By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
… Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation is the only generation that could rescue Ethiopia from the steel claws of T-TPLF tyranny and dictatorship. It is the only generation that can deliver Ethiopia from the venomous fangs of a benighted dictatorship and sweep away a decaying and decomposing garrison state built on a foundation of lies and corruption into the dustbin of history. Alemayehu G. Mariam, “2013: Year of the Cheetah Generation”.
… Above all, I regard you as the leader of Ethiopia’s youth. That said, know that I am in your corner and got your back. Alemayehu G. Mariam, expressing full support for Abiy Ahmed after he was appointed prime minister on April 2, 2018.
Author’s Note: Every time there is some disturbance in Ethiopia, a parade of pseudo-patriots, pseudo-intellectuals, pseudo-activists, pseudo-political leaders and ye dil atbiya arbegnoch (heroes who show up on the eve of victory and take credit for the battle won), wannabe revolutionaries and warriors take to social media, YouTube and the blogosphere to lecture, hector and pontificate to the younger generation of leaders in Ethiopia.
I wonder why they do that.
Could it be that they think the disturbances will turn into civil war giving them an opportunity to sneak into power? Could it be that they want to be recognized as prophets of a coming Apocalypse in Ethiopia so that they can proclaim, “I told you so!”? Could it be that they believe if they show up as wolves in sheep’s clothing no one will recognize they are has-been wolves toothless, witless and hopeless today? Could it be that they believe no one can recognize a hyena in daylight? Could it be that they want to justify their miserably failed lives by belittling and denigrating Ethiopia’s young leaders? Could it be that they are engaged in self-delusion that anyone will listen to what they have to say knowing who they really are? Maybe they enjoy shouting fire where there is no fire just to see people crushed in a stampede.
Perhaps all of the foregoing questions could be answered in the affirmative.
When old men with checkered pasts take to the pulpit to preach the gospel of human rights, rule of law, justice, good governance and leadership integrity, I laugh at them.
I laugh at them because there is no fool like an old fool.
It has been said, “Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test.”
These old men had absolute power and absolute power corrupted them.
Now they show up to bear holy witness.
These old men remind me of Antonio’s admonition in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice”:
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
“Ok, Hippos”, spare us the sermons, homilies, tirades and tongue-lashing.
Ethiopia’s youth are Ethiopia’s last great hope!
Last week, Chlöe Swarbrick, the 25-year-old Green Party New Zealand lawmaker during floor debate zapped and swatted her quinquagenarian (those between 50-59 years old) colleagues with two words that have now become the shibboleth of millennials everywhere. Swarbrick discoursed on the betrayal of her generation:
Mr. Speaker, how many world leaders, for how many decades have seen and known what is coming but have decided that it is more politically expedient to keep it behind closed doors. My generation and the generations after me do not have that luxury. In the year 2050, I will be 56 years old. Yet, right now, the average age of this 52nd Parliament is 49 years old.
When one of her colleagues heckled her because he did not like the generational indictment, she nonchalantly launched the lexical equivalent of a Javelin anti-tank missile, “Ok, boomer” and shut him up cold, and kept on talking unfazed.
“Boomer” refers to the “baby boomer” generation of Americans born after between 1946 and 1964.
Swarbrick’s repartee targeted baby boomers’ self-centeredness, self-righteousness, greed, arrogance, ignorance, cowardice and lack of vision and foresight.
I call Ethiopia’s “baby boomers” (born between 1943-1970), the Hippo Generation.
Of course, there are younger, elderly, senior and downright comatose Hippos.
Anyone under 40 in Ethiopia is a member of the Cheetah Generation in my book.
The metaphor of “Cheetahs and Hippos” (Abo Shemanes and Gumarees) was first introduced by George Ayittey, the distinguished Ghanaian economist and human rights advocate.
Ayittey argued African “Hippos are of the 1960s-era mentality — stodgy, pudgy, and wedded to the old ‘colonialism-imperialism’ paradigm with an abiding faith in the potency of the state.
He described Africa’s “Cheetah Generation” as “Africa’s new hope”. They are “a new and angry generation of young African graduates and professionals, who look at African issues and problems from a totally different and unique perspective. They brook no nonsense about corruption, inefficiency, ineptitude, incompetence, or buffoonery.”
Ethiopia’s Hippos Generation has a big problem with Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation currently transforming and uplifting the country from the miry pit of 27-years of dictatorship and ethnic apartheid to multiparty democracy and national unity.
For the past nearly 14 years, I have been talking of Ethiopia’s youth, Cheetah Generation, as the only salvation of Ethiopia.
I am proud to say that I have been the foremost champion of Ethiopian youth since I joined the Ethiopian human rights movement in 2005.
I have defended them, advocated for them and stood up for them when they were being massacred by the ethnic apartheid TPLF regime.
In 2006, following the Meles Massacres of 2005, I gave prudent advice to Ethiopia’s young people and told Ethiopia’s older generation to help “prepare the youth for leadership and chart the course of Ethiopia’s destiny.”
In April 2007, I declared Ethiopia’s young people are the only ones who could save Ethiopia from the forest fire started by the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front:
My favorite people in the world are young people, young Ethiopians and Ethiopian Americans. They are the most courageous, audacious, tenacious and passionate Ethiopians I know. God bless them all! They are the only ones who can fight this fire and put it out. The rest of us are water carriers.
But our young people in Ethiopia are in the fire, and on the firing line every day. They are shot down like rabid dogs if they protest. They are jailed if they speak their minds. They are harassed if they are considered disloyal. They disappear if they are considered subversive.
On August 20, 2012, the day Meles Zenawi’s death was announced, I published a commentary declaring, “It is now time for Ethiopia’s cheetahs to take a leading role in the national dialogue to transition Ethiopia from dictatorship to democracy.” I explained without mincing words:
Why MUST Ethiopia’s cheetahs lead the national dialogue for a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy? First, if the cheetahs do not initiate the dialogue, who will? Who can? The hippos have been dialoguing for decades using the language of finger pointing, mudslinging, hatemongering and grudge holding. Second, the future belongs to the cheetahs (an estimated 67 percent of Ethiopia’s population is said to be under the age of 35) and not the hippos who continue to wallow in the muddy politics of ethnicity and sectarianism.
In my January 2013 commentary, I declared:
Ethiopia’s Cheetah Generation is the only generation that could rescue Ethiopia from the steel claws of T-TPLF tyranny and dictatorship. It is the only generation that can deliver Ethiopia from the venomous fangs of a benighted dictatorship and sweep away a decaying and decomposing garrison state built on a foundation of lies and corruption into the dustbin of history.
I issued an “injunction”:
Ethiopia’s Hippo Generation must move over and make way for the Cheetahs. Ethiopia’s Hippo Generation is not only astigmatic with distorted vision, it is also myopic and narrow- minded preoccupied with mindless self-aggrandizement. The Hippos in power are stuck in the quicksand of divisive ethnic politics and the bog of revenge politics. Ethiopia’s intellectual Hippos by and large have chosen to stand on the sidelines with arms folded, ears plugged, mouths sealed shut and eyes blindfolded. They have broken faith with the youth.
In my December 2013 commentary, Mandela’s Message to Ethiopia’s Youth: Never give up…!”, I said Mandela’s message to Ethiopia’s youth would be to “dare to be great, change yourself before you change society, be virtuous, patriotic, courageous, optimistic, dream big, educate the people, do good, forgive and reconcile.”
In my January 2014 commentary, I called for a Chee-Hippo (half Cheetah, half Hippo) Generation to rise up. I urged
“formal and informal conversation between Cheetahs and Hippos across all forums– from the dinner table to the halls of academia, from churches and mosques to civic associations. We need to have dialogues to question old ideas, keep the good ones and discard the rest, to change old, narrow-minded and counterproductive patterns of thinking, generate fresh new ideas about politics, government and society and brainstorm and generate innovative and creative solutions to persistent socio-political problems.
In September 2016, I gave an interview explaining my supreme confidence in Ethiopia’s youth despite contentions little can be expected from them.
In my February 2016 commentary, “A Special ‘Message in a Bottle, to Ethiopian Cheetahs” I issued a “challenge to every Ethiopian Cheetah to become an ‘Ethiopian Imagineer’ — an architect, a designer, an inventor, a surveyor, a builder and entrepreneur of a free Ethiopian society whose citizens are more concerned about each other’s humanity than their own ethnicity; an Ethiopia of equal opportunity; an Ethiopia free of corruption, oppression and thugtatorship.”
In my August 2016 commentary, I declared, “Ethiopia’s youth united can never be defeated. The yearning of youth for freedom and change is self-evident. The only question is whether the country’s youth will seek change through increased militancy or by other peaceful means.”
Ethiopia’s youth won in 2018!
People who live in houses with no walls and no roofs should not throw stones
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been following the misadventures of some incorrigible Ethiopian Hippos online with amusement and dismay.
They seem to have crawled out of the woodwork to wage a vilification campaign against H.E. Prime Minster Dr. Abiy Ahmed.
It appears they came out swinging believing PM Abiy’s days were numbered following some disturbances in the country.
They thought they could position themselves for a power grab when all hell broke loose in Ethiopia.
I could best describe their campaign of fear and smear against PM Abiy in the words of Shakespeare’s Pisanio:
No, ’tis slander,
Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds and doth belie
All corners of the world…
The self-declared “13th apostle” strikes back!
One of the individuals spitting venom on PM Abiy and the peaceful change in Ethiopia is a man who claimed to have met God in prison literally (but did not shake his hand), declared himself virtually the “13th apostle” and publicly renounced politics.
This man who is hectoring and dictating to PM Abiy and Ethiopia Cheetah Generation is none other than the man who forced a schism (a deep division) in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church).
In January 2009, this man admitted to American diplomatic officials that he personally “signed the official order that removed the original patriarch” and split the Church in two creating great pain, anguish and destruction.
It was Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who finally brought a healing to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in July 2018.
The same individual was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 18 years after he was found guilty of “stashing a state fund worth $16 million in his personal Swiss bank account”.
This money was acquired in a shakedown of the “richest man in Ethiopia” under the pretext of paying the debt of the Ethiopian government.
At the time of the corruption charges, the same man admitted in parliament he had been repeatedly advised not to engage in corrupt practices but simply ignored the advice and continued to ply his trade in corruption.
There is no question same man opened three bank accounts in Switzerland to stash the $16 million.
In October 1998, Switzerland handed over some details of bank accounts to Ethiopia during the corruption prosecution of this man.
In March 2000, BBC reported, Swiss authorities returned $8m of the illicit deposit to Ethiopia.
In a 2003 report, the BBC reported, “The Swiss Justice Ministry said that the amounts deposited in the bank accounts in Geneva ‘relate exclusively to a part of the embezzled loan (and) there is no link between the sequestered assets and the other crimes … committed by [defendant] and his co-offenders.”
This same man goes around claiming he was convicted for political reasons.
But since he has been free and living in America for over a decade, he has never challenged the credibility of the evidence used to convict him of stashing millions of dollars in his personal bank accounts.
Never has this man said a single word of criticism about Meles Zenawi, the man who “unjustly” jailed him for 12 years.
This man said he would write a book about the injustices inflicted upon him by his former comrades-turned jailors.
But he chose to remain silent against those who humiliated and dehumanized him.
Now he wags his tongue against the man who showed him great respect and appreciation when he returned to Ethiopia in 2018.
In 1991, the same individual was in power and turned a blind eye “during the time many Amharas were slaughtered in Arbagugu and in Bedno.”
When this man was prime minister, he went to Somali region and told the people, “You are now free. Teach the neftegnas in your midst who call you ‘camel followers’ what you can do.”
The president of the region chastised him, “We have lived with our neighbors for a long time. We know how to relate with each other.” This was evidence related to me by an eyewitness.
After this man was released from prison in 2008, he made the rounds of televangelism networks and in so many words declared he was the 13th apostle (move over St. Matthias).
This man said when he was released from prison his days of politics are behind him and he will dedicate the remained of his to the service of God:
… It was in the fifth year that God appeared to me in a prison cell. He looks like he [is] made of light. The whole thing of him was light. It was not in dreams or visions, mind you. He just appeared in front of me and said, “Follow me. I am Jesus. Believe in me and follow me.”
Today, instead of following Jesus, the 13th apostle is persecuting the very individuals who are doing Jesus’ work of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Jesus speaking about hypocrites said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Mark 7:6.
What does it profit a man to point an accusatory finger at another when three fingers are pointing at him?
Or as Jesus taught, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? Matthew 7:3.
Boy who keeps crying wolf
There is an Ethiopian proverb, “A wolf monk prays amidst a flock of sheep.”
There is a story about the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” in Aesop’s Fables.
The shepherd boy would cry “wolf” when the there is no wolf and scare out the villagers only to laugh at them.
Just like the proverbial boy who cried wolf, there are some Ethiopian Hippos who have been crying “Civil War” and “Failed State” for years.
I will not repeat myself here.
But I wonder.
Just like the boy who cried wolf, do these wolves in sheep’s clothing really want to see civil war and state failure in Ethiopia?
Do they think a military coup will bring democracy or a transition to democracy in Ethiopia as they have often advocated?
What is amusing to me is that they keep turning up like a bad penny.
I don’t know what motivates these dinosaur hippos to become prophets of doom and gloom.
Are they desperately trying to remain relevant?
The fact of the matter is that when they were in power, they perpetrated evil on an epic scale with their military confederates.
They were part of the core leadership of the regime that unleashed the Red Terror massacres in Ethiopia in 1976-77.
Then they went through acts of contrition and expiation for the sins they have committed.
Then they shed tears, “Red Tears”.
But what we saw were “Crocodile Tears” rolling down their cheeks.
I am sick and tired of Ethiopia’s Hippo Generation crying out, “The sky is falling” and spinning tales of cynicism and defeatism.
I am sick and tired of Ethiopia’s Hippo Generation bitching about all the things PM Abiy is not doing.
I am sick and tired of Ethiopia’s Hippo Generation slithering out of their underground lairs to preach their gospel of pessimism, cynicism, defeatism and negativism.
Why don’t they come up with their proposals and solutions to solve Ethiopia’s political, economic and social problems?
PM Abiy came up with his solution by proposing a philosophy of “Medemer”?
They did not even have the guts and intellect to read his book and challenge him on his ideas. But they have time to moan and groan.
What is their philosophy? “Philosophy of Moaning, Groaning and Victimology”?
I don’t want to be misunderstood. No political leader is above criticism.
I would not mind if they criticize PM Abiy by coming up with their plan to solve any of the myriad problems faced by Ethiopians.
I would cheer them on and stand on their side if they were to deliver a comprehensive plan of action to compete with PM Abiy’s.
I would cheer them on and stand on their side if they presented a comprehensive plan for constitutional revision.
I would cheer them on and stand on their side if they came up with a plan to deal with youth unemployment, shortage in hard currency, attracting foreign direct investment, dealing with the dire food shortage throughout the country.
But these deceitful windbags are incapable of putting their ideas to paper.
But they are quick to pontificate and blow hot air over the achievements and any proposals made by PM Abiy.
I know why the Hippos groan and grunt
I will tell it like it is.
After all, I am the guy who proclaims “Speaking Truth to Power” as masthead on his website.
There are two things that scare the hell out of tired old Ethiopian Hippos.
First, they are scared to death PM Abiy will succeed and bring a measure of peace, reconciliation and hope to Ethiopia.
Second, they believe if PM Abiy succeeds, they are doomed to fail. Their ambition for power, fame, fortune and glory goes up in smoke.
The Ethiopian Hippos, Chicken Littles, Doomsdayers and prophets of doom and gloom love to hate PM Abiy because they
desperately want to establish a gerontocracy (government by old geezers).
believe the only system that works in Ethiopia is a kraterocracy/stratocracy (rule by the strong/military).
are criminal and corrupt thugs who are scared to death they will be held accountable for their crimes and corruption.
are hungry and thirsty for power and want other people to do the heavy lifting and dying for them to get into power.
are wannabe leaders who can only mislead and lead innocent citizens to the graveyard.
expected a position and a job in PM Abiy’s administration but did not get it because they have nothing of value to offer.
seek access to manipulate PM Abiy and put him in their pocket but are unable to do so.
suffer from a debilitating inferiority complex.
feel PM Abiy has ignored them or not given them enough attention.
wanted PM Abiy to “take action” by ordering mass arrests, mass incarcerations, mass persecutions and massacres so that his hand, like theirs, is soaked in the blood of innocents.
jealous of his meteoric rise and is the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
are members of the coma generation (brain dead).
festoon their names with acronyms of higher education but have not done a damn thing to help or stand up for their people.
are windbags who spend their time gossiping.
don’t know what time it is. (It’s time for change.)
are intimidated by PM Abiy’s prodigious intellect and forensic powers.
are losers in life, in their professions and in their political ambitions.
are villains pretending to be heroes.
Why I have supported Abiy Ahmed from Day #1
Let me say that I understand why the Hippos are going after PM Abiy.
I understand their coordinated strategy to scandalize, delegitimize and dehumanize PM Abiy regardless of what he does or does not do.
I get it.
But they will not get away with it without a a stiff rejoinder.
BTW, by providing this rejoinder, I am not violating my standard operating policy: “It is a matter of mind over matter. I don’t mind and they don’t matter.”
I just like to speak truth to wolves in sheep skin, daylight hyenas and comatose hippos.
As far as I know, I am the first person to publicly and unreservedly endorse Abiy Ahmed when he was appointed prime minister on April 2, 2018.
On April 8, 2018, I wrote a commentary and gave PM Abiy my full support.
On April 16, 2018, I gave an interview on Voice of America- Amharic and gave PM Abiy my full and explained my principled support for him (translation form Amharic):
… My view is very simple. I stand for the young people, especially Ethiopian young people. It is now over 10 years since I’ve been defending and advocating for them. I have been saying the young people need to be given a chance. Those of us in the older generation, people like myself, should get out of the game and give the young people a chance. That is because only the young people can take charge of Ethiopia’s destiny. Therefore, that the cries of the young people be heard. The young people are suffering. They have no jobs they are educated but they have no place. Pele cobblestones all day. What I’m saying is let’s Embrace these young people and March forward. My hope is, I see PM Abiy as a member of the youth generation. I believe he resonates the ideas and hopes of the youth. He has good outlook. He believes in Ethiopiawinet and unity. It brings people together. He wants to eliminate hate and bring reconciliation to the people. These are things in my heart and which I preached for the past 13 years. I believe the change will be good. That is why I gave PM Abiy my full support without reservations…
For the past 19 months, PM Abiy has been man of his word, a man of action, a man for all seasons.
PM Abiy has done more in 19 months than all others have done in 50 years.
Let the facts speak for themselves!
OK, Hippos! Move over. Leave the Cheetahs alone!
I have a simple message for Hippos, Wolves (in sheepskin), (daylight) Hyenas, Skunks, Snakes, Creepers and Predators prowling the political landscape in Ethiopia:
LEAVE ETHIOPIAN CHEETAHS THE HELL ALONE!