you are overzealous. You were dancing on the borderlines of being more catholic than the pope, like Mengistu himself or Meles Zenawi today and EPRP. Categorizing Ethiopians into imaginary subsets of divisions, weakens the meaning of the term “patriotism.” Do we all have to become professional-streets-protesters in order to be validated as pro-Ethiopian? I hope not.

  23. 23 Mimi Negash Feb 5th, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Jegnaw,

    why can’t we agree to disagree without name-calling, labeling and classifying, separating each other to death into tiny parts like an enqutatash doro as north clan and south clan, upper clan, elite clan, middle-clan, upper-middle-clan, that clan and this clan. Besmeab.

    Mimi,
    NYC

  24. 24 Sarris Feb 6th, 2012 at 12:19 am

    One simple question I would have asked Elias: Is Germany a democratic country? Do people in Germany have rights to publish? Is their freedom of speech respected? Can one publish books written by Hitler in Germany? The answer to these questions would have given you food for thought. You would have said, “These guys at Debterwa are not that crazy after all”.

  25. 25 Hunda Feb 6th, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Thank you Elias. I feel that even though Mengstu’s practice was so bad, what about the opposite reactions at that time? Is that different from Mengstu? I don’t think so! What I mean is that Mengstu is a reflection of one of us!! So, we Ethiopians need to discuss about our past. Let’s talk about reality. I never heard about Mengstu putting money in foreign banks? That’s different from the contemporary officials. Ethiopia is already failed by rigid personalities. I am not supporter of Mengstu. We Ethiopians should not always live divorced life and we need to learn to trust and love!!

    HT

  26. 26 RasGugsa Feb 7th, 2012 at 2:51 am

    The point is correct that Hitler’s book is banned in Germany but available all over the world. Similarly, the Mengistu book is banned in Ethiopia and available elsewhere. It can only be said it took some balls to publish Mengistu’s book. The controversy must have been expected, expect it appears Debterawa and the behind the scene ill informed advisers botched the response from a legal and political point of view. From my reading of the issue from various websites and hearing it from the horses mouth the public opinion temperature is not impressed by what has been done. Raising a white flag in humility not yet a leadership art in our culture of stubborn feelings of entitlement. “It is my way or the highway.” With that attitude setting this out of court would be a miracle. Then in the same token to let it slide as if nothing happened is a mistake.

  27. 27 Sandera selam Feb 7th, 2012 at 4:34 am

    I believe Mengistu is not normal.

  28. 28 Dr. Alemwork - Food for Thought Feb 7th, 2012 at 10:12 am

    How about this food for thought? Scientific studies have shown that IQ and the way our brains formed affects whether someone is prone to prejudice, stereotypes and criminal behaviors. The study, published in Psychological Science, showed that people who score low on I.Q. tests in childhood are more likely to develop socially prejudiced political beliefs in adulthood. I.Q. is a score determined by standardized tests, but whether the tests truly reveal intelligence remains a topic for debate among psychologists. Theories include that people of low intelligence gravitate toward ideologies that are aggressive in nature, in turn, prejudiced. Less intelligent people are possibly drawn to such ideologies because such beliefs feature “structure and order,” which make it easier to comprehend a complicated world. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies.

    Alemwork,

    San Diego,
    California

  29. 29 Nellie Feb 24th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Listen to me people: I was born in America and raised here. You know where I should have been born in? Ethiopia! But thanks to his Highness Mengistu, my parents have to work hard every single day to bring food to our table. If I had said this thirty years ago, I would’ve been hung on a lamppost and eaten by hyenas in Tigray. Every Amhara thinks he’s so great. But was he great when my dad had to escape at the young age of nineteen to Sudan so he wouldn’t have to fight in the Derg like his brothers did? Or when my mom had to leave at 16 and had nothing to drink? They had no chance to succeed in school. They couldn’t even go to college because of Mengistu. If you think about it they were lucky compared to some other Tigrayan and Eritrean people who died under his bloody hands. But they still work hard every day becuase Mengistu thought he had a right to ruin Tigrayan children’s education. He tried to send all the Tigrayan people to Gambela so Meles Zenawi’s army couldn’t have any support. What kind of person would do that? My mother would’ve been a judge and my father could’ve been a pilot. But instead they work from 5 p.m to 5 a.m., 6. am to 2 p.m. It seems like only a few smart Amharas and the Tigrayan and Eritrean people understand what he did. Do you think it’s fair he gets to live in a nice fancy Zimbabwean home while he holds the blood of many lost, poor souls. Sounds sad, huh? Well, sorry, but he didn’t mind shooting people because they were from Tigray or Eritrea. Now that he has made a memoir do you think he will include that in his memoir? Do you think he will include what his regime did? This is how the people who sold this online illegally felt when they sold this cause I can bet you that they are either from Tigray or Eritrea. But truthfully, I am interested to see what he has to say about himself.

  30. 30 Jember Feb 24th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    @Nellie A long winded of saying he was a mindless, cruel dictator. I agree with you though very much and I feel your pain as my family and I were also in the same situation. i don’t care either if he writes a book or give interviews but he needs to behind bars for life!

  1. 1 Q & A: Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers (How to Write Book Titles) Pingback on Feb 3rd, 2012 at 5:32 pm
  2. 2 Illegal PDF of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s Memoir at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Feb 4th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
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