Thursday, 30 September 2010

Interview - Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso

Interview - Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso

Hambaricho the Mountain and the People (HMP): First I would like to thank you for the genuine reaction you did to reply for our interview.  To start with please tell us a bit about you and your family? 
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: I am now aged 63 and retired after more than three decades of public service; a family man, with eight children and nine grandchildren. We are a close and happy family.

HMP: What makes Ambasaddor Tesfaye Habisso get of bed in the morning?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: What used to make me rise up early in the morning, for most of my life as a civil servant, was in preparation for daily office work but now I get of bed not so early as I was used to in the past; usually, I get up around 7 A.M., unless of course I have an appointment with colleagues.

HMP: Can you tell us briefly what life struggles you have faced since your childhood up to now and how you have defeated those struggles? What is/was your political view and affiliation yesterday and today? 
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso:  Walking for more than one hour from Begedamo, Doyogena, to Wassera St. Theresa School to attend my elementary school from 1952-1960, herding cattle and collecting and fetching firewood for the family on week days; then being whisked away to Assela and to Nazareth for high school education (1961-64) and then Haile Sellassie I University (1965-1969) was indeed a tough struggle for a peasant boy like myself. In the High School and in the University days I strongly believed in the issues of social justice—Land to the Tiller, Equality, Socialist Democracy, and so on.
HMP: From the memories of “Derg” regime, what was growing up as a young communist in Ethiopia look like?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso:  Including the Ethiopian Students Movements of the 1960s and 1970s, leftist politics in general and socialism/ communism in particular was limited to the political elites of the country and as such not very much engrained in the hearts and minds of these elites, let alone the large masses of the country. The few who espoused the ideology of socialism and Marxist-Leninist teachings were victimized during the Derg regime: consumed by the flames of “Red/White Terror”—supporters as well as opponents of the Derg regime were killed in hundreds of thousands; losers either way.

HMP: What was the biggest challenge you have in your time as a secretary (you) of the Ethiopian House of Representatives?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: As Member of the Council of Representatives and Administrator of the Secretariat, my biggest challenges revolved around reconciling the political demands of the CoR and the administrative duties and responsibilities as Secretary of the CoR. Above all, different security problems across the country also posed tremendous stress and strain upon my duties and responsibilities as a Secretary of the CoR. What was very painful at the time was the dislocations of ethnic minorities in different pockets of the country, especially in Arsi Negelle, Wondo-Genet, Jimma, Arbagugu areas, etc. and the daily reports coming from the affected communities seeking for help (SOS).

HMP: What did you go through emotionally when your party (KPC) died living unfit after several years of aim less movement?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Political parties come and go; it is the nature of all social/political movements, and nothing unique about KPC or any organization. By the way, KPC was established by the unanimous decision of the Kembata elites during the transition period; in fact, its programme and rules were formulated by famous Kembatas such as Professor Yacob Arsano, Felleke Wago and the like. I joined it because it was a consensual arrangement of the Kembatas at the time. Whatever that may be, KPC is still alive and it was one of the contesting political parties in the 2010 national elections—its chairman has been Erchafo Erdilo of Angacha. KPC has not died yet, though most likely to disappear along with many others in the near future for the obvious reasons. KPC is not a religion; politics and religion, for me, are quite different, and thus no emotional or sentimental attachment to KPC or EPRP that I was once member of. For some time now, I have quit partisan politics and I don’t think I would envy such a stance in the future; we better leave the field for the young ones like you.

HMP: I read the news in a newspaper called “Reporter” about the disappearance (they call wuhdet with Andinet Party in Amharic) of KPC. No one complained or falsified  that news, and here you claiming steel alive. Didn't they updated you or steel you are talking politics and giving me diplomatic answers?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Be this as it may, let me make it clear again: Since the ratification of the FDRE Constitution in 1995, I have distanced myself from partisan politics, as I explained to you in my response to your queries. What I mentioned to you regarding the KPC is what I know and only what I know, no politicking (politics, I doubt), no diplomatic niceties. If you have any other more reliable source of information, then, you stick to it but never question my integrity and honesty, please. OK?

HMP: I am just wanted to know your stand clearly and where you are (regarding the topic). I appreciate your honesty. Can you explain yourself for the audience, specially for the young generation of Hambaricho - who are mostly your fans and at the same time have some an answered questions about you - just to let them know?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Thanks also for playing the role of 'the devil's advocate', so to say. I only seek an honest dialogue with our compatriots from Kembata; I am not seeking any support for elections or political office; I have no hidden agenda. So our youngsters should aspire to possess 'positive thinking', no rumour-mongering, no backbiting, no mistrust or distrust of one another: We don't gain anything from such parochial attitudes and mentalities. We have already paid the bitter price and still paying even at present, we don't need it any further or any more. OK?  We need to assist one another and do whatever we can to bridge any gaps that may exist. Again, I say, "UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL!".

HMP: What was the strangest thing you did in your life?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Nothing that I remember of, as far as my memory serves me.

HMP: Did you ever have anything thrown at you when you were working as an Ambassador, a secretary of the House of Representatives or as a party leader?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Not at all! I was a much loved and respected person, and nothing of that sort confronted me or happened to me anywhere and everywhere I went then. I happily completed my tenure and returned home in peace and tranquillity, thanks to God.

HMP: You have chosen to write about the “history of Kambaata”. Was it easy writing about the whole Kambaata which is not so close to your close family?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: It actually was not my considered choice; I only tried to write about our people because our professional historians, wherever and whoever they may be, had no courage or willingness to write about the Kembata people’s historiography. I am not an historian by profession but I have always been proud of my Kembata identity; that is why I produced a voluminous manuscript on the history and culture of the Kembata people (in Amharic) and possibly to be published soon. I started the project some twenty-five years ago, interviewing elders across the Kembata domain, from Soke to Adancho and many corners during annual vacations. I wanted their history as they account and elucidate as simple peasant elders. It is not easy to come up with a unanimously acceptable history of any people; no social research has done it. Some begin, others improve on it, and still others continue with other aspects of it; there is no end to intellectual pursuit.

HMP: A number of people are skeptical about your writings that your writings favor to one clan; how would you respond this? 
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Simply because I hail from the Oyeta clan nobody has the moral authority to accuse me of favouring my clan in my writings; if you have any proof, why don’t you come up with concrete evidence instead of throwing allegations. Even if I was to favour my clan what is wrong with that, my dear friend? Have’nt you read in the Bible that even Jesus Christ came first to his own clan? Everybody is born to his/her clan not by choice; do we have to condemn that or be condemned because of that? I am a proud Oyeta and a proud Kembata, too. We all have multiple identities; for example, I am a Womalo through my father’s mother, a Dawaro through my grand-grandfather’s mother, a Somicho through my grand-father’s mother, a Doda-Annimena (Badawacho) through my mother, etc. This is common to everyone; everyone has multiple identities. Let us not cry over it, please.

HMP: Has your attitude to write about Kambaata changed over the years? Were you very ambitious when you were younger?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: My passion to see the published history of the Kembata people will never, ever diminish, unless of course I ‘kick the bucket’ and disappear from this earthly life.

HMP: What do you think of Kambaata people and leaders of these days?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: This requires an in-depth research and analysis, and I better not hasten to pass my subjective judgment now. By and large however, they are not any different than any of the peoples and leaders of this nation of many nations. Nevertheless, let us not underrate the fact that the Kembata people are very hardworking and energetic people, their survival strategies quite amazing, to say the least—Wonji, Metahara, Macha-Manna, Abadir-Ambash, Libido, Jimma, etc. in the past and South Africa now are illustrative examples.

HMP: Is there any updated information concerning the progress on Asphalt Road construction of the existing gravel road starting from Mazoria? (As you know this was promised by the Prime Minister during his visit, but the road is still gravel.)
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Bid tenders are floating, as far as I know, and I think once this is completed, the construction will kick-start soon.

HMP: What are the highs and lows in your life? Describe a perfect day for you.
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: A year and half in the Derg jails—Maekelawi, Keftegna 4, Keftegna 19 —was a terrible time for me; otherwise, the rest constitutes normal human life, no lows and no ups, no dramatic events as such.

HMP: Some people (at least readers of this group) from Kambaata “Were very disappointed to see those in AAU or elsewhere, including  Ambassador Tesfaye, are not writing a single book about the tradition.
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Your disappointment is understandable; we all have to push our intellectuals to do our bidding. By the way, there are innumerable research papers on different aspects of the Kembata people in the Addis Abeba University but not published yet due to lack of funds. We do not yet have a middle class/ wealthy and nationalist Kembatas to sponsor the publications. As far as I am concerned, I have already produced a 400-page manuscript on the culture and history of the Kembata people—it was prepared some 16 years ago but not published yet because I wanted our intellectuals to come up with constructive criticism and comments, and also due to shortage of funds (i was asked birr 186,000 for 10,000 copies by Berhanena Selam Printing House in 1994 and now printing costs have skyrocketed). Do you understand now?

HMP:  “From experience while you were in politics there were instances of  disagreements with your oppositions, which can be related to your position regarding  clan differences. I think (On behalf of my audience) you are one of the fore frontiers to preach ‘Oyata’s superiority.’ Do you still hold the same position?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: We never had any disagreements with Dr. Teketel (the former leader of the Kambaata/ EPRDF party) or any group; yes, we had differences of opinion and ideology; we still correspond with Dr. Teketel and call each other by phone. I don’t believe in the superiority of any clan, including the Oyeta that I hail from; I have always carried the torch of Kembatawinet and I must be a certifiable idiot if I stoop so low as to ‘preach Oyeta’s superiority’ or any group’s superiority. Such misguided mentality has throughout history hurled peoples to disaster and destruction, beginning from the days of Nazi Hitler and Fascist Mussolini. Before God and before democracy that I believe, all are equal; one man/woman, one vote; no one’s voice is superior to any one’s. Let us think twice before we point accusatory fingers at others without knowing their convictions and backgrounds. OK?

HMP:Is there anything you have not done (having the opportunity to do it) and regret today?  Who is your hero in Kambatta?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: I have always tried to do whatever I could and to stand on behalf of the Kembata people and their cause; I have nothing to regret. My heroes are the hardworking and common peasants of Kembata who sacrificed all that they had in order to educate us. Don’t you think so?

HMP: So many young Kaambatas are flooding to South Africa illegally; a lot of people complain that this worsen the local economy by increasing bargaining power of few families. In your view, is remittance adding significant value to the local economic development?

Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: Let our youngsters be brave enough to move to any corners of the earth, let alone South Africa. We suffer from scarcity of land in Kembata; Kembata youngsters are flocking to South Africa via Bole or through Moyale, and go and talk to their parents to realize their immense contributions to the nation’s as well as their local economy.

HMP: Among the countless problems that kambaata people are dealing with [poverty, ignorance, ill administration, etc] which one(s) do you think is/are the root cause?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: The problems that the Kembata people face are massive: scarcity of agricultural land, poverty, mal-governance, illiteracy (not ignorance, they are very intelligent and hardworking; they are not at all ignorant by any measure of intelligence).

HMP:  How does Ambassador see the representation of the Kembaata Community in the current federal government (Are the Kembaatas' really equally represented along with other nationalities, do Kembaatas have meaningful decision making power? Where are we really in relation to the current government setup?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: I am not as satisfied as I would have been regarding our representation in the federal government; it was far, far better during the transition period. Now I don’t know any Minister or equivalent portfolio holding Kembata official in the federal government, and I am afraid even at the Regional State. We are victims of our own making in addition to being a political and numerical minority. We have no vocal voices in the Parliament as well. Where are the voice of the Kembata representatives in the HOR as well as the HOF? I am on retirement since the last five years.

HMP: As you know that Kambaata have many highly educated people; what are the mechanisms of engaging these people in the development of the Kambaata area?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: We already have KDN (Kembata Development Network) based in California, San Jose and led by Professor Alemayehu Liranso; KTTM (Kembata Temro-Mastemar Association) based in AA and let by Kifle Bergeno formerly and now by Daniel Wolde Giorghis and Solomon Angoro; Samaritan Foundation based in AA, led by Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso and Markos Yohannes; KMG (Kembati-Menti Gezima Women Self Help Center) based in AA and led by Dr. Bogalech Gabre, and many other religious and civil NGOs and CBOs. The educated Kembatas are not slumbering; please, examine and reflect upon your responsibilities as a Kembata to the Kembata people and ask yourself, each and every one of you, what you are doing to and for the Kembata NOW! 

HMP: How does Ambasaddor Tesfaye Habisso like to spend his free time?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: I spend my time reading various books on politics, economics and social science journals, and writing articles, participating in workshops, debates and research projects. Since my retirement, I am also engaged in community work, trying to contribute to the Kembata development; we have now a small NGO that goes by the name of SAMARITAN FOUNDATION FOR THE DESTITUTE AND THE DYING that belabours to address the needs of the Kembata in the areas of education, healthcare, potable water and the disadvantaged groups. We just completed a two-block fine elementary school in Wonko, Durame and handed over to the Woreda last week. Two more similar schools are being built in Tedele, Wolkite, for the Kembata settlers of the Derg era there. We will continue in these community efforts in greater zeal. For me, there is no such thing as free time except on Sunday when I go to Church and praise God.

HMP: If you could make three changes in Ethiopia or Kambaata with no limitations, what would you do and why?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: “IF WISHES WERE HORSES BEGGARS WOULD RIDE THEM”, they say. I don’t want to spend my time in wishful thinking; we all must yearn for some ambition that is possible and achievable.

HMP: What do the next 5 years hold in store for you?  Do you have anything to say about “Hambaricho the Mountain and the people”?
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: As I mentioned previously, I will, with my other colleagues, continue with our community-targeted projects in collaboration with the donor community. I will also look for funds to get the Kembata history book published; the manuscript is now at the Ethiopian Studies Institute and the Kennedy Library and the National Archives, Ministry of Culture (in two copies each). I am part and parcel of the Hambaricho people; Hambaricho is our ‘holy mountain’ that saved many hundreds of Kembata Christians from the onslaught of the Ahmed Gragn wars in the 16th century. I do revere Hambaricho and the Hambaricho mountain people. OK?

My Final Message to all Questioners:
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso: “UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL!” Strengthen your unity; bury all clannish tendencies inside tightly closed “BARETTES” as any “SHUMAT STINKS”. WHEN YOU POINT ONE FINGER AT OTHERS, DO NOT FORGET THAT THREE OR FOUR FINGERS ARE POINTING AT YOURSELF. Let us always keep in touch and consult one another; do whatever is positive to our Kembata people and to each other. May GOD BLESS KEMBATA! May God bless Ethiopia, and our unity as a poor but proud nation. Bye
Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso
Zebihere Kembata.

HMP: My thanks go for all participants and Ambassador T. Habisso; and especially I am grateful for D. Siyum, B. Amado, B. Lodamo and R. Lambiso for their contribution.
Mancho Kam.


  1. I would like to thank Hambaricho admin for your initiation to host interview with the most dignified Kambatan, Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso. I appreciate your diligent work to make this happen. I also would like to thank Ambassador Tesfaye Habisso for his sincere and brotherly (less diplomatic) answers. What I could perceive from his answers is that he is kind of sick of critics and he seems to be dodging the bullet. I believe there are few people who sit around and enjoy discrediting other's effort. 'Sosi samo onxanita'. My message for Ambassador Tesfaye is that please continue doing what you have been doing; don't be resentful with critics. I hope you will smoothen your language (emotion) for your readers sake in your next interview. I don't think all the people who ask you questions are fault-finders. There are people (like myself -your admirers) would like to learn more from your life. God almighty bless you all.

    Belayneh A.

  2. I have no words to express my gratitude to those who initiated and facilitated this historic interview with the man I appreciate most. The diversity, openness and relevance of the questions forwarded and the decency of answers provided are superb. I don`t think Ambassador Tesfaye, a man who believes in democracy, would get upset with some of the questions that some people who need clarifications, for their own sake, asked. However, asking offending questions just simply to get someone down is rubbish.

    We need to be positive thinkers as he said. We should ask ourselves what did I do for the people who put me to the path I am now without getting themselves? In answering this question, provided the resources we have, we can make a difference. As to me we have what it takes to achieve both economic and political objectives we aspire for. Come on guys, sons and daughters of the `proud but poor people`, unite and get out of multifaceted poverty and under representation.


    God Bless Kembata!!!!
    Zerihun G. Kelbore

  3. Am happy to see/hear Such a blessing Interview with Ambassador Tesfaye. I Really Appereciate once again for his Contribution For Our Community(Kambata)and Ethiopia as a Whole. One thing to speak, He still has a better opporunity To even Publish the book named "History of Kambata", He still have opportunity to coordinate Those Kambatas in the Country as well as Abroad. Every thing Sounds Good & am happy and thankful for the Interview. Let's every one of u Contribute for our People...God bless we all...
    Jonathan Samuel(Eng)

  4. Thanks, Mancho and friends(Dave,Robele…).
    This is the way, how we can learn and let our identity continue. We have ample untapped resources, prominent elites like Ambassador and others, now it is time to exploit. We have enough capacity to do whatever we like, we can participate in politics, economy, culture and all life diminutions. And we can make change. Let us come together, discuss on our bundle of social ,economical, cultural, political problems.
    Still, I have question for Ambassador, I am get mystified with his stand, he said I am proud of Oyta clan in one hand and suggesting the young generation to stand together irrespective of their clan difference two contradicting vies. I am completely against the Worada and Clan classifications, the two big evils that wane our unity and solidarity. We are one, we have one language, one history, one culture and one people. So what is importance of wonder about clan. I don’t care whether I am Oyata or Fuga. We were discouraging our hard working community by the sprite of clan. We should not let this, slaying attitude to go. We have to respect one another at least, all are human beings let stand for Fuga community. We have hidden action of human rights, surprising continued to this days. Fuga the most productive and real Kambata missed the basic human rights. They have no equal access to social benefits, like land and participate on social activities. Let’s think over it. Unless we are open to accept and regret our wrongdoing and start improving we will be lost.

    I don’t know, way Mancho and Ambassador didn’t raise about our cultural numbness of Kambata. This days kambata is culturally, economically and politically less developed zone. We don’t have, even single vocalist to promote our culture. It is really historical infamy not to have at least one singer , working on our songs, sayings, … so on.

    Finally, I am feling that we need to act even out of our profession as what our Ambassador did, we need to write more: on our culture, sayings… whatever it is. Since we don’t have at least base.
    God Bless our attitude.
    “Eramo Shematu Lejaa Dulano”
    Bravo Mancho…
    Peace and Health Ambassador.

    Magane tuumuu horinkaneene Ehune.

  5. we all proud of u ! u paved success way for so many kambat and Ethiopian youth while u are ambassador and still i admire ur commitment to help ur society so we learn alto from ur work u have allot lesson that bearing change our society and we have a lot of intellectuals contributing a lot to Ethiopia and the whole world all those found inside and abroad kambat people let as forget our past and unit to break our problem together. strive to Bering change to our society.

    let as try to give cure medic to our problems we will have good future all our challenges that face to day is our stepping stone to success so let as start to build friendly society for next generation.
    . United We Stand, Divided We Fall! Let us get united and unified to make a difference in the lives of our


Thank You for the comments!

There was an error in this gadget