Ethiopia: Why Only Zenawi; Why Not Mussolini? – Hussein A. Kiflu, The Monitor(Kampala)

May 7th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

After having read an “East African Perspective” by a regular New Vision columnist on May 2 under the title Meles Zenawi Knows What Ethiopians Want, I automatically developed the urge to react with a piece titled “Zenawi’s enduring ability to charm foreigners.” But, then I took my time over the weekend and perused Mr Jerry Okungu’s assessment of Ethiopia vis-à-vis his perception of Mr Zenawi. (more…)

After having read an “East African Perspective” by a regular New Vision columnist on May 2 under the title Meles Zenawi Knows What Ethiopians Want, I automatically developed the urge to react with a piece titled “Zenawi’s enduring ability to charm foreigners.” But, then I took my time over the weekend and perused Mr Jerry Okungu’s assessment of Ethiopia vis-à-vis his perception of Mr Zenawi.

As I am no economist, nor am I any good to support my facts with figures, I was afraid Mr Okungu might have buttressed his praise of Mr Zenawi with some new hard facts that appeared on the horizon since my departure to exile in January 2007.

Unfortunately, no matter how I wished for a miracle so that what Mr Okungu wrote could be true, all I came up with is just panegyric unbecoming of a columnist that has respect for facts.

Mr Okungu tells us about his reflection at the Addis Ababa Airport for the second time in less than five months. And, so he says, despite the “unflattering” human rights records, the “man” namely Zenawi, has done well for Ethiopia.

The basis of his conclusion stems from a two nights stay in Addis along with observation of massive construction efforts beginning with the new airport that seemed to have dazzled him out of his wits.

He also “informed” us of Mr Zenawi’s increasing popularity with ordinary Ethiopians such as taxi drivers. Again, with two nights stay, apparently in one of the new hotels he says has “mushroomed” under the able guidance of Mr Zenawi, he was able to note Ethiopians’ happiness with Mr Zenawi’s ability to manage their resources and taxes. He praised him too for his high intolerance of corrupt public officials.

He also told us that the development of infrastructure that includes the provision of water, electricity and communications services has already spurred service delivery, food insecurity, education for all, health care and decent housing for thousands of Ethiopians.

He summarised by calling on Zenawi’s peers to emulate him by concentrating on infrastructure first for the betterment of life and creation of wealth and to turn their attention on the “softer” issues of human rights and freedom of speech later, or probably never.

As it’s clear from the tone of Mr Okungu’s writing, my view as a refugee from the repressive regime of Mr Zenawi will be rejected as a perennial whiner with no alternative solution.

However, Ethiopians in 2005 gave their verdict to the opposition which came up with clear vision and alternative solution. What’s more, during the run up to the election, Mr Okungu’s avid reader and stickler for details shied away from public debate with the opposition candidates.

As to service delivery such as electricity, even the ambassador here in Kampala will not deny Addis’s rigorous loadshedding. Water too in most areas of Addis is scarce that residents are forced to be up beyond midnight to wait for droplets from their taps.

Without mentioning the plight of the people in the countryside, I challenge anyone to look behind the newly constructed tall buildings.

Note also the cronyism and tribalism behind these new hotel businesses that brings misery to poor residents by causing displacement. Also check some basic facts about Ethiopia from sources such as CIA Fact Book which is updated as recently as 2008.

You’ll be amazed to find out that there isn’t much difference between the ungovernable war torn Somalia and Mr Zenawi’s Ethiopia – ranging from corruption to killer diseases. Most of all, refrain from telling lies by quoting taxi drivers where even graduates from Ethiopian universities find it difficult to communicate in English.

In short, Mr Okungu’s suggestion for Africans to emulate Prime Minister Zenawi is an insult to their intelligence on account of construction of “hotels’ and infrastructure.

After all, fascist Italy too contributed to the infrastructure of Ethiopia amidst attempts to steamroll patriotic resistance of Ethiopians with mustard gas.

Mr Kiflu is an Ethiopian refugee in Uganda

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