By: Dilwenberu Nega
27th September 2009
Let me from the very outset unequivocally state that it is not my intention to take sides in the ongoing war of attrition between The Reporter and Sheik Mohamed Al Moudi on an issue which given the chance would go down in The Guinness Book of World Records as “The longest running lead story on a newspaper.” But the fact that The Reporter now seems to have succeeded in getting leading members of Ethiopia’s opposition parties on its anti-Al Moudi bandwagon, has now turned ‘the issue’ to deteriorate from toxic to radioactive.
In democratic elections, the role of contending parties is to offer the electorate viable choices on frontline issues. Similarly, in today’s Ethiopia frontline issues are health, education, unemployment, cost of living and the defence of the nation. The electorate expect – and rightly so – opposition parties to articulate their alternative policies on these bread-and-butter-issues, so that they are able to make informed choices. What the electorate has been getting from the opposition parties, instead, has been a catalogue of disappointments ranging from in-fighting to an open declaration of intent of sweeping away ethnic federalism to pettifogging Al Moudi. All these may make sensational headlines, but by Jove, they certainly are not vote winners simply because they don’t strike at the heart of the concerns of the man in the street in Ethiopia.
Sheik Al Moudi’s multi billion investment in Ethiopia is there for everyone to see. He has provided job opportunities to thousands of unemployed. He has done more than his fair share in giving a face-lift to Ethiopia’s national image. In short, he has proven his love of Ethiopia in a manner and style that no investor has so far portrayed. Then, why all this animosity against him from some ‘influential’ individuals and politicians, is something that demands a clear-cut answer. The answer lies in the personal and the political. Personally, Sheik Mohamoud Al Moudi is known – in addition to being a man with the Midas touch – for his largesse and anybody who had been denied of what has become known as “the nourishing hand of Gashay Al Moudi” instinctively turns ballistic and engages in a merciless character assassination campaign against Al Moudi. The series of unsubstantiated, yet sensational stories, of tax evasion by Al Moudi which had wall-papered The Reporter week in and week out for more than a year portray an unsavoury over-reaction of an Editor who might have fallen out with the Sheik.
Politically, however, it is a different kettle of fish. Sheik Mohamed Al Moudi in his renowned razzmatazz manner had openly declared his unwavering support to the ruling EPDRF. And this has sent shock and awe to all political parties who had been salivating for Al Moudi’s backing. By the way, it is interesting to note here that though the Sheik had declared his support to EPDRF, MIDROC Ethiopia is redolent of former Derg officials recruited at the behest of the Sheik – proof of the Sheik’s inclusive nature. The opposition parties, however, believe its pay-back time and are seen rushing in to rally behind The Reporter. Those Ethiopian opposition parties who had so far declared their intention to make the role of Al Moudi the central plank of their election campaign are the very ones who are seen limping in the political arena as their attempt to forge a coalition to run against EPDRF keeps being confronted by merciless in-fighting and by a dearth of wherewithal to oil the election campaign machinery.
Bashing Al Moudi is one thing, but making Al Moudi the central plank of an election campaign must surely be a sign of political bankruptcy.