Morsi: ‘We’re learning. We’re learning how to be free.’

Less than a week after Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s extraordinary decree asserting exception presidential powers, he’s given an English language interview to Time magazine.

It’s incredibly fascinating.

Read it all.

Among other things (including a hard-to-follow metaphor about Planet of the Apes — the old one, not the new one), Morsi shows no regret about his decree:

What I can see now is, the Egyptians are free. They are raising their voices when they are opposing the President and when they are opposing what’s going on. And this is very important. It’s their right to express and to raise their voices and express their feelings and attitudes. But it’s my responsibility. I see things more than they do…

But there is some violence. Also, there is some relation shared between these violent acts and some symbols of the previous regime. I think you and I — I have more information, but you can feel that there is something like this in this matter.

I’m sure Egyptians will pass through this. We’re learning. We’re learning how to be free.

I’ve typically been inclined to give Morsi the benefit of the doubt (i.e., during the U.S. embassy protests earlier in September), but last week’s decree was difficult to understand — and today’s rushed vote by the constituent assembly to push through a new constitution is equally troubling.

Morsi has had to balance a difficult set of competing interests, and until last week, I thought he has done a better-than-expected job in managing those competing interests, but I wonder how much longer the current crisis can go on until Egyptian’s still-powerful military begins to assert itself.

Some thoughts on Meles Zenawi’s legacy in Ethiopia

Although Meles Zenawi died in mid-August, he’s still very much an active presence in Ethiopia — so much that he still eclipses his successor, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Not to be flip, but I know a personality cult when I see one — and no matter where you go in Ethiopia, Meles follows.

He looks down from large signs, not just in the capital of Addis Ababa, but far beyond throughout the Amharic and Tigray hinterlands of northern Ethiopia as well.  He’s also on dashboards of vehicles, and he graces storefronts, the stalls in labyrinthine markets and insurance companies, not to mention government offices and museums..  In downtown Addis, near the Hilton, there’s an entire wall featuring a dozen or so larger-than life panels picturing Meles.

You’d be forgiven if you thought Meles was actually still in charge, although there are more than enough memorial displays, too, to let you know Ethiopia’s still in a sort of mourning:

In the ten days I spent in northern and central Ethiopia, I found much in the country — 85 million people and growing fast — and its people to give me hope about the country’s future, but I also saw a lot of room for institutional improvement — in education and literacy, in transportation and infrastructure, in providing services to improve health and lessen poverty, and also in building more robust democratic institutions and better regional relations.

In the same way, I found that if you dig underneath the surface of it all, many Ethiopians have an equally conflicted view of Meles’s legacy. Continue reading Some thoughts on Meles Zenawi’s legacy in Ethiopia