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Ethiopia - Mengistu Haile Mariam Vs Meles Zenawi



  11:32:47 pm, by admin   , 2696 words  
Categories: Ethiopia, Wondemhunegn Ezezew

Ethiopia - Mengistu Haile Mariam Vs Meles Zenawi

Ethiopia - Mengistu Haile Mariam Vs Meles Zenawi

Unity or Death! (Mengistu Haile Mariam)
Forget Unity, Alliance with Donkeys! (Meles Zenawi)

By Wondemhunegn Ezezew*

So many Westerners singled out Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia for his outstanding leadership, his moderate stance in formidable situations, his reasonable handling of complicated political and social turmoils, and his intellectual firepower while defending his positions in controversial moments. Some tended to portray him as a paragon of “polite” and “compromising” personality who always favored dialogs and negotiations rather than recourse to hawkish and violent mechanisms. US president Bin Clinton moved even further to praise Meles as one of Africa’s new breeds for introducing “civilized politics” among the long-time oppressed communities of Ethiopia. Chinese messages of congratulations were among the fastest and the warmest that Meles has ever received following his victories after each “democratic” national election since 1995.He had a number of friends.

China’s immediate and unreserved announcements recognizing the legitimacy and fairness of the 2005 electoral process-despite fully-blown nation wide protests and rejections-gave us some break to think of the difference between the friends of Ethiopia and the allies of the Ethiopian Government! Clinton, in the hindsight, might have regretted for his prematurely misplaced words and could have described Meless’ reaction to post-2005 election protests as unsavory and uncivilized. Those who once appreciated the conceptual arrogance of Meles Zenawi are by now starting to grow out of their gullible and naive mentality and perhaps they have uncovered TPLF politics to be smarmy.

Criticizing the incumbent regime must always start from TPLF, the engine/soul of the ruling coalition and more precisely from the apex of the power pyramid, the Prime Minister, who has been driving this coalition by regulating the fuel supply and by adjusting the speed required to surpass the volatile socio-economic and political situations. As our aphorism goes on, if disturbed upstream, the water cannot be limpid downstream. It is quite demanding to find honest and committed local governors whose activities and behaviors are conditioned to meet the whims and desires of dishonest masters. Most often parents cultivate the qualities of their children, and not the vice versa. So much so we need to focus on TPLF or Meless Zenawi-the foster parent(s) of all other parties within EPRDF.Given his ‘unfettered roles’ as the driver of the political and organizational locomotive of EPRDF, one may wonder at what acceleration Meles drove AGAZI and his dummy kowtows against the stormy and frustrating circumstances at the dusk of May 15, 2005.The engine was in his hands. He put on the speed alarmingly: “From today onwards, the Federal Defense Force and the Metropolitan Area Police will be directly accountable to the Prime Minister indefinitely; from now onwards, demonstration and public rally are strictly forbidden.” Meles uttered on ETV, drenched in a wave of anger and frustration-this was clearly visible on his pale looking faces. What was wrong with the PM? Vote counting was not complete, and in some constituencies people were still waiting their turn to vote when Meles made the unexpectedly hair-raising televised announcements. What a driver! The bumpy road he chose and the inappropriate speed he set at engendered a lot of accidents and casualties. So many potential passengers lost their confidence to take Meles-drawn wagons.

Though, depending on the situation he is in, Meles acts under the veil of Ethiopia and its people, most of his records for the last nearly two decades vividly testify at least to his anti-Ethiopian motives. The West knows him for his refined and intellectual tastes. Unfortunately, this is not the case at home. We are familiar only with his impulsive words full of ‘gunpowder’ and contempt that severely denigrate our feelings of unity and Ethiopianism.I am not even calling upon Meles ‘to be’ an Ethiopian nor to implant the passion of unity in the minds Ethiopians. I am well aware of his hobby: partition and disintegration. ‘Unity or Death’ was the common parlance of Mengistu’s regime.Shockingly; Meles did not hesitate to choose Death! Who on earth – in his right mind-prefers death to unity? An Ethiopian would choose its unity and struggle for the prevalence of freedom, democracy, justice, respect for and observance of human rights.Sadly, as per his prescription, the break away of Eritrea and a landlocked Ethiopia were the first accomplishments of Meless immediately after acceding to power. Even Meles’s decision to depart from his unfathomable love for separation did not come from learning that the road he had chosen was wrong rather it was conditioned by contemporary international situation that the cause of Tigray did not win attention. Thus there came the time to swallow the poisonous pill! He was unavoidably forced to become an Ethiopian!

It is not important to be pretty technical to justify the benefits that accrue from uniting one’s peoples and from pooling their resources. Far-sighted leaders of the so called Old Continent have molded a new Europe creating rights and privileges for their people including the rights to travel, live and work anywhere in member countries of the EE(except UK which has derogatory implications).They have even coined terms like European Citizenship and European/Schengen Visa for the benefit of their peoples.
What is wrong with our Prime Minister? If a Maltese can look for a job and settle in France, which is not his/her country, why did he fashion our Ethiopia in such a way in which an individual with BA degree in Mathematics from Wellega will not be able to be employed in Tigray despite with all the necessary prerequisites and qualifications for the post, despite the fact that it is his country, despite his desire to live and work with Tigreans?Isn’t it shame to put so much energy towards dividing one’s own people in a single country while leaders of EE are busy bringing together peoples of different countries and nationalities? Even there were attempts to introduce a Constitution that would be binding to all member states until it was rejected in 2005 by Holland and France through referendums. Good leaders try out even what appears to be impossible for the sake of unity and cooperation. While our Meless, ruefully, leaves no margins and seems to be highly allergic to national unity let alone commit himself to broader regional integration. I really appreciate his bookish propensities, but I deplore his predilection for works and ‘experiences’ on the dissolution of Soviet Union, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the dichotomy of Czechoslovakia, the separation of the Korean Peninsula, the Basque Movement and Operation Ogro and recently the tabloids about secessionist news on in the Balkan area. May be he ardently supports the independence of Albanian dominated Kosovo from Serbia. Who knows?

For a dead optimistic person like me, even the reunification of Eritrea with Ethiopia is not unthinkable. For great people like Bob Marley, ‘Africa Unite’ sounds more meaningful than to sing for the beauty of the continent or the charm of its people. However, it is not seriously intended to move the natural heart of Meless or to make him an Ethiopian by simply writing an article. My message is not to woo the PM to think or act as an Ethiopian. It is to ask him not to discourage those who get united for the benefit of the country. After losing 23 seats in all constituencies in the Capital, the Meless, as usual with their livid flame about unity, said “during election 2005 Gurage Parasitism [on Amhara] was more clearly visible.” Reading this sentence I could not but remain gob smacked.It only reinforced my reservations that the Meless’s extreme sensitivity to unity was quite congenital rather than acquired. It is not a bad habit either. Otherwise, for over thirty years, it would not be difficult for them to grow out of it. But their theory of ‘parasitism’ was not simply an involuntary reaction to the bamboozling patriotic union of the residents of Addis. Instead, it constitutes a recycled form of their anti-unity commitment. Much to our chagrin, given the composition of the city’s dwellers (Amhara 50%, Gurage 20%, Oromo 20%, Tigre 7% and the rest 3%),it remains a secret why they singled out Gurage.This is the same thing that our enemies would do to destroy our unity or to keep us segregated so that we would fall apart. At least as intellectuals, not as Ethiopians, the PM and his ginger group should not have chosen to call us “parasites” for the sheer reason that we stand together.

Given the fact that he has had more than enough time in office, Meless has not learned from all his past mistakes and criticisms. I had the imagination that he would some day rebuke himself and apologize for all his past wrongdoings and start to work for a more constructive future. This did not happen. As the time goes on, he ridiculously adds more lumps to the pile of his irresponsible mistakes. Some time in the past he called our national flag ‘rag’; now at the 33rd founding anniversary of TPLF he dressed a donkey in the Tricolor and declared “our ally in the struggle[against Derg], a donkey!” It is up to them to decide with whom/what to establish intimate friendship or alliance.Personally,I believe that it would have been much wise to try to win the hearts of Ethiopians than to be obsessed with an unusual alliance with donkeys. Everyone has the right to choose his/her ally/friend; but the crux of the matter is that why so much contempt to our flag and make it a donkey’s cloth? This is the same thing that fascist Mussolini told his commanders in October, 1935 to pull down the “Ethiopian rag” and to elevate the Italian flag in Addis Ababa and throughout the country. It is the cause of our Tricolor in which Ethiopians and Ethiopianism is embedded that left our forefathers restless and that led them to suffer for five solid years while resisting fascist aggressions and assaults. It was to see the Ethiopian flag back in its right position that all those enormous sacrifices were made. Was it for a piece of rag?

Believe me, if things were to be judged by their prices, one of Meless’ winter-time jackets would have been more valuable than a nylon flag. But that is not the case. When hard-line Somalians got angry at Meless led military intervention in their country, they did not look for one of his most expensive suits; they simply burned our Green-Yellow-Red. Because it stands for ETHIOPIANISM.

Throughout our modern history, Ethiopian leaders/kings-though all had their own shortcomings- tried their best to serve their people and their country .Yet Ethiopia, unluckily, could not to exploit the full potential of three leaders in the last 150 years.

The first one was Theodros Dagmawi.He had the courage, the bravery, the matchless love for his country, above all a veritable brilliant mind for his time.Theodros was one of Ethiopia’s greatest protagonists of modernization. His reign saw a number of radical reforms unheard of in the feudal system. He slashed excess land holdings of the church, introduced salaried military service, abolished slavery.Theodros had already managed to conquer and annex most of the kingdoms ruled by local landlords long before Count Camillo di Cavour and Otto von Bismarck started the unification processes in Italy and Germany. Can we imagine that the achievements of the Ethiopian Emperor influenced the European nationalists? He conceived the idea of ‘manufacturing’ canons in his country; his ambitions materialized, the hills of Debre Tabor were shaken by the red burning balls of Sebastapol, which was in a sense the first Industrial Revolution for the country and the continent of Africa at large.Theodros had everything but one. He lacked time! He committed suicide to avoid being captured by British troops. He was only 50.

The second was President Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu understood all the problems that the country was enmeshed in. He was fully aware of the over all Amhara domination in the economic, political, cultural, and educational activities as well as the deep-rooted social and racial discriminations. In fact he himself was a victim of this racial prejudice and hatred. Extremely resentful at the then pervasively lopsided perception of single-ethnic dominance and superiority, Mengistu firmly remarked: “in this country many aristocratic families characterize people with kinky hair, thick lips, and dark skin as Barinas (Amharic for slave).I tell you I will turn them stoops and grind corn.” Though overwhelmingly emotional, his speech vividly testifies to his ambitions to bring inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic equality and to abolish the elitist social model, one of the most intractable legacies that Derg had to deal with after the overthrow of His Majesty. Consequently, immediately after toppling the monarch, Mengistu’s regime introduced the ‘ten point program’ in 1974 aimed at maintaining a united Ethiopia without ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious differences. Two years later the Colonel made even great strides by creating the Programmme for National Democratic Revolution (PNDR) recognizing the rights of self determination. Thus one may wonder what sent Meless to the bush to organize a separatist armed struggle when Mengistu had initiated the rights of self-determination. We may also wonder why the Colonel grew more and more brutal as time went by while his starts were really appreciable and inclusive. Much to our curiosity, no one tells us about his good starts and why he later on resorted to brute forces.

What were the deficiencies of Mengistu then? He was really a true son of Ethiopia. His vision and love for his country were natural and commendable. His maxim ‘Ethiopia First’ (Ethiopia Tikidem) is a good summary in this respect. We do not simply categorize him as a mere leader. He was a literacy campaigner, a soldier and above all a zealous patriot, who devoted his time and energy to build a strong, united and influential Ethiopia.Mengistu, had virtually every thing including the time, resource and vision. Only one key instrument was missing: the method, the means, the way or the knowledge. He was always blunt and hawkish. He knew not other tools. Colonel was used to saying: “We killed Michael Aman Adom, Teferi Banti, and their sympathizers because they were our opponents and enemies of the revolution.” No more.Meless would put it this way: “No one is above the supremacy of law.TPLF paid huge, very huge, prices to lay the cornerstone of democracy and good governance. We have established transparent and accountable working mechanisms. Any one who dares to take the brunt of shenanigans will face justice. Even Tamrat Layne, one of our ‘closest allies’ in the struggle against Derg, could not escape punishment. In fact we cannot punish him unfairly. Just 18 years.”

The third one is Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.We all know him very well. He has all the hallmarks befitting a modern leader. Meles has shown us at least a complementary gadget to politics - the persistent use of conceptual smokescreen-which was quite uncommon in our tradition. His smarmy politics has a special room in my heart. I like it. But he has not used it for the good of his people. He lacks the most important ingredient, which is in fact the worst as compared to the Emperor or to the Colonel. To put it in a nut shell, Meles is short on what Mengistu had in plethora, and the vice versa.

I believe that it is not too late for Meles. Two years is enough to undergo penitence and to restore the confidence of Ethiopian people. The rule is simple: to admit that he has been wandering in the wrong direction and to apologize for all his past sins. If he refuses to do so, he would make the gravest of all mistakes ever there by encouraging vindictive politics and violent succession. If we are to respect Meles as one of the good leaders of Ethiopia, he will have to show us that asking for apology is not more difficult than pardoning sins.

God Bless Ethiopia!
Keep its Peoples United!

*The Writer can be reached at


Comment from: dr.mike [Visitor]

well said well said

03/07/08 @ 00:09
Comment from: sawa [Visitor]

Hey you nameless writer. He has no reason to apologize for. He did everything very well. Giving the circumstances, he did excellent job. Imagine if the opposition has to face what he faced, they could have send acid rain over Tigray and Eritrea. They could have killed anyone who oppose them like their master Mengestu.

Even to write about Mengestu and Meles in the same article, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Habesha never says thank you. I think habesha people need people like Mengistu who kills them.

03/07/08 @ 00:37
Comment from: mamo [Visitor]

Do you really expect Meles to apologize?

03/08/08 @ 09:51
Comment from: Ethiojegna [Visitor]


03/10/08 @ 12:01



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