An Old Dog Cannot Teach New Tricks.


By Dagnew Adebabay - Feb 5, 2009

I believe it was Albert Einstein who said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."   Said another way, sane people do it differently from the way they are used to doing things to get different results.

It is must be insanity is what I thought when I read the defiant yet groundless response letter written by Ms. Mideqsa, the leader of an opposition political Party in Ethiopia known as Unity for Justice and Democracy.   [i]   

Ms. Mideqsa is a young and naïve individual not intimately familiar with the Ethiopian politics that has historically been vengeful and mischievous.  Prior to her selection to the vice-chairperson position at the now defunct Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), except for her short judicial career,   Ms. Mideqsa has never been a member of any political Party, never published a political or a legal opinion, never run and won nor held a public office, and never expressed her opinion through a mass medium and certainly never addressed a public gathering. 

It is an open secret that Ms. Mideqsa’s CUD vice-chairpersonship selection was part of a deceitful conspiracy concocted by Hailu Shawel and Berhanu Nega to deny the more deserving Lidetu Ayalew from holding the same position. 

Recently, Ms. Mideqsa’s former colleagues were at it again, but this time around, it is Ms. Mideqsa who was the target of their retaliation.  Apparently, Berhanu and his cohorts knew Ms. Mideqsa’s reservation on the Pardon process that secured all of the CUD leader’s release.  They knew very well how she would respond when asked about it.  Accordingly, they planted their agents to ask the very question that was posed to her at the UJD supporters meeting held in Sweden.  As expected, the naïve politician, swept off her feet by the love shown by her supporters, failed to exercise caution and fell right into their trap.

The Ethiopian government alleges Ms. Mideqsa’s statement made at the meeting in Sweden was in direct violation of the conditions of her pardon.  And upon her return to Ethiopia, the Government summoned her and gave her an ultimatum to recant her statement or face a revocation of her pardon and a subsequent reinstatement of her life sentence. 

What Ms. Mideqsa did next is wherein the problem lies.  We hear from reliable sources that Ms. Mideqsa went seeking counseling from her mentor Professor Mesfin Woldemariam on how to respond to the Ethiopian Government’s demand.  It is alleged that the Professor advised her to defy the government’s demand, not to retract her statement, and definitely never to apologize.  According to my sources, the reason for his advice is because acquiesce to “TPLF’ would spell the end of her leadership status. 

Ms. Mideqsa did everything as advised by the Professor.  Consequently, the government arrested her, revoked the pardon and asked the court to reinstate the life sentence, and now she is found serving her life sentence. 

The new generation Ethiopian leaders and other aspiring politicians are better off not emulating or seeking advice from old folks whose old tricks have failed time and again to produce anything of value.  Instead, the new politicians should learn tricks of the trade from successful leaders at home and abroad, adapt ideas that have the potential to succeed in the existing Ethiopian reality, and work to build on the foundation of democracy already laid by skillful EPRDF architects.

The old activists have lived their own lives and have had several decades to experiment with their ideas.  Most of them are now one or two Sundays away from eternally resting.  I recognize that there could be another role that can be played by these old activists, but fulltime participation in politics should not be one of them as their approach to politics is guided by arrogance, self-righteousness, stubbornness, and vengeance. 

Young activists should have a long term strategy based on vision, process, action, and reward that is more effective at delivering results than scoring points and enjoying short-lived celebrity status.  The best way forward for young politicians is to honor decisions by authorized institutions; to fully accept and work within the Ethiopian Constitution parameters; commit and persevere but never to waiver or to threaten to abandon the peaceful process when the going gets tough.  This is a new trick worth learning.


[i] see Article 12-2, 12-3, and 12-4 of the Ethiopian Pardon Proclamation.