Prime Minister Meles’ Funeral was not any different.By Tibebe Samuel Ferenji
“True praise comes often even to the lowly; false praise only to the strong.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Some Ethiopians have expressed their disappointment in the way that the people of Ethiopia mourned the death of Mr. Meles Zenawi. In the absence of free press, it is hard to tell who is mourning his death for real, and whether the mourning and the funeral was staged by his comrades. It would be self deception and foolish to assume that Mr. Zenawi did not have his supporters who truly mourned his death. As the Addis Dimts Radio Talk Show Host, Abebe Belew, put it in perspective, their are millions of people who supported Mr. Zenawi; and their are those who truly mourned his death. There is no question that there are people who benefited from the policies and “leadership” of Mr. Zenawi. I am certain that millions of people have truly expressed their sorrow publicly; I am also certain that more than 85% of the population were not represented in this well orchestrated ‘drama.” Though Mr. Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, he ruled the TPLF with his Iron Fist for 29 years. He surrounded himself with gutless yes men who worshiped him, and recruited cadres who have done everything possible the last 21 years for the people of Ethiopia to Worship Mr. Zenawi. In the absence of objective information and transparency, we have to relay in history to put the mourning of Mr. Zenawi in perspective.
Looking back in history, at the experience of other countries that encountered similar situations, we learn that such propaganda is not unique to Ethiopia’s Zenawi. In fact, a close scrutiny of Mao Zedong’s funeral in November 1976, clearly shows a striking similarity of Mr. Zenawi’s and Mao’s funeral. It is very difficult not to construe that Mr. Zenawi’s funeral was orchestrated from the play book of china’s communist Party. In fact, the EPRDF applied such a staged funeral with a surgical precession. One can say with absolute certainty that the mourning displayed in Ethiopia and Mr. Zenawi’s funeral is exactly the same as the mourning and the funeral that took place in china in November 1976. Such staged funerals are not unique to Mao and Meles; in fact it is common in countries where not only one party but one man ruled a nation. Tyrants build a system of government making themselves the center of the universe, and build personality cult to create a climate of fear. At the end, they leave a legacy that forces their people to worship them as someone holy, despite the fact, they treated their fellow citizens with contempt and ruled with brutality.
“….acknowledged, as a visionary, poet, calligrapher, guerrilla chieftain, military genius, unifier, and even – claimed – charmer.” This is what the world was told when the former Chinese leader Mao Zedong died in November 1976. “…Video showed weeping civilians who swayed with grief and shouted “father, father” as black Lincoln and Mercedes limousines and army trucks streamed past the crowds…” This was what AP reported on December 28, 2011 about the funeral of North Korea’s president Kim Jong-Il. When The Soviet Union Leader Vladimir Elich Lenin funeral took place in January 1924 the Guardian reported “…the greatest processions Moscow has ever seen. District by district, factory by factory, people of all nationalities, everybody, regardless of appearances, muffled in the warmest things they had, the whole town seemed to be moving towards the square. The Communists wore black bands edged with scarlet round their arms, but almost everyone I saw was wearing some sign of mourning, and even in the fashionable Kuznetzki Bridge Street well-dressed, obviously non-Communist, ladies were wearing mourning favours. Small boys were selling little portraits of Lenin which people pinned on their breasts, and at some points small paper portraits were being handed out free, and eagerly claimed.” Lenin was also praised as brilliant, intelligent, visionary, and revolutionary.
Of course, Mr. Zenawi cannot be compared with the intellect and the impact that Lenin and Mao have had in world politics. Compared to Lenin and Mao, Prime Minister Meles’ impact in world politics is none existent. However, there is fundamental common trait that Mr. Zenawi shares with tyrants like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim. It is interesting to note that the Soviet Union staged a public funeral in Moscow in 1924, for a man who was the architect of “The Red Terror” in USSR, and for the man responsible for the death of more than 8 million Soviets. Those who opposed Lenin’s regime were put in deplorable prison, tortured, and executed. When Lenin died in January 1924, the communist party vowed to continue “Lenin’s vision”, to implement his strategy, and take the Soviet Union to the path that he started. In order to continue that path, the Communist Party built a personality cult around Lenin and created a climate of fear to debunk any opposition. When Lenin was replaced by the less competent Joseph Stalin, the state machine became more brutal. Stalin ruled the USSR under the shadow of Lenin. In 1953, when Joseph Stalin died, the people of USSR publicly whipped his death despite the fact Joseph Stalin was one of the most brutal tyrants in the world. Like all tyrants, Stalin created a cult of personality in the Soviet Union around both himself and Lenin. Many personality cults in history have been frequently measured and compared to his. Stalin was called “Father of Nations,” “Brilliant Genius of Humanity,” “Great Architect of Communism,” “Gardener of Human Happiness” and so on. Does this sound familiar? History teaches us that Stalin is responsible for the death, torture, exile, and imprisonment of millions of Soviet citizens. Despite his dismal record in human rights, the people of the USSR were forced to accept Stalin as “Brilliant Genius of Humanity.” Interestingly, this is exactly that the EPRDF is propagating in Ethiopia to canonize Mr. Zenawi, a man responsible for the death, disappearance, torture, and imprisonment of millions of Ethiopians. Just like the Communist Party of the USSR, it is the EPRDF’s desire to continue the climate of fear that was perpetrated by Mr. Zenawi. It is because they want to continue to rule with brutality in the shadow of Mr. Zenawi that we have witnessed the shameful display of public mourning in Ethiopia.
Like the September 2, 2012, funeral in Addis Ababa, the People of China witnessed similar funeral for Mao. Mao is a man responsible for the death of close to 70 Million people, and for the suffering of millions more; when he died, however, he was praised as a brilliant leader who stood for freedom and humanity. Millions of Chinese took part in mourning the death of Mao despite his cruelty. In December 2011, we have witnessed similar theater in North Korea during the burial of another cult seeking dictator. When the North Korea’s tyrant Kim Jong -II died, his comrades followed the footsteps of Communist China and Communist USSR. As Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, Kim was also responsible for the death of Millions of North Koreans. There were more than 200,000 political prisoners in North Korea when President Kim died. Human rights organizations and the United Nations have condemned President Kim for his brutal treatment of his citizens and for public executions of political prisoners.
Although most people are talking about the human rights violation and the death of thousands of Ethiopians under Mr. Meles Zenawi’s 21 years rule, Mr. Zenawi did not start killing civilians when he took power in Ethiopia. He is responsible for the death of thousands of civilians who had nothing to do with the war against the military junta. One of the reason the TPLF is listed as one of brutal terrorist organizations in the United States Stated Department Terrorists List is because of TPLF’s brutal actions against innocent civilians during its rebel years under the leadership of Meles. It is understandable for young Ethiopians who may not know the real Meles to admire and praise him. It is understandable that the EPRDF and its surrogates have keen interest and have worked day and night to build a personality cult around Mr. Zenawi because they want to continue to rule under his shadow. It is for that reason they tell us about the dubious “economic development under Meles.” The Western journalists who are to lazy to get out there and do their investigative journalism and closely examine what is going on in Ethiopia, they echo what the regime tells them form their comfortable office. The “economic development” that is taking place in Ethiopia is happening because of Billions of dollars coming from the donor nations, not because of Meles’ ingenuity. What is happening in Ethiopian is not because of Meles, it is in spite of Meles. Meles did not lift Ethiopia out of poverty, if that was the case why are we still considered one of the poorest nation in the world after 21 years of Meles’ rule? The fact is, Mr. Zenawi was not this “brilliant, intelligent, humanitarian, visionary” leader that his proponents are propagating. He was short sighted and brutal. He is a man responsible for the massacre that took place in Arsi, Bedeno, Harrar, Wolega, and other parts of the country in 1991 and 1992. Mr. Zenawi is responsible for the killing that took place in Addis Ababa University in January 1993; he is responsible for the killing that took place in March 1995 in the Great Anwar Mosque; he is responsible for the assassination of Assefa Maru and Tesfaye Tadesse in broad day light in Addis Ababa in 1997; he is responsible for the massacre that took place in Wolayta in November 1999; he is responsible for the killing that took place during the 2000 election,; he is responsible for the killing that took place in Addis Ababa University and other universities in April 2001; he is responsible for the massacre of about 400 civilians in Gambela; he is responsible for the massacre of more than 200 innocent citizens during the 2005 election; he is responsible for the detention, torture, uprooting, and the suffering of millions of people; and he is responsible for the killing that took place in Harrar and Addis Ababa in 2012. More over, he is responsible for the brain drain in Ethiopia because the best and the brightest of Ethiopia’s children are forced to live in exile. After 21 years of rule, Meles did not even build one hospital that could treat his “illness.” These are samples of crimes committed by the EPRDF regime under Mr. Zenawi.
Like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim, Meles ruled with brute force and made an enormous effort to build personality cult around him. Like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Kim, Meles is praised as brilliant, humanitarian, father of the country and so on. Despite such pretentious false praise, the fact does not change that Meles was one of the short sighted, but cleverest dictators in Africa that used ethnic division to prolong his grip to power. Looking at history, Meles’ funeral and the mourning displayed was not any different from those tyrants before him. The notion that Meles was “uncommonly wise” as stated by Dr. Susan Rice is not only an insult to all Africans, it is a racist remark that should be condemned by all. Africans have leaders who are full of wisdom. Young Africans who are full of wisdom to lead their nations are killed, imprisoned, or forced into exile with willful blindness and reckless support for tyrants by the United States and its allies. Unfortunately, it is the western power that wants us to live in a dark and portrays Africans as ignorant; it is such false assertions which lead to a belief that Africans are not wise. As a result, Western puppets like Meles Zenawi are considered “uncommonly wise.” It is an insult to the intelligence of Africans to call a man “a visionary leader” when he laid a foundation for ethnic hatred and division in a nation where its people lived with harmony side by side despite ethnic and religious differences. It is because Ethiopians like Professor Asrat Woldeyes, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, and millions of others stood and said no to the divisive ethnic politics that, at the end, Meles was forced to embrace the unity of Ethiopia. Meles who came to power with flag and banner of the TPLF, Meles, who claimed that Ethiopia has only a 100 year history, was defeated. At the end, Meles spoke about the thousands years of Ethiopia’s history, at the end, his coffin was wrapped with the Ethiopian flag that he struggled so hard to undermine.
From past history, we could assert that if Colonel Mengistu Hailmeariam had died as a president of Ethiopia, his funeral would have been similar to that of Meles. Further more, it will not take a rocket scientist to predict that we will see Eritrea’s Issaias Afeworki’s and Cuba’s Castro funeral in the same fashion should they die while their regime is ruling their respective countries. Therefore, we should not be surprised that Mr. Zenawi’s funeral was staged the same way as the tyrants before him, and that he was praised in the same manner.
For those who are interested to see the striking similarity of Mao’s and Meles’ funeral, please visit: http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/pictures/chinese-mourning-mao-zedongs-death-in-1976.html .