Three years ago, a towering figure in Ethiopian politics has passed away. Meles Zenawi, a man, who at the beginning, many didn’t think much of other than being a face of rebels, who could speak English and “street smart”.

Over the years, he has proved to be one of a kind. He has reshaped Ethiopia. He was instrumental to draft a constitution that reacquainted the Ethiopian people with each other all over again. He laid a foundation for a great method of coexistence between the Ethiopian people, which is now many believe to be emulated by other countries.

In fact, his skillful navigation of the minefield of Ethiopian politics and the complex issues of Horn of Africa, awed many Ethiopians and foreigners alike. He made Ethiopia to be seen, as one of important global players.Photo - Meles Zenawi image on Mesqel Square building, Addis Ababa

Many of us think that he has gone before his time. We lamented at the almighty that he should have left him with us a bit longer to get us through the ditch we seem to think we are  still in,  and let him see the fruits of what he has worked for. The almighty did not respond to our plea. Meles was gone. We will never have him again, so we should let him rest in peace.

What now?

For the last three years, particularly in the social media, during the anniversaries of his passing or in many other occasions, it is normal to see that many admirers of Meles Zenawi speaking about his vision and post few lines of quotes from his speeches with adoring images of him.

It is honorable to admire of those, who need to be admired and honored. However, it is also important to ask ourselves about what we have done to be inspired by the quotes and the vision of Meles Zenawi, we often speak of. During his funeral, his widow, Azeb Mesfin said “…Meles would never want to be adorned with these posters and live size pictures…”. Indeed, that would be a character of those, who crave for personality cult to be put in a pedestal and worshipped. Not, of those revolutionaries like Meles Zenawi.

Therefore, it may now be a time to see in ourselves to search what has been done to build on the vision of a man that we admired greatly rather than talking about him endlessly and plastering his images on our facebook pages, every time we get a chance. 

How much have we spoken the truth about the trials and tribulations of our people as opposed to Meles Zenawi’s vision rather than the past glory of the Tegadeltis, every time we quote from one of his speeches? How many of us wrote captions to remind our current leaders, who we think are falling of the wagon, to remind them to keep on track every time we post his adoring pictures? I say, not too many of us. I also say, since we are not doing that, what we are doing is not realizing a vision of a great man, but hero worshiping.

What are we doing wrong?

Primarily, what we are doing wrong by ‘hero worshiping’ is encouraging complacency and falling for the same trap that we have been falling for centuries. For millennia, we have been bragging about Axum and Lalibela’s great endeavours, which subsequent generations have nothing to do with. We have been filled with pride of those masterpieces that our and several previous generations failed to accomplish even one third of its magnitude, because it has failed to build on what our ancestors have done.

And now, as it is said that old habits die hard, history has started to repeat the same. We seem to fail to build on what Meles’ vision was. Instead, we just brag about it. Instead of building on what he has forseen, we seem to compete to dig the best quotes of his speeches to display on our facebook posts to show to our friends  who adores him best.

Many things have happened, since his passing. Many of our citizens suffered indignities in largely Arab countries to the extent which we have never seen before.

In a manner that is very unusual, Tigrean Ethiopians are speaking out about their region being abandoned and lagging behind. After over half a century, Tigray, being a battlefield and sacrificed many of its children for the betterment of the entire Ethiopia, it is unacceptable to hear that the people of Tigray are now left behind.

Such situations seem to be replicated almost in all parts of Ethiopia. Though there is a great deal of improvement in people’s lives, there also is a persistent complaints of lack of sensitivity for the public’s needs by authorities. Every time, these complaints are voiced, the response the people get is clad by guilt trip that is “the Great leader Meles’ Vision”.

Many say that the mention of his name and memory is being used to shut them up from voicing their concerns and complaints. In my opinion, that is a path to decadence. This time should be about time to produce new Meleses to reignite and reinvigorate his vision. To have many more of those, who build new visions on his vision. To say “I have you” to those, who feel abandoned and forgotten.

Meles might be remembered and honored better, if we  speak out for those, who want us to speak out for them, as he would. Let us not just dance to the tune of those, who cover themselves behind endless quotes from his speeches and pictures, but no where to be found, when it comes to speak for the voiceless.


Naty Berhane

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