By Mastewal Yishala
One thing is clear in Ethiopia these days. The Ethiopian primer has established himself as a project leader. As one commentator said, he has taken Ethiopia as his project site. He has dedicated most of his time and resources to the office in running these multiple projects which are outside the country’s institutions. Living expenses, citizens’ security, the country’s sovereignty, and so on are not prioritized. Thousands of internally displaced people live on streets and in limbo situations a hundred kilometers from his office. He never visited them. But he traveled long distances to follow up on the projects he started. A few hundred kilometers from his office, 79 drivers were abducted, and most were released by paying a million birr ransom through legal banks. The prime minister is seen nowhere dealing with this issue. It is not a project that can be prioritized since it does not provide fame in the long run. The man is only focused on building something that will bear his name at the cost of the country.
The Devil’s Advocate
The Westerners have this saying: the devil’s advocate. It means “someone who pretends, in an argument or discussion, to be against an idea or plan that many support, to make people discuss and consider it in more detail.” Let us first recognize the excellent work the premiere has done since coming to power. The former Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), now MiNT, the new INSA complex, the new defense ministry complex, the library, and the science museum are all renovated or rebuilt. GERD, the national bank, and previous projects are finished or on the way to completion. Most importantly, since he hears Bilgate saying that he will not give money to a government owning all these properties and land during his visit to Ethiopia, the primer is dedicated to changing the face of the country. Since then, Unity Park, Entotopark, Friendship Park, Meskel square park, and so on have been launched and completed. Most importantly, a new huge project called “Chefe” is ongoing, costing more than 500 billion birr. It is good to start and finish attractive projects that “provide intrinsic environmental, aesthetic, and recreation benefits to our cities.” The primer should be applauded for such endeavors. Who is not enjoying these parks today?
Why Gold-Coated Corruption?
The project activities are golden opportunities for many: those who take contracts to do these projects, workers at these sites, etc. The finished projects are enjoyed by some people who have got the chance. The main problem lies in how these projects are done. The premier uses his office power to get the best personalities and resources to start and finish the projects at an alarming speed. In addition, there is a lack of transparency on the financing of most of these projects. Even the highest people body, the parliament, cannot ask about it. The primer has said in the open: “I get the financing begging from people and different personalities,” so you have no right to ask me about it. Even the 500 billion project of the new palace and city is not audited by the country’s finance minister, parliament, or any other body. This creates a huge paradox, and it is a gold-coated corruption. The people have given you the power to serve them, to prioritize what is important to them, and you dedicate the power of the office of the prime minister only to do your ambitious, self-inflicted, self-idolized, and self-obsessed projects means you have failed the people BIG! The current primer did not start this gold-coated corruption. The late prime minister Meles Zenawi did it. The former primer Haile Mariam Dessalegn is remembered for the gigantic Industry village projects. But it was not at this magnitude and not at the cost of the country’s priorities. That is why there is a wave of critics against the current primer. Several times he has been requested to consider resigning by opposition parties in parliament, TPLFites, and others across the spectrum.
What drives the Primer to Act this way?
Let us see closely these three things: intent, action, and result. Actions are things you actually do, results are what happens as a result of actions, and Intentions are the reasons behind what you do (i.e., the action). We have seen the prime minister’s actions as dominated by project activities. We mentioned some of the results of those actions. But we did not see closely the intent of the primer. As they say, the intent is everything. “Why you do the things that you do are of utmost importance while the result or outcome is actually less important.” Why is he acting this way? What is his conviction in life? What is the core belief he has? What is his philosophy in life? Understanding his intent is vital for Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
The Belief as a King- Core Intent?
He has gone through political party membership, elections, and other government institutions like the military, intelligence, parliament, and so on to come to this stage. However, there is one core belief he had since childhood. His mother laid the foundation by saying: “You will be the seventh king in Ethiopia.” Every mother can say something to her son or girl, something that, in general. However, this is an explicit statement. The fact that he becomes the seventh men leader (when you count according to the picture of the previous leaders in his new Unity Park) assures him that what his mother told him was accurate. Hence, his actions highly depend on this belief: I am the seventh king! And kings do many projects that will hold their name even hundreds of years after they are gone.
He has seen it in Ethiopian history: Fasiledes Castle, Menelik’s Palace in Addis Ababa, Haileselasse’s Palace in Bezait Bahir Dar, etc. He has seen it in Europe. For example, almost every king/Queen in the UK has built his/her name-holding buildings and parks. That is his dream. That is his conviction. He wanted to be remembered like King Haileselassie everywhere on the planet. He acts and behaves like a king in every matter of the country. His ideology and philosophy are shaped by how kings govern their kingdoms. One may say the country does not have a monarchy system, but the federal government is structured in a framework of a federal parliamentary republic. Yes, it is. But he is a king in his head, belief, and conviction. All those structures serve him. Period! Many are confused about why he acts like that or this. The only best-fitting explanation is he is the king from Beshasha, like Emperor Tewodros II of Gondar (Kassa Hailu of Qwara) or Emperor Menelik II of Shewa (Sahle Maryam of Angolalla) or Emperor Yohannes IV of Tigray (Kaśa of Temben).
This belief has been strengthened through his faith too. As a charismatic protestant believer, he has heard the stories of King Saul, King David, and others who are anointed to be kings. In biblical terms, to be a leader, one must have a call for that. The primer is not short of people assuring him of this position. Now, the real problem is his following cult-style leadership. His leadership style is copied directly from heretic leaders. Unlike mainstream evangelical leaders and pastors who are accountable to the church members, these recent self-exalted preachers and prophets have no auditors. They are not accountable to anyone. Anyone who dares to question their deeds, actions, or way of consuming the finances will be ex-communicated, and their bodyguards will terrorize that person. They claim that they have elders and so on to check on them. But if you look deeply into matters, you find them as ‘little kings and princes’ who do whatever pleases them. This style of leadership has influenced the primer too. He is surrounded by many such kind people who feed his soul and ego to continue believing and acting like a king.
In addition, he has got many other opportunities to strengthen his ways. He tried to solve the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which earned him a Nobel peace prize. Since then, his confidence has been over the roof. The week after he got the prize, he opened his mouth and said to his former bosses in Mekele, “Instead of drinking Whiskey, give water to Mekelle city people.” It was a sign that he was too strong for his adversaries. He even threw out his main rival, Lemma Megersa (Ph.D.), Jawar Mohammed, and others who were the main figures of the movement that overthrew TPLF leadership. He later acted innocent in the build-up to war with his rivals and former bosses, TPLfites. Using the people’s trust, he galvanized people into a disastrous war to crush them. Recently, He has sent his military hardware to the Amhara region because he fears a credible threat may develop to his leadership. It is like he defends his kingdom at any cost. Many are questioning his health due to this. That might be the case. It is difficult to believe and act like a king in this age unless … (left for the reader to finish it).
Alienated from the People
Ethiopians are stuck with a leader who has got such intent and conviction. The country can boil in many issues; if that particular issue does not come closer to his throne, he does not prioritize it. He left the job of governing vacant and engaged himself in making things for his name. All these things could have been positive if he was governing too. The people could have appreciated all his endeavors. But he and the people are separated. Abraham Maslow’s motivational theory in psychology comprises a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid: physiological (Level 1), safety (level 2), love and belonging (level 3), esteem (level 4), and self-actualization (level 5). The majority of Ethiopians are struggling at levels 1 and 2. The prime minister, the self-appointed king, is focused at level 5 day and night. There is a huge gap between the people’s needs and his needs. He uses the office that belongs to the people to fulfill his dream. That is why corruption is at the top. Doing good things should have been something he gets support from the people. On the contrary, huge resentment is building against him as the day progresses. His ego and his dream blinded him to see that. He does not see the people’s suffering—the cry of families, kids, and women. The question is: can he repent? Could he come to his senses and try to reach his self-actualization stage by doing what the people wanted him to rather than by doing these bling-bling project activities? Maybe! In fact, his place on the world stage has diminished. The recent Paris event has affected his inflated ego due to the Nobel peace prize. Could he change his course then or persist in it? Time will tell!
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