Winston Churchill once said, “those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”  When Lemma’s team visited Bahirdar and proclaimed the supremacy of Ethiopia, many thought these young leaders have learned from history and are beating the tumor that killed Meles. Did they?

Where did it go wrong for Meles?

Let us give Meles the benefit of the doubt and assume that he cared for Ethiopia as a country while he was a young and vibrant medical student and had a great vision for its renaissance. But he was just a student and must have needed a miracle to rise to the top of the Ethiopian ruling elite. If he needed a steppingstone to make it to the top of the ruling elite to make a difference, he would have to consider a few options he had at the time. Joining the royal family or the military elite was unthinkable for obvious reasons. Joining the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP) was not easy since the party was already packed with the best political elites of the time. Then, he would have to settle with an ethnic based and narrow-minded group called Tigray Liberation Struggle. Although winning the top leadership was not hard given the size of TPLF when he joined it, the way to the crown Jewel in Addis needed hard work and turned out to be long and bloody.

For an ordinary person, turning a small group of rebels into a formidable military and political entity was not an easy task. But Meles was not an ordinary person. He took the challenge. He turned his rebel base into a laboratory and his fighters into a lab rat.  He experimented first with Albanian communism and then with the Chinese Mao version. These foreign dogmas, however, remained foreign to the group and none of them became obsessions to ordinary TPLF fighters except a few of his disciples surrounding him. Unfortunately, one dogma that stuck in the minds of all, from top to bottom, was the idea that Tigray is the mount Sinai of Ethiopia and Tigrayans are the golden people. This follows that the Shewan Amhara political elite violated the sacred Tigrayan supremacy and oppressed the Tigrayan people for a long time. As a spiritual father of TPLF, he instilled Amhara and Ethiopia as the arch enemy of Tigray in the minds of its members and hammered it until it became part of their nature. For the ordinary TPLF fighters, except Meles and his few disciples, liberating Tigray from this evil empire called Ethiopia became an eternal struggle to the death.

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When eventually TPLF liberated Tigray in the late 1980s, the fighters thought that was the end of the road and many of them put down their arms and went home. For Meles, it was just the beginning of the next phase of his scheme. But he would have to change his tactics and his new tact would have to build on his previous one. The next scheme would have to explain why these fighters must die to liberate a people they were told is an arch enemy of Tigray. But devising a deceptive scheme was not hard for Meles at this time because Meles had elevated himself to a shroud political and military tactician. Nothing or nobody dared to stand on his way. All went well and he won the crown Jewel in Addis.

Having a vision is one thing, converting it into reality is always a different animal. As a rebel leader, Meles was able to forge great generals, engineers, and intelligence officers out of people who never attended formal education or dropped out from primary school. After EPRDF controlled the whole country, the skills Meles needed out of his fighters was administrative and civil service. His generals could do very little in these areas and he would have to rely on bureaucrats and advisors from the previous administration. In the meantime, he opened fast track training programs and institutions such as the civil service college to convert his rebel fighters to bureaucrats and civil administrators. But this task remained elusive for most of his fighters and civil administration remained alien even to some of the most brilliant generals such as Hayelom. Many of them resorted to drinking and night life to cope with the stress and depression associated with their complex bureaucratic duties. This in turn led to corruption and family disorganization. At some point, there was an alarming uptick in the number of suicides among TPLF fighters.

The biggest obstacle to Meles’ dream was nothing but his own making. The majority of TPLF members wanted to see the supremacy of Tigray and push for special treatment for the Tigrayan people and the Tigray region. Meles Preached this for a long time and there is no escape from it. He had no choice but to deliver as promised. For the first ten years, everything was heading to Tigray and every resource and the majority of the country’s budget was assigned to Tigray and Tigrayans. This imbalanced government centered action raised ire and fury in the rest of the country and among the diasporas. Meles responded with anger to some opposition leaders who confronted him in the parliament during budget allocations. For Meles, all these challenges seemed minor inconveniences for his vision of asserting Ethiopia’s renaissance. But the ethnic based dogma he invented to his end kept him on his heels until it finally put a tumor in his head and killed him.

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Yet, Meles was not without great accomplishments. Stopping Gadhafi from hijacking the African Union, Putting Ethiopia on the list of the fastest growing countries, and initiating the biggest dam on the Blue Nile are some of his shining moments. Unfortunately, history will not remember Meles as the hero who dared to stop the Blue Nile, rather the shroud politician who intoxicated the country with his narrow-minded ethnic nationalism.

Did Abiy Learn anything from Meles?

If you honestly ask me what killed Meles, I will tell you, the TPLF tumor, not the tumor in his head. After two years of Abiy’s Ethiopia, I am not sure if Abiy learned from the mistakes of Meles and broke from the TPLF syndrome at all. Rather he is caught in a vicious cycle of ethnic nationalism.

For many of us who watched what went down in Bahirdar in 2017 would think these new breed of Oromo and Amhara leaders called  ‘Team Lemma’ seemed capable of stopping the ethnic nationalism infection eating up Ethiopia and  reverse the fate of the country. One of the things that amazed many Ethiopians was how ‘Team Lemma’ beaten TPLF at its own game. When Abiy rose to the occasion and announced sweeping changes, he seemed and sounded like a miracle messenger sent to save Ethiopia and its people.

Surprisingly, it took only a few months for the core of ‘Team Lemma’ to crack and the promised changes disappear into the abyss. Now, many of us start to question how Abiy and his team rose to the highest strata of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization’s (OPDO) leadership? Did Abiy use the same tactic and promise like Meles? There are some indications Abiy and his team copied Meles’ scheme and promised the Oromo youth and OPDO members that the fruits of the sweeping changes will be for the supremacy of Oromia and only for the renaissance of the Oromo people. During his interview with the VOA, Obo Lemma Megersa said that he is against the idea of forming the prosperity party because OPDO has not yet delivered what was promised to the Oromo people.

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What did they promise?

According to the current president of Oromia, Obo Shimeles Abdissa, Prosperity Party is made for Oromia and Oromia alone. Every inch of the party’s existence is to benefit Oromia and to assert the supremacy of the Oromo People; to make Oromiffa the national language at the expense of the de facto national language, Amharic; changing the demographic composition of the capital city. For Obo Shimeles, every move the party made so far is to camouflage this hidden objective of the party.

The Verdict

The Ethiopian people have seen and experienced something identical for the last few decades. The only difference is that it was not from Oromia. Sadly, the person who crafted this scheme paid dearly with his own life and the people of Tigray who were supposed to benefit are paying a higher price now. Still, our learned leaders are not learning from the past. Once there was a writing on the wall of an aircraft workshop that reads, ‘please learn from the mistakes of others because you might not live to learn from your own.’ Though it was too late, Meles had realized his mistakes and tried to reverse some of his decisions during his last ten years; the flag day he instituted is one example. Fortunately, for Abiy and his team, they still have time to learn from history and correct the error of their ways.

May God instill some wisdom in them!


Abate Mengesha



  1. Good analysis but you are assuming that Abiy and Lemma’s intent was for the benefit of Ethiopians. We need to wake up from being CONVINCED AND CONFUSED. There is no error in their way, this is what they intended except they ended up fighting each other. We have now learned their true intent from Shimeles and probably more recording to come… wait for it …wait for it… and their hearts are as dark as Meles and TPLF if not worse. So they (Abiy) dont need time what Ethiopians need are Ethiopian leaders. Stop putting our hope on Abiy that is a big mistake. STOP BEING CONFUSED AND CONVINCED and TAKE A STAND. When are we going to learn. Abiy wants Ethiopians to choose him using Lemma, Jawar etc.. as the only other choice. It is a scare tactic. Abiy needs a boogey man like Lemma or Jawar because ultimately all of them agree on the final goal of OROMIZING Ethiopia and ethncially cleansing non_Oromos to the point that they are irrelevant (isnt that what Shime said). There is a better choice and that is a transitional government, remove article 39, make it illegal to have ethnic political parties. Draft a new citizen based constitution.

  2. Better than Winston Churchill, it is William Shakespeare in “The Tempest” that articulated the famous line “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” What a compliment to be compared to the founder of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The only mistake Meles made was that he failed to open up the political space. And Abiy came to help correct that aspect of his legacy. Now even the likes of you are rightfully parsing the dam as the best thing that happened to Ethiopia in recent memory. As to Lemma it’s politics as usual would not read too much into the issue at this point. After all, they are personal friends and inevitably they will make up. Some even say it could be staged. Who knows and who cares? They played TPLF maybe now they are playing you. That’s possible too. More newsworthy, what happens if all of a sudden Prosperity (PP) and TPLF were to make up and be partners in crime (government) again? If you corner Abiy too much he’ll be well advised to consider that option. At least TPLF would be a much more reliable partner than these useless Derg riffraffs in the Diaspora.

  3. Ato Abate I read your piece of writing titled ‘ IS ABIY NOTHING BUT MELES?’ and I agree with most of the things you have said regarding the misguided policies of ethnically based politics perpetrated by both leaders. But, I don’t agree with your effort to give some positive spin about Meles Zenawi’s great economic achievement by declaring he put ‘Ethiopia on the list of the fastest growing countries’. This was an exaggerated TPLF propaganda we have been hearing for the last Thirty years. Beyond this, you want to portray Meles Zenawi as a kind of a changed man in some aspects of his leadership style by learning from his past mistakes in the last ten years of his rule. Meles Zenawi was a dictator from the beginning of his leadership until his death. He didn’t care about the Flag or in that matter about Ethiopia in all his life. Regarding, Abiy Ahmed and the current leadership of Ethiopia it’s disappointing to see all the mess and lack of leadership in both the Federal and Killil (State) level for the last two years. The country and its people are in a state of prolonged surviving mood like a patient in a coma to get out of this continuous trauma of emotional, psychological and physical sufferings. The current leadership at both Federal and Killil level are only think of about their power and they don’t give a damn about serving and changing the lives of their people. We have seen the lack of leadership and its consequences in Oromia in which hundreds of people have been murdered and the whole of Shashemene and other cities were burnt due to ethnically based genocide. The Amhara ethnic group and christians were brutally murdered and massacred under the watchful eye of Ato Shimeles Abdissa. Abiy Ahmed himself didn’t condemned these brutal killings as a genocide rather tried to make it as everyone both the Amhara’s and Oromos suffered from it. Prime Minister Abiy those brave Oromos who were killed by the genocide perpetrators died because they were trying to save their beloved neighbours the Amharas. The lack of leadership in the Amhara kilil also reflected by its response to the genocide in Oromia. As far as I know the Amhara kilil didn’t send a fact finding mission to Oromia quickly to find out the extent of brutal killings, trauma , and material need of the people who were subjected to these sufferings because they were Amhars. The Amhara kilil leadership didn’t condemn the silence of Oromia leadership led by its narrow minded leader Shimeles Abdissa when the genocide happened under his watchful eyes. After all I don’t expect much from opportunistic leaders such as that of Ato Agegnehu Teshager who is the Head of Amhara Region Prosperity Party Office. As we all remember this is a guy few years back was praising his dear leader the late Meles Zenawi as a reformer and innovative leader. Now we can’t be sure Ato Agegnehu Teshager with huge power and responsibility as the head of Amhara Region Prosperity Party Office will stand for the interest of the Amhara people, region or Ethiopia to protect from recalcitrant individuals such as Shimeles Abdissa. Unless Abiy and other leaders such as Ato Agegnehu Teshager don’t wish or willing to change their style of leadership their fate will be like that of Meles Zenawi whose leadership is responsible in destroying the fabric of Ethiopian culture and unity. Others like that of Shimeles Abdissa should leave the stage and consider other professions which requires less talk and experience the real daily struggle of millions ordinary Ethiopians

  4. Subject: “IS ABIY NOTHING BUT MELES?, by ZeHabesha, August 13, 2020. “{

    Commentary, 13 Aug 2020
    What Ethiopia is doing is simply and naturally CORRECTING the past and BUILDING the future. In the process, we will see various ambitious ‘Actors’, coming in and disappear. It is the rule of Nature.

    Let us be frank and see the PAST, for a moment.
    Ethiopia was NEVER a democratic country.
    Ethiopia was under complete dictatorship for seemingly time immemorial.
    During that dictatorship era, various ethnic societies were NOT treated equally, nor democratically.
    During that absolute monarchy of governance, certain ethnic societies were treated slave-like that they started to change their ethnic NAMES to align with the names of the RULING CLASS. In other words, the victims were treated to HATE THEMSELVES!!! No treatment is cruel and criminal than destroying ones roots and culture…..
    Indeed, if we had an ideal UNIVERSAL JUSTICE SYSTEM [ admittedly, it is hallucination] Ethiopia would have been first rate criminal for destroying the cultural characteristic of various ethnicity..
    What is happening in Ethiopia TODAY is the direct consequential effect of many decades of criminal treatment upon the various ethnicity in the entire country called Ethiopia.
    Alas, NOW, ETHIOPIA is paying the PRICE of YESTERDAY’S criminality and no amount of huffs and puffs will ever return to the old cruel criminal treatment of various ethnicity. NEVER.
    No appeals and maneuvering with international communities will EVER return Ethiopia to the OLD ERA of DICTATORSHIP of ONE ETHNICITY. NEVER.
    To admantly searching for the old MASTER/SLAVES relationship is a futile attempt that will NEVErR, EVER happen in PEACE TIME.
    Ethiopia will be better off to swallow the REALITY of the TIME and start building Ethiopia from scratch on a new foundation of EQUALITY, DEMOCRACY and FRATERNITY. THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE. INSULTING each other on the Internet is tantamount in assuring the disintegration and evaporation of the Ethiopia for ever. THE END

  5. The overwhelming majority of Oromos in the diaspora are in favour of forming an independent state of Oromia. All the shenanigans that they were not represented in the government in the past and that they were marginalized holds no water. They are playing the dirty game of the end justifies the means
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Lemma and Abiy played the same game when started off. Ethiopians should have a wary eye on Abiy. He may be paving the road for the extremists. Let us not forget he was the head of the security apparatus INSA..

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