By Amanuel Biedemariam
One of the biggest mistake Ethiopians could make in the fight against one of the most brutish of leaders the world has ever seen is to believe that Meles is their problem and theirs only. Meles Zenawi is a problem for all peace loving people in the Horn of Africa, East Africa, parts of the Middle East and the African continent. Meles remains a major obstacle for peace, cooperation, development, partnerships, stability, culture and a host of other issues that enable regional-neighborhoods to bolster their standards of living. Meles also stands on the way of regional security; key to any development stability and cross border connection amongst nations that help-develop regional-stability and growth.
Clearly, Meles Zenawi remains the primarily problem of Ethiopia; and naturally, Ethiopians have to take leadership. However, it is imperative to put the case of Meles Zenawi in a broader African context for the fight to be effective.
Ethiopia has remained ground zero as it relates to African issues whether one likes it or not, rightly or wrongly for decades. This started during the reign of Emperor Haile Sellassie, which took a lead-role in formulating the Organization of African Union, OAU. It continued during Mengistu Hailemariam’s regime even when Ethiopia was undergoing major challenges as a nation. However, at that time, the role of the OAU was limited and it was ineffective because of the cold war. It did not play a destructive role as it has over the last decade under Meles Zenawi. Meles used the AU, a successor to OAU, in the same manner that he used Inter Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) affecting the lives of the entire Horn of Africa region terribly. Millions are suffering and dying on his account.
Before going to the heart of the reasons why Meles Zenawi is the number one enemy of the people of Africa, let us look at some of his basic inhuman characteristics and leadership measuring sticks:
Humanitarian: Meles Zenawi epitomizes cruelty. The Human Rights Watch, an organization that promotes US agendas globally showed detailed graphic pictures of torched villages by Meles’s soldiers in the Ogaden and accused his regime of crimes on humanity. Meles torched villages and killed thousands in Gambela. Meles Zenawi brutally uprooted the lives of 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians with Eritrean heritage. He threw the sick, kids and the elderly in the middle of the Afar desert while bragging, “We can expel any one even if we don’t like the color of their eyes.” The list of his inhumane behavior is endless.
Morality: There is no moral fabric that governs Meles Zenawi and his gang. On March of 2010, The BBC reported Millions of dollars in Western aid for victims of the Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 was siphoned off by Meles led rebel group to buy weapons. Moreover, in his watch, Ethiopian kids are, sold openly.
Principle: What US foreign policy makers need to look at when they evaluate Meles Zenawi led Ethiopia-policy is to weigh-in what principles govern the regime. The fact is however remains, there is none. This is a small minority regime that has no core ideology, religious-beliefs or political philosophy that connects it to the people of Ethiopia. His driving force is greed, power and the opportunity of the day. He is a master at mastering the lingo of the day for his gains. For example, if the war on terror is the ongoing mantra, he will master the verbiage and echo it well… As a result, Meles is the least principled pitchman the West loves to call-on when they need to sell their programs with an African face. During the campaign for Millennium Development Goals, MDG, he stood alongside Bob Geldoff and Bono; and conversely when they wanted to use him during the global conference on climate change, he sold Africa exactly as he is selling Ethiopian land, down the tube.
Credibility: Meles Zenawi has no credibility as a human being. He lies to Ethiopians, the region and the world unashamedly. He lied to Ethiopians when he told them he won 99.6% of their vote after they repeatedly rejected him. He lied to the region when he proclaimed he won the Badme decision at The Hague and lied to the world with fake growth figures while according to UN Ethiopia is the second poorest nation in the world.
To prove how belligerent of a liar Meles and his Ethiopian News Agency, ENA, are one has to look at the 19 of August news release. The headline read, “Five Million Children to join Primary School in Afar.” And it further noted “The bureau said preparation is well underway to enable the stated number of children join elementary school”. This is an outright lie because based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the Afar Region has a total population of 1,411,092, consisting of 786,338 men and 624,754 women; urban inhabitants number 188,723.
Loyalty: Meles Zenawi is loyal to no one. After he came to power in 1991, he gathered the people of Tigray in an open field and told the mothers, fathers and the families of the martyred, “If they are not here and you have not seen them by now, it means they are dead.” He also betrayed thousands of Ethiopian soldiers that died during the wars with Eritrea in the same manner. That is how Meles officially honored those, who fought for the people of Tigray as well as Ethiopia.
Judiciousness: There is no justice with Meles Zenawi. It is a matter of record that he uses Ethiopia the home of African Union, for Bush’s prisoner rendition program. Moreover, Meles Zenawi uses justice for his own political gains not to serve the country or justice.
Ethiopia a Nation in the Center
One of the most colorful moments in the history of Africa was a period in which the OAU was new, Ethiopia considered a symbol of African unity and Emperor Haile Sellassie stood as a figure that symbolized Africa. The OAU was not an effective organization. In fact, it was a failed organization by all measures. However, it served Ethiopia well first, because it was a diplomatic capital of Africa and secondly Africans developed a unique connection. All that is gone now, because Meles Zenawi and a handful group of African leaders have hijacked the organization and turned it into a tool of their own and Western interests. They manipulated the AU to pursue their agendas to the point of killing any good will from African nations. Instead of serving African interests, the AU became a tool of the US State Department. He turned the AU into a troop disbursement center for US missions in the Darfur, Somalia, South Sudan and many areas in the region in the name of peacekeeping, fighting terrorism and other operations. He turned Ethiopia into a center for Bush’s prisoner rendition program. In other words Ethiopia became a chaos dispersion center first affecting Ethiopians and after that the surrounding nations be it Somalia, Sudan or Eritrea.
Therefore, Meles Zenawi has denied the people of Africa a symbol of unity. As a result, nations are scurrying to find alternative organization that represents their interests. That is why 28 African nations have joined the Community of Sahel-Saharan States CEN-SAD en mass. CEN-SAD works with a stated objective to “The establishment of a global Economic Union based on the implementation of a community development plan that complements the local development plans of member States and which comprises the various fields of a sustainable socio-economic development: agriculture, industry, energy, social, culture, health…” With the aim: A) to free movement of persons, capitals and interests of nationals of member States B) Right of establishment, ownership and exercise of economic activity C) Free trade and movement of goods, commodities and services from member States. Now the majority of countries in the African continent belong to CEN-SAD.
Ill Willed Meles Zenawi
Meles Zenawi is the most inhumane being alive. Imagine how Meles managed to destroy any semblance of a regular life in Somalia. Imagine a kid born 2006-2010 and ask what hospital can the mother use after this criminal bombarded it? Imagine this kid growing up in Somalia not having a chance for any schooling or a regular life. Imagine how a family could celebrate a wedding ceremony amidst the havoc Meles raised, deliberately. Imagine people trying to observe Ramadan in peace fasting, celebrating Eid and going about their regular life. It is all impossible because of the murderous interventions by Meles. Imagine what happened to culture, music and sport developments in Somalia. This has been a matter of serious urgency to all peace loving and concerned individuals, religious leaders, regional and international organizations for some time.
Meles is Anti Development
In this global village, it is impossible for any nation to develop and prosper without peace and trust particularly with one’s neighbors. Yet, Meles has made it his primary job to seed instability. All one has to do is just observe the recent campaign that Meles waged regarding the Nile. Meles deliberately made Egypt the whipping boy of his campaign while Sudan has taken the same position as Egypt regarding The Nile. Moreover, mercenary Meles sends “peacekeeping” forces and helicopters (US provided) to Darfur. It is also clear to the government in Sudan that Meles will do what the US wants in South Sudan. That means Sudan will not trust Ethiopia to open up the borders at the level that two neighboring countries do like US and Canada. In addition, Djibouti and Ethiopia are not necessarily trade darlings. Meles has adopted the idea of unstable, weak or weakly governed Somalia is better for his reign and made it impossible for the Somalis to develop their nation in peace. He is also sitting on Eritrean land in defiance of international laws denying Ethiopia a traditional trading partner. These countries border Ethiopia and instead of placing the focus on trade and development through partnerships, Meles opted to represent the interest of the West and denied Ethiopians opportunities to trade via the various outlets into the international market and to countries in the region as well as Egypt. This means, Meles is hindering development in a large portion of Africa.
Meles Hindering Culture, Sports, Music and Social Exchanges
The implication of a sustained lack of peace amongst neighboring countries has far-reaching long-term implications that can set back societal developments, cross cultural exchanges and the development of arts, music and humanities in general. Meles Zenawi’s regime literally stands on the way of all that. As a kid, I grew up in the Horn of Africa exposed to various cultures and nations musically, linguistically and culturally. All we needed was a shortwave radio to tune from one station to another to listen to radio programs from various countries in the area. We grew up listening to Somali, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Monte Carlo and other stations from the Middle East. Of course, I never understood the lyrics but I loved the melodies and vocals that persistently whisper in my ears to this day.
The premeditated zero sum game Meles and his gang play with African cultural exchanges amongst peace loving people in the region is crimes against humanity. Ethiopia is a birthplace and a home of the African Union, and as such, should have been a center from which the essence of African cultural diversity should flow. The Ethiopian people are hospitable and the country is well suited to accommodate it. Instead, Meles Zenawi is ignorant and determined to scuttle opportunities for African people by ignoring his responsibilities.
Historically leaders that place their people first have not blessed Africa. Conversely, Africans in the Diaspora have done little to help their people. In fact, Africans have played bystanders to their issues while at the same time allowing Westerners to take lead on African related matters. This, unfortunately, went on for decades unimpeded without any hope for change due to many factors. The biggest problem for Africans is that they fail to see the problem of Africa in its totality. African countries are mired in a routine predictable cycles of instability and that keeps Africans engaged in their own realities. One can look at the events that unfolded after the violent Kenyan election of 2007. We also remember how the May of 2005 Ethiopian election changed the political dynamics of the nation for good. These events have taken place all over Africa over the years.
Naturally, these events always keep Africans focused on their own issues only. While that is a natural and a legitimate reaction, it need not and should not be that way always. African issues are interrelated and intertwined and require a holistic approach sometimes. In other words, if the US looks, as it does Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and the neighborhood with a single lens, it could be fruitless to campaign in the US independently. In addition, these countries are interdependent economically. For example, during the violence in Kenya; Uganda’s economy was severely hurt because most goods to Uganda come through Mombassa Kenya. Because of this co-dependence throughout the region, it is futile to isolate one problem and believe that it will not affect others as the border issue between Eritrea and Ethiopia shows.
In totality therefore, Meles Zenawi is the match, the wood, the fuel and the man responsible to keep the fire going after he ignited it. He has become a quarterback of instability in Ethiopia and outward to the neighborhood and the rest of Africa by proxy. Hence, it is imperative to place the focus where it needs to be, on the million-pound guerilla Meles Zenawi, for peace to rein in the region. This is where the choice for Africans and people from the region becomes apparent. If you believe that Meles Zenawi is and has been a good steward of the African Union and African interests then you have no qualms. However if you believe he is Hitler’s grandson; then it is time to explore for opportunities to stop this genocidal despot.
Meles Zenawi is not as smart as he likes to appear because his greed and insatiable appetite for power has lead him into making stupid strategic moves that make his regime vulnerable. Ever since, he came to power in 1991, he became a darling-hegemonic partner of the US. During this period, the US used the minority regime to pursue its agenda and started ill-advised war against the people of Eritrea. At the time, convinced that his minority regime will come out victorious, Meles bet on the US to carry him all the way to Asmara. In addition, confident on his alliance with the US he failed to create partnership with the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia and in reverse went on the offensive in Gambella, Oromo, and Ogaden and everywhere in Ethiopia. This means, in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea and in the region Meles has no partner.
The US has insulated Meles by becoming the firewall and protected him from all threats until now. However, Meles has admitted that his relations with the US “has been” strained. Moreover, the US can pull the rug from under his feet by making a single statement. This means, if the US disowns Meles, as it should since Meles cannot safeguard US interest in the region, it will be feeding frenzy for all Ethiopian opposition groups because of the boost provides them. At that point, there is nothing China or anyone else can do.
For that to happen, all concerned individuals and groups need to come together and apply pressure on US leaders and lawmakers and other Westerns nations. Because it is high time for them to stand by the side of the people of Africa in an effort to help Africans achieve peace, stability and growth. This is also a moment of great opportunity for the people of the region to come together and stand for each other as a unit. A moment to start a new beginning of caring and a moment to stop distancing from issues by saying this is a Somali or that is Ogaden issue and embrace it as their own. It is a decisive moment, therefore unconscionable to allow Meles Zenawi and his cronies to sleep for one night in comfort at the expense of the region. It is time to put these criminals in check. It is our obligation to our people. It is about time!
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])