Friday, May 13

Politburo Knows Best VII - Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom

Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.

Mao Tse-Tung 1956

Let many hundreds of thousands rally, let a hundred opposition members run.

Ethiopian Politburo 2005

This image from revolutionary democratic China is courtesy of one of the best sites on the internet, Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages.

'Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom' refers to a period of so called democratic reform in 1956 China. Critics of Mao and the Communist Party where encouraged to come forward after the first stirrings of resistance to Mao & Co. since the Communist victory of 1949. The manifest failures of the state controlled economic plan and the disasters of state land ownership (sound familiar?) were among the issues to be freely debated.

By 1957 the criticism had gotten way out of hand so the party cracked down and did not let up until the rise of Deng twenty years later. All critics were made to suffer for ‘betraying the revolution’ - at best this meant a long sentence in a labor camp and at the worst summary exectuion. The fake reform heralded the late 1950s man made famine that claimed tens of millions during the ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the horrors of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

So what does all this have to do with Ethiopia? Well, 'Election 2005' is also faked democracy with an equally sinister motive. All of its attendant showmanship is spawned from an undemocratic system devised by an increasingly brutal, always paranoid Politburo. Why does the Politburo bother?

Unlike Mao who had the internal means to finance his repression of the Chinese, Ethiopia’s government requires foreigners to pay the bill for every activity of government from pencils and pensions onto penal colonies.

Ethiopians have to live with the farce of a Marxist-Leninist party whose essential structure and totalitarian instincts would be quite familiar to Stalin and Mengistu. That structure may be dressed up with happy face stickers and it may also be a platform for an elaborate song and dance routine but the essential nature of dictatorship remains internally unchanged. The rewards for putting on the show are simple enough - cash and regime survival.

Lenin saw far ahead to this public relations scam when he observed that "the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." Ethiopia's rulers are not in a position to harm anyone besides their own people but like Romania's Ceascescu they have made the game of convincing Western governments and newsmen that they really aren't Communist dictators into a multi-billion dollar business.

Below are some accounts of a revolutionary democratic election season ...

The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win.

Leonid Brezhnev

Reuters. Ethiopia's third-ever democratic elections have been marred by random killings, mass arrests, torture and intimidation, five main opposition groups alleged on Wednesday.

The groups said two opposition members had been shot dead, hundreds rounded up and imprisoned, while dozens had disappeared less than three weeks ahead of the 15 May legislative elections.

Bereket Simon, Ethiopian information minister and spokesman for the ruling party, dismissed the allegations as "baseless". The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, he said, had provided a code of conduct to its 600,000 members to prevent abuses.

"This is an absolute lie and pure fabrication," Bereket told reporters on Thursday. "Our members would be prosecuted if found to have taken part in abuses. Any diversion from this code of conduct would make our members accountable."

"We believe that the ruling party is enjoying its finest years and has enhanced credibility across the board," he added. "So why do we need to take part in such unethical practices when we are going to win the election with a landslide?"

Reuters. A statement issued by the grouping said government militia were killing, beating or arresting people who refused to denounce opposition parties and join the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front.

[The ruling party has 600,000 members! This in a country with about 70 million people.

Well, since the party controls the government and owns businesses at every level, controls the army, the security services, the police, the judiciary, all of the press outside of urban areas where foreigners live, and represents an all encompassing patronage and state security apparatus with a rubber stamp Parliament where no one can work, eat or live without party permission - no one should be surprised that a landslide victory is expected.

Recruitment methods for the party seem to be a bit unorthodox as well. Did you notice that the information minister is also the spokesman for the ruling party?]


The Reporter. According to observers who followed the meeting, what was more revolting than the restrictive and prohibitive content of the draft press law were the explanations of the Minister of Information himself who officiously told the participants that his government has the right to jam broadcasting, block the internet.

". . .Jamming is not illegal, China does block the internet," the Minister said. "What toppled the governments of eastern European countries were mainly the international broadcasters. We don't want that to be repeated in our country . . ." he added.

Indian Ocean Newsletter (registration required). The government in Addis Ababa has just turned the screw by incorporating measures to repress the press into its penal code. These measures were previously contained in a draft bill on the press which had been much maligned and was finally not put to the vote in parliament by the government last year. Last week, the administration in Addis Ababa discreetly passed through Parliament some of the most criticised of these measures by including them among a lot of 71 amendments to the penal code. Hence the legislative constraints on the media have tightened a little more: 38 members of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association (EFJA) have been forced into exile under the regime of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, in power since 1991). The last few months, eleven journalists have left the country.
Legal proceedings are currently under against some 30 journalists.

Sunday Times. "The state continues to link terrorism and political activism to journalism," said Leonard Vincent, an official with the Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF).

[Note the self-identification with Chinese information restrictions and the total lack of free press in the minor totalitarian states of Eastern Europe - whose errors in assuring totalitarian rule aren't to be repeated in Ethiopia. Sure sounds like fertile ground for democracy.]

Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.

Josef Stalin

IRIN. Under the new law introduced earlier this month, local groups wanting to monitor elections must have registered with the government as election observers when they were first founded.

News24. Kemal Bedri, chair of the national election board, said the new rules are intended to weed out organisations allied to political parties.

Political parties, however, will field accredited observers.

"Domestic observers have a stake in the outcome of the election," Kemal said.

"We know that there are organisations who are a front for a political party, governing or opposition."

[So the whole apparatus of the party/government isn’t a front for the ruling political party and the government/party doesn‘t have a stake in the outcome either?]

Reuters. Some analysts say sending 320 international observers to monitor only the voting itself in 34,000 polling stations across the vast Horn of Africa country "will have little or no effect" on any pre-election human rights abuses or intimidation.

VOA. The head of investigation at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Birhanu Tsigu, tells VOA his group has documented what he calls "election abuses and irregularities," which he says were committed mostly by low-level government officials operating in local communities.

"Most of these abuses have been committed against members, candidates and supporters of the opposition parties,” he said. “The kinds of violations range from extra-judicial killings, unlawful imprisonments, beatings and eviction from land, and different sorts of abuses.

AFP. "As the election day approaches opposition parties are facing extreme difficulties such as random killings, imprisonment and disappearances," said the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party's Mesfin Nemera, AFP reports.

Ethiomedia. Opposition parties said Saturday that hundreds of their candidates and observers were arrested 12 hours before Ethiopians go to the polls.
According to an opposition leader, thousands of pre-marked ballots supporting the current government have already been circulated to voting stations.

Opposition leaders said they released the names of their observers on Friday, and the arrests began almost immediately in most districts.

Ana Gomes, the top European Union election observer, said that she has dispatched observers to investigate the opposition complaints.

More than 500 foreign election observers will be monitoring the elections for the first time in Ethiopia's history. Some parts of Ethiopia are so isolated it takes two to three days to reach them.
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the accusations, but the chairman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, Kemal Bedri, said he was taken aback by the scale of the accusations.

"I'm caught be surprise," he said. "I don't think it's true, but we are investigating."

The opposition allegations surfaced shortly after a human rights watchdog complained its observers were being hindered from getting to polling stations.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council said the deployment of 1644 of its observers was being prevented by the election board in violation of a court order.

Sudan Tribune. "Reports of harassment, imprisonment, and other activities of intimidation are worrysome," said Rob Vermas, the Dutch ambassador, representing the EU in Ethiopia, while welcoming about 50 EU observers who arrived on Friday.
"The NEBE's (state-run National Election Board of Ethiopia) directives will virtually exclude many local NGOs (nongovernmental organisations) from observing the election," Vermas explained.

[It is impossible to heap enough praise on an Ethiopian brave enough to become an election observer when he/she will necessarily end up reporting a whole bunch of nefarious activities by a vicious government. This line above is revealing to say the least - "Opposition leaders said they released the names of their observers on Friday, and the arrests began almost immediately in most districts." As we have seen death, 'disappearence', and ruination can easily accompany arrest.]

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

George Orwell

Friends of Ethiopia. What Do Election Observers Do?

ethiopundit. The entirety of the NORDEM, Norwegian Human Rights Organization, report on repression and ‘elections’ in Ethiopia is well worth reading. In addition some of the same observers have written an excellent book on this subject called Ethiopia Since the Derg - A Decade of Democratic Pretension and Performance.

Siegfried Pausewang, one of the authors of the NORDEM report quoted above and of the book mentioned here was in Ethiopia as an senior election observer for the European Union but quit after a government accusation of bias.

News24. But Kemal Bedri, chairman of Ethiopia's National Election Board, said he raised concerns that Pausewang arrived with "preconceived ideas" about Ethiopia.

"He was not really objective in assessing what he did," he said. "When someone comes in as an observer I think they should be someone who doesn't have preconceived ideas about what the whole process is about."

The Reporter. At a press conference held at Sheraton Addis, Mr. Rob Vermaas, the Netherlands Ambassador to Ethiopia, on behalf of the EU expressed the union's regret. "After some deliberations he came to the conclusion that he did not command the full trust of the people involved to carry out his work as election observer, and he decided to withdraw from the mission. We do regret the fact that he is no longer in the team. But we do understand very well that in case you don't get the trust, you can make a decision to withdraw," Ambassador Vermass said.

[The Norwegians are the modern African equivalent of the Freedom Riders who helped in the struggle for Civil Rights back in the 1960s. Apparently knowing what revolutionary democracy is all about disqualifies them from being able to observe.

As we have seen Ethiopian observers have been denied their right to observe. The Europeans are unlikely to notice anything inconvenient to their discovery of a dictatorship that "they can deal with" and to mask their utter contempt for Ethiopians from whom no more can be expected. So that leaves the Americans ...]

Every dictator is an enemy of freedom, an opponent of law.


State Department. Human Rights Report 2004

Ethiomedia. The expulsions were announced as the election campaign heated up with the government and opposition trading charges of impropriety and followed the release in February of a US report critical of Ethiopia's human rights record.

There was speculation in diplomatic circles that the move may have been related to Ethiopia's unhappiness over the report but officials in Addis Ababa denied this and noted that US groups had been invited to observe the polls.

Addis Tribune. The State Department said last Thursday the United States was very disappointed over the Ethiopian government's announced expulsion of three U.S. non-governmental democracy groups. They had been helping prepare the African country for elections in May.

The State Department said it had lodged a direct complaint with the Ethiopian government over its decision to expel the three groups, which had been working on a U.S.-sponsored program to lay the groundwork for the country's May 15th general elections.

The groups are the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. The latter two are affiliated with the U.S. Republican and Democratic Parties.

News reports from Addis Ababa said their staff members, who had been in Ethiopia for several weeks, were told by government officials Wednesday they had 48 hours to leave.

The reason given for the move was that they had not been registered with the Ethiopian government.

But at a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said they had been operating openly with the knowledge of the government, and that their efforts to get proper accreditation had been rebuffed by officials.

Ethiomedia. Senator McCain, former Secretary of State Albright question Meles regime over expulsions of US election observers.

State Deptartment. Question: What is the U.S. response to today’s demonstration outside the Department of State for free and fair elections, the restoration of democracy, and return of various NGOs and election monitors to Ethiopia?

Answer: The United States continues to urge the Government of Ethiopia to hold free and fair elections with full participation by the opposition. It is vital that members of the opposition be given the opportunity to campaign without reprisal. We are aware that the Government of Ethiopia has increased access to radio and television ads to members of the opposition. The Government has also issued invitations to international observers. These are important steps and we urge the Government to continue to create a transparent electoral process.

The United States places democracy and human rights in the forefront of its engagement with all governments.

Mother Jones. The Coup Connection How an organization financed by the U.S. government has been promoting the overthrow of elected leaders abroad.

[This sums up one rather convenient and silly government rationale for the expulsion of US observers - that bi-partisan teams of internationally known observers who beg for permission to operate are actually agents of American Imperialism. The government alternatively demonizes and asserts its anti-terror ties with the US depending on how much attention Washington is paying to it.

Human rights abuses and the various politburo public relations efforts like the thousand shades of nuance surrounding the arbitration with Eritrea and the get rich quick scheme of the Millenium Development Goals, are the usual cause of such politburo tantrums.

The government imagines itself as engaging the US in a grand strategic rivalry where hourly Oval Office meetings are dedicated to sorting out the text and subtext of every hiccup from the politburo. A great move was made in that game when the Chinese 'parliament's' law against Taiwanese independence was endorsed in Addis. As yet Washington has not bowed before the deft playing of the China card and other assorted chess moves.

The American observers were expelled because, like the Norwegians, they weren't willing to play ball. The Carter / EU plan to bless tyranny was a done deal because apparently "those Ethiopians need a firm hand." In addition, a little America bashing always puts the likes of Carter and the EU in a good mood towards any subject.]


The class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Karl Marx

ENA. Chief observer of the Election Observation Mission of the European Union (EU) said several encouraging activities have been witnessed in the process of the forthcoming national elections scheduled for May 15, 2005.

The Chief Observer, Ana Gomes told ENA on Monday that contesting parties need to accept election results with bless and work for the growth of the nation as it has been done in democratic countries.

Gomes said enabling competing political parties to participate in the elections and debates, which got live media coverage, as well as the peacefulness of the election process so far are some of the positive steps taken towards democratization.

Allowing international election observers to monitor the elections and the setting up of a joint contesting political parties forum both at national and regional levels are exemplary, she said.

Reuters. The head of the EC in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Tim Clarke, told observers who had flown in to monitor 15 May polls that the openness of the campaign was unprecedented. "Never before in Ethiopia's history has there been such a wide and open debate on democracy issues," he said.

"This government has decided that it should try at least to have a level playing field," Clarke added. "Yes, there are difficulties; yes, there are problems along the line ... but they are trying their best and it is a difficult process."

Some 319 international observers – 200 from the EU – will monitor voting around the country. Thirty-five parties are contesting the election and there are 30,000 polling stations.

Dutch Ambassador Rob Vermaas echoed Clarke's comments: "Transition to democracy is an iterative and long-term process. As the concept of democracy was first outlined in the constitution of 1994, the progress made in this country is impressive."

"Democracy is still a new concept in Ethiopia, but to a lesser degree than in 2000, the year the last elections were held," he added.

Reuters. Former US President Jimmy Carter warned on Friday that he would be ready to declare Ethiopia's elections illegitimate if he had reason to believe that they were marred by widespread irregularities.

Speaking ahead of Ethiopia's polls due on Sunday, Carter told reporters in Addis Ababa that his team of observers would not shy away from challenging the outcome of the country's third ever election if there was evidence of malpractice.

However, he added, his team had so far found no evidence of abuses in the country and that he believed Ethiopia had made "extraordinary progress" in democratisation.

Ethiomedia. A discreet meeting of American officials took stock recently of the pitfalls laying in wait for the Ethiopian regime on the eve of its elections.

According to information gathered by The Indian Ocean Newsletter in Washington, around fifty delegates from American government organisations met discreetly in the last week of April to discuss the situation in Ethiopia, just before general elections are to be held there. However, apart from the former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, this informal hearing did not include the same speakers as the official meeting on the same subject held on 5 May by the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operation of the US Chamber of Representatives.

The attendees of this discreet meeting at the end of April in Washington were able to listen to speeches by Shinn, by a certain Dinkins that we have been unable to identify, by Siegfried Pausewang, the Norwegian member of the delegation of European Union observers expelled from Addis Ababa last month, and Robert Houdek, a former number two at the US embassy in Ethiopia (1988-91), then ambassador to Eritrea and now security advisor on Africa to the State Department. No Ethiopian took part in this meeting, attended by several US State Department officials.

The speakers are believed to have each in turn agreed that the regime of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF, governing) in Addis Ababa is not truly democratic and that it was not on the right path to become so. Some of the speakers also looked into the problem of the opposition and notably the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF, opposition). They considered that unless this organisation is involved in the race to power in Ethiopia, peace and stability will remain uncertain in the long term.

ABC. Ethiopia's prime minister warned on Thursday of the danger posed by a "very active al-Qaida cell" in Somalia's capital and said a stable government is the best way to eliminate the terrorist threat in the chaotic Horn of Africa country.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in an interview with The Associated Press days ahead of an election in which he is seeking a third consecutive term, said his government supported the Somali transitional government formed in neighboring Kenya last year and would do everything possible to help it take power and eliminate the terrorist threat.

"Wherever there is distress, wherever there is acute poverty, social dislocation, the potential for a terrorist state exists," Meles said. "We have a very active terrorist cell in Mogadishu, which has been involved in terrorist activities in Kenya."...

[This sums up the Ethiopian government's strategies for dealing with Western pressure to treat its people decently:

1)The "pressure us too much on democracy and we might become like Somalia" excuse is a sure winner.

2) The "without our firm hand who knows what all these Ethiopians would be up to" rationalisation is also familiar.

3) The "you had better send us more money right now because somebody has to take care of all these Ethiopians and it sure ain't gonna be their rulers" theme of Ethiopian governance works too.]


Dictatorship is a constant lecture instructing you that your feelings, your thoughts and desires are of no account, that you are a nobody and must live as you are told by other people who desire and think for you.

Stephen Vizinczey

Human Rights Watch. Foreign governments and intergovernmental institutions have largely failed to address serious violations of human rights in Oromia, and in Ethiopia generally. This has been the case despite consistently critical reporting on human rights in Ethiopia by various independent organizations.

Western donors pour more than one billion dollars into Ethiopia every year. Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries and its government relies on this aid to finance a substantial portion of its budget. The United States is Ethiopia’s largest bilateral donor, with the United Kingdom and Italy also providing significant levels of assistance. Despite its dependence on outside assistance, the Ethiopian government has loudly rejected even measured criticism of its human rights record with sweeping, contemptuous denials. When the U.S. State Department released its annual Human Rights Report on Ethiopia in February 2005, for example, the Ethiopian government denounced the entire report as “baseless,” “frivolous,” and based entirely on “rumors” and “lies.”

Despite the donor community’s enormous investments of aid, donor governments have generally appeared reluctant to challenge the Ethiopian government’s near-total refusal to engage in constructive dialogue about the government’s many human rights-related failings. Western governments have generally appeared too timid to challenge the government publicly. Western diplomatic sources have told Human Rights Watch that precisely because the Ethiopian government reacts so angrily to criticism, the only option is to engage the government on human rights issues quietly and behind the scenes. United States policy is also influenced by Ethiopia’s perceived status as the most stable country in the Horn of Africa and by its cooperation in Washington’s “global war on terror.”

This “quiet” approach does not appear to be bringing about any change in the Ethiopian government’s refusal to engage in constructive dialogue about human rights issues. Recent events seem to indicate that the Ethiopian government may be becoming bolder in its willingness to ignore international criticism of its human rights record. .
The Ethiopian government had previously committed to foreign scrutiny of the May 15 elections. On March 30, 2005, however, Ethiopian authorities expelled on 48-hours notice three American non-governmental organizations that were doing election-related work from the country. While all three groups said that they had been meeting regularly with Ethiopian government officials and working in close coordination with the Ethiopian embassy in Washington, D.C., Ethiopian officials claimed that they had been operating in the country “illegally.” Soon after, the government forced the resignation of a respected senior member of the European Union observation team because he had contributed to a critical assessment of the 2000 national and 2001 local elections in Ethiopia that is widely regarded as the most credible and nuanced assessment of those polls.

In April, the government refused to admit a Norwegian-led team of academics that is also associated with the 2000 and 2001 assessments. The Ethiopian government has also recently taken steps to bar many of the domestic organizations that had been expected to field monitors on election day.

Human Rights Watch. "Suppressing Dissent" Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region - a report by Human Rights Watch.

IOL. Ethiopia on Tuesday dismissed as "lies" a highly critical report from a leading human rights watchdog accusing the government of suppressing alternative voices and committing numerous abuses.

"These are the same old stories, this report is a bunch of lies that is politically motivated," Berekat Simon, minister of information, said of the findings presented by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"It is not a credible organisation," said Berekat, who also serves as spokesperson for the campaign of the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in Sunday's general election.

Remember to vote early -- and often.

Al Capone

BBC. The opposition victory in the capital - and the defeat of the mayor - were not unexpected.

He says residents of the capital are the most politically active in the country, while the city is home to many unemployed people.

In rural areas, however, the government is everything - landlord, fertiliser, loans for farm tools and food aid during times of drought.

Results from the country's vast rural areas were expected to turn the tally in favour of the ruling EPRDF.

[It seems that pointed understatement is alive and well at the BBC. Absolute control in the countryside compared to almost absolute control in the city (that is where all the ferenji - foreigners - are) explains the rural-urban vote gap in the election result charade. See 'salting the mines' below.]

BBC. But it admits opposition parties have won all 23 seats in the capital Addis Ababa. Reports say many key ministers have lost their seats.

Results from the country's vast rural areas were expected to turn the tally in favour of the ruling EPRDF.

Foreign observers welcomed the huge turnout at Sunday's vote as a sign of people's faith in Ethiopia's polls.

Election officials said that turnout was around 90% - higher than in previous polls.

The Election Commission is not expected to announce provisional results until Saturday.

Minister of Information Bereket Simon, who is also spokesman for the ruling EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front) said they had won more than half of the seats in parliament despite losing seats in the capital and for the city council.

Meskel Square. We flew to Axum and then sped along the 20km or so of roads to Adwa where the townspeople gradually realised who was visiting them. The crowd, which quickly gathered, was enthusiastic and the polling station was efficient and given the thumbs up by the three EU observers there. The only PR hitch was that it soon emerged that there was no one standing against the prime minister. He voted for himself, as did everyone else who didn't spoil a ballot paper, and drove off again about five minutes later leaving me and five other journalists stranded without a lift.

Xinhuanet. Former US president Jimmy Carter said on the occasion the national elections laid a firm ground for the development of democratic culture in the country.

Sudan Tribune. Jimmy Carter said Monday that a month-long ban on all post-election demonstrations in the Ethiopian capital was "not excessive" and lauded the conduct of the weekend vote.

[Great! Freedom loving people everywhere can breathe easy now that the Ethiopian dictatorship has been blessed by Carter and the EU. By the way, what in the world were !THREE! European Union observers doing at a polling place in the Prime Minister‘s hometown where he was running unopposed?

Getting their pictures taken of course. The whole EU / Carter center effort was PR cover for a dictatorship that they feel comfortable dealing with and that they figure that Ethiopians deserve.

How about the 90% voter turnout? This is absolutely ridiculous because getting 90% of any country's voters to the polls would be a challenge anywhere but utopia. Sadly just like loosely throwing the words 'democracy' and 'election' around the 90% claim goes largely unquestioned for its evident high silliness quotient.]


Ethiomedia. As the opposition called for some recounts or revoting Thursday in Ethiopia's parliamentary elections, the first official results to be released showed high-ranking ruling party officials had been toppled.
The National Electoral Board has received complaints on the conduct of the polls from both the ruling and opposition parties, spokesman Getahun Amogne said.

"We will investigate to decide if there is going to be recounting or any re-elections held in the country," he said.

Bereket Simon, spokesman for the ruling Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Front, said opposition claims were baseless.

"I don't think such hasty remarks by the opposition are helpful. Counting is going smoothly," Bereket said. "We are not blocking anything, everything is being counted and the time schedule is normal."

European Union observers had said Sunday's vote was "the most genuinely competitive elections the country has experienced," despite some problems and human rights violations.

['Salting the mine' is an expression used by con men and their victims. It comes from the practice of throwing real gold around the entrance to a fake gold mine to fool investors. This whole election is a classic example of salting the mine to sucker (altogether willing) ferenjis and quiet Ethiopian critics.

The grift within the con here is the whole charade of government leaders losing their seats in Addis Ababa to the opposition's urban victories. The folks who are to lose their seats in the meaningless Parliament have either displeased the politburo, were 'volunteered' to take a hit for the home team, or the election matches a cycle of hiring and firing that was already on.

After all, with all the ferenjis watching somebody had to lose to make things look good. Either way, the patronage, villas and range rovers given to 'well behaved' people are only taken away when they break party discipline - voters have nothing to do with it at all.]


welovetheiraqiinformationminister. "Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness as he is a man of great honor and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes and hearts."

Sudan Tribune. The ruling party has proof that the opposition rigged the vote, spokesman Simon Ereket said. He refused to provide details, saying the evidence will be presented to electoral authorities.

"The conventional wisdom is that the state or ruling party cheats. Now we have found that it is otherwise," Simon said. "We have ample evidence that the opposition party has rigged the election."

[This line is sure to be a classic of state propaganda along with the affection for and mourning of the dead Eastern European mini-totalitarians shown above. Basically, when the government sees something unfavorable about anyone it means that is exactly what the government is all about.

This rule goes especially for charges of tribalism - the government / party (no difference) uses tribalism to divide and rule but only really believes in itself - everyone else of every tribe is expandable.

We anticipate that the observers corps will also accuse the opposition of massive fraud in the coming day or so. Carter will do it when he is finished for a moment being so paternal and patient with all the nice Ethiopians playing at the democracy game.

After all, it is not like they could handle or appreciate the real thing like people in other countries is it? The EU observers will declare the opposition 'enemies of democracy' when they manage to stumble out of the Sheraton at about dawn or so.]


CNN. Ethiopia's main opposition party on Monday threatened to boycott the next parliament unless accusations of fraud and rigging are investigated and new polls held.
Hailu warned that people may resort to civil disobedience such as sit-in strikes, absenteeism and prayer vigils if the ruling party goes ahead and forms the next government.

Ethiopian Information Minister Bereket Simon reiterated the ruling party's promise to clamp down on post-election violence or disobedience.

"Nothing can hold back the [Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front] from forming the next government," he said. "It should be known to all that defying the verdict of the people will not be accepted."

[As far as the Ethiopian government is concerned the 'verdict of the people' is whatever they say it is. Look here for some of the fluid Leninist / Maoist definitions of 'the people' given over time.

The oppostion is between a rock and a hard place here. The opposition sat out the previous 'elections' because they were faked. This time they are on notice from the community of aid donors to go along with the show or be left to their own devices.

Even if they take some seats in the parliament (meaningless anyway, see salting the mine above) opposition members will be in fear that any momentary distraction of the donor community's attention could be lethal. Protest of any kind has been outlawed anyway which the likes of Carter and the EU already support.

Non-violent protest requires an opponent who can be made to feel shame. This government knows vengeance quite well but is ignorant of shame. Even if the government sheds blood in front of the Western press they may rationalize it individually for fear of expulsion or even loss of access.

Collectively and with some of their own governments they will comfort themselves with the continued soft contempt of low expectations. It is so sad that in the end Ethiopians can only hope for ferenji (foreigner) attention and kindness that they can't expect from their own rulers.]


Meskel Square ... a lot of people here were also struck by the huge gap between the opposition claims of massive vote stealing and the relatively positive comments of the observers. In fact, it was a question I asked Jimmy Carter myself - how could he explain the disparity between the huge volume of complaints and the small amount of evidence that he had collected.

He basically dodged most of the question. But he made two vague points - first he hinted that there may have been some exaggeration of vote stealing allegations and second he acknowledged that he had a relatively small observer team to cover a very big country

WaltaChairman of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), Prime Minster Meles Zenawi said the victory his party has attained in the recent election is no less than the victory scored by overthrowing the military regime on May 28, fourteen years ago.
The premier said EPRDF has achieved its two goals in making the election credible and flawless nationally and internationally as well as securing majority seats at federal and state levels so as to fulfill its objectives of attaining peace, development and democracy.

Ethiopian Review. "The ruling party of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi could not win a single seat at any polling station where there were foreign and opposition observers". Opposition leader of the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) Merera Gudina.

[Carter's avoidance matches the PM's assertiveness. Equating the opposition with the Dergue is as offensive as the earlier warning of Rwanda type genocide in the wake of opposition gains. These statements are meant as warnings that to the politburo politics will always be warfare and that they are in control of a larger playing field where the stakes are human life.

Carter's dissembling is in stark contrast to the confidence of the oppostion that their gains are massive. Given the nature of the government, unless there was an overwhelming victory by the other side they would not have admitted any losses at all despite the need to salt the mine (see above).]


Walta Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said although the Addis Ababa city administration is accountable to the federal government, it has its own charter and the EPRDF has no reason to change it.
Asked on the wishes of the opposition to change the constitution, he said if the opposition parties can change the constitution legally that would be acceptable as it is a democratic process, but resorting to other ways that endanger the constitution would force the concerned government bodies to discharge their responsibilities by taking appropriate measures.

[Again, see ‘*salting the mines’ above. The politburo is congenitally incapable of sharing power given their zero-sum view of existence, paranoia and viciousness but if they even pretends to relinquish control in Addis they will set up the opposition for a fall and then use that as proof that only they are competent. Remember how the electricity just happened to go off during the opposition rally in Meskel Square and multiply that by a thousand over the whole city.

As we know being ‘democratic‘ means doing what the politburo says. There is a clear threat implied about any attempts to fundamentally change the system in the bit about ‘taking appropriate measures’ if the constitution is endangered.]


CNNEthiopia's electoral board appears to have lost control of the vote counting for the May 15 legislative polls, European Union election observers said in a report obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The confidential report went on to say the EU might have to make a public denunciation of developments to distance itself from "the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging" of the vote

"Ten days after the polling day, the situation is of political uncertainty and informational chaos regarding the results of the election," according to the confidential report.

"The National Electoral Board does not seem to be in control of the counting operation by the constituency electoral committees and limits itself to passively receive the reports from a limited number of constituencies."
The EU report also said former U.S. President Carter, who led a team of 50 election observers, undermined the electoral process and EU criticism with "his premature blessing of the elections and early positive assessment of the results."

Unless there is a "drastic reverse toward good democratic practice" the observer team and EU "will have to publicly denounce the situation."

"Otherwise, the EU jointly with ex-President Carter will be held largely responsible for the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging, of the elections."

Meskel SquareAll the criticisms of the election board were pretty damning. But the most interesting bit for me was the criticism of former US president Jimmy Carter. Apparently, he undermined the electoral process and EU criticism with "his premature blessing of the elections and early positive assessment of the results."

People were puzzled at the time when he came out and praised the election process just hours after arriving in the country with his relatively tiny (50-strong) team of observers. The EU's comments are a highly public kick in the teeth for a man who is normally seen as beyond criticism.

Ethiopian ReviewCUD says today that NEB is practically taken over by the EPRDF cadres and is unable to carry out its responsibilities any more.

[The elections in Zimbabwe were notable for how Mugabe stole an election in such a slick manner that there was no proof of an obvious crime at all. Meles & Co. did not plan for how defiant the opposition and Ethiopians would be - as practiced as dictators are at deceit this is all proof that they often believe their own propaganda.

With more fake numbers to generate than expected (Dagmawi saw this) they seem to have tried every trick in the book to make things look good. Alas, as the old children’s rhyme says ‘all the politburo‘s cadres and all the politburo‘s yes-men‘ couldn‘t put their scam back together again.

We think we might owe the EU team an apology because they have given as harsh a judgement as international bureaucrats are ever capable of handing out regarding the ’lack of transparency’ and ‘assumed vote rigging‘.

Think about it - the EU never was this judgemental with Saddam or the Sudanese about Darfur - even in warnings. Carter has been dissed big time by the EU for his fraternizing with the bunch whose conduct he was supposed to be judging.]


CNNPrime Minister Meles Zenawi, known as one of the continent's more progressive leaders, has pledged that his sometimes authoritarian government would introduce greater democracy. Many saw the polls as a test of his commitment to reform.

[Another children‘s story which is appropriate here is the ‘Emperor's New Clothes‘ about a ruler who parades before adoring crowds in garments so fine they can’t be felt (or seen) until one little girl destroys the illusion of power and fear by pointing out that he is naked.

However much longer this dictatorship clings to power, the Ethiopian equivalent of that little girl has spoken. All of the adoring ‘reformer‘ and ‘progressive‘ nonsense will fade away, the invitations to international commissions will end, popular defiance will grow even as repression spreads and a naked dictatorship will remain.]


Ethiopian Review Close to 15 thousand Ethiopians converged in front of the U.S. Department of State today and appealed to the U.S. Government to pressure the EPRDF regime in Ethiopia to respect the outcome of the May 15 elections.
The demonstration, which is organized by a joint committee of CUD and UEDF, is the largest Ethiopian political gathering in Washington DC ever.

The following sentence was in the appeal to the State Department. “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.” President George W. Bush

[Prayer sessions in churches and mosques have been called for this weekend. What would happen if thousands turned out in Meskel Square the way they did in Ukraine and Lebanon? As we have said the government has no internal mechanism of responding to such an event without violence because that would require a sense of shame that they don't have.

Organizers could be arrested, many killed. At first punishment would be behind closed doors just so Ethiopians could be terrorized but when it necessarily happened in plain sight the world would notice.

The revolutionary aristocracy would really be naked at that point. Beyond that it is not clear at all]


Sudan TribuneSeventy election observers of the opposition Oromo National Congress, (ONC), in Bedeno and Weter town have sought refuge at the Red Cross in Harer, in eastern Ethiopia.

The Red Cross has rejected their request.

Sudan Tribune Ethiopia's electoral board said Friday, amid tensions ahead of the release of final but hotly disputed poll results, that it would sue the two main opposition groups for making statements that cast doubts on its impartiality.

"The election board will sue them in accordance with electoral laws," National Electoral Board of Ethiopia's (NEBE) said in a statement released here.

On Tuesday, the Coalition of Unity and Democracy (CUD) and United Ethiopian Democratic Front (UEDF) said the electoral board and the ruling party had conspired to rig the polls.

"Such statements, though baseless and fabricated, may mislead the public and discredit the efforts of the NEBE," the board said in a statement published in the Amharic language.

News 24Six Ethiopian journalists were briefly detained and questioned by police this week over their coverage of last month's hotly contested elections and its aftermath, officials said on Friday.

Two of the six, all of whom work for three independent newspapers in Addis Ababa, were summoned by police on Thursday and held for six hours while they were questioned about their publishing of opposition party statements.

"They warned us of consequences that may follow for reporting CUD's press releases as is," said Serkalem Fasil, editor and publisher of a weekly chief of the weekly Amharic-language Menelik newspaper.

WaltaThe Federal First Instance Court reached a verdict here yesterday on charges filed against Prime Minister Meles Zenawi by the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). It decided that the charges be investigated and decided by Constitutional Conference with the House of Federation.

The Court said CUD filed charges against Meles accusing him of imposing state of emergency on May 15, 2005 that prohibits outdoor assembly and stage demonstration saying it violates the constitution. CUD has also requested for the lifting of the ban.

The Court found that the charges be probed by Constitutional Conference by considering with appropriate laws, it said.

It is beyond the jurisdiction of the Court to give decision on such issue, the Court said if charges are related to issues of constitution, it is the Constitutional Enquiry Conference that should probe the case and give decision on it.

Accordingly, the Court decided that the case be referred to the Constitutional Enquiry Conference.

ENA Former U.S President Jimmy Carter said International Media like the CNN should support the on going efforts launched to ensure good governance in Africa by reporting such good beginnings like the recently held historical and democratic national election in Ethiopia.
He also said that the CNN should give wide coverage not only for devastations such as in Darfur but also for good beginnings like the recently conducted Ethiopian national election.

Sudan TribuneElection authorities in Ethiopia on Friday said official results from last month's hotly contested legislative polls expected to be announced next week would be delayed by a month.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) said that releasing final official returns on June 8 as planned was not feasible given the large number of allegations of fraud and vote-rigging it had to investigate.

EthiomediaThe Deputy Prime Minister, Addisu Legesse, has signalled the intention of the ruling party to crackdown on the opposition, whom he referred to as ‘anarchists’.

In a strongly-worded interview he gave Friday (3rd June) to Radio Fana, an organ of the EPRDF, Addisu said that the opposition were bent on putting hurdles to the ‘democratic process’ under way in Ethiopia. In a tone typical of the ruling party, he said: “Any anti-peace and anti-democratic activities will not be condoned.”

Addisu, who is also chairman of the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), one of the satellite ethnic parties commandeered by the TPLF, accused the opposition of “engaging in provocation, fanning ethnic hatred, vote rigging, buying ballots and other anti-democratic missions” during and after the election..

He alleged that the opposition was intent on snatching power through illegal means and went on to say that the patience of the EPRDF should not be construed by ‘anarchists’ as a weakness.

A statement issued on the same day by the Minister of Information, Bereket Simeon, echoed Addisu’s threats of an imminent crackdown. The statement declared: “Our democracy is meant to serve the interest of our peoples and never to accommodate anarchy.”

full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

William Shakespeare from Macbeth

Just throwing the words democracy and elections around as though they have meaning everywhere is an insincere and cynical exercise for which all participants deserve censure. Even worse the underlying assumption that pretense is all Ethiopians deserve or can handle is frankly hateful. The current regime is better than the Dergue but fourteen years later so what? Ethiopians deserve more by virtue of their existence and humanity.

Assuming that there will be a butcher's bill due for payment by the opposition and the population at large once election season is over and ferenji attention is diverted is a winning bet. In fact it is being paid now as we shall see. Don't forget, all dictatorships have elections - often with 99% or so voter support like Mengistu - that are just as meaningful as the foregone conclusion of Ethiopia‘s current politburo coronation.

Ethiopia's election games are just far more elaborately staged. For example, the refinement of current manners relative to the Dergue is of crucial importance. Between 1974 and 1991 anyone presented with Mengistu or one of his minions would not have required much imagination to envision nails dripping with fresh blood from killings and hands stinking from the corpses of millions of victims.

Today, one of the ultimate political skills and recommendations for power has become mastery of a delicate dance of seduction on Ethiopia's collective neck while giving out honey tongued whispers of misdirection that get Western money flowing. In addition, anyone who has risen up in a revolutionary party and guerilla army could teach Machiavelli more than a thing or two about politics.

From the Western or particularly American point of view, alliance with Ethiopia because of the War on Terror (which ethiopundit supports) is likely to be of only temporary benefit. In the long term Ethiopia is being set up by its government for a fall that will make every tribal / religious issue imaginable far worse.

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