By T.W. Abraha
August 31, 2012
It is with great sadness that I say rest in peace to Meles Zenawi. A true Ethiopian who died for his country. Had it not been for his cause, perhaps he would have lived to his golden years. He was a man who was imperfect, because he is a creation of God and not God himself. Not that I am comparing him to God, but rather stating the obvious- that man is flawed by creation. That being said, great men leave their print of goodwill for many generations to come. Mr. Zenawi was such a man.
He was the guardian of a nation. He loved his country in such a way not replicated by any other individual in recent historic memory. I love Ethiopia, but I would be foolish to say that I do to the extent that Mr. Zenawi did. Did Hatse Yohannes, Menelik, HaileSilassie or Mengistu or any other leader of centuries past spend sleepless nights reading and thinking of ways to make their country better rather than rule it? Has anyone amongst us living done so, unequivocally? It is easy to judge a person for the things he does wrong. But has Mr. Zenawi not done far many more things right for his nation? Though there may have been points I disagreed with him, I am not in his mind to understand why he did what he did. Assuredly though, he did them with the greater good in mind. Leaders of the past, such as HaileSilassie the acclaimed, who took pride in being “brown” amongst his habesha people, were flawed. Those despised were not all flawed. Mengistu’s idea in socialism for his country was not wrong for the fact that he wanted to see no poor people and not because he wanted to see no rich people. Not all is good or bad in a person, but did any of the past leaders or citizen of Ethiopia love their country the way Mr. Zenawi did? The examples are there to be seen in plain sight. Can we honestly say Ethiopia is not better off for him having led it? Yes it is, and he died for it.
I was always proud to be an Ethiopian, but what I bear at heart, he demonstrated with action. Nationalism before tribalism, that’s what Mr. Zenawi has taught us. He was not focused solely on his province of birth as the place to improve, because Tigray does not glitter anymore than any other province. But it does not lag behind either.
I am not a politician. As you read this, read it as a point of view from an Ethiopian, period! The question now becomes, what do we do from here on? He has planted a seed for us, now it is our job to water it and take care of it that it may grow. As I have lived or read about our nation, which leader has brought it as far as Mr. Zenawi has? There are probably individuals who rule with greed within the scope of their power. As history is our teacher, there always have been and there probably always will be in ALL countries. But Mr. Zenawi was not one of them. Not because I was with him, but rather that I have an understanding of him, not of the individual on a personal level but rather of a leader on a national platform. An understanding of a man who loved his country dearly that he governed until his last breath to make it bear fruit. This is not a Shakespearean tale, but then how many tales of its kind is man privy to? A boy with a dream who became a man with an idea and a plan for his country.
His reverie will be many years from now from his opponents, when either in shamble (after him) or in continued betterment, they realize he initiated the change for that betterment of a nation and its citizens. He gave us pride, education and self governance. He gave us a sense of who we are as a nation and nationalities of that nation. He gave us… us.
He died as the father of the nation. Though he was her son first, but he carried the burden of becoming the paternal caretaker. Unfortunately, I did not recognize it much during his living, but I see it in his passing. Perhaps I see his legacy early on in his death to overcome my shortcoming before in his living. “He” plural reflects all the good people who stood alongside him to build a nation. He led them, but there are many in “he”. He, the singular, may not be the only smart Ethiopian, but he was the smartest of Ethiopians for loving his country the way only he did.
It is up to all its citizens, the people of today to not passively pass it on to the generation of tomorrow to make good on his vision. Can we coexist harmoniously ethnically, religiously and politically? Do we not take pride on the green, yellow and red? Do we not take pride as a habesha wins an Olympic gold regardless of what ethnic group he or she belongs to? Do we not feel good to fly home and see family and taste, smell and touch Ethiopia for those of us in Diaspora? We Ethiopians are the biggest original melting pot on Earth with all our tribes. Can we live as we, rather than I or the ethnic us?
Rome was not built in a day. The great United States of America did not become the hegemonic power until the industrial revolution of the late eighteen hundreds, a century after its birth. Therefore, Mr. Zenawi has made a blueprint and it is up to us to architect that blueprint into reality. Some of that reality he has already built, but we the people need to continue it for us and for future generations.
We can all talk about how much we adore or dislike Meles Zenawi, but if we truly look into our hearts, even with his shortcomings, the Ethiopia of today has a much brighter future because he set it on that path.
Brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, siblings and relatives, don’t simply remember that Mr. Zenawi was from Tigray, but cherish that he was unquestionably nationalist Ethiopian. Let those who are in Ethiopia live in peace and harmony with each other. Those of us in Diaspora, let us stop bickering over ethnicity and better ourselves first as one community. If we better ourselves, then we will better our country second.
Our country is diverse and beautiful. With its highlands and lowlands, grassland and dry land. Fertile and arid. Fruitful and mountainous. From the Semiens and Dashen to the Omo, Tekeze, Abay and the blissful Tana. Exotic and inviting. Cultured and welcoming. Mysterious and historic. From the injera plated with kitfo, tibs, wot, and atkilt. From the kita and hambasha. From the mangos, papayas, avocados, and pineapple. The diversity so vast, the commonality so unique. United we should stand. And if united, we shall not fall. Nationality before individuality. Let us not wait for history to judge us all, but we should help each other towards unity and bettering of our country. Ethiopia united!
The metamorphosis of Abyssinia shall continue. Peace be onto all the habeshas (from both nations). We need peace and progress. Acceptance and harmonious co-existence.
A visionary lost too soon. Your life many have been shortened, but your legacy and nationalistic and pan-African ideology shall, wishfully, live on to fruition..
Not a Bad Dream?
My thoughts so fragile and real,
My dreams so horrific and surreal.
I can’t sleep when awake,
When asleep, of fear I shake.
I hear people yell “Meles, Meles”
As they are crying.
Why are they crying, he beside me is sitting.
Why do people carry his picture dressed in all black?
Why do they scream and faint back to back?
Then I open my eyes and see around,
Damn, Damn, Damn. DAMN!
I want to fall asleep again and never wake,
What I thought was a dream, but this for God’s sake.
This is an untrue reality,
But, DAMN, his picture is there to see.
My eyes filled with tears of sadness,
My emotions are thoughts of duress.
He can’t be dead,
He has so much to do ahead.
Let me be the one un-living,
And he takes my place instead.