No one denies that he matters in the country’s contemporary politics. Emotions usually follow the very mention of his name. Lately, it is usually anger and a sense of betrayal from the public who dubbed him Nelson Mandela in his early days at the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP).
His name changed immediately in the aftermath of the 2005 election result. He followed the dynamics and adjusted to the situation, joining Parliament.
He considers it a ‘character assassination’, while his friends call it a betrayal.
His twenty years have seen many turns and changes in his non-political life too.
His profession and aspiration are indicative.
Once in politics, he founded the Ethiopian Democratic Party in 1992. He also achieved in bringing the Coalition for Unity and Democracy(CUD) political party in to national political dominance in the 2002 national election.
He shot back to his perceived character assassination through his books Yearem Ersha and Medlot, after the 2002 election.
We questioned him about his life now compared to 20 years ago:
Fortune: Key Priorities
LA: Earning a BA degree was my ultimate goal. Then, having one was a great milestone in life. Twenty years down the line, my most cherished thing is not attached to self, but rather to others. Now, I measure self productivity by living for others – either for country or society.
What Tickles the Taste Buds?
LA: The same –qollo (roasted barley) and Shiro (a sauce made of peas flour) have always been my favorites.
Evolution of Earnings
LA: I can’t put it in figures, but in general I can say my income now is much lower than what it was in the 90’s. I was one of the pioneer exporters/wholesalers, who used the opportunity of the mixed economy scheme introduced back then. Now, I am a Politician.
Splashing Out on Fashion
LA: Sneakers were the most expensive shoes then, and I made sure I had some. Nowadays, I am not really into clothes and their prices. I wear any kind of clothing, if only it fits me right.
LA: Exercise and reading were my things when I was 20 years younger. I used to swim every day. Now, my preference is chatting/discussing with friends. I have started to enjoy people more than ever.
LA: My aspirations have changed a lot over the past twenty years. To start with what it was 25 years ago, I wanted to be a professional football player. Four or five years down the line, I went into business and did great. Close to 15 years now, my aspiration to be meaningful politician stuck with me, and I am still there.
Perception of Death
LA: Death has always meant one thing for me – ‘A Gift from the Almighty’. I never and will not fear death.
In Your CD Collection
LA: I am not that fond of Music; I never owned any player in my life. From what I hear in the public space, I enjoyed listening to Tilahun Gessese’s Ormiffa song ‘Akam Neguma Feyuma’. From contemporary singers, I loved Shileshi Demisse’s (Gash AberaMolla) songs – they have some depth.
LA: As a young boy from the rural towns, my teachers were my sources of inspiration. We had revered relations. Now as an adult, I have no inspiring figure in my head from recent memory, except historical icons, like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
Tipping the Scales
LA: Twenty years ago, I used to weigh 65kg. It changed in 2011, when I gained almost 10 kilos. Now, I weigh between 73 and 75kg.
LA: I usually pick famous brands for shoes. My choice over twenty years has changed from Adidas to Clarks.
LA: Walking around and feeling like anybody on the street is what I miss most – my freedom. It was a price I paid for being a public figure. I can no longer stroll around with friends without minding my surroundings or receiving comments.
It is the same. Actually, I hate holidays, since it is the day that makes the poor society worry about affording the expense they incurred during that day. I never celebrated a holiday as a special day.
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