By Mitiku Adisu
This article was first published in 2006 in Tecolahagos.com
A Leader is a dealer in hope. — Napoleon I (1769 -1821)
No legacy is so rich as honesty. —William Shakespeare (1564 -1616)
The art of leaving a worthy legacy continues to elude Ethiopian political leaders. The problem is real and immediate. Transitions have been traumatic; power remains largely unchecked and coercive.
Coercive power, as opposed to the consensual, has its allure: one gets quick results; one has access to limitless funds and favors; one feels self-assured and invincible. Emperor Haileselassie, Chairman Mengistu, and now Prime Minister Meles agree on their irreplaceableness.ii Power, observed Henry Kissinger, is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, echoed Lord Acton.
Unchecked power is a recipe for disaster. There were nine attempts on Comrade Mengistu’s life while in office and one more in exile. Emperor Haileselassie too had his share, which finally caught up with him at his most vulnerable moment. Prime Minister Meles is leading the nation through the agency of his Special Forces and the strength of the donor community. Some have gone out on a limb to air their wish that Prime Minister Meles will [once again] “weather [this] political storm.” iii Is “weathering [a] political storm” really the only reasonable option left to him? We hope not.