Cheetah and Hippo Analogy and the Ethiopian Reality Andualem Tefera

January 6th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

To be transparent, this article is solely based on his presentation as part of the Selamawi Party delegate here in San Jose, California, day before yesterday, January 4, 2014. I had not read Professor Alemayehu Gebremariam’s article on the Cheetah and Hippo generation that he posted on Ethiopians websites and the critical remarks some had written per his remarks at this time when I wrote this article. I attended the meeting called by supporters of the Selamawi party.

I went to the meeting to learn what goes on in the Ethiopian political sphere at home. There were many supporters of Selamawi Party. I applauded them for what they are doing at home and for sticking with non-violence. At this time of our political quagmire, the right form of struggle is unquestionably the non-violent form of struggle. I share this with them. The sacrifices they pay show their determination to contribute to the struggle. Here I give my admiration without reservation. True to our tradition of late start and punishing the early comers, the meeting started an hour late with Professor Alemayehu Gebremariam being the first guest speaker. I agreed his urge for supporting Selamawi Party and his advocacy of the rights of the individual Ethiopian rights. When he stated the Cheetah and Hippo analogy and portrayed Selamawi Party as the party of the youth and stated the support for his remark, I did not like it.

I understand his frustration of the struggle not going fast enough and the absence of a real central leadership for the movement. Taking that into consideration, after he finished his speech and a break was given; I went to him in private and told him how it will hurt the party being portrayed as a party of a section of the population when our country needs unity at every front. He told me to bring it as a question and I told him I would rather he correct it in a way to help the party. He told me he will address it next. Then Ato Yilqal took the mike and addressed the people. After a short briefing Ato Yilqal also echoed the Cheetah and Hippo analogy with the same emphasis as Professor Alemaehu Gebremariam did. This rang a bell in me and I wanted an answer. I took the mic when question session was opened and asked both the speakers the following:

“I came here to learn what goes on inside Ethiopia. I am not a member or a supporter of any party. This does not absolve of my responsibility to support the struggle of Ethiopian people against the Ethnic Dictator Illegal Government. Every party comes here and goes only to raise our hopes and disappear. The ethnic dictator illegal government in Ethiopia is ruling like an invading force and this calls for a united force of resistance. At this time of our political struggle, what we need is a central leadership for the liberation of our country. What are you doing to form this urgently needed front? I want to remark that I do not like the cheetah and hippo analogy. It will not help Selamawi party in its quest of getting the support of the Ethiopian people as a whole.”

To my surprise, both speakers not only defended their Cheetah and Hippo generation analogy, but elaborated it further and claimed there are no parties that are worth forming a front with. This sent a shock wave in my spine. Here is a promising party that is working hard, paying price and on the correct path. Then there is a fundamental flaw to their principle of their political existence. They claim they are the party of the youth! And professor Alemayehu Gebremariam forwards the Cheetah and Hippo analogy. This is wrong in two ways in the Ethiopian political reality and hurts the struggle of the Ethiopian people. This is the core essence of this article.

Cheetah and Hippo:

George Ayittey stated the following when he used the cheetah and hippo generation analogy.

“If you look at the post-colonial [African] history, you can divide it into two classes of people. There is the Hippo Generation; the Hippo Generation are the ruling elites. They are those who have monopolized political power and they are those who are stuck in their muddy, pedagogical patch. They are ornery, pudgy, and stodgy in the sense that they can’t explain why Africa is in such a mess. They blame everybody else instead of themselves. It is always colonialism! Imperialism! And they believe that the only way you can solve the problems in Africa is by giving the state more power and more foreign aid. That’s the Hippo Generation. It’s what has dragged Africa into this particular swamp. Africa is not going to move forward with the Hippo Generation, and it is on the back of this Hippo Generation which the United Nations, the World Bank, and the IMF have been trying to hitch a ride with this same old aid driven boondoggle. And that’s why we’re not getting anywhere in Africa. By contrast we have the Cheetah Generation. The Cheetah Generation is the new and angry generation of Africans who can see that their leadership have failed them. And the Cheetah Generation are those young Africans, you may call them the restless generation. They’re not going to sit there and wait for governments to come and do things for them. As a matter of fact, they’re not going to sit there and beg for foreign aid, because they can see that every social need in Africa is a business opportunity. The Cheetah Generation is entrepreneurial. So they are going to get off and take their own initiative to solve problems in Africa. Africa’s salvation and Africa’s future rests on the backs of this Cheetah Generation. They are the young and the agile and they’re fast, and you can see a lot of them. Many, many, many African countries who are not just sitting there and waiting for governments to come and do things for them. In fact, their outlook is refreshingly different. Asia has its Tigers; Africa will have its Cheetahs.”

George Ayittey — Foreign Aid vs. African Entrepreneurship

One of the mistakes of the student movement of the late sixties and the early seventies is our copying of the foreign experience without any effort to adapt or align it to Ethiopian reality. I was part of it and take the responsibility per my role. At this time I see the same mistake repeated literally. Ayittey is writing about post-colonial Africa. He is focusing on those who inherited the administration of their country from colonizers, who were educated by the colonizers and who are in power. Yes, we are Africans. Yes we share a lot with our brethren in Africa. What is important is our struggle to liberate ourselves from the political predicament we are in right now. The reality is our bases. Copying is not the way.

Let us see how the cheetah and hippo generation analogy is not applicable to our struggle and how it hurts than hurts our cause. To begin with, the population distribution of Ethiopia has not changed significantly in the youth to elder ratio. Thus there is no reason to believe the present youth is any different in numbers than the yester years.
UN World Population Prospects estimates

Total population (x 1000) Population aged 0–14 (%) Population aged 15–64 (%) Population aged 65+ (%)
1950 18 434 44.1 52.9 3
1955 20 298 43.9 53.3 2.8
1960 22 553 43.5 53.8 2.6
1965 25 480 43.5 53.9 2.6
1970 28 959 44.1 53.3 2.7
1975 32 959 44.5 52.7 2.8
1980 35 426 44.5 52.6 2.9
1985 41 078 44.6 52.6 2.9
1990 48 333 45.4 52.1 2.9
1995 57 042 45.9 51.2 2.9
2000 65 578 45.9 51.1 3.0
2005 74 264 44.5 52.4 3.1
2010 82 950 41.5 55.2 3.3

1.With my naked eyes, I do not see any discernable difference in the ratio of the youth to the mature at all. Thus, the notion that the youth today are many does not stand any test.

2.The so called hippo generation Semayawi Party is chastising is not in power, is not separating itself from the so called cheetah and is not any different in any way in the struggle for our country.

3.The cheetah and hippo analogy Professor Alemayehu Gebremariam is postulating takes exception and addresses only those in the people’s camp. Why does he not include those on the side of the ethnic dictatorial illegal government. When those rulers went to Dedebit, they were cheetahs? Weren’t they? Isn’t the bulk of TPLF of the cheetah generation?

4.Our country is governed by rulers who are imposing their will over the people like invading force, and what we need is a national front that will lead our effort to liberate ourselves and bring the sovereignty of the people in Ethiopia. This is a national call and a united call. To form a front or a party, you need all the people not a section of the people. If you say the Youth, then what is your argument against those who call for an Oromo, an Ogaden or an Amara party? Or a Women party? Or a tall people party? Where does it STOP?

5.By excluding any section of the population, a party becomes exclusive. Be it in role or in any way, if the individual is not taken as a citizen to be part of an organization with all rights and obligations, then that party is not for all.

6.And finally, the analogy given to the cheetah and hippo generation is a copy with no relevance in the struggle of the Ethiopian people for their liberation. There are no cheetahs and hippos but prisoners in Ethiopia. We all are prisoners.

  1. Erasaw
    | #1

    I Quote “I came here to learn what goes on inside Ethiopia. I am not a member or a supporter of any party. This does not absolve of my responsibility to support the struggle of Ethiopian people against the Ethnic Dictator Illegal Government. Every party comes here and goes only to raise our hopes and disappear.If u aren’t a member of any party yet why do u hoped for to be free?Such selfish people like simply hope for something doing nothing.Additionally u r proudly stating this your selfish statments!!!!

  2. Dawi
    | #2

    A quickest way of developing our economy will, in turn, provide the basis for overcoming the divisions of the past without creating new ones.

    The present economic policy is the fastest the country has ever seen. It is designed on best practices of Developmental States of the Asian Tigers and others. It is probably the only way to overcome ethnic divisions.

    This writer identified that the youth proportions of the past is the same as the present which is a very interesting observation but completely ignores the strength of the present economic policy and its potential in helping us overcome our divisions.

    Even Merera Gudina who is not the most extremists among ethnic party leaders has a reservation on Semayawi party’s national democratic movement. He calls it as a way of going back to the old days and “minorities” won’t trust such movement.

    Unless the party comes up with a better vise to overcome the existing divisions it is imperative that it at least embraces the economic policy of today’s accelerated development so that we overcome ethnic divisions first hand.

  3. Belay
    | #3

    Dawi, Hagos or whatever you may be

    The children killer, and racist group wowayne supporter, may be your are one of the killers, who knows! Please leave us alone. Your site is AIGA forum. Go there and bark as usual. Leave ABUGIDA for humaniterians. No matter how strongly your support killers like Zenawi and other woyanes you will die one day like the people woyane slaughters.

  4. Sam
    | #4

    Andualem made a wise argument, although there are areas in which I totally disagree with him. One sentence of his made me shake my head. According to him, Both Alemayehu and yilkal affirmed “there are no parties worth forming a front with.” This is absurd. I am not a supporter of any party “parked” in North America. some of the parties functioning in Ethiopia, however, should be encouraged to grow if a multi-party system in Ethiopia has to become a reality. The Selamawi party leader sees that outcome as a no-no. In theory that means Selamawi party is poised to replace EPDRF and govern as a one party-ruled government. That is not going to happen at least in my life time. Well, at anybody’s life time. Perhaps Yilkal is a political novice. He must be. Otherwise leading a party that was just born, and dismiss out right away every party which existed is nonsense. I have no knowledge about the Selamwi party, except excerpts I read hear and there, which is not much help. I can say this though: If Yilkal is the leader and what I quoted him of saying is true, Selamawi party has no future. I do not want to close my feedback with such a harsh statement. But I see no other way to put it.

  5. Dawi
    | #5

    [[..Isn’t the bulk of TPLF of the cheetah generation?..]]

    The best today’s so called “cheetah” can do on their own is pave the way for another hungry “ethnic demagogues” to take power.

    Over coming the divisions is the key. There is no short cut to that; the known leveling field is the economic development.

    Embracing the strength of the present economic vision and picking up some of the good practices such as the foreign policy overcomes the divisions among us and paves the way towards democracy.

  6. Zerayakob Yared
    | #6

    ኣይተ Belay #3,

    በእኛ በተጋሩ ዘንዳ ሓጎስ የሚለው ስም በጣሙን የተቀደሰ ስለሆነ፣ ወደ 50% የሚሆነው የትግራይ ህዝብ ሓጎስ(ተ.)/ሓጎሳ(አ.) ተብሎ ስለሚጠራ፣ እባክህን ያንን ማእተብ የለሹን በበለጠ ለማንቋሸሽ ስትፈልግ, ምናልባት “Belay” የሚለውን ቅፅል ብቻ ብትጨምርለትሳ ምን ይመስልሃል!? Please, be a fighter with manner…..!

  7. dodo
    | #7

    What does the statistics mean. He has to explain it otherwise it is nonsensical. Why so much fuss about Semayawi party. It is new bur already the TPLF is fearing its potential. that is why its trusted cadres are up in arms giving a flimsy excuse. Semayawi must be doing something right. So I say go forward Semayawi Party!!

  8. Dawi
    | #8

    [[..ማእተብ የለሹን...]]

    I take it as a badge of honor; thanks Zeray! :-)

    Although I don’t get what the big religious fanatics schisms is between Jews, Christians and Muslims? They are over 90% similar in their beliefs , principles and rituals and yet they fight each other all the time.

    Belay” የሚለውን ቅፅል ብቻ ብትጨምርለትሳ ምን ይመስልሃል!?

    I was thinking the same thing. Why not Belay or Zeray? It is the same difference to Dawi.

  9. Dawi
    | #9

    I understand Belay & Zeray have the same political position but, what they both probably know but don’t want to acknowledge is even though Woyane is an ethnic party it was lead by a MLLT group from the beginning. Whether one agrees or not with MLLT, it followed internationalist ideology.

    Meles had a limitation on how far he can take Woyane but he had taken it a long way and it was not by accident.

    He had also evolved from Marxism/Leninism to an accomplished developmental state theoretician.

    His vision is developmental state on an African setting. The vision is going to be a guide for Africa and beyond.

  10. ኣቦጉማ
    | #10

    There are people who go to meetings to participate and to contribute positive inputs into the discussion. On the other hand there are people who would like to go to meetings and find some kind of fallacy from the meeting and run to their computer to write a negative comment about it. Ato Andualem is one of them. If you had raised the question in the meeting I bet you have got a good answer or read and re read what Prof. Al wrote. You are not either from the Hippo or from the Cheetah generation you are from “I told you so” generation.

    If you are really concerned about your country and people why you are not a member of one of the parties available and contribute for the struggle, if none of them suit you why not establish your own and contribute for the struggle.

    Next time do your country a favor by not going to any of the meetings ‘to learn about what goes on in the Ethiopian political sphere at home.’ If you are not learned enough about your countries political sphere at home so far you will never ever learn. So please let the Hippos and Cheetahs do what they are doing.


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