When the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia disappeared from public life, particularly from international gathering which he never failed from basking in, the mainstream media began speculating on his “serious illness” unlike the “fringe” Medias that accurately concluded on his death long ago. Consequently, the East African newspaper of July 28-August 3 carried a headline “Zenawi’s exit? Why EAC should worry.” Thus, the paper basing its analysis on four points namely, security, infrastructure, stability and geopolitics that could be at stake when Zenawi departs gave the impression as to how a mere mortal can impact on his own nation and beyond. This sentiment reflected on the EA, had been shared by almost all the media outlets of “development partners.”While it’s true that strong personalities leave a footprint in the history of their nation, sadly almost all the “independent” mainstream Medias failed to highlight that the “strong” personality of this particular individual totally undermined institutions to the detriment of the four points on which he was lavished upon.
On the contrary, upon the unavoidable pronouncement of Zenawi’s death, we were once again bombarded with eulogies that portrayed him as a voracious reader, brilliant economic reformist, visionary leader etc. When one remembers Adolf Hitler’s passion for reading whereby he said “The art of reading, as of learning—to retain the essential, to forget the non-essential,” one cannot stop marveling at how the whole world be fawning over a dead tin-pot dictator. One wonders too, why the Western world currently suffering from economic woes did not apply its scientific discovery and cloned the deceased like Dolly the sheep to benefit from his economic brilliance. The fact of the matter is, as I intimated in a piece titled “Call girls and dictators” which Daily Monitor published in February 2008, the deceased had always been regarded by “development partners” as a useful small time dictator compared to big time dictators in Egypt who achieved a courtesan like status by pandering to big time interest. Monitor, for want of space or typical of a mainstream media, had of course expurgated this line while others such as Ethiomedia published it in whole. United States, the main financier of succeeding Egyptian dictators that also graced Anwar Sadat’s funeral with “a record number of dignitaries,” proved my point by failing to do the same at the Ethiopian despot’s funeral. While former presidents like Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon attended Sadat’s funeral, not even Bill Clinton who once praised the deceased as one of Africa’s “new breed leader” bothered to show up at Zenawi’s funeral. Of course, Washington was not totally ungrateful to the service the deceased rendered. Madam Susan Rice, representing her government praised even the deceased’s intemperance around “fools” and how “he liked to call them idiots.”She neglected to elaborate, however, as to whether her admiration of the rude and abrasive nature of the deceased can also be analogically extended to the sprightly octogenarian ruler of Zimbabwe. Robert Gabriel Mugabe, a former knight and holder of seven degrees, at one time described Madam Susan’s peer, Mr. Johnnie Carson as an “idiot with whom one would not want to speak.”
Unfortunately, irrespective of the measure employed in the new world order to favor one dictator over another, death follows its own mysterious agenda. Hence,having spared the elderly dictator, it stalked the young dictator whom Washington and her allies dotted on. Therefore, we have now Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn as the new Ethiopian prime minister. During the swearing-in ceremony, Hailemariam expressed how “very happy” he is to take the “responsibility” of being prime minister. Since the new PM alongside other pliable individuals was co-opted by the dominant minority ethnic faction of the ruling party in a bid to mollify other ethnic groups, it’s always been the fate of individuals like him to shoulder “responsibility” without ever exercising real power. Indeed, this servile behavior might previously have brought hefty payments and attractive fringe benefits without putting the individual in a negative spotlight for all the evils perpetrated by the regime. For instance, while the deceased was criticized and condemned by activists and rights groups for churning out draconian legislations, few know that the new PM headed the drafting of one of these notorious legislations. The list can go on like this.
The bottom line is, like the fictional Douglas Dilman in Irving Wallace’s “The Man,” who accidentally became the first Negro president in a segregationist United States, Hailemariam too became the first PM, in real time and from the wrong ethnic group, in the ethnic-federal Ethiopia. And, the dominant authors of the ethnic federalism who had never considered the likes of Hailemariam as equals are not too happy about this arrangement.Hence, before they grudgingly confirmed him as the new PM; they unconstitutionally promoted several senior officers from the dominant ethnic group thereby implacably sending the message as to who is running the show. Although, it’s not known for how long Hailemariam’s happiness lasts or whether his happiness is shared by his family members, one remembers an anecdote about Brg. Gen. Teferi Benti appointed as Chairman of the Derg by Major Mengistu Hailemariam in 1975 only to be liquidated in 1977. When friends paid visit to congratulate him, Teferi’s wife was said to have said; “I would rather have you comfort me than congratulating me.”
Thankfully, Mr. Hailemariam vowed to continue his predecessor’s “legacy without any change.” By doing so, he hoped to continue surviving without incurring the wrath of the real power base that brought him to the fore. However, he forgot the far more dangerous simmering wrath of Ethiopians. He also reassured the East African Community (EAC) by telling them that all is business as usual.Thus, Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Project (LAPSSET) would press ahead. By the way, this writer considers projects like this as a very negligible compensation from the deceased in comparison to the treason he committed by turning Ethiopia landlocked. Alignment on the war on terror shall also continue as it was a lucrative venture and a means to perpetuate oneself in power. In short, Mr.Hailemariam’s vow not only sounded music to “strategic allies” and “development partners.”It has also amended pathologists’ maxim from “The dead teach the living” to “The dead rule the living.”
* Kiflu Hussain is an Ethiopian social and political commentator exiled in Uganda.
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