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Elias Wondimu

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Elias Wondimu (born 1973) is a former exiled Ethiopian journalist, human rights activist, and social entrepreneur.


Elias was born in 1973 in Addis Ababa where he lived with his parents and five siblings. Although he was originally "inspired" to become a surgeon, a year after he graduated from high school, his focus shifted when he became aware of the political climate of the Ethiopian Government.[1][2] He began writing for local newspapers, and soon after joined a weekly newspaper, Moged.[2][3] During this time he also co-founded the Ethiopian Heritage Trust with Debebe Habte-Yohannes, Richard Pankhurst, Addis Adugna, Fassil Giorgis, Adnew Redi, and several renown personalities.[2] This was the first non-governmental institution established to "preserve, conserve, and restore historical and natural beauty sites in the country".[4]

In September 1994, he left Ethiopia to participate in the Twelfth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies[5] at Michigan State University. While away, he received news that his colleagues in Ethiopia were being imprisoned or attacked for their work.[2][6] He was interviewed in the Ethiopian Mirror magazine (now discontinued)[7][8], and was later invited by the editor of the Ethiopian Review, Elias Kifle, who asked him to serve as an editorial assistant while awaiting the situation in Ethiopia to improve.[9][10] Things didn't improve, so his life in exile began.[9][6] He applied for political asylum a few years later, applied for his Green Card after the 2005 post-election violence in Ethiopia[11], and received U.S. citizenship in 2013. He has been living in Los Angeles, California since the beginning of his exile.[9][10] Currently he is the founding director of TSEHAI Publishers based at Loyola Marymount University, with it's four imprints including, the Harriet Tubman Press, African Academic Press, Marymount Institute Press, and Chereka Books; and lecturer at The Los Angeles Review of Books / USC Publishing Workshop at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.[12][13]

Publishing (Knowledge Production)[edit]

TSEHAI Publishers (Books, Journals, Films)[edit]

TSEHAI Publishers was founded by Elias in 1997 in honor of his mother Tsehai[14]. The publisher "has become a vital and indispensable resource...[where] Elias has assumed the role of cultural ambassador."[15] Elias describes TSEHAI as "a means of ensuring that knowledge would be freely accessible to inspire new generations of readers who might otherwise be dejected by their situation," saying "When people don't hear or read, they won't know, and if they won't know, then they won't do anything."[16] TSEHAI published its first book in 1998, and from 1998-2001 Elias focused on distributing "books that were not readily available."[15][10]

In 2000, Elias joined UCLA's Chicano Studies academic journal Aztlán[17][10] as an assistant editor. At Aztlán, Elias "discovered the pressing needs to offer a platform to a community of minority scholars, giving them a venue and circulating their scholarship among the general population."[18] In 2001, Elias left Aztlán to run TSEHAI full-time.[18][10]

In 2007, TSEHAI relocated to Loyola Marymount University and the Marymount Institute.[18][10] He then began two academic journals with an Ethiopian focus through TSEHAI, the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies (IJES) and the Ethiopian Journal of Religious Studies (EJRS).[18][10] IJES was started in 2002 to "help contribute Ethiopian voices to intellectual discourse on Ethiopia."[18][10] EJRS launched its first publication in 2017 to "bring the study of faith into the discussion."[18][10]

In his work with the Marymount Institute, Elias founded Loyola Marymount's first academic press, the Marymount Institute Press, an imprint of TSEHAI.[10][19][20] The press publishes books, collections, and plays and has "helped to facilitate the institute's mission of earnest dialogue between faith, culture, and the arts."[10][20][21]

Journalism (1992-2008)[edit]

African Tribune Online Newspaper (International) - The African Tribune ran from 2004-2008 and was an online news source and forum on African issues.[2] Serving as the editor-in-chief, Elias asked journalists and writers to work with him, including Alemu Hailu (former editor of the Ethiopian Herald Newspaper) as its feature editor, Chris Abani as its book review editor, and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist George White as its editorial adviser.[2]

Ethiopian Review Monthly Magazine (International) - Elias joined the Ethiopian Review magazine in Los Angeles in 1994, as managing editor for the next six years.[2][10] In this position, he worked with many scholars, political activists, and public intellectuals on issues of "local and global interest".[22] Wendy Belcher[23][24] revealed that "Elias was also able to use the magazine to support those writers suffering at home by managing to sneak reporters [including Belcher herself] into prison to gain exclusive interviews with opposition leaders who had not been heard from since they were jailed."[15] In 2000, with founding publisher Elias Kifle, they discontinued the print version, but later it conintued online by its publisher.

Moged Weekly Newspaper (National) - Elias began Moged[25] in the early 1990s in response to the results of the Ethiopian Civil War.[2] At this time, he worked closely with Kinfu Assefa, the future founding editor of EthioForum online newspaper.[26]

Activism and Activities[edit]

PEN Center USA - Elias joined PEN Center USA in 1997. He has served as an executive board member and adviser since 1998.[27] In the history of the organization, he holds the distinction for the longest served board member.[28][29] In 2002, Wondimu nominated the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA) for the Freedom to Write Award and brought its president Kifle Mulat[30] to come to Los Angeles to receive the award. EFJA co-received this award with Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was killed soon after she returned from the ceremony.[31] In 2006, he nominated Sisay Agena, his imprisoned colleague in Ethiopia, to become an honorary member of PEN, and again in 2010 to receive the Freedom to Write Award[32], which Elias accepted on his behalf in Los Angeles.[33][34] Elias also nominated political prisoner Eskinder Nega who won the Freedom to Write Award in 2012, and won the International Press Institute's 69th World Press Freedom Hero award.[35][36] In his role at PEN, he collaborated with other similar organizations to medically treat imprisoned journalists and financially support them and their struggling families.[28][29]

International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) - Elias has supported the Washington, D.C. based International Women's Media Foundation[37] (IWMF) since he moved to the U.S..[38] He nominated his imprisoned colleagues in Africa, Serkalem Fasil (in 2007) and Reeyot Alemu (in 2012), for the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award.[39] Both women won the awards but were imprisoned at the time of the ceremony - Elias accepted on their behalves in Los Angeles.[33][38]

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) - Elias has collaborated with the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists[40] (CPJ) on several of their reports and publications, such as Dangerous Assignments[41], which is "focused on the ongoing global struggle for freedom of the press."[41] He created a collaboration between PEN USA and CPJ that facilitated medical treatments to ill journalists while in exile and raised bail money for imprisoned journalists in Ethiopia.[42]

Black Journalist Association in Southern California (BJASC) - Elias has served as a board member and member of the Black Journalist Association in Southern California (BJASC).

Ethiopian Institute for Nonviolence Education and Peace Studies (EINEPS) - In the post-election aftermath of 2005 in Ethiopia, Elias created the Ethiopian Institute for Nonviolence Education and Peace Studies[43] (EINEPS) which distributes materials on "nonviolent communication and constructive conflict resolution in local languages".[44][43] EINEPS produced books, documentary films, seminars, and workshops to address political discourse "constructively".[45][46][47][48][49]


TSEHAI Conferences[edit]

In 2006, Elias began the annual TSEHAI Conferences[50], an international platform to discuss the state of affairs in Ethiopia and the Diaspora.[51] In its inaugural two days and eight panel sessions, at the Los Angeles campus of Antioch University, the conference hosted 32 speakers including scholars, journalist, artists, community and political leaders who came "from all corners of the world".[50] Some of the speakers presented at TSEHAI Conferences include, the late Prof. Richard Pankurst, artist Afewerk Tekle, Dr. Kefade Azeze, Dr. Wendy L. Belcher[23], artist Alemstehay Wedajo[52], Kiflu Tadesse, Dr. Alemayehu G. Mariam[53], Obang Metho, and Dr. William Scott.[51]

TSEHAI Salon[edit]

In 2006,

Business Ventures[edit]

African Global Market Enterprise[edit]

In 2000, Elias co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of African Global Market Enterprise (AGME).[54][55] From 2000-2008, this venture was an online forum for African producers and consumers to do business.[54][55] Under AGME, Wondimu and his partners run the B2C platform and the B2B platform[55]

Honors and Awards[edit]

  • Grand Officer of the Imperial Order of Emperor Menelik II - In 2017, The Crown Council of Ethiopia named him as the recipient of one of the Ethiopian Crown’s most distinguished awards, Grand Officer of the Imperial Order of Emperor Menelik II, for his outstanding contributions over many years to scholarship on Ethiopian and African issues. The medal and certificate were presented by HIH Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie Haile Selassie in an event commemorating the 121st Anniversary of the Victory of ADWA in Washington, D.C., USA.[56][57]
  • The Pagan Ethiopian Award in Los Angeles - On March 12, 2017, The Pagume Ethiopian Society in Los Angeles awarded Elias Wondimu, Ambassador Ahadu Sabure, and Professor Adugnaw Worku. Ethiopian artist Debebe Eshetu gave the award to Elias and Professor Al Mariam introduced him at the event.[58]
  • Innovative Global Project Award - In 2014, Elias was honored by Loyola Marymount University for "his dedication to global initiatives and knowledge production" as head and founder of TSEHAI.[59]

Media Highlights[edit]


  1. Miller, Anthony (June 2, 2018). "Ethiopian Dreams". LA Weekly. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Bryant, Erica (January 1, 2007). "Elias Wondimu: Journalist, Social Activist and Publisher Extraordinaire". The Ethiopian American (Magazine). Volume 2, No. 3.
  3. Miller, Anthony (June 2, 2005). "Ethiopian Dreams". LA Weekly. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  4. "Ethiopian Heritage Foundation". Ethiopian Heritage Trust Foundation. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  5. Marcus, Harold G.; Hudson, Grover (1994). New Trends in Ethiopian Studies: Ethiopia 94 : papers of the 12th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Michigan State University, 5-10 September 1994. Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea Press. ISBN 1569020159. Search this book on
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Ethiopian journalists' situation at the end of 1999". IFEX. International Federation of Journalists. 6 January 2000. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  7. Reta, Meseret Chekol (2013). The Quest for Press Freedom: One Hundred Years of History of the Media in Ethiopia. University Press of America, Inc. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-7618-6001-3. Retrieved 15 September 2017. Search this book on
  8. Azeze, Fekade (November 1985). "Ethiopian Creative Writing and Criticism in English: A Review and Bibliography". Journal of Ethiopian Studies. 18: 34-50. JSTOR 41965926.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "History - Tsehai Publishers". Loyola Marymount University. Loyola Marymount University. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 Tadias Staff (February 2, 2012). "Q & A with Elias Wondimu of Tsehai Publishers". Tadias Magazine. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  11. "Ethiopian protesters 'massacred'". BBC News | Africa. October 19, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  12. "The LARB / USC Publishing Workshop". The Publishing Workshop. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  13. "About Us". The LARB / USC Publishing Workshop. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  14. Amharic for "sun". Search this book on
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Miller, Anthony (2 June 2005). "Ethiopian Dreams". LA Weekly.
  16. Banach, Natalie (July 4, 2005). "Ethiopians make home in L.A." Daily Bruin. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  17. "Aztlán". Aztlán.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 "TSEHAI Publishers - History". LMU|LA - Marymount Institute.
  19. "About Marymount Institute Press". LMU|LA - Marymount Institute Press.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Loyola Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the arts". Angelus News. February 26, 2015.
  21. "Imprints - Tsehai Publishers". Loyola Marymount University. Loyola Marymount University.
  22. "Ethiopian Review -". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Wendy Laura Belcher Website". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  24. Author of The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman and lecturer of Comparative African Literature at Princeton and UCLA
  25. Amharic for "wave"
  26. "Ethio Forum". Ethiopian Forum.
  27. "Advisory Board". PEN Center USA.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "PEN Center USA Proposed 2012 Officers and Directors | PEN Center USA". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Advisory Board | PEN Center USA". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  30. Mulat, Kifle (6 February 2003). "Letter to Amara Essy, Secretary General of African Union (AU)". Pambazuka News. Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA).
  31. Walker, Shaun (2016-10-05). "The murder that killed free media in Russia". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  32. "2010 Freedom to Write Award: Sisay Agena".
  33. 33.0 33.1 SuperPopVIP (4 December 2013). "Elias Wondimu at IWMF 'Courage In Journalism' Awards on 1..." – via YouTube.
  34. "Sisay Agena's speech given at the PEN Center". ECADF Ethiopian News. 2010-11-18. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  35. "Eskinder Nega - PEN America". PEN America. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  36. "International Press Institute World Press Freedom Heroes". Wikipedia. 2017-11-17.
  37. "International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  38. 38.0 38.1 "International Women's Media Foundation Hosts 2012 Courage In Journalism Awards". Getty Images. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  39. "Courage in Journalism Award | International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  40. "Press Freedom Online". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  41. 41.0 41.1
  42. Rhodes, Tom (February 5, 2008). "Attacks on the Press 2007: Africa Analysis | When Press Freedom and Democracy Are Out of Question". Committee to Protect Journalists.
  43. 43.0 43.1 "EINEPS". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  44. EINEPS. "About Us +". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  45. Eyeta Productions (2014-01-11), ኃያል ኃይል Hayal Hayl (A Force More Powerful) private screening, retrieved 2017-11-27
  46. Ethiopian Institute (2016-09-20), ክፍል 1 - ናሽቪል - “እኛ ተፋላሚዎች ነበርን” (ኃያል ኃይል፡ የምዕተ ዓመት ነውጥ አልባ ፍልሚያ), retrieved 2017-11-27
  47. Ethiopian Institute (2016-09-20), ክፍል 2 - ሕንድ - እምቢ ለዘዉድ! (ኃያል ኃይል፡ የምዕተ ዓመት ነውጥ አልባ ፍልሚያ), retrieved 2017-11-27
  48. "Ethiopian Institute". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  49. EINEPS. "About Us". Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  50. 50.0 50.1 "The 2nd Annual International Tsehai Conference". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  51. 51.0 51.1 Administrator. "Tsehai Conferences". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  52. "About the Founder – Tayitu Cultural & Educational Center". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  53. "Alemayehu G. Mariam | HuffPost". Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  54. 54.0 54.1 "The Moonies hire Elias Wondimu". African Intelligence. September 22, 2007.
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 Bryant, Erica. "Elias Wondimu: Journalist, Social Activist and Publisher Extraordinaire". TSEHAI Corp.
  56. "Elias Wondimu of LMU's Tsehai Publishers to Receive Order of Emperor Menelik II". LMU Newsroom. Loyola Maryoumt University. 22 February 2017.
  57. Sentinel News Service (22 February 2017). "TSEHAI Publishers founder Elias Wondimu to receive prestigious Order of Emperor Menelik II". Los Angeles Sentinel. Los Angeles Sentinel.
  58. "AbbayMedia Live in Los Angeles – Recognition Awards Ceremony by PAGUME Ethiopian Entertainment Center from Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, March 12, 2017". Abbay Media. Abbay Media 'The Ethiopian Information Bank'.
  59. "2014 Annual Recognition Awards Ceremony". Loyola Marymount University. Loyola Marymount University.

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