By Hilina Beyene
My first encounter with Tsegaye Ararsa was at the Addis Ababa University in early 1990s. He was one of my campus friends. I was a psychology major when he joined law school.
Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Tsegaye was just one of us, an ordinary student. He never exhibited any outlandish views and behaviour even if he was constantly in crisis. Among his close friends, we was known to be sirening a deep inner crisis. He suffered from self-loathing, mood swings, depressive episodes and suicidal ideations–problems that have followed him to Melbourne, Australia.
Tsegaye, who is Amhara on his mother’s side with an Oromo father, used to make strenuous efforts to speak the English language with a British accent. I also remember that he and Tedla Woldeyohaness were very close. He was fascinated with Tedla’s keen interest in creationism science, a movement against Darwinian evolution. He doesn’t talk to Tedla just because his old friend criticized him for his outrageous deeds and behaviors not expected of a self-anointed scholar and rights advocate.
After he graduated from AAU, he taught at TPLF’s cadre factory, Civil Service College, for many years. He was a misfit in the eyes of colleagues and students. As someone who focused on researching Ethiopia’s ethnic federalism and the constitution, his in-depth analysis and articulation on these subjects is laudable. But his scholarly work is diminished by his hatred-fueled, disparaging and vile tantrums he disseminates online and via OMN.
Tsegaye once appeared on Melbourn-based SBS Amharic and claimed that there was nothing called Ethiopian identity. But he claimed that there was an Australian identity. Anyone who has a glimpse of history realizes that Ethiopia has a more organic identity, regardless of its defects, than Australia. The country now called Australia was founded after European colonizers and settlers, mainly the British, genocidally exterminated the indigenous people, the Aborigines, from the mainland.
For Tsegaye, the victory of Adwa was just a distortion of history. It is insignificant to the history of black resistance against white colonizers that severely dehumanized Africans. Out of ignorance, more than anything, he claimed that Emperor Menelik claimed to be a white man.
The man who crushed colonialists to dust was described by Tsegaye as an assumed white man. “He [Menelik] claimed to be white. He clearly said he is NOT BLACK. He said he is a Caucasian (white). In other words, he viewed himself as some kind of ‘honorary whiteman’. Interestingly, he said this to a delegation of black Americans who came to his home to celebrate him as a black hero. He refused to accept his blackness.”
According to Tsegaye, “To claim that Emperor Menelik II fought a black war is a distortion of history. It’s an insult to any self-respecting black person. What he did was fight an imperial war that happens to be between a white European and a black African empire is a Caucasian (white). In other words, he viewed himself as some kind of ‘honorary whiteman’. Interestingly, he said this to a delegation of black Americans who came to his home to celebrate him as a black hero. He refused to accept his blackness.” This kind of flimsy scholarship is more insulting and degrading to Tsegaye than Menelik. The emperor passed away as a giant historical figure. But Tsegaye the midget remains a hatred-driven ethno-nationalist who is not fortunate enough to make history with negativativity and dishonest scholarship.
Tsegaye’s metamorphosis from an ordinary Ethiopian to an extremist Jawarian ethno-nationalist spreading hatred and inciting ethnic animosity appeared to me a sign of deep trouble. In order to analyse his transformation, I carefully looked at his hateful social media posts and talked to several people who may know whatever happened to him.
His social media exchanges with his critics reveal an unhealthy character. He is disparaging to people who disagree with him calling them ignorant, illiterate,idiotic and stupid. It seems evident that this virulent sociopath suffers from “grandiose delusions.” People who suffer from delusions of grandiose, or megalomania, are more interested in their own greatness more than anything else. Delusions of grandiose is state of mind widely linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a mood swing between mania and depression.
The manic state in bipolar disorder is characterized by elevated thoughts, including the feeling of unrealistic greatness, but reality contradicts the delusion and causes depression and excessive insecurity. Anyone who knows him closely can tell you that Tsegaye is a narcissistic and abusive man who is only trying to project a false image and self-worth at the expense of others.
Tsegaye has mixed ethnic heritage. On his mother’s side, he is Amhara but his father was an Oromo. His close friends consistently say that he used to express shocking dislike to his own mother.
Tsegaye is a man of self-contradictions. On the one hand, he projects himself as a seasoned scholar with a PhD in constitutional law. On the other hand, he is abusive, vulgar, narcissistic and sadistic. This reality is not just based on the words he misuses and weaponizes to harm others, but the abusive and predatory relationships he enjoys perpetrating on others including women and teenage girls.I will return on this with a substantive exposé some other time.
Tsegaye needs to look at himself in the mirror. The mirror he needs is not one that shows him his chiseled face or goggled eyes. He must find one that reflects on internal chaos in the untidy room of his brain. It appears to be messy, chaotic and disorderly. As the saying goes, charity starts at home. If you don’t clean your home, cleaning the streets makes no sense.
The Indian cricketer, Virat Kohli, said: “Pretension is a poor joke that you play on yourself. Snap out of it. Recognise your strengths, work on your weaknesses. Real achievement is liking what you see in the mirror every morning.” Tsegaye has to learn how to love and get loved–in real life rather than the prentions in public squares. As someone who knows how pretentious and snobbish Tsegaye Ararsa is, I feel sorry for this man.
Tsegaye should stop projecting his excessive insecurities and self-loathing on others. Inciting ethnic hostilities and hatred needs no knowledge but ignorance. What is complex and challenging is making peace and instilling love among communities.
Let me conclude with one of Tsegaye’s favorite quotes. “The illiterate in the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” –Alvin Toffler. Spreading hatred, especially at a time of hope and change, is the worst form of ignorance and illiteracy.