By Elias Kifle
After I wrote a commentary a few days ago saying that we Ethiopians need to give the new prime minister some time to prove himself worthy of our support, I have received a flood of responses from some who supported my call, others who strongly opposed me, and a few who are in the middle. Supporters of TPLF are also disguising themselves as opposition and trying to exploit the discussion to their advantage. They want Hailemariam to fail so that they will return to power.
To my surprise, the most aggressive criticism of what I’ve said came mostly (not all, but mostly) from individuals who are contributing little or nothing to the struggle for freedom in Ethiopia. By contrast, those who have been expressing goodwill toward Hailemariam are mostly those who have been active in the struggle. My focus in this commentary are the cynics.
One of those cynical individuals is a friend of mine who called me on Friday afternoon, right after the new prime minister was sworn in, to give me tongue lashing. She said, ‘How dare you ask us to support Hailemariam? How is he better than Meles? Nothing has changed… Didn’t’ you hear his speech today? He didn’t give any hint of change… I am angry at you… etc.’
I asked her: ‘Did you expect Hailemariam, who is currently surrounded by TPLF hynas, to say any thing that would antagonize them? Do you want him to get assassinated? Do you want him to become another Teferi Benti or Aman Andom?’
My friend: ‘At least he could have hinted that there will be changes and that he will release the political prisoners… He is too weak to say or do any thing that contradicts the wishes of his TPLF bosses…’
Me: ‘Do you mean Hailemariam should be brave like Andualem, Eskindir, Prof. Asrat…? I am sure you would not shed a drop of tear if TPLF put a bullet in his head? What have you done when TPLF jailed brave Ethiopians like Andualem? What have you done when Meles gunned down all those young pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Addis Ababa? I bet you didn’t lose even one hour of sleep over that…’
Not surprisingly, my friend did not have any answer.
It is the same story with many (not all) of those who are now condemning Hailemariam before the guy was not even sworn in. Such individuals are engaged in nothing more than political bullshitting. Empty talk, no action! They come up with all kinds of excuses not to support opposition groups and the independent media. And yet, they have no shame in expecting some one to sacrifice himself.
Let’s be serious: Was it really that difficult to overthrow Meles Zenawi, or at least force him to come to the negotiation table? Meles’s strength was our apathy, laziness, and disunity. Meles could not have thrown the political leaders and journalists in jail had enough people been serious about the struggle. Without firing a single shot, through economic boycott alone, we could have crippled Meles and his Woyanne junta. It is because most people have become so selfish and stopped caring for one another that very few people have to pay heavy sacrifices.
Hailemariam cannot do any thing by himself. His first priority is not our demand. It should be his own survival. He is surrounded by TPLF, a gang of cold-blooded murderers who are capable of killing him in a split second. To me, the fact that Ethiopia is no longer led by an evil dictator who hated her and her people is by itself a major change. By all accounts Hailemariam is not an evil person, and he doesn’t hate Ethiopia. I heard from various people who know him closely that he is a decent man. That is a good starting point. Now it is up to us to help him transition Ethiopia to genuine democracy by weakening and defeating the enemy, TPLF. We have the power to defeat TPLF without firing a shot. Let’s do it.
If you want Hailemariam to release the political prisoners, I have this message for you: get off your butt and let’s campaign against the TPLF, not Hailemariam. Let’s boycott all business enterprises that are controlled by TPLF, such as Ethiopian Airlines (that is headed by an incompetent TPLF cadre named Tewolde Gebremariam), Wugagan Bank (owned by Sebhat Nega), Guna Trading (controlled by Azeb Mesfin) and others. For the next 3 month or so let’s also reduce the money we send to our families in Ethiopia by 20 – 30 percent. TPLF will be forced to agree to release all the political prisoners, or else they will run out of money. That is how the U.S. forced TPLF to accept Hailemariam as prime minister. There was no money in the bank after Meles Zenawi’s family and friends looted the treasury. Banks had stopped giving hard currency to importers. The economy, that is dominated by TPLF, was about to collapse. The U.S. promised them hard currency infusion if they do not block Hailemariam from becoming prime minister. They relented. We can do the same think. We can force TPLF to accept our demands.
If you are not willing to take part in such campaign, shut the hell up please.