Public Mourning and its Redemption Power Waltenegus Dargie
Following my last public assertion regarding the death of Prime Minster Meles Zenawi on Sunday, July 15, 2012, in Saint-Luc Hospital, Brussels, Belgium, almost no substantial evidence emerged to persuade me to reconsider my assertion. It is, therefore, reasonable to ask why his death (if, indeed, he has died) has not yet been made known to the nation.
While it is understandable if those close to Ato Meles feel a sense of defeat to publicly admit his death, I maintain that there can be two additional reasons why the public is kept in the dark.
The first reason is the suddenness of his death. Otherwise, a power transition would have been in place long before his admission to a hospital. In which case, in a politically unstable country such as ours, the sudden death would shock the nation and create a sense of confusion and despair, which may lead to a great and sudden change. The second reason is that the people who are in charge of the fate of the country right now need some time to undertake the proper power transition. It is very clear now that neither TPLF nor Ato Meles himself has prepared a potential successor. Furthermore, rumours about the existence of a latent power contention between the stake holders abound. I remember reading in a Wikileak document about a credible contention between Ato Arkebe Ekubay and Ato Meles during the 2010 election. It is also possible similar contentions exist between the other members of the TPLF Central Committee. A public announcement of the death of the Prime Minster would certainly not help them to deal with these contentions.
But an extended postponement of the announcement of the death of the Prime Minster (assuming he has died) will have a long term negative impact on the country’s unity. To begin with, Ethiopians are extrovert when it comes to expressing their loss. Unlike most western nations, sorrow for Ethiopians is both public and social. This precious attitude on loss and bereavement has enabled Ethiopians to cope with inexpressible tragedies in the past, public and private alike. Delaying the mourning of the Prime Minster deprives those who wish to mourn him the vital emotional channel to come to terms with their bereavement. It also provokes deep and lasting disappointment and creates a hideous gulf between his opponents and friends.
Secondly, our mourning culture has a power to bring healing and reconciliation. Helplessness and despair bring us more strongly together than our successes and victories; more than our holidays and weddings. In contrast, delaying the unfortunate news reveals the existence of a profound mistrust of the public’s goodwill and its forgiving capability.
It is, therefore, for the benefit of the nation that the truth about the Prime Minster should be told. This may require that some TPLF practices (secrecy and mistrust) should be given up (oh, just for once!) to uphold courage and honour and to establish unity and reconciliation.