WOULD MELES ZENAWI TRULY DEPART, AS HE HAS PROMISED, OR WOULD HE BECOME THE GREY EMINENCE OF ETHIOPIAN POLITICS? – By Genet Mersha

May 31st, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Part I

Surely, since the last few months, in what has already become his studied line, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has repeatedly spoken of his desire to resign, if his party agrees with his request. (more…)

Part I

Surely, since the last few months, in what has already become his studied line, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has repeatedly spoken of his desire to resign, if his party agrees with his request. However, due to the existential lack of trust between citizens and government, his declaration has been viewed with all sorts of doubts and distrust, if not indifference. In addition, constant variations in his explanations have opened up his motive to severe questioning. Such reactions, nonetheless, should not surprise the prime minister or anyone for that matter. After all, among other things, it is strange experience to Ethiopians—especially when a powerful person known for his love of power walks away from it without loosing it.

Then came 15 April with its touch of seriousness; the prime minister declared, “When I leave my current position one way or another (?), I will leave lock, stock, and barrel; no ifs, no buts” (underlined by author). Therefore, the two provisos, (a) seeking approval of his party to quit, and (b) his wish to remain leader of the EPRDF (14 February), now seem drowned deep in the not so easy consultations/negotiations within the executive committee of the TPLF/EPRDF. With respect to “lock, stock, and barrel”, the Oxford English Dictionary (seventh edition) testifies it means simply “the whole thing, completely.” Similarly, the Penguin English dictionary puts it as “wholly or completely.”

Moreover, one likely indication of Ato Meles’s readiness to leave his official activities could also be the draft bill(s) now before parliament, whose expedited approval has been insisted upon on delivery. One of them contains a generous and interminable (bequeathable) package of retirement benefits and privileges that covers the entire family of the prime minister, three cars commensurate with his protocol, protocol service, driver(s), fuel and running costs paid by the state, villa with four or five bedrooms and cook(s).

In addition, he would be provided a fully stocked ultra modern office with secretaries, assistants and round the clock security (for personal, family and property) at the expense of taxpayers. It would also be the responsibility of the state to provide health care coverage for the entire family, both at home and abroad. These privileges and benefits apply to the president, the deputy prime minister, the president/vice president of the supreme court (The Reporter).

Much of the above is copied from the US practice in the Former Presidents Act (FPA) (Ref: Former Presidents: Federal Pension and Retirement Benefits, 98-249 GOV). Nevertheless, one cannot help feeling deep inside that it is too exorbitant for Ethiopia, a country so dependent on foreign largesse up to sixty percent of its national budget and over seventy percent of its population living below the poverty line. For that matter, the benefits side of the Ethiopian draft bill is padded with excess pork.

Even then, I dare say so be it holding my nose between my first and second fingers, if that is the burden citizens have to bear to temper the arrogance of power and to persuade their leaders to choose to behave themselves and be held accountable when they are in power as when they retire. I strongly disagree, nonetheless, with ex-president Dr. Negaso Gidada, who a few days back argued that retiring leaders should be free to involve in political activities (The Reporter). I have no doubt his intentions are honourable. For that matter, he is active in politics to change the system both from within and outside, without even being beneficiary of such huge benefits or privileges, though he was the country’s first ex-president under TPLF/EPRDF.

This writer prefers imposition of strict conditions of exclusion from political activities on the beneficiaries of such privileges and benefits, at least, for a period of five years until the country learns to live and let live with this new and costly experiment. Society must be prepared to endeavour to prevent by any means undue interference and influence peddling by privileged retirees. There is no doubt, if such interference is to be tolerated, they would hamper national policy choices and government operations, when deemed not beneficial to their personal or partisan objectives. Furthermore, the importance of including clear terms and conditions in which these privileges and benefits could be withdrawn cannot be emphasized sufficiently. This is should not deter the retirees from availing themselves when those in power seek their counsels.

Much given to snubbing the rule of law while in office, Ato Meles & Co. should have ample possibilities to persist in that after retirement. After all, the talk so far has been about the prime minister leaving the premiership. Nothing is official as far as leadership of the EPRDF is concerned that he has sought—but unlikely. He remains chairperson of the TPLF, the core of Ethiopia’s leadership, unless there is a deal to preclude that as well. TPLF, though losing heart now, is still a very powerful organization to be reckoned with. Directly and indirectly, it controls the direction of Ethiopia’s politics, the army and the security, the bureaucracy, the government-owned bank (CBE & NBE) and the media. Not even professional associations and religious institutions have been spared of its outstretched control.

In addition, the TPLF is also in direct control of the economy both at policy levels, institutionally through government machineries and operationally through the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), its multi-billion dollar business empire, strategically placed throughout the veins and arteries of the Ethiopian economy. Recall in this connection, a few months back the prime minister, in his capacity as chair of the TPLF, has appointed his wife as the second in command of EFFORT. Some see corruption as its motive; others consider it a political move aiming at family control of TPLF as a politico-economic-military-security organization.

READING SENTIMENTS

Whereas early on there have been some conjectures in some media what Ato Meles might do after leaving office, reactions to date have barely elicited tears of joy or of sadness. Nonetheless, as mentioned above, opinion amongst most Ethiopians has been sceptical, sharply divided on some aspects of his decision. Lately, the dropping of his two conditions around the decision have persuaded some to believe in the possibility that he is determined to go. Others insist that he would not. The latter are convinced that he might reappear under a different guise and would continue to exercise power.

Foreign observers seem unimpressed by the prime minister’s decision. Some of them allude the decision to Barack Obama’s frostiness towards such regimes, as his inaugural speech made it clear. Recall that he had pointedly warned those “…who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent…” He has notified them that they are on the wrong side of history. This has become Washington’s new guiding principle. It was officially reiterated in some form recently by the incoming Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Ambassador Jonnie Carson. On the other hand, some foreign observers prefer to remain cautious seeing Meles’s declaration through the lens of broken promises of Africa’s strongmen.

In fact, over sips of château latour at an occasion, one took off a mental journey to the seventeenth century France and a visit to Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu’s cabinet, considered the first prime minister in the world and powerful man of the church, to draw a possible parallel between the then France and the direction of Ethiopia’s politics today. De Richelieu, then known as the king’s ‘chief minister,’ had befriended a Capuchin monk by the name of Father Joseph, whom he took as close friend and confident. Closeness to the heart of power transformed Father Joseph into a very powerful and influential figure, no less than the prime minister was. Secretly, even without de Richelieu’s knowledge, Father Joseph he had a grand dream of organizing a second crusade in Europe to destroy Turkey.
In the seventeenth century France, as catholic country, official attire had both a code and symbol of level of power. Therefore, because of the grey colour of his robe, Father Joseph was nicknamed the Grey Eminence (L’éminence grise), a term, which ever since has been used to portray a person who exercises power without holding office. Although de Richelieu was the ultimate source of power for Father Joseph, in the eyes of outsiders the only difference between the two was mere formality and colours of their robes. Richelieu’s was red, thus, distinction necessitating his being nicknamed the Red Eminence (L’éminence rouge).

If ever the transition Ato Meles seems to be engineering were to be realized, it is a sad irony that the country would have to worry and engage in questioning and scrutiny of Ato Meles’s actions and motives after retirement, and of those around him, even if they keep their eyes closed and their hands in solemn places. After all, history is replete with evidences that, even after their departure, some leaders are capable of leaving behind a long dark shadow that hovers over everything—unwanted mostly in so many ways. Especially as a leader, Prime Minister Meles has been a strong personality, partly because of his formation as organizer and eventually leader of a strong liberation movement that seized government power and has all the same militarized society for nineteen long years now.

Therefore, that is the reason why this paper has posed the question whether Ato Meles would become the Grey Eminence (L’éminence grise) of Ethiopian politics i.e., a retired man with designs who would still continue to exercise the same power and influence, this time outside the premier’s office. Or, would he honour his promises and leave ‘lock, stock & barrel’, to borrow his phrase, and become a spectator to Ethiopia’s progress along a democratic path?
(To be continued…)

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    I just don’t know what to say “Madam”. It is great to bring it to our attention though. But there is a saying “እንቅልፍ ተፈርቶ ሳይተኛ አይታደርም” “Fear of sleep, one will not go without it”

  2. ይነጋል / Yinegal
    | #2

    An eye opening in general “Madam”. But what we(the helpless) can do at this very tight and risk-full situation. There is a saying “Fear of sleep, one will no go without it”. “እንቅልፍ ተፈርቶ ሳይተኛ አይታደርም”

  3. ይነጋል / Yinegal
    | #3

    @ይነጋል / Yinegal
    An eye opening in general “Madam”. But what we(the helpless) can do at this very tight and risk-full situation. There is a saying “Fear of sleep, one will not go without it”. “እንቅልፍ ተፈርቶ ሳይተኛ አይታደርም”

  4. በለው
    | #4

    ጠ/ሚኒስትሩ የመልቀቂያቸው ጊዜ አሁን አልነበረም ያሳለፉት የመጨረሻው አምስት ዓመት እልህ ውስጥ ከቷቸዋል ይህም ለተለያዩ ውስጣዊና ውጫዊ የፖለቲካ ዕቅዳቸው ክፍተትን ፈጥሯል ::
    ለዚህም “የሽብርተኛ አዋጅ” “የባለ ስልጣናት ጡረታና ጥቅማጥቅሞች” ተከታታይ ሕጎች ብዙ
    ይናገራሉ::በበለጠ ለመናገር ጠ/ሚ ለመኢአድ ጥያቄ ራሳቸው ግልጽ መልስ ሲሰጡ ብቻ (…)
    1)ኢአድግ ውስጣዊና ውጫዊ ስር ነቀል ሹም ሽረት በሚያስገርም ሁኔታ ያደርጋል ::
    2)መኢአድና ኢአድግ ከፍተኛ የምርጫ ትንንቅን ያሳያሉ(ጥያቄው በወኪል ከተመለሰ ችግር አለ)
    3) እንደአስፈላጊነቱ አናሳ መንግስት ይመሰረታል (ሕግ የመለውጥ አቅም አይኖረውም)
    4)ሂደትና የሕዝቡን የልብ ትርታ አዳምጠው በተጠናከረ መልኩ “ፑቲን” ዕቅድን ይጠቀማሉ::
    5)ከዚህ ውጪ የሚደረግ የፖለቲካ አኪያሄድ ግን ለህዝቡ ሰላምን መረጋጋትን በተስፋ መኖርን
    አያመጣም ካለው የኢኮኖሚ መዋዠቅ ጋር ገዢው መንግስት ብዙ ውዝግብ ውስጥ ይገባል ::
    የፖለቲካ ጠበብት አደለሁም የግል አስተያየት ነው::ግን ለብ ያለው ልብ ይበል እንደተለመደው!!
    ከምስጋና ጋር (ከካናዳ)

  5. He will break, but never make it
    | #5

    The coming events cast their shadow before they happen, but in the case of prime dictator MELES Zenawi, there is no such thing a shadow cast before us to see and if there is, he himself is a shadow. I bet you, wezero Genet Mersha Meles, he is gonna stay…you may say why?
    Well, have you ever come across history that a gorilla leader leave office of his own free will? If yes, who…. in what condition he left
    Here is the truth. If democracy prevails in that country, he is a supreme criminal in the 3000 history of that country. He knows that the next day he is going to prison. To go out of the country and enjoy what he has been looting…. well International court is waiting for him to arrest him for genocide. The document is already with the ICC. If you think that, he might crown someone from his party and relay on him for protection. You are wrong and if you think that way, … you absolutely do not have any clue about this man’s persona…. He is going nowhere…

  6. Guest
    | #6

    It is foolish to consider Meles’ resigning as a panacea for Ethiopian politics. ጉልቻ ቢለዋወጥ ነው ነገሩ Unless there is true change, he will not leave without ensuring his hold to control the future too.

  7. Anon
    | #7

    ለአኖንኒመስ ሞት ተፈርቶ ነው ተረቱ::

  8. Solomon
    | #8

    “ደሮን ሲያታልልዋት በመጫኛ ጣልዋት” – መለስ ዜናዊ ደጋግሞ የሚጠቀምባት ምሳሌ ናት። ማጭበርበሩን ስለተካነው አሁንስ አፋችንን አስከፍቶ ስለየጡረታ መብቱ ያከራክረን ጀመር። አሁንስ የኛ አይ ኪው አጠያያቂ እየሆነ መጣ!

  9. dodo
    | #9

    really our Ethiopian head ache is not Melles only there are peoples beside him to push fo mistake Melles is a single and brave man beter than Mengistu. we have to focus about our neighbour Eritrea what it needs from us and Somlia. pls talk general politics meles meles meles meles it is his name R U sick dear Ethiopian by his name??? religion equality, sexual equality, education and so on by Melles gov.

  10. mateos
    | #10

    Depart or not this little dog damage and scar to the people of Ethiopia and the entire region of East Africa will be around for many years to come. Not only did he and his mafia family divided/distroyed the great Ethiopian communities for his own narrow minded benefits but he is responsible for creating the mistrust, enemity, hatred, and bloodshed among the great people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djoubiti, and Somalia. No Ethiopian with his rightest mind should let Legesse/Abebe/Melese, Seyoum Mesfin, Azeb Mesfin, Bereket Simon, and the rest of the weyane mafia families escape out of Ethiopia. Unless these butchers are locked in the prisons they built with the dononated aid money then I’m afraid the culture of trust-no-trust they brought will exist until they are eradicated from the face of Ethiopia.

  11. ራስ
    | #11

    ጥያቄው መለስ ከወረደ ምን ይመጧል?ወረደ አልወረደ እዛው ነው የሚኖር:: ስለዚ ንጥረነገር ያለው አጀንዳ መያዝ አስፈላጊ ነው::

  12. JIGSA
    | #12

    it is not meleesse zenawis choice it is z ethiopian people choice this time around he can not be there by cheating deciting and lieing to the people.the people of ethiopia tired of him and his mafia group who are sucking the ethiopian blood day and night for the last 18years.this time around the oppositin must change the game play once for all.the ethiopian people struggle for democracy will privail god bless ethiopia

  13. ማይክ
    | #13

    መለስ የሀገሪትቱ የፖለቲካና የኢኮኖሚ ስርዓት እየተጨመላለቀ ሲመጣ ተስፋ መቅረጥ የጀመረ ይመስለኛል::ስልጣኑን ትቶ ቢሄድ ብዙ የስራው ወንጆሎች ይጠብቁታል::የትም ሀገር በሰላም መኖር እንደማይችል ያውቀዋል::አሁን የሚያደርገው አሻንጉሊት ጠቅላይ ሚኒስተር ማስቀምጥ ነው::እሱ ከጀርባ ሆኖ ይመራል ማለት ነው::ፑቲን ራሺያ ላይ እንዳደረገው ማለት ነው::

  14. Shewit Admassu
    | #14

    Meles Zenawi is an ethno-fascist who has rejected his ethiopian identity and put himself in the service of the traditional enemies of Ethiopia. He can not be called by any criteria as an Ethiopian prime minister or official. Reading this and her previous postings, one can detect that the author of the piece is apparently the sympathiser of the ethno-fascistic regime of Meles Zenawi. She tries in her own subtle way to impress us with what she thinks as the positive sides of the ethno-fascists. She refers to Meles Zenawi as the prime minister without even mentioning his dictatorship and one man rule in Ethiopia. She looks a bit of a sophisticated pro-Meles person because she picks up seminal or topical issues and injects her pro-meles positions ansd views into them.

  15. Mehari Berhe
    | #15

    I think Genet Mersha is not opposing the ethno-fascist regime of Meles Zenawi despite wrtiting about some of its shortcomings. By this I mean that she is not on the side of democratic Ethiopians struggling to abolish ethno-fascim and rescue their country from the anti-ethiopia Meles Zenawi. Hence it is not wise on the part of the pro-democracy and Ethiopian website. Abugidainfor to post her piece in which she boldly refers to the Ethno-fascist Meles Zenawi as the prime minister of Ethiopia. I have never read anything about the suffering of the Ethiopian heroine and one of the vanguards of demccracy and freedom, Birtukan Midekssa`s sacrifices and sufferings.

  16. Anonymous
    | #16

    You got it right Shewit…Genet thinks that her minority ethinic group ( Debub hiziboch)is well served by TPLF Government. That may be true, but to the expense of OROMO and AMARA which are the majority group. Meles think that Debub hiziboch could not able to endanger his power since they are a minority and for that reason he has trust on them and give some seemingly powerful position even if he is the one who has always the last say.
    Genet could be well versed in English language, but that doesn’t make her a better nationalist or for that matter a better journalist. That is the sickness in Ethiopan this era…one way or another promoting ethnicity…Genet should know better

  17. Dawit Koricho
    | #17

    One can not fail to see Genet`s thinly veiled praising of the rule of the ethno-fascist, Meles Zenawi. She may think that she is doing it in a smart way but her pieces are exposing her services to and affliations with ethno-fascism. She should learn a lot from the heroine Birtukan Midekssa who is sacrificing all to liberate Ethiopians including Genet from ethno-fascism. The ethno-fascist regime of Meles Zenawi must unconditionally free Birtukan and all other political prisoners.

  18. Anonymous
    | #18

    Selam Genet,

    I haven’t read your article – just saw the title – and thought what does it matter if Meles stays or goes? That is not the kind of change the nation is after! We want TPLF/EPRDF along with its/their ‘teletafis’ out! We shouldn’t concern ourselves with their cat and mouse game of who is staying, who is leaving. How many times Mengistu changed titles and so did Meles! Even not as PM he will be holding the ‘remote control’ if you know waht I mean.

    Thanks
    Alem

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