Thursday, June 30

Geldof vs. Girl Power

The Live 8 concert comes twenty years after the first Live Aid in 1985 which raised millions for the starving of Ethiopia and was watched by 1.5 billion around the globe. It sets out its mission thus
Every single day, 30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty.

On July 6th, we finally have the opportunity to stop that shameful statistic.

8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history.

But they'll only do it if enough people tell them to.

That's why we're staging Live 8. 5 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message... To get those 8 men, in that 1 room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty.

We don't want your money - we want you!
Sounds great right? Generally we understand the decent impulse behind this but don't agree that money will solve anything alone - there is an element of unease that we share with Booker Rising. Frankly, what is really needed is the encouragement of the development of the INSTITUTIONS of democracy and the free market in Africa. A concert message to respect the results of the recent election in Ethiopia would have far more meaning and relevance to the world.

Especially given his comments about the 'election' massacres in Ethiopia and the fact that his heart is quite obviously in the right place it is hard to be critical of Bob Geldof. However, this time he has gone too far and has displayed an unfortunate despotic face towards the world. He has banned the Spice Girls from Live 8 after they were teased about a reunion and participation.
The decision by concert bosses to axe them from the concert will be a bitter blow to the five stars who had hoped to re-form and play together for the first time since they split in 1998.

Geri Halliwell, 32, Victoria Beckham, 31, Melanie C, 31, Melanie B, 29, and 29-year-old Emma Bunton.

A source said: "The girls will be gutted by the decision."

But Live 8 organisers were adamant their style of music did not fit in with the serious political message about world poverty the transatlantic event hopes to portray.

A BBC spokesman said: "Many of the biggest rock stars in the world have agreed to take part, and the Spice Girls just don't fit.
This cruel and capricious decision was made so that really serious and politically relevant artists whom the leaders of the G8 will definitely pay attention to - like Outkast, Destiny's Child, Black-Eyed Peas, Linkin Park, Alicia Keys, Eminem, Madonna, Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Sir Elton John, Robbie Williams, Will Smith, Stevie Wonder, 50 Cent, Youssou N'Dour, Jamiroquai, A-ha, Duran Duran, and Mary J Blige - can have more time on stage.

Please Bob Geldof, put the Spice Girls on before it is too late!

Tuesday, June 28

A Bodyguard of Lies

Yuri Andropov - Head of the KGB, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Jazz fan, habitue of Studio 54, secretly attended Woodstock music festival. Only the first two facts are true. Source.

Lies have always been a tool in politics for good and ill. For example, in the planning for the liberation of France in 1944, the disinformation efforts that the Allies used against the Germans as to when and where the invasion would occur were described thus,
“sometimes the truth is so precious that she requires a bodyguard of lies”.
As we shall see below, some governments are so entirely defined by their lies that the only truth to be found within is a naked will to power at all costs. There are no noble purposes to be found or imagined.

ministry of truth

The hero of George Orwell’s novel of a totalitarian nightmare for mankind, 1984
Winston worked in the RECORDS DEPARTMENT (a single branch of the Ministry of Truth) editing and writing for The Times. He dictated into a machine called a speakwrite. Winston would receive articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, in Newspeak, rectify. If, for example, the Ministry of Plenty forecast a surplus, and in reality the result was grossly less,

Winston's job was to change previous versions so the old version would agree with the new one. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs - to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
This process of everlasting organic "rectification" of the truth and reality is an essential element of dictatorship. The constant re-invention of the past and present is familiar to observers of the Ethiopian political scene created by the Dergue and the EPRDF and lies at the heart of the party ideology of revolutionary democracy that is constructed of cast off bits of Marx, Lenin and Mao that are somehow supposed to come together to creat a free market and democracy.

For example, this fascinating Meskel Square interview with the Information Minister is certainly worth reading in its entirety but the following excerpts from a section highlighted by the interviewer is for an understanding of the internal logic of the Ethiopian government.
Question: But do you not think that on Wednesday when police opened fire and 36 people were killed, that that damaged Ethiopia's reputation which has been very good internationally?

Answer: Well, I definitely believe that it will tarnish the image of the country. But, what was the alternative? Let's look at it. The alternative was strife between the different nationalities of Ethiopia which might have made the Rwandan genocide look like childsplay. This was the alternative.
So, I think we shouldn't look into a single picture and conclude. We need to look into the whole process – what this country is trying to do. We're moving forward but unfortunately, in this very short period of time, some mishaps have occurred in this country. We definitely are ready to investigate it and we are definitely sure that we will come up with the legal measures based on the results of the investigation.

Nevertheless I don’t think that Ethiopia deserves to be judged by this isolated event. People need to look into the larger picture and I think we need to get the understanding of the developed world and the Ethiopian people as well.
The Information Minister is often criticized for the statements he makes and while this and other questions may have been anticipated, this interview makes us consider that there may be a method here that we missed. It has probably long been obvious to others that he is meant to be a lightning rod for critics so that he becomes the issue and not the policies he defends or his superiors who actually come up with those policies.

The interview is interesting for what is said but even more so for what is not said ... and how. Actually it is best read while lying down, the peaks of reason represented by the questions clash with the troughs of suspended disbelief required to get through the answers so incongruently that dizziness or nausea may result. The ultimate result of the divorce of language from reality is familiar to readers of 1984, where 'Newspeak', the official language has as its sole purpose
the specific needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism, while making all other methods of thought impossible. When Oldspeak has become obsolete, the last link with the past will have been destroyed. The vocabulary of Newspeak has been built by inventing new words, eliminating old words, and stripping existing words of their finer shades of meaning.
Ethiopian 'Newspeak' is certainly Orwellian in intent and result. A further refinement of the perversion of language and truth is Doublethink which means
the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. “... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary.

Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
Weichegud does a fine job of deconstructing the interview while this essay from Ethiomedia shows how the recent ethnic justifications played by the government came to their bloody conclusion during the ‘election’ season. Attempts to manipulate Tigrayans in the bloody aftermath of the ‘election’ are also evident and they were simply the first victims of the TPLF /EPRDF/ Dergue. The abuse of Oromos in the recent past is well documented and “one aspect of the ethnic federalism of the FDRE is but a thinly disguised license to encourage hatred of the Amharas“.

if it wasn't for those pesky kids

Ethiopia’s ruling revolutionary party has a Byzantine structure that can not be separated from its wholly owned subsidiaries of national government, media, tribal bantustans, an all encompassing secret police apparatus, massive business empires at every level of society and a fake parliament and judiciary. It is a bloody brutal dictatorship whose reality became clear to even the most forgiving observer during an election faked for the sake of foreign aid.

The whole rotten business is founded on the most rabid and primitive form of Leninist ethnic divide and rule and fomenting rancor and bloodshed to stoke the party will to power. The armed thugs who machine gunned innocent civilians on the streets of Addis Ababa were the ones who were part of a government sponsored ethnic militia - just like in Rwanda.

The interview above would have us believe that the innocents gunned down and the thousands arrested committed some elaborate form of suicide and masochistic behavior. Supposedly at the behest of the opposition they forced unwilling and blameless tribal militias to shoot them lest they make Rwanda‘s genocide look like ‘childsplay‘.

That is about as believable as the release of thousands of prisoners when only the government’s word is proof that ten thousand weren’t really taken prisoner to begin with or that thousands weren’t killed in distant camps. Can anyone really believe numbers from this government? Without a doubt the numbers of dead and abused in the countryside are orders of magnitude higher and since the only folks the EPRDF respects, ferenjis, are not around to see or hear - no one will ever know.

The official death toll is another bit of nonsense. How can a death toll in the low dozens be believable for the results of direct AK-47 and sniper fire directed into crowds of civilians? Are people now so hungry for news from a secretive government that they are willing to believe party figures on how many died? For all anyone knows there may be mass pits in the countryside full of innocents from urban and rural areas - just as in the days of Mengistu's Red Terror.

Remember, there is no crime to foul that it won't be committed to keep this government in power for even an extra day.

Another example of official absurdities is the recent claim to have captured some eighteen Ertirean spies for causing trouble or being about to do so. We don’t believe this at all and it fits in with the constant barrage of ashattir - trickery from the government. Listeners are supposed to divine a national security imperative for the government murder of innocents or the alternative is seeing Ertitrean hordes come across the border.

It is a wonder that ancien regime feudals, neftegnas, hooligans, anarchists, roving gangs of kulaks, bands of counter-revolutionaries, mensheviks, capitalist running dogs, imperialist paper tigers, dergue remnants, genocidal veterans from Rwanda, anti-Enver Hoxha bad elements, tribalist anti-revolutionary democracy forces, Trotskyites, those pesky kids of Scooby Doo fame, El Nino and Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter books were not among those making common cause with the Eritrean spies - all arrayed against the essential goodness and virtue of revolutionary democracy.

Well ... give them time, the government and its cadres will make it all the way through the whole list of blame eventually.

you can fool all of the people some of the time

The whole business of the Axum obelisk and the fake suspense surrounding the timing of its return was certainly connected to the equally fake ‘election’ season. It is amazing that after decades of hostility, barely matched by that of the Dergue, to the traditions and history, ancient and modern, of all Ethiopians, that the EPRDF suddenly discovered a new found appreciation for the history that they so passionately decried and called illegitimate.

Embassies are supposed to go openly into the business of organizing rallies in favor of the shooting of unarmed civilians while the Embassy in Washington is to host Ethiopian Americans for the same purpose. During cocktails, the illegal espionage network run out of Ethiopian embassies and consulates to intimidate and harass Americans (based on their lives in the US as well as those of their families in Ethiopia) should be discussed.

Dinner conversation may include choice subjects such as how Ethiopians don’t feel as much pain as other humans when they are shot, how they aren’t able to have a real democracy anyway and how they really need the firm hand of the EPRDF to keep them in line for their own good. Over coffee the officials will try to see how the combination of threats and appeals have worked and may move on to see how “filling the pockets and bellies” of all concerned may help to achieve the aims of revolutionary democracy.

“Filling the pockets and bellies” of certain elements of the bourgeoisie and intelligensia (especially those abroad who may have reporters and Congressman who listen to them) is an essential aim of the revolutionary democratic program according to a secret internal document of the vanguard party. “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Steps“ is the title and its English translation was published as "TPLF/EPRDF Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony & Perpetuating its Rule" in the Ethiopian Register, June 1996. (From Vestal)

Geldof put it best when he said this about the street massacres in Ethiopia - "No doubt, I'll get a briefing from the Ethiopian embassy: 'it wasn't like this, it was like that'. Grow up, they make me puke“. We have a sense that seduction laced with promises of favored crony status, position or property will do little to change minds hardened by the death of real people and of a nation's dreams.

We are amazed every time an announcement from the various rubber stamp courts, councils or most comically, the election board, it is reported as though it has some meaning. Seriously, folks ... the whole edifice of Ethiopian government is a Potemkin Village for the opening of ferenji wallets and at its very best a Cargo Cult setup for ferenjis who imagine themselves to be discerning about where they send their money.

or you can fool some of the people all of the time

There is absolutely no chance that a decision is ever made by Ethiopian government that is not based upon the expressed will or base desires of the politburo and the Prime Minister. It is a bit like the old Soviet military budget - where the state was everything what did it possibly mean that a nuclear submarine was expensive? One ministry simply wrote a check to another, if they even bothered.

The problem with the accounting methods of the EPRDF’s communist forefathers and the EPRDF’s own loose relation with facts and the truth is that the pyramid of deceit can never be sustained. When rulers, expecially dictators look at a structure that is a mirror of their own psyches and is supported by sycophants and brutality alone ... for example, they may get confident enough to think they can win elections with just minimal cheating.

How about the invocation of the martyrs of the war against the Dergue? Remembering them should not be abused by a few to form a holy shield that is used to defend every crime committed by a few decades later. Those martyrs did not die in their tens of thousands and others did not suffer by their millions so that the Revolutionary Feudal Aristocracy of today could rule forever atop a pyramid of suffering as policy.

On June 22, 1988 the Dergue criminally bombed a market place in Hawzen claiming great numbers of dead and wounded. The Dergue met its just fate for that horror and countless others. However, we firmly believe that all of the jealously guarded villas and Range Rovers, the hoards of hard currency in foreign banks and all of the party businesses and monopolies held by a few atop a pyramid of suffering and despair are not the appropriate legacy for those or any martyrs.

They did not die for anyone's board chairmanship nor for their executive office suite. They certainly did not die to one day justify the killing of fellow Ethiopians.

Never forget that Tigrayans are Ethiopians first and that the forces united against the current government and its stolen election represent a unity unseen since the wars against Italian fascism or colonialism. The very idea that Tigray is so united behind the party is by necessity a lie. No group of humans, certainly millions of them so passionately believe in any cause or person to the exclusion of all else.

One might ask the people of Tigray if an opportunity were ever given
In March [of 2004], the residents of Aby Adi, a town in Tigray region, conducted a peaceful demonstration, protesting the lack of electricity, usable roads, and running water. Three members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) Central Committee reportedly threatened to arrest the organizers of the demonstration if they did not apologize. According to reports, the Government also sent security agents to prevent any further protests. The Government rejected requests to hold similar protests in the Tigrayan towns of Maichew and Samre.
We know the Prime Minister ran unopposed in the 'election' where he voted with a bunch of reporters and THREE EU election observers on hand. What don't we know about the 'election' in Tigray and the aftermath? The party approached the Tigrayan people with the lie that they were not communists until it was too late to do anything about that fact. This was done because Tigray is where rights of private property have been traditionally strongest in Ethiopian history. In addition the ethnic agenda of TPLF rule was kept from Tigrayans who historically have most consistently held the banner of Ethiopian unity aloft.

The brutality used to try and divorce Tigrayans from their identity, history and traditions so that they could not make common cause with other Ethiopians can not be forgotten. One anecdote from an international bureaucrat looking to set up a pilot development program is revealing.

In every region of Ethiopia, the group had around them government officials or friendly 'minders' who they suspected were there to prevent them from hearing anything directly. When they got to Tigray, they met groups of peasants and farmers without interference.

Later, their embassies in Addis explained to them, "that is the one place where no one even dreams of dissenting or complaining - the fear is set so deep that it looks like agreement and that makes the government confident." This is certainly a more likely explanation than believing all residents of Tigray love the government. Any group of humans is too complex for that to be true.

but you can't fool all of the people all of the time

The Indian Ocean Newsletter reports via Ethiomedia that a future government is under discussion for Ethiopia among Western diplomats. The source cautions there may be elements of disinformation originating from the politburo in it and we agree. For example we are expected to believe that there are divisions within the EPRDF with "Prime Minister Meles Zenawi [a] moderate in the government camp in this debate and that he did not exclude the formation of a coalition government to come out of the crisis. "

Arrayed against him are the 'hardliners' against compromise and a coalition government. Yeah, right, this is all a classic intelligence agency 'maskirova' or concealment and deception operation. It sounds just like the Soviet effort to convince the world, with some success, that Yuri Andropov, the hardline head of the KGB was
a pro-Western person. Andropov was known for his perfect English. He was a fan of jazz, American mystery books and whiskey; A patron of arts as he was presented by the KGB propaganda machine; An intellectual and a poet as he remained in the memories of his employees.

But he was also a suppressor of the 1956 Budapest uprising, a persecutor of dissidents and an inventor of punitive psychiatry as he has recently been described.
Without question, Andropov was the toughest, most clever and shrewd Soviet politician since Stalin, and possibly of all Soviet leaders. He was not likely to be easily fooled, and only a fool would fool with him. His could only be a one-man dictatorship.
Marxist - Leninist - Maoist guerrilla fronts don't seize power after years of bitter warfare and rule for more years of constantly gathering in more and more power only to openly allow internal divisions or to advocate power sharing. If any of this is true it could mean a purge was about to happen as in 2000 when the out group was banished and imprisoned on trumped up corruption charges.

More likely this is an effort to give the party and Meles its unquestioned leader a new lease on power by appealing to the West as the reasonable man amidst hardliners when in fact he is exactly the same as the others. This same excuse was used for years to explain why Ethiopia was not obeying the terms of binding arbitration on the Eritrean border. Allegedly, rogue army generals wouldn't accept it. As if.

Consider also the whole issue of the destruction of Ethiopian nationalism and the history of unity, then its use in the Eritrean war when it was convenient - after which it was conveniently forgotten until occasional sports victories or the return of the obelisk. Arbitration was accepted despite an expensive victory but it went bad.

Victory was again declared anyway ... but the arbitration was said to be unfair ... it would be respected but it wouldn't be ... on and on until Western monetary pressure force a whole new set of equivocations and evasions. Dagmawi neatly summarizes this issue in What are the Real Reasons Why Meles Decided to Accept the Border Ruling? while but the Constitution says ... oh, nevermind exposes another layer of lies behind justifications for avoiding reality.

This game of the reasonable man 'we can deal with' and the radicals waiting in the wings has been tried so many times over so many decades that it is a wonder people still believe it. If the Prime Minister was a secret liberal or moderate he would not be at the head of a revolutionary vanguard party . no way no how.

Also notice that the debate over fake hardliners and moderates totally ignores the fact that the EPRDF lost the election and that state violence and the potential for chaos that they created somehow makes their refusal to abide by the election understandable. The vagaries of human intelligence, gullibility and reason are indeed both tragic and profound.

We could go on and on ...

The sum of the Big Tribal Lie at the root of current Ethiopian government and all the other myriad lies and distortions that govern the simplest exchange of information is the enduring Big Lie of all dictatorship whether it is ‘Fascism of the Left‘ in the past three decades of Ethiopian government or ‘Socialism of the Right‘ as it existed in Mussolini's Italy
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels
The bodyguard of lies and the era of trickery around Ethiopia's dictatorship shield nothing noble but cover only bigger lies wrapped in successive layers of secrecy, vicious reactions to criticism, eternal intrigue, manipulation, unrelenting brutality, suspicion and an utter lack of transparency - all in the service of power for a few.

Don't believe any of the lies - even the smallest ones try to paper over the litany of crimes being committed against 70 million victims. They are suffering all the more because given a chance they showed they believed in none of them.

Friday, June 24

Project 1061

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has sponsored a bill, #1061, that threatens to end US aid to Ethiopia unless private property rights are respected. The bill is concerned with the thousands of Ethiopian Americans who have had their property stolen by nationalizations from the Dergue onto the EPRDF.

This bill came to the notice of most in terms of an Eritrean constituent of the Congressman:
"I see no reason why, if you have a corrupt government that refuses to compensate U.S. citizens, why we should be providing aid to them,' Rohrabacher said. "If they'll steal from a private citizen, they'll steal from our government programs."
In the very best traditions of patriotic American liberal democracy as well as ample concern for the 'home country' of Ethiopia, a natural partner of the bill is Project 1061 which is dedicated to the Bill's passage.

The most clear message of the project beyond the just cause of those individuals is the primacy of private property rights in any healthy society. Ensuring human rights and economic rights is a process that is inexorably rooted in the posession of property rights.

This subject has been an ongoing obsession for ethiopundit and we are delighted to see it has taken its proper place not only in debate but in policy. Ethiopia's neo-communist government is based on the denial of property rights which necessarily assure the EPRDF's dictatorship and corruption places of primacy in national affairs.
The organizers of Project 1061 include Americans of Ethiopian ancestry, Ethiopian Americans, Ethiopian nationals, supporters of human rights and others dedicated to the protection, preservation and promotion of private property rights in Ethiopia.

The Project is supported by the Task Force for Project 1061, and includes business men and women, academics, medical, legal and other professionals, students and others who share the twin core values of the Project. Although project members have diverse backgrounds and widely differing political, social and religious beliefs, they are united in their belief that H.R. 1061 can play a fundamental role in promoting freedom in Ethiopian society better and their dedication and commitment to the enjoyment of property rights for all Ethiopians.
Their declaration of principles includes these points
the Ethiopian government has been incapable of addressing the root causes of poverty: Land remains state property and private ownership in land is limited to leaseholds. Economic development remains bogged down in a tangled and corrupt bureaucracy which thrives on ethnic politics and favoritism. A pseudo-privatization program has done little to spur domestic or foreign investment.

Private property rights in Ethiopia continue to be violated by the government through arbitrary takings, takings for non-public purposes, denial of just compensation and significant bureaucratic interference in property use. Large numbers of Americans of Ethiopian ancestry whose properties were nationalized, expropriated and confiscated by the Derg find have found little justice despite the passage of three decades.

In the new century, Ethiopia can aspire to overcome debilitating poverty and its consequences only if it promotes, supports and expands the private sector, embraces the free market system and actively cultivates a culture of private entrepreneurship.
Please visit the website. Every page and link is a factual, considered and thoughtful primer on the link between property rights, human rights, economic rights and unlocking the potential of too long crippled Ethiopian society.

Responding to this effort the Ethiopian Embassy characteristically accused the Congressman's constituent of having a "personal, political agenda." Well ... yes, he wants his property back and a corrupt dictatorship refuses to give it back. Aside from killing or imprisoning him or his family that is about as personal and political as it gets.

Additionally, the Ethiopian Embassy seemed confused that " that he does not believe the Ethio American relation[s] is dependent on a single person's claims." This confusion is quite understandable because for an Ethiopian government representative worrying about any human outside of the revolutionary aristocracy is an entirely alien concept.

The Ethiopian Embassy represents a government that denies 70 million people every manner of political, economic and human rights and thinks nothing of shooting them down in the streets and seeing them suffer famine.

This Congressman is clearly a friend of all Ethiopians because he is supporting them on one of the most crucial subjects of their economic and political development. The Ethiopian government uses foreign aid to enrich itself and to cultivate Western donors as its constituency while ignoring Ethiopians.

A form of sanctions against the government is necessary. Perhaps a Zimbabwe style regimen against the ruling revolutionary feudal class would be of value along with as set of Ethiopian Sullivan Principles to guide foreign aid in supporting democracy in Ethiopian instead of making common cause with the ruling class.

The problem of course is that the government has 70 million hostages against the 'good behavior' of Ethiopians abroad and friends of Ethiopia. The issue of sanctions still can not be avoided in Ethiopia just as it was not avoided in another setting of apartheid - South Africa of the 1970s and 1980s.

The degree of delight we have taken in Project 1061 is almost impossible to quantify because of the importance of private property rights for freedom and for a free market.The following examples of our first year of blogging show how dear the subject has been to us:

Our Land From the Tiller series of posts deals with the importance of property rights.

Our Democracy and Freedom series of posts looks at the prospects for basic human and political rights and not only finds them lacking but these parts, Revolutionary Feudalism, Wretched of the Earth, and Defending the Revolution show that absent property rights are harbingers of dictatorship and destitution.

Our Aid and Investment series shows how the entire economy is geared to aid and the future is geared to fantasies of massive aid to cover up the expected failures of communist policies and structurally determined levels of corruption never before seen in Ethiopian history.

Our Reds series shows that Ethiopian governance is based on Marxist-Leninist-Maoist doctrine long abandoned or always ignored by decent governments across the globe.

Our Economics series shows that the economy is in a horrible state and that it has absolutely no prospects of improvement under the policies of the current government. Current governance ignores every basic lesson of history and economics in favor of the enrichment of the aristocracy and in the service of a brutal will to power.

Wednesday, June 22

Criminal Minded

Children in a stolen moment of joy at a UN food camp during the famine of 1985. The survivors are adults now. Their world hasn't really changed for the better. We once got this bit of wisdom born of suffering from a group of older kids comparing the EPRDF to the Dergue, "a bunch of flies who'd already had their fill of our wounds were replaced by new ones."

Here is a timeless description of a dictatorship (China's), that despite all appearances of being civilized “nevertheless clings to the old techniques beloved of paranoid totalitarianism: lie and bluster in public, arrest and torture in private.” - although Ethiopia's horrors have become rather public recently. The following passage is from a 2005 Human Rights Watch Report on human rights abuses by the revolutionary government against the Oromo people, it also reflects the status of all Ethiopians.
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.
Near the beginning of our series on the poor prospects for democracy under the current regime we took a look at its human rights record as documented by numerous native and international sources and found it to be abysmal. Ethiopians are in the tragic position of being ruled by an undemocratic government that actively hinders their economic and social development and indeed values their suffering for the aid money it attracts.

That is because its policies and ideology of Revolutionary Democracy are based on rotten bits of Marx, Lenin and Mao that have been lovingly rescued from the rubbish bin of history such as the absence of private property and ethnic divide and rule. Those policies guarantee poverty and repression but they also assure power - which is by far the most important consideration in politburo rule.

So Western aid donors, which the government privately derides as imperialists have to foot the bill for dictatorship and have become the only constituency that matters. Thus, humanity is confronted by the barbaric scene of a government that has to be begged to treat its own people decently.

What do the West and Ethiopians get for those billions? Our series Cargo Cult Economics looked at this issue and found that the commitment to development and a free market was a sham. In particular the inseperable nature of party, government and crony owned businesses and monopolies at every level make for a setting of corrupt practices never seen before in Ethiopian history. From the Weekly Standard.
For while humanitarian assistance undoubtedly saves lives today, and debt-write off and new aid have their place, they send the same signals Africa has been receiving for the past four decades--the entire continent is a basket case in need of aid.

The Blair-Bush announcement of $674 million in aid for Eritrea and Ethiopia is worrying. While we except that food aid is warranted, the leaders of these two countries are among the worst in Africa, and we are rewarding them for bankrupting their agricultural economies through corruption, mismanagement, and communist collectivization.
In the last week Ethiopians killed 36 protesters who were up in arms over the failure to release election results on schedule. These results have been embargoed for several months so that its government can cook the books. In the meantime, they are declaring martial law. Did the Blair-Bush announcement give them license to conduct these acts?
Moreover, aid transfers and debt forgiveness do little to change the basic institutional failures of the past 30 years that have made Africa poorer and sicker while the rest of the world has become richer and healthier.

The danger in sending more aid to Africa is that the very governments that frustrate economic growth with laws and regulations, which entrench the power of political elites, will handle that money. Giving them more money empowers them further and ensures that they are removed from the populations that, theoretically, voted them into power.
Only aid tied to democratic reforms--especially reforms of property right structures--will likely deliver results. The fact that there is no private property in Ethiopia is the reason its economy is such a mess
Besides manipulating statistics to fake economic growth the Ethiopian government actively lies about the need for food aid to look good and insists that its policies are not at fault but rather their implementation. As if another century of Marx and Lenin anywhere on earth could do any good but for anyone besides a tiny revolutionary aristocracy.

The whole farce of the past election season was a public relations exercise designed to attract necesary foreign aid because the country was not allowed to move forward on its own. This is described in this fine essay by Dagmawi, Two Incompatible Objectives.

The bloody subsequent government crackdown and exposure of the Meles era politburo as the twin of the Mengistu era Dergue has destroyed the facade and left behind the brutal face of evil that Ethiopians have long been familiar with.

How much will change now? It is not clear. You see, the revolutionary aristocrats of Ethiopian government have 70 million hostages who are considered counter revolutionaries for wanting a different government. In addition, it allegedly holds the stability of the Horn and the East of Africa at the whim of its policies of ethnic and tribal divide and rule.

For a second generation now international and native expectations of Ethiopia's future and her government's have been so low that many are simply willing to let well enough, or bad enough as the case may be, alone rather than risk a collapse.

That fear is a carefully calculated and cultivated by Ethiopia's rulers because the politburo is running a classic Mafia protection racket. Anyone interested in the fate of Ethiopians has to give the aritstocracy a regular cut of the aid coming in and treat the gangsters at the top with respect.

Break those rules from inside and outside the country and millions of folks will suffer and die. Just in case the West considers itself immune from humanitarian concerns there is always the risk that a tragedy of massive proportions will require intervention. There is even the regular threat of Al Qaeda in the mix to bring the US, in particular, into line.

What is really a threat to Western interests is the government of Ethiopia which thrives on disorder while considering a decent into chaos a reasonable tool of diplomacy and negotiation for aid.

It is hard to really blame the West in the end for the 'democracy' they pretend to respect in Ethiopia and the security aims they grasp onto in the Horn and East of Africa. 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.

After all, any country's foreign policy is based upon self interest. The international system as well as common decency and common sense assume that a government is actually concerned for its people - it is the enduring tragedy of Ethiopians that their own government holds no concern for them.

Take another look at the children playing above. The ones who have survived the poverty and repression of twenty years of Communism and tribal divide and rule face a bleak future under the current dictatorship. Don't they deserve more by virtue of their humanity?

Apologists and cadres for the EPRDF of all stripes and in all places quickly generate new sets of excuses or recycle old ones at every opportunity. Their insincerity is evident and is the handmaiden of evil deeds carried out on the helpless.

Perhaps they think Ethiopians don't value life or freedom as much as other peoples or maybe they think Ethiopians have less nerve endings with which to feel pain.

What promise of crony status or property is worth the virulent hatred expressed to the likes of those children and their families - that they should never expect more of what is taken for granted by six billion others on this planet.

This type of willful blindness is not new. Just as in the past weeks of 2005, there was a particular month in 1977 during the Red Terror of the Mengistu regime when hundreds were executed and thousands of lives were ruined. No one really remembers their names but the name of one man, Steve Biko, who died that month thousands of miles south is in the collective memory of mankind forever.

We do not begrudge South Africans their hero and martyr nor their struggle for freedom. Indeed, we celebrate it with them as a victory for all. But why doesn't anyone remember the dead, the tortured Ethiopians of 1977 and why do we hold a certain fear that the killed and the maimed of 2005 will go into the mists of time without note?

We don't believe for a second that only a few dozen died in Addis Ababa when machine guns were fired into crowds. The world has only heard of those in a handful that made it to hospitals where cadres did not fix the numbers of dead even as they fixed the vote count.

Countless others went into the EPRDF gulag dead or alive and executions are certainly proceeding as you read this. The numbers in the countryside certainly dwarf the horrors of the cities. No one will ever know how many have died.

Is their some difference in Ethiopian DNA that has made the world care about us only in terms of annual famine aid and rock concerts every two decades or so? Why are our millions permanent nameless and faceless victims who don't deserve permanent political and institutional resolutions to suffering just like the rest of the world?

How can we do this to each other and how can the world be silent? Freedom is more than the right to be oppressed by people who look like you do. Given the established freedom of democracy and the marketplace Ethiopians will no longer need aid or pity.

The opposition victory in the past month's elections has been stolen and will never be repeated under current rule. The election was a party mistake born of arrogance and contempt for Ethiopians who weren't expected to identify their tormentors.

The great result is hope. After hopeless wasted decades of Communist variants of Scientific Socialism and Revolutionary Democracy with attendant ethnic politics, millions chose multi-ethnic national candidates and parties and expressed the vibrancy and potential of their country and culture.

That should never be forgotten as the struggle for Ethiopia's future enters its next phase. Remember, there is nothing - no crime, no infamy, no horror that will not be gladly carried out by Ethiopia's rulers to sustain their grip for even another day in power.

One thing that is needed is a symbol of these times. Perhaps the name and image of the first victim of the new open terror can become a point of focus for the uncounted and nameless masses killed and bound by this set of despots.

In a recent case a US Congressmen threatened aid to Ethiopia in the interests of one of his constituents who was denied the return of his property stolen by the government in Addis Ababa. The response from Ethiopian officials was shock that one person could so influence relations betweeen the countries.

The official reaction is not surprising because in Ethiopia all 70 million people don't matter to their own government. It is time that 70 million individuals to be noticed and considered as the criminal mindset of the past is rejected and a mind born of every single life's value is renewed.

The interests of the world lie with them, not with their government. Remember what you said President Bush because millions believed you
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.
Ethiopians have to fix their own country but helping them gain their freedom will mean more good for both countries than billions in aid and security conferences with dictators. Despots are the ultimate authors and directors of international terrorism directed against all of humanity.

Saturday, June 18

Cadres 'n ze Hood

Vincent Vega & Jules Winfield, pictured above, are the pair of psychopathic killers at the very heart of one of our favorite movies, Pulp Fiction. The former is a heroin addict, who is always in the bathroom when something important happens. The latter, and by far the more interesting of the two, is an occasionally introspective high order sadist.

As if impending death is not bad enough, Jules wants his victims to spend their last terrifying moments on earth feeling that even God has forsaken them. Picture that self righteous thug, with his jerri curls dripping all over everything, pointing a rather large handgun while this fake Bible passage furiously rings out
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness.

For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.
Escaping certain death, Jules waxes philosophical "I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never really questioned what it meant. I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherf***er before you popped a cap in his ass".

Clearly, Jules is not a nice man. Indeed, any reasonable observer who disengages himself from Quentin Tarantino's seductive and cool dystopia for a micro-second will recognize a portrait of evil. Now imagine that you encounter the likes of Vincent and Jules but you can't just change the channel?

Men like Vincent and Jules run governments in some parts of the world. Ethiopians have known for some time the experience of intimate terror that thugs and psycopaths bring to innocent lives. For example, the catalog of horrors that Mengistu's rule brought on certainly had a sound track like a movie.

However, screams and cries managed to drown out soul and disco era cassettes that were mixed in with official hits of the revolution like "Without Bloodshed, Ethiopia Forward" and its rather quick replacement by that shrill herald of death, "Yefiyel Wotete."

"Yefiyel Wotete" was a terrifying war cry that accompanied the announcements of executions and purges of thousands of innocents. Here it is in Amharic (loud and fevered - c'mon use your imagination)
Zeraf, akaki zeraf!
Yefiyel wotete, tikishaw yabete, libu yabetebet!
eniwaga bilo lenebir lakebet!
Lijochwam yalkalu eswam timotalech!
goraw! goraw! ere goraw
... translated into English one can get a partial sense of this monstrous chant that always accompanied death ...

Yefiyel Wotete = arrogant young female goat
Zeraf, akaki zeraf = no translation for this, just a chant
'achberbari' = liar, phony, trickster
tikeshaw yabete = its shoulder swollen with ego
libu yabetebet! = its heart swollen, inflated with hubris
eniwaga bilo lenebir lakebet! = sent it (in its ego) to fight with a tiger
Lijochwam yalkalu eswam timotalech! = its youngsters will be destroyed, and it will die, too
goraw! goraw! ere goraw = no translation for this, chant

The purpose of repeating this was to terrorize and it proved to be very effective. Most shudder upon hearing it today in a Pavlovian reaction that was its original intent. It was meant to disarm, to demoralize, to make its millions of victims feel bereft of all hope and chances to resist or survive without total submission to Mengistu and his cadres, the earthly representatives of Marx and Lenin.

Jules and Mengistu have a whole lot in common don't they? One big difference though, while Jules had to avoid the law, Mengistu was the law. He killed with pride and bold headlines to the thunderous applause of the Soviet Empire and progressives worldwide.

His heirs, the EPRDF, weren't so lucky because their side lost the Cold War. After they and the Dergue had fought it out so the last man standing would get to be the real communist, the USSR fell apart and was unable to transfer support to its newest minions.

Hey, they were all Communists weren't they? Every government like that has always guaranteed the misery of destitution and repression for the people it claimed to fight for - just look at a map of the world with a memory no more than a generation deep. Try it again with a historical memory reaching back a century and you will see rivers of blood and tears.

From the absence of private property rights to the total domination of society by a vanguard party at the service of a tiny revolutionary feudal aristocracy, the only difference between the plan the Dergue and the EPRDF had for Ethiopians is generally higher IQs (not necessarily a good thing) at the top of the new government.

Scrambling about for a source of cash, the new rulers had to play up to the 'rich imperialists' who would not tolerate open Pulp Fiction / Scientific Socialism type thuggish behavior. So Revolutionary Democracy was invented to beguile the West and to continue a tradition of revolutionary state terror ... in a more subtle fashion.

Over countless centuries Ethiopians have fought to be free of foreigners. Now, Ethiopians look to foreigners to protect them from their own leaders. Make no mistake, without ferenjis and their traditions of liberal democracy, Ethiopians under their current rulers would not even have a pretense of human rights and millions more would be dead and dying from want.

The New Jack Tribal Gangstas of Revolutionary Democracy differ from the Original Gangstas of Scientific Socialism because they refined "the old techniques beloved of paranoid totalitarianism: lie and bluster in public, arrest and torture in private".

That game did not carry over into the recent election loss so the politburo got in touch with its 'inner killer' and butchered, terrorized, imprisoned and tortured the innocent. All the while looking away from its bloody handiwork, back over its shoulder to see what the ferenjis do and insulting them when they try to protect Ethiopian lives.

They wanted to make sure no one inside or outside took the talk of democracy seriously any more ... no matter what happened or what had to be done they would never, never leave power ... basically, "pay attention, in case you ever again have any illusions, this is exactly what we are about."

You see, Ethiopians don't matter to the politburo. They are just bodies to build a pyramid of wealth and power with. Indeed, in pursuing Communist policies that exchange national poverty and repression for a secure place in power, the government resembles the fabled clans of evil beggars that mutilate each successive generation so that pity generates steady income.

Anyone who wants to help the sufferers has to deal with their masters, who by virtue of their brutality, must be taken seriously by the international community. Vincent, Jules and Mengistu never could have come up with a scam this sophisticated and altogether sadistic at the same time.

Every word you hear from the Ethiopian government and its cadres everywhere, is as sinister in its intent as the fake Bible passage from Jules and every action is as sincerely immoral as Mengistu's war chant.

One must know one's enemy. The Ethiopian opposition and the people do know their enemy and together they are paying a price for that knowledge and their rejection of it with their blood.

The EPRDF prefers that aid donors imagine the remake of "Red Terror" starring Cheech and Chong instead of Vincent and Jules .. but you know better.

Thursday, June 16

Hatred is the Basis

"Only the government is allowed to incite violence" Dragunov armed Revolutionary Democratic sniper on the streets of Addis Ababa deploying against civilian protestors, courtesy of Yahoo/AFP.

We must hate — hatred is the basis of communism. Children must be taught to hate their parents if they are not communists."

Vladimir Ilich Lenin

Releasing the final election results a month late is designed to allow the interchangeable - ruling party / government / election board - apparatus enough time to get its ballot box stuffing and statistical manipulation act together within comfortable margins.

In the meantime, the dozens of murders that the politburo has admitted to committing, the imprisonment of further thousands undergoing torture or at risk of it, and the arrests and abuse of opposition leaders serve several purposes.

The obvious aim of this open form of Revolutionary Democratic Terror is to prevent popular anger from coalescing into powerful peaceful mass protests before billions of witnesses around the planet. Another reason for the accelerated reign of terror is to change the subject from the practice of reasonable democracy to the enforcement of 'law and order'.

Essentially, everyone concerned from Ethiopians to foreigners is being reminded about exactly who and what the government is and what the stakes are. The Prime Minister accuses opposition leaders of "inciting violence and starting fires" and adds that "[i]f things get hotter they will be detained without any question. If that's intimidation, so be it."

The Prime Minister's statement is contradicted by every reasonable account of current and historical practice of the government, and he knows it. The actual message is that observers should not expect much in the way of civilized behavior towards anyone who thinks that the ruling party will ever voluntarily leave power for any reason under the sun.

Remember, the urban terror is only what we know about and a tiny fraction of the state horrors that are being meted out in rural Ethiopia. There can be no doubt that government revenge for its election humiliation is far worse in the countryside where there are no prying eyes.

To further the aim of tribal divide and rule, the country has been divided into bantustans in the same manner as apartheid era South Africa. The rulers of each tribal 'killil' rule their people as feudal subjects and they are in turn the vassals of the center of power.

Actually, they are also subject to the direction of 'deputies' from the center who really run the show. The center has long resisted making Addis Ababa the capital city of the Oromo ethnic region but agreed to do so just this week.

This reversal of a decade and half's policy of ignoring all Oromos and the use of the historical Oromo name for Addis Ababa, Finfine, is another bit of political / ethnic gameplaying. Putting Addis in the control of their vassal (so called Oromo) party in advance of the pretense of opposition rule of the capital, will allow the politburo to create ethnic tension out of the reality of their planned sabotage of city administration.

This is an appropriate time to note the recent Human Rights Watch report, "Suppressing Dissent: Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region." Fear of actual Oromo political power or of its identification with Ethiopia has led that region to be the victim of a veritable catalogue of government abuses.

Ethiopia's rulers are using the extra time other horrors as well. Ethiomedia calls uniquely evil that
[l]eaflets typed in Amharic were distributed in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, reportedly calling for residents to hunt down Tigrinya-speaking fellow Ethiopians. The leaflets are distributed as if they were from Kinijit or Hibret opposition supporters.
These government publications are designed to draw the ethnic battle lines even more firmly than the past fourteen years of tribal divide and rule. Tigrayans are being warned what fate may await them if the government, that hijacked their identity thirty years ago, is threatened - so they had better stay loyal.

All others are being threatened with a violent response commensurate with the threat of ethnic cleansing. You see, the leaflets don't have to be believed to have the desired effect - just raising the subject of the unique evil of genocide is meant to be a mortal threat to all concerned regardless of their ethncity.

The government warned that the opposition was planning a Rwanda style campaign of mass murder before their election show went bad on them. The whole issue and the code words associated with it like 'neftegna' are designed to incite hatred of Amharas. National unity is considered a mortal threat by the politburo to its continued existence atop a pyramid of misery and mistrust.

The government is particularly desperate to make Ethiopians hate each other because the politburo's whole reason for being is predicated on erasing links between groups that can keep the definitions of national identity alive. The opposition today is as ethnically united as the Ethiopian forces that faced Egypt in the 1870s or the armies that fought Italy in the 1890s and during the Second World War.

Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella describes how the government began a campaign of ethnic cleansing familiar to the world from Sudan's behavior after oil was discovered in the south-west. They got so much things to say examines how the government is hijacking the religion of Rastafarianism because of its own agenda of divide and rule.

On the Pitfalls of Ethnic Politics
describes how the constitution devalues national identity and encourages tribal divide and rule along with social / economic failure in the service of party power. Don't Believe The Hype shows how ethnicity has been used by Marxist-Leninist parties for a century as a means of weakening enemies of revolutionary parties.

Watch for more ashattir - trickery from Ethiopia's rulers in coming days and weeks. You will definitely see more tribal (and religious) trickery - aside from violence and assorted justifications for repression, that is all they really have to offer humanity.

Tuesday, June 14

Common Sense

"A legitimate government"Family members of killed or 'disappeared' civilian protestors, courtesy of Yahoo/Reuters.

The information minister and spokesman for the ruling party, Bereket Simon recently said
the opposition was trying to overthrow a legitimate government in what he called a Ukrainian-style revolution.
How could it not occur to the propagandist in chief that most of his audience would assume that the democratic Ukrainian revolution against revanchist KGB thugs was a good thing? Here is another tragi-comic statement
What toppled the governments of eastern European countries were mainly the international broadcasters. We don't want that to be repeated in our country
How could it possibly not occur to the propagandist in chief that most of humanity thinks the overthrow of the totalitarian states of Communist Eastern Europe was a good thing?

Freud himself would be hard pressed to explain these clueless slips into honesty unless what is at issue is just plain cluelessness coincident with ruthlessness. Observers must wonder after the horror of recent events how the past years of government could have been taken seriously in any way beyond the ruling party's ability to wield brute force and terrorize.

In tragic concert with the rather obvious dishonesty and depravity of cadres and opportunists worldwide, the essential factor in approaching the subject of governance has been simply low expectations. Ethiopia's rulers, Mengistu and his heir Meles, have so debased history, communal relations, trust and morality in the service of their will to power for so many years that many forgot that they deserved better.

The catalogue of this government's infamy stretches back decades. It began with the capture of the Tigrayan people and the jealous struggle with the Dergue over who was most sincerely Marxist onto the past fourteen years of glib catechisms and pre-emptive vengeance against some 70 million rivals, both imagined and real.

The essential corruption and brutality of the Orwellian society thus created pretended to be many things. However, the thin tissue of lies binding that pretense together fell apart when the defining glue of violence at its core, long familiar to Ethiopians, became clear before the world.

What kind of government has so little regard for Ethiopians that it provokes and shoots them down in the street ... that it keeps them destitute so they can't resist ... that would rather see them be permanent beggars than masters of their own lives ... that would rather preen and dance for foreign aid than see a nation fill its potential ... that divides and rules and lies and steals and kills as naturally as normal humans breathe?

Andrei Sakharov understood that mentality perfectly well when he wrote these words about those destroying his country
Homo Sovieticus is like the prostitute who believes that all women are whores because she is. Soviet man believes that the whole world is divided into parties and that every man is a member of one party or another, and that there is no real honesty. No one stands for the truth. And if anyone says he is above Party and is trying to speak the truth alone, he is lying.
Note that the expression of contempt, by action and policy, towards Ethiopians is a function of the revolutionary feudal aristocracy's self loathing that they assume all similarly, sincerely posess. Despite the very best efforts of the cult of Homo Sovieticus to colonize the Ethiopian mind through Mengistu's Scientific Socialism and the Revolutionary Democracy of Meles, their comradely lie now is exposed before the world for the evil at its core.

The most elementary understanding of events in Ethiopia requires the recognition that the Ethiopian government is Communist. This is a crucial point to make because Marxist-Leninist assumptions have long had a stranglehold on the collective mind. Even the manipulation of ethnicity has its roots in that same witche's brew.

The problem is not the abiltiy of Ethiopians to create a successful society but that the fatal flaw has been her leader's acceptance of national failure in exchange for power. The opposition is notable for its rejection of nonsense ideology and its embrace of common sense. They understand that Communism in any form guarantees the suffering of poverty and repression.

Which is exactly why dictatorships are so enomored of that ideology. Millions of voters clearly appreciated that it was time for the tired evil and idiotic ways of revolutionary feudalism to be buried forever ... but never forgotten. Along with the burial of TPLF legitimacy this struggle should mark the final end of the set of inhuman totalitarian assumptions that defined Mengistu and Meles.

The popular struggle against Communism and its neo-colonial class has been going on for three decades now and has been more costly than all the wars with Italy, Egypt and the other countless centuries of invasions. Freedom has always meant more than the dubious right to oppression by one's own.

It is time for an exorcism of that lethal nonsense. This beast will claim many more victims in its death throes but its days are now numbered. Ethiopians will remember who they have always been and not what they have been told to be at the point of a gun.

Sunday, June 12

We don't need no votes!

'Maturing Democracy' Armored Personnel Carriers in Meskel Square, courtesy of Andrew Heavens/Reuters.

In the 1948 classic Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Humphrey Bogart's down and out gold miner is surrounded by bandits who are claiming to be federales ... he wants to see proof before he surrenders. The memorable response is
We ain't got no badges.
We don't need no badges.
I don't have to show you any stinking badges.
Fast forward to 2005 ...

Election Show Closes Early

Scathing reviews have closed the curtains on the Politburo Election 2005 Show early. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. After all, the revolutionary democratic path to victory, perpetual international legitimacy and cash had been so meticulously followed.

The American and Norwegian observers were kicked out. The European Union observers could not be too much trouble and the Carter Center knew what was expected of it. None of them would leave Addis Ababa anyway except for photo opportunities. The foreign press who could also be kept in line.

How about all those troublesome Ethiopians? Well they knew how to behave - or they had better because they weren‘t going anywhere and neither was the ruling party. If Addis Ababa was lost, it might even look good - the potential for sabotage of opposition attempts to administer the capital was simply too delicious.

Certainly all of the nations, nationalities and peoples outside of Addis knew what was expected of them - there were certainly no ferenjis around to know different. Fourteen years of revolutionary democracy could not be shrugged off so easily.

The opposition? It is not like they would mount a serious guerrilla campaign so why did they matter at all? As long as they played their part in the election show, scores could be settled later. The whole process could be repeated again in five years when the ferenjis want another election show before they signed more checks.

Despite the best laid plans of commissars and cadres ... the vote nationwide swung sharply against the government taxing their ability to manipulate reality for even the most unobservant watchers. Not a single place where observers were present was won by the ruling party.

Changing the subject.

When the election show fell apart the government made all of the right moves from their perspective. The protest ban made a Kiev / Beirut / Tbilisi type of mass protest a matter of law and order instead of a romantic popular movement that could attract favorable attention across the world.

Victory was proclaimed at every opportunity - aside from the baited trap set for the opposition by admitting losses in Addis. Opposition charges of fraud and abuse were met with the very same by the government and everyone played at an assumption of moral equivalency. The numbers were manipulated or invented outright and trickled out in a flake flurries of good news.

Then things started to go really wrong - as if the ballots of tens of millions of counter revolutionaries weren’t enough of a problem to deal with. The opposition was more determined than expected and showed tactical and strategic skill of unexpected quality. The EU observers who had been so cooperative started to complain of fraud and rigging.

So the domestic press was isolated further from political reality by being threatened about printing statements from the opposition. The stridency and temperature of official pronouncements towards the opposition went up as well - as though building up to the Dergue era shrill war cry of state terror - yefiyel wottette.

Then came the moment to take charge of the potential for protest. Students were troublesome anyway - after all the university is where the current government started out. Simply attacking them or manipulating their righteous protests at just the right moment led to a staged confrontation against the overwhelming power of authority. After that brutal hand of state force was shown - then who would dare march on Meskel Square?

Thus the election was forgotten and it instead became a season to restore law and order that the government itself had broken. All the while foreign reaction was measured and found wanting. In many ways it was better if everyone all over the world saw exactly what was going on - nothing from votes to foreign pressure would ever be allowed to change Ethiopian government. The sooner everyone got used to that idea the better.

Serious Gimgemma activity coming up

By 2005 Mugabe really knew how to fake an election. He was so good at it that even though everyone knew he was hated nationwide - there was little in particular to point to as evidence of election fraud. Ethiopia’s government has certainly learned lessons for 2010 that are too late to apply now.

Next time inflating the turnout won’t be enough to give a margin of manipulation when statistical analysis and the need for timely reporting of results may be required for legitimacy. No assumptions will be made about accepting the party’s own propaganda at face value. Even more important it seems that the people number only a few thousand and the counter revolutionaries have multiplied to reach a total of almost 70 million suspects.

The people will have to be protected even more from all of those countless potential anarchists. Perhaps more calculated weakening and insecurity from humger and poverty will be enough to make them more reliable supporters. If not, then kebeles and cadres can metastasize further onto every square meter of land and crowd out every unapproved thought.

Most important of all, the party can never ease up on the enemy, no matter how many of them there are. Not for a moment can the vanguard party let its guard down again. The agents of reaction and imperialism are just waiting for the kind of weakness shown by trying to please those ferenjis for their dollars, euros and yen.

So they won’t say nice things anymore? So what? In the end when all those Ethiopians suffer even more, they will have to deal with us to get to help them at all. They’ll come running back , or they will forget anyway - really they want to forget.

'Elections' were bad enough to put up with and power sharing was certainly the consolation of fools. Not only had the opposition actually won, it was acting as though the politburo should actually step aside.

Arrest them, 'disappear' them, blame them all - the politburo defines reality - no one else. This is not some game, this is war and the politburo plays that game for keeps.

It is clear now exactly how to deal with 70 million counter revolutionaries. Never give them an inch.

Friday, June 10

Revolutionary Measures

everything old is new again ... revolutionary measures was the dergue term for murder of its opponents Revolutionary Democratic Agazee Forces patrolling among civilians on the streets of Addis Ababa, courtesy of Yahoo/AFP.

Ethiopia: A Post Cold-War African State” by Theodore Vestal is required reading for any comprehensive understanding of the TPLF era (the ruling party that is indistinguishable from the supposed ruling coalition, the EPRDF, and the government itself). In an early chapter he talks of an early multi-ethnic opposition party and its fate. In 1991 the United Democratic Nationals (UDN) or National Democratic Union was formed by Oromo, Amhara and Tigrayans.

In addition to the usual visceral paranoia and destructive impulses directed toward any possibility of criticism and opposition from any corner of planet earth, the ire of the TPLF was heightened by UDN positions in favor of such common sense notions such as the right to private property. Ruling party informants infiltrated the UDN while the government harassed and disrupted members and meetings.

Despite this, the new party grew, so the government labeled it an Amhara and Dergue organization composed of a “warmongering, discord-sowing and violence advocating group of anarchists and hooligans". The UDN kept going and held a series of peaceful demonstration countrywide and in Addis Ababa in the midst of government inspired ethnic divide and rule tactics and fighting in various regions where Amharas and Oromos were the main targets.

Foreign influence from Western embassies in Addis Ababa allowed the UDN to proceed and on November 24, 1991 a crowd of 100,000 supporters assembled in Meskel Square. Military vehicles drove into the crowd at full speed, the electricity was cut off (sound familiar?) and despite other forms of abuse the protest was a success. The next day the UDN leaders were arrested, allegedly because of a single rock throwing incident at a group of soldiers.

Charges such as “inciting the people’s thinking with malicious thoughts,” shouting slogans and throwing rocks put the leaders in jail for months until they were released because of US pressure. Under constant surveillance and death threats after release, many leaders fled the country and its offices were occupied by the ruling party. Hundreds of rank and file members also fled or were subjected to torture, intimidation and harassment.

More revelatory than the above story is the entirely of the rule of the current government as shown in this post, Dictatorship. It shows that the exercise of liberal democracy can not be honest in any current Ethiopian context, anyway. What matters is the pretense of democracy and inclusion in the service of attracting Western money.

politics as war

Notably, the founding secretary general of the UDN was found to have been an informer of the government whose purpose was to expose enemies of the ruling party by acting as an agent provacateur. From the infiltration of fighters behind the lines on the battlefield onto dealing with groups and even individuals - careful, painstaking infiltration, sowing of discord, manipulation and lies are defining characteristics of the party approach to humanity.

Indeed, the ruling party of Ethiopia makes no distinction between politics and the battlefield. That is why in the midst of a stumbling campaign to steal the recent election after the fact, comparison was made to the victory over the Dergue in war. According to the Prime Minister, “any political group which has a popular agenda cannot be marginalized by repression of any magnitude.”

What this means is that any political competition such as the exercise of liberal democracy is seen as a sham by her rulers. Anyone with political aspirations who doesn’t fulfill them in combat doesn’t deserve consideration and anyone who achieves that kind of violent consideration will be killed.

This is why all talk of any replacement of or challenge to the current party will be met forever with references to battles many decades past and why all action with possibility of replacing the current order will be met with force. This is important for obvious reasons but also because all peaceful means of changing power are closed beyond the pretense of democracy carried out for donors to see.

Thus power in the TPLF era Ethiopia is designed to only come out of the barrel of a gun. Urban residents are generally viewed contemptuously as rivals to power but the government is scared to death of peasants whose power they themselves hijacked to get to Addis.

That is why no government candidate was elected where observers where present and why intimidation and vote rigging in the countryside will give the ruling party whatever margin of victory it decides to award itself. There are no observers and Westerners in the countryside where 85% of the people live and control of those lives is tightest of all.

The untold story of this election is the mass violence unleashed in defiant electoral districts far from prying eyes.

imperialist forces and their agents

In 1993 the EPRDF published a secret internal document “Our Revolutionary Democratic Goals and the Next Steps“ . An English translation was published as "TPLF/EPRDF Strategies for Establishing its Hegemony & Perpetuating its Rule" in the Ethiopian Register, June 1996. We will certainly consider the entire fascinating document in the future, but for the present, the descriptions of revolutionary democracy, the grab bag of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist justifications for dictatorship, and its strategy towards the practice of actual democracy are very relevant.

The document notes that full fledged expression of revolutionary democracy is difficult because “imperialist forces” (the US and Europe) who were the victors of the cold war restrict freedom of action because of the need for foreign aid. Basically, there were now limits to how nakedly force could be used in defense of party interests. Foreign imperialists were to be misdirected with fake promises of democracy and a free market.

The “agents of imperialism within“, namely any and all anti-EPRDF forces, generally “lacked the political, economic, and military power to be of service to the imperialists and their organized representatives are paralyzed by internal contradictions and cannot offer a viable alternative to the people“. It is crucial to note how under typical Marxist rhetoric that, the people are by definition supporters of the vanguard Communist party in question.
When we say that all citizens’ democratic rights will be respected in the future socio-political system, it doesn’t mean that Revolutionary Democracy will stand equally for the rights of the masses and the ruling classes. Our support is always for the rights of the masses only.
Since any opposition to the TPLF was by definition anti-people and anti-masses, then endless TPLF rule and any and all means of achieving it were also by definition justified in these terms familiar to any student of a jealous cult or intolerant religion. The Wretched of the Earth has a partial catalogue of convenient definitions for the people.

In Revolutionary Democracy, we took a look at a 2000 resurrection of that rather silly ideology as a weapon in the service of internal party struggles over the conduct of the war with Eritrea. As we described in Revolutionary Democracy in Action, and in Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, the party lost control of the election show of 2005 because of the unexpected defiance in favor of the opposition everywhere.

The current state of affairs is outlined in Tiger by the Tail - the opposition knows exactly what it is dealing with and is not going to back down. So the stage is set for us to see the true face of Ethiopia’s rulers. As anyone may guess ... it won’t be pretty.

storm clouds gathering

So far, the very well considered and careful behavior of the opposition, the attention of observers (with the notable exception of Jimmy Carter), and the statements of donor countries have held back the brutal hand of the party in the center at least , meaning Addis Ababa. This will change soon.

Recently, the Ethiopian press was sternly warned not to put out any opposition statements during a recent series of arrests and paroles on ‘good behavior‘. EU observers have already been critical of the one sided trickle of information from all powerful government sources.

Barring actual bloodshed in a central location like Meskel Square, the Western press may have little idea what is going on or it may take at face value pronouncements by the government. A few key personalities in the press and opposition known to influential embassies have only temporary security.

The National Election Board, a division of the ruling party / government, is threatening to sue the opposition for saying true things about it; "[s]uch statements, though baseless and fabricated, may mislead the public and discredit the efforts of the NEBE," Observers have already described the board as creating a situation where rigging was becoming an assumption of all concerned.

In order to have time to get its rigging machinery in order the release of official results has been postponed for a month further - ostensibly to investigate charges of rigging. Anyway, the government has consistently and repeatedly claimed victory since before the election began. The Minister of Information has already accused the opposition of wide scale voting fraud.

A lawsuit filed against the government because of a state of emergency and a ban on demonstrations is to be reviewed under the constitution. Of course, the judiciary is another division of the ruling party / government and the government has already declared victory numerous times and threatened those who question that victory.

Watch for an even more comical parliamentary investigation in the near future. Basically, the party wanted to take no chance on a popular gathering a la Kiev and Beirut that would capture the attention of the world.

The opposition is being labeled as anarchists “engaging in provocation, fanning ethnic hatred, vote rigging, buying ballots and other anti-democratic missions” while the Information minister has warned that : “[o]ur democracy is meant to serve the interest of our peoples and never to accommodate anarchy.”

One assumption that should be called into question by all concerned is the role of the people of Tigray. They were Ethiopians long before anyone ever heard of the TPLF and will always remain defiantly so, despite the governments best efforts. The opposition should never assume that support from the north is absent even if silenced by a brute force that is deeply entrenched and decades old.

abiyotawi irmija - revolutionary measures

Playing the ethnic card in the ugliest possible manner is as natural to Ethiopia’s rulers as breathing. The opposition is truly and voluntarily multi-ethnic which greatly threatens the tribal divide and rule tactics of the government. Charges against the opposition have already involved accusations of a planned Rwanda style genocide and a variety of code words for the omni present evil Amharas of politburo imagination.

Watch for staged ethnic violence where ‘sudden’ complete access is granted to the Western press. There might be also be confessions from within the opposition or statements from the ‘guilty’ about how they were inspired by the opposition. There might be attempts to use violence to split the opposition or just to discredit it so that the full force of government power can be put into play with Western silence (or even encouragement from Jimmy Carter).

Other targets for staged violence against people or property include infrastructure projects, foreigners or their businesses or embassies, government offices or expendable party members, mosques, churches and schools. A potential propoganda winner is a staged attack on an aviation target or a hijacking that the opposition is somehow blamed for.

Even if there is suspicion of government involvement, many foreigners will see it all as evidence of Ethiopian instability and maybe happy to turn away. In the same vein be assured that the religion card will also be played in the service of the party's will to power.

The opposition will be under extraordinary pressure to back down and weaker members may break under threats to themselves or their families. A very few may be TPLF agents in place. Anything is possible including assassination and disappearances.

After all what will anyone do about it in the end? If Ethiopia’s government is no longer invited to join international commissions they may not be happy but that is better to them than losing power. Anyway, the EU may have washed its hands of the remaining contested electoral district controversies.

All observers should realize that there is a titanic struggle going on. The full force of a dictatorship whose show of democracy got out of hand is facing down a popular opposition backed by seven tens of millions. There is nothing, no lie, no infamy, no killing, no horror, no atrocity in human imagination that the Ethiopian government will not gladly do to maintain its power and privileges.

Even if hundreds are killed silently, thousands in Meskel Square or tens of thousands in the countryside, sanctions will make the going more difficult for dictatorship but long suffering Ethiopians will continue to suffer long before the first sacrifice is made by the folks in charge. Have no doubt that the folks at the top have the best golden parachutes that the accumulated blood, sweat and tears squeezed from millions of human souls can buy.

Ethiopia under her current government, is akin to a purposefully maimed body too weak to free itself. The authors of that suffering are rewarded with control of the aid money that pitiable state generates. This may be one of the worst threats Ethiopians have ever faced in their long history.

The opposition has carried the struggle this far and we offer them our prayers and hopes because in supporting them one expresses belief in an Ethiopian future where freedom means more than the absence of foreign colonialism. Forming a shadow cabinet is an excellent start as is otherwise going on like they confidently carry the blessings and future of millions with them.

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

Lenin's vision of a post-communist Russia

The opposition, and indeed Ethiopians of every stripe have long ago identified their common enemy. Now they must go on identifying their common good in the face of great odds and greater engineered threats such as the sincere ones in the Lenin quote above. At Harvest 3,000 years and counting ... Ethiopians are certainly due a break from providence.

Wednesday, June 8

Revolutionary Democracy in Action

Defending the Revolution Counter-Revolutionaries arrested and awaiting a trip to the gulag, courtesy of Yahoo/Reuters.

There is a wondeful old children's story by Hans Christian Andersen called "The Emperor's New Clothes". It is about a ruler who parades before adoring crowds in garments so fine they can’t be felt (or seen) until one little girl innocently destroys the mass illusion of power and fear ...
But among the crowds a little child suddenly gasped out, "But he hasn't got anything on." And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. "He hasn't got anything on." "There's a little child saying he hasn't got anything on." Till everyone was saying, "But he hasn't got anything on." The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. "But I will have to go through with the procession," he said to himself.
Ethiopia's dicatorship is certainly more clever than most and quite willing to exact a heavy price on its people to stay in power as long as possible. As justifiably cynical as we have been about the politburo's staging of this election, in a very significant way we have been 'missing the trees for the forest'.

A profound degree of distrust and disgust with the ruling party is well earned by its machinations and its use of words like 'democracy' and 'elections' is quite obviously insincere. However, it seems we have given short shrift to the brave and evident sincerity that the opposition and Ethiopians hold in themselves as they together face a politburo with an atavistic zero-sum view of human existence.

As we said, readers may be curious about how democratic elections can take place where there is no rule of law, there are no democratic institutions and the sole impetus for even phony elections is Western monetary pressure on the omnipotent ruling party to treat Ethiopians halfway decently for a change.

Of course, democratic elections can't be held under those circumstances but an awful lot of people seem to have made themselves heard anyway. Like so many dictatorships before - this one was confident enough of its own calculated application of terror and might even have believed enough of its own propaganda to be surprised by how hard it became to fake an election when millions of people decided to defy them.

There may be long years ahead of incalculable damage done by revolutionary democracy and the revolutionary feudal aristocracy ruling Ethiopia today. However, now the countdown has at least begun. Consider this - unless the defeat had been greater than anyone imagined the party would have been prepared to fake a victory quite easily.

The most telling vidence of this, courtesy of the Ethiopian Review and Ethiomedia is that
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.
Even the European Union observers weigh in with unprecedented criticism of the "the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging" evident in the trickle of chaotic, contradictory and government dominated poll results.

The 90% figure for voter turnout is also doubtful. Getting 90% of any group to do anything is next to impossible except at the point of a gun. We suspect that figure was just made up so that vote rigging later could have a margin of invention to work with and because it would catch the attention of media who had no way of knowing different.

We also suspect that the concessions to the opposition in Addis Ababa are an example of the classic scam of 'salting the mines'. The practice refers to placing real bits of gold around a non-productive mine entrance to fool potential investors.

The folks who are to lose their seats in the rubber stamp 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.

We think that 'salting the mines' in Addis has been a government tactic planned years ahead of time against inescapble (to observers) opposition gains. The opposition will be sabotaged at every turn and the government, at the helm of a vast information and coercion machine, will insist on how sincerely it tried to help out.

The fact that they are having so much trouble carrying through the election con game to the end is a clear sign that they will soon reveal the same brutal face to the world, that 70 million Ethiopians and only particularly inquisitive foreigners have seen before. After that the primitive Leninist - Maoist - Tribal justification for power called revolutionary democracy will join whatever nonsense the likes of Mugabe and Mengistu had for their rule.

Ethiopians of every ethnicity long ago appreciated the terror and lies inherent in the revolutionary democratic game, above all, the politburo's cadres and all of the politburo's yes-men knew exactly what was going on. The rules won't change but more folks will break them. The party will crack down even harder and cause more defiance and on and on.

Foreign donors have always been contemptously pleased that at a minimum those in charge were not as monstrous as the Dergue, knew when to use the proper fork at state dinners, and got out of the way on occasion to allow aid to slip through the cracks to the masses below. It is likely that their unconditional support will fade even if the EU gives a resigned blessing of low expectations to the election.

No credit goes to the politburo for its miscalculations while staging an elaborate show, principally for a foreign audience. Compromise and a level playing field are seen as the consolations of fools and losers by Ethiopia's rulers. If they change, it will be in favor of vicious revenge for their embarassment before the world.

The Ethiopian equivalent of the little girl above has spoken. This long national nightmare is by no means over but the end is somewhere in sight. The struggle will be in keeping the country together as the politburo's vengeful design of failure angrily drags millions down as the price others have to pay for another year, even another minute of dictatorship.