28 August 2012
Categories: Ensessakotteh News
I woke up to the news on the radio about Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's long-serving Prime Minister's, passing. It took a few moments for the news to sink in. Cup of tea in hand, I sat down to ponder what Meles' death would bring to a country I consider home. Meles has been synonymous with modern Ethiopia, and over half of the Ethiopians alive weren't yet born when his rebels fought their way from the harsh landscape of Tigray to overthrow Mengistu Haile Mariam's dictatorship. I was living in Dinsho, Bale Mountains, when the war came to an end in 1991. Only a few days before the first troops reached Addis Ababa, our government counterparts asked us to leave, and I had to follow developments from Britain, worrying about the well-being of my staff and friends. Mengistu's troops scampered for the Kenya border, and in their wake traded guns and ammunition for food. Civil disorder followed and my camp was burned down to the ground. Fortunately, within days, the wild hairdos of the very young guerrilla force that brought about the revolution, slowly became prevalent, took hold and brought the nation under some order. Fear was replaced by hope.
Over two decades later, it is a very different Ethiopia that we love and worry about. The population has more than doubled and the country develops rapidly, one of Africa's "lion" economies, bringing hope to many but also placing enormous pressure on a tired, over-used environment. The unique Ethiopian wildlife we work to protect is now more threatened than ever. With Meles' quiet, efficient and strong-hold on Ethiopian politics gone, the messages I am receiving from Ethiopia are of sadness for the loss of their leader. Also I hear concerns at to what direction this proud nation will be steered into. But I am quietly optimistic that the resilient Ethiopian people will mourn Meles and get on with their lives, and so will we.
Professor Claudio Sillero
Bill Travers Fellow for Wildlife Conservation