Ato Meles Zenawi, Chairman of Tigrai PeopleLiberation Front (TPLF) and Prime Minster of the Federal Democratic Republic ofEthiopia is not in good health. I became aware of that fact after watching thevideo of a news clip made during his meeting with the President of China at theG8 meeting in Mexico. The last time we saw Ato Meles was during PresidentObama’s food conference and he was in perfect health. In fact he looked jovialwith a new haircut and was dressed in his customary five to ten thousanddollars Italian or English suit. That was until Ato Abebe Gelaw of EthiopianSatellite Television (ESAT) gave him the scare of his life and he was forced toflee the continent. Things have not been the same ever since.
When he surfaced in Mexico it was obvious hehad some medical issues in the interim period. His expensive clothes did notfit him right, his face was ashen and hollow and it was clear he has lostplenty of weight. I was forced to conclude we got a problem. Normally the fateof one individual should not be such a source of drama or wild speculations.But Ato Meles is not just another Ethiopian. He is the Country, Nation andpeople all rolled in one. The state of his health and well-being is not justidle speculation. His friends, Party or those close to him are not forthcomingwith the cause of his illness. We are left to speculate, guess or are beingforced to search for a fortuneteller and reduced to read the remains of hiscoffee cup or consult a palm reader.
We do that because whatever happens to himaffects all of us in one-way or another. In the Western countries the health ofthe leader is an official record. If the leader dies or is incapacitated thereare rules and systems set in place to assure smooth transition. Most Africancountries including ours lack that. In our case there has not been a naturaland predictable manner of passing the mantle of leadership. In fact the lastfour instances have been a source of agony for the unfortunate leader in powerand our poor Nation. That is why Ato Meles’s health is an issue we should allfret and worry about. We definitely do not want a surprise.
I am sure his family is worried. His friendsare concerned. His Party is alarmed. The Ethiopian people are watching thisdrama with keen interest. No one wishes him ill but I doubt any body inEthiopia is praying for his recovery either. It is fair to say the whole Nationis trying to figure out what his untimely demise will bring to our poor old country.What ever ails him is not a simple disease. That is why he is being cared forin Europe with top-notch specialists in an expensive private hospital. Noamount of money will be spared to keep the green reaper at arms length.
Sooner or later we all die. We just do all wecan to make it later than sooner. Our state of health and longevity is affectedby all kinds of factors including a few we have no control on. Genetics, styleof life and pure luck plays a big role. We try to eat right, exercise and avoidstress to increase our odds of a long happy life. There are a few things weknow about the ‘Leaders’ life style to be able to make an educated guess onwhat is ailing him.
We know that he smokes, that is cigarettes. Weare told that he enjoys chewing Kat with his buddies. His politburo friends areknown to enjoy expensive liquor thus we can safely assume that he probablyjoins them in this past time. All three habits are considered forms ofsubstance abuse and have ramifications on vital organs such as lung, heart andliver. It is fair to say that the last few years, palace living has resulted inweight gain resulting in added girth.
Most leaders keep a busy schedule and have notime for exercise. We know that Ato Meles is studying for his PhD in additionto his duties as the Prime Minster and that leaves him with no time for thegym. We have heard antidotes about his tennis matches but judging from the wayhe came down the airplane steps during his trip to Philadelphia to one of hismeetings one can tell he is not in good shape. He was laboring to walk downwhile his agile wife descended swiftly even in her high heels.
There is no proof that Ato Meles is sufferingfrom a terminal illness. On the other hand there is no information to say thathe just caught the common cold either. As I said due to the nature of thetotalitarian system that values secrecy we are left to speculate. We worry andstress because history teaches us that the demise of a dictator, which AtoMeles is, brings all sorts of unforeseen complications on the Nation they leavebehind.
Whether they commit suicide like Hitler, arehanged like Mussolini, die in their sleep like Stalin, face a firing squad likeCeausescu and wife, hunted down, sodomized, pistol whipped and shot likeGadaffi or face the International court of justice like Charles Taylordictators all leave a trail of destruction behind them. That is why Ato Meles’sillness becomes our concern and worry. We think about it to try to figure outhow to avoid chaos due to a power vacuum.
This sort of power vacuum attracts all kinds ofgood and bad characters that would want to capitalize on the empty spacecreated and might be tempted to fill it with something other than people’spower. We do not want that. So what are the forces arrayed to replace the oneman, one party rule currently dis-functioning in the land of the Abeshas?
The TPLF party is the premier center of power.Ato Meles and his associates control the Military, security service, the massmedia and the economy. What is there left is a good and valid question.Technically Ato Meles is the de-facto head of all these powerful organizations.He is a hand on manager. The different entities are foreign to each other butall report to him. That is how one-man dictatorship works. Some countries likeChina practice group dictatorship. The Central committee of the rulingCommunist Party functions as a group. While others like North Korea or Ethiopiarely on the benevolence of a single individual. The question arise is the TPLF Partycapable of functioning as a single entity without the head? Or would thedifferent departments that were designed to look at each other with suspicioncoalesce to form a united front? It is highly doubtful.
There are various centers of power within theorganization. Queen Azeb the wife is in charge of the economic section. Due toher high visibility and negative press any one group is willing to sacrificeher to save their skin. The internal security is a force to recon with. Wouldthe Generals trust this hi tech mercenaries is a question to consider. Theoriginal TPLF functionaries like Sebhat or Abbay are rendered toothless butstill operate behind the scene. Why any self respecting Woyane will ally withthese old fashioned kitchen conspirators is something to think about. The newupstarts like Tewodros Adhanom or launderer Berhane Gebrekristos have theirfeet on both camps always ready to abandon ship if the situation heats up. Noone trusts the duo. The likes of Seyoum will not come back for all the tea inChina.
The military is the most logical center ofpower that is capable of using force to usurp power. In the current situationof Ethiopia that scenario is a little complicated. Due to the nature of the useof ethnic affiliation used by Ato Meles the military is not a cohesive force.All the top leaders and commanders are from one ethnic group while the rank andfile is a reflection of the country. It is fair to say both OLF and G7 arepresent and functioning creating further uncertainty. Uncertainty is not goodfor conspiracy. The role played by the top Generals in the economy has isolatedthem from the average solder. Is it a professional army or peasants in uniformis a valid question. Does one fight to attain power or save his investmentcreates split personality.
I don’t mean to forget those organized asEPRDF. There are plenty but the Amhara and Oromo stand out at least on paper asthe most likely group that will refuse to die quietly. Their puppet leaders arefaced with a real dilemma. Divorced from their people they have no base toappeal to. Rendered powerless by design they have no army or security to fallback on. The TPLF mafia that is running them now does not harbor any respecttowards their outfit or intends to include them in the deliberations. They areleft between a rock and a hard place. For all practical purposes it is easierto ignore and discard them.
Where does the opposition fit in this pictureis a good question. The major opposition, the nightmare of the ruling group isof course Ginbot7. G7 is the enemy they know is around but are unable to touchand feel. It is the cause of their blind fury. I will take their word for it G7is everywhere. Of course G7 could be the figment of their imagination, theresult of their paranoia then again why would they allocate so much resource tohunt down a ghost? In my humble opinion G7 is EPRP and Kinijit ontestosterone! We all know what thosetwo groups are capable of.
There is also the on and off legal opposition.That is a tricky animal to deal with. At the moment Andenet is the only onewith any amount of dignity and respect. The Ledetus and the Chammisos arerendered useless and will most probably hide out the chaotic period and prayfor dear life since all opposition groups will be hunting them down for thestray dogs they have become. That leaves us with the Beyenes the Meraras andthe Hailus, the darlings of the civilized West. Those are the people ourbenefactors will try to parade out and use. They will become pictures of civilsociety. Believe me they will play their choreographed part to the hilt. Theycooperated and served Ato Meles, no reason to think they will be allergic tothe West for a promise of visibility and fist full of dollars.
The West led by the US is the wild card in thisscenario. They very much like stability and the status quo under theirguidance. Their interest at the moment is having a strong foothold in the Hornof Africa to prepare for the coming war for resources. Governments like theTPLF mafia are their preferred arrangement. A weak and divided country is theirchoice. I do not think they go out of their way to create those conditions buton the other hand they do not discourage such reality. Our neighborhood is afertile ground for contention by the big powers. Except for Kenya and Tanzaniawe are surrounded by weak, divided and civil war prone countries that existfrom day to day with no guarantee of tomorrow. The US, the Europeans or theChinese are not about to discover their moral compass and save us from ourselves. Expecting them to do so is the height of foolishness or a result ofextreme poverty of self-esteem.
As I write this Ato Meles is in Europe beinghealed and the factions he left behind are shell shocked and in a daze. A fewwill have some reliable information but the vast majority will be operating inthe dark trying to figure out this brand new reality in the midst of disinformation, mis information and foggy information. Plenty will be sendingtheir family to far away places and moving vast amount of money out of thecountry. Some will lock their doors and hunker down until the storm settleswhile a few will search for new alignments and future partners. The kilils willtake the opportunity to assert their newfound power and create furthercomplications to the beleaguered party. It is possible organized criminalelements will take advantage of the uncertainty and intensify such activitiesas bank robbery and hijackings. The Amharic saying ‘ye wedke zaf mesaryebezabetal.’ Is being played live in our country. It is highly possible thedifferent factions will begin to duke it out prematurely. It is conceivablethey will end up doing the dirty part of the job for the rest of us. As I seeit not matter what this down ward spiral will continue for the forciblefuture.
There is a silver lining in all this scenarioof doom. It is the strength and unity of the Ethiopian people that have shownresiliency for thousands of years. Every attempt that has come our way todivide us, set us up against each other has always failed. We have survived andno one can deny that. The current bosses have left no stone unturned to weakenus, break our will and marginalize our country.
Their crime is too much to numerate but I willmention the few ugly ones. Kilil was their first salvo. It was meant to make usstrangers to one another. No matter how many ways they tried it failedmiserably. Today we have come full circle and no one talks ethnic politicsexcept hired cadres. They spoke ill of our common language, drew ugly symbol onour flag and sold our land to foreigners. Our language is still intact, no onecarries their flag and land sale has become a hot issue that makes our bloodboil. Our old religion was not safe but thanks to our gallant Abunes both athome and in exile it has managed not only to survive but as a matter of factemerge stronger. Their attempt to create division with our Moslem brothers isuniting us on a higher level and showing all the commonality of our strugglefor freedom of religion and love of country.
As you can see from the current turmoil theirevil scheme is showing signs of what is called the boomerang effect. It isbackfiring on the evildoers. The current drama played in North America and theemergence of the new ESFNA is living proof that all is well and Ethiopia isrising once again.