By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
Last week prime minister Abiy Ahmed had a discussion with over 3,000 medical professionals (health service providers as per WHO) drawn from all over the country. This was a good opportunity for the health service providers (doctors, nurses, midwives, health extension workers, pharmacists…) to voice their grievances to the PM. I can sense the burden the prime minister is shouldering these days. He should deserve appreciation for taking time to involve himself in the discussion.
The event reminded me of a similar discussion that was conducted between instructors of higher learning institutions and the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. That discussion held some 17 years back was the kind of unforgettable one. Some questions and opinions forwarded to the late prime minister by participants drawn from various local universities and colleges were worth listening… We don’t forget in particular the challenging opinions and comments forwarded by two young instructors named Animaw (Dr) and Mulugeta.
Animaw, an English language instructor at Addis Ababa University, bombarded the premier with timely and significant opinions. That time many people including the forum participants, were alarmed by the boldness of the young instructor. Such thing was unthinkable then. Many of the participants were taken aback by the courage the young enquirer has shown to confront the stern look premier. At that time, it was startling to see such a daredevil guy. Yes, it was very terrifying to take a look at the face of the premier let alone confront him with challenging comments and opinions. Anyways, the opinions forwarded by Animaw were about the fate of this country which has deliberately been made to be decimated by ethnic divisions.
Animaw reflected the common issue of the entire nation. He said that the fate of the country was in the hands of the then premier and he ‘is the one’ who should work for the deliverance of it. “…I don’t want to drift back in to the past and say that ethnic politics annihilates us. Because it is too late… What must we do now? The ball is under your control… It is beneath your feet. What I suggest, like a tiny helpless creature, is that there need to be good heartedness from your side. I want you to be well-meaning! I wish you to lead us with kind-heartedness … So long as you are there [in power], there will never be a multi-party system that realizes valuable changes in this country. I assure you… you make sure that it doesn’t exist. You have been successful [In this regard] so far and so will you be for the next 20 years…” Animaw has thus told the premier till he was seen turning red in the face. We can say now that the daredevil instructor was a fortune teller. As he was too smart to be deceived by political perfidy, he said he didn’t want the PM to tell him that he was wrong. “…I don’t want you to tell me that I am wrong. I know what you are going to tell me. Don’t tell me anything!” This was followed by long laughter of the participants.
The other college lecturer, Mulugeta (?), took the microphone and blurted out that the issue of ethnicity has been harped on across the country more than enough. He said that the young people radicalized the ethnic politics unprecedentedly. Mulugeta indeed expressed concern about the dangerous track the country has been made to embark on… In this way the intellectuals tried to unveil the hidden political agenda of the ruling party. Every citizen was taken away by the subtle way of the intellectuals to urge the government to take immediate corrective measures. In general, that discussion was impressive…
I expected to hear such challenging comments, questions and suggestions from the health service providers during the recently held discussion with the premier. I don’t know, probably it can be my ignorance to think of this. But it is my thought that the medical practitioners should have expressed concern regarding the current status of this country. As concerned citizens, they should have done this. Excuse my ignorance… But I thought that apart from raising personal issues, they could have put forward advisory words in connection to the political uncertainty of this poor country of ours. I expected that they would challenge the premier by posing questions regarding the political unrest, civil conflicts, mass displacements and insecurity being sparked across the country. I thought that they would enquire the premier regarding the local extremist media outlets and hostile elements that are creating problems. I had expected there would have been a discussion as to how the government would ensure the prevalence of rule of law in this country… Why there is no strong national leadership? Why regional states do not obey orders of the federal government? Why the incumbent government has kept mum? Why has it not taken decisive steps against these things? To whom has it abandoned the nation? If I am mistaken, excuse my ignorance. But I tell you I expected robust debates and discussions on issues like these ones. This day the entire people are in the state of confusion. Innocent people are being shot dead. Citizens are deprived of their right to live wherever they want… Of course, one may say that as these people are mere medical professionals, they have nothing to do with politics. No way! National issues should also be their concern.
Did I hear the premier admonishing the health service providers not to add fuel to the problems being witnessed in the country? Did I quote him right? He said that the medical practitioners should not be a cause for other problems. “We need a big support from you. As you can realize the situations of the world and the country, we need your support… In time of such situation in which total chaos are created, don’t inject a single drop of fuel backing it. Support us by flushing a drop of water extinguisher… When the problems occur, when legs are amputated, when people are injured… the problem will crawl back to you. You will shoulder the burden…” See? In such a way the premier nudged the health service providers in to discussion of national issues…
We had seen that the university instructors and staff members were not limited to personal demands. They did not dwell much on the issues of salary and other benefits. I don’t mean putting forward demands of personal benefits is wrong. Not at all! I just want to say that it would have been much better to seize the opportunity to share views on some bigger and common issues. Security is our common agenda. Displacement has long been our common problem. This is the time the issue of ethnic politics should be brought to the table for discussion. I just want to say that common burning issues like these should have been raised (of course, along with other personal ones) as discussion points. Dears, we are being gnawed at by civil conflicts, disagreements, racism, hate, xenophobia… We are being cut in to pieces with the blood-stained ethnic saw. Should we not talk over these?
It was very heart-wrenching opportunity to witness that educated sections of the society looking very reluctant to bring the very important national issues on the table for discussion… The other thing is… Why did I not hear the medical professionals proposing possible means or support that enable relevant medical teams to intervene for emergency services in time of civil conflicts? …possible means that help to raise awareness among the community to respect and tolerate medical services undertaken, escorted by ambulances, to save lives in time of conflicts, displacements, resettlements… Why did they not raise about provisions of appropriate equipment to be used by health workforce in such occasions? Displaced people need shelters, nutritious food, permanent resettlement, medical supply… I would be more than happy if I heard the health service providers asking for the supply of such things in time of civil conflicts and displacements. Who is there to speak of all these social as well as political ills of this country other than those educated health service providers? To whom is the nation abandoned? … to say it in the words of the premier…
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