By Teweldebrhan Kifle
Sept 07, 2012
Meles has left the nation with broken-hearts but elated spirits-spirits inspired by a man endowed with extraordinary human potential at its best, a man treaded a path of greatness against all odds, a man who instilled in the youth a “we can do” attitude amid a rough riding and pervasive hopelessness, a man who successfully transformed a seemingly hopeless nation into triumph, turned from one of a predicament of dependency into a visibly far-reaching achievement, a man who challenged the world’s old established dogmas of neoliberal prescriptions, and their international off-shoots hell-bent to do everything to tarnish the image of Ethiopia under the cover of various names and intents.
Ethiopians have every reason to mourn the loss of this man with rare qualities of a kind. Meles didn’t live for himself. He was extremely selfless and led an austere life. He deplored corruption as well as the corrupt. Through his will power, he taught relentlessly what was meant to serve the people, encouraged the infirm to gain strength and conviction. He set an exemplary leadership and visionary mix unmatched by any one else in the recent memory of Ethiopian history. He was a man of change and transformation and worked hard to build institutions that endure. His passion to the poor had helped him shape his vision, and in effect his course of action. He knew ahead that failed economic prescriptions of the west would be unacceptable and there was a price to pay in doing so. He knew well ahead that the west would show little interest for Ethiopia’s economic take-off and would use their widespread tentacles to checkmate the maverick when he refused to surrender to their unfettered desires of meddling and stands by his own principles and values- principles of continuing a free, unyielding nation that kept its territorial integrity intact for centuries. The new values he set challenged the old Ethiopian establishment and brought the bitter truth forth- the fact that the country has been the foster child of the west for far too long to the extent that its name has become synonym with famine and hunger. A staunch nationalist as he was, he argued and won the battle that Ethiopian pride can only be restored provided that poverty is surrendered once and for all. Anything short of overcoming poverty is like slewing out of the rail and keeps the nation in a vicious circle of underdevelopment and national shame. I believe that this was his greatest contribution to the land who loved most, a contribution that filled the hearts of the youth, women and others alike, with enthusiasm of forward-looking and pragmatism despite multifaceted challenges and daunting tasks ahead.
Meles also played no less role in defining the national security policy and strategic approaches. The policy clearly articulated that Ethiopian security threat grows in proportion with its economic growth as well as the extent of utilization of its natural resources. Deterrence took a center stage so that “would be enemies” may think twice before they indulge themselves to risk calculation of advancing their will through brute force. He advanced the idea that the vulnerability of Ethiopia emanates mainly due to extreme poverty, therefore, overcoming poverty did mean not only providing the underprivileged with the material and moral necessity that enables them lead a decent living, but also serves as a deterring variable, hence, foster inter- and intra-state peace and stability. So the strategy is built on two fronts synergizing each other-broad-based economic development and building a strong military with the capability of deterring power. To that end, Meles, among other things, strategized the road map for capacity building of the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF). EDF have to match in fact a step ahead of its adversaries and be adaptive to changing circumstances in terms of the nature as well as level of engagements. The nature of war that Ethiopia would face will change with time so preparing for future war has become one of the major missions of EDF. It was with this intention in mind he gave a nod to establish a multi-faceted institutions that offer training encompassing, technology, support services, staff and command, and joint force operations in more than 10 colleges under the fold of the Ministry of National Defence. Moreover, War College that would train general officers at strategic and operational levels is in a process of establishment. This has become a reality only in Meles’s land called Ethiopia.
The “it is possible-yichalal” mind of Meles also has created wider opportunities in the technology transfer front too. The country was suffering from a perennial malaise of importing (and the corruption that goes with it) items that can be easily made with the limited trained manpower as well as machinery available. He squarely combated the widely held attitude that “we are incapable” of achieving any meaningful undertaking in the technology side. To neutralize this poison of “impossibility” he established the Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) with seed manpower from EDF mainly trained at Defence Engineering College and Maj. General Mulugeta Buli Technique College. Today, METEC has become a matter of pride, engaged in major projects of national importance and created jobs for tens of thousands through value chains and joint ventures.
Meles believed in building strong institutions. To focus on the EDF side, he taught and institutionalized the importance of the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution. Because of his relentless engagement, EDF has built an institution which all the members subordinate themselves to the constitution and constitutional order, would serve as a legal and last fortress of the Constitution of FDRE. Today more than any other time, EDF members are well aware of what their mission is and what is not with clarity and determination. They know that nothing short of victory is acceptable in any of their engagements. In all their endeavors, Meles was a source of inspiration, an example of staying on mission no matter how rough the road might have come. This writer shares these values of Meles’s legacy a man who have become the standard of a meaningful life- a life well spent on purpose, a life set and destined for grand shots, a life with never-ending wisdom and love for the poor and the underprivileged. He was a rare gift to Ethiopia from the heavens. It took his courage, vision, and probably his life, to bring a country which was licking its wounds for centuries back to the track of hope and development.
Meles had also valued above all discipline and service. It was very clear from the outset that in the 2010 election, he wanted to step-down. But the EPRDF leadership unanimously wanted him to continue. He accepted the assignment not because it was in his personal favor but he understood that it was in the best interest of the front. That might have hasten his demise but we are grateful that he continued since he left us with a bigger cause to fight for, the Rainasance Dam.
Some people tend to question the rational behind our allegiance to this great leader. They dare to accuse us as blind followers and sometimes go to the extent that we are paid cadres that mind our bellies than the interest of the country. But I would say the members of EDF today are more than capable of leading their lives engaging in the market Ethiopia could provide and/or elsewhere with the knowledge and skills they have acquired in the multitudinous disciplines. If the values mentioned above are not taken as the main driving factors, “filling the belly” hardly attracts to advance through the careers in defence. The reason is there are much more paying jobs than what the EDF can provide so this argument hardly holds water. The truth is that our love to the late commander-in-chief is boundless. We love him irrespective of our temporal and spatial locations or the benefits we draw at personal levels. We love him not because he didn’t commit mistakes, but we recognize that even when he did, we believe that he made those mistakes with the best intentions at heart. He loved Ethiopia more than any one who claims to be Ethiopian. Even if we could not pay him in kind it would be morally imperative to thank him for leaving us in better Ethiopia filled with hope and the gleaming light at the end of the tunnel.
Meles-the Hero- May your soul rest in peace.
The writer is an officer with in the Ethiopian Defence Forces and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org