Category: "Fekade Shewakena"
Ethiopia - On the Blood Bath in Ethiopia and the Selective outrage:
Multiple Wrongs that don’t Make a Single Right
By Fekade Shewakena
As one who abhors violence as a means of pursuing political goals, I see the carnage committed at a Chinese oil prospecting camp in the Ogaden recently with utter disgust.
It is despicable and whether the dead were combatants or civilians does not even matter to me. The death of the 68 people including the Chinese whose greedy and misguided government has put them in harms way despite warnings and public knowledge of the instability in the region is tragic to say the least. The dead are poor people, soldiers or civilians, trying to eke a living and they deserved to live. The Chinese government and Meles Zenawi’s regime also share responsibility for their death. In the lawyers lingo what they did was criminal negligence. But more importantly, we should understand that disgust at this killing is meaningless if we look at it in isolation and ignore the source of such violence in the country. The selective outrage at this particular incident as if it is the only one occurring in the country or even in the Ogaden region is the height of hypocrisy and opportunism. As deplorable as it is, this incident also gives us an opportunity to look into the nature of the engine of trouble and violence in Ethiopia and the fuel that powers it.
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My prediction is more of this is going to come if the regime does not change direction. Many people who stood for peaceful politics in the country are now disillusioned, particularly after what the regime did to Kinijit-CUD and its leaders, which include life long advocates of peace. I have many young people emailing me from Ethiopia, who think all civilized options are closed by Meles Zenawi and think it better to pick up arms and try the rout that brought Meles Zenawi to power. I have heard from many that the Shabia-Shabia, mantra is not going to stop people from going to Eritrea if they can get some help to help them fight back a regime that believes in brute force.
While no justification can make the Ogaden killing right, I am sure the ONLF can point to the same crimes the TPLF committed against the people in the Ogaden or innocent people elsewhere in the country to shrug off our selective outrage. Obviously this is another wrong that cannot right the regimes wrongs but expecting that such carnages will remain the monopoly of Ato Meles Zenawi and his certified violent regime is foolish as this incident proved. We should be able to see all sorts of political violence including that of the regime as one single whole if we sincerely hope for peace and prosperity in this country. Violence is a self-feeding animal. It begets itself. It is that simple.
That is why the rush of a herd of regime benefit peddlers and opportunists who compete among themselves on being louder on the condemnation and calling everybody to condemn it is becoming nauseating. Many of these “outraged” idiots think it is ok to condemn one liberation front (ONLF) and look the other way when another LF, the TPLF, runs a monopoly of the killing of far more innocent people simply because it runs and rations their fodder. Many of these pretentious “patriots” and “humanitarians” were having their mouths shut when more horrific genocidal massacres were committed by the regime elsewhere in the country repeatedly. Some were even trying to make tenuous cases to absolve the regime of its crimes including by blaming the victims of the regime’s violence themselves. This includes these hypocrite donor groups, the lords of our poverty, and the enablers of our misery. There is a long list of crimes in virtually every part of the country where the regime has engaged in mass killings including the horror against the Agnuak in Gambella, Awassa etc and, of course, the murder of at least 193 unarmed protestors in Addis Ababa that is still fresh in our minds.
The current problem in the Ogaden has its source in the failure of what Meles Zenawi told us was his signature political agenda – the respect of the rights of nations and nationalities to self determination and the continuing zero-sum game politics he keeps playing. What happened to all that promise about imposing peace on Ethiopia by respecting the rights of nations and nationalities? The fact of the matter which now has become clear is that Meles Zenawi is actually interested in the form and not in the substance of what he has been preaching all along. He has marginalized the more independent ethnic political organizations that could become the back bones for peace building and reconciliation and replaced them with selected scumbags from every ethnic group believing that showing their picture would do the trick for him.
For all his clever talks and appearance of sophistication Meles tries to sells us, he has never produced a single serious politically mature deal with any opposition or interest group contending his regime. None. We all know by now what he did with the OLF, the ONLF and many others. Instead of producing a win-win deal expected of a mature politician, he replaced them with some morally degenerate and incompetent individuals who can be manipulated to even kill their own children for the government. To virtually every challenge Melese’s solution has been military and the use of force. And all these idiots who admire him as a politically savvy person cannot point to a single act of statesmanship and tolerance he has shown. Even the most peaceful of all peace advocating political groups in Ethiopia – Kinijit CUD is not spared of his violent reactions. I cannot think any group of statesmen and reasonable people more than the leaders of CUD now languishing in prison on trumped up charges who could be negotiated into resolving conflicting ideas peacefully. I will never believe for a second that Mesfin Woldemariam, Berhanu Nega, Yakob Hailemariam and Befekadu Degife, only to mention the few that I very well know, ever contemplated violence as a means to resolve political differences. These were the antiviolence geniuses, people who saw the future, and tried to find a permanent solution to abolish the cycle of violence in Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi threw them to jail simply because he could and resorted to torturing their nonviolent followers.
Only a few weeks ago in parliament, the place meant to be the people’s house, Meles was speaking about cutting off limbs and fingers of his opponents. We even have seen how he tried to belittle the suggestion of the elderly parliamentarian, Ato Bulcha Demeksa, who suggested to him to find ways to negotiate with the Ethiopians whose limbs and fingers Meles plans to cut off. The old man to his credit, must have seen that the people Meles was trying to kill are also capable of cutting fingers and limbs.
And these days I hear another “smart talk” from Meles and his supporters. There is an undeclared push for people to give up their rights and desires for freedom and justice for a supposedly fast growing economy. People who are not absolutely silly and dumb know that the so called economic growth is mere delusion and I think every Ethiopian who lives the reality can attest to that. The structure of Ethiopia’s sad economy is still there. Development is not aid and foreign dependent construction and grossly concocted statistics or increasing agricultural yield with the help of God’s rains and through heavy use of chemical fertilizers. Any African country even Idi Amin, Bokassa or Mengistu could have achieved the same thing if they were the largest recipients of Western Aid in sub-Sahara Africa.
For all his pretending to be an economics professor, Mr. Zenawi has forgotten to learn some basics. This man has traversed advocating all nation building models and idiologies known to man. From an almost lunatic anti imperialist Marxist through a fan of Albanian socialism to East Asian green revolution and an advocate of what he called white capitalism, he has now come back full circle to becoming Mr. Bush’s poodle in the Horn of Africa dragging Ethiopia to a senseless and shameful war.
The following quote from a 17th century British satirist, Jonathan Swift, on an article on the American Debate blog is quite pertinent to Meles and his blind supporters.
“When a man’s fancy gets astride on his reason, when imagination is at (odds) with the senses and common understanding, as well as common sense…the first (convert) he makes is himself, and when that is once (achieved), the difficulty is not so great in bringing over others - a strong delusion always operating from without, as vigorously as from within.
Here is a more realistic current idea for Mister model-freak Meles. Economic development is unthinkable without resolving outstanding conflicts in a country and creating a consensus among the population and this can only be achieved when people are guaranteed the rule of law and spared of government violence through creating independent institutions. Virtually all countries that have succeeded in transforming their economies in recent decades are countries who managed to resolve conflicts or reduce them to bare minimum and without the use of arms.
Even the idea of the so called “developmentalist state” Meles Zenawi is mulling now (did I hear that he has already made it a cadre training manual?) presumes the resolution of conflicts using the head rather than the gun. Meles Zenawi can do us and himself a lot of favor if he stops pretending to look like a professor who has spent all his life in research institutes and libraries. Please. We know he spent it either in human killing fields or places of manipulating power. I only wish he only understands the basics of civilized governance and engage all his opponents in a negotiation.
Civilized negotiations to resolve conflicts around a table don’t kill people. Not doing this does. At the end of the even dictators will loose from the use of violence as a political tool as history has shown so repeatedly.
Ethiopia - The Pageant of the Ugly:
The Competition of the TPLF and EPLF for Good looks
By Fekade Shewakena
The rulers of Ethiopia and Eritrea seem to be in a bitter beauty contest. Each one is throwing mud at the other with the hope that it will help it upgrade the way it looks. It is a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black or “amed beduket yisiqal”, as the saying goes in Ethiopia. Both commit identical crimes against their people for reasons of identical political motivations, in many cases, with difference in the sophistication of how they do it. No surprise here for many of us who know that there is a lot of inbreeding in ideology and political culture between the TPLF and the EPLF. The TPLF as the junior partner has learnt a lot from the Eritrean side. Meles Zenawi himself is reported to have said “spending an hour with Isayas Afeworki is more education than going to a university”. The thing they both failed to foresee when they began their love affair in 1991 was the fact that it is hard for two ruling classes to feed from the same plate without pushing one another. Apparently, this very sameness and inbreeding has also a lot to do with the love and hate relationship between them.
More recently, it has become too common to hear the sins of each country from the authorities of the other. The problem is that each tells you about the sins of the other while doing the same sin in its backyard. And the TPLF seems to be breaking the record playing this game. The major difference between the two is the TPLF thinks it is smarter in the art of saying one thing and doing another. The Eritrean side is failing in this regard. It does tell you what not to do and will punish you if you do it. The TPLF on the other hand will write laws for you to engage in the practice of your rights but hell will break loose if you take them seriously and are found practicing it. You can have a political party and compete in an election according to the law in Ethiopia. But you will be accused of genocide against the ruling ethnic group if you win. You should know that when in a formal debate members of the ruling class liken you to the Rwandan Interhamwe. They are preparing you for that as they just did on CUDP. You can have a free press in Ethiopia by law, if you are critical of the government or ask government officials for news you are a dead meat. And this is called democracy in Ethiopia. Some funny Western diplomats who think this is enough for us also call it a growing democracy if not democracy. You can even commit genocide in Ethiopia as happened on the Agnuak tribe in Gambella and get away with it by having your investigators say that killing happened because of the youngness of the democracy. The EPLF on the other hand seem to be a little more honest about their abuse. They even respond angrily when foreigners complain. Fool dictators. They have failed to refine on Idi Amin and Mengistu.
An interesting case in point is the US State Department Country Report for 2006 and the way the Ethiopian authorities and their cronies tried to use it against Eritrea while shutting their mouth about what it says about them. Our TPLF guys have either completely forgotten to read what the same Report says about Ethiopia or have simply overlooked that, at least some of us, could also read the same report listed only a cursor away and find out what it says on Ethiopia. Ethiopia is alphabetically listed next to Eritrea on the Report. The report contains 22 pages of damning report on Ethiopia as compared to 12 pages of damning report on Eritrea. If you list the number and kind of violations item by item as I did, you will find that the Ethiopian Woyane rulers have committed more crimes in both quantity and egregiousness and dwarf the violations in Eritrea completely.
Interestingly, the story of the State Department Report was a headliner for days on Walta website, the website of the TPLF run news agency. Similarly, all TPLF government news outlets have been parading the Report on Eritrea as a major finding. The Aiga website, the den of the thoughtless tribal bullies that do a lot of work to spread interethnic hatred among Ethiopians than anything useful even to the TPLF, has it as its big news and as an addition to its collection of reasons to justify the necessity of a new round of war against Eritrea. These bullies who ran the website on behalf of the TPLF from their warm homes abroad are calling the TPLF government to go to war with Eritrea completely forgetting that more than 70 thousand sons of poor people have already perished for nothing in another war between the two countries a few years ago. The names of the perished thousands or a single photograph of any of the dead have yet to be published. May be that has confirmed to them that there is a lot of expendable life in Ethiopia. I never knew narrow ethnic nationalism could turn healthy people into complete fascists. There is nothing sickening than seeing these sick people praying for another war.
The table below contains a direct excerpt by this author of the most egregious violations of human freedoms cited by the State Department Report on Eritrea and Ethiopia. Compare them and tell me which one (Eritrea or Ethiopia) looks more beautiful. The entire report is found at here . Whether the State Department or the US government generates a sound policy based on this reports is another thing, but one must thank the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor for recording these violations of human freedom and dignity with meticulousness, integrity and professionalism. Given the obscene hypocrisy of the officials, I doubt if it will have any effect on policy. These days the only thing you need to get a pass about terrorizing your people is to line up on the anti-terrorism bandwagon. The TPLF did just that. It is like the thieves in Markato, where they steal from someone in the crowed and run along with the chasers of the thief shouting leba, leba. That is what has come of off the noble objective of forming alliances to fight global terrorism. This is a windfall to coward dictators like Meles Zenawi who uses his US trained anti terrorist snipers to kill unarmed demonstrators including women and children. It appears the only thing any dictator needs these days is to grab as much language dear to the West as possible and charm down a few diplomats and the lords of poverty, the World Bank and the IMF. Pretend that you know some macro economics and multiple definitions of democracy, cook growth statistics, keep talking about jargons like good governance, poverty reduction, democracy, pluralism and election. That is what they need. This is tragic but true. People like Mughabe are complete fools. He could have avoided coverage of his Sunday crimes against the opposition by just doing this. At least he did not kill as many people as Meles Zenawi but look at the coverage he is getting. Many westerners are calling for Mughabe’s neck and all out sanctions as I write this. This man is a saint if you compare him to Meles Zenawi.
Reported Egregious Violations of Freedom and
Human Rights (Excerpts from State Department Country Report 2006)
|On extrajudicial killing||There were no reports that the government or its agents committed any politically motivated killings; however, the government continued to authorize the use of deadly force against anyone resisting or attempting to flee during military searches for deserters and draft evaders, and deaths reportedly occurred during the year
||Unlike in the previous year, there were no reports of political killings; however, federal and local police forces committed unlawful killings during the year. On January 23, federal police shot and killed 15 demonstrators and injured 19 others in the East Wallega zone, Guduru District. The shootings occurred during a demonstration by residents against local government forces. No investigation was conducted into the incident.|
|Disappearances||There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances during the year; however, there were unresolved disappearances from previous years||The politically motivated disappearances of tens of thousands of civilian protestors following the November 2005 political demonstrations persisted into the current reporting period. |
|Torture, Inhuman and degrading Treatment||The law and unimplemented constitution prohibit torture; however, there were numerous reports that security forces resorted to torture and physical beatings of prisoners, particularly during interrogations. There were credible reports that several individuals, including young men and women rounded up for national service, died following torture or severe beatings by security force||Although the constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees. Opposition political parties reported frequent and systematic abuse of their supporters by police and regional militias.|
|Prison conditions||Prison conditions for the general prison population were harsh and life threatening. There were reports that prisoners were held in underground cells or in shipping containers with little or no ventilation in extreme temperatures. The shipping containers were reportedly not large enough to allow all those incarcerated to lie down at the same time
||Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained very poor, and overcrowding continued to be a serious problem. Prisoners often were allocated fewer than 21.5 square feet of sleeping space each in a room that could contain up to 200 persons. The daily meal budget was approximately $0.35 (3 birr) per prisoner, and many prisoners had family members deliver food daily or used personal funds to purchase food from local vendors. Prison conditions were unsanitary, and access to medical care was unreliable. There was no budget for prison maintenance|
|Political Prisoners||There were no confirmed reports of new political prisoners; however, there were numerous reports of persons detained for political reasons||The total number of political prisoners and detainees during the year was estimated to be in the hundreds|
|Freedom of Speech and Press||The law and unimplemented constitution provide for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government severely restricted these rights in practice. Citizens did not have the right to criticize their government in public or in private. The private press remained banned, and most independent journalists remained in detention or had fled the country, which effectively prevented any public criticism of the government. The government intimidated remaining journalists into self-censorship.
||While the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government restricted these rights in practice. The government continued to harass and prosecute journalists, publishers, and editors for publishing allegedly fabricated information and for other violations of the press law. The government continued to control all broadcast media. Private and government journalists routinely practiced self censorship|
|There were reports of government and societal discrimination against the Kunama, one of nine ethnic groups residing primarily in the west.
Societal abuse of Ethiopians occurred, but there were fewer reports of such abuse than in the previous year
|Most political parties remained primarily ethnically based.|
The military remained an ethnically diverse organization; however, Tigrayans dominated the senior officer corps. During the May 2005 elections and subsequent demonstrations there were many reports of Tigrayan or Gambellan troops being used in Addis Ababa and other urban centers where the opposition was strong and where officials did not consider Amhara members of the armed forces sufficiently reliable. There were occasional reports that officials terminated the employment of teachers and other government workers if they were not of the dominant ethnic group in the region.**
|Academic Freedom||The government restricted academic freedom; freedom of speech, movement of students, and the right to assemble were not respected in the academic context. The government issued a directive in 2002 reconfiguring the University of Asmara, which effectively shut down the university's undergraduate programs. As a result, prospective students have not been allowed to enroll in the university and instead were directed by the government to attend the Mai Nafhi Technical Institute. During the summer the government transferred most of the university's undergraduate programs to vocational training schools spread throughout the country. Only the medical training programs remained in Asmara. Students finishing high school were not permitted to choose their next course of study and were assigned to specific vocational programs based on their performance on the matriculation exam. A few graduate level programs remained at the university; however, the law school was effectively closed, as new students were not permitted to enroll.
||The government restricted academic freedom during the year, maintaining that professors could not espouse political sentiments. Authorities did not permit teachers at any level to deviate from official lesson plans and discouraged political activity and association of any kind on university campuses. Reports continued throughout the year of both uniformed and plainclothes police officers being present on and around university and high school campuses. The government arrested students and teachers during the year. Professors and students were discouraged from taking positions not in accordance with government beliefs or practices. There was a lack of transparency in academic decisions, with numerous complaints from individuals in the academic community of bias based on ethnicity and/or religion. The freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly were frequently restricted on university and high school campuses.|
* interestingly the US state department Report forgot to report on the blocking of alternative news websites, blogs and even cell phone text messaging.
How about this for the ethnic equality being trumpeted until almost the heavens fall
The TPLF, the first Ethiopian government to live in the information age thinks it can hide its rear by talking bad about others.
Now watch another developing story. The kidnapping of the five British embassy staff and their Ethiopian companies is getting a life of its own even after the kidnapped “tourists” are freed. Meles Zenawi who mouthfully boasts of starting the Tigrean insurgency by robbing a public bank at Axum and the leader of the TPLF who has a record number of kidnapped foreigners in the Horn of Africa is accusing Eritrea of kidnapping and terrorism. It is accusing all freedom fighters who refuse to be subjugated including the OLF and the CUD as terrorists. Remember the fabricated treatise issued a few weeks back about the apprehension of terrorists supposedly supported by Eritrea? Don’t even ask that the TPLF was also supported by the EPLF and was even given a ride by Shabia to Addis Ababa. And Mrs. Frazer that astonishing diplomat who has helped turn Mogadishu back to hell after six months of respite from 15 years of hell may say it once more - “the Eritrean government is now effectively controlled by Al Qaeda”, copy pasting what she said about the Somali UICs. And then Africa will have one of those things she needs badly – another killing field. Folks read it. The writing is on the wall.
What a curse is Ethiopia in?
Meles Zenawi’s Invasion of Somalia:
A Serious Long Term Foreign Policy Blunder
By Fekade Shewakena
The discussion among Ethiopians on what to make of the invasion of Somalia by Meles Zenawi’s government, although important and inescapable, is anything but dispassionate. A lot of the political discord gets in the way and buries the most important arguments. Some of the most virulent attack on people who questioned the wisdom of this invasion was authored and pioneered by Meles Zenawi himself. Both Meles Zenawi, the media he controls, and his supporters have shut down any useful multi-angular discussion when they began attacking and accusing even loyal parliamentary opponents that were not convinced of the need for military intervention in Somalia. Almost anyone that raised questions before the declaration of war and after is attacked and considered a traitor to Ethiopia’s “national interest”.
The operational word being hit hard by Meles Zenawi and his echo chambers in this accusation and counter accusation is the idea of Ethiopia’s “national interest”. From Machiavelli, who is said to be the first thinker to develop the concept through the era of the popes that led armies to the present, the meaning of the term “national interest” has evolved. Currently the concept is defined by a combination of multiple factors that sometimes require computer programs that do multivariate analysis. The definition covers not only national security and survival but also encompasses the pursuits of goals in economic and socio-cultural wellbeing of nations.
Authoritarian regimes by their very nature conflate national interest and their short term political objectives and calculate their foreign policy based on the maintenance of their political power. History including our own is replete with examples of leaders who presented such misleading definition of the national interest only to drag their countries to the abyss. Dictators see no national interest outside of their greed for power. The national interest is their interest. That is why they often accuse their opponents of treason against the nation. You oppose their policies – they will say you have committed a crime against the nation. It is that simple for them. Isn’t this what is going on in Ethiopia now?
My aim here is not to give you an exhaustive definition of the concept of “national interest”. I will leave that to experts in international relations. I am only interested in alerting discussants to the fact that the idea of national interest is fairly complex and far more than what Meles Zenawi and his minions attempts to tell us. For the purpose here, suffices it to say that the concept of national interest has a more dynamic meaning in an increasingly globalizing world and it is not strictly confined to physical security and boundary issues alone.
My objective is to caution everyone to pay attention to the longer term economic and other strategic implications of this war on the multifaceted survival needs of Ethiopia, particularly the economic implications in a predominantly Islamic neighborhood and a large Moslem population in itself. I urge readers to pay particular attention to Ethiopia’s relative geographic location in a part of the world where conflicts are chronic and the West is drawn in heavily to secure its economic interests, particularly oil. We also have to understand that the region provides Ethiopia with both opportunity and challenges. There is a lot of economic complementarily between Ethiopia and the region which needs a well thought out state craft in diplomacy than the feudal warmongering being pursued by Meles Zenawi currently. Some stupid remarks I hear that we are historical enemies with many middle easterners and even Somalia is short sighted naïve and lazy assertion. It is possible to see opportunity in all challenges that we can harness than dismissing every challenge as enmity.
I strongly argue here that strategically speaking Ethiopia’s interests have been significantly undermined by Meles Zenawi’s invasion of Somalia. I will go a little further and call it by its name. The invasion of Somalia is the biggest foreign policy blunder by an Ethiopian administration. I will explain.
As a poor country sitting at the bottom of all indexes of socioeconomic development and a hellhole of poverty on this planet, Ethiopia’s primary variable in the computation of its national interest is its economic wellbeing and the future of its economy. The biggest threat to national security and national unity in my view is the extreme and obscene poverty in the country. As we speak, 10 million people, about the population size of Somalia lives in chronic and perennial food shortage and daily donor handouts. Nearly half the population lives below the poverty line and the army of the destitute and urban unemployment is increasing by the day. We have a mountain of other social problems. In the words of a friend who recently returned from a visit to Ethiopia, more people are eating more statistics and less food. Any pursuit of national interest that does not take into account this very dangerous condition that is destroying us as a nation is simply wrong. If Ethiopia is to be destroyed it will be destroyed by its obscene poverty than by any foreign force.
I know there are a lot of people who keep fooling themselves thinking that the current, by and large aid funded, quantitative increases in some areas of the economy are indications of progress. Any growth in the Ethiopian economy now is like overfeeding a horse with barley hoping that some of the barley could come out with the excreta (fandya) and the birds would get it. That appears to be the idea of development being pursued in Ethiopia now. Call it Melesinomics. If anybody wonders why people are complaining that their lives are deteriorating and the number of the absolute poor is increasing by the day while the government reports tell them they are doing fine, this is the reason. Interestingly, the horse’s digestive system is so good that it does not even seem to let as much barley escape. There is no fundamental economic progress in Ethiopia that is compatible with the country’s bare minimum needs. Unless internal conflicts are resolved and the heavy hand of government in the economy is stopped, it is foolish to expect economic progress in Ethiopia. No country that has resolved its internal conflict to the satisfaction of every party in the contest has made any meaningful progress. Check out the rest of the world. But this is for another discussion. Back to the point I started.
This war is being portrayed and perceived by many in the Moslem world as Western anti Islamism. Whether this is true or not is not the point. Perceptions are as good as real. Whether we like it or not it is perceived that way by many Moslems in Ethiopia’s neighborhood and even among Ethiopian Moslems. It is now common knowledge that the invasion of Somalia is heavily coordinated with the United States and people can now legitimately see us as doing America’s bidding in the region.
The conflict in Somalia is far from over and it is hard to assess the outcomes yet. It is even doubtful if the so called Transitional Government which is mostly led by tribal warlords can sustain its hold on power. Somalia is back to its pre ICU days. The Abdulahi Yusufs are undermined from the start by being carried to Mogadishu on the back of Ethiopian soldiers who may have killed a lot of innocent Somalis on their way. This has doomed them for failure before they even start. (And wow, has anybody seen the first order of business of the Transitional Government? They tried to ban the local media, an advice apparently given by Meles Zenawi, an expert on anti free expression. Someone tell Meles that Somali’s do use text messaging, and have more cell phone per capita too.) I am not sure if the TG can survive the hostility and rivalry in Somalia without a baby sitter. Is it the president or the Prime Minister who expressed support and said Americans have a right to bomb his country? It appears the good warlord has taken too many lessons on how to love of country and patriotism from Meles Zenawi.
When I argue this war has undermined Ethiopia’s national interest, I want you to pay attention to the following crucial variables carefully and look what we have gained and lost and what we are going to likely loose in the long term. Ask these serious questions.
• The Middle East provides the nearest rich market for Ethiopia’s agricultural and other metallic and none metallic mineral products. More importantly most of our Moslem neighbors are food importers and relatively wealthy consumers. The fact that we are located very near means less cost in transportation and competitive advantage to sell our products. There are agricultural products and minerals that Ethiopia is capable of producing in abundance and selling in the region. Currently a large Ethiopian labor force is in the Middle East. Our economic interests, which include the export of trained and untrained labor force to the Middle East, can best be served by developing and intelligently crafting a foreign policy with most of the Middle East. Have we done ourselves a favor by allying ourselves and engaging in a war that is perceived as anti- Moslem in most of the Middle East? I seriously doubt that.
• In this war Ethiopia is perceived as doing America’s war against Islam. By giving the impression to our Moslem neighbors, Meles Zenawi has bought us enemies who have various tools to do us harm. Somalia is a member of the Arab League for nearly three decades. I have seen comments written by many Arab columnists on Arab news papers that look like a gnashing of teeth against Ethiopia. Is this a good thing for Ethiopia?
• Ethiopia has a large Moslem population. It is one of top five or six countries housing large number of Moslems in the world. I know Ethiopian Moslems are no less nationalist as compared to Christian or Jew or none believer Ethiopians. But I am sure many feel uncomfortable by the idea of their country invading a Moslem country in a war that many in the Islamic world, and I am sure many in Ethiopia too, perceive as anti Islam. How can they not feel uncomfortable? God forbid, but if terrorist activities spread in Ethiopia, I am sure Meles Zenawi will begin profiling Moslems and knocking at their doors just like it does to Oromos today. Look at what is being done to millions of Oromo young people. Because of the OLF, Oromos are being profiled as potential OLF members when they dare to present any dissenting view. If Ethiopian Moslems fear a similar backlash, I would not call them unreasonable. I fear that Meles Zenawi has jeopardized the religious harmony that we Ethiopians enjoyed over the years.
• Ethiopia’s image in its foreign relations as the home and creator of the OAU, a long standing member of the None Aligned Movement and its respected place in contributing to global détente, by being a founding member of the League of Nations and the UN is tarnished. We have now given ourselves the name of a client state that goes to war with whistles from rich donors, as many believe is the case in Somalia now. A Middle Eastern paper called it something to the effect that the war in Somalia is Meles’s Christmas gift to Bush. This has undermined Ethiopia’s image and the character of our nation internationally.
• I have met people who argue that it is good for Ethiopia to allay itself with the richest and powerful country in the world, the United States. I too want Ethiopia’s friendship with the United States. Personally both counties are home to me and I love such a relationship. But here is the problem. Many Americans are now complaining that their country’s standing in the world has hit rock bottom because of current policies and are demanding a change in foreign policy. Many of their leaders, particularly those in Congress, share this view. The election last November is viewed as a confirmation of the need for that kind of shift. I have a feeling that after the Bush administration the US is likely to makes a fundamental change in its approach to foreign policy. It would likely resort to intensive diplomacy and mending fences. I am afraid Ethiopia may be left out in the open to dry by then. Meles Zenawi may have finished his shelf-life in a few years, but our children are going to pay the “bills” for the enemies that he has helped build around us. The West has a famous dictum that they have no permanent friends as they have interests. I am not sure, for example, if the United States would side with Ethiopia if it gets into conflict with powerful Moslem neighbors in the Middle East.
• Thanks to Meles Zenawi, we have totally lost control of our direct control on parts of the Red Sea, a strategic lifeline for Ethiopia, through which the bulk of our export and import is done. The sea is now mostly controlled by Moslem people and states who may not wish us well when they increasingly perceive us as pursuing interests that are anathema to Islam and doing a mercenary job to what they think is an imperialist agression.
• Meles Zenawi has now made Ethiopia a legitimate target for attack by international terrorists. Ethiopia has long and porous boundaries. Unlike the United States, it is not protected by mighty oceans and seas. Neither does it have the resources to fund a department of homeland security that uses high tech detection equipment to watch for possible terrorists. God forbid, what are we going to do if terrorists begin inflicting suicidal damage on our country’s infrastructure and our people? I know Meles Zenawi can redouble the concentric ring of guards he already has and may even shut down the entire city as he sometimes does when moves outside of the palace.
• Ethiopia is a country valued by the prophet Mohammad as a country of peaceful people that should not be attacked. The story of the First Hegira, one that we Ethiopians proudly raise when talking to our Moslem brothers around the world was a huge deterrent against fanatics who are pushed by their religious beliefs to suicidal attacks. Shouldn’t that serve a basis of a policy with our Moslem neighbors?
In short, Meles Zenawi’s invasion of Somalia may have hurt our relation with our potential and long term economic interest and markets in our neighborhood and may even have made us vulnerable for terrorist attacks. I am not sure how people get comfort in this kind of foreign policy. In my view this is the second most foreign policy blunder of Meles Zenawi next to his decision to make us the biggest landlocked country on the planet.
It may be academic to raise this now but worth considering for whatever it is worth. The biggest opportunity missed through this mess in Somalia is the failure to let the ICU soft land and take power in Somalia through a negotiated approach. In my view the ICU is more dangerous in death to Ethiopia than in life. We could have let it take power and it was easy to force them to take the responsibility that comes with the assumption of political power. They would have needed a lot of foreign aid to rebuild their dilapidated country with 15 years of failure and may even end up at the doors of western powers to beg for aid. Obviously there was no social ground they could hold in Somalia as fundamentalist Muslims. The acceptance the ICU got by the people of Somalia was confused with religious acceptance. Somalis were sick and tired of the lawlessness and the ICU was accepted more for bringing order to the chaos that plagued the country. For that matter quite a handful of the ICU leaders were the only ones who could be considered fanatic but most were interested in solving Somalia’s lawlessness problems. Even in the cloud of the Nazi like propaganda we know that.
It was not difficult for Ethiopia to control some lunatic Sheiks and their army of goat herders at any time with the largest army in Sub Sahara Africa. They could have simply seen that we are incompatible militarily and seek reconciliation. It was possible that the ICU were getting aid from hostile forces to Ethiopia or the regime of Meles Zenawi but all that crap about foreign Jihadistts and army from Eritrea stationed to fight us was pure fabrication as we now have seen. The current leaders of the TG can neither be friends to Ethiopia nor acceptable to Somalis by virtue of the fact that they have been carried by the back of Ethiopian soldiers to Mogadishu. I don’t know the existence of a self respecting Somali who is willing to give legitimacy to individuals who support the bombing of their people by foreigners.
In my view the center of Ethiopia’s national interest is its desire to come out of this grinding and humiliating poverty. You can’t do this by paying hundreds of millions of dollars and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people and engaging in a perpetual military situation.
Ethiopia’s national interest can best be served by being strong internally. Our strength depends on building democracy and resolving internal conflicts democratically. That is why Ethiopians need to focus on our internal problems. The unconditional release of the democratically elected leaders of Kinijit, all political prisoners, and the reinstatement of the independent press is the most serious things that matter for Ethiopia now. Somalia is Meles Zenawi’s war. It is not ours.
The Horn of Africa Crisis
Some Points on how to Avert a Dangerous Conflict
It appears that the Horn of Africa is on the brink of war. The Ethiopian rubber stamp parliament has given authority to Meles Zenawi last week to decide on whether there should be a war or not. The Somali Sheiks have made multiple declarations of Jihad in response to Ethiopian intrusion in their country. If this drumbeat for war turns out to materialize, the poorest corner of Africa will simply go in flames and the humanitarian disaster that follows may dwarf anything the world may have seen recently. This is a war that should be averted. It is also an avoidable war. The insanity of Meles Zenawi and his backers must be replaced by a more thoughtful approach. Those who want to pour benzene in the region in pursuit of one interest or another should pull their hands back and leave Somalia for Somalis.
That the Horn of Africa is located at the geographical and geopolitical junction between South Asia, the Middle East and the continent of Africa, means any crisis in this region can have far reaching consequences than conventional wisdom suggests. We may end up making the gates of hell wide open if current skirmishes and war of words escalate to bigger physical confrontation. The warning of the International Crisis Group recently is right on the mark. Anyone who thinks this is going to be contained within the front line states is just not familiar with the socio-cultural geographical and geopolitical setting of the region. The Horn countries have long and porous boundaries though which anything can easily move. The countries in the region are inhabited by ethnic groups that straddle national boundaries. In many cases the boundaries are unmarked and hard to mark because of the religious and cultural continuum that does not recognize political boundaries.
The talk about deploying a peacekeeping force in Somalia by the United Nations and the AU is an insane idea and will only exacerbate the problem. In the first place there is no peace to keep and secondly such an effort will only inflame more resentment by Somalis. Where and who in between are the peace keepers going to stand? The transitional government in Somalia is no more a government and simply lives on life support particularly the support of by Meles Zenawi. It has reached its dead end and anything the world may want to do to resuscitate it would only be wasting human life, time and resources. There is no civil war in Somalia – There are no warring factions to speak of. The only impending war is between Ethiopia that provides army to the weak transitional government and the UIC militants. What kind of peace are peace keepers going to keep? Attack the whole population in support of a few war lords that the Somali people as a whole despise? It is hard to understand.
Then how do we avoid war in the region? I think the best solution in my view is to let the UIC take over the government of Somalia, let it win. Once they become the government we will have a legitimately established government that both the international community and the Somali people will be able to hold to account for their actions. The UIC is only insurgency at this stage. Perhaps, who knows, the UIC may even change its mind and become a more moderate government and even friendly to its neighbors and the West. Hadn’t the TPLF changed its worship of Albanian communist ideology and Karl Marx while it was an insurgent to supporting white capitalism when it became the government? There is a model already.
There is reason to believe that the hard line rhetoric of the UIC could disappear if they are helped to soft land and take power and get encouragement to peacefully resolve their problems. So far they have shown they are willing to talk. I don’t see anything bad about talking to them and the conditions they are asking are not hard to meet. They only demand the removal of foreign soldiers from their country. The recent CNN news that Ethiopian Foreign Service officials were talking to UIC officials in Djibouti, if true, needs to be commended.
Some of the policy from the West regarding Somalia is based on ignorance of the sociology and history of the country. The Somali people are not culturally predisposed to hard line Islamism of the brand we see in the Middle East and South Asia. Those of us from Ethiopia know Somalis very well. They are independent minded people who love their identity. There was a time when they withstood Arabizing their culture. Their refusal to use the Arabic script to write their language and their choice of the Latin alphabet instead is noteworthy. Meles Zenawi’s choice to intervene in Somalia in support of the hated and weak Transitional Government is now fueling the hard liner positions in Somalia than their Islamic thinking. Hard line Islamism that some in the leadership of the UIC professes now does not have a social base in Somalia but this conflict may help to change it altogether. The only way the current radicalism can grow is if it feeds on the confrontational polices being pursued to solve the crisis. Moreover, we all know that the UIC is patched up from a fairly heterogeneous group of adherents of Islam some of whom are moderate. I doubt if the UIC movement can even be referred to as extremists at this stage. To use the rhetoric of one single Sheik as the view of the whole movement in Somalia is as wrong as taking the rhetoric of Meles Zenawi as a view accepted by the Ethiopian people.
At least at this stage, the Ethiopian people have not seen any reason to go to war with Somalia. In fact, Ethiopians see Meles’s war mongering as a diversionary tactic from his internal political crisis. Many Ethiopians are sympathetic to the people of Somalia who have suffered lawlessness in their country for the last fifteen years. The energy that propelled the UIC to their current status is not their Islamic extremism as much as it is the quest of the Somali people for a formally constituted government that brings law and order to the fifteen years of mess in their country. The UIC provided that and that is why they seem to enjoy widespread support. The people of Somalia need to be helped, not fought against.
Meles Zenawi’s involvement in Somalia and his military incursions into their territory that he half denies every time he is asked about, is serving any hard liner positions in Somalia. In times of aggression moderates don’t flourish as hard liners do. That is natural. They react angrily when being insulted and humiliated. That is also natural. Meles Zenawi’s intervention in Somalia has just provided that. It appears that Meles Zenawi is soliciting angry responses from the UIC leaders in order to justify his war. Anytime he and his officials bad mouth or rant to crush them and send his troops across to their territory, he gets one sentence from a raving sheik and uses that to justify his war.
Like any people, Somalis are justified in being angry at military incursion in their country. If anybody does this to my country, Ethiopia, I will be mad as hell and will declare whatever is the Christian equivalent of Jihad. Who can blame the Somalis if they say they will go fight a Jihad under these humiliating circumstances where the army of a neighbor is rampaging in their villages and their hope for peace and order is dashed. Oh yes, a Sheik in Somalia has said that he wants to go for greater Somalia by bringing ethnic Somalis from neighboring countries including Ethiopia. Are we going to declare war and invade countries anytime their leaders make wishes against our interest? Ethiopia has no case for war. Meles Zenawi may have his own case. More importantly Ethiopia is not to benefit out of this war as I will try to show a little later.
What about the commitment of the international community to support the Transitional Government of Somalia? The international community has no business supporting a government that could not stand on its own and rejected by the vast majority of the Somali people, and I doubt if it is part of the future. It is simply foolish and counterproductive to continue to support it. In fact, a large number of parliamentarians including the Speaker of the Bidowa parliament are expressing unhappiness with the intervention of Meles Zenawi in their country.
Ethiopia has fought numerous international wars. In the last one hundred years alone, it fought over 30 such wars. In none of these cases Ethiopia was the aggressor. Meles Zenawi is doing this for the first time in its history.
I doubt if Meles Zenawi and his advisors failed to understand the disaster that the war they are provoking would create or the danger of the misadventure they are involved in. Meles knows Ethiopia does not have the economic backbone to engage in a long drawn out bleeding unconventional war with Somalia. Suggestions that he is drumming up this war for his own internal political reasons is plausible. Many Ethiopians consider Meles Zenawi’s saber rattling and drumbeat for war with Somalia as a diversionary tactic from his internal political crisis. Meles is rejected by a vast majority of Ethiopians for his cruelty in handling political dissent within the country and his totalitarian rule. He is already implicated in a crime of massacre and genocide against his own people as verified by his own Commission of Inquiry that probed the post election killings of hundreds of Ethiopians in June and November 2005. A good number of the Commissioners and lawyers have fled their country to tell the truth, a gruesome truth, that is shaking our conscience. He is clearly thinking he would change the subject on his crimes by engaging in a war or talking about a war. To the extent he does it for this purpose he already seems to have succeeded. We are now talking about avoiding a war with Somalia instead of how to indict Meles for his crimes and talking about the bombshell Inquiry Commission Report that have rocked the conscience of the international community including respected US congressmen and Human rights groups that saw the evidence first hand. Ethiopians have to focus on the suffering our people are undergoing and the widespread repression in the country.
Meles is expecting the waning unqualified support from the West, particularly from the United States, something he enjoyed over the last fifteen years. It appears he has crafted a way to keep his blind Western support in the name of fighting Islamic terrorism; a tactic many third world dictators have now crafted into art to milk the support of the West.
If a military confrontation ensues, there may be numerous bad scenarios, so worse that they may be all bad to choose from. Ethiopia may succeed in checking the advance of the UIC from their current pace at a huge cost in life and an economy already fragile without defeating them militarily. More external forces would be sucked in to the war including Ethiopia’s traditional foes. Some are already tip toeing. Al Qaeda will have a fertile place to open shop. The Transitional Government that has already been plagued by defections cannot sustain power and extend its rule in vast Somalia even with life support from Ethiopia and the West. Hadn’t they already had that chance over the last several years? More importantly there will be no easy exit for Ethiopia once she is sucked into the war.
For Ethiopia the consequences are even much dire. Ethiopia may bleed to death with a long drawn out terrorist war that may not be limited to its borders. Ethiopia’s economy cannot sustain such a war and it is doubtful if Meles will get unlimited support from the West. The period ahead of us is a reevaluation of the current anti terrorism tactics by the West, particularly in the United States. Most likely, diplomatic overtures may replace the militaristic approach pursued so far. Winning hearts and minds may be the way out however difficult this may be. The West can try a new policy in Somalia by engaging with the UIC. Whatever problem exists in Somalia will be somalianized and Somalis alone can be left to solve their problems based on their lessons of the last 15 years.
A more serious blow to Ethiopia may be that it can end up importing Islamic fundamentalism inside itself. Ethiopia is one of five countries in the world with large Moslem population. There is a possibility that a small fraction of Ethiopian Moslems could be more loyal to their Somali brothers in faith than their country. Melese’s repeated rant that he will fight and crush Judaists and Islamic extremists may not settle well with many Moslems of Ethiopia who want the confrontation be called something else other than “Islamic” as an adjective. There are indications of this radical Islamism cropping up in parts of Ethiopia, although the country is famous for strong Inter-religious harmony over the years. Add to this the grinding poverty that is plaguing the region. It may not be difficult to find many suicide bombers to wreck havoc in Ethiopia. Has anybody seen the movie, ‘The Perfect Storm”?
This war will be Ethiopia’s war only if the Somali insurgents or their supporters intrude in Ethiopian territory. They have not now, and they can’t even if they wish to. They are very weak relative to Ethiopia. They have a hard time getting rid of their warlords’ government and controlling Somalia proper let alone take territory from Ethiopia. I don’t see any threat on Ethiopia. Meles Zenawi also knows there is no threat on Ethiopian territory. He has another agenda.
Ethiopians have learnt a bitter lesson from the war with Eritrea where 70 thousand of their children perished for nothing. Ethiopians should be very careful of their patriotic instinct bought by nationalist appeals. Meles and his clique have traded very well on our patriotism in the past. Yes, we all will fight if our country is violated and we know when that happens. We should not let Meles and his clique take our country to a war of aggression that will not serve our national interest. As much as we love our country and hate our violators, we should hate doing the same to others. That is equally patriotic. We should not be herds that get led in any direction without asking serious questions and understanding the consequences.
The West, particularly the United States, has a good opportunity to try a different approach in fighting terrorism and denying base for hateful terrorists. The best option to solve the crisis in the Horn is diplomatic and diplomatic alone. Africa has had too much killing grounds all over the continent. Let’s please stop making another one in the Horn of Africa.
The Ethiopian Millennium Celebration
The Farce of the Millennium
That must be boycotted by all self-respecting Ethiopians
The Ethiopian Millennium to be marked in September 2007 has more of metaphorical meaning than the farce the Ethiopian government is planning to make off of it. What a coincidence that we trail most of the countries of the world by seven years into the celebration of the millennium and still also trail behind almost all of them in nearly every index of societal development. I have a friend who seriously asks if this has to do with our socioeconomic and political backwardness.
Just as the woyane regime drumbeats its statistics to create a delusional and none existing economic leap in the country, I just read a World Economic Forum report which declares that Ethiopia has slid to the rank of 120th out of 125 countries in 2006 in Global Competitive Index, from the 116th that it stood at a year ago. The UNICEF also reports that another false promise of development, the so called Millennium Development Goal (MDG), is far off for Ethiopia to approach let alone achieve. I know these are top secrets in Ethiopia where the entire media is ordered to tell the people only the good news that, very soon, bread will be raining from the sky. Ethiopians are not allowed to know that the number of their absolute poor, defined by the World Bank as those earning les than a dollar a day, have nearly tripled since the EPRDF came to power fifteen years ago and the rank of the unemployed is continuously swelling to limits of explosion.
Yes, we Ethiopians love our unique heritages including the way we subdivide the solar cycle into thirteen months and often pride ourselves of this uniqueness. In many cases the brutal autocratic rulers that we have had to live under over these long years of our history have used every bit of our heritage to perpetuate their own myths and extend their repressive systems. Now it is the Woyane’s turn.
This celebration is planned to be a diversionary tactic and spread the delusion that everything in the country is going well. The TPLF/EPRDF is saying, “listen people of Ethiopia, ask not your freedoms and democratic rights, and complain not when we sometime mass-kill you and your children since we do that in order for the bread to rain from the sky, don’t demand the release of the innocent representatives you elected against us, forget them for you are, after all, poor people who need care takers like us determined to feed you like pigs. Read the statistics, oh! people of Ethiopia we have grown 10% ….That is the meaning of democracy and good governance and that is why we put your elected leaders in jail and killed some of you. Seek not human dignity people of Ethiopia, for that brings you in conflict with us and would lessen the amount of bread you are going to get, ….”. This is the theme of this sham celebration. Remember that sham call by Foreign Minister Syum Mesfin and the Meles government to celebrate the Award of Badame to Ethiopia by the International Arbitration Court? This is the same thing folks. This shameless people are asking us to forget their crimes and dance with them on the streets that are still blood stained from their massacres.
Obviously this planned festivity is meant to divert attention from the widespread human rights abuse and repression that have become routine in Ethiopia since the ill fated May 2005 election. The TPLF seems to have settled on running a police state now, because it appears that there is no other way it is going to survive this mass distaste and rejection. The festivity is obviously meant to help throw some anesthesia on the Ethiopian people into forgetting their serious grievances and anger at being led by a certified illegitimate government.
Already the countdown and the celebration of this Orwellian drama have begun and the government media are devoting a lot of time for it. The firecrackers and the champagne and scotch are ordered. A so called Secretariat of the Millennium Celebration is established and will be overseen by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is a council of 120 people to deliberate on the kind of celebration. Millions of dollars taken out of the mouths of hungry children are diverted to fund the drama. The former office of the USIS is now the headquarters of this sham celebration. A four man committee is set up to do the choreography. Some of these are well known empty headed blowhards who have demonstrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they wear enough blinders to make them believe freedom, democracy and economic progress are flowing in Ethiopia like a mighty river. They have demonstrated that they believe the massacres of June and November 2005, the genocidal killings in Gambella and Awassa and elsewhere as well as the incarceration of thousands of innocent people and their elected leaders are fabrications in the minds of some confused Ethiopians in Diaspora. They believe people like the 93 year old Oromo prisoner in Kaliti, who suffers nearly a decade in prison without seeing a day in court accused of having a son that joined the OLF, is a fiction on Dr. Berhanu Nega’s book, “The dawn of Freedom”.
I also hear from insiders that the biggest stumbling block to the expected colorful celebration in Addis Ababa are the many symbols of poverty that swarm Addis Ababa, the rag wearing beggars and miserable poor street children that flood the streets. This serious problem has to be dealt with before this great day of delusion. God knows where they would take them, but if previous reports by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council that some street dwellers were thrown into hyena infested eucalyptus forests on the outskirts of Addis are any lead, the hyenas would have the best millennium celebration of all living creatures in Ethiopia next to the affluent TPLF/EPRDF officials, their cronies and some heartless individuals who would fool themselves into this celebration. The mass media, radio and television have started administering the anesthesia already.
I am not against marking or commemorating this day at all. But I see another way of marking it. It is fitting to mark the day by making it a day of reflection and introspect. A day where we examine what has gone wrong with us in the past. I would have liked to mark it with bringing peasants, intellectuals and all the bright people in our country into a discussion forum where we can rock our head and see our past and vow to do better in the future.
The millennium day may be an opportune time where we have to look at ourselves with sincerity and brutal honesty and ask ourselves many why questions. Why is this beautiful country condemned to live in misery when it is endowed with everything we need to live a descent life? What is wrong with us that we have more than 30% forest covered land a millennium ago and left with less than 1% of that today? Why are we at the bottom of every global measure of development and why do we keep being ruled by brutal dictators that are hardly different from the tribal barons that ruled Ethiopians hundreds of years ago? Why, in Gods name, have we turned our country into a virtual hellhole where every young person’s dream has become to flee out of it at their earliest convenience.
Serious and self-respecting Ethiopians should despise and boycott this farce. It is a humiliation to be a part of it. Let’s instead plan for a day of reflection and introspect, perhaps a day of prayer to ask God to help us leave a better country for our children than we currently have and dream a collective dream for something better. In my view this is the best and appropriate way to celebrate the millennium.
Fellow Ethiopians in Diaspora, cancel your planned trips to Ethiopia in September 07. Fellow Ethiopians inside Ethiopia, stay home and pray for your country and the coming generation on the millennium day and avoid being a party to this Orwellian farce. Do some personal work to commemorate the day. Don’t be a part of this sick joke.