Response to Samuel Gebru: Ethiopia at 2012 G8 Summit: Abebe Gellaw Only Embarrassed Himself
by Aklog Demissie
I read the article by Mr. Samuel  on the Abebe-Meles incident at the G8 meeting in Washington DC, where Mr. Meles Zenawi was interrupted by a series of heckling allegations from Journalist Abebe Gelaw. Mr. Samuel’s main point is lets try to talk to and reason out with the Ethiopian government officials. That idea would have been possible had the officials been those Mr. Samuel is familiar with in the United States, not the ones from Ethiopia.
Mr. Samuel had been too Americanized or turned a blind eye to EPRDF’s mistakes to observe that, not even a single government official invites journalists from private press on their interviews. He has been blinded by the fact that all of the Ethiopian officials speak the same language while discussing their policy indicating lack of personal confidence. Mr. Meles and his colleagues have been riding an unchallenged wave of ruling when it comes to their policies albeit the silent parliament. And in rare cases they are challenged never have they admitted mistakes or propose to look the other side of the story.
Two years back, during the hype times of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) Mr. Meles was presenting his report to the parliament and the only opposition member of the parliament, Mr Girma Seyfu, challenged Meles on a politically inclined question. Looking how confident the prime minister was on success of the plan touted as having no flaws, Mr. Girma asked Meles to review the progress after two years and leave his post if the plan isn’t going according to what the government predicted. This seems like a reasonable political question that a person of Meles’s caliber should handle. But Meles crumbled and avoided the question. In another incident a few years back, the head of the federal auditor presented a report to the parliament alleging that the government has borrowed more money from the central bank. Instead of proposing to look into the situation and find solutions to the problem, the vulgar Meles blasted the head of the agency and accused him of making mistakes while adding numbers.
This contagious tactic of avoiding challenges goes to the poorly assembled cabinet as well. After finding out that 80% of the Ethiopian medical students want to leave the country after they finish their study, a BBC journalist asks the health minister Dr. Tewodros Adhanom what he thinks about the situation. (Watch the video clip after 4:00) As far as I see it, this is a a major problem that is related with salary, working condition, management problem at the Ethiopian hospitals. But for the government official this was a matter of demand-and-supply. And his solution, drive five times students into the medical school without considering about the issue of quality. My point is that, it is hard to reason out with such officials who are still in their jungle state of mind. For example, I don’t understand how can one, in a fair state of mind, challenge and have a serious discussion with Mr. Seyoum Mesfin who boldly lied to the Ethiopian people about Badme. Challenging officials is only possible if he/she is elected by the people, knows his full responsibility, has enough knowledge about the issue.
Mr. Samuel missed the fact that it is not the Ethio-American diaspora who has to be criticized but the government officials. The officials rather than ignoring the worries of the diaspora community reflected on foreign media outlets, they should challenge the ideas and state a response. For example the diaspora community has criticized the issue of cheap land sale to foreign investors and the official government office responsible should argue their points for supporting the proposal such as the fact that most of the purchase is done by Ethiopian nationals. Only when the official positions are taken by professionals like Dr. Eleni G/Medhin of ECX, who takes time to argue her points  or explain her objective  to anyone who asks a question, should the diaspora challenge the officials.