By Prof. Alemayehu G. Mariam
Is PM Abiy Ahmed winning the battle (of ideas) for hearts and minds?
In an interview, a self-styled journalist-cum-former-regime official-turned-opposition activist and avowed opponent of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pointedly accused PM Abiy Ahmed of having vanquished his legion of opposition by persuading them to quaff a “special drink that strikes their cerebellum and makes them high.”
PM Abiy has turned the whole Ethiopian opposition into zombies and mindless automatons.
Until April 2, 2018, the supposedly decimated Ethiopian opposition was known by the label “terrorists” or “extremist diasporans”.
What could be the special libation PM Abiy is serving the Ethiopian opposition (“terrorists and extremist diasporans”) to give them a dopamine rush and get them flying high as a kite, sleepwalk the political landscape holding their arms out uttering a low, guttural moan and eat out of the palms of his hands?
I have heard of people getting sloshed on “Martinis”, “Gimlets”, “Manhattans”, “Margaritas” and even “ Zombies“.
Could PM Abiy’s special brew or cocktail be “Medemer”?
Guinness beer’s jingle is it “refreshes your spirit”.
What is a fitting jingle for “Medemer”?
“You feel whole with Medemer.” “Medemer, feel the vibe.” “Medemer, one love, one heart.”
Here is my translation of a segment of the interview (begins at 32:10 min.) between Abebe Belew, a well-known Ethiopian radio personality, and a self-styled journalist-cum-former- top regime official-turned-opposition activist and self-declared nemesis of PM Abiy:
… Now the people listening to you would say we all struggled to bring about change. When you look at it from the perspective of where we have reached, from those forces against whom we tried to make change, who do you think is still around still alive and with capability today from those who wanted to bring about change?
Self-styled journalist-cum-former-regime official-turned-opposition activist…:
I don’t understand [the question].
When you see it, we have made a whole lot of effort, to the point of exhaustion to change [the situation in Ethiopia over the past 27 years]. In the middle came Dr [PM] Abiy giving [inspiring] speeches and that resulted in [changes] we see now. When you look in perspective, that force [opposition] that was trying to make change and when you see what has changed, which has substance?
Self-styled journalist-cum-former-regime official-turned-opposition activist…:
What are Dr. Abiy’s successes? Since I must speak about them, and if we proceed by numbering them 1 and 2, [let me say] Dr. Abiy’s biggest success for me is disarming of what are called the opposition or to disarm them of their weapons. His first big achievement is his success in disarming the opposition. That does not mean literally to disarm them from firing bullets. I mean disarm them with ideas.
His biggest achievement is to first disarm the opposition. Of arms and ideas and different things. That is one achievement.
Second, when you drink, when you start drinking too much, the part of the brain that quickly gets affected is your cerebellum. [When it is affected] it makes you wobble and so on. He made the opposition take drinks that will make them drunk and strike their cerebellum.
That is what he did. Therefore, his biggest achievement number 1 with the so-called opposition is to disarm them and give them a potent drink. The drink may make them feel high but it struck their cerebellum. That is the number one.
So, when you see it comprehensively, what you now call the opposition force, today they are clapping their hands in the air. That is what happened. I think that’s one of his successes…
… To disarm means to diminish the opposition’s financial capacity and weaken their supporters. In some cases, he made his opposition his supporters.
Today we had a peaceful protest. There are many who did not participate. In the past, they used to join with us in protest. I’m not saying that they have to participate with us. But he has disarmed them…
Regardless, he has weakened the energy of the opposition. Whether the opposition will ever recover is something that makes me anxious. Really, is it possible for the opposition to continue like this in fidelity generally? That is a heavy burden for me. That is his biggest success, I think…
Medemer: PM Abiy’s secret weapon/formula/drink?
PM Abiy has publicly announced his book on “Medemer” will be published this year.
But he has not announced his book will also be available for libation in a bottle.
If PM Abiy has plans to bottle Medemer, I hope he will consider having Medemer wine tasting events for the opposition at home and abroad.
I have written extensively on PM Abiy’s “Medemer” ideas having studied his speeches and public statements.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess I was the first to be “Medemer-ed” before PM Abiy ever announced the idea in public.
I am stunned by the open admission of a vociferously bombastic self-declared implacable ideological foe of PM Abiy that the idea of “Medemer” has decidedly won the day and the hearts and minds of the opposition in Ethiopia.
PM Abiy “has weakened the energy of the opposition. Whether the opposition will ever recover is something that makes me anxious,” whined the self-styled foe in total capitulation.
I would have expected a die-hard PM Abiy detractor to issue a call to arms literally or figuratively.
A declaration of an unconditional surrender waiving the white flag is something beyond my imagination.
Hear ye! Hear ye!
PM Abiy is coming! PM Abiy is coming!
Run for your lives!
PM Abiy will give you “drinks that will strike your cerebellum.”
PM Abiy has disarmed the opposition!
They are all sleep walking in drunken stupor.
PM Abiy has overpowered, routed, conquered, vanquished and stampeded the opposition.
PM Abiy has declared, “Veni, vidi, vici!” (I came, I saw, I conquered.)
The Ethiopian opposition is dead. Long live the Ethiopian opposition!?
Lotus Eaters and Lotus Drinkers?
In my studies, I have come across the mythology of the Lotus Eaters.
In Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, the Greek hero Odysseus returning home on a ten year journey to Ithaca following the fall of Troy was blown towards the African coast (likely present day Libya). His soldiers met up with local inhabitants who fed them a mysterious plant (lotus) which induced blissfulness and forgetfulness. Confused and disoriented, they had to be dragged back to the ship and chained to rowing-benches to continue the journey home.
I am amazed to learn PM Abiy has indeed achieved such mythological powers to get all of Ethiopia’s opposition who have been on decades long journey to partake of a “lotus drink” to make them forget their years of struggle and languish and vegetate in drunken stupor.
Arguably, as the first Ethiopian diaspora public supporter (of fame or notoriety) of PM Abiy and foremost unrelenting critic of the previous regime, I should have been the first to have taken a sip from the chalice of the PM Abiy’s lotus drink and wafted away in the la-la-land of forgetfulness and bliss.
But I do not forget!
I do not forget the cruelty and barbarity if the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front over the past 27 years.
I do not forget the criminality and brutality of the TPLF over the past 27 years.
I do not forget the corruption, cronyism and mendacity of the TPLF over the past 27 years.
I do not forget the crimes against humanity and nature of the TPLF over the past 27 years .
I do not forget Ethiopiawinet was a crime, a badge of blame and shame over the past 27 years under TPLF rule.
I do not forget the last 27 years when Ethiopians were forced to confess their tribal and ethnic affiliations just to survive.
I do not forget the last 27 years when Ethiopians lived in a nightmare state of fear, terror and dreaded the midnight knock on the door and the swift street abduction at noon by faceless goons.
I do not forget the last 27 years when Ethiopians wearing the wrong ethnic colors were demonized, dehumanized, demoralized, ostracized and categorized and turned into the walking dead.
Above all, I do not forget TPLF “sleeper” wolves masquerading in sheep’s clothing in the diaspora.
I do not forget those who defended the TPLF’s anti-terrorism law as having been designed to “impose strict criminal liability on any media outlet that disseminates information that ‘voice[s] out the intention of terrorists.’” Today, the defender of the anti-terrorism law laments the demise of the same “terrorists” who sipped from the chalice of Medemer.
But I remember, every day.
I remember PM Abiy released tens of thousands of political prisoners held in public and private jails by the TPLF.
I remember PM Abiy stabilized the economy after it was sucked dry by the TPLF.
I remember PM Abiy’s message of love because it is the only way to live. Dying and hating isn’t much of a living.
I remember PM Abiy’s energizing us with the words, “When we are alive, we are Ethiopians. When we die (and turn to dust) we become the land that is Ethiopia.”
I remember PM Abiy’s message that we cannot make progress unless we learn and practice to forgive and reconcile.
I remember PM Abiy’s invitation to have a battle of ideas for the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people. Let the winner take all! If he loses the battle of ideas at the polls, he will leave office in less than 24 hours.
I remember PM Abiy scouring the Horn of Africa and the Middle East looking for our exiled brothers and sisters forgotten in the jails and prisons, found them and brought them home.
I remember PM Abiy making peace with neighbors.
I remember PM Abiy promoting intra- and inter-religious harmony.
I remember, I remember well PM Abiy travelling ten thousand miles to America to bring home the banished, the exiled, the defiant, the indefatigable and unconquerable. He even managed to bring home one native son who was presumed lost for 48 years.
It is true PM Abiy gave all Ethiopians an energy drink packed with vitamins. I drink it everyday!
That drink is called “Medemer”.
“Medemer” is a drink that makes me acutely aware of the darkness of the last 27 years and opens my eyes to the rising sun on the Ethiopian horizon.
The self-styled journalist-cum-former-regime official-turned-opposition activist… believes he and his ilk are the smartest in all of Ethiopia’s opposition-dom. They can see and all others are blind.
He asserts the clueless Ethiopian zombie opposition is “clapping in the air.”
An empty barrel makes the most noise.
Winning the battle of ideas, the battle for the hearts and minds of Ethiopians
I wish it were true that PM Abiy has “disarmed the Ethiopia opposition” with his Medemer ideas.
To be perfectly candid and with all due respect, I know of no Ethiopian opposition group “armed with ideas” worthy of being disarmed.
But I stand ready to be corrected if anyone can disprove me.
Anyone affronted by my assertion should first read my September 2012 commentary, “Ethiopia’s Opposition at the Dawn of Democracy?”.
But I do know a few days ago, two “major opposition” parties were pointing fingers at each other alleging “theft” of party names.
“It is Tweedle Dee”; “No, it’s Tweedle Dum.”
What a doggone shame?
Be that as it may, in PM Abiy’s weltanschauung, there is no such thing as “disarming the opposition” of their ideas.
He has called the opposition to join him in open debate, dialogue, discussions and negotiations.
Let’s have a battle of ideas to win the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people with the convincing power of our ideas.
The battle of ideas in Ethiopia is a struggle for justice, equality, human rights and democracy.
PM Abiy’s battle of ideas is to convince the people of Ethiopia to join hands (Medemer), put our shoulders to the wheel and noses to the grindstone and fight our historical enemies called poverty, ignorance, disease and bigotry.
Medemer is a struggle is to establish a vision of a rising Ethiopia, rising above the darkness of the past decades of oppression and bad governance.
Medemer is the fulfillment of a prophesy, Ethiopia shall rise!
One disarms another when one believes the other is a threat.
I know for a fact PM Abiy does not believe the Ethiopian opposition challenging him with ideas is a threat or a danger. He respects differences in opinions. But above all, he has issued a challenge to engage in policy debates and in coming up with ideas that surpass his own. If their ideas win at the ballot box, he will be outta there in 24 hours!
PM Abiy has declared time and again that Ethiopians can solve their problems only through goodwill and good faith dialogue, discussion, negotiation and compromise. Political power does not come out of the barrel of the gun. It comes out of the consent of people’s hearts and minds. Let the people decide which ideas they prefer for their governance.
PM Abiy has invited and challenged political leaders, scholars, advocates and activists to present their ideas in the Ethiopian marketplace of ideas and sell them.
The “opposition’s” response has been SILENCE.
When the “opposition” speaks, all we hear is bellyaching, heartaching, teeth gnashing, mudslinging, whining, moaning and groaning.
I know for a fact that PM Abiy does not believe his Medemer idea is the only correct and right one.
Let the opposition come with ideas that are better and more convincing. Let the people judge!
Despite his extraordinary accomplishments over the past 14 months, PM Abiy knows he has barely scratched the surface in addressing Ethiopia’s problems.
All can see he is doing the heavy lifting and heavy swinging.
If only the rest of us could also pile up (“Medemer”), put our shoulders to the wheel and noses to the grindstone and do our little parts for the greater good of Ethiopia!
Ethiopians have an old saying. “If spiders’ web could be made into twine, it could tie up a lion.”
If millions of Ethiopian “spiders” could come together for a common purpose (“Medemer) and work together, they could snag and bag our historic enemies of poverty, disease, ignorance and bigotry.
“Medemer” means to help each other. To help means to give a hand, not a handout but a hand up.
Ten fingers working together (“Medemer”) can change Ethiopia for good or bad.
If 100 million Ethiopians could only lend each other a hand (“Medemer”), they could uplift not only their country but also the world.
That is what PM Abiy Ahmed’s “Medemer” means. One billion Ethiopian fingers coming together to lift up Ethiopia (or plant
4 billion trees) out of the miry pit poverty, disease, ignorance and ethnic division and hate.
“Medemer” is all about cooperation, collaboration, consultation, common cause, give-and take, partnership, alliance-building, teamwork, giving a hand up and creating synergy for the common good.
“Medemer” is also philosophically rooted in MLK’s idea of “solidarity and concern for the good of others” because we “are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said:
We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. This is the great issue facing us today. No individual can live alone; no nation can live alone. We are tied together. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
To me, that is all “Medemer” is all about: Being tied together in the single garment of destiny and being caught in an inescapable network of mutuality called Ethiopia.
The alternative is to perish together as fools. How closely we came to perishing together as fools just 14 months ago!
When we practice “Medemer”, we will be doing what Dr. King decreed: Walk together, work together, go to jail together, celebrate together, cry together, laugh together, pray together, sing together, and live together in peace until that day when all God’s children – Amhara, Oromo, Tigray, Somali, Gurage, Wolayita, Sidama, Afar and the other 75 or more groups of the Ethiopian family — will rejoice in one common band of humanity.
When we develop a robust culture of inclusiveness, our identity becomes our humanity. We focus on what makes us human, and not a member of an ethnic group, religion or region.
When we practice “Medemer”, we rise up from our narrow ethnicity to our inclusive humanity or Ethiopianity.
When we practice inclusiveness or Ethiopiawinet, we no longer think in terms of “I, me, mine”.
We scale up to think about “We, us, ours” as human beings bound in a single garment of destiny called the New Ethiopia.
It is by being inclusive (Medemer) that we can create a peaceful and harmonious society where everyone feels they belong in their country as equals.
When everyone feels included and becomes part of the Ethiopian family, “Medemer” becomes our song of faith, of hope, of freedom, of democracy, of equality, of justice.
“Medemer” ushers in our new day, our New Ethiopia, before the rising sun and becomes our anthem, not a slogan, as we march till victory is won.
So, as I have asked before, the question for all Ethiopians is to “medemer or not medemer”.
Alternatively, to come up with an alternative to Medemer!
BTW, if you are in the “opposition”, have a refreshing bottle of “Medemer Ethiopia 2019” on me!