The Struggle for Democracy in Ethiopia
A talk by Dr. Berhanu Nega
Mayor-elect of Addis Ababa and recently released political prisoner
Thursday, September 6th at 7:30 pm
New School for Social Research
65 Fifth Ave. , between 13th St. and 14th St .
Join us for a talk by Dr. Berhanu Nega, New School alumnus and mayor-elect of Addis Ababa . Dr. Nega was held as a political prisoner in Ethiopia for almost two years, along with thousands of others in the current government's crackdown on dissent. Recently released from prison, he is in New York to share his experiences at his alma mater, The New School for Social Research on Thursday, September 6th at 7:30 pm. at Swayduck Auditorium at 65 Fifth Ave.
The international community has largely condemned the state of affairs in Ethiopia . United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour strongly criticized Ethiopia 's human rights situation, calling it "worrying." The recent release of 38 high-profile prisoners came just two days after a Congressional subcommittee approved legislation to end U.S. support for Ethiopia 's human rights violations. Still many are held in jail, the media is censored, and the politically unstable Ogaden region in the East threatens to slip into humanitarian disaster as the government blocks aid workers and supplies from entering.
Dr. Nega will address his experiences working for democracy in Ethiopia in the face of a government that has repressed all opposition. He will also address the role of the United States in the support of the Ethiopian government and the war in Somalia and what U.S. citizens can do to help.
Please join us on September 6, 2007 as we welcome Dr. Nega to New York ! The talk is free and open to the public.
Can't make it to New York? The talk will also be webcast live on the internet. More details on accessing the webcast will be made available closer to the date of the talk at www.freenega.org/talk
Thursday, September 6, 2007
New School for Social Research
65 Fifth Ave. , between 13th St. and 14th St .
Take any subway to Union Square and then walk west one block to Fifth Ave.
For more information, please see www.freenega.org/talk
Ethiopia - What in the World is the World’s Oldest Woman Doing in Houston?
Alemayehu G. Mariam
Artist’s life-size model of Dinkenesh
Dinkenesh (Lucy) 1 in Houston with Diamonds?
We call her Dinkenesh2. They call her “Lucy”. But what’s in a name? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” said Shakespeare. But Lucy is one of a kind. She is unlike any other hominid fossil ever found. She is the most complete hominid skeleton of the Pliocene
Epoch [1.8-5.3 million years ago]. And she is in terrible danger in Houston, if you believe the foremost paleontologists in the world.
But what in the world is she doing in Houston, Texas?
Officials of the ruling regime “made no bones” about Lucy’s reasons for coming to America. (No pun intended.) National Public Radio quoting these officials reported that Old Lucy is in America to squeeze a few bucks out of American pockets for the folks back home, and snag some tourists: “Officials there [Addis Ababa] have said there are two reasons for sending Lucy on an American tour. The first is to raise the profile of Ethiopia and attract international tourists. The second reason is to raise money for the impoverished African country.”3
The Houston Museum has dubbed the exhibition “Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia”. It is not an accurate caption. A more appropriate caption would have been:
“Lucy’s Legacy: Hidden Deals Over the Treasures of Ethiopia”.4 Everything about the deal that brought Lucy to Houston remains hidden, from public view. Like the pirates of old, only Houston Museum and regime officials know the value of the treasures and where they are
hidden. If you think they will share the loot, abandon all hope, now.
Museum from August 31, 2007 – April 20, 2008. If you
want to lay your eyes on her tiny brittle bones, be prepared to shell out a cool 20 bucks.
The negotiations to sneak Lucy into America were done in classic cloak-and-dagger style, with scheming museum officials strutting in the foreground, and nameless and faceless “Ethiopian government officials” skulking in the background. The details of the financial arrangements around Lucy are shrouded in more secrecy than the Holy Mysteries. Mum is the word for both Houston Museum and regime officials. They are sticking by the old Code of Silence. Just like in the Godfather movies. Except Don Corleone’s boys from Sicily call it Omerta. Houston calls it “confidential”. It’s all the same, ain’t nobody talking!
Get a load of this! Few in Ethiopia knew Lucy was splitting town. There was no official public announcement, discussion or information on her U.S. trip. She was whisked away stealthily under cover of darkness. The usual M.O. (modus operandi), snatched in the middle of the night. That’s what the reports said. MSNBC quoted a young lawyer in Addis who was thunderstruck at the news that Lucy has been spirited to America for 6 years, as a guest worker.
He was appalled: “This is a national treasure. How come the [Ethiopian] public has no inkling about this? It’s amazing that we didn’t even get to say goodbye.”5 He is going to be dumbstruck when he finds out what kind of work Lucy will be doing for the next 6 years.
The whole deal is disgusting. I’d like to say, “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” Just like Apollo 13 said when its oxygen tank exploded en route to the Moon. I’d like to add, “Houston, your attitude about the Lucy affair stinks!”
“Lucy’s Legacy” or no, Professor Richard Leaky, the famed African paleoanthropologist, is pissed off and hopping mad about the whole deal that delivered Lucy to the grubby hands of Houston Museum curators. He does not disagree that Lucy was brought to America to make money. He just objects to the fact that she is being used to make money like a prostitute makes money for her pimp. An irate Leakey protested in the international media that the Mother of All Humanity was being forced into white slavery: “Dispatching of the Lucy skeleton on a six-year-tour of the United States is akin to prostituting the fragile, 3.2 million year-old fossil.
It's a form of prostitution, its gross exploitation of the ancestors of humanity and it should not be permitted,” fumed Leakey.
How tragically ironic! The world’s oldest woman working in the world’s oldest profession! What a low-down crying shame!
But if Leaky is right about his prostitution accusation, then we would have to put out an APB (all points bulletin) for her pimps. We’ve got to nab the “Superfly” in this prostitution racket? Track down Lucy’s Iceberg Slim. If Leaky is right, we’d have to wonder if the Houston
Museum is a cultural center or a brothel.
But the outrage expressed over this “fossilxploitation” is not limited to Leaky. A large number of the world’s leading paleontologists and many of the top-tier American museums have also blasted the “Legacy Tour”. They share Leakey’s concern that “these specimens will
get damaged no matter how careful you are and every time she is moved there is a risk. The point is what is the benefit of taking one of the most iconic examples of the human story from Africa to parade it around in second-level museums in the United States?”
The Smithsonian Institution has declined to exhibit Lucy, and publicly condemned the underhanded vulgarity of the secret deal that brought Lucy out of Ethiopia. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has also declined. So has the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Lucy’s first home. The Field Museum in Chicago, aware of the international condemnation, has expressed deep reservations about exhibiting Lucy.
Rick Potts, one of the foremost researchers on East African fossils and director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian pointed an accusatory finger at the Houston Museum and the Ethiopian “government” for flagrantly disregarding a 1988 Resolution passed by the UNESCO-affiliated International Association for the Study of Human Paleontology. In that Resolution, Ethiopia agreed not to move fossils outside of its territory, and display replicas only in public exhibitions. Rick is missing the point. Outlaws don’t give a damn about
international agreements or law.
Prof. Bernard Wood of George Washington University, who has extensive experience working with fossils, says it is irresponsible to rent out the “extremely fragile” fossil: “If Lucy is removed from a box and then put on display, and put back in a box and then put on display again, as sure as night follows day, it will be damaged. It's not something that might happen. It's something that most certainly will happen.” If Wood is right, it’s time to say “So long, Lucy. It’s been nice knowing you, almost.”
Perhaps few can speak on Lucy more authoritatively than Yohannes Haile Selassie, anthropology curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: "There is a lot of damage you can't see with the naked eyes, caused just by touching her and handling her. I'm just sitting and praying that she comes back safe."6 Amen! That kind of damage is not difficult to imagine.
If you pack and unpack her dozens of times as she is shuttled between bush-league museums for six years, it is not rocket science to figure out that her brittle bones could be damaged beyond repair. Haile Selassie knows what he talking about. After all, it was the Cleveland team that studied Lucy for 6 years back in 1974 and put her together.
But Joel Bartsch, the president of the “second-level” Houston Museum of Natural Science, says phooey to the outcry in the scientific community. He does not give a hoot about the concerns of scientists who have spent their entire professional lives excavating, analyzing, restoring and curating such fossils. He says: “The fossil [Lucy] was examined by a group of curators who pronounced her hardy and robust, he says. Is she rare? Is she unique? Is she important to all mankind? Absolutely. But she's not too fragile to travel.”
Bartsch attitude is that Lucy has been stuck in the mud for the last 3.2 years. She needs to get out and get around.
Dirk Van Tuerenhout, one of Bartsch’s lieutenants says: “If you are able to showcase an original fossil, then you have a story, then you have a point of attraction that will bring in the most number of people, and then you can tell them that story.”
Nonsense! Whatever story you can tell with the real fossil, you can tell the replica. It’s not like Lucy can talk and tell us how her life has been for the past 3.2. million years. Her replica will do just fine. Of course, you won’t be able to snag $20 a pop if you use the replica.
What can I say? That’s the way the world’s oldest profession is practiced in Houston, I reckon.
World’s Oldest “Hardy and Robust” Woman Forced to Work in the World’s Oldest Profession for Six Years?
According to reports, Lucy has been viewed by the Ethiopian public only twice since her discovery in 1974. A replica is said to be on display at the Ethiopian Natural History Museum in Addis Ababa. For the last 34 years, she was kept away from public view in a climate-controlled vault. “Too fragile”, they said, for those big prying Ethiopian eyes. May be they were afraid she will be seen by the “evil eye” (buda).
Now Lucy is unchained from her vault to satisfy the scientific and cultural curiosities of “good ole” Houstonians. But Leaky and his colleagues say, “scientific and cultural curiosities, my foot!” Her ladyship has been shanghaied into indentured servitude for prostitution for 6 years. Just get a load of that!
But is the Houston Museum pimping Lucy, or using her to tell a “story” as Bartsch and Van Tuerenhout claim? The Houston duo’s story about retailing Lucy is as audacious as it is knavish. It is not unlike the rap a pimp would lay on his lady to get her to go out into the street
and ply her trade. “You are strong and tough, baby. You can handle it. There ain’t nobody like you. You are the only one I care about. Now, go out and bring me my money!” Bartsch, Van Tuerenhout and Iceberg Slim, they are all the same!
So, Old Lucy will be turning $20 “tricks” for the Houston Museum and all of the other third-rate wannbe museums for the next six years. Like the gaudy prostitute in the red light district beckoning her customers to come in, Lucy’s fossilized remains will be splattered all
over the billboards by the side of Texas highways. She will beckon “all them Texan cowboys and cowgirls to come to the museum for a little bit o’ culture and learnin’”, for $20 a pop, that is. Yeah, Houston patricians will be squeezed for few more bucks to support this “once-inhuman-history” event. Everybody will make beaucoup bucks. There will be NO ACCOUNTABILITY for the money collected on Lucy’s skin, or more appropriately, her fossilized bones. What a sweet deal! What a low-down dirty shame!
Could Lucy be in America on a Secret Mission?
According to National Public Radio, one of the two reasons for Lucy’s trip to America is “to raise the profile of Ethiopia and attract international tourists.” Perhaps Old Lucy is here on a
special secret mission, code named: “Raise the Profile: Mission Distraction!” Naturally, she’d make for a perfect foil. She does not have to say anything, just look pretty while her handlers
adorn her showcased fossil with “over 100 artifacts such as ancient manuscripts and royal artifacts” dating back to the “biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba”. And museum spin doctors will yak about Ethiopia “as the origin of mankind… the cradle of civilization… the
birthplace of coffee…the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant…the first Christian African nation in the 4th century A.D…” Blah, blah, blah!
Stop! Why is it necessary to “raise the profile of Ethiopia and attract international tourists” now? Would it have anything to do with the recent conclusions of the U.S. State Department?
The [Ethiopian] government's human rights record remained poor in many areas. Human rights abuses reported during the year included the following: unlawful killings; beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of those
suspected of sympathizing with or being members of the opposition; detention of thousands without charge and lengthy pretrial detention; infringement on citizens' privacy rights; restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists for publishing articles critical of the government; restrictions on freedom of assembly and of association; violence and societal discrimination against women and abuse of children; female genital mutilation; exploitation of children for economic and sexual purposes; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and against religious and ethnic minorities; and government interference in union activities.7
Well, if the aim is to “put a spotlight on Ethiopia as the cradle of civilization,” as the Houston Museum claimed, and spruce up the regime’s image along the way, I am afraid there are just too many blood spots on that image for Lucy’s skirt to cover. Nothing can overwrite the indelible facts of gross human rights abuses seared into the consciences of all freedom-loving people. Please, don’t insult the intelligence of the American people. No amount of hoopla around Lucy’s “diminutive bag of bones” can beguile the American tourist into visiting Orwellian (Zenawian) Ethiopia.
Is Dinkenesh’s (Lucy’s) Story an Allegory of “Modern” Ethiopia?
So, what is the lesson to be learned from the sordid Lucy deal? Sell the most priceless fossil of the human origin for the best offer! Rent out Lucy to an escort service? Everything has a price on it, just bring me the money!
Some say this is the standard way of doing business is done in Ethiopia today. Everything is for sale. Sell me your honor, and I will give you a scrap of land. Bow before me, and I will give you an office and title. Incriminate your neighbor, I will let you go free. Everybody has a price; you just have to find out the right price point. It all sounds so Mephistophelian: “Give me your soul in exchange for riches and power.”
Well, there are some things that money just can’t buy, such as rare, priceless and irreplaceable objects -- Dinkenesh (Lucy) of Ethiopia. There are other simple things that you can’t buy either, for any amount of money. One is Love of Country. It comes bundled with such things as pride in your cultural heritage and the sacrifices of your ancestors, uncompromising allegiance to individual liberty, tenacious commitment to truth, compassion for the poor and downtrodden, self-dignity, honor and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, and most of all, enduring faith in the Almighty.
But without Love of Country, everything is up for sale, just like the prostitute your soul, honor, dignity, heritage, country…. Everything! So, where can one buy this “Love of Country”? Like I said, you don’t. You’ve got to be born with it. Either you got it, or you ain’t. But how do you know when you ain’t got it? For starters, if you start prostituting your cultural heritage, you know you ain’t got it!
Can Lucy be Rescued From White Slavery?
Can we save Lucy from white slavery? I don’t know, but we can try a few things. First, we must speak out and plead her cause before the American people, every chance we get. In the newspapers. On TV. On radio. We need to have chats with those Houston Museum patrons.
We’ve got to tell them what’s happening to Lucy. Give them a flyer to take home. Ask them to help you send Lucy home. Like Speilberg’s E.T., Lucy has got to go home!
We must inform American policy makers -- federal, state, local-- that Lucy has been smuggled into America for an illicit purpose by panderers, and demand that she be returned back to her country, pronto. We’ve got to tell them what Prof. Leakey, Dr. Haile Selassie and
all of the other scientists have said. They will understand.
But it is not enough to condemn the pimps and argue Lucy’s cause in the court of American public opinion. We must also praise and thank those scientists who exposed the truth about the secret deal that now threatens Lucy, and the museums that refused to join the prostitution ring. A special debt of gratitude should go to Prof. Richard Leakey, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Prof. Bernard Wood of George Washington University, Dr. Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution, and many others scientists. We should express our special appreciation and thanks to the Smithsonian Institution, the American
Museum of Natural History in New York, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and all of the other museums that have declined to be part of the this sleazy museum escort service.
But there is more to be done. We should register our profound disappointment and disapproval of the actions of those corporations and institutions in Houston that funded this disgraceful enterprise: The Smith Foundation, METRORail, British Petroleum, The Hamill
Foundation, the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation and Texas Monthly. They need to be told that they did the wrong thing by bankrolling the deal that brought Lucy to Houston. Now, they should now do the right thing and get Lucy back home, ASAP.
I have heard Ethiopians in Houston are planning to boycott the exhibit. Ain’t it great to live in a country where you have a constitutional right to boycott whatever you want. There is a
lesson Lucy can take home for the folks, in six years. That is if she can “hang in there” (no pun intended) that long!
I Love Lucy, But I Don’t Like Her Pimps
There is ample evidence to support Prof. Leakey’s “fossil prostitution” accusations. Both Houston Museum and Ethiopian officials have confirmed Lucy is here to make a few bucks. All the other cultural stuff is just fluff around her “employment contract”.
But pimping fossils should be a concern not only to Ethiopians, but also Americans and all peoples of the world. Fossils are part of the world culture heritage. That is why they are protected by international law: The 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World
Cultural and Natural Heritage8, and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. These Conventions were designed to prevent endangerment and impoverishment of world cultural heritage through illicit import, export and transfer of
ownership. Ethiopia has ratified both conventions. But neither the Houston Museum nor regime officials seem to care much for international law. Big surprise there!
The Houston deal really sets a bad precedent. Now, other countries with priceless fossil collections can use the Houston example to engage a little bit of “prostitution” themselves.
They will likely argue, “Ethiopia cut a deal with the Houston Museum, why can’t we do the same with Po Dunk Museum on the left bank of the Rio Grande? What’s good for Ethiopia is good for us too. Now, hurry up! Show me the money, and you can have whatever bone collection you want.” It’s all downhill from there.
So, what’s next for Lucy, Joel Bartsch? Dirk Van Tuerenhout? How about “The Lucy Fossil Freak Show,” in Barnum and Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth”? May be Lucy can join up with other snake oil salesmen and travel the back country in a wagon trail. Hey, can you “hook” her up at the Grand Ole Opry for a one night stand with an Elvis look-alike. (No pun intended.) America is a land of opportunity; and the possibilities are endless in the world’s oldest profession.
But Why Do We Love Lucy?
We love Lucy because she gives us a chance to talk about Ethiopia not as a land of famine, pestilence, poverty, HIV infections, political prisoners, human rights abuses and brutal dictators, but as the place where humankind could have originated. She gives us a chance to brag a little bit about the homeland. We can hold our heads up high and engage our friends in good conversation about human origins. May be chat about “baby Lucy” (the 3.3-million-yearold fossilized remains of a human-like child unearthed in the same region in 2000), and the trailblazing work of Cleveland Museum’s Dr. Haile Selassie, and paleoanthropologist Dr.
Zeresenay Alemseged at the world renowned Max Plank Institute10. Yes, Lucy could offer a welcome distraction from all of the gloom and doom that envelopes Ethiopia today. But for God’s sake, keep her home and send her replica on tour.
Lucy is fundamentally about what it means to be human, and preserving the fossil records of the origins of humanity. That’s the reason for the massive outcry from the scientific community. But a fossil does not a human make. There is another deafening outcry for humans
in Ethiopia today. It is an outcry for human rights. It is an outcry for official accountability. It is an outcry for democracy and freedom. After all, it would not make much sense to worry about human origins 3.2 million years ago if we are not concerned about human rights today!
“I Love Lucy. Let’s pitch in and get her a plane ticket home.”11
“Help pass H.R. 2003 “Ethiopia Freedom and Accountability Act of 2007.”
1 I offer some comments on Lucy in America because I was asked to do so by various individuals and groups who felt strongly that Ethiopians should not stand idly by while others are passionately defending Ethiopia’s cultural heritage. It should be acknowledged that a number of Ethiopians in Houston have made passionate public statements decrying the decision to bring Lucy to Houston. But it has been the chorus of condemnation by the world’s foremost paleontologists and museum curators that has commanded the world’s attention on the dangers of trafficking in the rarest fossil of all. I write not only to express my shared concern with the scientists and all Ethiopians who care about their heritage.
1 The fossil’s name comes from the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, which was playing during the party celebrating
the discovery in 1974 by Donald Johanson and Tom Gray.
2 Dinkenesh is said to be “only three and a half feet tall, resembles a chimpanzee from the neck up and a modern human from the neck
down. She could walk upright like modern humans.”
4 The super-hyped Lucy “World Premiere” exhibit will run at the Houston
10 See, e.g., the video stream of Dr. Zeresenay at: http://www.nature.com/nature/focus/hominiddevelopment/video/index.html
11 According to unconfirmed reports, Lucy made a press statement upon arrival in Houston. In response to a reporter’s question about
the Ethiopian Millennium, Lucy said: “Look, I have seen 3,200 Millennia in my day. But this is the most depressing Millennium I
have ever had. Man, they bagged me up in the middle of the night and kicked my behind out of the country. What’s up with that? I
want to go home. Help…” The interview was immediately terminated, and Lucy whisked away by Houston Museum officials.
False Choice on the Border Dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea
31 August 2007
The Eritrean Ethiopian Border Commission (EEBC), established pursuant to the Agreement signed in Algiers on 12 December 2000, held its hearings and made its demarcation decision in 2002. Last November, the commission gave Ethiopia and Eritrea a year to demarcate their 620-mile (1,000-km) border. This decision was both dramatic and surprising since it was the Commission, not the parties, which were mandated to facilitate the demarcation of the border. The EEBC also consequerntly released a series of large scale maps in November 2006 that identified the positions where boundary pillars should be erected.
There is little possiblity that any breakthrough will be achived during the upcoming Commission’s meeting. The reasons are obvious. Eritea is not ready to engage in a constructuve dialogue which will ensure that the demarcation is undertaken in accordance with widely accepted principles and norms of international law. Eritrea has also created new facts on the ground and violated the Algiers Agreement which makes any positive outcome within the embrace of the Commission impossible. As it increasingly become instituionally, politically and legally difficult for the Commission to fulfill its mandate, there is a need for all concerned to adress old questions in a much broader and yet legally permissible manner.
It is so unfortunate that despite Ethiopia’s clearest signal that it has accepted the border delimitation decision, a barrage of criticism is thrown against the Government of Ethiopia for failing to accept the decision. Some experts underline the fact that no statement was issued from the Ethiopian side giving an impression that the country favours al carte application of the ruling. Even Ethiopia’s five point’s peace plan issued on November 2004 clearly stated that Ethiopia accepts the decision. Ethiopia still continues to state that it has accepted the ruling without any precondition.
Ethiopia’s stance is that accepting the decision does not exclude the possibility of undertaking some necessary fixes. Ethiopia consistently argued that such arrangements are both required and are acceptable under international law. The fixes are required so that the demarcation does not unnecessary and negatively affect populations and communities living in the border area. But not only that Eritrea continued to show its typical intransigence and rejected these possibilities, it even went on taking measures that denied the possibility for the minimum conditions to exist for any demarcation to take place.
The Commission does not seem to be disturbed by these flagrant violations committed by the Government of Eritrea. The numerous pronouncements of the Security Council and the United Nations in general did not result in any concrete results. Legal experts say that whereas the UN Security Council can not take action to enforce what is essentially an award given by the Commission, it is granted by the provisions of the Algiers agreement to take measures it deems appropriate to address violations such as Eritrea’s incursion into the TSZ. This is so because the Agreement has explicit provisions dealing with the matter.
Explaining Eritrea’s bad faith
Eritrea’s insistence on a literal implementation of the border commission’s ruling is a concrete evidence of bad faith on its part. As the years pass on and the government’s political and economic standing is incrementally undermined by series of political and economic crisis, the price tag on the border ruling soared. The Eritrean Government staked on being on the right side of the ruling. It considers the ruling as a weighty political card. This became even more important given that the Boundary Commission’s “sister body”, the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission, had ruled on 19 December 2005 that it was Eritrea which unjustifiably and illegally used force in the first place. From the perspective of legality and historical accounts, Eritrea’s culpability is sealed. The Eritrean government is vainly trying to emerge as a winner in the political battlefield.
There are all the indications that the Eritrean government wants the tense relationship with Ethiopia to continue as long as it can. It knows very well that the demarcation of the border by itself will not solve the various outstanding issues which were the root causes of the conflict in the first place. Peace does not serve the short term interest of the regime. In the past, the problem with Ethiopia has served it very well by externalising its domestic woes and problems. This point was well underlined when James Swan recently stated “The Eritrean Government has fabricated a national mythology by demonizing neighbouring Ethiopia, for the central purpose of garnering complete compliance with his autocratic domestic policies. By channelling Eritrean' patriotism into hostility toward Ethiopia, the government ensures that [it] can rule as it likes, without public opposition.”
Another clear rationale for Eritrea’s stance is interestingly similar with the one that Ethiopia has been pronouncing for years i.e. that the demarcation of the border without dialogue will results in egregious forms of injustice. The Eritrean leadership is well aware of the fact that the literal implementation of the border ruling will not go down very well particularly for communities that are directly affected by the demarcation. It simply wishes to see the Ethiopian government face the ensuing public backlash which may be attendant to any ill-considered demarcation. This also goes well, according to the Eritrean thinking, with Eritrea’s subversive dealing with some Ethiopian groups where it wanted to sell its stance on ‘one unified Ethiopia.’
Eritrea has breached its international obligations
The Government of Eritrea has consciously created facts on the ground. By deploying its massively armed military personnel and civilians, the Eritrean Government has obliterated the TSZ. It has amassed its troops in the area. It has also severely limited and restricted the capacity of UNMEE to monitor these breaches. In his report presented to the Security General on 18 July 2007, the Secretary General pointed out the following,
Eritrea has continued the induction of forces into the Zone in Sector West, where, according to every approximate estimates by UNMEE, at least 400 additional troops were employed over the reporting period. In addition to troop rotations in Sector Centre, as well as in Sub sector East, Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) were observed actively constructing new defences in the Zone, including in close proximity to Badme and other areas. UNMEE also observed that, through rotations, the militia manning the posts in the Zone were increasingly being replaced by regular EDF troops, in direct violation of the Protocol Agreement and the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000
In a broader context of the relationship, Eritrea is also the party that has actively taken illegal and criminal measures affecting Ethiopia. It has involved in the kidnapping of Ethiopians and foreigners. It has armed and trained groups which committed and attempted to commit terrorist acts within Ethiopia. Several armed opposition groups are stationed in Eritrea. These actions in one way or another have effectively transformed the post-ruling relationships or lack of it between the two countries.
Eritrea, which has always felt it is on the right side of the ruling for the wrong reasons, invariably took the position that it is justified to take uncensored measures. It either ignored or consciously violated resolutions passed by the Security Council including Resolution 1640 which requested it to violate The international community and particularly the United Nations have encouraged such behaviour by ignoring its serious breaches and violations.
Eritrea’s refusal to cooperate with the UN and other actors has a long history. It has effectively undermined the role of the UN envoy through the person of the Canadian Prime Minster Lloyd Axworthy. "If the organization (UN) is intending to initiate another round of shuttle diplomacy, and seeking mechanisms to replace the rule of law ... it would be advisable to save exhaustion," was the official response from Eritrea to any possible attempt by the world body.
Eritrea does not speak the language of dialogue
The implementation of the ruling should be judged in broader context. A number of questions need to be answered. Will the demarcation of the border as demanded by Eritrea help the two countries to see eye to eye in many other areas? Will it create the confidence and trust required for lasting rapprochement and peace?
The Commission and some of its venerated international jurists often argue that their role is not political and as such it is left for the parties to determine how they wish to solve their problems which are not associated directly with the border. But the problem with this argument is that it ignores the clear and manifest risk that if the measures the Commission decides to undertake are not supported by the parties, they will be recipe for disaster.
Norway’s fall out
Norway is not an important player in the peace process. But its activities are a clear example of how wrongly conceived plan can be a problem than a solution. It is not a member of the group of witnesses to the Algiers agreements. But since lately it has invigorated its role with the attempt to bring a breakthrough. Norway’s overzealousness and lack of focus in its diplomacy in the region should be evaluated from yet another perspective. It is an active member of the Contact Group on Somalia and is its current chair. It has publicly criticized what it called the presence of foreign troops in Somalia. With a strong historical relationship with Eritrea even during the long-drown civil war, Norway’s conducts and dealings with countries in the Horn not only created the impression of bias but did actually undermined the trust and confidence some countries have towards it.
There are three important reasons why Norway has behaved the way it did. The Norwegians’ public pronouncements on the issue have been all over the place. Norway’s State Secretary Raymond Johansen interstingly outlined the Governmnt’s thinking in his lecture delivered at an event organized by the Institue of Strategic Studies in South Africa on May 21, 2007. Firstly, Norway belives and has made it know that it considers Ethiopia’s “refusal” is the main source of the stalmate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Secondly, it has argued that the international community has sent inconsistent message to Ethiopia, insunuitaing that countries such as United States onply favour Ethiopia on issues including on the demarcation of the border. Thirdly, it argues that Eritrea’s violation of the TSZ is a direct result of Ethiopia’s unwillingness to accept the ruling. Fourthly, it has publicly claimed that there is a direct relationship between the border problem between Ethioppia and Eritrea and the situation in Somalia.
Let us look at these points separatly. It is simply nonsensical to suggest that Ethiopia’s stance, which according to experts in the area of internaational law is quite permissible even under a strict interpretation of international law, justifies Eritrea’s violation of the Algiers Agreement. Secondly the US more or less have promoted simlimar policies like the Norwegians. They have, in a number of occassions and to the chargin of Ethiopian officials, taken position which criticised Ethiopia. No one can interpretate Jendayi Frazer’s view that both Eritrea and Ethiopia violated their commitments as America’s blind support for Ethiopia. Norwegian position is obviously imbued with European anti-Americanism. Norwegians have gravely conflated matters when they connected the border problem between Ethiopia and Eritrea with what is going on in Somalia. Ethiopia has gone into Somalia not to fight Eritrea whereas Eritrea is is in Somalia hoping that it can engage in undertakings that may undermine the interest of Ethiopia. So when Norwegian diplomats make such connection, it becomes clear from which perspective they are looking at the matter. This complicates the mater for them since Norway also chairs the International Contact Group on Somalia. One thing which the Norwegians can not legitimately do is to single out Ethiopia and take it to task on human rights. How come that Norway’s human rights concerns have never been directed at a country which has never held election, which has never had any constitution, which does not have a parliament, which does not even have a single private media?
What has become clear from the official press statement released by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is that, Ethiopian authorities do not want to escalate the matter. That is probably why they have not publicized the matter till the Norwegians have announced it.
How can the international community help?
The United State, the European Union and others need to ensure that they play their role as true peace guarantors. They can only so by supporting a mechanism which ensures a last peaceful solution to the crisis. It is disconcerting to see the issue being presented as if Ethiopia and Eritrea are faced with the choice between the implementation of the ruling and dialogue. What Ethiopia is asking is the need to implement the decision based on a dialogue which itself is based on international norms and principles. Isn’t that a reasonable demand?
United Nations Secretary General
The United Nations
New York, NY 10017
Dear Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon,
We write you to express our sincere appreciation for your decision to send a fact-finding mission to the Ogaden Region in Ethiopia, and ask you to extend this mission to other parts of the country to gain a more complete view on various atrocities committed by the Ethiopian Government against innocent civilians.
As reported by the international media and human rights organisations, government forces have been conducting gross human rights violations, including the killing of civilians, torture, rape, and destruction of the livelihoods of poor pastoralists in the Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia. Many of these actions amount to crimes under international law. Unfortunately, the troubling recent developments in the Ogaden do not stand alone. As reported over the last several years by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Genocide Watch, and the human rights reports of the U.S. Department of State, there have been many similar circumstances in which the government of Ethiopia was involved in the massacre of civilians in other parts of the country, such as Gambella, Awassa, Jimma, Wollega, to name a few.
We therefore urge you to demand the immediate halt to the atrocious and gross human rights abuses currently taking place against civilians in Eastern Ethiopia, but also extend the fact-finding mission to investigate similar massacres in other regions of Ethiopia which have been well documented by established institutions. We also urge you to indict the members of the Ethiopian government who will be found responsible for committing widespread atrocities against civilians in the country.
We thank you in advance for your careful and diligent consideration of this serious matter. We also look forward to further information regarding the measures taken and the findings made by the UN fact-finding mission.
Kassa Ayalew, M.D., M.P.H., Chair
Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA)
Phone: (703) 665-4042
Lorton, Virginia 22199-1292, USA
The Ethiopian American Civic Advocacy (EACA) is a US based, non-profit, non-partisan civic organization striving to empower Ethiopian-Americans and Ethiopians to fight for the respect of human rights, promote democratic governance, and demand donor accountability in Ethiopia. For more information about EACA, please visit the website: www.eacamoveon.org.
Ethiopia - Washington Update
Posted August 30, 2007
1. URGENT ACTION IS NEEDED to secure co-sponsors for
H.R.2003, The Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability
Act of 2007. Representative Donald Payne introduced
the bill so there is no need to contact his office. We
urge you to contact Tom Lantos, chairman of the
International Relations Committee, and ask him to move
forward to markup H.R. 2003 in September.
We also urge that you contact members of the
committee, asking that they support the bill.
To get the names and telephone numbers of committee
members, go to
Click on the name of a member of Congress and you will
see how to contact them. You can also call the Capitol
switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to
a particular representative's office.
H.R. 2003 includes language condemning two incidents
in which peaceful demonstrators were shot by
government forces. It also includes a ban on travel to
the United States by government officials and forces
involved in the shooting of demonstrators.
When you call to urge support of the bill, explain why
it is important to you. Use your own words. You might
want to mention your concern for human rights,
democratic principles, freedom of expression and
freedom of the press. You should also point out that
the bill will assist the effort to make Ethiopia a
free and prosperous country that can be a reliable
ally of the United States.
After House co-sponsors have been lined up, it will be
necessary to find a Senate sponsor and co-sponsors.
So our effort will need to continue in the Senate.
The Meles regime will try to convince Congress that
legislation like H.R. 2003 could limit its ability to
fight America’s war on terrorism.
Members of Congress need to understand, however, that
a regime that imprisons its most talented political
and civic leaders, that steals elections and represses
the news media, that pursues economic policies that
impoverish the nation, is creating conditions that
breed more terrorism.
We had a good meeting with Senator Barak Obama's
staff. We gave them detailed accounts of the present
human rights situation in Ethiopia. We were pleased to
see that the staff knows lot about the Ethiopian
situation and were sympathetic to our goals.
In attendance at the meeting were Ethiopian Parliament
members Dr. Bezabhe and Major Admasu as well as
Mesfin Mekonen of the the Kinijit International
Council. We requested that Senator Obama introduce
legislation in the Senate in support of H.R. 2003. We
also asked that he contact the State Department to
express concern about the delay in granting vistas to
Engineer Hailu Shawel and other Kinijit leaders.We
have also been in close contact with Donald Yamamoto,
U.S. Ambassador to Eathiopia on the delayed visa
In a related issue, Senator Obama's staff has informed
us that they have talked with the State Department
about the urgent need for visas to be issued for the
scheduled visit to Washington of Kinijit chairman,
Hailu Shawel and other leaders of Kinijit. The
senator's staff said the State Department has given
the visas a high priority.
We will keep you posted on developments.
Sen. Obama's staff urged us to remind the Ethiopian
community that it is essential that we work together
to encourage Congress to pass this crucial
legislation. When we speak together, clearly and
strongly, our voice will be heard.
Mesfin Mekonen, Kinijit International Council Foreign Relations
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of nazret.com. The views are solely that of the author. Become a blogger of nazret.com, the #1 Rated Ethiopian Website according to Alexa. Contact us for details
«"alemayehu g. mariam "» «"ali mohammed"» "education" «"human rights"» "usaid" agriculture «alemayehu g. mariam» birtukan china clinton «commodity exchange» dc9 economics economy ecx «eskinder nega» inflation «meles zenawi» «messay kebede» «messay kebede» mideksa murder wikileaks «yilma bekele»