Many of us, especially the youth, have been let down as a result of those that fail to uphold the 'rules' and externalise responsibility.

I no longer want to celebrate holidays such as Adwa Victory, which honours values we no longer stand for, as we continue to fail young people. Until we can embody the sense of justice, independence, solidarity and charity that the holiday signifies, we do not deserve to bask in the glory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

About a week ago, Caleb Meakins, the half-Ethiopian, half-British community organiser and founder of Mella, an entrepreneurial platform, passed away. This tragedy has shocked many of us who loved and admired him. Caleb was full of life and a much needed force in Ethiopia. Through his work and life, he touched many people’s lives. His impact was felt in the outpouring of grief and sadness shortly after the news of his passing.

Caleb wanted to live and work. On a daily basis, he inspired and aspired. He injected a necessary force in a country filled with young people with great potential but almost as much wasted opportunities in life. As I can only imagine how heavy the loss must be to his family, there are also many initiatives I hope his colleagues will continue to build on.

I was travelling in a Ride taxi when I got the news of Caleb’s passing. I held back tears as I spoke to a loved one. My Ride driver, who was young and dispassionate, asked me if anything was wrong. I told him the news I just received.

Many of us, especially the youth, have been let down as a result of those that fail to uphold the 'rules' and externalise responsibility.

“Was he old or young?” he asked, to which I responded that he was close to my age. “Good,” he said, “it happened early. He is better off.”

I was taken aback. He seemed too fed up with life. I was also saddened at how lost and confused this young person was to assume that there is not much more to life than what he had already experienced.

We continue to fail ourselves and one another with the hate we spread and the ignorance we propagate. Most of all, we fail because we do not believe in the country that is our home. There are many who believe that staying and investing in our futures in this country is a mistake.

If not us then who?

Caleb dared to show that there are many sides to living and working in Ethiopia - it was an important message of love. And that type of optimism is what will build our nation.

Neglect has become a part of professional and personal life. It has become part of the working culture. Too many times people have shared with me that we cannot follow the “rules” if one is to “survive” in Ethiopia. Avoidance of the rule of law by any means necessary is how most learn to survive.

This has been to the detriment of our wellbeing. This lack of faith in rules is highly problematic. Those who believe that unless we are caught, we have the responsibility to do anything we like are destroying our community from the inside out. By ignoring safety measures in order to cut costs, we are paying dearly.

Those who have been cutting corners and passing policy pronouncements as dressing for the larger issues at hand have their hands dirty when it comes to the rate at which we are losing our young and dedicated.

Our nation has failed many of us, including Caleb. Roadside accidents have touched all of our lives, just as malpractices in hospitals have. We are ill-equipped in many ways, including our ability to hold ourselves accountable for the current state of our country.

We can only thrive when we are able to see and take responsibility for jobs that can be done better. While the government is accountable for the failures of the country, we should also realise we have made massive contributions. Regardless of the government telling us what is right or wrong, we should hold ourselves equally responsible. Lives are lost, dreams are tarnished and hopes are forgotten when we choose not to care. We should be patient when we least want to and ask how we can all be more helpful to those who are vulnerable.

I will mourn the loss of Caleb, but I will celebrate his life. He lived a life he can be proud of, and we must all aspire to do the same.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 07,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1036]

Hanna Haile is the founder of Zellan Creative & Cultural Center. She can be reached at (

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