‘Audit me if you like’, first lady Azeb Mesfin | Ethiopia

Had there been an index of most gossiped persons in Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin, wife of Premier Meles Zenawi, would be among the top. Of late, first lady Azeb Mesfin is rumored to be involved in every conceivable type of trade in the country taking advantage of her husband’s position.

In the video below (a reader of this blog sent me by e-mail) Azeb Mesfin defends her family, by describing her family expenses and rejecting claims of corruption.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the full video of the interview, since I couldn’t identify the date and the place. However, it is likely that Azeb Mesfin gave the interview to ETV, the national broadcaster, and had been aired in the last Ethiopian year.

It is not clear what kind of question the journalist posed to the First Lady. Nonetheless, her response appears directed at the rumors concerning her finances.

Here is a transcript of the interview – for those who are not able to watch the video.

. . . እና ያቺን ይዘን ነው የልጆቹን ት/ቤት የምንከፍለው፡፡ እስከ 3ወር እንዳለብን ዛሬ (inaudible)(ሳቅ)፡፡ እስከ 3ወር አጠራቅማለሁ . . . እና ከ3ወር በኋላ የሚከፈለውን ደግሞ እከፍላለው፡፡ የሁለታችንም ቅድም እንዳልኩት ብዙ እንትን የለንም . . . ብዙ ጊዜ እንደዛ ነው እንትን የምናደርገው፡፡
አንዷ ልጄ የተማረችው ትልቋ ሳንፎርድ ነበረ፡፡ ሳንፎርድ መጀመሪያ 6ኛ ክፍል ስትደርስ በሳት(SAT?) ፈተና በጣም ጥሩ ውጤት አመጣች፡፡ ከዚያ በኋላ ስኮላርሺፕ አግኝታ ነበር፤ እንግሊዝ ሀገር የሴቶች ኮሌጅ ማለትም ቦርዲንግ ስኩል፡፡ በዛ እድሜዋ አልልክም ስላልኩ እኔ፤ ያንን ሽፍት አድርጉልኝ ወደዚህ(ወደ ሳንፎርድ) እንዲያግዘኝ አልኳቸው፡፡ ከዚያ ሽፍት ተደረገልኝ ፤ ከዛ በስኮላርሺፑ ተምራ ጨረሰች – አሁን ዘንድሮ ትጨርሳለች፡፡
ሁለቱን ሊሴ ነው ያስተማርኩት፤ ቅድም (ባልኩት መንገድ) ነው፡፡ አይደለምና እኛ ሁለታችን ሌላውም ይችላል፡፡ አሁን ኣንደኛውን ወደዚያ ሽፍት አድርጌያለሁ እንደገና፡፡ እንደዚህ ነው እኛ የምናገጣጥመው፡፡
በግልጽ በምትሰጠን በማንኛውም ሰዐት ተቆጥራ ልትጣራ በምትችል ፍራንክ ነው የምንኖረው፡፡
እኔ በጣም ብዙ ጊዜ ኪሴ ላይ ብር ኖሮኝ አያውቅም፡፡ ካገኘሁ ያገኘሁትን ሰው ነው የምሰጠው፡፡ ጎዳና ላይ አንድ 11 ልጆች አሉኝ አዲስ አበባ ላይ፤ ቦሌ መንገድ ላይ፡፡ መጀመሪያ ራሴ ነበር የማግዛቸው፣ ልጆቼ ማለት ናቸው፡፡ እና ብዙም ገንዘብ የመያዝ ባህልም የለኝም፡፡
እስካሁን 5 ሳንቲም . . . በተፈለገው መንገድ ሊጣራ ይችላል፡፡ I think አለም ያውቀናል ለነገሩ፡፡ አሜሪካም ብትጠይቁ ያውቃል፤ ማንም መረጃ ያለው ሀገር ያውቃል፡፡ ከሀገር መሪዎች የመጨረሻ ደሀ የምንባለው እኛ ነን፤ ድህነት ተብሎ የሚጠራ ከሆነ፡፡
እኔ አንድ ቀን ስዊድን እንደዛ አሉኝ ሰዎች፣ ‹የመጨረሻ ደሀ ትባላላችሁ› አሉኝ፡፡ አይደለሁም፣ እኔ ደሀ አይደለሁም፣ መለስም ደሀ አይደለም፡፡
ብንፈልግ እኛ ገንዘብ የኢትዮጲያን ህዝብ ገንዘብ አይደለም የምንሰርቀው፡፡ እኔ ብንፈልግ ገንዘብ መለስን ከዚያ ሥራ ነው የማስለቅቀው፡፡
ምክንያቱም የመለስ ጭንቅላት ለኔ ለቤት መግዣ ይበቃል፡፡ የመለስ ጭንቅላት ለልጆቼ በሚገባ ለማስተማር ይበቃል፡፡ የትኛውም ቦታ ላይ፤ የትኛውም labor market ውስጥ ገብቶ ተሸጦ ሊያወጣ የሚችል ጭንቅላት አለው፡፡ ስለዚህ አልሰራርቅም፡፡


Just a Note:
Arguably, Azeb Mesfin, wife of Premier Meles Zenawi, is one of the most gossiped persons in Ethiopia. Every aspect of her life had been the subject of gossip. Indeed, the nature of the rumors has become more and more malicious and politically motivated in the past few years.

It is rumored that she is engaged in every conceivable type of trade in the country taking advantage of her husband’s position. This is the favorite topic of most opposition media, including Dr. Berhanu Nega’s Ginbot 7 Newsletter – the very person who accuses elders and EPRDF officials for failing to abide by social norms.

My standard reply, whenever I encounter such rumors, is testing the logicality of the claim. That is: How one earth could she engage in this or that sort of trade of all the options in the world? Usually, my argument qualifies me as ‘blind supporter’ in the eyes of those who chose to believe the rumors.

However, about a month ago, a friend on social networking site challenged me from another angle: If you consider the allegations unseemly, then why don’t you argue that she is clean?

The question dumbfounded me.

Perhaps, we don’t trust our politicians when it comes to financial matters. The ‘presumption of guilt’ towards politicians may be one of the reasons why the country is awash with unsubstantiated rumors.

Even staunch supporters of the Premier hardly reject such rumors outright. It is easier to hear one respond saying ‘God knows’ or ‘it is no big deal given his contribution to the country’.

Of course, this is a country where public post has long been a means personal gain.

However, it intrigues me how a supposedly religious and conservative society is hardly bothered by the likelihood that the rumors could be false.

To the contrary, it appears Ethiopians deem false rumors as legitimate means of advancing political ends.


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