Political and Economic Forces: The Silent Coup d’état and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi [In the Event of the Death or Disability of Meles Zenawi] By Tecola W. Hagos
The situation in Ethiopia is exceedingly becoming ridiculous with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi still conspicuously missing since the end of June for almost two months (50 days) and not yet properly accounted for except for a couple of statements by the Government Spokesman Bereket Simon that added more confusion than clarity to the whereabouts and condition of the Prime Minister. No matter what I think of Meles Zenawi as the Head of the Ethiopian Government, he deserves much formal and better treatment by the people who are now in charge of Ethiopia than be shrouded in mystery as to his health condition or death. Having said that, I will represent a very different analysis of the situation herein.
Obviously, all this blackout of information speaks louder than any learned statement about the fragility of the political structure in Ethiopia and the questionable legacy of the TPLF/EPRDF. At this moment, there is red hot power struggle within the close associates, collaborators, and the veteran Members of TPLF/EPRDF Leadership, and they are sorting out their future in Ethiopia without Meles Zenawi. The power struggle is not caused by the health condition of Meles Zenawi. The health condition is simply an excuse and a kind of cover/decoy used to stage a coup d’état. It seems to me we all have been duped into thinking that the absence of Meles Zenawi is due to health issue. I have reason to believe what we are witnessing is a coup d’etata, whereby the old-guard of the TPLF that Meles had pushed out of office are taking over power.
I have watched on ETV the Ethiopian Government Spokesman Bereket Simon and Sebhate Nega, the senior most Politico of TPLF, alluding to or stating directly that the sickness of an individual leader (Meles Zenawi) is not that detrimental to the life of the TPLF and/or the life of the EPRDF. That is the first subtle clue of the conspiracy and the silent coup d’état. If it were not for the subtle suggestion, nothing could be further from the truth, for such stupendous statement of denial of the reality that we lived with since 1991, seems to counter the fact that Meles Zenaw was both the center and the life of the TPLF and the EPRDF for the last thirty years, defiantly since 1991. There can be no doubt that the political panorama will change dramatically with the death or incapacity of Meles Zenawi. Discounting Meles Zenawi’s importance and the major role he played in the last twenty years in the political life of Ethiopia by the people who are running the Government of Ethiopia at this moment could only lead to one and only one conclusion confirming my suspicion that what is going on is a coupe d’état.
II. Political and Economic Forces – “በደንባራ፡ በቅሎ፤ ቃጭል፡ ተጨምሮ።”
A. The Silent Coup d’état
The present political situation in Ethiopia is quite puzzling and even bizarre when we factor in the unusually low interest in the events surrounding the absence of Meles Zenawi from the political scene in Ethiopia, of the international community and the governments of those nations particularly involved in Ethiopian politics and economy, namely China, Britain, Italy, Germany, and the United States. These nations do have conflicting interests, and even sever competition for influence and favorable position vis-à-vis the Ethiopian Government. There is a deafening silence from such Governments on the absence of Meles Zenawi for almost two months.
I start wondering whether there is something far more sinister than mere health question surrounding the disappearance of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi from public view. I thought at first that the silence of the officials of the Ethiopian Government irresponsible and utterly callous, as we have every right to know the truth since we are a mature ancient people and no matter how we may evaluate the political leadership of Meles Zenawi, he cannot be swept under some convenient political rug. First I found it quite baffling the complete absence of Minister of State Berhane Gebre Kristos, the darling of Meles Zenawi and the representative face of Meles Zenawi’s chagrining new administration. When I studied carefully the many subtle changes taking place within the inner grouping of TPLF leaders and the low profile by a docile Council of Ministers and the form of complete black-out of news about the status of a political leader, I realized that we all have been defrauded into believing that the absence of Meles Zenawi was due to illness. It seems to me that initially the illness of Meles Zenawi did trigger some confusion and concern for his health by his subordinates and close associates, but soon I suppose a pre-existing Members of an ongoing conspiratorial process (mostly consisting of old guards and sympathetic to the interest of Eritrea) realized their opportune moment was at hand and thereby took steps to neutralize the competition (Azeb Mesfine and some of the members from Group B) and proceeded to the removal of Meles Zenawi from power. I do believe now that what we are looking at is a smock-screen of a new political order being installed by conspirators. Right now, the health condition of Meles Zenawi is immaterial, for he seems to be a victim of a coup d’état.
It is important to understand the many centers of gravity of political power under the present situation of Meles Zenawi being absent from the political scene for almost two months. When discussing the center of power or the center of gravity of power, we can start by discounting the influence of money on Ethiopian politicians and Ethiopian people in general right away. Poor as it is temporarily, Ethiopia is a truly unique land where money seems to have minimal effect in the nation’s political life. The real move is to destroy Ethiopia across ethnic enclaves and create the many mini-states that was the initial strategy to insure the independence of Eritrea and to create it as an economic powerhouse at the cost of Ethiopia. However, things did not go as planned, for Meles Zenawi started having his own personal ambition of glory as an Ethiopian leader, and that glory was not in sink with being a call-boy to Issyas Afeworki of Eritrea.
Based on my close observation of the many characters and centers of influence, I have reached a rather drastically different conclusion than seems to be the accepted view of either the demise or incapacity of Meles Zenawi due to ill health. True Meles Zenawi is suffering from some unidentified illness, but that fact is simply a contingent factor to what is going on in the power struggle behind curtains. I think a form of coup d’état has taken place and the winners are placing their people in key positions before the reappearance of Meles Zenawi either as a far diminished figure-head or a venerated corpse.
B. The Coup d’état Players
Although this is purely speculative, I have identified individuals, political organizations, and some nations from around the world who are either behind the silent coup d’état or sympathetic to the individuals who staged the coupe d’état because they might benefit directly or indirectly from the transfer of power. My speculative identification of individuals and entities that I suspect with the disappearance of Meles Zenawi from the political life of Ethiopia has some rational basis. What I am writing here may be speculative, but it is not fairy tales. For example, in a slip of the tongue, the new Foreign Minister of Egypt stated that Egypt would benefit in the future with the transfer of power to the new leaders in Ethiopia. The group that I believe seems to be in control is made up of the most senior political and military leaders whom we may have identified for years as the most loyal to Meles Zenawi. By hindsight, some may have been camouflaged implants promoting Eritrean interest whose loyalty is to the delusional vision of an Eritrean super state with or without Issayas Afeworki. This group that seems to be in control is exceptionally anti-historic Ethiopia and willing to compromise Ethiopia’s territorial integrity to the extent of the annihilation of the State of Ethiopia replacing it with ineffectual mini-states more or less divided up according to the 1995 Constitution /mandated Kilils (States).
It is a tragedy that we are going to be faced with much less talented individuals than even Meles Zenawi in our immediate future by those who are running the Ethiopian Government at this moment. They are making their appearances slowly on ETV, for example, Abaye Tsehai and Simon Bereket have made brief appearances. I do realize the idea that removing a terrible leader from power in itself, without ever considering what might follow, maybe a good moral undertaking but not necessarily a wise political move considering the carnage that might ensue where tens of thousands of innocent people might lose their lives, as well as the destruction of the economy.
In a way, Meles Zenawi is truly a tragic figure for he seems to have been caught in his own political conspiratorial web that he weaved in his early anti-Ethiopia political struggle period that he callously maintained until recently, and when he tried to mend his ways, it was far too late for any remedial action. It might come to some as a surprise that I included the United States Government in the group that is against the historic-Ethiopia and its territorial integrity. It is historically verifiable starting from the end of the First World War that the foreign policy activities of the United States has been to this day essentially anti historic Ethiopia. The billions of dollars in loans, grants, and humanitarian assistance coming from the United States is always stained with some sinister or hurtful element to Ethiopia’s long term interest. I have designated this group as Group A (Alpha). I have included in this Group representative sample of organizations, foreign countries et cetera that are to varying degrees hostile to historic Ethiopia:
1. Girma Wolde Selassie
2. Bereket Simon
3. Samora Yunis
4. Sebhat Nega
5. Abay Tsehi
6. Tygrei Kilil (leadership)
7. Oromo Kilil (leadership)
8. Somali Kilil
9. The United States (Government)
10. Saudi Arabia
13. United Nations Security Council
14. The Arab League
15. New Ethiopian Muslim Fanatics (Al-Ahbash, Wahabists)
The members of the second group I have identified hereunder are not all angles either. Some of the leaders identified as a representative sample were as horrific in their hostility to historic–Ethiopia as their counterparts in Group A. It is with the dramatic economic development since 2001, specially the dramatic growth of the Ethiopian economy in industrialization, and participation of Meles Zenawi in highly publicized global movements and involvements that some of theTPLF/EPRDF inner politicos developed individual ambition that created the watershed of the conflict resulting in two different political camps. Group B’s hostilities and/or self interest is manageable and is not as destructive as some of the Members in Group A.
My construction of Group B (Beta) is equally speculative a was the case with Group A and the personalities, entities, organizations, governments, and nations identified are simply samples of possibilities. Group B is seemingly the losing group in the current political power struggle. Some of the members of Group B identified by name may have developed personal ambition be it in economic or governmental/political power, with a some sense of Ethiopian nationalism. In the same vain, some of those identified as sample representatives of institutions, foreign governments and countries along with religious and political organizations do have much deeper interest in preserving the integrity and sovereignty of historic-Ethiopia.
1. Azeb Mesfin [Meles Zenawi]
2. Addisu Legesse
3. Tefera Walwa
4. Berhane Gebre Kiristos
5. Desalegn Haile Mariam
6. Southern Ethiopia Coalition
7. Amhara Kilil
8. Afar Kilil
9. Benshangul and Gumez Kilil
10. Tygrei Kilil (people)
11. European Union
14. Africa Union (Black Africa Nations)
15. United Nations General Assembly
16. Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Congregation)
17. Traditional Ethiopian Muslims
These two Groups of political power centers of gravity are not static but in dynamic fluid form that may change in their constituent members from moment to moment. I am drawing what seems to me the propensity and dynamic trend as I observe and tally the many intricate combinations of politicians. It is comical if it were not hurtful that the two most powerful representatives of the Amhara Kilil Bereket Simon and Hilawi Yosef are Eritreans with no real constituents in Amhara Kilil and yet forced their election on the Amhar Ethiopians. The same type of disproportionate power and influence on the political goals of the TPLF was exerted by those whose interest was very much accommodating the secessionist aspirations of EPLF during the Seventeen year struggle of the TPLF against the Derg Government. I appreciate the books by Asgede Gebre Selassie even more so now, for his record of the events and the many characters in the life of TPLF and EPLF is most illuminating and highly relevant to our time.
What is annoying to me by hindsight is the fact that the TPLF having over five times the fire-power of EPLF right in Eritrea itself was following EPLF’s strategic directives to the detriment of its own goals and the welfare of Ethiopia, through out its struggle until the 1998 open war for political supremacy. Here is one good example how corrupt the TPLF leadership had been for years, incapacitating patriotic and representative Ethiopians from power promoting those that are either hostile to historic Ethiopia or ambivalent toward Ethiopian national vital interest. With Bereket Simon and Sebhate Nega (behind the scene) in charge of the Ethiopian Government post-Meles period, Ethiopia will be subjected further and deeper conflicts, fracturing, and the Kilils will be setting up independent governments of their own with minimal involvement unlike true constituents of a federal Ethiopia. Under such anti-Ethiopia individuals at the helm, in all probability all development projects would come to a screeching halt one by one. Even the Dam on the Blue Nile will be compromised and will not be completed, and even if it does it will be done with some face saving scheme of drastically scaled down shadow of its original. In terms of foreign relations, the tilt will be toward the United States, a government that had done minimal development projects in its over a hundred years involvement with Ethiopia. China that has done so much in a short twenty years will be out of favour. Ethiopia will give up Badema, and there will ensue the opening of Assab under adverse contractual scheme that will bled Ethiopia in favor of Eritrea. There will be free movement for Eritreans to flood Ethiopia and its economy, a worse repeat of what existed soon after the EPRDF took power in 1991 and after. Ethiopia will be heading into sever Amhara ethnic cleansing in Oromia, Somali et cetera with counter attacks and total chaos of murder, property destruction in the South and East Ethiopia et cetera. Group A represents to me the “four horse men of the apocalypse.”
III. The legacy of Meles Zenawi
I have pointed several times over the years that my main disagreements with Meles Zenawi has to do with his disrespect and marginalization of Ethiopian history and his abusive treatment of our person as Ethiopians. His willingness to compromise the territorial integrity of Ethiopia and the sovereignty of Ethiopians, and his promotion of ethnicity as the basis of self-government and the structuring of mini-states (Kilils) thereby fracturing and fragmenting Ethiopia within the body politics of the Ethiopian State are the reasons of my profound dissent. In the economic area my serious opposition to Meles Zenawi’s economic goals and programs is aimed at the fact that he denied Ethiopians the right of ownership of land in fee-simple and yet sold/leased millions of acres to foreigners. Of course, I object to Meles Zenawi’s violation of human and democratic rights of individuals, the recent being the incarceration of journalist Eskinder Nega and political leader Andualem Arage and countless others.
Of all the leaders in world history, Meles Zenawi seems to me to be a cross between Mao and Augustus Caesar. In most ways than one, Meles reminds me of Augustus Caesar who said on his death bed, “I found Rome built of clay (bricks) and left it a city of marble.” I could easily ascribe such notion to Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian economy of the past and the present. However, history tells us Augustus Caesar dismantled all of the “republican” values that had catapulted Rome from a tiny village to a great world power, the likes of which is still to be seen in the World. There is no question that Meles Zenawi has transformed the face of Ethiopia with numerous development projects, including massive construction work in Addis Ababa and to a lesser extent in other parts of the nation. He has built universities, colleges, and numerous schools all over Ethiopia. He had expanded the road and highway system of the nation to a great extent neer witnessed before his time. The sheer volume of public works carried out by Meles Zenawi is hundreds of times more compared to the work done by Haile Selassie and Mengistu combined. But he has also introduced massive corruption unheard of in Ethiopia’s long history. Even more devastating to us as a nation, all that effort is of no value if the Ethiopian nation falls apart due to the ethnic-based state structure introduced by Meles Zenawi and his political organization. And that is the “Achilles Heel” of Meles Zenawi and his legacy.
I am not shy in focusing on Meles Zenawi’s work ethics, his reptilian focus on tasks, even his terrifying single mindedness in staying in power. However, I consider his twenty years leadership a waste of great opportunity and talent to bring about foundational change to the political and economic life of Ethiopia. Because of his massive failure to cultivate responsible civic minded individuals and political institutions, he left us with anti-Ethiopia political power structure. The tragedy of our past seems to continue with new faces and with a far challenging situation to preserve Ethiopia as an independent and sovereign nation. God Bless Ethiopia.
Tecola W. Hagos
August 12, 2012
Copyright © Phineaus St. Claire, 2012