Holding supposedly highest political office and being virtually inconsequential is obviously frustrating, more so for people who expected change –so to speak. It is in that light that I gave a room for speculative interpretation to unelaborated recent status update from a facebook friend: “Obama is an American fraud.” Apparently, Obama seem to have mastery of how to handle the reality of being powerless,or at least not as powerful as he is supposed to be by virtue of the power of the office, while in “power.” His communication skills which earned him a reputation as an eloquent speaker could be part of the trick.
In the context of Ethiopian politics, current Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegne is not only powerless but also he seem to be totally clueless in how to handle the embarrassment of being inconsequential. Unruly impulsiveness, confusion, mimicry (of the former prime minister) and worst of all shallow understanding of issues characterize his public appearances.
It is reached to a point, apparently, that it becomes news when he is not impulsive and able to speak as a politician. It happened in what is said to be “public-private consultative meeting” in Addis Ababa, as reported by Addis Fortune, which was attended by Hailemariam Desalegne and his cabinet members. In that note, Addis Fortune wrote, in its July 6, 2014 online edition, the following under the tile “Face the Business”:
- …In an unusually well attended meeting, with the entire cabinet of his administration in attendance, Hailemariam was seen being assertive and articulate [emphasis mine] in responding to all issues raised by chamber leaders and individual businessmen and women on Wednesday,July 2, 2014.
It’s public knowledge that normally Hailemariam is not assertive and articulate. To me,his problem is more than that. He is clueless on many issues of Ethiopian politics.
A few days ago, he had an interview with Emmanuel Igunza, BBC correspondent in Addis Ababa. A five minutes video clip of this interview, which is posted on BBC website, tells it all. Actually one of the question and his answer is worth quoting :
- Emannuel: You said that there is a distinction between opposition and what you call terrorist elements. That law [Anti-terrorism law]has been criticized by the International Community for having a broad mandate …that is why the security forces have been accused of arbitrarily detaining example opposition figures.
- Hailemariam: that is not true. What we did …We know this accusation would come.So we said let us copy from the British law. If you compare the British terrorist law and that of ours, it is almost similar
I very much doubt if Hailemariam even bothered to read British anti-terrorist law. He rather appeared to be as if he is memorizing a scripted text – much like a telemarketer-not like actively thinking prime minister. And from who else? Meles Zenawi uttered this same statement in the “parliament” in a response to critic against the anti-terrorist law.
In what seem to be a defensive comment,in the same interview with the BBC correspondent, to a question related to repression in Ethiopia, Hailemariam did try to give an impression that the “democratic modern process” is only twenty years young which is overused excuse even by the late Meles Zenawi. Even in the aftermath of the massacre which claimed the lives of well over 200 people in Addis Ababa in a matter of hours in 2005, one of the excuses was “Democracy is a process.” And clueless Hailemariam is reading that from the dead Meles.
Total repression is not a hallmark of starting point for democracy which Hailemariam is clueless about. More importantly, aspiring ethnic-supremacy which manifested itself in the form of creating wealth wealth both as a means and as an end, while controlling all key government structure, ranging from foreign affairs to defense and intelligence and what not, and while at the same time creating an illusion of giving the giving public service an appearance of mulch-ethnic public face to the extent of putting a ceremonial like Prime Minister and ceremonial president at the same time, to sustain real power behind stage and make inter-generational ethnic supremacy agenda absolute reality is in no way young democracy. it does not look like something that can grow into democracy. Hailemariam is also clueless about that too. As a matter of fact, right after the death of Meles Zenawi, the position of Prime minister was unconstitutionally chopped into three pieces in an apparent effort to put down discontent in the ruling coalition. However, TPLF took the slice that matters more.
Hailemariam was asked about skyrocketing price of Teff in the parliament about a year or so ago.Teff has always been a stable cereal crop in Ethiopia. But his reply was, “it is because people who have never tasted Teff, [and this is a reference to Ethiopia, not Teff consumption overseas] started to consume Teff.” Again, his response is literally what the late Meles Zenawi responded to parliamentarians except that Meles’ response was to a question related to sugar.
The British hand in Ethiopia
Question is how did Hailemariam end up being prime minister? The death of the late prime minister Meles may appear to be full explanation for it but it is tricky. Yes, Hailemariam, unlike the anti-terrorism law, is not copied from current UK politics either.[please continue on page 2]