At last, the right question is being asked! An open letter to professor MWM (mesfin wolde mariam) By EthioLion website.

CALL ME BY MY NAME: A commentary  Obo Arada Shawl alias Wolde Tewolde

March 3, 1983



“As one of the reigning heavy heavyweight in Ethiopian political arena, we know the power of your punch,” writes the editorial. Twenty questions ( were posed to the professor and we all are too naive if we expect a single reply by the professor. It will be reasonable for all readers to ponder over the questions and respond if possible. I would volunteer to start to answer the first question to be followed subsequently.

1. “What role did you play as an educator in the student movement of the Addis Ababa University in the late sixties and early seventies?”

First things first. Call me by my name? What is my name? Most names contain origins, meanings, variations and famous namesakes. For those of us who are not aware of how our names were given to us, in Ethiopia, there were three ways for giving names. In religious way, familial way and a popular fashion. Compare this as Ghanaian name where every body was named after each day of the week.

I do not know the intention of why Ato Wolde Mariam gave his son a popular name of MESFIN. A popular name to become a nobleman in the upper class of the Ethiopian societies. Professor’s name appears as normal name when deciphered (including his father’s name) will read as matterwisdommoney.

I can understand the name of his father – a Christian who was not only a Christian but also an Orthodox one.


Popularity names change every year. That is parents search names for their baby names. The reasons are enumerated in the following cuts into two ways.

  • Psychologists say a child with a common name or popular name seems to have better odds of success in life than a child with an uncommon name.

  • A child whose name is at the top of the popularity poll may not feel as unique and special as a child whose name is less common.

So what was wrong with the professor’s name? Enough for his name. Let me say something about his role in the student movement.



Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam (MWM)


EPRP’s Crocodile/Animal Leadership

When professor Mesfin W. Mariam was teaching at the Addis Ababa University at Arat Kilo, he was considered as a model for leading and openness in the academic public life. What was not open was his role as a husband and a family man. Although it was a male’s world in Ethiopia at the time, student leaders have observed in the professor’s oppression of woman even to his own wife by keeping her for long hours waiting for him in his/her car for hours in end. When some concerned/obedient students asked the lady of the professor to inform her husband that she has arrival to pick him up, she used to inform them that her husband would not appreciate. And so she keeps waiting until late into the night inside the car with nobody to talk to.

As the desire for change gradually creeps in, professor was challenged by politics of government and politics of woman’s oppression, he was caught in an open discussion. As far as politics was concerned it was a fistfight with some Eritrean students and an angry tone with the progressive Ethiopian students. The professor turned aggressive towards the student body and defensive towards the University Administration though nobody knew what was happening inside his family.


Having an Ethiopian Revolution after so many ups and down in the University Campus, in theory, in organizational and political matters by challenging

  • Firstly, the Administration of the University,

  • Secondly the Lecturers and

  • Thirdly against the subject matter that was being offered in the University curriculum. The University students union struggled to the end not only the Monarchy but to make an Eway Revolution which will have brought peace in Eritrea, Ogaden, Bale and Godjam, prosperity and stability in the rest of the country. Who were these vanguard leaders and who were those lecturers and administrators who were for the Eway Revolution?

On the University Campus, three types of personalities were being developed, passive, aggressive and assertive (PAA). The passive students were victims of the professor or while he himself was aggressive towards everyone and everybody. Those who were leaving the right of the academic freedom became aggressive.

Why did the professor behave in an aggressive behavior? And why do the student leaders become assertive?

There was a serious consequences for the professor, the Administration and for the Ethiopian government. Issues for admission/graduation to the University, issues of Academic freedom and room & board came into question. Here lies a challenge and an opportunity for the professor and the students.

As far as the passive students was concerned, they were not aware of their rights or they grew up in rural areas where passiveness or obedience to authorities were normal and rewarded. Rewarded by the professor or the University!

What about the assertive students? There was two ways of becoming assertive, in a clandestine way (named as Crocodiles) or in the open way (as become to be known as Animals). Both the animals and the crocodiles were basically the same in their mission, vision and not necessarily in their ultimate goals.

Their primary task was to decipher the letter “B” which holds a stumbling block in the middle of the ABC Eway struggle. Such was the professor “MWM”. A changing pattern in a very short span of time resulting in an aggressive behavior, for lack of deciphering the letter “B”.

At the time I am referring to was a time when sociology, psychology, anthropology even geography were not popular subjects to be enrolled in. The trouble for the professor arrives when the Animal of EPRP leadership has arrived into the university when they challenged mainly the subject matter including geography, physical as well as political geography. The professor was literally was forced to go out of the university and see the rural Ethiopia for himself instead of collecting and using student assignments for using as teaching materials. At the onset of the Eway Revolution, the professor indulged in this way “Youth involvement and activities increased with the launching of the student campaign by the regime. The idea was originated at the Haile Selassie University by Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam in April 1974, shortly after the 1974 movement began.” (Kiflu: The Generation p: 179). We all know how disastrous the student campaign would have been had it not been for the wise decision of EPRP leadership to turn it around for positive thinking. The professor was always as one of his own colleagues Dr. Siuom G. Egziabher said that ‘Mesfin understands the timing for betrayal.’ To my opinion, the Professor has not participated in the principle of big B (Belief) but in the small B (benefit) or B (blood).


“When are you going to say the time has come and get out of the lives of Ethiopians in order of the rest of us to say good-bye?” EthioLion concludes its editorial.

The answer is never as long as he does not reveal his DNA.

For comments and critics

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2 Responses to At last, the right question is being asked! An open letter to professor MWM (mesfin wolde mariam) By EthioLion website.


    There are twenty questions posed to Professor Mesfin Wolde Mariam by EthioLion website editor. They are all relevant for finding Solutions for Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Please, print them and have them ready for reference for our discussions. I am willing to research and present the findings for my readers. Thanks

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