Live from the Zenawi speech
We’re coming at you live from the highly-contested, protested, and counter-protested Zenawi speech in Roone Arledge. Keep checking back for updates.
5:06: Zenawi says he welcomes engagement, and he’s glad to see students caring enough to learn about Ethiopia. He says that Ethiopia is making progress, which everyone is invited to come see for themselves. And that’s a wrap!
5:03: No more questions. Zenawi will offer some closing remarks.
4:58: Q: What are your thoughts on term limits? A: Ethiopia has a parliamentary system, Zenawi’s saying. A parliamentary system is just as democratic as a presidential system. “In case you are wondering whether I will remain in power until kingdom come, i can assure you that this will be my last term in power.”
4:55: A questioner is railing against Zenawi, listing alleged crimes against humanity committed by Zenawi’s government. The questioner is asking how such crimes could have been committed within a democracy. Zenawi’s response: “I can understand how people have had an inadequate chance to consider the facts.”
4:53: Q: People call you a dictator. Do you have regrets about your tenure? A: No, he says. He believes he removed a brutal dictatorship and rebuilt Ethiopia. He’s very proud.
4:51: Q: What are you doing to improve relations with neighboring countries? A: He says Ethiopia has excellent relations with Sudan, Kenya, and the Somalian government. Just not with Al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgency group.
4:45: Diouf just told two women in line to ask questions to go to the front of the line. All the people at the front of the line had been men. Explained Diouf: “Privilege of the moderator.”
4:39: Q: How is his regime different from the previous one? A: Under the last regime, people were killed without having access to courts. “That type of oppression is dead. Its finished. Its not coming back.”
4:37:: Question: Should we take you at your word when free press is restricted? (Applause.) Answer: He believes he’s done his fair share to fight oppressive systems.
4:36: Question: What do you think of the “gross national happiness” concept? Answer: Sounds interesting. He hasn’t really studied it.
4:34: Next question to Zenawi: What are your views on Iran? Answer: An arms race in the Middle East would be catastrophic. He’d support a dialogue to resolve the problem.
4:33: His answer: It’s 99.6% of all seats, not 99.6% of all votes. Ethiopia has a first-past-the-post system, which means you need just a little over 50% of the vote for each seat. His party is popular because he’s presided over seven years of growth, he says.
4:31: Mamadou Diouf, the head of Columbia’s Institute of African Affairs, is now coming on to conduct a Q&A session. First question: How is his party able to get 99.6% of vote in an election?
4:30: And…he’s done! He spoke for less than 20 minutes.
4:27:Africans have the choice now to generate growth themselves, Zenawi says. Africa is an “essential piece of the response” to the global economic crisis—the continent must keep producing and consuming goods to keep the engines of globalization running.
4:24: The room isn’t full. Maybe 20 open seats in the back.
4:22: People seem to have given up on Africa’s contribution to the global economy, he’s saying.
4:21: Here’s Zenawi speaking. Apologies for the mediocre quality.
4:16: Zenawi has begun speaking. The past several decades, he’s saying, have been bad ones for Africa.
4:11: Steele is now introducing professor Joseph Stiglitz, who will then introduce Zenawi.
4:09: Zenawi’s onstage. Provost Claude Steele is introducing him, describing the purpose of universities and the role of uninhibited dialogue. He’s emphasizing that Columbia doesn’t endorse the leaders it invites to the World Leaders Forum.
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