On Meles Zenawi,Lidetu Ayalew and election 2010. – Eskinder Nega (Addis Ababa)

April 23rd, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Meles Zenawi’s mother first encounter with the media was on the day of Eritrea ’s referendum in 1993, when she was confronted by a BBC journalist in Adwa as she came out of a polling station after casting her vote. She spoke in measured words, praising the process but giving no clue as to which way she had voted. Government officials reacted with panic to her interview, giving strict instructions that it should not be translated and relayed in local languages on state media. It would be many years before her second encounter with journalists; but when she finally did so, it was to be with friendly one; and, it was said at the time, had to be approved by Meles himself. She mostly spoke in guarded words, quite obviously aware that her words could damage Meles; whom, she said, “has always been my favorite child.” She spoke as all parents do about their children; and in the end, the interview did go some way in revamping the tattered public image of Meles Zenawi as aloof and alienated; its intended target.

But less said was about the troubling tendency of Meles, who left Adaw for Addis when he was only in his mid-teens, to pick up and throw the nearest object within his reach when provoked even only in jest. Several decades later, Meles’ still irrepressible rage lay bare during a press conference, suddenly provoked by a question about the jamming of the VOA, as he lashed out with incomprehensible rancor about alleged incitements to genocide.

Meles Zenawi is now in his mid 50s, two decades at the helm of the nation, at the peak of his prestige and power, and only few weeks short of presiding over a sensitive election that he insists with increased intensity is vulnerable to conspiracies against its peaceful outcome.

Few buy in to his conspiracy theory, this being only the latest in a long series, but many seriously ponder if Meles will ever be able to temper his rage, and how it will affect a post election crisis. How likely is a post election crisis that Meles repeatedly speaks about? The answer of many pundits : Very likely.The opposition are adamant that a fair and free election is an impossibility this year; save, in the words of Merera Gudina, “a miracle.” The EPRDF insists otherwise, vaguely blaming the opposition in general—but Medrek in actual fact—of a creeping incitement (akin to the creeping coup against Haile Seallise’s government in the early 70s) that would end in riots in the immediate aftermath of the elections. The essential ingredients are all there for an inevitable political crisis.

But does this really mean that it will have to eventuate in riots as Meles mysteriously implies? Not necessarily; but only if the sense of proportion of the principal actors is well balanced. And that is exactly where the danger of Meles Zenawi, with his life long predicament of controlling his emotions, lies menacingly. Even if his oft cited conspiracies are true, he poses no less danger, temperamentally prone as he is, to impelling a minor event in to full blown national crisis.

And there is also the new side of Meles in play that was absent from his early days, shaped as the years progressed by the rigors of almost forty years in the Byzantine world of Ethiopian politics. Many of those who had worked with him closely speak of the sophistry and vanity he developed after his ascendancy to power. “He gets offended when you disagree with him,” says a source who knew him intimately of his vanity. “He sees it as a personal challenge.” Even a friend becomes an adversary then, to be defeated at any cost. “If you don’t relent fast, he will conjure fantastic diversions,” says the source. Bonapartism being the most famous example. “He is always convinced that he is the smartest person in the room. He expects you to be awed, not outraged, by his wild statements and assertions.”

Ideally the person sitting in Meles’ position would be self assured, acutely aware of the power of his words(which Meles is notoriously incapable of understanding), with the humility to consider other people’s opinion even if he disagrees with them, and finally, neither too quick not to slow to make decisions.

Such is a leader that will stir a nation out of a crisis. And such a man is not Meles. Be very worried about him.

In the meantime though, election season is approaching closure, now with only fifteen days remaining for active campaigning.And news of an interesting development in the North(in Lasta) is slowly trickling down to Addis. Rumors about Lidetu Ayalew’s past and present have seriously endangered his electoral prospects in Lalibela; his birth place and one of the epicenters of Ethiopia ’s Orthodox Christianity. Lidetu, who maliciously betrayed the opposition in 2005 and is now a rather unconvincing champion of a “third way”, which he says is adopted from Europe ’s anti-establishment ritual, has generally earned high marks for his oratory in this year’s election debates. But few pundits believe that this has translated in to any significant support for his party in the cities, where his “credibility deficit” is deemed to be too large to be overcome even by his considerable oratorical prowess. But the country side, where most of his constituency lie, is subject to much debate, with some pundits convinced that his performance in the debate will propel him to victory in light of the token competition he faces from the EPRDF (which wants him to win) and no significant alternative from the opposition.

But an unexpected issue has loomed, seriously jeopardizing his chances; according to locals. Many of his devoutly Orthodox Christians constituents (who constitute almost 100 percent) are incensed by rumors of his conversion to Protestantism (Pente), which is still taboo in the Amhara region as a whole. Lidetu has denied the allegation, but considerable damage has already been done by the rumors, and reversing his fortunes seems to be an up hill battle for him and his EPRDF allies.

“He could lose, “said a local I met in Addis.

If he does, his numerous critics around the country will at least have one reason to celebrate.

  1. tewbel
    | #1

    As always Ato Eskender’s insight is amazing.

  2. im tired
    | #2

    please u don’t know to whome ur speaken to.. beingthe fact that less than 1 percent in ethiopia hv internet. sorry buddy the ethiopian gov as been in power for 20 some years and is gona continue to be in power by wat ever means nessary. i know that, u know that… so lets just move on…

  3. weshould
    | #3

    የጥላቻ ፖለቲካ በጣም ነው የሚያስጠላ ሁሉም መጥፎ ከሆነ ዘጋቢው ራሱን ብቻ ጥሩ እያለ መሆኑን ዘነጋ ወይ?

  4. mateos
    | #4

    Mathza/Meles/Abebe/Legesse and his boss Bereket did not know what to do with the huge cake they found in Addis; ones they arrived from the aiga jungle; now after eating the huge cake they found along all aiga jungle partners they are in a process of eating human flesh post. Lidetu and his accomplices may sound as opposed to whatever Mathza/Abebe/Legesse/Meles and his boss Bereket stand for but the whole Ethiopian people know the empty bravado of the so called Ethiopian opposition; as the prime misery of Ethiopia ones told them, (berejim gemet yetaserech doro yelekuat yimeslatal”.

  5. aha!
    | #5

    The Honerable Ato Lidetu is posted as the next Vice Prime Mister with the Prime Minister, when he is the most critque, with contrasting ideas on TPLF/eprdf regime, in his dibate in all aspects. To caricature him with the prime minister is a low blow, and this one sided reporting by Reuters and Eskinder Nega is unbanced news. By hammering on one man you are making the audience feel that he is all powerful, without questioning the ethnic and sesseccionist politics and/policies he created and institutionalized and constitutionalied and radicalized the loyalist opposition parties with those entitlements of separate but equal , divide and rule system of administration, to say the least of media propaganda about Medrek created a new political culture, and assign to it the agenda of of working for unity and teritorial integrity of Ethiopia stipulated in one of the article and in another the “Rebirth of Ethiopia: Medrek the winner”. When the reality of the existing layout of the political models are TPLF/eprdf, Tigrai-Harena/fdd/efdr, where the former is a multi-layer, hierarchical structure and the latter shares the same base with ethnic agenda and has the same aspiration for bringing democracy to Ethiopia, serving as sustainig force and mirror image to TPLF/eprdf can you talk about the rebirth of Ethiopia or regeneration of the same ideology. If one does not agree to that assertion, look at the objectives of the loyalist opposition parties: respect of ethnic and human rights, which has nothing to do with unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. I do not mean they can not campaign for what their objectives are and they stand for, as long as the the silent majority votes for them, but what I object is when when elites vouch for the coalition, which is nothing more than loosely coordinated coalition based on ethnic agenda, not national agenda.

  6. Anonymous
    | #6

    የሞኝ ዘፈኑ አንድ ነው ይላል ያገሬ ሰው አሁን በልደቱ ላይ የተለመደ አሉባልታና ጥላቻ መርጨቱ ምን ጥቅም ይኖረዋል??
    አይይይይይይይይ ሃግሬ ሰንቱን ወሬኛ አፈራች ምን አለ ሰው በቁምነገር ጊዜውን ቢያጠፋ

  7. Babu
    | #7

    Lidetu will win and by that he will still be on the national stage to give alternative voice. I, personally, like the way he puts issues at the debating table. He has good grasp of most of the issues, except for the nationalities issues. I think he needs to be educated on that if he wants to have better acceptance from all segments of the society.
    Meles has had his share of problems and I am not why he wants to be where he is given the animisity he generates from all sides, some loudly and some quietly…..Melee..time to give it up…may be it is already too late.

  8. Babu
    | #8

    Lidetu will win and by that he will still be on the national stage to give alternative voice. I, personally, like the way he puts issues at the debating table. He has good grasp of most of the issues, except for the nationalities issues. I think he needs to be educated on that if he wants to have better acceptance from all segments of the society.
    Meles has had his share of problems and I am not sure why he wants to be where he is, given the animisity he generates from all sides, some loudly and some quietly…..Melee..time to give it up…may be it is already too late.

  9. aha!
    | #9

    The Honerable Ato Lidetu may have joined the parliament agaist Kinijit’s boycott not to join the parliament without loosing his stand to the national agenda to make changes from within, I presume, than to reluctantly boycott and end up in prison and latter break up to go each others way, which diminished the influence of Kinijit. It is upto his constituency to evaluate his stand, not others.

  10. From Minnesota.
    | #10

    In my opinion, the people of Ethiopia would benefit, If Ato Lidetu wins.
    Wining and losing is part of the game, so we should not be surprise if it goes either way.
    I have some thing to say for Ato Eskinder.
    Ato Eskinder, you pass judgment, when you say, “Lidetu who maliciously bettrayed the opposition in 2005…”. Do you thing it is fair and ballance to write such unfounded allegation. What makes you different than those who are in the State media.
    You may have vested interest in other opposition party, namely Medrek, and that is fine as long as you take off your journalistic garment.
    One of the things that makes me sad about my Country is that the free press are not really free. The reason is you are financed by the opposition, by the opposition supporters or you have your eyes on there succes, so that you will benefit from that.That is why you support one, and you paint mud on the other. Thank God the people of Ethiopia are smarter than what you think.
    You use the word “betray” to get into every body’s head so easly.
    What I totally don’t understand is, I want you to explain it to me,
    was Ato Lidetu suppose to go alone against the condition he was given by his Party on how and when to dissolve the party if it comes to that.
    Ato Eskinder, I have news for you, Professor Mesfin, Dr.Yakob, Dr.Admasu Gebeyeh, and many other does not hold Ato Lidetu responsible for what went wrong.
    In my opinion for what went wright, Ato Lidetu should be given credit.

  11. AbaDama
    | #11

    im tired,

    You sound fool… think what happen to HS? The king was in power nearly 50 years, but he was r-e-m-o-v-e-d and gone forever. No trace of him.

    Mark my word it will be m-u-c-h harsher for Zenawi and his thugs.

  12. tutu
    | #12

    I don’t think , Meles and Lidetu are the same. Please let us be fair. Lidetu never be given a chance. to be honest I like his debet as opposition and he seems to me well spoken and he cares and loves his country . Unlike meles he never show a care for his people and his country. Please on Lidetu let us wait and see.
    God bless Ethiopia and Birtukan .

  13. Rahel
    | #13

    Is there any poletician named Lidetu in the current Ethiopian political arena? I do not think so! For me and almost all Ethiopians who love to see real democracy, lidetu is dead in 2005. Now there is only Kihedetu and Milasu! No more. One thing which I really appreciate from the Ethiopian culture is, our hate for bandates! We better love our ememies than bandas. It was true at the time of Italian invation and even now. We prefer Meles or Bereket, who strongly stand for what they think is right, tjough it is really wrong. What about kihidetu? What he knows is me…me… my…mine. Blind viwer!

  14. atuba dolla
    | #14

    The damage that has been infliced upon Lidetu is beyond repair.Why then did Lidetu take his complaints to Zinawi? Would it be that Lidetu naievly thinking Zinawi would repair the damage when the cadres he dispatched to Laibella were the ones who sprinkled the holly land with this satanic rumors?

    If indeed the rumors would come true,then Lidetu must pack up his belongings join the cult group begin his journey to hell.

  15. Anonymous
    | #15


  16. atuba dolla
    | #16

    On Bandas/Askaris:

    Zinawians are Bandas and Bandits;whereas,Lidetu is an Ethiopian who is one of Ethiopians feared most and inked on Meles Naziawi’s long list.Yes,Ethiopia’s historical enemies are not disappeared yet, though they are taking naps here and there.Everybody has childhood experiences in him or her;but,one must understand that growing up is a process through which to becoming wise,intellegent,and a good thinker.Lidetu must learn one thing as a learning experiences;never,ever should he again take any sort of complaintes to Meles Naziawi,as this rober is both bandit and banda.

  17. ታገስ
    | #17

    እባካቹህ ከእውነት በዲሞክራሲ የምታምኑ ከሆነ የአንድ ግለሰብን አስተያየት ከናንተ የተለየ ቢሆነም እንደ ወያኔ አትገደቡ በዚህ ጽሁፍ ላይ የሰጠሁተን አስተያየት አልተቀበላቹህም ያዛዘናል

  18. aha!
    | #18

    Why the cry about the Hon. Ato Lidetu? Did not UDJP merge with Kinijit dissident at Temegen Zewde? Was it not that the name Kinijit and the emblem handed over to the Hon. Haile Chamiso? Did not Prof. Beyene Petros, who was negotiating with the Prime Minister along with Dr. Berhanu over the 8-point pre-conditions for joinining the parliament, joinined the parliament insipte of majority vote from his party not to do so? Why are this UDJP and/or Medrek supporters in the Diaspora shooting their own feet by tarnishing the name of genuine opposition to to TPLF/eprdf vis avis with political acumen. KAEUP leadership is not bitter about him, why should Medrek even refuse to sit with him in the code of conduct conference to say the least the Diaspora media in support of Medrek refusal to attend was heated up to condemn those who signed the Code Conduct Agreement? Only to freely join the debate inspite of its deficiencies enjoying the fruit of the Code of Conduct Agreement to openly voice their agenda, eventhough from from what they say one can see see comparisons but not a contrast between fdd/efdr and TPLF/eprdf, as there is a contrast bween EDP, KAEUP and others and TPLF/eprdf regime.

  19. True
    | #19

    Be very wary of those Hailu, Mesfin and Lidetu who keep betraying Ethiopia. Lidetu in fact was never an honest man. When he was deacon at young age, he stole and sold Orthodox church artifacts. A person like that is a failure for Ethiopia.

    The coming of Pente costal is not because people want to believe in it naturally, it is because it was pushed down the throat of Ethiopian people. Why is that? It is because to divide and rule. Ethiopia is well known that under Orthodox, Islam and Gadda existed peaceful and was able to unite against any enemies. Foreign religion, Evangelism or Pente costal is here to divide and rule people. It is modern way of religion which people believe Western beliefs is better than their own beliefs. In fact Western belief is done to control the minds of people. Same thing with Islam that is non traditional to Ethiopia

  20. visitor
    | #20


  21. Guest
    | #21

    the speculation about riot after election is very exaggerated and unrealistic. There is not as such signficant organisation and mass movement among the electorate in the coming election. The opposition are still not so intimate to the people to incite any kind of riot, support, or rally. The election will be concluded with EPRDF coming as the winner and life continues as usual.

  22. Lij-egir
    | #22

    This journalist who has done this “analysis” is not fair and balanced. Sir, it does not hold water ! The failure of the past election is caused by the greed and short sightedness of the Old politicians in Kinjit who failed to asses the dangers ahead. Lidetu has shown enough credible hard evidence to what went wrong in the last election. Which you dont have the courage to say anything about.

    Sir..you dont need to insult the inteligence of your readers.

  23. Ethiopia first
    | #23

    tnxssssssss, Ato Eskinder, i agree with you , i respect you , you, your family secraffiyed for Ethiopian freedom and democracy. God blesss you and your family.

  24. Girjaa!
    | #24

    This is fun of the fool people! You are not insulting Meles but you yourself. We know that Meles is selfish and fool more than writer of this comment. If you insult fool by saying you are more than fool!

  25. atuba dolla
    | #25

    What Zinawi today is what he was in the inception of his life.It starts where it started.Yes,family upbringing determines of at least shapes the life of the baby or in this case,Zinawi’s.In the parliament he established for himself and for the regime,his weired and wicked behavior has been exposed to the veiwers;this indicated that he might has been encountered a bad childhood upbringing and might have been abused in some way.So,why did he not take a positive steps and take medical chukup before he committed grand violence on Ethiopians now and in the future?

    He has already instructed his security bosses to train his older daughter to get a full militery traing and weapon handling.Now she has fully been trained and is capable of being a sharp shooter.

    What else would he do when he is taken over by his deteriorating health condition with regard to his mental status.

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