“Ethiopia’s Great Wealth is its People” – Meles Zenawi

By EthioAdvocate.com
Oct. 29, 2012

Honor Meles Zenawi, Support the Millennium Dam

What is the greatest need of the people of Ethiopia?  It helps a great deal and makes things clear, if we state clearly and know what we are trying to solve, and the issues we are concerned about and trying to address.  We can then accordingly judge the content of: our desires for our country, essays and articles we read, political opinions and pronouncements we make, and recommendations of academicians to our leaders, views of and on the opposition, etc.  Based on such goals and focus, we can share and present our views for discussion, write critical reviews of other’s views, or prescribe our recommendations to the leaders of Ethiopia – to the new PM and/or all party functionaries and administrators at all levels of government.  We need to clearly state the problems we see and wish for our leaders to solve so we understand each other. EthioAdvocate.com is here trying to put in this blog our thoughts and ideas on this issue.

We see as the greatest needs of the Ethiopian people – that its leaders need to focus on and work hard to solve – are the following:

  • The elimination of poverty, using sound economic development policies and engaging of the majority.
  • Education, education, education – for the majority – there is no development without education.
  • Healthcare for a people whose life expectancy is so low and a people ravaged with diseases (infectious diseases, AIDS, TB, malaria, cervical cancer …)  We need to build hospitals and clinics, train and educate doctors and nurses and public health officers, nurse assistants… Health education is so crucial.
  • Continue to modernize the agricultural sector of the country – after all, it supports 85% of our population.  No lasting and meaningful development will be achieved if the government does not continue to raise the economic status of the majority of our people – its economic, political and social policy in the short-term should be to lift up the majority from the mire of poverty.
  • Industrialization: the building of roads, highways, railroads, electric lines, cement factories, hydroelectric power plants, universities … are the building blocks.  Great strides have already been made, but we have a long way to go.  The completion of our Millennium Dam will have great significance and impact in this effort.  Industrialization of Ethiopia is the only insurance and guarantee to permanently eradicate poverty and underdevelopment, to lift our people’s standard of living to that of a middle-income county.  It has natural resources that are much richer than some of the developed countries – we can do it, Ethiopia can get there.

In summary: our leaders must work hard to raise the standard of living of our people through the combined efforts and policies of all the above, social justice and opportunities, and much more.

The leaders of Ethiopia have actually been engaged in and working hard to achieve the above goals and more for a few years now, including paying dearly with their lives. We have nothing but praise and gratitude for the sacrifices paid, the framework and policies laid, the economic advancements achieved, the educational framework put in place, and the country has a great start with the building and starting of many colleges and universities all over the country… We have seen great development in the country’s agricultural sector – which supports about 85% of the population, what a transformation!  As Meles said, “Ethiopia’s great wealth is its people”.

The great vision of the late PM Meles Zenawi in laying the groundwork for the continued economic transformation and industrialization – the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the great Millennium Dam and the few other already completed hydroelectric projects – are great testimonies to his wisdom and far-sightedness.  The Ethiopian people have made it stark clear in the last few weeks: that they value greatly the policies and groundwork started by Meles Zenawi’s leadership, and that their lives have changed for the better.

The people have spoken: they want the current leadership to continue on the path set by Meles Zenawi, they warned against any reversal or delays in moving forward.  Most Ethiopians in the Diaspora (and I am sure many opposition groups at home and abroad) were shocked to learn of the great love of the people for this simply selfless but of amazing intellect and commitment to the people of our country.  That is what happens when you take someone for granted sitting on the sidelines, or your only priority is hunger for power at any cost and no matter what.  Meles Zenawi lifted the status of the poor, oppressed and forgotten nationalities and minorities became equals in all aspects of national affairs, he broke the cultural and economic fetters binding our women in age old traditions and bondage.

The country has achieved measurable strides in the healthcare field.  Meles has been declared by the people as the father of the poor, the educator and teacher of the illiterate – what a tribute!  (This reminds me of the Biblical Job who said: “I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him … I made the widow’s heart sing” – Job 29:12-13)  But, let it be known and told that he did not achieve this by himself, he was the leader and team member of a party which stood for the interests of the people.  The people achieved this through the leadership of EPRDF.  The party galvanized and mobilized the population to fight and defeat a brutal dictatorship, and then embark on a path of development.  The current PM Hailemariam is a member of that great team.

A Few Words on Democracy and Freedom: Freedom and Democracy are great ideals – many over the centuries have paid dearly to achieve these ideals in all parts of the world.  But the basic question still remains: freedom for whom, democracy for whom … which sections of the population are the primary beneficiaries of the struggle for these rights?  Can there be real democracy and freedom while the majority of the population lives under the heavy burden of poverty, while we still have a long way to go before the educational level of the majority is raised to an acceptable level, and healthcare is so poor that the average life expectancy of Ethiopians is around 52 – 168th world ranking?  Obviously, we need a democratic political framework whose primary goal and focus is to raise the standard of living of the people – that is real freedom, real democracy.  A people cannot be free – no matter the political setup – if poverty and low education is the norm. To Illustrate my point, let me quote the Nobel Prize winner economist Amartya Sen:

…economic unfreedom in the form of extreme poverty, can make a person a helpless prey in the violation of other kinds of freedoms… Economic unfreedom can breed social unfreedom, just as social or political unfreedom can also foster economic unfreedom.  (in Development as Freedom)

We agree with what Azeb Mesfin said at her husbands funeral about the great vision he had for Ethiopia:  “The plans, visions, strategies and policies laid out by Meles should never be contaminated or diluted (ሳይበረዙና ሳይበከሉ).  Meles was guided by the simple truth that Ethiopia will move forward, not because of any accumulated wealth, but by the strength and hard work of the Ethiopian people.  The plans laid out by the Ethiopian government will be realized because our greatest wealth is our people.”

Hoping that the above makes it clear where we are coming from, let us briefly indicate in passing, a note of caution.  As the wise Ethiopian saying goes: “Dogs bark after the hyenas are gone”.  Now the great Ethiopian leader has passed away, we have started to see sugarcoated articles and opinions.  “Meles was a great leader, intellect … but now….”  Watch carefully what you read!

This article was originally published at www.EthioAdvocate.com