Tuesday, May 31

The Rise and Fall of the EAF

Potez 25 A2 Serial no. 3, Nesre Makonnen (Prince Makonnen), Addis Ababa, 1933.

the rise and fall ... and rise and fall ...

This post is part of a sporadic history of the Air Force beginning with a few personalities and their airplanes in the Air Force of 1933 and continuing with Tsehay and a Roundel History on the eve of the 1935 Italian invasion.

A later entry ,Condors and Eagles from Harlem, covered the vital African-American contribution during the war and the post war reconstruction period into the 1950s. Future posts will look at first, the developing force in the 1950s under Swedish training and second, how exemplary Ethiopian leadership turned it into a modern self sustaining force with American jets by the 1960s.

The histories of the Italian, South African, and British Air Forces in Ethiopia are also interesting as well. The former used chemical weapons against Ethiopian soldiers and civilians, turning the tide against the defenders who had initially prevented Italians from advancing into the highlands. The latter two air forces helped to liberate Ethiopia during the Second World War. The British later bombed parts of Tigray during the original Woyene revolt.

Throughout the modern Imperial, Dergue and TPLF eras air power has often been the sharp edge of central power for good and ill amid all too frequent wars and rumors or war. For a partial listing of recent conflicts see War Makes Folks Poor.

Image from WINGS Palette: Avia Camouflage Profiles Archive.
FireflyF.Mk.2 of the Royal [Imperial] Ethiopian Air Force. [circa mid 1950s]

For years after its independence in the early 1960s, Somalia’s designs on the Ogaden were deterred in large measure by the Air Force and the preceding years of careful investment. There was never more than one divison (the 3rd) with a single mechanized / armored brigade deployed in Harar facing the whole Somali army and its hundreds of tanks.

This was achieved despite massive Soviet aid that far exceeded anything Ethiopia could afford or expect from her American ally (then distracted by the Vietnam War). After the fall of Siad Barre, Somalis asserted that Bishoftu (Debre Ziet) Air Force HQ was to have been the target for a large one way commando raid that was cancelled when the Soviets, who had written up the plans, changed sides.

After the Dergue’s purges crippled the Air Force and national arms in general (the armed forces of military dictatorships are generally worse than civilian ones), the Somalis invaded and were met by a hurriedly assembled force (often paroled out of prison and torture chambers). They gained air superiority with Israeli help. Later, extensive Soviet, Cuban and even some Southern Yemeni involvement helped to attain continued dominance over the invading Somalis.

Mengistu terrorized and held in check rebellious populations initially in Afar, then for years of bitter warfare in Eritrea and Tigray. Air power weighed in with tactical and strategic influence far in excess of its small size relative to the ground forces.

Most recently the Air Force was instrumental in a costly military (but ultimately not political victory - Eritrea won an arbitration that Ethiopia inexplicably submitted to ahead of time) victory against an invading independent Eritrea. Again the force had to be rebuilt with great difficulty, this time with Russian help and that of newly trained and (released from prison or rather strenuously re-recruited) Dergue era personnel. They gave Ethiopia control of the air over the battlefield while carrying through attacks on Eritrea proper as well.

Image from ACIG: Air Combat Information Group. Somali Air Force MiG-21.
"226" (c/n 8708) was one of six MiG-21MFs found by UN-troops at Mogadishu AB, in 1992. Somali MiG-21MFs were from early production batches, built at Znamya Truda Works, and painted in a lighter version of the pattern standardized for this version in the early 1970s. It certainly saw combat service during the Ogaden War, and subsequent civil war in Somalia, during the 1980s.

One obvious and recurring factor in this history is how important aviation has been because of its natural potency and because of the country’s terrain. Just as important a factor is how time consuming and incredibly expensive it is to train personnel and acquire equipment.

Foreign help has always been necessary in each successive cycle of rebuilding dictated by history. This was partially because of political issues surrounding the retention and trust of trained personnel as well as the country’s limited technical base.

It is important to note that in each successive period of rebuilding that Ethiopians mastered their weapons and techniques quickly after a period of intense training. Albeit at great cost, foreigners could always be brought back to serve but it was the precious core of Ethiopians whose loss was always at issue and whose presence was repeatedly missed.

It is also important to note that there is no shame in seeking foreign help - a government that needed it and didn’t get it out of pride would be idiotic.

One problem with foreign help is the political influence that comes with it. As long as Ethiopia had no aggressive intentions towards her neighbors Sweden and the US were content to foster an independent force. Internal struggles were different, it is hard to imagine either hanging on through the ugly civil wars the way the Soviets did.

Actually, without the native circumstances that dictated the Soviet alliance, the civil wars may not have happened. Anyway, Moscow exacted the greatest price of all for arms and assistance by demanding absolute subservience. Mengistu mortgaged the economy years into the future to pay for all the weapons he imported.

Unlike the Americans who trained technicians to service planes comprehensively, the Soviets routinely had parts like jet engines sent back home for repair to foster dependence. The American F-5 fighters acquired in the 1960s and 70s remained the favorite of the air force despite the number and variety of MiGs available because it could be used independently and becasue it was a superior machine. Soviet pressure forced Ethiopoia to sell them off to Iran during the mid-1980s.

Image from ACIG: Air Combat Information Group. F-5A above and F-86F below.
Between autumn 1961 and October 1962 the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force operated a flight of F-86Fs, drawn either from the 3rd Fighter Intercept Squadron (FIS) or 5th Fighter Bomber Squadron (FBS)as a part of the UN Air Force in Congo. Together with Swedish Saab J-29 Tunnans and Indian Canberras, the Ethiopian fighters operated against Katangese forces, flying several attacks against the airfields in Jadotville and Kolwesi.

When the Iranians started acquiring more advanced F-5E/Fs instead, a number of their F-5A/Bs was "cascaded" to third parties, including Jordan (which later supplied some of these aircraft to Greece) and South Vietnam. Interestingly, the survivors of ex-Iranian F-5As were sold back by Ethiopia to Iran - in 1985! (all artworks by Tom Cooper)

the mathematics of war

Ground forces are much simpler to deal with. Besides a relatively small elite who are given technical and other special training such as armor, intelligence, communications, artillery or logistics, many third world armies have a bleak ‘unit cost’ approach to soldiers and warfare. It is based on how much it costs to outfit one soldier with the basics such as an AK-47 and uniform while giving him basic training, token pay, and feeding him until battle. That figure is then multiplied by how many soldiers will be needed.

Not much thought is given to the wounded or adequate pensions (that is all considered far too expensive and many governments just don‘t give a damn). Survivors go back in line waiting for battle again while they pray for early victory and / or peace. Thus, there is a definite price tags of say $10 million (probably less) for a division's worth of infantry (about 10,000 men) - dead or alive.

In contrast just one fighter plane like a Russian built Ethiopian Air Force Su-27 costs tens of millions of dollars all by itself. In addition to the potential fiscal nightmare of every takeoff and landing, the pilot must be trusted absolutely or terrified into behaving properly.

Dictators are generally far more comfortable with a division based somewhere far away from the capital than with a single fighter pilot. A rebellious pilot can alone decide to pay a visit to the seat of power and stand a reasonable chance of doing in an instant what tens of thousands of secret police, bodyguards, spies and cadres live to prevent. Or the pilot could just defect - at great cost and embarrassment if he takes his plane with him.

Generally, pilots are intelligent and tend to 'think too much' for the tastes of most dictatorships and because their profession requires individual initiative they are constantly suspect. Often skills suffer because independent thought and action become punishable offenses. In any country, pilot selection is a serious business but while Brazilians or South Africans are concerned with physical and psychological rigor, unrepresentative governments have to worry about political intrigue and even tribal issues.

Throughout the Cold War, Middle East Wars and afterwards, American and /or European armed air forces have always been victorious against Soviet arms because they were more technically advanced but principally because of superior trust and personnel quality. For example, a Syrian pilot facing an Israeli or a Vietnamese facing an American came from a limited pool because of the required mastery of Ba’ath or Communist ideology and the preference for Alawite or 'revolutionary' family origins.

It can cost millions of dollars to take a French or Canadian and convert him into a combat pilot. Costs in a place like Ethiopia may be less but then training is also not as demanding because resources are lacking. In the end, given the relative sizes of the economies in question, each pilot is far more valuable to Ethiopia than she would be to a richer country.

Beyond easily imagined pilot qualities, the same factors are equally crucial for all important professionals such as mechanics or radar technicians and all of the other bearers of technical skills needed for the simplest operation. Those people don't just grow on trees either.

Thus an air force is to its country and its government an incredibly potent but intensely fragile creature requiring the very best of care and feeding.

Repeatedly, events in Ethiopian history have erased advancements made and building has had to start all over again at great cost and effort.

The first cycle surrounded Mussolini’s invasion, the second the overthrow of Haile Selassie, the third the overthrow of the Dergue, and the fourth came AFTER the recent Eritrean war.

Image from ACIG: Air Combat Information Group.
Ethiopian AF MiG-23BN. The type saw extensive use - in the hands of Cuban pilots [at first until Ethiopians were trained] - right since its arrival in Ethiopia, in 1977, and - operated by the 2nd and 3rd Sqn EtAF (which were previously a part of the 3rd Air Wing), remained the main fighter-bomber also during the war with Eritrea, in 1998-2000. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)

AFTER the Eritrean war!?

The TPLF government has destroyed the Ethiopian Air Force TWICE. That it did so in 1991 is quite understandable (although shortsighted in retrospect) given the mistrust felt for the Dergue’s most powerful weapon. However, the harm done to its own force after 2000 is revealing of government priorities and modes of governance. According to the Military Balance, a publication of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, these are the 2003-4 Ethiopian Air Force holdings.

FGA*: 25 MiG-21MF, 15 MiG-23BN, 4 Su-25F, 6 Su-27
Transport: 4 C-130B, 10 An-12, 6 DHC-6, 1 Yak-40 (VIP), 2 Y-12
Training: 12 L-39, 4 SF-260
Attack Helicopter: 25 Mi-24
Transport Helicopter: 20 Mi-8 and Mi-17

Personnel number about 2,500 from mechanics and cooks onto pilots and logisticians. There are about 130 aircraft, the most important of which are 50 combat aircraft also known as *FGA (fighter / ground attack) planes. They are generally capable of shooting cannon or missiles and dropping bombs on aerial or ground targets. None of these numbers reveal what an air force can really do because a listing says nothing of its readiness.

All of the combat aircraft above were made in the Soviet Union and most were inherited from the Dergue. They are generally obsolete or obsolescent types despite the refurbishment of some examples. The notable exception to this are the relatively modern Sukhoi made Su-25 ground attack and Su-27 air superiority (actually multi-role) models which performed well in the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000.

Before we go on we should make a comment about the crude traps set by tribalism in any Ethiopian discussion. The author of the article quoted below stumbles into one when he notes that an early problem in getting the first batch of fighter pilots up in the 1990s was recruitment of TPLF fighters, all Tigrayans. The problem was decidedly NOT their ethnicity. The issue was that selection was from an exceedingly small pool of ‘political reliables' to the exclusion of countless other TPLF fighters, Tigrayans in general and Ethiopians of every stripe.

The real tribalists set these traps to isolate Ethiopians from each other and particularly to isolate Tigrayans. Tigrayans have far more in common with all other Ethiopians than their self designated ethnic elite that oppresses everyone together regardless of ethnicity.

Image from WINGS Palette: Avia Camouflage Profiles Archive.
The small fleet of Eritrean MiG-29s was to be used in a very serious effort to establish the air superiority over the battlefield, obviously initiated by the Ukrainian instructors in Eritrea. The Russian - and later Ethiopian - pilots would not left themselves be surprised by the aggressive appearance of Eritrean MiG-29s, and in the following air battles through 1999 and 2000 Eritrean MiG-29s suffered considerable losses. Four replacements were purchased ever since.

That unpleasantness out of the way let us look at the latest cycle of rebuilding and destruction according to ACIG, the Air Combat Information Group. Mengistu was overthrown in 1991 and
In the following years, the new government was foremost busy with the famine and recovery from the long war, and the new EtAF [Ethiopian Air Force] was only re-established in 1995, when an unknown Sudanese Colonel was put in charge of a project for a creation of a new service. New cadets - all of them former TPLF-fighters and Tigreans - were recruited to be trained as pilots. There are reports, however, that most of these cadets did not go through the rigorous physical exams, and that these were a nightmare to train. Nevertheless, at some stage the first five pilots have qualified, and were then trained by the Russians on faster jets. Supposedly, one of these five defected, while another had to be removed from the course after showing reluctance to fly.

The new EtAF therefore needed much more investment and support in order to be rebuilt and operational again. Therefore, some pilots of the former EtAF were "accepted" (some of them forced to return on duty) again, together with more candidates from other Ethiopian provinces. By 1998, the situation was so that the EtAF had some 20 combat pilots - including at least one women - most of which were still inexperienced. The condition of the available support bases, spare parts, and ground personnel was grevious [sic] too. Thus, the Ethiopians started to look for mercenaries around the world. Within months, they could find some very good ones.

The Russian company Rosvoorouzhenie was already active in Ethiopia, over her representative, Col. Vladimir Nefedow and several other "instructors", most of which moved to Addis Ababa after the fall of Southern Yemen, in 1994. Thus the Russians and Ethiopians were fast to agree several large arms deals, and from the summer of 1998, not only deliveries of new hardware, but also a group of capable former officers of the Russian Air Force arrived in Ethiopia. First news about this reached Asmara very soon and - in a vain try to prevent any such "reinforcements" for the EtAF - Eritrean president Afewerki announced, that every foreign mercenary whose airplane might go down over Eritrea will be shot immediately upon his capture by the Eritrean forces.

The warning of Afewerki was not to change the minds of some 80 Russians arrived now in Addis Ababa on board several chartered Il-76s together with crates containing new radars, weapons, communication- and supply equipment. Not only the Russians were to help: at around this time ten refurbished MiG-23BNs were purchased from Romania as well. Thus, by late autumn 1998, the EtAF boasted some 18 MiG-23BNs, perhaps ten refurbished MiG-21 (some 30 other - non-refurbished - examples were held in reserve, and used as sources of spares), six An-12s, two DH-6s, 24 Mi-24/35s and 22 Mi-8s. A further deal with the USA, worth some $11 million, brought also four refurbished C-130Bs to Ethiopia.

But, this was still considered as not enough, especially as the availability of Russian mercenaries now made it possible for Ethiopia to acquire more modern aircraft. Thus a deal valued approximately $150 million was agreed with Moscow for sale of eight surplus Su-27S’ (including two two-seat Su-27UBs.
Due to the new Russian engagement in Ethiopia, the EtAF - now under command of former Russian Gen. Yanakow - was underway to became a force to be recknocked with again.
The Eritreans were not able to keep up financially and Al Ahram notes that while
Ethiopia's money seeems to have been wiser spent. Ethiopia's policy of purchasing relatively sophisticated weaponry seems to have paid off, while Eritrea has paid dearly for investing in small arms, more suited to guerrilla warfare -- a policy leftover from the days of the national liberation war against successive Ethiopian regimes.
In that vein, Eritrea was able to recruit Ukranians and spent $250 million on the next best thing to the Sukhois in the form of 10 MiG-29s that were very capable but inferior to the SU-27s across the border. The details of the war and of the air war are well beyond the scope of this essay but suffice it to say that the Ethiopian side maintained air superiority throughout.

Image from WINGS Palette: Avia Camouflage Profiles Archive.
Debre Zelt, Ethiopia, January 1999. In December 1998 and January 1999 Ethiopia received six ex-Russian Air Force Su-27S and two Su-27US' [that] entered service with either the No. 5 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron EtAF, and were initially mainly flown by Russian mercenaries.

How quickly Ethiopians mastered their new planes was shown in a 1999 aerial
engagement developed over the Badme area. This time, a lonesome Su-27S, flown by female pilot Capt. Aster Tolossa, was escorting several MiG-21s on a strike mission, when a single aircraft was detected, closing from the direction of Asmara. Capt. Tolossa turned to intercept and identified the target as an - apparently unarmed - Eritrean MiG-29UB. After some maneuvering, during which there was some kind of communications exchange between the crew of the MiG and the Sukhoi, the Ethiopian was high at enemy's 6 o'clock, when she realized that the pilot of the aircraft in front of her was her former instructor.

Capt. Tolossa immediately warned him that she was about to shot him down, and requested the Eritrean to land at Debre Zeit. He disobeyed, and Tolossa pulled the trigger. Exactly which weapon was used this time remains unknown, but it is highly likely that the Ethiopian used at least two air-to-air missiles, both of which were evaded, and then finished the target with 30mm gunfire.

The Eritrean pilot was certainly experienced enough to evade two missiles, and he also knew who and where was the enemy. While it remains unknown if anybody ejected from that MiG-29UB, it is certain that Capt. Tolossa was given a hero's wellcome back at her base; with right, then she was the first female fighter-pilot to show down an enemy fighter-jet in the history of air warfare.
It is hard to imagine what an unarmed MiG was doing in the air during a war where Asmara was minutes flying time from the border. However, the intercept, engagement and victory by a pilot with scant months flying one of the most sophisticated planes in the world is a remarkable achievement - this was not the only one of the
clashes between Ethiopian Su-27S' and Eritrean MiG-29s. Besides taking out four Eritrean MiG-29s - plus writing another off due to damage received from an air-to-air missile - Ethiopian Su-27s flew many strike missions against the Eritrean ground forces, using unguided rockets and "dumb" bombs, and also escorted almost all MiG-23 deep strikes into Eritrea.
Russian interests were foremost of commercial nature. The subsequent commercial successes of the Su-27s and other Russian-built equipment on international markets, as well as the pull-back of almost all instructors after approximately 12 months in Ethiopia, seem to confirm this. Once most of the Russians have left, however, the situation of the EtAF detoriated again.
That deterioration was not solely due to the Russian exit. Ingrained ideological and atavistic tribal thinking led the Ethiopian government to act against its own valuable force. According to a later ACIG report on events through 2004
The high spirits within the EtAF in the aftermath of success during the war against Eritrea, in 1998-2000 - were soon past.

In February and March 2003 no less but 15 senior Ethiopian officers – including fighter pilots, flight engineers, instructors, and technicians – have gone into exile in the face of worsening political repression and human rights violations in the country.
The report goes on to detail the defections of over a dozen key personnel that
created panic within the EtAF: all the remaining members of the air force – especially those who have closer friends or relatives living outside Ethiopia – are under close surveillance ever since.
[... one key figure who ...]
was highly respected as capable officer and pilot, which proved his capabilities during and after the war with Eritrea, as well as in subsequent anti-terror operations in Somalia beyond any doubt. Nevertheless, he was jailed afterwards because being a member of the legally-registered oppostion party All-Amhara People’s Organization (today All Ethiopian Unity Party). After spending two years and four months in prison, he was released and immediately went into exile.
With the war against Eritrea over, the government of President Miles Zenawi obviously turned against the EtAF and is about to completely demolish it because of inner-plitical issues.
Oromo personnel were also charged for alleged OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) espionage activities on behalf or Eritrea. The OLF had this to say
The Ethiopian Air Force, which is lately in jeopardy is said to be reorganized, according to sources close to the force.

Major General Alamishet Dagife, the Ethiopian Air force Commander said Ethiopian Air Force should be reorganized because many senior officials with so much of invaluable military information have defected to the neighbouring Eritrea and elsewhere. He explained his concerns about the future of the Ethiopian air force in a meeting of senior air force officials held recently in Dire Dhawa, Eastern Oromia.

The source elaborated that many of the important staffs of the air force are either dismissed from their jobs or indefinitely suspended following a series of the so-called `Gimgema` or evaluation , which is aimed at replacing key, posts by ethnic Tigrayans close to and loyal to Meles Zenawi.
Gimgemas are communist style 'criticism - self criticism' sessions which are quite unlike the company Christmas pary but are in fact predetermined group interrogation sessions designed to intimidate, punish and enforce party discipline. It is safe to assume that efficient militaries and bureaucracies in non revolutionary democratic countries do not have this nonsense.

The OLF goes on to note the vital role played by Oromos in the Ethiopian Air Force through history but that is only part of the truth. Tigrayans, Amharas, Gurages, and folks from Sidamo to mention only a few, were just as important. Indeed the Air Force was a melting pot of sorts because it gathered in so much highly motivated talent and nationalism from so many quarters.

If positions are now filled by Tigrayans it is because Tigrayans were the first victims of the TPLF. The government will never feel that it has sufficiently alienated Tigrayans from their fellow Ethiopians but knows them best so controlling them is considered easiest.

The only tribe that the government cares about numbers a few dozen or at the most a few hundred of the revolutionary aristocracy. Everyone else is a pawn in their tribal game.

So there you have it - the TPLF has managed to destroy the Ethiopian Air Force twice.

Image from WINGS Palette: Avia Camouflage Profiles Archive.
Early in 2003, ERAF acquired an unknown number of Su-27s and Su-27UBs, including Su-27s serialled 608 and 609 (shown here), and at least one Su-27UB, indicating that probably up to ten aircraft were acquired. The first examples are already sighted at Asmara AB.

Sunday, May 29

let the ferenjis feed 'em ... again

Ethiopia appeal after 'huge crop' from the BBC on May 4, 2005.
The Ethiopian government has issued an emergency appeal for food aid for more than three million people.

A UN spokeswoman in Ethiopia warned that 136,000 children were severely malnourished and that this figure could double over the next few months.

The announcement comes despite an announcement in January that Ethiopia, backed by UN agencies, had enjoyed a bumper harvest last year.

Some aid workers now say these figures were inflated for political reasons.

Ethiopians are going to the polls later this month, and the government did not want to appear to be in the middle of a serious crisis.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is also sensitive about the high-profile role he is playing as a member of the Africa Commission initiated by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Then this release from Oxfam the very same day. Donors Called on Carpet for Neglecting Ethiopia
"Somewhere along the line, three million Ethiopians have become a negligible statistic," said Abera Tola, who directs Oxfam International's humanitarian program in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, acute malnutrition and deaths continue to increase among young children. Outbreaks of measles, meningitis, and other contagious diseases are further endangering communities.
Yet just how quickly donor countries will respond to the new appeal is an open question.
The Ethiopian government hid a famine from aid donors so that it could bask in good press for a few months. So who is really neglecting Ethiopians?

There is an open working assumption in the world today that keeping Ethiopians alive is a job for ferenjis (foreigners) and not their rulers. We have seen this kind of nonsense before when economic growth was trumpeted but was actually dependent on rain, diaspora remittances and foreign aid alone.

See 'Zenawinomics' and the Aztec gods about high 2003-4 'growth' and On Borrowed Time about historical 2004-5 'growth'. See Ethnicity , Poverty and War and Malthus, Hobbes and the Red Queen to see that things are going to get worse in all economic sectors in the future if current policies continue.

Given the primitive idea of state ownership of land, which not incidentally provides for absolute control of rural populations, the situation can only worsen. The choice made by government for absolute control for a few and permanent famine for millions over freedom and growth is what revolutionary democracy is all about.

One of the oppostion leaders Dr. Berhanu Nega wrote the article Ethiopia’s Fate After One Generation which is well worth reading and which became the basis of the last post noted above.

Friday, May 27

Capitalism, disrespected

'Capitalism's Bad Rap' in the National Journal notes that many people in government, entertainment, the church, and even in business (particularly in Europe) join the usual suspects of anti-globalization protest in their reflexive hostilitlity to capitalism and free trade ... at least rhetorically.
It is as though the 20th century never happened. Capitalism has delivered hitherto-unimaginable advances in living standards across the developed world. And this is not just measured in dollars and cents. Broader social progress has been made too, again at historically unprecedented rates. Life expectancy, infant mortality, access to health care and education -- regardless of which of these measures you take, capitalism has achieved stunning results.

The 20th century even went to the trouble of testing the alternative -- socialism -- to memorable effect. So it is hardly as if some better economic paradigm is out there waiting to be tried. The one we have has succeeded, in every way, beyond all plausible expectations. Its only rival was a correspondingly egregious failure, ethically and in material terms as well. Given all that, what sustains this steady anti-capitalist sentiment?

Partly, of course, it is that hundreds of millions of people still endure lives, often brief lives, of grinding poverty. Even so, you might think that capitalism would still be recognized -- more than it is, at least -- as the poor's best hope, rather than as the system that holds them back. Poverty is retreating faster than ever before in many developing countries. You can't help but notice that the countries that are opening themselves up to trade and foreign investment -- in effect, to global capitalism -- are advancing the fastest. China is the most conspicuous example. Is capitalism holding China back, keeping its people in poverty? Obviously, just the opposite.

The region whose plight is most desperate is Africa. Here it might seem to make more sense to blame the "global economic system" for keeping the poor in poverty. And in a sense, it is true, because rich-world trade policies do continue to discriminate, scandalously, against exports from Africa. But the plain implication of this is that Africa needs more exposure to trade with the West, not less; more capitalism, not more of some other system, whatever that may be. Increasingly, Africa's own governments are making this point themselves. They want access to Western markets. Where is the chorus of Western demands, in the name of economic justice, for rich-country markets to be thrown open to imports from the world's poor countries? You cannot hear it. It is drowned out by denunciations of sweatshop labor and "naive confidence in free trade."

In the face of the world's recent economic experience, retaining the idea that capitalism is the enemy of social progress, except for those with the power to manipulate the system to their own advantage, calls for an impressive resistance to some large and pretty obvious facts. So the puzzle remains: What is the source of this anti-capitalist sentiment?
The author decides that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of Adam Smith and his observations.
After all, that capitalism works as well as it does is, in principle, utterly implausible. How can a fathomlessly complicated system of voluntary exchange, without collective deliberation, with nobody in charge, steered by nobody's good intentions -- a kind of anarchy -- yield social advance, as if by accident? The notion seems ridiculous.

That is why Smith's insight was so remarkable. Good intentions are not required for market forces to produce socially good results. Enlightened self-interest suffices. The result will look as though it had been designed -- as though guided by an invisible hand -- but the reality is otherwise.
Basically, good old fashioned capitalism where honestly applied works wonders and has been an overwhelming force for good. Revolutionary democratic variations of capitalism are essentially lies and are just excuses for revolutionary feudalism.

Equally obviously, capitalism like any human activity needs to be regulated but is far superior to any devised or imaginable form that supposed good intentions or earnest designs have taken. That is why, above all, the regulators need to be kept in their proper place. That future struggle is being defined by the successes of Chinese capitalism today.

One important factor to note is that the critics of capitalism and free trade listed above are already privileged enough to live in the very bosom of both and are unlikely to ever change what makes them rich and comfortable. So many other countries have risen out of poverty and into freedom that it is clear capitalism and its partners such as democracy are human achievements waiting for all to exploit them.

Ethiopians certainly don't have the luxury of swearing off the most successful guarantors of prosperity and freedom ever devised. Tragically, it is their thinkers and leaders that have already done it for them. There is no coincidence that the benefits of the invisible capitalist hand and those of visible democratic hearts and minds always seem to appear in each other's company.

Wednesday, May 25

Lion Mutilates Forty-Two at Spaghetti Harvest

Sometimes a story comes along that makes us wonder if planet earth was put here by mistake. This is one of those stories from the BBC.

The entire Cambodian Midget Fighting League took on an African Lion after an angry fan challenged the President of the CMFL, Sihamoni, who readily accepted. The Cambodian Government received a 50% commission on each ticket sold, and demanded that no cameras be allowed in the arena.
The fight was called in only 12 minutes, after which 28 fighters were declared dead, while the other 14 suffered severe injuries including broken bones and lost limbs, rendering them unable to fight back.

Sihamoni was quoted before the fight stating that he felt since his fighters out-numbered the lion 42 to 1, that they “… could out-wit and out-muscle [it].”

Unfortunately, he was wrong.
This surreal glimpse of the human condition is so wrong on so many levels that we won't even bother to go off on a rant about it. Anyway, we just realized that it is an amazingly well constructed hoax that fooled us for longer than we will ever admit. The author explains it was all done to convince a friend that the lion was invincible.
I created this 'disclaimer' page explaining the article's invalidity. This was not only to hopefully protect myself from the BBC or Cambodian Midget Fighting League (if one exists), but to also protect the reputability of the BBC and Cambodia itself, since the article isn't exactly politically correct and may offend some readers. I apologize to anyone or any groups that may have been offended by the article, and hope that they will understand it was all in good fun.
Sounds fairly reasonable. We will comfort ourselves with this story of the "The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" that took in millions.
On April 1, 1957 the British news show, Panorama, broadcast a segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed to an unusually mild winter. The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched a rural Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets.
The excuse given for that mass lapse in reason is that the British public of the 1950s was unfamiliar with spaghetti. Here is the video of the broadcast from the real BBC, courtesy of the Museum of Hoaxes which is certainly worth a visit.

Seriously though, the lion fight really seemed like something people might arrange for each other and that many accepted the spaghetti harvest is even easier to appreciate. After all, think of all the people who have actually taken Marx and Lenin seriously.

OK, OK ... except for that cheap shot at revolutionary democracy, readers should note that this post is entirely fee of any political subtext and that it has absolutely no 'wax and gold' impressions or nuggets to be found anywhere by intention or implication.

Monday, May 23

just like Rasputin

Welcome Instapundit Readers!

Occasionally updated progress reports on the current revolutionary democratic election season can be found in Politburo Knows Best VII - Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom' (click or just scroll down). They consist largely of our links and quotes and many that readers sent us strung together with commentary. Looking over them can provide an episodic but accurate account of events.

We don't try all that hard to be timely - it is not like there was much suspense about who would win anyway. After all, we are talking about a mass propaganda effort by an effectively single party state that that owns every square foot of land in the country that also owns businesses and state monopolies at every level of the economy. It exerts tight party discipline over a slavish Judiciary, a rubber stamp Parliament, and the army / police / security services.

The whole society is at the service of the same entrenched tribal system of brutality and patronage minimally accountable only to the aid donors who pay for it all. It is unaccountable to Ethiopians who would have absolutely no human, political or even occasional press rights at all without Western aid donors looking around at times.

Politburo Knows Best, a series about 'democracy' in Ethiopia has been in the works for a while and illustrates the above points clearly. This summary, Politburo Knows Best IX - Dictatorship can serve as a thorough introduction to all of the relevant issues.

Below are links to the series entries. One basic point we have tried to show has been the absurdity and inhumanity of throwing words like 'democracy' and 'election' around as though the words themselves have meaning independent of institutions and the rule of law.

Observers, both Ethiopian and international, should always consider how they would feel about actually living with the Politburo's Revolutionary Democracy every day instead of viewing it from afar as 'the best those folks can do for themselves'.

  • Politburo Knows Best I -Liberal Democracy
  • The pretense of democracy is based on interest and pressure from the West, particularly the US. 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.

  • Politburo Knows Best II - Human Rights
  • There are no meaningful human rights recognizable to any democratic society that are experienced beyond the immediate eyesight of Western aid donors.

  • Politburo Knows Best III - Revolutionary Democracy
  • The national guiding ideology is still Marxist-Leninist-Maoism - so you can assume there aren't great prospects for freedom and prosperity.

  • Politburo Knows Best IV - Revolutionary Feudalism
  • There are no rights to own private property whose protection is essential to all personal and political rights worldwide throughout history.

  • Politburo Knows Best V - The Wretched of the Earth
  • Ethiopia's system of tribal divide and rule 'bantustans' has more in common with medieval feudalism than anything modern or decent for humans to live under.

  • Politburo Knows Best VI - Defending the Revolution
  • An intense system of of control inherited from the Communist Dergue of Mengistu (known in Cuba as 'Committees to Defend the Revolution') exert absolute government control and fear at the lowest (neighborhood or block) level in unseen rural areas (85% of the people) and urban lives as well.

  • Politburo Knows Best VII - Let A Hundred Flowers Bloom
  • The last few episodes of the tragi-comic "Revolutionary Democratic Election Show' (the ugliest reality show ever staged) are examined in ... episodic depth. The number of viewers, blameless or aware, who seem to accept it all at face value makes for an amazing lesson in living Orwellian production values. Sadly, 70 million Ethiopians can't just change the channel.

  • Politburo Knows Best VIII - Occam and Damocles
  • This one is about the politburo's doomsday option should it be threatened with ever actually losing power. The system is structured so that the in the short term the threat of apocalyptic tribal warfare is always on the horizon without the manipulations of the ruling party. In the long term it will eventually collapse anyway taking millions along with it. [this one is still under construction]

  • Politburo Knows Best IX - Dictatorship
  • A summary of the series and the prospects for actual democracy.

    The very last entry, 'Politburo Knows Best X - Theater of the Absurd' will be about 'election' fallout including reactions, cynicism and honeyed praise masking contempt (i.e. Carter & the E.U.).

    This series just keeps going - like Rasputin. Or is it Marx who keeps coming back to haunt Ethiopians like the living dead? Alas, there is always more tragic nonsense to account for.

    Political freedom is inseperable from economic freedom. Current Ethiopian economics which is based solely on pretending to have internalized the lessons of successful societies are in the Cargo Cult Economics series.

  • Cargo Cult Economics
  • Pretense of freedom and a free market is alive and well.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 2 - All About the Benjamins?
  • Development is about more than cash - it is about institutions.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 3 - Structural Corruption
  • Corrupt party and government owned businesses and monopoly service providers do not provide a setting where you can expect freedom and prosperity.

    Please visit and look around. Ethiopians are a great people who are missing out on the rewards of their own and modern history's struggles because their government wants to remain in power at all costs.

    Saturday, May 21

    Politburo Knows Best IX - Dictatorship

    We are nearing the conclusion of a series of posts that was begun to take a look at the potential, or lack thereof, for any meaningful form of democracy and necessarily related prosperity to exist.

    In the Politburo Knows Best Series we have visited the essential role of friends of Ethiopia abroad and of interested foreigners in the existence of any democratic process. The many and varied deficits in human rights with regard to political and press activity were noted as well as the most elemental ideological dead ends basic to governance.

    Elementary structural faults such as absent property rights and relations between rulers and ruled indistinguishable from medieval feudalism also guarantee and enshrine dictatorship. Essentially corrupt mechanisms of urban and rural tyranny inherited from the Dergue and carefully preserved assure control of the population.

    In the Cargo Cult Economics Series we looked at the grim choice made between eternal aid dependence and the potential threat that national vibrancy poses for the status quo. Planning for the future is based on aid and dreams of massive aid to the exclusion of policies friendly to tried and true development policies. All of this in the service of structurally determined corruption and cronyism unrivalled in national history.

    Add to this dismal litany the damages wrought by constitutional tribal divide and rule politics based on ethnic competition and living bantustans. For this, one the poorest countries on earth present trends projected forward reveal a dismal future. Necessary institutions and policies vital for development have been abandoned in the service of regime security. Indeed, questions of national existence and of mass tribal warfare are acute.

    So there you have it... as far as the potential for democracy, elections and rational governance to have any meaning in Ethiopian goes... there are no encouraging signs at all. In Ethiopia there is no right to own property, there are no human and political rights that extend beyond the fitful attentions of Western embassies and press. There is a highly disciplined central party that controls every aspect of the society and economy at every level along with tribal satellite parties that are its minions.

    Indeed the party, the state, civil society and dominant party owned business interests can not be distinguished and separated even with the finest of instruments. If we all assume, as ethiopundit does, that Ethiopians deserve to be free of a tradition of suffering as much as Zimbabweans or Poles or Brazilians by virtue of their shared humanity - then something has to change.

    As any of our readers immediately sense, ethiopundit is a corner of the internet with strong opinions ... but it is also a place of informed opinions ... that we like to repeat. Quite frankly our most fundamental worldviews and the facts that they are based on have an enviable track record in the human experience. There is nothing fancy being discussed here - just good old fashioned liberal democracy and capitalism - that is all.

    Just look at a map of the world in the nakedness of the present or with a sense of historical memory of even marginal depth. The reader will see that countries that serve their people's interests well - tend to agree with ethiopundit on the major issues of national life. It is all based on centuries of unsentimental observation by many millions before us of what free and prosperous societies do right and what oppressive and poor societies do wrong.

    Here are some vivid descriptions of that wrong.

    Zemene Awre - The Era of the Beast. was the apt title for the Dergue’s reign given by an Eritrean poet whose name we have forgotten. It is a blessing to all that era ended and the role played by the current government should be remembered fondly in history but for now they have clearly overstayed their welcome. In charge only three years less than the Mengistu's entire reign his heirs can no longer expect glory in memories of relative improvement.

    Zemene Ashattir - The Era of the Trickster , to coin a phrase, is an appropriate name for this era. While evil does come in the obvious form of the bloody beast, it is the more pleasing form of the trickster that seduces , corrupts and destroys with greater efficiency. Secrecy, vicious reactions to criticism, eternal intrigue, manipulation, suspicion and an utter lack of transparency are vital elements of government today.

    Consider the word evil to be extreme in this regard? What else can you call what two generations of dictatorship have done to Ethiopia just as she was emerging into a future that held so much promise? The reader should wonder whose life was ruined today by absurd Marxist-Leninist policies and tribalism. A young girl who might be a good mother or one day cure cancer. Who was hungry today? A young boy who could be a good father but whose frail body never had the basic nutrients necessary for development.

    Who will die or never be born because of tribal cleansing or a simply treatable disease or wretched poverty rooted in corruption? It could be a carpenter, a daughter, a farmer, a herder, an artist, a son ... millions of human beings. There is nothing Ethiopians can't achieve in creating a successful society for themselves if they are given a chance that they are now denied. Only their own unelected and undemocratic government has crippled their age old struggle to join the freedom and progress of the rest of humanity .

    It is essentially dishonest to use the words 'democracy' or 'elections' in any Ethiopian context. Truth and respect for Ethiopians, and indeed humanity, demands derision directed towards those who corrupt those words and an appropriate sense of tragedy over the fate of 70 million long suffering people. It is a sign of gross contempt to expect Ethiopians to be satisfied with anything less than the real thing or to pretend that they want less than all other peoples on earth.

    There is a definite moral element to using the concept of democracy too loosely. For any observers, native or foreign, to pretend otherwise means that they must believe one of the following:

    -Democracy is just a cruel joke anyway.
    -Ethiopians, alone amidst their fellow homo sapiens, don't deserve and certainly can't appreciate democracy. .

    The most generous label that can be ascribed to such observers is insincerity. We will leave it to the reader's imagination to come up with other terms.

    Even in the absence of a perfectly Liberal Democracy some minimal social contract should exist as in today's China and yesterday's Taiwan where the development of the economy and varying degrees of non-political civil society were encouraged. There are some rational arguments in favor of authoritarian government to achieve rapid development. We take issue with those because they can too easily serve as convenient excuse for despotism and not for a benign form of authoritarianism.

    In fact, we believe it takes far more good will, vision and political skill to maintain a benign authoritarianism than a sincere democracy because there are more checks and balances involved in the latter. In the end the Revolutionary Coronation of 2005 is the story of an increasingly resentful, brutal, insecure and paranoid Communist Politburo forced to smile and perform an elaborate ritual election dance for cash and survival of a despotism whose only benign qualities are dependent of foreign interest.

    It is the modern equivalent of a rain dance that works. A great point of pride in the 'election' season was how much aid, loan forgiveness, and new loans had been obtained since 1991. Economic and agricultural growth did not receive such boastful attention. It is hard to imagine anything that was achieved that did not result from foreign interest, planning, and cash. This despite the many talents and potential of Ethiopians that could magnify the potential of aid and ultimately render it not necessary.

    One of the saddest aspects of all we have detailed above is that the current rulers of Ethiopia have absolutely no defects of intelligence or ability and indeed have a surfeit of those characteristics. Those men could easily herald a transforming era like that begun by Deng as easily as they could remain the desparate captains of a sinking ship in emulation of Brezhnev.

    Why don't they do the right thing? Fear that what they have done to others will be visited on them if they ever ease up is a big one. Stubborn pride in the ideological and tribal worldview that they internalized to the exclusion of all else so many decades ago is also a factor. Most significant is their basic zero-sum view of human existence.

    Through the late 1980s and early 1990s we were conditional supporters of the rebels and welcomed them as the new government because of a frank hatred of the Dergue and for the promise change represented after such a period of darkness. We soon realized that they had been serious all along about being Communists and that being on the losing side of the Cold War had not changed them below the surface.

    We have come to the conclusion that there is nothing different about the fundamental worldviews shared by both governments nor of the fundamental social and economic policies they would have put in place. For those at the top of both revolutionary food chains the blood, sweat and tears of the lives they played with were used to settle an argument for power and to decide who would build Communism - 'ethno radical student revolutionary democrats' or a 'scientific socialist military junta'.

    It is not ‘red-baiting’ to state the obvious - all of the countries with even a partial set of the defining characteristics of Ethiopia’s government have been Communist ones - and they have been neither free nor prosperous. Therefore it is quite reasonable to conclude that Ethiopia has a Communist government. Its roots are admittedly such and even its rhetorical conversion to liberal democracy and free enterprise was the rather cheap price of engaging the victors of the Cold War.

    There is no doubt that the Soviets would have gladly switched allegiance to any new band of Marxist-Leninists in Addis Ababa but the Soviet Empire died before the Dergue did. The collapse of the careful constructed game of democratic and free market pretense for Western cash would doom this government. Today’s ruthless varieties of oppression are kept as much as possible behind closed doors or far away from prying eyes because of the need for money to finance the dictatorship.

    70 million Ethiopians are hostages of their own government. Anyone interested in their fate has to deal with their jailers and treat the jailers in the same respectful manner as a government actually representing its people’s best interests. Often many observers and almost always the press, lose track of the brutal calculus of modern dictatorship that defines this equation of human suffering.

    Going along and getting along with dictatorship is a necessary part of life for many but millions of admirable men and women manage to wage both open and silent battles for dignity and freedom in the opposition, within the ruling structure and every other part of society. This is always done at great risk to security, life and limb. Ethiopians abroad and interested foreigners everywhere have responsibilities to help them in even the smallest ways by virtue of the rights their adopted or native societies have given them.

    There are frankly opportunist cadres at home, and most demeaningly abroad, who become willing agents of despotism and who gladly sell themselves for promises of property and position. Their glib and insincere national, ideological, and tribal calls do not shield them from the consequences of their actions as played out in the lives of helpless millions.

    The absence of rational policies is quite purposeful so that the regime and the politburo at its center can have another year or even one more minute in control. There is no brutality, no crime, no lie and no infamy that won’t be put to the service of that will to power. It freely uses tribalism and ideology but is clearly loyal to no one and nothing but dictatorship.

    While we rather obviously doubt the sincerity of the Ethiopian government’s commitment to democracy we must express the admiration we hold for the opposition. They and their supporters have done the best they could in a dreadful situation with all the mechanisms of a despotic state arrayed against them. There is no better expression of hope upon which to build the future.

    Sadly, the ‘rules of the game’, enforced at gunpoint, provide no possible outcome besides victory for the despotic force that literally owns the ruling party, the government, businesses at every level, every square meter of land, the judiciary, the army / police / and security services while running a corrupt system of patronage and brutality. It strives to take full posession of 70 million human lives and souls.

    Imagine what could happen if the talents required to keep that unholy mess going were actually applied to worthy aims for a change.

    It is hard to really blame the West in the end for the 'democracy' games they pretend to respect in Ethiopia because they clearly care more about the people than the people’s own government does. Without their budgetary, development and food aid the policies of successive governments would have killed or ruined the lives of many more millions of Ethiopians. Without their usually inadequate attentions not a single Ethiopian would have any human rights at all.

    What problem would the regime care more about fixing in the following sets of examples:

    (A) Tony Blair stops returning phone calls from the Gibee
    (B) Oromos wanted greater political freedom.

    (A) Western reporters become more aggressive
    (B) Tigrayans demand rights to private property that were always traditionally strongest there.

    (A) International aid organizations and banks demand greater accountability
    (B) Amharas chafe at being the designated 'bad guys' of ethnic politics.

    The correct answer was (A) for every question. The real constituency that matters for the politburo is the groups and personalities within their exclusive internal political milieu of the party and all ferenjis - far more than Ethiopians of every stripe. Ethiopians are just expected to know their proper place and be happy they are allowed to survive.

    Ethiopians and her friends must fix problems and find fault within the country - no one else can ultimately help. After all Ethiopians, mainly those seduced by silly ideologies, caused the problems to begin with. The way things look now, one can only hope that politburo really does know best because it seems that only luck and not logic can improve anything. Government choices made in the interests of regime security will always keep the country chained, poor and destitute.

    Thursday, May 19

    Zerihun Yetmgeta, artist

    Wax and Gold

    Shield and Shadow

    Yesterday and Today

    These paintings are some of the works of Zerihun Yetmgeta (biography)
    Zerihun was born in Addis Ababa in 1941. His artistic talent was discovered at a young age. While attending boarding school he acquired the nickname "scientist" because he enjoyed working with his hands and making things. When, at the age of fifteen, he won first prize in a national art competition, he knew his destiny was to pursue the life of an artist. He completed high school, and began painting classes at the Empress Menen Handicraft School. A year later he was admitted to the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa where he studied from 1963 to 1968. He has been teaching two-dimensional art and graphics at the School of Fine Arts since the early 1970s.

    Tuesday, May 17

    Politburo Knows Best VIII - Occam and Damocles

    When you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, [an overwhelming EPRDF victory in election 2005] the one that is simpler is the better.

    William of Occam (paraphrased)

    Occam's Razor is a principle attributed to a 14th century logician and Franciscan friar. Given all of the evidence, the litany of dysfunctions and deficits of Ethiopian 'democracy' can only be explained by the absence of actual democracy. A love affair of eternal political loyalty between all of the ruled and the Politburo that is based on little more than being better than the Dergue, is far less likely.

    Sadly, the main audience for the pretense in the West assumes that some folks like Zimbabweans deserve to experience real democracy Western power is used to penalize Mugabe & Co. for dictatorship that is apparently just fine for Ethiopians to live with.

    If we go, we shall slam the door on an empty house.

    Lenin's vision of a post - Bolshevik Russia

    The Ethiopian opposition is following the same trend to create havoc and hatred [as the Rwandan Genocide] ... It is a dangerous policy that leads the nation to violence and bloodshed.

    Meles's vision of a post - Politburo Ethiopia

    The open and implied apocalyptic threats of the visions above is not coincidental. In Ethiopia the threat of ethnic bloodletting is an immediate one because tribal divide and rule has been the main instrument of Politburo will to power as expressed through manipulated tribal enmity and a system of feudal bantustans. Convenient accusations and natural assumptions of universal corruption are just convenient and natural excuses for ongoing brutality to remain in power at all costs.

    [The last posts in this series, #7 and #8, are under construction. Sorry, they are entirely too long in general and take a corresponding amount of time to pull together that is not always available. We post incomplete posts in the hope that they will goad one of more of us into finishing them]

    Sunday, May 15

    Folk Art from the 1960s

    Greeting of Love, Tempera on Newsprint by Mengestu Gebre Michael from 1962
    No explanation needed. Note the apple.

    Maskal at Menelik's Court, Oil on canvas, Artist Unknown from 1962
    This is a scene depicting King Menelik and Empress Taieku celebrating Maskal, which is a religious holiday in the spring. The highlight of the Maskal celebration is the burning of a tall bonfire, which consists of sticks of eucalyptus, tree branches, and tree trunks all tied together. After dark, it is burned as part of the Maskal celebration. The event is attended by the church and army, including dignitaries from the court, soldiers, and the Bishop. Some of the soldiers are wearing lion mane headdresses and shoulder pieces. The humble townspeople watch the court celebration on the very holy day.

    Kennedy Assassination, Oil on Linen, Artist Unknown from 1964
    JFK was a well known and popular figure in urban Ethiopian visions of the US during the early 1960s.

    Above paintings are from the Leavitt Collection of Ethiopian Folk Art
    In 1961, Dr. Leavitt was asked by the United States Agency for International Development to assist in organizing a team of educators charged with the responsibility of founding the first university in Ethiopia.

    Haile Sellassie I University was founded in 1962, and is now known as the University of Addis Ababa. Linden Leavitt arrived in Ethiopia in 1962, and remained there for nearly three years.

    During that time, he made the decision to establish and develop a creative art center for the purpose of preserving the arts of Ethiopia, including Ethiopian painting. Dr. Leavitt began to assemble a personal collection representing various styles of Ethiopian folklore.

    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.