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A 5- billion dollar baby Semhal Meles: Is she Ethiopia’s version of Imelda Marcos?

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“Doesn’t the fight for survival also justify swindle and theft? In self-defense anything goes.”

– Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos.


“The amount I earn is well known. My riches, my most prized possessions are my books.”

– The late Ethiopian ruler Meles Zenawi Asres.

The Horn Times opinion July 31 2013.

By Getahune Bekele, South Africa

Semhal Zenawi & her Mom
Semhal Zenawi & her Mom

Imelda Marcos
Imelda Marcos

Semhal Meles Zenawi is known in Ethiopia for her lavish and jet-setting lifestyle. She starts her morning off with delicious breakfast different to her late father’s steak and scrambled eggs accompanied by heavily spiced red tea, strong enough to remove paint.
The lady always looks for best nourishment. Her Holland trained eunuch private chef from Adigrat knows how to make challah French toast and cast iron waffles but the billionaire princess prefers a bowl of vegetal touch traditional soup, with four boiled eggs and roasted red pepper swimming in it.
Then Queen Marie Antoinette’s breakfast would be washed down with her favorite single malt whiskey known as the 10 year old Ardbeg, which delivers flavors of cooked apples, orange marmalade, clove and cinnamon, set against smoke and vanilla.
Semhal, who often boasts about nosing and tasting all finest malt money can buy including the limited edition of lemon and honey flavored Lagavalin; is famous for empting a couple of Ardbeg or Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban bottles in just one sitting.
In the beginning, we all (journalists) thought that, at the rate she churns out her ill-gotten wealth, the young lady will soon squander all her inheritance and join the miserable world of infamy where stars turned slaves and kings turned paupers beg death to take them away.
However, thanks to a whistleblower in the form of Dr. Wondimu Mekonnen, an exiled Ethiopian academic, today we know that Semhal Meles Zenawi’s net worth is 5-billion USD; all by virtue of being born to family of a thieving tyrant and a cunning knave. No matter how she spends, lady Semhal will never run out of cash.
The extremely wealthy TPLF warlords were quick to condemn the patriotic academic Wondimu Mekonnen, calling him ‘terrorist’ and ‘a nasty piece of work.’ But they didn’t utter a word when celebrity Net worth site, respected for its accuracy earlier made a startling revelation that the dead tyrant Meles Zenawi Asres got a net worth of 3-billion USD.
This means Without speculating how much his corrupt widow Azeb Mesfin is worth or without including the enormous wealth of Bereket Kinfe- their real-estate mogul step son, or without guessing how much money is stashed away in offshore accounts for Zenawi’s two other children Senay and Marda, the tyrant who once told Ethiopians that his only priced possessions are his books; had stolen more than 8-billion USD from the indigent people of Ethiopia.
But how did he manage to carry off such a staggering amount of money unnoticed and undetected?
Just few months ago his widow Azeb Mesfin, in her attempt to bury the Zenawi myth once and for all and move on with her life, told the world that her late husband had no identity document, driver license or fixed salary; not knowing that other notorious backward despots such as the late Mobutu Sese Seko of former Zaire and the late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda had no fixed salaries as well, because they didn’t differentiate their own money from the budgets of their respective nations. They used state coffers like their private bank accounts.
Hence, in the absence of any form of accountability, for African despots past and present, stealing such huge sums has been as easy as stealing candy from a baby.
This massive heist by the Zenawi family, one of the biggest in recent memory, is the carbon copy of what the legendary Filipino thieves Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos did to the Asian nation’s downtrodden between 1965 and 1986.
After imposing Martial law similar to Zenawi’s draconian anti-terrorism law, Imelda and her let husband Ferdinand, who ruled the impoverished Philippines for 21 traumatic years, stole more than 10- billion USD from state coffers.
The money sponsored the ostentatious style of Imelda Marcos who owned more than 3000 pairs of designer shoes and funded the controversial stem cell research project in her burning desire to beat ageing and preserve her timeless beauty which once mesmerized Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro and the eccentric Gaddafi.
Today at an advanced age of 83, she is the second wealthiest Filipino politician after boxing hero and congressman Manny Pacquiao with net worth of just under 22-million USD.
Where is the other money? Would Imelda ever tell?
The Filipinos are still struggling to obtain the 600-million USD traced to a Swiss bank account and corruption remains endemic in their country as it is in Ethiopia. Although hunger for justice has not ebbed, in Ethiopia’s case, the judiciary itself is weak and extremely biased to crack the whip on the spectacular corruption which inhibits development in the world’s poorest nations.
The government of puppet premier Hailemariam Desalegn will never have the courage to go after the well-connected Semhal Meles Zenawi to recover the stolen billions.
For now, she will remain richer than US talk show Queen Oprah Winfrey and the most powerful man in Hollywood, movie mogul Steven Spielberg. Facebook founders Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin need to work more if they are to catch up with Semhal.
The question is would stolen wealth last like the hard-earned one?
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