WHAT NEXT, PRIME MINISTER MELES ZENAWI?
February 16, 2009
For some one who devours any thing I could find on PM Meles Zenawi, the last two weeks have been a very rich harvest. First, there was the endless question and answer session with the members of the Ethiopian Youth Association at their Annual Youth Conference. The there was hours and hours spent briefing, call it educating, the local media. That was followed by several hours of the same for local and foreign journalists, of course in English. I was so hooked to the Youth Conference that I had several windows open to download the nine minute sessions that I could listen to it one after another. That was the only inconvenience, but I heard them all. Thanks to Walta Information Center, I was able to listen to the English press conference in its entirety.
The man amazes me. His mastery of the two languages, in this instance Amharic and English tends to be forgotten as you travel with him through a vivid picture of a vast array of issues, from climate control to detailed economic analysis of not only the Ethiopian reality, but the global mess as a whole. I have watched many a US Presidential press conference in my life. But I have never witnessed one with the caliber and talent that I saw in PM Meles. Even President Obama lacks the economic prowess that our PM dispatches at will.
He seems to tap very easily to a large volume of knowledge, obviously accumulated through years of reading, leading and learning from the experiences of other world leaders. No question was left unanswered, except perhaps the human and material cost of our Somalia expedition. This was deliberate and I am sure the questionnaire got a satisfactory response to his sarcastic remark.
Let me try to summarize some of the issues that stuck in my mind as I listened to these question and answer sessions.
It was indeed gratifying to see Ethiopian youth organized throughout the Kilils and their representatives, 7,000 strong, show up for their Annual Conference. The Prime Minister was not there to give them money for their recreation centers or find them jobs, although a large financial outlay is in the works for exactly that purpose. What I saw to be priceless and a long-lasting investment was the advice that this dedicated, smart and knowledgeable young leader was bestowing in their blossoming young minds. He was not mincing words when he told them their responsibilities to a good work ethic. Neither was he campaigning for his party when he told them what democracy meant and how to participate in it and vote for any one they wanted to. His only demand was that each and every one of them fights to make it a peaceful and free election. He is one of a kind and they will not soon forget this moment, as he has left a mark in their budding brain cells. God willing, he will be around for a long time and will help them for many more years.
As we turn to the national and international media scene, we see a man capable of dealing with any issue, unlike any one I have ever known. The curve balls thrown at him by some smart aleck journalist land softly in the middle of his palm.
At the local level, the Bertukan Mideksa saga was inquired about on more than one occasion. But the simple and straightforward legal explanation he furnished shamed many of those doubters. The message was crystal clear to the opposition. Be peaceful, respect the constitution, obey the rules and the playing field is open to all.
On Somalia, he made it quite clear that the forces involved in organizing the conspiracy against Ethiopia (Eritrea), intoxicated Jihadists in Somalia (Al Shabab) and certain armed groups inside Ethiopia, had all suffered a knock out blow. The remaining elements inside Somalia are felt to be moderate and willing to work with Ethiopia in the long run.
He was not too enthusiastic about Gaddafi's United States of Africa concept and wants to make the economic platform palatable before dreaming about something akin to the United States of America. However, he does not think it is an impossible task in the very long run. He said he will take him on his desire to resolve the Ethiopian-Eritrean problem. But, he knows in his heart that the guy at the other end can never be trusted.
His detailed explanation of the global economic mess in general and our own country in particular was a masterful performance. You can see his economic genius shining through as he spells out the decisive steps he took to soften the impact on our economy. You couldn't have wished for any one better to author a path out of the quagmire we are all in.
He was asked about the mixed messages he was sending regarding his retirement from his present position. His explanation was simple and truthful. He hoped to see no contradictions between his desire to "move on", as he put it, and his parties desire for his services. People tend to forget that he is still very young and has a lot to offer in many other positions to the people and country that he has brought so much respect and economic growth, far beyond what his predecessors have done. Of course, he was humbled by the accolades he received for his hard work and successes, deferring it instead to his party.
I hope and prey that many in the Diaspora will truly understand this man and his tireless struggle for peace, economic prosperity and respect for the rule of law and contribute their part in the economic, social and political spheres to this old nation with an emerging democracy.