Letter from Ethiopia - August 2002

from Tizibt Mezgebu


Dear Readers:

I went to a social gathering a few weeks ago (a friend of mine had graduated from the Commercial school) where all sorts of topics of importance to our daily lives were discussed. Why the rains are late this year and what it means to the price of teff, children and Kremt, etc were some of the mundane topics we talked about. But one topic kept me thinking even after I went back home. 

Someone at the social gathering was commenting why he thinks that he is developing respect for the old man occupying the Palace now. The president who came back literally back from the brink of death because of shock right after Meles picked him as a figurehead nowadays seems to be doing better. My mother who has seen him on TV receiving newly appointed foreign Ambassadors comments that the old man never moves forward to welcome his guests because of bad health but he still manages to smile and chat. The old man has been very active the past few months also. His inauguration of the project of planting trees in Intoto (Ato Shimelis Adugna's project) made many people happy. He was also very active when visiting the new construction at Bole. You see we Ethiopians want to see a leader who is really concerned about the country, who visits his people and listens to their problem. I am not saying Ato Girma has reached that stage. But what he is doing these days, if complemented by more of independence from the man who appointed him continues, I think he will be liked by more people. I don't know if that will happen but we will see. "mekoyet deg new". 

The man who made that comment about the old man did not stop there and I am not going to stop my letter with the old man's story either. The man said that what is angering him more than anything else was the refusal of the prime minister to come out and meet his subjects and the country he is ruling. Many opinions were forwarded. Some one commented may be the prime minsiter is so busy that he has no time to step out anywhere except Prime Minster Aklilu's office at Amst Kilo and the Menelik Palace. Some one suggested that he had heard a rumor that even his wife is complaining that he just doesn't get out and meet people. May be it is the pollution that he is afraid of. The air is better near the palace and that may be why he doesn't want to get out. What if he has asthma was another comment we heard. Another person was very straight forward and commented that may be the man is afraid. What is to be afraid of in Addis Ababa, especially when you are the prime minister, I had wanted to ask. Even the hyenas will respect you if you step out in the night time. As people talked more about this issue, I was actually getting vey much angry myself. For example, one lady said, how is that the prime minsiter hasn't visited not even a single city in Gondar, Gojjam, Harer, Bale, Wollega, the South, Welo, Gambela? Colonel Mengistu whose legacy is now raising interest because of the new book (may be I will talk about it next time. May be in 1995, Insh Allah, as the Arabs say) liked visiting all corners of the country. I was too young then but there are still many people in Addis Ababa who remember receiving a brand new Birr note from Haile Selassie whenever he toured the city. Menelik dined in the house of his dejazmaches and had half of Addis Ababa in his palace at least once in a month. So also did Atse Yohannes who died incidentally far awy from the comforts of his palace.

Therefore, shouldn't our prime minister meet his subjects at least once? I think he may be surprised. If he goes and visits homeless people, HIV/AIDS patients and orphans, NGO efforts in the city he may find out that Addis Ababa may be more safe than Khartoum where we were told he toured the city in an open motorcade only a year ago. Foreign diplomats travel freely in all parts of Addis Ababa and go as far as Gondar and Gojjam. Some are even seen in safe Azmari bets. They are welcome wherever they go. As people in the street are saying even Colonel Mengistu was not afraid of the pollution and freely walked in Addis Ababa. The funny thing is even the foreigners, we are now told, are wondering why the PM likes hanging out in his crib alone 24-7 as you readers in America would say.

bedehn yakoyegn iskemiketilew debdabe dires

Tizbit Mezgebu negn Ke Saris


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