By Seble Teweldebirhan
(Ezega.com) – Last Friday the Editor of Fitih, a local Amharic weekly newspaper, Temesgen Desalge, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi requesting his immediate resignation. The letter published on Friday July 1, 2011 on Fitih Ande Belu column was unusual for many who thought Temesgen took a whole lot of risk by writing the article.
Temesgen started his letter by greeting the PM in Tigrigna language. “I heard that one of the reasons you became a gorilla fighter at a young age is claiming your right to use your language was violated. But do you really believe language has any relation to blood and bone as you like to put it than merely a tool for communicate?” he asked.
“I understand you are a busy man with endless meetings, campaigns, issuing laws and policies, making sure the watchdog organizations for your opponents are functioning according to plan, worrying about terrorism and recently the tension between South and North Sudan. But I beg for a few minutes of your time to hear me out,” he wrote. “It’s been 20 years since you assumed power promising that you will make sure every Ethiopian will eat three times a day. Now, after two decades, Ethiopians are starved than ever before. Even ETV, a station under your control, did a program recently reporting children in Addis Ababa are fainting in a classroom because of hunger. Considering you have children of your own, I believe you recognize how sad this news can be for the country.”
He also claims that high unemployment is making Ethiopian youth hopeless and many are taking illegal immigration as a solution. “This young people know how dangerous and life threatening it is to try to cross borders, but they are doing it anyway. This should indicate the frustration this generation is facing today.”
“We have witnessed several roads and buildings being constructed and we have few wealthy who drive Hammer in front of starved children. However, millions are still waiting for a better price for cooking oil and sugar. You like it or not, today, we are more concerned about daily meal than your terrorism apprehension. We spend the night sleepless worrying we might die with starvation than Al-Qaeda blowing our town.”
“Can you imagine living in a country where talking about unemployment, lack of quality education, or any other issue that go against the government is considered as a shameful act and a crime.”
Temesgen is of the opinion that the PM never meets the people of Ethiopia. “If you think those who attend your popular meetings at the Millennium hall or may be your office are the people of Ethiopia, then you are probably wrong. Those people have no choice since they are members of your party for lots of reasons. I have never seen your opponents attend your meetings.”
He also questioned why the government chose silence in the UNDP recent report saying $8.5 Billion illicitly transferred from Ethiopia to developed countries in the last 20 years. “That money could have built the Millennium Dam and many other projects. That money is ours and the least the government could have done is show some concern and find ways to get it back. Why did the government chose silence?” he questioned.
Temesgen also criticized the government recent plan to buy tanks from Ukraine. “We are paying tax for every little thing we buy and for minor services we receive,” he wrote.
Continuing his critique, Temesgen wrote the only logical thing for the PM to do is to resign peacefully. “Tunisian Ben Ali and Egyptian Hosni Mubareke didn’t get this chance. We Ethiopians have a say that when there is a gossip about someone you should hear it for your own sake.”
Temesgen talked about the high cost of life, unemployment, and loss of nationalism feelings among the youth, lack of accountability for public officials, and the confusing tax system. He also condemns the huge economic gap between the few extremely rich and the majority very poor and the terrorism law that gave wide discretion to government officials to label anyone a terrorist. Temesgen also criticized the ‘elections’ that he says remains to be a trouble for the country. He demanded that the Election Board be dissolved and replaced by an independent body. He also talked about the two journalists arrested recently. One of them is a columnist for his newspaper, Fithe. Temesgen requested explanation for her arrest.
Blaming almost all problems on the PM, Temesgen writes: “All our problems will never get a solution as long as you remain in power. So, please for the sake of the country resign peacefully,” he concluded.
On Friday, Fithe, a relatively unpopular newspapers, was hugely read and probably sold in enormous numbers because of this article, which ten years ago might have passed as just another critical editorial, but no more, as times have changed.
From those who read the article, Ezega.com received three different reactions. Some said journalists like Temesgen are what this country desperately needs and it is better to say what one feels and bear the consequences. Others considered the article insignificant since the officials might not even read it, and even if they do, the only one who will suffer any harm is the writer himself and called Temesgen brave, if a bit reckless. The third opinion came from those who believe Meles Zenawi is the best leader this country ever had. They say he is doing the best he can for this country and he does not deserve such criticism.