By Genet Mersha, 28 December 2010 |
I am writing this piece to join Ato Ephrem Madebo for finding time and strength to write his observation and personal reactions (www.abugidainfo.com, 28 Dec) to DPM & FM Haile Mariam Desalegn’s interview on India’s ITMN television on 24 Dec. I am equally disappointed by those individual that responded to him with vulgarity, something that has become common these days on prodemocracy Ethiopian web pages.
The sad part of it is that we live at a time, when the ruling party is hiring unemployable, minions as a means to fight pro-democracy activities both at home and abroad—by actually paying them to attack and vilify others with convictions and points of view. It is granted that it is civil to disagree with a point of view, but the lowest of the lows one could stoop is to be a hired hand to stop the flow of ideas they disagree with. If one disagrees with a point of view, she or he should trash the idea as vehemently as possible. What is required of them is to present alternative ideas, without besmirching the writer. I recognize that this is an impractical suggestion, since the few dollars the TPLF pays such individual have more appeal than reason and decency. I do not know Ato Ephrem in person, but I do not think he, others or I would stop writing because of the immature actions of a few paid agents.
Anyways, let it be known that I too share similar sentiments with Ato Ephrem Madebo regarding the poor performance of DPM & FM for two reasons. Firstly, the DPM & FM has done poorly in expressing himself, let alone promoting Ethiopia. I could not see in him a person with conviction or informed ideas. Instead, I saw a robot, regurgitating what he had heard, some of it from his boss. I felt cold in a warm room throughout his interview, courtesy of www.aigaforum.com. Secondly, ITMN is a very successful television programme producer for middle class India, a reasonably wealthy and sophisticated throng of some three hundred million. Bahi Vickram’s programme focuses on current affairs and current issues worldwide, inviting personages with substance and flair. Even their TV programme is so influential that they have dubbed on its masthead the words “THE TELEVISION FOR BRILLIANT MINDS.”
I am sorry to say that our DPM & FM just made a fool of himself, embarrassing our country and each one of us. One sees him struggling with habitual tendency to lecture others, as if his ill-digested ideas collected through hearsays and the contradictions thereon about growth and development are not a disgrace. I could see the disgust in the face and tone of the interviewer, especially when he asked him what value added he would bring in terms of ideas as deputy prime minister and foreign minister. By way of a response, our DPM & FM began to pull his long cadre yarn of ‘blahbla’, totally unrelated to the question asked or the conversation he was invited to.
At that point, I was infuriated, and feeling ashamed how much Bahi Vickram and the Indian middle class compatriots should hold us in contempt, as a nation. A couple of time, the interviewer was correcting Ato Haile Mariam Desalegn’s mistaken views or points. Therefore, the only time I saw a comfortable person was towards the end, when he was talking about his “huge influence” in Ethiopia. Even there, he could not make a good case of what his ideas are, how his “huge influence” could help him to realise it, and how they could be implemented—using as example the narrower sphere of diplomacy on the country’s pressing issues as a foreign minister and in the broader sectors of the nation’s complex development activities as DPM.
Moreover, a couple of times Vickarm interchangeably used the words “land sale” and “land renting”, either to test the water or being poorly informed. Unless both are being practiced in today’s Ethiopia in a form I have never known, the DPM & FM did not move to correct it. He appeared as if he had come to the studio to put out the fire, merely playing a defensive role. Unfortunately, he left the studio as a relived person (from his trademark grin); but I would not be surprised if asked for a stiff drink on his return to his hotel room, without realising that he has left behind the image of a lost nation. What is worrisome is the example he sets to our young diplomats, in a ministry that is bereft of skill and tested hands. On top of that, the cynicism this breeds on the importance of career development is frightening, given that our top diplomat has made it to the apex of the power ladder, just within a short ten years.
My first familiarisation with the DPM &FM took place in mid-November through his interview on the Egyptian paper Biyokulue.com. That same interview was recast by BBC’s Monitoring Service three days later. There are some contradictory answers that have surprised me. All through his interview Ato Haile Mariam appeared a less informed official, who is recapitulating what he has heard. At one point in the middle of their conversation, journalist Kamal Idris asked him elementary question such as “What is the quantity of water your country contributes to the Nile River?” This was followed by the query what Ethiopia’s motives were in demanding its share of the Nile waters after a long silence. The answer is because “we can produce 5,000 megawatts of electricity from this river in Ethiopia alone.”
Then there was the question of relations with Arab countries entertaining hostile attitude towards Ethiopia because they think Ethiopia is trying to hurt Egypt deliberately through water use. The response of our foreign minister was: “If we build a new dam in Ethiopia, it does not mean we would take the share of others in the river. Electricity production will not affect Egypt’s share in the water. In fact, we can both share in the development. Furthermore, we do not have vast stretches of agricultural land along the Nile River. We have little land. It is also possible that through agreement we can irrigate our land with quantises of the water that evaporates in Egypt.” How one gets from here to there is simply reduced to the question of ethics—fairness in water use!
Moreover, the emphasis for Ethiopia’s development is focussed like laser on electricity. The question of food production comes only as an afterthought, when the water distribution becomes an issue. This may not be Ato Haile Mariam’s fault, but of the very policy the country is made to pursue, although in his capacity as politburo of the TPLF-led EPRDF he is one of the 36 who gave it his blessing. There appears clash between on one hand in trying to advance a robust position to defend Ethiopia’s access to and full utilisation of the waters of the Nile River and on the other to meet the food needs of the country’s rapidly growing population. There I saw our DPM & FM wallowing in confusion. His fault is that he cannot see the shortcomings of his performance now. His yes-men would cheer him up and the danger is he cannot improve himself.
It is natural for every people to expect to see an accomplished and informed diplomat representing their nation on the world stage. Unfortunately, most people are not aware that diplomacy requires quick thinking, ability to relate to history, a sense of international law, economics and familiarity with precedents in international life. Ato Haile Mariam could be a good cadre, a loyal ally, and a good person for that matter. But he is not material for diplomacy. I would not worry much about the language side of his deficiency; in fact, it is quite all right. He can get bye. The tragedy is that he lacks the facility for quick thinking, the preparation and the information (knowledge base). As an ambitious person who bids his time, he lacks the fire inside him to build himself as a leader. This is not because he is an engineer, but because loyalists are not cut for the job.
This observation would not be complete without mentioning the fact that usually heads of state and government prefer a poorly-equipped lieutenant to deputise them. It is an established fact a person without confidence in his ability and his vision is incapable of outshining them. This has often been the same situation again and again, for the past two decades. I am inclined to believe that the choice is deliberate. That also explains DPM & FM Haile Mariam Desalegn’s meteoric rise to power. It is a telling story that Ethiopia is still on the edge of the precipice, whose cascading decline in terms of manpower development keeps on hounding it at every turn. Do they say, people get the leaders they deserve? This is said of nation that does not respect itself, because it does not respect, cherish and protect their achievements by anchoring its system of rewards on education and performance.