Saturday, March 5

What Really Matters

Ethiopian-American Gothic: Triptych

Sunday, February 6

A New Love

Luncheon Amid the Ruins

Sunday, June 14

An awaj by any other name ....

"What's in a name?
That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
or as vile."

Quote adapted with apologies to Shakespeare

Awaj is an Amharic term for a proclamation of law made by government. When one is dealing with civilized government the concept of law carries with it not only the the weight of law but also of necessity, precedent, and hopefully some concern for the common good.

Rather than being outlets that simply spew forth awaj after awaj, civilized governments also have institutions such as courts and parliaments that allow for accountability and the expression of the common will.

The idea is that no one is above the law and that the full force of government is not only done in the name of its citizens but is bound to serve their interests. If not there will be a reckoning with other agents of the law and ultimately the citizens.

But what do you do in a society where the law itself and all of its supporting structures are meaningless?

Ethiopia today is such a place. Government, the economy, ownership, law, and even the most basic definitions of reality or even Ethiopia itself are simply expressions of the will of Ethiopia's dictator and owner - Meles (a.k.a. Legesse) Zenawi.

We are continuously astounded when critics of the government refer to the institutions perverted or created by Meles in terms and language that should be reserved for civilized institutions. One would expect cadres to do so but why should anyone else?

Ethiopia's courts decide as Meles wants them to and are appointed according to their degree of slavishness. Ethiopia's parliament was handpicked by Meles according to the degree of submission of its members. It debates and makes law exactly as Meles pleases.

There are no independent institutions of any kind in Ethiopia. It is high time that discourse about Ethiopia and its dictatorship reflect this. How about the ultimate guarantor of freedom, the right to own land and the fruits of one's labor?

There are no rights to private property so all of the millions in the countryside are his serfs who may lose their land at the whim of his cadres or have it given away to his businessman with power or foreigners with checkbooks.

Trotsky, one of Meles's ideological and practical mentors said that "where the state is the sole landlord - opposition means death by slow starvation." Ethiopian suffering means power and money for Meles. Ferenjis see the starving and never wonder why it is happening they just funnel billions through Meles hoping some of it will help somehow.

Meles is the head of a party apparatus that defines Ethiopian government, enriches him and gives him absolute power. Indeed it is a revolutionary feudal aristocracy more grasping and vile than any other Ethiopians have ever had to deal with. No affair in the public or private realm is beyond their reach.

The entire economy from grain and coffee through fake dam projects and silly wind farms are beyond the profit and control of the Meles gang. Fake institutions like the Commodities Exchange and false tribal / regional economic activities cover the fact that Meles owns his party, government, massive government monopolies, and the economy at every level.

This incestuous mess polices itself and has a vast army of tribal militias and secret police to enforce its rule. Actually, we are talking about a culture of lies and brutality at every level. Ethiopia's constitution, laws, and pronouncements are all meant to serve Meles Inc. and his eternal enrichment and power. That is all.

Speaking of this law moving through parliament or that bail hearing before a court is nonsense. Meles knows it, his cadres know it but for some unfathomable reason the sincere critics of Meles take those fake institutions more to heart than anyone else.

The law restricting NGOs went through because of the will of Meles. Everyone who is in jail is there because of the will of Meles. Every execution and disappearance happens because of the will of Meles. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have been killed because of the will of Meles. Millions starve and suffer because of the will of Meles.

A nation is being throttled to death because of the will of Meles.

Germany's Holocaust was conducted because of the will of Hitler. The Soviet Union's Great Purge, the Ukranian Famine, the Gulag, tens of millions of lives lost, all of it happened because of the will of Stalin. China's even higher body count happened because of the will of Mao.

Always in the name of the people or at least some people. Those dictators did all of their crimes perfectly legally. After all they controlled the courts and the assemblies. Does that make them any less criminal?

But ... they personally decided what the law was so the law was meaningless. Just because Meles has named institutions to carry out his will does not mean that his institutions deserve to be taken seriously enough to name them and discuss their workings as though he was running a civilized government.

The rule of law and its institutions don't have meanings because they exist or because of what they are called or because of what they pretend to be - they have meaning because of what they express about a country and its people.

As we have said so many times before the civil contract of Ethiopian society that defines all relations between the governed and the rulers has nothing to do with Ethiopians. It is a matter of negotiation between Meles who has tens of millions of hostages and ferenjis who fund him in the name of the hostages.

No one should pretend otherwise.

Thursday, June 4

more of your friendly neighborhood ethiopundit ...

This is probably the longest time we have gone without a post. Don't worry - the cadres haven't gotten to us but we have just been plain lazy. We will be back in the coming week with more of your friendly neighborhood ethiopundit.

By the way, the Tiananmen Square Massacre was launched twenty years ago today after weeks of pro-democracy protests. In Meles Zenawi's Ethiopia the killing would have begun even more earnestly on the very first day.

Ferenji sanctions against China's Communist Party were far more sincere than any notice that has been made of the dozens of such massacres Ethiopians have seen in that time and the thousands of courageous men and women of every ethnic group who have been slain.

There is also the enduring matter of the daily horror of grinding poverty and oppression that has made suffering a tradition. This despite the utter dependence of Meles Inc. on ferenjis for its daily survival.

Despite the sincere evil of their government, the Chinese were at least allowed to develop over that time because the bosses see the creation of wealth in China as being in their own personal or group interest.

Meles & Co. have a common interest in eternal rule with the gang in the Forbidden City but have taken the begging / creative dishonesty 'development' approach to finance their rule at whatever cost to Ethiopians who are no more than hostages to ferenji good will.

Meles and the gangsters of Arat Kilo see any potential for the creation of wealth or sign of vibrancy in Ethiopians outside of their control as a mortal threat. They are absolutely right. Such men and women are like vampires - they can't survive any light at all.

Meles's revolutionary feudal aristocracy actually controls far more of Ethiopian life than China's has since the end of the Cultural Revolution while dominating and draining what little economic activity there is as they siphon aid. It is all sent abroad for safekeeping in ferenji banks and real estate.

So remember the massacre in China everyone knows about and wonder about the continuing massacre in Ethiopia that is simply accepted.

Sunday, April 26

What, Meles Worry?

Image with apologies for comparing Alfred E. Neuman to such a ridiculous character

Witness the progression of Meles's wit and wisdom as he positions himself for a piece of the global economic crisis action (via Ethiomedia and Ethiopian Politics)(translations in italics)
"The International Monetary Fund should be allowed to sell some of its gold reserves to cushion Africa from the global economic crisis ... the sell-off could raise between $5bn and $15bn to be channeled through the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral institutions."

Channeled to my private accounts that is

"The crisis will more or less have little effect on the economy since our financial sector is not attached to the global system. Had it been the case, we would have suffered much."

The IMF and World Bank will report whatever growth figures I want them to based upon the numbers I order made up

"Some countries could go under and that would mean total chaos and violence. In the end the cost of violence is going to be much higher than the cost of supporting Africa."

I had better get paid or I will make Ethiopians suffer even more. You know I will and won't miss a meal or for that matter my deposit schedule in Swiss Bands

“We are seeking a much smaller stimulus package than is being spent bailing out the small and medium-sized banks in the west.”

If I don't get on this gravy train there will be hell to pay for Ethiopians. Just let a bit trickle down to me - look how I make Ethiopians suffer - do you really want them to suffer more?

"One of the problems at the moment is that the situation is so volatile,it keeps changing every week. It destabilizes everything, including one’s thinking. If we knew where the bottom was we could start thinking as to how to get out of it."
For once though Meles is perfectly right. His thinking is clearly destabilized. But ... it is also perfectly rational because the West has trained him to behave this way since 1991.

You see dear reader in Meles World the absolute absence of property rights & a free market, the corrupt, murderous and incestuous beast represented by his personal business empire, party conglomerates, government monopolies, his oppressive police state, tribal militias, ethnic / religious / regional divide & rule, siphoning of billions in aid, and even his own numbered Swiss accounts don't matter a bit.

What matters is getting ferenjis to pay up even more so he doesn't have to hurt the natives any more than he is already doing or to steal even more from them. Of course none of it is his fault. Know what? The ferenjis will pay up. Not the amounts he is talking about of course. That is just a negotiating position in the market of Ethiopian blood, sweat, and tears freely traded for dollars, euros, and yen.

He will get enough to keep him happy - which means enough to pay for his rule without the consent of Ethiopians and enough to put in foreign accounts against a rainy day. The fact that he is the main author of Ethiopian suffering doesn't matter. Meles flew to the G-20 summit alternately shaking his head and giggling in amazement at the nonsense his penchant for violence and ferenji willing blindness let him get away with.The way to get out of the state of permanent crisis is for ferenjis to worry about Ethiopians more than their very own destabilizing Man in Africa.

There was a political rally in Ethiopia this month. "These people are very brave" said one onlooker who declined to be named as Ethiopians demonstrated in Addis Ababa this month. He also said "the government have killed people who protest so I would not shout like this." That says it all. In Addis where ferenjis look on this was a show that allows Meles to pretend to have some tolerance for dissent.

Despite the bravery of those who took part nothing has changed and the demonstration should be viewed as a scripted moment in an ongoing public relations campaign. After all ferenjis like demonstrations don't they? So let them see one carefully controlled and coordinated one while the gears of Meles's infernal machine grind tens of millions into the dust just down the road.

Take the story of another peaceful demonstrator several years ago. Her name was ShiBire Desalegn.
She is the first person to be killed when Meles Zenawi unleashed his forces following a peaceful protest by Addis Ababa University (AAU) students on June 6. She was shot and killed by EPRDF troops as she and her friends tried to block the road in Kotebe that leads to the Sendafa torture camp.

She helped escape several AAU students from torture by helping them jump from the trucks that were taking them to Sendafa. She didn't have any weapon. But that didn't stop the EPRDF troops from shooting her to death.

A high caliber bullet pierced through her neck.

Because of ShiBire's actions, some AAU students escaped torture. But because of the action and inaction of others, thousands went through unspeakable brutality in the hands of the EPRDF security forces under the direct orders of Meles Zenawi. Thirty days later, Meles Zenawi was standing next to President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair at the G8 meeting in Scotland, looking proud of his barbaric actions.
Headlines talk of demonstrations and minds are always found to find comfort in them as though they mean something. After all they are in print or bytes so they must mean something. There is a report of some decision made by Ethiopia's faux parliament and pet judiciary and there are more headlines as though they mean anything.

All, like the business empire Meles runs in Ethiopia and abroad are just different heads of the snakes growing Medusa like out of Mele's own head. They are indeed all his very personal spokesman. His rule and monopoly are enforced by brute force. All thugs worry to some degree about public relations, Ethiopia's fake institutions exist just for that purpose - so that the lazy of mind and the willing to be gullible can pretend there is some, however minute, form of human civilization to be found shining through from Meles's earnest grin.

The day that onlooker above is not afraid is the day a demonstration will mean something. When demonstrations have occurred in the past hundreds have been shot on the streets that we know about. Like a tree falling in the forest only Ethiopian deaths that happen near ferenjis matter. We have no idea how many thousands were killed either in Addis or beyond where the foreign donors may not drive by bodies. How about the prison camps where tens of thousands were jailed and tortured?

Ethiopia is widely recognized as not only being ruled by a dictatorship but as having one of the most corrupt and brutal governments on earth. Genocide Watch has called on the United Nations to initiate prosecution of Meles on war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. But Meles left the recent G-20 summit with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to spend as he likes.
Mr Meles said Africa’s voice had been heard partly thanks to the willingness of Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, to allow him and other African representatives to participate in preparations for the summit.

Bob Geldof, the aid campaigner, also welcomed the outcome. “The key point for the 50 per cent of the planet who live on less than two dollars a day must be that they have finally been brought in from the margins to the centre of the decision-making process,” he said.
So there you have it - ferenjis say Meles is alright and a representative of the people so he must be right? The answer for all practical purposes is YES. He might as well be as far as ferenjis as concerned because Ethiopians don't matter.

Note that this is the same Geldof (by the way has any body actually ever heard a song by the Boomtown Rats not to mention paid money for their albums - either in the 80s or in the past quarter century?) who said in a more lucid moment when he said this about the street massacres in Ethiopia
"No doubt, I'll get a briefing from the Ethiopian embassy: 'it wasn't like this, it was like that'. Grow up, they make me puke“.
Well uber rock star and humanitarian they are grown up and they kill people and you too have apparently grown up and accepted them again.

Let us take a look at another fake institution. The fabled Commodities Exchange ECX. Every commodity in Ethiopia from each coffee bean and handful of grain will have been in government / party hands from the moment the farmer labored over it in fields owned by the government / party through the local collection centers controlled by the government / party all the way to roads to foreign ports or domestic markets controlled by the government / party.

The whole economy and every commodity are subject to Meles Inc. control at every level and that control is based on lethal force. There is no way to access capital from anywhere without the government / party taking the choicest cuts along the way.

Building an Commodities Exchange in the Ethiopia of Meles Zenawi is like holding elections there - errant nonsense. Countries don’t develop because ferenjis pay for the computers and staff that go into pretty buildings that they call Commodities Exchanges.

Commodities Exchanges develop because the native people are allowed to develop and they eventually need a Commodities Exchange. There can be no confidence in any sort of economic truth or information about the current or future price of a commodity in Ethiopia that is sufficient to make the existence of a Commodity Exchange justified beyond propaganda value.

So what happened in that shiny new edifice with its bright new computers (all paid for by hopeful against hope ferenjis who knew better every step of the way) when Meles was looking for someone to blame and just plain wanted to squeeze more money out of coffee exports?
Ethiopia, Africa’s largest coffee producer, will start exporting beans itself after closing the warehouses of six of the country’s largest exporters, which it claims are stockpiling coffee and contributing to a shortage of foreign currency.


The country has earned $221.7 million from coffee exports over the period, short of a government target of $446.7 million. Last year, the government also blamed rising food prices on hoarding by traders.
Eleni Gabre-Madhin, chief executive officer of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange agreed absolutely with the stockpiling theory. You see the absence of private property and other economic rights has nothing to do with rising prices or availability - it is all the fault of whatever tiny private businesses are allowed to exist. Why are Ethiopia's coffee farmers and traders responsible for maintaining foreign exchange reserves anyway? Isn't the whole point to let businessman do their thing?
This happened after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused some coffee exporters in January of having been reluctant to sell stocks through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX). He warned them of conspiring and disturbing the integrity of the ECX system by supplying and then buying back their own coffees to sell coffee meant for export on the domestic market, threatening to "cut off one of their hands" if they did not behave.


Coffee holds a strong political significance in Ethiopia because of its tremendous importance in the economy and its political purposes for the regime. The ruling party ensures the centralized collection and controlling of foreign currency in order to stay in power.
What kind of commodities exchange takes on as its own responsibility and public service the takeover of a whole sector of the economy? The integrity of the exchange never existed. What kind of exchange is mandatory and relevant to threats from a dictator / entrepreneur who controls his own party / personal / government monopoly and has an army to enforce his vision?

The hands whose behavior needs correcting are those of Meles's gang including Azeb Mesfin his wife, parliamentarian, and business mogul as Dagmawi points out in A Call for the Imprisonment of Azeb Mesfin. Aside from ferenji aid and foreign remittances coffee is the only way money flows into Ethiopia. The only way. The figure for coffee adjusted for inflation was about $2 billion in the 1970s every year and has shrunk every year until now it is about a quarter of that.

Meles already gets the lions share of that but wanted more and the 'independent' official responsible for the development of a market system is his cheerleader.
The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX), a government owned central trading system, meant primarily for grains, began trading coffee in December 2008. Launched in May 2008, the trading platform was set up to replace the murky auction system often abused by market participants.

During the ECX rollout, which happened to coincide with the global economic turmoil where domestic and global prices were sharply rising, there was severe shortage of grains flowing through the exchange.

Although it is authorized to trade in both spot and futures contracts, ECX announced in April 2008 that it intends to start off with only spot contracts for immediate delivery (as a strategic driver of the ultimate futures trading) and impose compulsory delivery of grains.

In August 2008, the government swiftly enacted a new coffee law in order to provide ECX with the necessary legal framework that would enable it, among others, to impose compulsory delivery of coffees. This law requires all coffees to be traded through the ECX – the only outlet to international markets.
Things still seem rather murky and the terms abused and imposing are just the right words here. Foreign investors are expected to participate in this mess? Sure but of course they don't. That is why Ethiopia's per capita foreign direct investment is not only among the lowest in the world but lower than Somalia's.

The lack of participation in the commodities exchange has nothing to do with global turmoil it has to do with common sense. What rational person would participate in it if they weren't forced to? The whole thing set up in Ethiopia's corrupt system is obviously as crooked as the smiles Meles gave and got at the G-20. Legal framework? Yeah right.

Billions all over the world have seen their lives improve because of rational non-larcenous government policies, economic freedom, and the investment that attracts. Don't hold your breath expecting the same for Ethiopia. Begging for aid works far better for Meles's purposes of staying in power and getting even richer.
With the introduction of the new exchange system the auction centers are replaced by the ECX, while all other participants continue to function as is, but with one fundamental change: transparency. The previous auction system was marred with loopholes that seem to have allowed some exporters holding dual licenses to purchase back their own coffee in the auctions, thereby enjoying too much control over coffee prices.

Supposedly, ECX’ introduction of rules of trading, warehousing, payments and delivery, and business conduct principles will seal off those loopholes. This seems to have upset a few exporters and fired back at by the government accusing them of engaging in conflict of interest. But the government’s reactions were even more troubling. It not only confiscated coffee beans from the exporters but also tasked the state owned Ethiopian Grain Trade Enterprise (EGTE) with exporting of coffee.

This measure throws privatization and domestic market liberalization out the window.

Ethiopia’s coffee market has always been a relatively private business, with the exception of limited government interventions to enforce quality standards, etc. This was true even during the days of the communist regime that “nationalized” almost every sector in the nation.

EGTE’s slated assignment marks a detrimental precedence in the nation’s history. The government’s engagement in exporting beans produced by smallholder families while it controls almost all means of production in the country, including the distribution of farm inputs, capital, and the land, is inconsistent with principles of a free market system.
Transparency and Meles mentioned in the same passage! Should we laugh or cry or both?

What Meles worry? Nah. His 'happiness index' is just rocking along just fine right now and it doesn't matter how ridiculous he is because he is always willing to lie and kill. He doesn't have to run a successful economy just to do whatever he wants and ferenjis will send him billions of dollars for his smile and the director of the ECX will "let" him do what ever he wants to.

The whole thing was a setup from the beginning just like Ethiopian democracy, justice, etc.The alleged coup attempt by Berhanu Nega should also be seen in the same light. This also goes for growth figures for the economy. Ultimately all the international authorities get their numbers from Meles to make their reports and predictions. Hearing the economy is down from more than 12% growth to more than 6% growth is only a way to make you believe the 6% figure to begin with or for that matter any growth.

Lies and more lies define Melesian government.


We wrote about the Commodities Exchange previously in Field of Screams.

Much of the above quotes are from an excellent and unusually insightful Bloomberg article via Ethiomedia: Ethiopia may prosecute coffee exporters.

Dagmawi 's Short Comment on Coffee Exports from Mengistu to Meles is a customary master work from that blogger. We recommend not only that article but everything he writes for a clear understanding of Ethiopian affairs.

One of the only real events at the G-20 summit: Abbay Media News visited a TPLF Embassy.

Wednesday, April 8

Cadre Cola

Given the recent drama about Coca-Cola stopping and re-starting operations in Ethiopia you may be tempted, dear reader, into thinking this post is about just that. No, this one is about another, not so famous, brand that has far greater global reach and larger profits with a miniscule consumer base and very little brand recognition.

In countries like Ethiopia it has absolute market share among those that matter. Folks are literally dying for it. Cadre Cola is the carefully distilled essence of Ethiopian blood, sweat, and tears. Like mushroom cultivation the manufacture of Cadre Cola can't abide light and thrives in ... well, you know exactly what.

Cadre Cola is what cadres consume. It is bottled by and for an exclusive clientele of government and quasi-government aid bureaucrats as well as third world dictators and their cronies. The taxpayers who finance it and the oppressed in whose name it is bottled either assume the Cadre Cola business is an obligation or something they can't live without.

Let us start with a definition. What does cadre mean? As usual (where none of many hundreds of millions of editors has an ax to grind anyway) Wikipedia is a good place to start:
Cadre (pronounced /ˈkɑːdreɪ/, from the French) is the backbone of an organization, usually a political or military organization. Because cadre are well developed in terms of knowledge, experience, and agreement with the organization's goals, they should be able to adapt and rebuild the organization's structure and ideological direction even if the organization has been weakened, through, for example, other members being killed or imprisoned. For professional revolutionaries the cadre consider themselves subject to the discipline and self-discipline of a political vanguard party model.

Radical Left movements in particular have maintained their minimum program of survival and growth very effectively through the strength of a cadre system. Basic success within a movement in which cadre are the vanguard comes when one core of cadre has gradually recruited and trained another group of cadre to ensure the perpetuation of the movement. This, in theory, both strengthens the movement politically and promotes a culture of emulation over that of competition. The drawback of the cadre system is the inevitable ossification of the ideology as competition is eliminated, and the cadre becoming a separate caste, "a state within a state".
We take issue with the 'Radical Left movement' bit though. In as much as left - right distinctions matter the Radical Right owes just as much to the cadre system as do groups as seemingly diverse as organized crime and terrorist movements. The part about being well developed is wrong too unless we are talking about man's more canine characteristics. Merriam Websters has a shorter definition that is just as descriptive
a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
Exactly. Don't get us wrong here. We aren't talking about loyalty here or dedication which can be admirable qualities. Rather we are talking about people who are frankly for sale or with so little sense of self or shared humanity that they are giving themselves away. Just aching and willing to exact pain on others for the slightest gain. Imagine a village dog who bolts when someone makes a movement remotely like they might be reaching for a rock - the dog then tucks its tail in to come ask for anything at all besides a kick - another dog to bite even - anything at all to make any of a thousand masters happy.

You get the idea.

Ethiopians are familiar with the type who passionately served, lied, and spied for the Dergue when the time was right and then came to see Meles himself as their personal savior - on and on to presumably transferring their souls to whoever else is in charge from a resurrected Mussolini to invading space aliens. Even when they didn't change sides the idea holds - they were just cadres of a competing vanguard parties.

We know some cadres uncomfortably well (genetically even) who made it out of Mengistu's Scientific Socialist gulag, walked across deserts to get to the USA, and eagerly opened up franchises of Meles's Revolutionary Democratic kebeles (just as bad, actually worse, if it only happened in their own minds). The amazing thing about the cadres of Meles Inc. in Ethiopia and outside it today is that they could not exist without a group of powerful cadres just as twisted as they are to exist.

You know where this is heading of course - we are talking about ferenji cadres whose avowed aims are service to their fellow man but whose real interests revolve around getting along with dictators of poor nations, pumping billions to them, getting paid, and making up stories of their success. All with no oversight from anyone.

Aid Watch is the blog of William Easterly, the author of The White Man's Burden : Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.(The book is summarized in this post So Much Ill and So Little Good.) He begins that book stating that there are two tragedies for the world's poor.

First, that so many suffer because they lack access to existing inexpensive solutions and second, that the $2.3 trillion (that is $2,300,000,000,000 in cash money / 23 followed by eleven zeros or 2.3 thousand billion bucks!) spent on foreign aid over the last five decades has still not managed to get those existing inexpensive solutions to the poor. Indeed, foreign aid often makes the lives of the poor far worse.

This point of view is a far cry from the Jeff Sachs (see this post Sachs & Violence) school of "throw so much money at the third world that even the most rapacious elites can't manage to steal it all ... then maybe something good will happen ... maybe - and if it doesn't why heck, it sure is a fantastic little academic exercise.". Or how about the Joseph Stiglitz school of just plain liking Meles personally because Meles so neatly parrots the scholar's words and theories back at him (see this post Intellectuals and their Discontents).

Dambisa Moyo the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa has this to say about Africa in particular
the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.
The Easterly and Mayo books manage to actually judge and evaluate human reality and the results of aid, accountability, institutions and governance. Easterly and Mayo are the anti-cadres being heard increasingly more to the great dismay of the Lords of Poverty or the Ferenji Aid Raj who run the the multi-billion dollar Cadre Cola brand. The term Lords of Poverty comes from a book by Graham Hancock titled, The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business. The introduction and first sections of the Lords of Poverty is available on line.

It begins thus
This book is an attack on a group of rich and powerful bureaucracies that have hijacked our kindness. The bureaucracies I refer to are those that administer the West's aid and then deliver it to the poor of the Third World in a process Bob Geldoff once described as 'a perversion of the act of human generosity'.


Official aid also involves the transfer of very large sums of money - so large in fact, that the resources of the private sector look puny and insignificant by comparison. It would thus be sensible, at the very least, for the official agencies to be directly accountable to the public - to be 'transparent', open, and honest in their dealings.

This unfortunately is not the case. Indeed, critical study is sharply and effectively discouraged. Those of us, for example, who wish to evaluate the progress , effectiveness, or quality of development assistance will soon discover that the aid bureaucracies have already carried out all of the evaluations that they believe necessary, and are prepared to resist with armor plated resolve, - the ignorant or biased or hostile attentions of outsiders.

Even the few apparently independent studies have been financed by one or other of the aid agencies or by institutes set up with aid money.
Keep this last bit especially in mind for later on. Now finally let us pay a visit to the Easterly blog to see the poverty cadre in action. The story starts with this Aid Watch post Why Does British Foreign Aid Prefer Poor Governments Over Poor People?.
European donors are moving towards increasing direct budget support to governments of aid-receiving countries. Leading the charge is the UK, which gives the largest percentage of direct budget support of any bilateral or multilateral donor (although the World Bank, the European Commission, the US and France also give substantial budget support).


Of this list [of nations British aid flows to], only Ghana and India were classified as “free” by the annual Freedom House ratings on democracy (according to either the 2007 or 2008 rating). For the 11 other countries that did get British budget support, how much is there “country ownership” when the government is not democratically accountable to the “country”?

Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused some of these governments of serious human rights violations. Ethiopia’s autocratic government, which is inexplicably the largest recipient of UK budget support in Africa, won 99% of the vote in the last “election.” The government army is accused by HRW of war crimes in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Nor is this brand new -- neither army officers nor civilian officials have been “held accountable for crimes against humanity that ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) forces carried out against ethnic Anuak communities during a counterinsurgency campaign in Gambella region in late 2003 and 2004.”

HRW also notes that today: “Credible reports indicate that vital food aid to the drought-affected [Somali] region has been diverted and misused as a weapon to starve out rebel-held areas.” Ironically, Ethiopia’s autocratic ruler, Meles Zenawi, was the Africa representative at the recent G-20 meeting campaigning for more aid to Africa during the current crisis, because, among other reasons, Meles said “people who were getting some food would cease to get it and … would die” (from an article in Wednesday's Financial Times.)
The good Professor has this wrong - there was no insurgency among the Anuak then and there never has been. The government just wanted the locals, who they had previously neglected to terrorize because of their remote location, to understand who was in charge and the price of even possible defiance that might interfere with drilling for oil. (See the post Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella.)

Back to the story at hand, the Addis Ababa-based director [chief cadre] of (allegedly an initiative to accelerate poverty reduction by making aid more transparent. Aidinfo is part of Development Initiatives, a UK-based development consultancy) wasn't having any of this. You see according to that wonderful Amharic expression Easterly is "touching his injera" i.e. "upsetting his gravy train" i.e. "narcing him out".

After all how could he continue to pretend to monitor corruption in aid in Ethiopia if the corrupt government thought him disloyal for not responding to Easterly's stubborn refusal to accept the party line? His more immediate bosses in Development Initiatives would also appreciate a stirring defense of their no doubt very profitable enterprise. The aid agencies who pay for the whole aid daisy chain would appreciate a strong defense too.

Hell, the chief cadre probably thought to himself, "if folks listen to the Easterly types of this world who are to proud to shut up and get on the short list for phat consultancies then I might just have to get a real job some day." So he gamely put down his real human skull goblet (a gift from Meles himself), carefully lest a drop of that sweet nectar Cadre Cola spill, stiffened his spine in prospect of a horrid real job (insert dramatic shudder here) where results were actually expected and wrote to Easterly ... his response was posted on Aid Watch.

The aid cadre had this to say in support of business as usual.
according to the official results of the 2005 election, the ruling party won 59.8% of the votes.
Note the absurdity of both parties even referring to 'official results' of an Ethiopian election with straight faces. Easterly's response.
I guess we really left you with a poor impression if you think we can’t even count votes! We were referring to the local elections of April 2008 (the more recent, and hence ‘last’). Human Rights Watch (the source of our original assertion) found, during two weeks of field research in the lead up to the elections, “systemic patterns of repression and abuse that have rendered the elections meaningless in many areas.

HRW concluded that the 2008 elections “provided a stark illustration of the extent to which the government has successfully crippled organized opposition of any kind—the ruling party and its affiliates won more than 99 percent of all constituencies, and the vast majority of seats were uncontested.” An Associated Press article from April 20, 2008 told the same story: “opposition parties said a systematic campaign of beatings, arrests and intimidation forced out more than 17,000 of their candidates.”
The cadre went on to say
the UK does not give budget support to the Federal Government of Ethiopia. Through the Protection of Basic Services scheme, which was introduced after worries about the election, the UK Government provides finance to local government (albeit through the existing financial transfer mechanism via central government). As well as funding health and education, the project includes significant components to increase transparency and accountability of federal and regional parliaments.
The cadre must be going for a laugh here. But sadly probably not. He just doesn't take the organizational mission statement 'making aid more transparent' that seriously does he? Well the founders probably don't either - the whole thing is sounding like a fig leaf for the Lords of Poverty. We've written about this bit of nonsense wrapped in a fig leaf in the post It's Not a Magic Solution. Our point was that paying off Mafia Capos Peter Clemenza or Salvadore Tessio and feeling all noble about not giving money directly to Don Corleone was not only dumb it was an obvious lie.

The fact that Transparency International views Ethiopia as one of the most corrupt nations on earth doesn't matter to the cadre. Somehow the central government run by Meles just might be corrupt you see but such slander can't be extended to even one mini-meles that Meles owns. Easterly responds
But wait, aren’t those the same local governments that just had the rigged elections? A recent article by Aalen and Tronvoll in the journal African Affairs points out that one of the reasons why the ruling party bothered to fix the local elections so thoroughly was precisely because international donors had cut off budget support to the federal government (in the political mayhem following the 2005 elections) and started channeling it to local government bodies instead. (Anyway, we never made any assertion about which level of government received budget support.)

You don’t think we developed our case enough that budget transfers to corrupt autocrats are bad. Fair enough, cases should always be developed more. But for now, which is more intuitive: your claim that aid to kleptocrats is “a way to make the government more accountable to its own citizens,” or our claim that aid money given directly to corrupt dictators is unlikely to reach poor people?
The cadre digs himself in deeper
The British Government's approach of giving some aid in the form of budget support (too little, in my view) is motivated by evidence that in some circumstances this is an important way of building more effective, responsive and accountable institutions.
Easterly rubs it in
“Effective, responsive and accountable institutions”—wouldn’t that include democracy and freedom from corruption? The “evidence” you cite in your post is from a report commissioned by the donors to evaluate themselves. While self-evaluation raises suspicions of bias, even so the support for your claims from this report is a tad on the weak side: “Where a separate governance matrix has been developed, progress is slow…or donors are not satisfied with quality of dialogue…or implementation is weak.”

As for corruption, the same study said that “corruption, and anti-corruption measures, have featured explicitly in the performance matrices and prior actions linked to PGBS. Most often, prior actions related to legal measures, policy development and administrative actions, but, even when formally complied with, such measures have not been conspicuously effective.” Not too surprising—isn’t giving aid to corrupt officials for anti-corruption strategies kind of like giving aid to burglars to install burglar alarms?
The cadre signs off with this supposed to be withering finish
If Aid Watch want to be taken seriously as an aid watchdog, then (a) they'd better get their facts straight and (b) they need to do some proper analysis of the costs and benefits of different choices for aid delivery in different contexts, rather than simply asserting that it is wrong to give aid to and through governments of which they disapprove.
Easterly finishes off
Thanks for your helpful suggestions on how to ingratiate ourselves with the aid establishment by toning down our criticism of bad aid-receiving governments. However, what really matters to us is not whether WE disapprove of a country’s government but whether the CITIZENS of that country disapprove of their own government—and have the right to express it. Judging from recent election practices by the government of Ethiopia, most Ethiopians don’t have that right.
Right On Professor Easterly! He gets it doesn't he? So why aren't people like him running aid programs? Because all of the characteristics required to be a Lord of Poverty, though they are legion, do not include making conclusions from facts, telling the truth, not being deceitful or at least not so desperately internalizing deceit, and taking pride in what you actually accomplish.

Along with Legesse we know many of the aid crowd in Addis read this blog. Well, Nous Accusons! You are cadres. And note that it is not a nice thing to say about someone.

What you do, unless it is purely humanitarian aid, not only helps but is absolutely vital to keeping the dictatorship of Meles in business and to the formation of an Ethiopian civil contract that includes ferenjis and Meles but excludes Ethiopians.

Meles Inc. is inconceivable without the active complicity of otherwise absolutely decent people like you in public and private bureaucracies and think tanks and international organizations every where.

Just like sex tourists, many international aid cadres are people who obey the conventions of law, common sense, and morality at home but seem to lose touch with them all when they have a willing government(to them anyway), natives (who cares if they are willing or not?), and Biblical level poverty to which they can apply their pet theories (which always fail) while getting promoted, getting a fat expense account, and living like Lords in the Ferenji Aid Raj.

With absolutely no accountability.

They just seem to get an itch to just 'try out and idea' every now and then at the expense of relatively rich taxpayers who are hidden from the truth but who instinctively know it is all nonsense and poor natives who just need a healthy dose of good old fashioned capitalism and liberal democracy to do just fine and to no longer need aid.

Anyone anywhere who says different is really saying that they don't want Ethiopians to have the very same opportunities that have let billions of lives on planet earth escape 'poor nasty brutish and short' fates in the span of even a generation.

It is that simple. In a just world it would be the Cadre Cola brand and not the Coca Cola brand that was in danger of leaving Ethiopia.

Wednesday, April 1

Everybody Knows I'm the Heir to the Mengistu Dynasty

Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi is to be Africa's representative at the G-20 summit ... and this is his theme song:
I'm talkin' ta you, Ethis
I’m the African Advocate, y’all thought you had me
Ferenjis brought me back from the dead, business in Somalia

Bouncin' in London throwin' up Weyane, man
Rulin' another 18 years? YES I AM
Y’all like damn, this cadre did it again
Hundred million in just one bank, Lenin above the brim

Ferenjis on the right side
Gun on the left side
Cadres from Addis to New York, know how to throw up the TPLF side

[Chorus - Spill blood, Spill blood, Spill blood - repeat X 2]

Word to the Ethis
I'm so ill, believe me, I’ll kill you all
Fly direct to the White House, next to Bush or Obama 'n' stand tall

Better be glad you breathin'
All I need is one reason
I'm the king, and ferenjis say it Africa need me

Don't care if you Tigray, Oromo, Amhara
Ethis step to me, I don't never say holla
All y'all punks bleed the same color
Make room for Bereket and Li'l Sammy - if they behave
The rest of you Ethis goin' live as my slaves

I don't know why you Ethis keep tryin' me
Everybody knows I'm the heir to the Mengistu dynasty
I ain't got beef with Issias, no beef with Bashir
What's beef when you gettin' paid billions right here?

[Chorus - Spill blood, Spill blood, Spill blood - repeat X 2]

The starving Ethis, I keep 'em on display
Ferenjis pay up so I won’t hurt ‘em again
We play that game laugh then I do it my way

You Ethis better make up a dance and try to get radio play
Keep on snappin' your remotes, I ain't going away
I don't regret what I spit, ferenjis believe every word I say

And Ethis keep talkin' about me, they don't know when to stop
I’m Mao, I’m Botha, I’m Che, I’m Pol Pot
This ain't sh** but a warnin' 'til my Agazi drop
Image & video on You Tube with sincere apologies to The Game.

Sunday, March 15

The Western Strategic Dilemma in the Horn of Africa ... or how the West should curb its pets

Honored Guests at the 33rd G-8 Summit

if only Meles could have just stayed there for his care and feeding


The voices of the Western world concerned with human rights routinely make clear that Ethiopia's government is one of the most oppressive on earth. From sources as varied in perspective and interest as the U.S. State Department Human Rights Report and that of Human Rights Watch World Report that is the case.

Private organs like HRW do so, often with passion, in keeping with their mission but have little power. Public organs like State do so, usually with a sense of boredom at having to bother, and fail to exercise any power. However, as HRW says about the European Union's reaction to the closing of the sole independent, though largely symbolic, sources of civil power in the country, the Western world provides not tacit but overt support for Ethiopian suffering:
"The EU should have condemned one of world's worst laws on NGOs. Instead, it gave Ethiopia €250 million.

On 30 January, European Union policymakers sent a clear signal to Ethiopia: no matter how repressive the government becomes, vast sums of aid will continue to flow. This is emerging as a case study in bad donor policy."
HRW has it wrong though. This is not an emerging case study of bad donor policy - this has been Western policy since 1991 when Meles Inc. took power. The basic approach was originally one of welcoming 'anyone but Mengistu' but over time that matured to a further embrace of low expectations.

For Europeans that became appreciating in Meles 'an African we can deal with' and for Americans seeing in him 'our man in Africa'. Of course, seeming to be of use can cause many sins to be forgiven but even as reports and accounts of endemic human rights violations pile up the dictator's words are accepted at face value. Meles is rewarded with status at G-8 summits and more importantly billions in unaccounted for aid that secure him in power and fill his personal coffers.

If not low expectations how else to explain a government with no basic institutions of civil society, not to mention democratic society, being so tolerated? There is a parliament, courts, elections, election board, etc. that only exist to give a patina of respectability to a government of thugs. None of those institutions matter - Meles makes decisions in concert with his slavish revolutionary nobility. Yet Meles's words are heard as though they originated from any civilized process recognizable to any democrat - and Western governments eat it up.

The issue of bad donor policy extends beyond human rights to the intimately related sphere of economics. Ethiopia is one of the most desperately poor nations on earth with little prospect of improvement given the absence of every factor that made the West rich and so much else of humanity escape suffering as a tradition. Ethiopia has also, not by coincidence, one of the most corrupt governments on earth.

There is no right to own private property in Ethiopia - the people meaning the government meaning ultimately Meles own all of the land. The whole economy at every level from the debt bondage of fertilizer sales to poor farmers, local grain markets and all aid grain distribution, import-export businesses, agribusiness, construction, road building, to the absurdity of the commodities exchange are all united grasping tentacles of Meles Inc.

Every one concerned knows that no economy on earth has ever developed under those circumstances - yet the game goes on of pretending to believe what Meles says about democracy or economic growth. So far apart from Ethiopians who are on occasion heard because the West can't pretend to ignore them any longer and apart from the support of friends of Ethiopia in places such as the US Legislature and the EU Parliament - the consequences of Western policy to Ethiopia are ignored.

This is not a 'pull yourself up by your bootstraps' issue or one that finally demands that 'Ethiopians finally get their act together'. The West has made itself an active partner in support of Ethiopia's dictatorship. As we have so often said before the Ethiopian Civil Contract is between Meles and Western governments. Ethiopians are just spectators and hostages.

You see the West occasionally threatens and begs Meles to treat Ethiopians better (at least those known to them and those withing sight of Embassies). Meles only pretends to do so and when that does not work only has to renew his eternal threat to drag tens of millions of them even further down into the depravity of his own reality before the West gets back in line.

All of the give and take is between Meles and Westerners. Ethiopians are bit players in the drama. But ... the only semi-civilized actor who may even consider the interests of Ethiopians are Westerners. Ethiopians have nowhere else to turn for help. They can only appeal to the better natures of Meles's partners in crime in Washington and Brussels because Meles is the murderous, bratty, viceroy of the West in every way possible.

So how can the West take responsibility for its own actions and serve its own interests? The struggle against Islamic Fascism puts Western Strategic Dilemma in Eastern African into stark relief. The foreign policy of every country is based on self interest. Self interest and projections of self interest over time can combine with occasional frank altruism to bring about policy beneficial to countries like Ethiopia. Why not?

The donor nations seem to be in the process of making decisions for the future that are no longer based on wishful thinking about personalities and rhetoric. It is valuable to examine a similar situation in recent history for instruction. Once again we will ask our readers to take part in a familiar thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine Ethiopia’s revolutionary nobility and its ruler were White and and not Black.

Especially given the foundation of the Ethiopian government de facto and de jure on ethnic / regional divide and rule where one's tribe defines how anyone participates in society - very naturally one would make a comparison to Apartheid era South Africa or a nation fallen victim to colonialism long past its expiration date. Blacks in Apartheid era South Africa had far more political and economic rights than Ethiopians do today.

When White Africans mistreat Black Africans it seemed to matter quite a bit but when Black Africans mistreat other Black Africans that is accepted as a part of the world's natural order. Indeed, the West is willing to finance the latter evil with no questions asked. The comparison to Apartheid era South Africa is apt. Wonder along with us why any dictator should be given credit just for looking like his victims?

There has long been an assumption that Bush was a key Meles ally solely because of the War on Terror and that the end of the Bush Presidency would mean more responsible Western policy towards Ethiopia. According to one senior State Department official quoted by HRW in 2003
"Ethiopia's human rights record is 'not a factor' in the bilateral relationship."
But ... how about Clinton before Bush and his just as close alliance with Meles? Obama's Secretary of State was decidedly not ushering in a new era of respect for human rights when she said of China's dictators that
"We have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis."
That is diplo-speak for beat on the Chinese as long and as hard as you like. It is hard to think that where there are security interests to be pursued that Ethiopian suffering is going to count for more than the Chinese variety where there are financial interests to be considered. From China to Ethiopia the general Western attitude is wrongheaded and ultimately harmful to the West. But those facts are either not appreciated or at best they are simply inconvenient.

In this post we will explore the nature of the Western Strategic Dilemma in Ethiopia, compare it to the past one in South Africa, and explore how it can be dealt with while keeping the West firmly on the side of basic morality and civilization - while serving Western interests too.


Self Interest
--SA was the source of crucial strategic materials for Western economies and their militaries
--The Cape of Good Hope was near vital shipping lanes and especially after the closing of the Suez Canal (and given its size limitations even when it was open), a friendly presence on those waters was needed
--Soviet expansion in Africa, and Southern African in particular, required a convenient Western proxy to counter it
--There were billions in every Western currency invested and paying dividends in the generally advanced economy and market in SA
--SA was stable in comparison to the rest of Africa

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix
--Apartheid would lead to greater instability in the long term and serve Soviet interests in Africa even beyond propaganda value
--Apartheid was morally repugnant and despite every manner of strategic calculation, the public of the West would not long tolerate accommodation of it - or more important with their own governments that did


The appearance of policy against apartheid
--SA was kicked out of symbolic institutions like the Olympics or various Rugby Leagues.
--It was occasionally treated rudely by Western governments with loud criticism and diplomatic sanctions that really meant nothing at all


Actual policy against apartheid
--An arms embargo was placed on SA with the full knowledge that SA could make anything it needed for itself. The French, for example, basically sponsored SA manufacture of Mirage fighter jets
--Economic sanctions and divestment were never an issue beyond talk and popular protest until late in the game when they began to bite


--the Sullivan Principles (more on these below) mandated sanctions against particular businesses that did not meet standards for race blind or at least more black friendly practices

--the Soviet Empire started to fall apart at about the same time some sanctions were coming on line with the possibility of many more. Without security considerations to hold the West back, this made the SA government worry far more than usual - especially as the economy began to contract from the first sanctions alone

But, there is always opportunity in crisis ... the same situation also provided the apartheid government with an opportunity to change without worrying about Soviet control of popular Black empowerment of any degree. So far we have not noted the absolutely vital role of the burgeoning Black movement for freedom. Black SA was not a silent spectator while all of these decisions were being made.

As the occasional armed but far more importantly unarmed, united, morally omnipotent, rational and increasingly fearless Black movement gained strength, the SA government saw its own interests increasingly defined by opening up and ditching apartheid ... while it could still do so peacefully. The release of Mandela and elections followed naturally in a victory for all concerned


The lessons for Ethiopia in the SA example
--the vagaries of Western self interest, policy and their usefulness (and potential harm)
--the use of detailing the moral element of a Western break with the TPLF
--the utility of encouraging the type of Western behavior that weakened apartheid
--the utility of emphasizing the self interest in both the long and the short term that the West has against an ongoing alliance with the TPLF and in an alliance with Ethiopians

Ethiopian government is defined by an unprecedented degree of structural corruption and bad policies that guarantee poverty and dependence on the kindness of the West and the tolerance of the West for depravity. That and threat of instability that is encouraged and based on Ethiopian government policies makes the situation all the more difficult for all than in SA.

--there is no right to private ownership of land which all of human experience has shown is needed for any political and economic development. Indeed all are serfs or at best sharecroppers of the TPLF with little prospect of the opportunities to develop that are easily well within the capacities of the land and the people. There is no structural reason that Ethiopia should be a beggar nation in any way beyond the oppressive structure and policies of the TPLF

--the Bolshevik-Maoist TPLF, the government that is defined by it, government economic monopolies, party and crony owned businesses, armed forces, all powerful brutal security forces, the judiciary, the parliament, the media and regional bantustan governments utterly dominated by the center are all one and the same

--per capita foreign direct investment, per capita income, per capita spending on health and education and per capita agricultural production are either at the very bottom worldwide or very close to it. Indeed all of these factors have worsened since the fall of the Dergue and Ethiopia is now the poorest country on earth and is getting poorer

--the TPLF can not survive without aid, even aid providing direct budget support for every basic from pencils to possibly out of place advanced fighter jets. All infrastructure projects are carried out with the interest and finance from aid givers who also feed Ethiopians, up to half of whom require constant food aid to survive. Much or the rest are chronically malnourished, also because of government policy

--foreign aid has helped the TPLF become independent of accountability with the Ethiopian people. The normal process of the development of democratic and economic accountability and institutions has been short circuited. What matters most with the TPLF mode of government is getting along with Western aid donors - not Ethiopians.

--Ethiopians of every ethnicity, region and religion serve as hostages of the government that essentially promises them harm unless it is continually patronized by the West and allowed to remain in power without hindrance. The TPLF routinely makes that threat in calls for ongoing struggle and a return to the fortresses of war.

Instability is carefully nurtured by the TPLF and often simulated to increase Western attention to its utility as a partner. This is done because its chosen mode of Leninist-Maoist government with bits of monopoly and crony capitalism grafted on will always make for weakness that is outweighed by the benefits of depending on foreigners rather than Ethiopians for the sake of continued rule.

Above all, the TPLF has so categorically weakened Ethiopia and is so effectively strangling its chances for progress that if aid cuts or economic sanctions are used it is clear that innocent Ethiopians will suffer long before the revolutionary aristocracy does.

This accentuates the moral and practical bind that Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopian must deal with. When SA was the issue there was little hesitation among Black SA and their friends to use sanctions even though blacks would be harmed first.

While Ethiopians are rather more desperate under the TPLF than Blacks were in SA, that does not provide the TPLF with an eternal lock on power. There is ample room for maneuver to cut the Gordian Knot that TPLF and its eternal policy of beggar status have caused.

To see what role the West may play in this let us take a look at ...


Self Interest
--Interest is essentially negative - meaning that under the TPLF nothing good is expected but they want to prevent things from getting worse
--The US is concerned with the War on Terror (particularly in Somalia), the potential for lethal exported instability, and the over trumpeted role of Ethiopian intelligence activities in Somalia
--The EU are concerned with the same with more accent on the potential for instability that the West may have to respond to and the potential for the immigration problems of Europe to be compounded by millions of new refugees

Long term Self Interest with a Degree of Altruism in the mix - but largely ignored
---Everyone is concerned with stability but there is also a realization that the TPLF is both cause, effect and the most likely to profit from instability
--There is ever present and growing moral revulsion with the TPFL that the ‘election’ and aftermath have accentuated.
--There is also a sense that without demands for good governance and human rights that any level of aid will be wasted.
--It is becoming ever more clear that the TPLF does not represent anything but a guarantor of very short term Western interests and in the long term that it is a threat to Western aims


The appearance of policy on behalf of Ethiopians
--this has been the case thus far. Generally, thinking that they have found ‘an African we can deal with,’ the West has been silent on basic issues of good governance and human rights while wishing against all evidence for some 'future post-properly faked election and post-massive aid infusion paradise' (or just business as usual away from the cameras) when all hopes and expectations would miraculously be met

The ‘election of 2005’ and its aftermath blew up this whole pretty picture and left no excuses behind. TPLF behavior since has been more obviously than ever brutal towards Ethiopians while EU concerns have been met with frankly shrill abuse that must have raised some serious questions about how Ethiopians suffered - if the actual TPLF paymasters were being so insulted.

Actual policy in support of Ethiopians?
--Beyond occasional threats on the subject of aid cuts, the flow of dollars, euros, and yen to Meles Inc. has only increased.
--The EU election report mentions the The Cotonou Agreement. This could have been ominous news for the TPLF because the development partnership so defined explicitly states that
* Respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law are essential elements of the partnership.

* A new procedure has been drawn up to deal with violations. It puts more emphasis on the responsibility of the State concerned and allows for greater flexibility in the consultation process. In cases of special urgency - serious violations of one of the essential elements - measures will be taken immediately and the other party notified.

* Commitment to good governance as a fundamental and positive element of the partnership, a subject for regular dialogue and an area for active Community support.

* The EC and the ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific] have also agreed on a new specific procedure to be launched in serious cases of corruption. This is a real innovation, both in the EC-ACP context and in international relations. It is not confined to EC activities.

It will be applied in cases of corruption involving EDF money and more widely, in any country where the EC is financially involved and where corruption constitutes an obstacle to development.

This is a very important aspect, as public finance constitutes a whole, regardless of the source of finance; corruption involving other sources of financing therefore indirectly affects EDF funding. The EC and the ACP States are together sending a clear and positive signal to European taxpayers and investors, and legitimate beneficiaries of aid.
If the EU is serious about the Cotunou Agreement and if it is tired of hearing excuses and insults from the TPLF then there are interesting times ahead. It has also become clear that the issues with the TPLF are structural, meaning they are built in and not necessarily subject to improvement with promises or PR campaigns.

But the EU has never tired of lies and appears to find comfort in the words of Meles and the muted screams of Ethiopians (how else would you put it?)

The opposition to the TPLF has responded to its stolen victory with exemplary fortitude and proper defiance. It now survives only because some of its members are personally known to foreign ambassadors. Tens of thousands more unknown to the West have disappeared into camps and mass graves. The West could be watching very closely what happens and the EU and the US could explicitly demand changes and new rules for democratic and civil society as well as eventually parliamentary rules that may make that gathering actually mean something.

But it is not.

Most importantly, it is clear to all observers that there is a rational, indeed preferrable, alternative to the TPLF as a development and security partner.

Joint EU & US demands for access to the media and an easing of the state of tyranny will by necessity end TPLF rule if they are met. The TPLF will of course resist and at some point will openly put mass violence and the fate of its 70 million hostages on the negotiating table with its ultimate constituency in the West.

The threat will essentially be: leave us alone to rule forever or your sanctions and our violence will cause millions to suffer.


The structurally determined mess characteristic of all one party states is also familiar to Zimbabweans. According to the Independent of Zimbabwe, government / ruling party owned businesses there are "in a shambles" with billions lost to corruption and mismanagement with considerable "externalization of funds". Often there are no records of audits having been done at any time, significant deals are made verbally with no other record and no one knows who owns what.

The only constant is that the ever poorer Zimbabwean population pays and pays. Doesn’t that sound familiar? In addition Mugabe has a horrible human rights and economic record compounded by an absence of private property rights. So what did the West do about Mugabe?

The US Departments of State and the Treasury under an Executive Order are bound to act because
Zimbabwe’s government has conducted a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and intimidation showing its disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare of its citizens. Ultimately Zimbabweans must resolve their political crisis, and the United States supports the region's call for the government to enter into dialogue with the political opposition to find a solution acceptable to the people of Zimbabwe.


The United States’ sanctions target only those responsible for Zimbabwe's political crisis and not ordinary citizens. They support regional and international efforts to convince Zimbabwe’s government to abandon political repression and engage in meaningful dialogue with the political opposition.

Should Zimbabwe’s rulers continue to oppress its citizens and to resist forthright efforts toward resolving the country’s political crisis, we are prepared to impose additional targeted financial and travel sanctions on those [INDIVIDUALS] undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.
Here is an example of what was done by Executive Order. Having
determined that the actions and policies of certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions, contributing to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe, to politically motivated violence and intimidation in that country, and to political and economic instability in the southern African region, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States
The EU for its part has
imposed various sanctions measures against named Ministers and officials of the Government of Zimbabwe. The measures were -
--an arms embargo,
--a ban on technical assistance, financing and financial assistance related to military activities,
--a ban on the supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression
--a visa ban for Ministers and officials and their spouses, and
--a freeze of the assets belonging to the Ministers and officials.

The arms embargo encompasses the sale, supply or transfer of arms and related material (including military vehicles, ammunition, paramilitary equipment, and spare parts), and technical advice, assistance or training related to military activities. It also prohibits the sale or supply of equipment that could be used for internal repression.
Every measure above may not be appropriate in an Ethiopian context but all serve as a valuable base for the future alliance between Ethiopian and Western interests. One issue sure to be raised by the TPLF in its defense is the boogeyman of instability. The EU had this to say on that subject
But the European Union, the Commonwealth and the African states, collectively and individually, also have responsibilities to the region and they must now take action against a man who is quite literally getting away with murder. We cannot accept that to impose targeted sanctions would have "little impact", or that they would lead to a dangerous black-white split.

The decision by Mr Mugabe to delay the access to information and protection of privacy bill and the announcement that some foreign journalists and observers will be allowed in to Zimbabwe to cover the March election (however cynical this may be) comes only after threats have been made to freeze Mr Mugabe's assets abroad.

The only certainties, if Mr Mugabe keeps winning (of course!), are that he will unleash a terrible vengeance against his political opponents and a refugee crisis, directly affecting Britain and the EU, will follow. The question is not "Can we afford to risk sanctions?", but "Can we afford not to?"
That terrible vengeance is coming to pass there. For example, Mugabe named 'Operation Clean Out the Trash' himself to destroy the homes of 700,000 allegedly illegal squatters who also just happened to represent oppostition to his rule. The African Union, which was blessed the TPLF 'election' and those of Mengistu as well, found nothing wrong in the sudden de-housing of all those victims of Mugabe.

As we see above, the West, the US and the EU both, did not hesitate to act boldly in Zimbabwe against individuals held responsible for particular crimes. This was done despite the fake issue of risk of a tribal / racial split or of great harm done to Zimbabweans because greater benefits for all were seen in action - just as there was in South Africa two decades ago.

But note ... Mugabe is a great democrat compared to Meles and Western pressure has made him acknowledge the existence of his opposition as players in the national game. Never forget though, he is only missing a bit part in the War on Terror to become a well financed pet of the West.


Food aid and aid related to health should not be an issue for obvious reasons. This despite the fact that dependence and its horrific market effects has destroyed with active government connivance the ability Ethiopians have to feed themselves. All other aid and budget support should be on the table as a level playing field is sought in Ethiopian affairs. To do this an alliance must be created to ensure the natural partnership in these circumstances between Ethiopians and the West.

It should be noted that it is the weakness and the structural failure mandated by TPLF policies that has brought everyone to a situation where foreigners are needed to help Ethiopians against their own government.

Appeals will certainly be made to pride, history and nationalism on this point but they are obviously not to be taken seriously. For example, after decades of belittling all Ethiopian and Tigrayan history before 1975, the TPLF all of a sudden celebrated the return of the Axum obelisk this year just as in 1998 it all of a sudden remembered the convenient emotional call of Ethiopian history.

Appeals to the suffering of Ethiopians must be understood based on the fact that it is the policies of the TPLF that are making Ethiopians suffer to begin with. There is no determined history or holy book anywhere that consigns Ethiopians to misery and beggar status.

All Ethiopians need to advance the way nations all over the world have is the chance to do so. All of the basic raw materials already exist in the Ethiopian mind. In terms of the potential of the physical setting even more potential exists.

Policy changes must be based on ECONOMIC and POLITICAL factors that are inseparable but that may be considered separately.

Economic Conditions

There should be a set of Neo-Sullivan principles based on the Cotonou Agreement. Cotonou is adequate but a new decision to enforce it practically is needed.

It should be noted that the private sector and foreign direct investment are totally dominated by the party / government or very tiny in scope. Thus attention will by necessity be directed towards knowledge of and sanctions against the party / government apparatus or rather particular individuals within it.

--Aid money should be directed to specific projects as much as possible. For example, the building of one bridge or a point to point road project that is not open ended and whose costs should be known
--There should be absolute transparency in all government agencies and private contractors that deal with aid money as a condition for aid and contracts
--This will reveal the not so hidden but totally non transparent web of government / party / crony enterprises and businesses that dominate the economy and shut out the benefits of competition

Why not? There is absolutely no compelling reason for the financial dealings of any government official or anyone else who deals with sums of public money to have any degree of secrecy at all. This is normal practice in most prosperous democracies and all nations fastest on the way to escaping poverty and being free.

This will also do away with once and for all, unfair charges of corruption. The innocent will be spared attention and these means should allow those few who benefit most from corrupt practices to be positively identified.

--There should be fairness mandated in providing contracts based on aid that should benefit the whole private sector and not only those who are most in synch with or actually part of the hydra headed empire of government / party / business.

--At some point, unless the essential fairness of the above points is met, budget support aid should become conditional on meeting the above goals. To do this either an independent agency or company should be enlisted to serve as a corps of national auditors.

Just as the opposition is protected by the constant attention of aid donors, a group of accountants and translators should have the same commitment of interest granted them to carry out with international participants a thorough check of the books.

All government spending dependent on aid budget support as well as associated business enterprises connected financially to government and party officials should be subjected to such attention.

--Far more important than all of the above there should be insistence on the issue of land privitization. Every country without land rights is poor and despotic according to the degree of freedom given. This is a fact without exception in human history.

This is also crucial in terms of limiting the web of debt, agricultural marketing controls, access to essentials such as salt & sugar and the distribution of land based on political controls that party /government businesses and inseparable local authorities use to control the vast majority of the rural populace.

If aid is not to be wasted and Ethiopians are to be recognized as the ultimate authors of their own success they should be given the same set of tools that donor nations had to become self sufficient and then wealthy.

Political Conditions

There are certainly enough political implications to the economics section above but more directed goals are needed to serve the interests of Ethiopians and the West in terms of Neo-Sullivan Principles or an aggressive Cotonou Agreement.

Aid beyond food and health projects should be subject to not only good governance and transparency as defined above but also on human rights practices. Of course, such decisions should be based, just as above, on WHO is making decisions and WHO benefits from bad practices in any realm.

--There should be an insistence on an investigation with international participation of the events of the Anuak Massacres, the Addis Ababa Massacre of June 6-8 2005, and other numerous acts of mass violence perpetrated by the regime . A model for this is the investigation in Lebanon / Syria led by UN officials into the car bombing murder of opponents to Syrian control.

The requests detailed in the EU Parliamentary complaint about the 'election' are largely sufficient to provide for the further development of democracy.

--Knowledge from every source open and hidden utilizing leaks, audits and frank intelligence collection should determine which individuals and organizations within the party / business / government structure give orders and carry out acts in violation of human rights.

--Military aid and security aid may not have to be cut if a clear distinction is made between military and security aid that is used for internal repression and that used for external defense.

This is of particular importance especially as the Somali issue heats up (rather convenient timing right - just like Meles dreamt it all?) and Al Quaeda, (which certainly is a threat but one exagerated conveniently) is suddenly discovered under every rock. Seperation of internal and external issues should also serve to show that the military does not serve as an occupying force.


The main argument about using aid dependency as a weapon against bad governance is that the common people will suffer. Using the Cotonou Agreement as a starting point and Sullivan like principles it is possible to identify particular individuals who are making decisions and their own financial interests and to sanction them while sparing the larger nation and economy and certainly doing less harm than the TPLF is already doing.

Given an EU and / or US policy like this, anyone within the infernal web of inseperable party / government / business who makes a decision to be corrupt or who causes the violation of human rights will be INDIVIDUALLY accountable for their decisions and should expect
--that they will be locked out of decisions or access to all funds from foreign aid or budget support either as party members, government officials or businessmen
--that all of their foreign funds, holdings and investments will be frozen and subject to suit from those violated by the decisions made by those individuals
--that they will be banned from travel to participating nations and in fear of extradition from others - particularly for orders for violence of incitement of it
--that the chain of political command and the identical web of financial interests will be held accountable in a gradual spreading fashion based on known relationships and structures of control
--that their partners will be sanctioned according to the continual presence and associations that they have with illicit practices of corrupt and violence ordering individuals
--that no longer under any circumstances will 'following orders' or 'everyone is doing it' be excuses for corrupt and criminal acts

The examples of South Africa in the past and Zimbabwe today provide precedent for this while the fact that the TPLF is far more subject to influence by such pressures by its own insistence on economic failure as a strategy for power helps all considerations.

Ultimately the aim of identifying accountable responsible parties is the reform not only of Ethiopian governance at large but particularly that of the TPLF. As often as in this post alone we have identified the TPLF as a problem it is not essentially an obstacle to progress.

The obstacles are not amidst the great majority of well meaning party members but amidst the vanishing few of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy and nobility whose interests run counter to those of their own party and country.

Reform and advancement in Ethiopia is impossible without reform and advancement within the TPLF. Most of its members without doubt recognize the benefits of tried and true policies to gain freedom and prosperity and are sick and tired of silly mantras of absurd ideologies.

At this point, in a system that is to be democratic, no one is yet beyond redemption. What should be done to bring about peaceful change is to leverage the mutual interests of all Ethiopians and the West against the politburo and its minions. The party / government / business machine may have chosen the West as a constituency rather than Ethiopians but all things are fluid and mutual self interest can be found in a variety of combinations.


Of course, there is little chance of all of the above ever happening anytime soon. And ... the West does appear to be moving in the wrong general direction.

How many Presidents and Prime Ministers in a row, democratically elected themselves, will encourage Ethiopia's murderous and corrupt regime for how many more years?

There is no evidence at present that it will ever stop. It is past time for 'Constructive Engagement' with Meles Inc. to end.

Sunday, February 15

Meles Has A Party & A Parliament

A fly is as untamable as a hyena
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Mr. Meles is Posturing

Paulos Milkias Ph.D.

I do not believe that Mr. Meles is going to quit. He is simply posturing. Here are reasons why?

An official who is determined to quit will not qualify it by another possibility. An excellent example to announce quitting: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president." This, as you know, was President Lyndon B. Johnson's announcement on March 31, 1968 after the setbacks of the Tet Offensive and the violent student demonstrations against the war in Vietnam made his life unbearable.

Mr. Meles is saying he has decided to quit but will respect his party's decision regarding it. Anybody knows that neither the current TPLF leadership not what remains of the EPRDF officialdom can survive for long without Mr. Meles' political machinations. What he is saying is, I will say I will quit and my party caucus will put pressure on me through parliament. Then I will have little choice but to respect their wishes!

Second, he says he will quit as Prime Minister but will remain as the party leader. That is impossible in the present political framework. If he has to resign as Prime Minister, he also has to resign from the Party leadership. Ethiopia has adapted a parliamentary democracy. In parliamentary democracy, the party leader is automatically the Prime Minister. Do not forget that the Front Benchers are selected and directed by the party leader. The Back Benchers also seek direct guidance from the party leader whose dictates they follow without fail.

Mr. Meles' posturing is more in tune with that of Gamal Abdel Nasser. When the Egyptian President’s army was decimated in the Six Day War by June 9, 1967, Nasser tendered his resignation as President in a televised broadcast only to “change his mind” when his decision was “rejected” by Egypt's National Assembly totally controlled by his National Democratic Party. So, come 2010 elections, rest assured that history will repeat itself.


We agree with Professor Milkias.

Furthermore, we are always shocked whenever anyone takes anything that Meles or his cadres say seriously. When has Ethiopia's dictator been known to tell the truth about anything?

Meles is not the Prince of Liars - he manages all at once to be the King, the Pope, Der Commissar, and Mother of All Liars. Expecting anything remotely resembling the truth from him about his leaving his revolutionary democratic throne is ... to be kind, rather unrealistic.

Meles is the party and he is the parliament - actually given the way he rules Ethiopia, Meles is for all practical purposes - the only person in the whole country with any freedom of will. EthioMedia puts the relevant stories together on one page. Check these quotes out and wonder how he could keep a straight face delivering lines like these.
I do not think there is a conflict of policy here. My desire is that I have had enough here and I have to move on. I want to leave this position (Prime Minister) without leaving the party as leader but I have to respect the decisions of the party,
I cannot be a member of the party and not respect its decisions. My open decision is that there will be no conflict between my position and that of the party. If there is a conflict, I will have the freedom to chose but I will try to resolve the differences[.]
The reporter himself can be imagined alternatively grinning and being poker faced in joy at his scoop. His willingness to ignore - or his simple ignorance - of the reality of dictatorship made it all good.

Or perhaps he knows this is lethal nonsense and is just doing what thousands of other ferenjis and Ethiopian cadres have done with the words of Meles - accepting them unconditionally. From Presidents to Prime Ministers and Rock Stars to Nobel Prize Winners - the reporter is in good company.

Meles won't even try a Putin like arrangement - as the man who climbed to the top of a business and party founded on terror and who climbed over countless dead and destroyed in his party and the whole country to get where he is - he knows that even pretending to let the tiger's tail go will be far too dangerous for him.

Without his secret police, informers, personal militia, access to billions squeezed from poor Ethiopians and waylaid from rich ferenjis, and his official role as the ferenji's "African we can deal with" paid for with native blood, sweat, and tears - Meles is nothing and he knows it.

But ... maybe he plans a retirement in the USA. If precedent and past ties hold true he has his pick of senior spots at the World Bank, the IMF, Columbia University, the National Security Council, the Senate / House Foreign Relations Committees, or any one of many lobbying firms - just waiting for him.

Of course ... if he wants to he can retire comfortably and manage his massive investments, numbered accounts, and real estate all over the US and Europe. After all he has an MBA earned in between ordering executions and alternatively braying on about bumper crops, endless starvation, double digit economic growth, desperate poverty, and his American Knighthood as an Official Warrior on Terror.

On the subject of the arrest of one of those who actually won an election in Ethiopia - Birtukan Midekssa - Meles says that
[h]ad we indulged on her assumptions the message that we would have conveyed would be 'nothing happens to you no matter what you do. If you have friends in all the right places, you can ride roughshod with everything'
That message I think is a very dangerous political message to convey in an emerging democracy. The rule of law and equality involves everyone.
Amazing. The only reason any Ethiopian who has not accepted Meles as their personal savior or who doesn't just keep out of his way is alive is because ferenjis occasionally care about Ethiopians that they meet in person and that they beg and threaten Meles not to do his dirty work in their sight.

He only rules because the Ethiopian social contract is between him and ferenjis. Aside from those he has bought and intimidated - Ethiopians in general have nothing to do with his rule but endure it. Meles ends on a more frankly comical note
We took Ethiopia into one of the seven few elite states with a higher economic growth rate in the world, that is an achievement.
We expect inflation in the single digit rate by June or July.
The IMF also gets into the act
The International Monetary Fund has predicted 6.5 percent growth for Ethiopia in 2009.
The only reason inflation gets a mention is that it is so high even Meles can't order it away - or can he? Anyway, it makes him look in charge like a civilized leader to talk like this.

So ... how can anyone predict with such accuracy the rate of inflation half a year from now or the state of an economy a full year from now? Simple .... they just make it up.

Meles just lies and everyone under him just makes up and reports false numbers. The IMF has all kinds of sophisticated socio-economic, psycho-sexual, climate-market models into which they quite willingly enter those false numbers.

Why? Because pumping out aid dollars and getting along with thugs is their business.

We once got this bit of wisdom born of suffering from a group of older street kids comparing Meles Inc. / EPRDF to the Dergue, "a bunch of flies who'd already had their fill of our wounds were replaced by new ones."

Flies act like flies and hyenas act like hyenas no matter how you try and tame them. Dictators act like dictators no matter how you pay them off or listen to them.


Here are some other excellent sources for news, commentary, and opinion:




Ethiopian Politics

Anuak Justice Council