The Government of a nation united in grief bears the pain stoically.
It certainly has been a melancholic four days for all Ethiopians everywhere, proving once again, that the Ethiopian in each and everyone rises to the fore every time Ethiopia encounters a national calamity.
The tragic news of EAL’s crash arrived as the nation was in the midst of celebrating Pastoralist Day in the capital of the Regional State of Somali, Jijiga, prompting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to precede his key-note address with heartfelt expressions of condolences to the families of the victims of Ethiopian flight number 409 which crashed into the Mediterranean sea minutes after takeoff from Beirut: “Our colourful celebration here has been eclipsed by the tragic accident of EAL.” Meles did not mince his words when he pledged that his administration would keep Ethiopians abreast of the results of the investigation. Soon ERTA started broadcasting updates from its makeshift studio inside Ethiopian Airlines HQ. The Airline quickly set in motion its emergency procedures by providing an Emergency Centre with trained counsellors for anxious families of passengers onboard the ill-fated flight. A Free phone number was also made public for all those who wanted further information.
Ethiopian Airlines managed the emergency in a professional and above-board manner.
Close on the heels of Prime Minister’s official statement on the accident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement highlighting that Ethiopia had become a nation united in grief. The Government dispatched a high-level delegation to Beirut led by Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin - who was engaged in the ongoing Council of Ministers meeting of the African Union in Addis – for talks with Lebanese leaders. ERTA was inundated with condolences from the four corners of Ethiopia as well as from across the political divide. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church declared that its churches will hold a memorial service for victims of EAL flight 409, and Ethiopian missions abroad opened a Book of Condolences.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Meles Zenawi appeared on prime time ERTA to address a highly anxious and confused nation. After renewing the Government’s condolences to all victims of the air accident and promising support to the families of Ethiopian victims, he made it unequivocally clear that indulging in speculation of all kinds was completely unwarranted. “The unadulterated truth to the real cause of the accident cannot be known until the Black Box was found.” He was, of course, remarking on runaway speculations and conspiracy theories which were impacting on the public’s sense of maintaining a clear perspective of the situation surrounding the accident. The Government seems to know all too well that in times of national calamity, such as this one, giving in to knee-jerk reaction is a fail-safe plan of causing untold damage to both the Airline’s, so far, impeccable safety record and to the Government’s own public relations drive.
The Government deserves a pat on the back on the way it has so far managed the handling of the after effects of this tragic air disaster.