The widow of late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has ruffled feathers in the east African country with a claim that her husband lived on a meager monthly income of 220 US dollars, the equivalent of 4,000 Ethiopian birr, while in office.
Azeb Mesfin‘s remarks came during the 9th convention of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front on March 25, 2013 as she complained that the party's official eulogy for her late husband was missing important details. She claimed the late president was a simple man who did not have a bank account, a driver's license, or an ID card.
“Meles came to this world with nothing but ideas and he contributed these ideas to his fellow humans,” she told the convention. “His salary after tax and other contributions to his party was around 4,000 birr. He lived by that and for that we are proud of him. He never considered his family and what will happen to them in the future. He was an honest man who committed himself to his work.’’
Many were skeptical and balked at her comments, some pointing to reports that Zenawi had a net worth of three billion US dollars.
Satire blogger Abe Tokichaw commented [amh] on his Facebook page:
አራት ሺህ ብር ላጥ እያደረጉ ደሀ ነን…
አቶ መለስ ዜናዊ በወር ተቆራርጦ የሚደርሳቸው ብር አራት ሺህ ምናምን ብር ብቻ ነበር ሲሉ ባለቤታቸው ሰሞኑን ሲቀውጡት ሰምተናል፡፡
ከንግግራቸው ሁሉ ግን ያስገረመችኝ እንደማንም ሳይስገበገብ… የምትለው ናት፡፡ ማነው የተስገበገበ…!? ደግሞም ቀጠሉ በፔሮሉ ብቻ የሚተዳደር መሪ ነው፡፡ አቶ ሃይሌስ በምንድነው የሚተዳደሩት ማለት ነው…? ሌሎቹስ…?
የወሮ አዜብ ንግግር ግን ከኮመዲያን ተርታ የሚያሰልፋቸው እንደሆነ ብዙዎች ተስማምተዋል፡፡ እኔም እስማማለሁ፡፡ ኮመዲያን ሀዜብ ሆይ እባክዎ በሳቅ አይግደሉን! በስንቱ እንሙት…
You are gulping down 4,000 Birr and yet want sympathy.
We have just heard that the widow of Meles Zenawi is creating a storm by claiming that her husband received a monthly salary of only 4,000 Ethiopian birr. From her speech, I was particularly impressed with her remark stating that Meles was never gluttonous like others! Say what? Are any of his peers gluttonous?! She continued…Meles was a leader who was being paid only from payroll. Here I ask again, do other officials got their income from other sources? Where does Prime Minster Hailemarim Desalegn get his salary? What about others?
Many have agreed that her speech made her look like a comedian! I couldn't agree more! I am asking your highness Comedian Azeb, please don’t kill us with laughter.
Blogger Seble Teweldebirhan summarised online commentary following Mesfin's remarks.
AddisNeger, one of news media sites blocked in Ethiopia under its Internet censorship policy, used their Facebook page to share the buzz created on Twitter following Mesfin's comments:
The Ethiopian social media particularly, Twitter is now ablaze with #SomeoneTellAzebMesfin campaign to challenge Azeb Mesfin's narrative that tries to picture her and her late husband as poor people. Samuel Larsson, a Swedish journalist who is actively following the campaign said the campaign “carries strong witnesses of real poverty”
Twitter users used the hashtag #SomeoneTellAzebMesfin to remind the former first lady that she is not poor.
Abiy Teklemarim (@abiyetk) wrote that Mesfin must be confused:
Mahlet Solomon (@MahletSomon) treated the claim with sarcasm:
Gudu Kassa (@Gudu_Kassa) attempted to give Mesfin a dose of reality:
Tamerat (@Tamefeyisa) reminded her what poverty really is:
Mahlet Fantahun (@faantish) asked Mesfin to go on Twitter to know what is being said about her: