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You are here: Home Articles Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: on the eye of the beholder

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: on the eye of the beholder

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I have been following the series of debates of Ethiopia’s political parties for the 2010 parliamentary election that is due to be held on May 23rd with great enthusiasm and perplexity at some stage. From an Eritrean perspective, I must admit that I was so captivated with the achievements EPRDF’S leadership in the area of democratization and free parliamentary election. Ethiopia has more than 92 registered political parties and I have also evidently learnt that, Prime Minister Meles Zenewi’s leadership is standing against all odds in adhering the sovereignty of Eritrea, and he did so in an effort to save Ethiopia from ultimate disintegration, as he has stated in his recent interview with Ethiopian TV.


 Prime Minister Meles, hailed by many of the outside world as a man, who is successfully waging a battle to make famine and poverty history in Ethiopia. With his extraordinary leadership skills and charisma, indeed he has been honoured to represent Africa in the G-20 summit and climate change forum and he has been chosen as a spokes person of the African Union by African leaders to become a very influential leader of the continent. Yet for many Ethiopians he is simply scrutinized as an outsider or simply as a dictator, who is relentlessly serving the interest of Eritrea at the expenses of Ethiopia. Despite the fact that Meles being the first Ethiopian leader to introduce democratic institutions, free elections and freedom of speech (though restrictions imposed occasionally), yet there are some Ethiopians who could not be convinced to give him the credit he appropriately deserves for his regional and national endeavours to bring peace and stability. On the contrary they curse him for allowing the self-determination of Eritrea that consequently paved the way for its independence and for introducing article 39 in the country’s constitution that also allows for other provinces for the same right. Meles in his recent interview with ETV stressed that becoming an Ethiopian should not be enforced by the state, but it must be merely based on the compliance of its citizens to associate themselves as Ethiopians. J. Peter Pham, a well known academic and columnist for the   
World Defense Review recently posted regarding Meles critics ‘quite possible with the right political will, so unhinged in their hatred for the incumbent government have so many of Ethiopia's critics become that they have lost all sense of proportion and fail to evaluate developments in their proper context. This lack of perspective is regrettable in itself, but, when it has to do with a part of the world as strategically important as the Horn of Africa, it is especially deplorable as what is at stake is nothing less than the security of the region and the broader interests of the international community in general and the United States in particular.

However, the mockery is that neither many Eritreans credit his leadership either in defending their sovereignty amid all his intense internal power struggle challenges. Those Eritreans who hate Meles mainly site the deportation of thousands of Eritreans from Ethiopia during the 1998 and 2000 border war and for refusing for the implementation of the boundary commissions ruling without any precondition. Regarding the deportation the Prime Minister has publicly expressed his regrets in an interview he conducted with two of the mainstream Eritrean opposition websites Asmarino.com and Awate.com. He has used every opportunity to reach out the Eritrean masses and he even went an extra mile by asserting that he is not ashamed of his Eritrean blood, as his mother is from Adi-Quala Eritrea.  One has to take a deep breath to digest Meles Zenawis real zeal and far sighted intentions. I had some feeling of resentment for the fact that he has hindered for the implementation of the border ruling without preconditions, nevertheless my admiration for his wise leadership soon came in to my spotlight, when I got the opportunity to know his rivalries with their destructive explicit agendas. As seeing is believing I invite you to watch what Ghebru Asrat and Siye Abraha had to say regarding the question of Eritrea in the meeting they held with the Diaspora Ethiopians recently. http://www.vimeo.com/11122303.

I find it heart breaking when I see the irrational and illegitimate government in Asmara, who is shamelessly waging a campaign of hate towards the visionary and pragmatic leader of Ethiopia, thereby arming and financing the very enemies of Eritrea the so-called Ethiopian opposition groups within Eritrea’s soil. Who is to benefit from this senseless exclusively misguided venture of the PFDJ junta? This shows us that how far the regime in Asmara has went in compromising Eritrea’s sovereignty in light of the existing political atmosphere.

 In my view Eritrea might never get a like minded leader in Addis Ababa’s Arat Kilo, once Meles party is out of power any time in the future. But a time could come where we could no longer take his stands and deeds for granted. We can longer ignore the facts on the ground; he is sheltering tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees, where they find the safest haven. He has also received hundreds of Eritrean refugees that were originally meant to be deported back from Egypt to Eritrea. And there are rumours the Israeli government is planning to do the same.

 Prime Minister Meles, in the past nineteen years, has thought Ethiopians one big lesson, a lesson many still tend to forget, by distancing himself from the thorny issue of Eritrean sovereignty (from an Ethiopian perspective), being a leader of a landlocked country he has managed to escort Ethiopia in the path of sound economic development, where it is registering 11 and 12% of economic growth in this economically troubling times. Leaving Eritrea alone is in the best interest of Ethiopia, his message to fellow Ethiopians is simple: never allow for history to be repeated, his ancestors had played with fire for quit long time and that is more than enough.

Indeed, as there is no perfect human being neither does a perfect leadership exists. Even the Lord Jesus Christ had many enemies, when he spread the message of peace and forgiveness to the world. Don’t get me wrong I am not comparing Meles with the Lord Jesus, but I want to bring into the light that he is an ordinary human being, who makes mistakes but he is not positioned this time around to repeat his ancestor’s mistake. There is a proverb ‘’one thing that we have learnt from history is that we never learn from history.’’ It seems that Meles is taking the lessons of history seriously and hopefully he would not live to repeat them hereafter.

As Eritrean I feel that it is a high time to raise some serious questions, who is the real enemy of the Eritrean people and threat to Eritrea’s national security? Out of the six major political parties that are contesting in the election, with the exception of the EPRDF (the ruling party) the rest have an implicit or explicit agenda for the partly or wholly re-unification of Eritrea with its arch-foe Ethiopia, if they get the chance to sit in power. From a legal point of view one could easily find this rhetoric as a nonsense and dirty political game at work, with no tangible outcome in the end. But, as Eritreans we have every reason to be anxious as we are living in an anarchic world, hence, it is a high time to take the necessary precautions to avoid repercussions.

From the Leaders of Arena party amazingly this party’s main base of support is in Tigray, its leader is former disciple of Meles Zenawi: Ghebru Asrat. Former president Negasso Gidada, and former defense minister, Siye  
Abraha, also joined the Unity for Democracy and Justice, or UDJ.  It is  
considered the main party to emerge from the breakup of the  
Coalition for Unity and Democracy, or CUD, that won nearly 200  
parliamentary seats in the disputed 2005 elections. These politicians are having a sleepless night in turning every stone to cling back in power by even seeking a coalition with divergent parties.  Three of them publicly denounced the sovereignty of Eritrea, and assert that the Eritrean people should have been presented with other alternatives other than merely confining his choices on unity or independence. They even went on to the extent of illegitimating Eritrea’s independence; for the reason that it was approved by the then transitional government of Ethiopia, who was not authorized to give the green light for the right of self-determination to the Eritrean people. The question that needs to be addressed is that how far the Ethiopian public buys these outdated and polarizing arguments? And if Meles Zenawi’s leadership is to be defeated in the upcoming elections, presumably he would stay in power, is the illegitimate Eritrean government or the people of Eritrea ready to face up to the challenge again? It is a high time for us to seek the genuine answers and strengthen our fight for the rule of law and democracy to flourish in our motherland. Since one country’s sovereignty can only be well defended, when its citizens are given the sovereign rights themselves beforehand.

The writer can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

   

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