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Aiga Forum challenged over racist slur

By Abebe Gellaw ǀ August 10, 20089

An Ethiopian man who took a screenshot that has embroiled the pro-TPLF Aiga Forum in a race row involving U.S. President Barack Obama has challenged the website either to make a formal apology or make itself available for a formal investigation.

Samuel Yonas, who resides in Germany, was browsing different Ethiopian websites on August 4th minutes before he went to bed around midnight when he saw the racially charged slur targeting President Obama posted on Aiga Forum. “When I saw the racist comment, I felt shocked and disgusted knowing that such a backward and racist comment has no place anywhere in the 21st century,” Samuel said.

Aiga Forum, which is reportedly funded by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is run by Esayas Atsbaha Abaye, an ex-guerrilla fighter turned Cisco employee who now resides in San Jose, California. In response to enquiries by this reporter, the Aiga Forum operator completely denied the allegations and categorically blamed “extremists” for misusing Photoshop and the Internet to do what he called the “dirty job.”

“This will be the last communication we will have with you unless we see a strong criticism on your page to denounce such rubbish use of the Internet by opposition supporters,” the Aiga editor warned this reporter in an email message.

The racist comment that has widely sparked uproar was removed within hours. It read: "The misguided extremist Diasporas have been cheering up for the last couple of days. You know why? Hillary Clinton will not visit Ethiopia during her trip to Africa. Hmm! Who cares if the N**** administration ignores Ethiopia?! Have your say.” The shocking comment was even linked to Aiga’s blog hosted by Yahoo Inc.

Samuel could not believe his eyes. “As soon as I read what was posted on that website, I felt the need to keep a copy as I suspected that they would remove it sooner or later and deny as they did before,” he said. He emphasized that he is a decent citizen and will never ever think of committing a criminal offense of forging such a despicable piece of evidence against anyone.

“Aiga may say whatever they want to after deleting what they have proudly posted on the world wide web, but what I retained is a simple screenshot that anyone concerned can validate and investigate. I am ready to give evidence should there be a formal investigation into this shameful act,” he says. Samuel felt that it was his civic duty to come forward and stand for the truth as Aiga has been crying foul.

“I am neither a fool nor a reckless adventurist to risk facing a criminal charge by engaging in forgery and false accusation against them. If Aiga Forum continues to insist that it was all a conspiracy, I think a thorough investigation should be launched by the concerned authorities. That will undoubtedly put the matter to rest. After all, anything published on the Internet cannot be deleted completely as it leaves evidence on servers, search engines and PCs around the world,” Samuel noted.

Samuel believes that Aiga Forum has taken the wrong course of action by claiming that some faceless extremists forged and cloned its website and inserted the comment to tarnish its name. “This is purely a conspiracy theory aimed at confusing Ethiopians and other concerned parties. No one has committed such an outrageous crime. The screenshot was taken by me from Aigaforum.com. The reason I took the screenshot was not to defame the website as they claim but to keep evidence in case they would deny it. I am glad my suspicion has proven right.”

Aiga Forum claimed that the source of the forgery was a website, http://disposablewebpage.com/turn?page=jx58W7oeXl . But Samuel disputes the claim. “In fact what was re-posted on this wiki page was the screenshot I took. I don’t think that anyone else except Aiga can do this to make it look like the work of an evil fabricator. Unfortunately, that cannot help them much to change the well-substantiated evidence that they are trying to bury under a load of lies. I think they are only making the matter worse by trying to make it look like a fabrication,” he says.

In two separate notes to its supporters, Aiga Forum claimed that it was targeted by “extremists” because it is telling the truth and focusing on positive developments in Ethiopia.

In one of the notes to its supporters, Aiga said: “We again categorically deny what is attributed to us! But when you speak the truth and do what is right people notice and one of our resourceful contributor alerted us to the following website the despicable used [sic] to defame our image! disposablewebpage.com.

“ The good thing about the Internet is it is well designed to serve the public in every aspect! Criminals may think they can hide but not for long,” according to Aiga. But contrary to the claim, there was no criminal hiding to ambush Aiga in what it called “Internet jungle.”

Obang Metho, who leads the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia [SNME], said that the matter should be thoroughly investigated. Obang noted that he and Michael Steel, Chair of the National Republican Committee, were also victims of Aiga’s racist and demeaning insult. Obang underscored the fact that Aiga is a voice of fascism that cannot be expected to do any better.

“They did the same thing a few months ago. Again they are saying that they didn’t do it. We need to prove to these racists that they are not above the law and as smart as they think they are,” he said.

According to a well-informed source, SNME is considering to make a formal complaint with the Federal  Bureau of Investigation and any concerned authorities. In a recent press release condemning Aiga’s racist comment, SNME also accused Aiga Forum of instigating violence and unjust measures against civilian protesters, journalists, civic and opposition leaders in Ethiopia.

Samuel says that he has neither love nor hatred for Aiga Forum. But he insisted that the pro-TPLF website and its operators should be held accountable for the outrageous and reckless acts that have offended, hurt and angered so many people.

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The writer may be reached for comment at Abebe@stanford.edu.


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