Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

and Ethiopia

By
Negussay Ayele

September 6, 2006

[Pagume 1, 1998 (Eth. Cal)]


The recent stealing of democratic elections (May 2005), the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians and the incarceration of the top leadership of the alternative parties as well as scores of journalists by the TPLF (alias EPRDF) regime in Ethiopia prompts the profile featured in this brief essay.


Professor Mesfin and PM Meles are two individuals who have made their respective marks on Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Although the temporal context is not a key issue here, Professor Mesfin has been a teacher for more than half a century. PM Meles has been an armed tribal guerrilla fighter and despot in Ethiopia for the past twenty years. What is of interest here is the public persona and deeds of the two individuals with respect to Ethiopia and Ethiopians during their respective tenures. In the past decade and a half the two individuals have also crossed paths intermittently.

As these lines are being written in 2006, PM Meles has placed the 75+year-old senior Professor Mesfin and scores of his colleagues plus a number of journalists, in the most decrepit prison in Addis Ababa and thrown away the key as of November 2005. Eerily reminiscent of the tragic demise of martyred Professor Asrat Weldeyes, another victim of PM Meles, Professor Mesfin is gravely ill and shuttles between jail and hospital—for now. Meanwhile, PMM goes about his sadistic merry way from day to day flashing his signature sardonic sadist grin as if everything is normal in Ethiopia. He probably also mutters his own misinterpretation of the Tina Turner refrain “What’s love got to do with IT” i.e., stealing the last election and systematically assassinating, incarcerating, repressing, torturing, exploiting, impoverishing Ethiopians at large. The fundamental struggles between Professor Mesfin and others like him versus PM Meles and his ilks revolve around the identity, integrity and viability of Ethiopia. The intertwined questions that loom large and cry out for answers relative to these issues are:

  1. “Do the two individuals share the same notion of Ethiopia and the same visions for its future?”
  2. “What are the respective deeds of the two vis-à-vis Ethiopia?”
  3. “How and why is the current relationship between the two that of predator and prey?”

The best way to answer these burning questions is to profile or highlight the public persona and deeds of the two individuals.

Professor Mesfin Woldemariam and Ethiopia

This writer has focused on Professor Mesfin because he has known and interacted with him on and off since the 1950’s. In the interest of full disclosure it should also be stated that Professor Mesfin and this writer have had sometimes serious differences over the years, but have retained their mutual respect. The profile has been sketched largely from memory. It is not meant to ignore all the other prisoners of conscience with him in Kaliti. The injustice meted out to him has been to all the others also, and the call for the immediate and unconditional release applies to all. A profile such as this one should be written about each one by others as well.

Still, this writer is of the view that a little bit of Professor Mesfin is in all of his fellow prisoners and Professor Mesfin represents a little bit of everyone in that jail.


The next part of the essay will feature PM Meles and Ethiopia.

September 6, 2006.

Professor Negussay teaches at UCLA. His recent books are Ethiopia & the United States, the Season of Courtship, Volume 1 and In Seacrch of the DNA of the Ethiopia/Eritrean Problem.

Copyright © 2006. Negussay Ayele / MediaETHIOPIA. Readers may redistribute this article for noncommercial use as long as the text and this notice remain intact. This article may not be resold, reprinted, translated or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author and MediaETHIOPIA.

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