Will the real Meles stand up?

By Yilma Bekele

I don’t know if you are familiar with it but there used to be an American television show called ‘what is my line?’ It was a guessing game where the panelists try to determine the identity of the contestant by asking leading questions. It was fun to watch a skillful contestant completely baffle the panelists.

Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia was in Europe playing what is my line. Our skilled PM was using the podium to get legitimacy abroad while enhancing his image as a respected states man in front of the Ethiopian people. It was a perfect Kodak moment. I am sure ETV, his private television station back home will play the tape ad nauseam. The Sarkozys and the Obamas were enabling him to hide behind their podium.

Why was he there since Ethiopia cannot be accused of contributing to green house gas? Well he was delegated by NEPAD (New Partnership For African Development.) What is NEPAD? According to their website it ‘is a Vision and Strategic Framework for African Renewal.

NEPAD is setup to address the ‘current challenges facing Africa. Its objective includes eradicating poverty, halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process and empowerment of women. The principle NEPAD stands for includes good governance, broad and deep participation of the population in decision-making, acceleration of regional and continental integration.’

The Ethiopian Prime Minster was heading the NEPAD delegation. To start with one gets the feeling NEPAD is trying to convince others to work for the lofty goals mentioned above but it does not want to lead by example. If the challenge faced by Africans is the absence of ‘good governance’ shouldn’t NEPAD appoint some one who exudes those qualities? That is not too much to ask is it?

Let us put the NEPAD thing in perspective. The Copenhagen meeting was about threat to planet Earth. It is man made crisis. It is a problem created by the Northern hemisphere dwellers. The Europeans and the Americans. As time honored tradition dictates we Africans are victim number one. Our usual fellow victims Asia and South America are not with us anymore. They are heating up the planet but they are not in a mood to discuss slowing down. There is a lot of catch up to do.

So what was NEPAD doing there? Since it does not have any green house gas to threaten with it was doing some serious begging. Leading to this great ballyhooed affair our fearless leader was posturing to disrupt the proceedings. He was threatening to walk out. He was demanding 40 billion USD a year for Africa. That was his demand and he is sticking to it! Not. He was just kidding.

With the French President at his side the NEPAD leader agreed to a pittance 10 billion USD for the first year and little guarantee for the future. Africa’s cut will be 40%. Heck of a negotiator wouldn’t you say. The Westerners will heat up the planet and increase the temperature that in turn will create havoc on Africa’s weather forcing us into more deforestation, drying up of lakes and rivers and further starvation.

What do we get for this? Surplus genetically engineered food and deposit in African leaders personal account in European and American banks. To say plenty of African were upset by this unilateral negotiation by NEPAD chief is an under statement. They were fuming. From Algeria to South Africa they all distanced themselves from NEPAD. The Americans and the Europeans used NEPAD as a wedge to divide the third world group.

We Ethiopians are familiar with that playbook. Is it me or do you see some similarity here. Let us see Ato Meles is famous for his unique disruption technique. He leaves a clear MO. (Modus operandi). We can refer to the Ledetu affair, the Chamiso saga or the Hailu opera. The Westerners used NEPAD exactly as the Prime Minster used Hailu to break the solidarity of the opposition. The only difference is NEPAD will be paid thru African Development Bank while Ato Hailu or Ato Ledetu will suffer eternal humiliation. Not that I will waste any tears for them.

To go back to ‘what’s my line’ story the performance of the Prime Mister was enough to baffle the panelists if this was a show. He preached the gospel of compromise. The science of give and take was the heart of his philosophy. Ato Meles scolded the West for marginalizing Africa. He demanded to be included as an equal.

I was flabbergasted. Well that is an under statement. I was floored. I have not seen this side of him. Did the mantra ‘my way or the highway’ get revised? Did the philosophy of ‘some are more equal than others’ get tossed away? Are we going to have the new improved TPLF after Copenhagen?

The old one we knew was different. He has a few political prisoners in the various dungeons scattered all over the country, he likes to be mean and angry when it comes to Chairman Bertukan and jailing, bankrupting, and exiling journalists and intellectuals is his hobby.

Stupid me, I used to think TPLF was all about power and revenge for the past transgressions for perceived injustice. It is sort of surprising and a let down to see it is all about money. The net worth of Ato Meles is jaw dropping. It is difficult to explain. It begs for a tharrow investigation. The information boggles the mind.

Following is from Wikipedia (click here):

This is a list of heads of state and government by their net worth, mostly of their liquid assets in US Dollars. This list should not include crown property and other material goods (although these are sometimes difficult to separate depending on the source) as of August 2008.

Name Title Net Worth Country
Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Sultan $20 billion[1] Brunei
Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Emir $18 billion[1] United Arab Emirates
Abdullah King $17 billion[1] Saudi Arabia
Mohammed Bin Rashid Prime Minister $12 billion[1] United Arab Emirates
Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister $9.4 billion[2] Italy
Asif Ali Zardari President $4 billion[3] Pakistan
Hans-Adam II Prince $3.5 billion[1] Liechtenstein
Mohammed VI King $2.5 billion[1] Morocco
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Emir $2 billion[1] Qatar
Meles Zenawi Prime Minister $1.2 billion[4] Ethiopia
Albert II Prince $1 billion[1] Monaco
Qaboos Sultan $700 million[1] Oman
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo President $600 million[citation needed] Equatorial Guinea

Poor Mr. Obama is not even worth a lousy million and he is going to stay that way till he leaves office. Our Meles can eradicate famine from Ethiopia if he donates some of that stash. Don’t ask me how he amassed such obscene amount of money in such a short time. I did not know we paid our chief executive that kind of money either. Do you get the feeling there is no rational answer to this problem except outright denial. May be Wikidepia’s editors character can be brought to question or a plot can be uncovered that was trying to defame the regime. Hey 1.2 billion in USD is nothing to scoff at.