Mr. Prime Minister, No Retirement Yet! Five More Years!
By Mulubrhan Tsehaye
Dec. 26 2007
Ever since the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi announced to reporters (on many occasions) that he has no intention of seeking a re-election for the position of a Prime Minister after completing his current term, many Ethiopians have been expressing their disappointment and anxiety about his possible departure. For the opponents of Meles Zenawi who are usually in subterranean denial of the reality in the country, it has been a common practice to try to smudge anybody and everybody who makes even the slightest attempt to remotely recognize some of his clear and unmistakable leadership qualities as a blind follower or even a paid mannequin. No matter who the individual is or how principled of a person he/she might be, venturing into recognizing and encouraging any of the positive aspects of Mr. Zenawiís leadership skills or the progress of his administration automatically earns him/her a nickname of a paid advocate or just a greedy sellout who is merely driven by a sheer voracity of acquiring a free real estate or a dispensation of special investment opportunity or other similar indulgence from the ruling party.
As the image of Ethiopia continues to perk up and all attempts to undermine or cover up the visible progress in the country fail however, these opponents seem to be left with no choice but to be honest to themselves and to the Ethiopian people that things have reached a point where it has become absolutely impossible to look to Ethiopia these days and simply brush off the extraordinary political and economic transformations it has been going through under the current administration of Meles Zenawi. Whether they like it or not, his opponents have to come to their senses that for the first time in history, Ethiopians have become quite optimistic about the future of their nation and people in and outside the country can be observed with a newly created hope and excitement about the ongoing remarkable economic and political developments in the country, the overall astonishing transformation of the nation that has unleashed boundless opportunities for all citizens to be engaged in various investment sectors. Over the past few years, the Prime Minister has demonstrated a unique moral fiber of a striking charisma, an astonishing degree of intelligence and extremely immaculate leadership skills, and most importantly, a ripe political maturity that has fascinated those who have had the chance to deal with him. He has proven to his opponents that he is a man of exceptional intelligence, incredibly shrewd and outstandingly slick politician with deep and complex way of thinking, and a dazzling talent at languages that are manifested in his eloquent articulation and multifaceted approach to every issue at hand. Regardless of what his opponents claim, there is no doubt that under his leadership, Ethiopia for the first time in history has started the long and treacherous path of a gradual transition to a multi-party democracy, a steady and sustainable economic growth, and an improved access to basic education and health services.
For quite a while now, Meles Zenawi has declared an all out war against the deeply rooted poverty and backwardness in the nation and delivered rather very commendable results that have essentially transplanted back the long lost hope and optimism in the hearts of many Ethiopians. While he has his own share of shortcomings as a leader of the ruling party, it is an indisputable fact that his leadership has demonstrated a stanch resolve to bring about a momentous economic change and the results so far have been very astounding at best and encouraging at the worst. Many analysts and senior diplomats have testified on many occasions that unlike most African leaders, Meles Zenawi is a man ahead of his time with an extremely high IQ, and a well informed individual with superb political dexterity and agile diplomatic proficiency. In fact, sometimes one simply canít help it but get captivated to observe the Prime Minister perform a task that seems humanly unattainable to many in taking random questions from foreign or domestic reporters and endowing them with meticulous answers during his routine media briefings. As the journalists unload their series of questions, one after the other, some of them up to three or four questions each, the manís brain simply absorbs them one by one without taking any notes and spits out well-thought and eloquently articulated answers for every question without leaving a single question unanswered. Now, many of us canít even remember sometimes a single word we heard five seconds ago and we usually require a repeat but the Prime Minister seems to possess a special memory chip in his brain that retains information way beyond an ordinary manís capability. If this isnít a special talent what is? Of course, the point here is not whether the Prime Minister is always right or whether people always should or should not agree with his political views. There are many people who disagree with many of his political views or how his administration handles specific issues but it is rather to emphasize that his answers are always so well articulated and clear-cut regardless of the language he happens to communicate with that by the time he finishes responding to any of the questions, people donít have to guess as to where he stands on the issues in question.
The Prime Ministerís political moves have always been calculated to precision as a skillful chess master who keeps checkmating his adversaries in every game he plays regardless of how complex a challenge his adversaries may come up with. Over the years, Meles has also demonstrated a superior understanding of global politics and earned himself a profound respect and admiration in the eyes of the international community. This in turn had a significant contribution in enhancing the stature of Ethiopia today and in glorifying its image into a nation of hope and optimism that has been otherwise tarnished by poverty, draught and famine during the previous successive regimes. As a result of all this, the Prime Minister has received various international awards for his dedication in laying a good foundation that will slowly move Ethiopia towards democracy and sustainable development. Some of the awards include: The 2005 Yara Prize for initiating a good foundation for economic progress in Ethiopia; Good Governance Award of the Global coalition for AfricaĒ for leading Ethiopia in a democratic path during the challenging period of transition; Tabor 100ís prestigious Crystal Eagle International Leadership Award for his big contribution toward economic and social transformation in Africa; The World Peace Prize for his contributions for global peace and his effort to stabilize the Horn of Africa through cooperation with IGAD and other similar prestigious awards.
Of course, no one can claim that Mr. Zenawi is a perfect man or a saint sent by God who is error-proof and all the policies of his government or their implementations are always flawless. In fact, as the writer has been voicing them in previous writings, there are a number of political issues of his administration many Ethiopians disagree with. There are even those who protest about some of the aspects of the PMís personality. These are people who are irritated by the arrogant or rather harsh personal tone commonly displayed by the Prime Minister in some of his public appearances. The feeling is that sometimes leaders have to be able to show their tender human side and try to understand people beyond the politics they are involved in. There are also some people who are of the opinion that the Prime Minister has a tendency of being inflexible and stubborn in dealing with the people around him. While it is quite expected or perhaps inevitable for someone who has been in power that long to be overconfident or even arrogant, in all fairness, this allegation has to be seen in the context of a person who was cultivated in an Ethiopian culture where exhibiting any degree of softness by a leader often times might be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness. That said however, the cruel treatment of his ex-comrades who fought side by side during the tough time but split due to some political disagreements shortly after foiling the invasion of Shaibya ought not be overlooked. Many are of the opinion that regardless of the bitter political differences between the two groups, it was certainly unnecessary and unwarranted to go as far he went to humiliate some of his long time colleagues whose contribution to the struggle was immense.
And then of course, there are the issues including the notorious abortion of the stunning triumph of the gallant Ethiopian army over the invading force of Shaibya and the subsequent signing of the rather worthless accord known as the Algiers agreement that practically resuscitated the regime of Shaibya back to existence. The longstanding defensive position or containment policy of the Prime Ministerís administration towards the continuous belligerence of Shaibya and its sheer determination to destabilize Ethiopia has been another contentious issue for many Ethiopians. Characteristically, most politicians and certainly those who went through long and difficult armed struggles for their political principles like people to believe that sticking to their principles that brought them to power is very imperative for them. Thus, quite often, we hear them say that no matter how unpopular their decisions may be, they rather choose to adhere to their principles and make all their decisions based on those principles. There shouldnít be any quandary about such an attitude. After all, in theory, guiding principles should be the driving force of any leaderís political move. The Prime Minister however has to realize that there is a clear distinction between running unpopular policy that adheres to his principles and trying to run a policy that is quite discordant and totally unacceptable just for the sake of adhering to his principles. His spongy stance towards the terrorist regime of Shaibya and its followers who suffer from delusional fantasy of superiority is not only unpopular but rather a completely and utterly unacceptable policy to the vast majority of Ethiopians. The bottom line here is, when it comes to dealing with the thugs in Asmara, instead of trying to pursue a policy that was simply devised by few politicians behind closed doors, the Prime Minister and his administration ought to go back and listen to the ordinary citizens with a purpose of learning and feeling first hand the hearts and minds of the grass roots about this rather thorny and explosive issue.
This said however, all leaders are human beings and as their fellow imperfect human beings, they are inevitably prone to making certain mistakes during their political life. It is also very important that they be judged in the context of their overall leadership skills and the political, economic and social achievements of the nation during their stay in office. In poverty stricken countries like ours where the concept of democratic governance has never been documented in the history of its existence, for any leader to try to lay a foundation for good governance and noticeable economic development poses a particular challenge of an immense proportion. Nevertheless, today in Ethiopia, although there are still massive economic and social problems that entail to be undertaken, things are changing dramatically and very fast. Against all odds, the country under the leadership of Meles Zenawi has been registering unprecedented near double digit economic growth. It is true that Ethiopia still remains one of the poorest countries in the world and it has a long way to go before one can entertain a concept of a prosperous nation. What can be said with a substantial level of confidence is that the current government under the leadership of Meles Zenawi has laid a good foundation that will gradually stir the nation towards democracy and sustainable development.
It can never be an overstatement however to note that a bigger job that requires even a stronger and more accountable leadership with a profound commitment to take the country through the upcoming long marathon struggle to eliminate poverty is waiting ahead. And who is better qualified and intellectually suited for the responsibility of leading the nation to the next step than Meles Zenawi who has proven conclusively to be a vibrant and visionary politician with an exceptionally colorful leadership resume. Although to no avail, his political opponents have been relentless in their efforts to paint him as a dictator and most importantly, to undermine the countries achievement records under his leadership in an effort to push him out of office and see him gone fast. However, for the vast majority of Ethiopians who has just started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, his announcement not to run for the next term is disappointing and distressing. The bottom line is as it stands now, the most competent and dynamic leader who is capable of leading the country into the final dash of a fully fledged democracy and economic prosperity is Meles Zenawi and thus he ought to stay and compete for the next five more years in office.
If Ethiopia is to propel itself further along the current promising path into a better future of economic prosperity and social well being, Meles Zenawi ought to be encouraged to finish what he started and deny those extremist power-hungry elements who are hell bent to return the country back to the era of gloom their relentless quest to hijack the process in motion. Meles has to have the courage to ignore those self indulging and hate mongering elements who are determined to push him around so they can reinstate themselves to power and continue marching forward with a renewed vigor in his efforts to lead the nation for another five year term. One canít help it but get amused or even frightened to try to measure up the political incompetence and the total intellectual inadequacy of those who are claimed to be potential leaders by the some of their extremist followers with the broad qualifications, sharp brainpower and superb political agility of Meles Zenawi. The contrast in the leadership qualifications can only be described as a Professor versus a lazy student, a Professional versus an Armature or a Sprinter versus a crawler.