Hopes will die last

Dear Editor,

I found your lead article of the October edition of your magazine rather interesting. (Hopes ignited die last than shattered soon, Oct. 2012).  Following the death of your late PM, Meles Zenawi, your country is undergoing through an exciting period. My expat colleagues and I were very relieved to witness that unlike the doomsday reporting by the media and think-thank organizations such as the International Crisis Group (ICG), the first phase of transition went as smooth as anyone wishes it to be. Your country has a lot going for it. Although it was unfortunate to lose its leader at such a critical period, however sad that may be, party officials who are in charge of running the country must put their differences aside and work hard for the betterment of the country and its people at large. News about the alleged split within the party comes as bad news to the business sector as stability is the only winning point the country has to attract foreign direct investment, no matter how small.  

 Eric Donald

Micro economic independent consulant

Addis Ababa      

 Dear Editor,

I read your cover story on Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (Hopes ignited die last than shattered soon, Oct. 2012). I would like to congratulate you for your hard work. You mentioned that “critics of the system are already up in arms and are pointing at faults in his previous engagement.” I would like to clarify on the identity of those who are already “up in arms.” Contrary to the claim by your magazine, they are not “critics of the system,” rather they were former students of the Arba Minch University (as you mentioned) who found an excuse to maximize on their social media popularity by tarnishing his image. The one visible result the coming of Hailemariam Desalegn into power achieved so far is that it united common critiques and supporters of the system with hope. So those who are digging into his handling of the University riot in 2000-2001 were not the usual “critics of the system.”

The reason I am writing this letter is because I was a student in Arba Minch during the said period and can clarify what happened step by step. In the interest of space however, I would like to shortly point out only two things: the first is the students’ riot in Arba Minch, which I was a part, has more to do with the nationwide riots by university students that was ignited after the split within the ruling party than a gross mismanagement problem at Arba Minch university, which was under the leadership of Hailemariam. It was caused by the domino effect as a response of solidarity for the infamous students’ riot in Addis Ababa University.  The second is Prime Hailemariam Desalegn, in his capacity as dean of the compound, had held several direct talks with the students and their representatives in order to address the situation.  All talks had failed because one of the demands from the students was the University’s complete closure because Arba Minch is located in malaria prone area. We knew that this demand stands a zero chance of being met but we continued our protests anyway. Even then Hailemariam had made many concessions with regard to improving the management of the university, which he has been doing since he joined the institution in 1989.

Accusing him of “brutally suppressing” the movement is completely out of line. We know it and so do the sudden “critiques” who have quickly become more popular on social media after one article was written claiming to reveal the dark side of the Prime Minister. But as you are well aware, it quickly came and went because millions of Ethiopians including myself would like to stay on the positive and optimist side.

 Arega Belayeneh

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Addis Ababa University.

Islamic fundamentalism in Ethiopia

 Dear Editor,

I would like to start with the positives on your article about the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in Ethiopia (Sore relations: the trouble of identifying the real threat against Islam in Ethiopia, Oct. 2012). It was nice to bring the issue and make it a point of discussion because it gave a clear picture of what is going on with the Muslims in Ethiopia. It also balances the fetish propaganda of the government of Ethiopia against the Muslims. But I believe there are several missing elements that I would like to briefly discuss below.

First, Sufism is a spiritual way (Tatiqa) in which Muslims connect themselves with their God. So when the article said “conventional Sufi sect” it’s not clear who it is referring to. Second, Salafism is not a sect but rather a school of thought, which defers from others in its interpretation of Quran and Hadith (sometimes it is very radical in its teachings). Third,Tablig indicates those who go to house to house and call Muslims and preach at Mosques. So when Ostebo said “reformist” he is not saying a change in the status quo but a movement within the religion to raise awareness. Finally what is extremism in Ethiopia? What are we referring when we say “extremism” in Ethiopian context? Isn’t it important to depict the history of Islam in Ethiopia before talking about Islamic extremism? For many years Ethiopian Muslims were peaceful citizens, what happened now?

 Elias Salah

Addis Ababa

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