Political pragmatism isn't usually inspired by exotic nature. It grows from an attempt to make sense of the quiddities thrown by human existence. Kinijit's charismatic chairman Hailu Shawel though isn't your normal pragmatic politician. He switches from idealism to the most practical aspects of politics as effortlessly as children absorb their native tongue.
The Greek root of the Latin Natura means "to give birth", to be native...life. The public life of Hailu Shawel was born of nature's inspiration. In 1958, as an adventurous 22 year old Hailu returned to Ethiopia barely weeks after he graduated from Wayne State in Civil engineering. His destination was the world's most marvelous water -the Blue Nile. There, as a chief Hydrologist in Blue Nile Investigation Project, he reviled the bewildering contrast between Ethiopia's great potential and its failure. Where the beautiful Nile snaked around with arrogance and grace, the soil was lost to erosion and wildlife decimated. Nature vanishes when development surges. But Nile's was different. Forests were turning to barren lands; mountains stripped for the coal beneath. Yet the place had nothing to show for its destruction - no factories, no water dams. It seemed nihilism had infected nature itself.
Believe the TPLF, and a mortal threat faces Ethiopia if Kinijit and Hailu Shawel lead the country. They conjure up the vision of an Amhara-dominated Ethiopia which is chained with forced unitarism. Hailu's journey from a Nile inspired romantic young man to an uncompromising, no-tosh party leader tells a different story. After his Nile adventures, Hailu spent a successful spell in different managerial positions at Shell international. An assignment to London beckoned. A middle aged man's dream job, you would say. Hailu though chose to serve his nation. In 1971, he was made the first Ethiopian General Manager of Ethiopian Roads Authority. He is the proud owner of the authority's medal of highest achievement. Ironically, it was after the EPRDF had seized power that Hailu received the medal.
It is often argued even by supporters that Hailu's political liability is his service during the Dergue. Unfortunately, as a man who isn't adept at silver-tongued art of swaying opinions, Hailu didn't adequately respond to this vexing allegation. During the Dergue, Hailu worked first as General Manager of Ethiopian Sugar Corporation and Managing Director of Wonji Sugar Company and Metehara Sugar Company and then Minister for State Farms Development of Ethiopia. Both were not political positions; and he had spent most of his time squabbling with low life cadres of the military junta. In mid 1978, 24 hours away from being killed for helping an EPRP operative escape, he was saved by a top official. Like Colin Powell, his loyalty for the country is very intense...."a loyal and disinterested counsellor who advised a bad government". That is a civic virtue rather than a folly and he should have defended himself without embarrassment.
In 1983 Hailu finally realized that it was pointless to counsel the Dergue and left to form a successful company, Shawel Consult, which is now run by his son, the affable economist Shawel Hailu.
A surprisingly shy man, with a gruff exterior that concealed his incredible inner kindness, and a detest to the double speak; Hailu isn't a politician who electrifies demonstrations and mass gatherings. He is a man who believes there are things grander than rhetoric and lie in politics. A rare breed?
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