Tuesday, November 22

Soylent Green is People !

Commercial Announcer: brought to you by Soylent red and Soylent yellow, high energy vegetable concentrates, and new, delicious, Soylent green. The miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world.

Charlton Heston's Detective Thorn: It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!


We will be back after Thanksgiving. None of us are really feeling blogging these days. Above all don't take any of the government hype at face value - like soylent green it is to be noted exactly for what it is but not consumed.

A very kind reader (we think ...) wrote to tell us recently that it did not matter that we weren't posting here for a while because the long held views of most government critics including ethiopundit about Meles Incorporated are rapidly becoming common wisdom.

If so - that is mainly because of the bloody hands of the government itself. However, we must say it is a pleasure to have ever increasing company among voices, like Detective Thorn's, going on about Meles Inc.'s mass marketing of Soylent Green.

Please visit our recent / archived posts on the sidebar for the back story of recent events and all of the links there such as Dagmawi, Ethio Media.Com, Ethiopian Review Magazine and Weichegud! ET Politics for Ethiopian news and commentary.

Prof. Christopher Clapham's Comments on the Ethiopian crisis is the very best summary of current events we have come across.


African Bullets and Honey is a great source of reasoned opinion that has this report of a recent visit to Ethiopia.

The following are also excellent blogs: Booker Rising, Gateway Pundit, Publius Pundit, Instapundit, Foreign Dispatches, Econ Log, Global Voices, and Ethan Zuckerman,

Sunday, November 20

Statement by the Crown Council

The Crown Council of Ethiopia

Statement Given on November 10th, 2005

Over the past two weeks, we have followed the appalling news from our country with deep sadness. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all those who have lost loved ones. Our message to them is that “Each and every Ethiopian has sustained a major loss. We are all deeply wounded and bleed from within for our beloved nation.”

Regrettably, we seem to remain oblivious to the tragic lessons learned from the terrible events of last June. Indeed, accusations and counter-accusations have accelerated and extremism has gained a life of its own. The emotionally seductive rhetoric of, “You’re either with us or against us” leaves no room for productive negotiation and compromise. Such strong and inflammatory speech erodes the right to freedom of thought, as it aims to silence the legitimate voice of the people. Polarization and confusion reign. At present, there is no indication that either side is making any serious effort towards dialogue and reconciliation, which undermines the fundamental prerequisites for democratic governance. Is Ethiopia in the process of bidding farewell to its commitment to democracy?

As we still mourn the 36 people whose lives were needlessly lost in June 2005, 46 more of our compatriots have been sacrificed by their own nation. Hundreds more have been wounded, thousands imprisoned, and many unaccounted for. History and experience have taught us that violence begets violence and can never be a vehicle for lasting change. Yet, we seem to cling to the erroneous belief that genuine _expression of heartfelt grievance can be forcefully silenced. It is well to remember that fires hastily subdued are likely to flare up again at a later date. Besides, setting alight the passions of political fire in a land of ethnic and religious diversity is sheer madness and a highly irresponsible act; for once lit, the fire can spread uncontrolled and consume us all.

At this sad time of confusion and national turmoil, all Ethiopians have a moral duty to express our unrelenting resolve to break the cycle of violence. Thus, we once again implore all parties and the public at large to exercise maximum flexibility and restraint in their dealings with each other and with the public at large. Let us all use the lessons learnt from our tolerant coexistence with many ethnic and religious groups, to guide us in dealing with the current political challenge.

We all share the collective memory of fear, intimidation, brutality, indiscriminate killing, and the trauma and humiliation of exile that has undermined our personal and national identity. The massive brain drain -- a result of nearly 30 years of unrelenting political turmoil -- and an unprecedented exodus of those seeking refuge and a better way of life has created a nation of refugees and servitude. Coupled with the impact of periodic drought, dire poverty and ravaging disease, these misfortunes continue to adversely impact on our self worth and our international image. It is clear that our collective psyche cannot and must not be made to sustain further humiliation and bloodshed. It is time for us to focus on fighting the massive wars on poverty and disease, and refrain from any act that will further damage our national psyche and obliterate Ethiopia from the list of honorable nations.

We must all recognize and uphold the higher goals for our nation. National unity based on equality, justice, and peace must never be sacrificed for short term political gain. Our objective to institute democracy to give equal opportunity to all our citizens, and our devotion to the rule of law, must never be compromised to maintain or attain political power. Unless we urgently begin dialogue with mutual respect, and get back on track to work towards achieving our national goal, we are bound to repeat the darkest periods of our nation’s history. We must, therefore, develop short and long term strategies to help us back on course to work towards achieving our ideal.

In the short term, we suggest that all political parties should jointly establish a forum for mediation and conflict resolution to help address the current problem by bringing back relevant parties to the negotiation table. Prominent, respected religious, civic, academic and business leaders that uphold the higher objectives of our nation above ethnic, religious, political and financial consideration, should be selected to serve on the Mediation Board. The Board should be immediately established to urgently help to explore ways and means for peaceful resolution of the current political impasse. At the same time, the Board should develop and disseminate confidence building measures to generate tolerance, understanding, and some measure of trust. Ethiopians at home and in the Diaspora, as well as the international community must actively and enthusiastically engage with and support the work of the forum.

Once the overriding current problems peacefully subside, the Mediation Board should work on a long term strategy to help us avoid similar political deadlock in the future. In this regard, the Board should review and advise on how best to address the underlying problems that continue to simmer beneath the surface to undermine trust and confidence between leaders and the people, between political parties themselves, and also between the various groups of people that compose our nation. Such long neglected core issues of contention that continue to erode trust and confidence and hamper social, economic and political development must be sincerely and fully addressed. This will help us to avoid squandering every opportunity that comes our way for true reconciliation and socio-economic development. The adaptation of the South African model of “Truth and Reconciliation” and the teaching of “Tolerance” as practiced in Lebanon and in the USA, should be explored to help develop a suitable template that is most befitting for Ethiopia’s particular case.

In concluding, we must be candid. All political leaders are ultimately accountable to their constituents, and the only justification for government of any sort is to ensure the protection and prosperity of its people. At this stage of our nation’s history, the elected leaders have been given the clear public mandate to institute democracy and democratic principles as a mechanism for lifting Ethiopia from under development. Thus, the leaders have a sacred and profound responsibility to do the public’s bidding and not to divert them to other agendas. If the leaders fail the people at this crucial juncture, history will judge harshly.

May God grant us the wisdom to rise above our current problems and help us to create true peace from conflict.

Tuesday, November 15

Return of the Living Hype

The Hype stalks the earth like the living dead and we couldn't just let these textbook examples of it get by:

From the BBC
Ethiopian authorities have released 2,417 people who were detained last week during opposition protests.

Police said they were being released because they were not directly connected with the violence, in which more than 40 people died.
We only have the word of a murderous dictatorship that these people were released. No one knows how many were arrested to begin with. No one really knows how many were even killed. This is a classic Soviet style maskirovka effort just like the deception operations of an intelligence service.

A false layer of pseudo-rational good will is being painted over a bloody massacre and crackdown against innocents. So much we hear from this government is this form of 'mengist be'ashattir' (government by trickery).

For example, Mengistu would freely admit killing people for being counter-revolutionaries then demand a price be paid for each bullet hole in a love one's body before their families could take them home. This government makes the families of victims sign documents saying the opposition killed their loved ones or it claims not to know anything about them to begin with.

Or, as in this case an appeal to reason and law & order is the manipulated response desired. In the end Ethiopians are still being killed for being counter-revolutionaries except this time it is for being against Revolutionary Democracy instead of Scientific Socialism.


From the Ethiopian government's Walta, this headline "Ethiopia's economy to grow 7-8 percent this year, says MoFED (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development)." This is a very modest claim in relative claims. Usually the economy grows at double digits according to the government and it has been doing so for most of the past fifteen or so years since 'liberation'.

If any of this is true then why has Ethiopia gone from being one of the poorest countries on earth to the very poorest? Why does per capita GNP shrink year after year even as the economy supposedly grows faster than the population could possibly increase? Similiarly bumper crops are routinely claimed at the same time appeals are being made for unprecedented crop failures.

Reality is entirely a fungible concept for the Ethiopian government. Just as the will of the people is defined by the will of the Prime Minister (folks under his thumb better say so if they know what is good for them), reality only exists as far as it serves the interests of the Prime Minister on a moment to moment basis.


Here is another gem from the same source, "Residents in Gambella applaud re-election of PM." Remember, Gambela is the same place about which we wrote this post, Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella where pressure from the American Ambassador via the Anuak community in the US and various human rights organizations prevented further government massacres there.

Now we are expected to believe that four existent or imagined residents (with or without AK-47s to their heads or threats against their families or livelihood or freedom) say in suspiciously bureaucratic language that somehow perfectly matches government talking points that
They also expressed hope that, based on the long term experiences, the firm stand and commitment of Meles would enable him to do his level best in extricating the nation out of the quagmire of poverty.

The residents further said the decision by the parliament to allow the existing provisional administration of Addis Ababa to continue its role is appropriate since the party that is expected to take over the administration has failed to undertake the transfer of power.

They also expressed disappointment over CUD's disregard to its constituency.
They are also presumbaly delighted that the Chief Administrator of Gambella State is reading from the very same page when he says that
the re-election of Meles Zenawi as Prime Minister of the country is delighting and an indication that the democratic process is taking root and ensures the future prospect of nations and nationalities.

He also said the decision taken by the House of Peoples’ Representatives against the elected MPs who boycotted the inaugural parliamentary assembly was appropriate and timely.

Umod further said the unwillingness on the part of the wining party to form a government in the Addis Ababa administration is not only anti-democratic but also criminal.
The Anuak Justice Council begs to differ, noting of the administrator that
He earned his way to power by becoming “a true citizen of the government” as he was dubbed by the Head of the Federal Government Security, Alemaw Alamiru, who congratulated him after a rigged election on Thursday, September 29, 2005. Mr. Alamiru was one of Olom’s co-partners in planning the Anuak genocide of December 13, 2003 when 424 intellectual Anuak leaders were massacred within three days.

As one of the primary masterminds and executors of the genocide, Omot Obang Olom, is himself an Anuak, making him the most despised of all Anuak. He was the one who provided the list of hundreds of names of those educated Anuak who might speak out against the corrupt, brutal practices of the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Who do you believe dear reader? Bureaucratic 'reporting' that reads like an old album folks had to buy at gunpoint like the multi-platinum hit "When Brezhnev Was King: The Greatest Hits of Tass, Pravda and Isvestia" that climbed straight to the Soviet Empire's Billboard Charts in 1982 ... or ... basic common human sense and morality.


Meskel Square touches on this whole business observing that
Somewhere in some far-flung corner of the developing world there must be an international school for the training of journalists employed by state-controlled newspapers.

And every morning of every day must begin with the mass recitation of: "Government leader A met government leader B to discuss matters of mutual interest. Government leader B reaffirmed his commitment to provide support for the realisation of ideas forwarded by Government leader A."

It is the archetypal state-owned intro, drummed into the head of every government hack.


Examples of this type are legion. The whole concept of real trade unions is non-existent in Ethiopia beyond the harsh measure dealt out to those who try to form them and the absurdity of the fake ones run by the ruling party. However, we are expected to buuy into this page from another section of the government talking points, that the
Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) has expressed support to the new peace initiative Ethiopia has proposed to resolve the dispute with Eritrea. Implementation of the peace proposal would be vital to enhance the sense of mission of workers in the country and to expand investment, it said.

The support came during a relevant meeting held here on Monday bringing together executive members of the nine industrial federations. CETU President Amare Alemayehu on the occasion said realization of the peace proposal would be vital for the workers to lead stable lives, so that they can contribute meaningfully to national economic development.

Amare said CETU has been discussing the issue with the workers at various times.
The peace proposal would be significant to draw increased foreign direct investment, he said, adding that it is the only option to resolve the disputepeacefully. The participants said CETU should forge consultations with counterpart organizations in Eritrea towards the realization of the peace proposal.
You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried and one is forced by this type of nonsense into an almost impossible decision of whether to laugh or cry because this is how Ethiopia is actually being run. For an bonus laugh (or cry) read this statement in support of Revolutionary Democracy a few years back when the term was still being used out loud in English, "Principles of revolutionary democracy said vital to speed up development (corrected version)"
Upholding the principles of revolutionary democracy could be significant in ensuring the independence of the judiciary, strengthening unity and tackling threats posed to the well being of the nation, cadres and members of the Harari national league said.

At the conclusion of a five day discussion held under the title, "the question of democracy in Ethiopia" the participants said on Monday that revolutionary democracy was the only development strategy that could fit for the objective reality in the country.

In the absence of accumulated capital, advanced technology and skilled manpower it would be difficult to adopt the principles of liberal democracy, they said.

The principles of revolutionary democracy could effectively address the basic needs of the Ethiopian people by stumping out the bane of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power, the members said.

They said revolutionary democracy could also encourage the direct participation of the people in the nation building process.

Upholding the principles of equality based on diversity and establishing harmonious relationships among the peoples of Ethiopia were the corner stones to speed up economic development, the members indicated.

They also vowed to fight narrow nationalism, chauvinism and corruption, which they described as the major threat to the whole of the country.
Imagine what the uncorrected version was like! From the above it is clear that Revolutionary Democracy can also take stubborn grass stains out of clothes, fix global warming, create endless non-polluting energy free for all and program your VCR.


Wonder what happened to the independent investigation about the June 6-8 Massacre? There's supposed to be an independent investigation about all the recent killings as well. O.J. is still looking for real killers too.


Think critically about every word that comes from the Ethiopian government. If there is an official announcement that the Earth is a sphere that revolves around the sun you should immediately assume all astronomy since Galileo and Copernicus was dead wrong and that the earth is indeed totally flat.


we'll be back in a week or so ... the cadres have us running really scared, you see ... why not check out the links on the sidebar and the recent posts / archives ... and above all DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE! ... this time we really won't be back for a week or so.

Sunday, November 13


lights, camera ... action!

We never took this last or any other Ethiopian election or the referendum on the constitution seriously. We figured it was all a mass propaganda effort to simulate consent just like every totalitarian state has always done - with the extra added bonus of increased Western aid for putting on a good show. Everything we knew about the regime led us to believe that there was absolutely no chance that Meles Incorporated could ever give up its absolute power.

While we were certainly right on every point above, we were very pleasantly surprised, no astounded is the right word, that the Ethiopian people and the opposition took the elections seriously. The tenacity with which they have stuck by their just demands that actual democracy be practiced has been brave, admirable and at times heartbreaking.

This despite the fact that no one was meant to take any of the election ritual seriously.

Similiarly, all concerned knew from day one that the whole government ruling ideology of Revolutionary Democracy was nonsense, that Meles Inc. was in fact a totalitarian party with corrupt state and crony businesses grafted onto it, that the absence of any sound economic policies and private ownership of land would guarantee eternal destitution. But ... the West had one good thing in their minds ... finally, an African they could talk to!

As we said, Meles Inc. was not about to give up a fraction of power or wealth - like the fable of the frog and the scorpion that was just a matter of the regime's immutable nature.
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."
Seriously folks, the regime is all about rather poorly disguised Marx - Lenin - Mao true believers orphaned and abandoned in (to them) a nightmare world where the Capitalists won the Cold War. Of course they aren't democratic, of course they treat people badly and of course they are corrupt - to do all those bad things to innocents defines the very essence of their ideological nature.

The Western aid donors who are the real constituency of the government never expected the regime to give up any of its power either- they knew exactly what they were dealing with all along. Both just wanted to make it through the ritual neatly so that the status quo could be neatly affirmed with everyone feeling refreshed.

The Ethiopian people got in the way of these plans. The regime reacted viciously, to no one's surprise, but the Western aid donors were stuck with having to carry the whole business through as though it had been serious all along. They knew the opposition won, they knew the opposition leaders would be dead if it wasn't for their regular contact with donor embassies, but were stuck because, we repeat, they knew the government would not leave or share power - ever.

Pressure was put on the opposition to just go along with vague promises of support and that next time would be better if they just obeyed the constitution and joined parliament and did not cause trouble or bad headlines for anyone. The opposition did not play along because it knew next time would be far worse. Now as a rising tide of blood and tears has become increasingly impossible to ignore, there are vague mutterings from the aid donors about cutting aid if unenforced demands to be democratic and play nicely are not met.

The problem for the regime and its only real constituency, the Western aid donors, is that if the demands are met at all sincerely - that Meles Inc. will necessarily lose power because the party / business / governemt empire rules by the gun and can not compete in an democratic environment where Ethiopians can choose. The regime certainly feels betrayed by the West because they thought it was understood that they should rule forever.

The West feels betrayed by the regime, not just for treating Ethiopians poorly but mainly because it did a really really really poor job of staging a fake election. If only an underestimation of how much the dictatorship was loathed had not permitted some democratic opening beyond appearance, then neither the government nor the aid donors would be in their present predicament.

The regime is basically saying to the donors, "look we'll kill these Ethiopians and ten thousand others just like 'em if you keep filling their heads with this democracy nonsense and having them expect things above their position." The West is responding "we know, we know ... can't you just do it somewhere where we can't see, the opposition won't listen to us either, what?! no! we can't kill them for you!?"

It is easy to blame the regime for treating its own people so badly but frankly harder to blame the West. After all they are busy looking after their own people's interests and just trying to find an easy way all around. The shame of all of it is that for Ethiopia's government the fate of Ethiopians is a more distant priority than it is to the Western donors. After all, in their minds, how are they supposed to deal with a government that has to be threatened and begged to treat its own people decently?

Ethiopians were supposed to be the extras in the election movie. The Western aid donors would produce, Meles Inc. would direct and star while millions of extras were supposed to follow their cues, say their lines and leave the stage just so. You know, just milling about in the background providing color and pleasant noise to the scenes as the world recorded the progress of democracy for posterity.

The problem is that the extras have decided to rewrite the script before the director got to yell "cut!"

Friday, November 11

Cargo Cult Economics 6 - Sachs & Violence

One of the best blogs for economics, development and common sense is Econ Log, which quotes Jeffrey Sachs, one of Ethiopia's dictator's biggest supporters.
[S]ocialist and SLI [state-led industrialization] policies should be understood mainly as "policy experiments" (albeit enormously mistaken and costly ones), rather than as inevitable consequences of the economic structures of the countries in question.
That sounds like a perfect explanation for economic failures throughout Africa and the world as well as Ethiopia in particular for the past thirty or so years. Socialist experiments have been carried out on literally billions with mass impoverishment and oppression as the natural results.

For example, no country has ever prospered and founded democracy without private ownership of land which Ethiopia does not have and which is rooted in Marxist - Leninist - Socialism. Alas, Professor Sachs has changed his tune recently.
The standard diagnosis is that Africa is suffering from a governance crisis. With highly visible examples of profoundly poor governance, for example in Zimbabwe, and widespread war and violence, as in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan, the impression of a continent-wide governance crisis is understandable. Yet it is wrong.
You see! Presto! Ten years on, governments, particularly African ones are suddenly no longer responsible for good policies and governance. This was about the time that the Professor came out with the Millenial Development Goals whose basic premise is that if hundreds of billions are invested in poor nations they will become rich even if they are poorly governed. Indeed, corruption does not even matter.

From an interview with Professor Sachs:
Q: There's a sort of chicken and egg argument that goes on about whether you should put the money in or whether you should get the transparency, the decent government in first. You're on the side of the first are you, of putting the money in first?

JEFFREY SACHS: To an extent.

There are places where I would not put a lot of money in and Eritrea's one of them right now and Zimbabwe's one of them. I make distinctions.

But I'm working in Senegal, in Mali, in Ghana, in Nigeria, in Ethiopia, in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Uganda, in Rwanda, in Malawi. Every one of those places is beset by huge problems. Everyone is beset by huge suffering and extreme poverty. But every one of them has a government that one could work with to solve practical problems.

Q: Given history, there's probably quite a high likelihood that in at least one of those countries, some minister or ministers are diverting some of the money that should be going to the poor and putting it in Swiss bank accounts or whatever. What do you do about that, how do you face up to that and does it… do you go ahead regardless of that?

JEFFREY SACHS: First of all, that's also happening in my country, the United States. There's a lot of corruption in the United States. Money politics greases the wheels. It's appalling how money, business and politics are now just running wild in Washington. The cronyism, the corruption and so forth so the idea that somehow you know the rich countries are pure and the poor countries are evil is a myth that the rich like to tell about themselves.

I'm all for fighting corruption but if corruption were fought first in Asia and nothing else were done, you would have lost the greatest economic development on the planet. I'm not for corruption, I just want to be understood.

But this idea that corruption is the beginning and the end of the economic story and that well-performing countries are not corrupt, poorly performing countries are corrupt and it's as simple as that, and that Africa's problem is corruption is just naivete to the highest extent.

I don't want anyone saying I'm soft on corruption, don't care and so forth, that's ridiculous.

What I am saying is that this idea that you can diagnose a whole set of complex problems of hunger, disease, impoverishment, lack of infrastructure and chalk it up to corruption is a preposterous stereotype perpetrated by a lot of people that don't know any better because they sit in their offices in Washington or wherever and they make up theories.
Unbelievable! Ignore the soft disclaimers like only 'to an extent' thinking money is more important than policies or protestations about 'not being soft on corruption'. What Professor Sachs is saying loud and clear is that good governance simply does not matter. As we shall see below that particularly goes for Ethiopia.

In How Asian dictatorships differ from African ones, Newmark's Door quotes Prospect Magazine to refute the Sachs point clearly.
The reason that—South Africa apart—sub-Saharan Africa has not developed is that it has not been in the interests of the controlling elites to develop it. In contrast to the "developmental states" of Asia—such as South Korea and Taiwan—which grew rich in the 1970s and 1980s by educating their populations and investing in export industries, Lockwood calls Africa's states anti-developmental, arguing that they actively discourage business, trade and innovation.

In Asia, the rulers, often military men or one-party-state dictators just as in Africa, had a sense of national purpose, and the state broadly functioned for the public good. In Africa, the rulers captured the state, its institutions and sources of wealth, and kept it for themselves. They used it not to generate national wealth, but as sources of patronage to reward followers.
There is a joke about this:
two schoolmates from the London School of Economics visit eachother years after graduation. The African visits his Asian friend first and marvels at how prosperous he has become. The Asian shows him a highway in the distance and says he got a 10% cut of the funds.

Some years later the Asian comes to Africa and finds that his buddy is wealthy beyond imagination. The African shows him a field of rocks and says he got 100% of the highway funds.
Corruption matters. Professor Sachs is certainly an intelligent man but there is no necessary relationship between intelligence and being right or even intelligence and common sense. In addition, comparing corruption in the US to countries like Zimbabwe and Ethiopia is like chewing on filet mignon in front of a starving man and consoling oneself by noting that it is just a bit overcooked.

We heard similiar bits of pseudo-comradely comments masking acid contempt from Jimmy Carter comparing the Ethiopian election to the 2000 election outcome in Florida even though he agreed with the very critical EU report in every particular. Why? Well he was already buddies with
[Meles who] would meet me at airports in Paris, Atlanta, and London when I came into the region, spread his war maps on the floor, and describe his progress against Mengistu's forces.
It seems that many such observers get a thrill of sorts out of being in the presence of a real life rebels turned heads of state. A little naughty progressive thought and reflected admiration probably worked wonders on the former President as well who went on to threaten Eritrea on his buddy's behalf.

Former American Ambassador Brazael in her goodbye speech compared her displeasure over the election of President Bush to the Ethiopian opposition's electoral victory in the same condescending manner. Something about how the ignorant American masses voted against their own interests that she so clearly understood on their behalf because she had been part of the 60s generation and read Toni Morrisson.

We've read and loved Toni Morrisson's books too but don't remember anything about coddling despots there. We're a bit young for a sense of enduring romance with the 60s but seem to remember that the meaning of that era had something to do with giving oppressed people political and economic rights - just the kind Ethiopians want today and the Ethiopian diaspora want for them.

Ambassador Brazael certainly deserves thanks for helping to prevent the mass killings of the Anuak by the Ethiopian government. However, it would be equally inappropriate in the future for someone who happened to be a young adult in the 80s and who cherished the Reagan Revolution to attack a possible future President Hillary Clinton's legitimacy while making excuses for any convenient dictator / ally of the moment.

What all of the above have in common is incredibly low expectations for and of wretched Ethiopia and Ethiopians. The natives are just expected to accept pats on the head for playing so nicely at the development and democracy game before they settle down to the real business of not provoking their corrupt dictators into treating them even worse.

More recent comments from the American Embassy about how protestors somehow invited the government to shoot them down just to score political points and ruin everyone's day up on Entoto Road is in the same vein. Indeed, every call from the US or the EU for 'both the opposition and the government' to refrain from violence and to respect the constitution are also absurd.

One must wonder why the protestors in Uzbekistan or those in the Ukraine were not treated so poorly by the West - or how about protestors in Jim Crow Mississippi, Apartheid South Africa, East Germans at the Berlin Wall or Chinese at Tianemen Square. Weren't they just provoking authority too just like Ethiopians?

Principally, Sachs & the Embassy & Brussels & Washington expect no better. They think that they have finally found an 'African they can talk to' in the form of Meles.

They know very well how poorly Ethiopians are doing in the present and how dark their future must be but figure it will all be a problem down the line for a different set of academics, international bureaucrats and governments - long after the short term interests of not just today,but just one hour at a time are served.

Readers may find it odd to find an academic lumped in with realpolitik politicians but but they can be every bit as cynical and selfish in pursuit of their ideas which evidently matter to them far more than people and human reality ever could.

Weichegud quotes Professor Sachs in praise of Ethiopia's dictator
Prime Minister, you have distinguished yourself as a one of our World’s most brilliant leaders. I have often said that our many hours of discussion together are among the most scintillating that I have spent on the topics of economic development.

I invariably leave our meetings enriched, informed, and encouraged about Ethiopia’s prospects. Moreover, I know fully that you are deeply committed to peace, development, and the success of your country.
This statement is so far beyond absurd it is embarassing. What Professor Sachs is actually doing is thanking Meles for the chance to carry out social and economic experiments on Ethiopians.

At some point academics who feel above the world of politics just want to MATTER and MAKE A DIFFERENCE so badly that they will jump at chances to show up all of those crass politicians at DOING GOOD so that the world will sit up and notice and make them IMPORTANT.

Literally ideas and theories become more important than human beings. The world has known for most of a century that the most basic policies of the Meles regime will lead to nothing but disaster. That is why the Professor would never be allowed to try this nonsense out on folks in Bavaria or Ohio.

Politicians are bad enough but what poor folk really don't need is one more influential person who really wants to help while going against the most basic common sense and experienced acquired by humanity at such cost.

So back to the title of this post- Sachs & Violence. Like sex & violence in popular entertainment, the dictatorship of Meles is inseperable from the support of otherwise absolutely decent people like Professor Sachs. In bureacracies and think tanks and international organizations everyhwere people seem to lose touch with morality and common sense when they have (to them anyway) a neat little problem that they can apply their pet theory or very short term strategic calculation on.

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

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

It is that simple.


The first parts of the Cargo Cult Economics Series and the total silliness behind the Millenial Development goals are listed below.

  • Cargo Cult Economics
  • Pretense of freedom and a free market is alive and well in Ethiopia with absolutely no attention given to the institutions and accountability necessary for free and prosperous nations. The whole edifice of the massive money transfer to Swiss banks (aka MDGs) is like the Pacific Cargo Cults based on the idea that prosperity comes from rituals.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 2 - All About the Benjamins?
  • Development is about more than cash - it is about institutions. In fact any money in the absence of reason and rationality will hurt more than help by breeding corruption and the destruction of needed institutions.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 3 - Structural Corruption
  • Corrupt and unaccountable party and government owned businesses and monopoly service providers in an effectively single party state do not provide a setting where you can expect freedom and prosperity or accountability.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 4 - Short Term Memory
  • Recent African history from the era of independence in the late 50s and 60s on is full of the serial discovery of visionary rennaissance leaders that the world has fallen in love but whose policies have only bought tragedy for their people.

  • Cargo Cult Economics 5 - Cheerleaders
  • Intellectuals and academics who give cover and encouragement to third world despots and their bound to fail economic schemes imagine that it is OK for some to live under different rules than they would expect for themselves. That is an example of the vile sentiment of actual romance and purpose that is found by some in other people's suffering.


  • Economic Absurdities
  • , details how all accounts of Ethiopia's economic performance must not be considered at face value and that the economy is in fact a stagnant mess utterly dependent of foreign aid and remittances.


  • The Historic Elections of May 2005
  • , looks at the 'election' season and EU & US policy in terms of quotes revealing rhetoric and reality.

    Wednesday, November 9

    Fourteen Years After Liberation


    Image after 1932 poster photomontage by John Heartfield.


    Ethiopia is the very poorest, one of the most corrupt and one of the least free nations on earth. It is ruled by a bloody despot and his professional class of revolutionary feudal aristorcrats whose aim is absolute and eternal power. It is exactly that will to power that has brought Ethiopia so low.

    Per capita income has fallen drastically in the past fourteen years from already horrible depths. Per capita foreign direct investment is amongst the very lowest in the world and is falling. In fact costs for the Sheraton Hotel alone represent one-third of all foreign investment since 'liberation' from the Dergue.

    Per capita grain production has been falling steadily and every year up to fifteen million people face starvation without foreign aid and tens of millions of others face malnutrition. Even those levels of failure are sustained by mass use of fertilizers bought from abroad and sold by the party's business empire with no competition.

    Planned mass indebtedness secondary to inflated prices and for politically determined access to land are used by party cadres to punish dissent. There is thus little incentive to invest in land and improve it. At the same time nonsense schemes like 'Agricultural Development Led Industrialization' and 'Revolutionary Democracy' are supposed to create some distant paradise in the same manner that has failed mankind at such cost in wasted lives and time everywhere else in the past.

    Foreign aid, loans and remittances from Ethiopians abroad who live in systems that allow them to prosper amount to one-third of GNP - indeed much of the government budget itself is financed by grants from abroad. Those factors alone and a natural increase linked to population figures accounts for why Ethiopia did not become the poorest nation on earth years ago instead of now.

    If all of the government's claims about economic growth were anywhere near true then how can the state of the economy and its great fall relative to every other nation on earth be explained? Easily, like most pronouncements of the government it is all a tissue of lies sustained by the absence of morality and accountability in government and willingly tricked observers abroad.

    Beyond the whole pretense of democracy the constant barrage of lies and cynical deceit is deafening. How many governments on earth would be allowed to get away with 'disappearing' an opponent and then cooperating in a Western search for the murdered victims whereabouts?

    Similiarly we are told that the massacred innocents where "throwing grenades". That is about as believable as the 'discovery' of opposition caches of arms and the likelihood of an investigation into the deaths. What is there to investigate? The government killed them in towns, cities and the countryside repeatedly in the very same manner didn't it?

    Party and government own the economy at all levels, particularly where hard currency is involved, through monopolies and a non-transparent web of crony enterprises. Government and business are all part of the vanguard ruling party's empire and are each indistinguishable from the other.

    The same folks control the media, the parliament, the election board, the judiciary, the secret police, security and armed forces with no constituency except themselves and the West. They know no allies ... only contempt for those they have bought and broken into servitude or vicious enmity for those whose submission still eludes them.

    Government policy is dedicated to basic policies such as tribal divide and rule as well as the absence of private property rights that have made suffering and oppression a matter of enduring and unchanging tradition. No amount of foreign aid can ever change that when people are not allowed to develop themselves the same way billions of other humans have.

    This is all done against the will of Ethiopians but with the partnership of those abroad who help keep Ethiopia's despot in power. They all should know that the time for anyone to blame Mengistu, warped memories of centuries of history or even cruel fate for the essentially bad policies of Ethiopia's government are long past.

    --University ivory tower development intellectuals who think ideas matter more than people

    --Willingly gullible Western donor agencies and bureaucrats who waste their taxpayer's money on long failed get rich quick schemes

    --Short sighted foreign policy security experts devoted to a status quo built on quicksand

    All of the above feed Meles gold in the name of the people whose misery he authors and in return he spouts junk about democracy and free markets as the bodies and broken lives pile up for all to see.

    One simple point is key. No society on earth that denies private property rights has ever been prosperous, free or stable. This is not a matter of debate or theory but fact. The dictator's Western allies seem to be striving to make sure that the very same factors that made them rich are denied to Ethiopians.

    By doing so the Prime Minister's Western allies have quite purposefully removed the very concept of popular accountability from any aspect of government behaviour. They have effectively replaced the Ethiopian people as the government's constituents.

    The foreign policy of any country is based on self interest and we are intolerant of the blame game, where every African fault is tied to a Western conspiracy. Such a worldview dehumanizes Africans by seeing them as incapable of making reasoned and moral decisions.

    However, what can be said when a dictator can only rule because of very generous Western support with no accountability? Meles today is as much a creation of Brussels and Washington as Mengistu was of Brezhnev era Moscow.

    No one's good intentions can change that fact and even the most inattentive student of history should have expected this mess from 1991. All that is being served by the status quo is the dubious illusions of very short term Western interests and of course, those of Meles.

    Ethiopians are doing their best, if the West will not help perhaps it can just get out of the way and stop supporting this government or at a minimum make it accountable for its actions.

    Calls for 'both the opposition and the government' to both refrain from violence are as ridiculous as calling on the 1970s Soweto South Africa or 1960s Montgomery Alabama victims not to provoke their oppressors.

    To even use the word democracy in the Ethiopian context today, or to pretend any sort of free market will ever exist, or that this government that was born and sustained by instability will ever be a partner for stability is knowing participation in a lie or at the very best delusion.

    It is time for the West to choose sides. With whom do the interests of Western citizens and taxpayers converge ... Meles & Company or tens of millions of Ethiopians?

    Monday, November 7

    Rumors of War

    Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bloody border war from 1998-2000 with a death toll estimated to be anywhere from 70 to 100 thousand, the dislocation of millions, and the waste of billions of dollars.

    There is absolutely no justification for another single drop of blood, sweat or tears to be shed or wasted by anyone in any possible disagreement the two may yet have.

    The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been over for years now after a costly Ethiopian victory and a costly Eritrean loss. Having inexplicably accepted arbitration, the Ethiopian regime presented its case so poorly that Ethiopian lost what it had gained in defensive war.

    The Ethiopian regime has been refusing to accept the arbitration results while simultaneously claiming to accept them for years now. There will always be tensions between the countries but the timing of the recent rumors of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is very suspect.

    Why is it all suddenly an issue now?

    Whatever tensions there are between both regimes, we think that they both seek out mutual interest in hardball realpolitik cooperation. The interests of both regimes are served by rumors of war but certainly not those of their people.

    The Eritrean government wants attention from the West because it is going broke and because it faces rising internal opposition. The potential for conflict has provided the government with its raison d'etre and has justified endless general mobilization since then along with the lack of political rights.

    The Ethiopian government wants Western interest to change subjects from the collapse of the pretense of democracy onto the more manageable topics of law, order and regional security issues dear to the hearts of donor nations. Rumors of war provide just such an opportunity.

    Both parties may also feel a rising sense of comradeship based upon a fear of an Ethiopia not divided and weakened by tribal politics. The inclusive nature of all the opposition to all ethnicities and their wholly national approach to politics are imagined to be potential threats to both regimes.

    Both regimes see their security in an Ethiopia where Oromo, Tigrayan, Amhara, Gurage, Sidamo and all others are locked in mutual animosity. The fact that no one wants conflict and that everyone benefits from peace is of no matter.

    Stranger alliances have been formed in history on a similiar basis.

    After years of tension the rising tide of somber war warnings is reaching a high water mark just as a long planned crackdown on the opposition turned very bloody in Ethiopia.

    We're not buying any of the rumors of war - the issue of war is a sideshow to distract from the real issues that Ethiopians and Eritreans have to deal with.

    Saturday, November 5

    Banana Republic

    "Banana republic (or Bananaland) is a pejorative term for describing a country with a non-democratic or unstable government, especially where there is widespread political corruption and strong foreign influence.

    It was originally applied to Honduras and is most often applied to small countries in Central America or the Caribbean whose economies were largely dependent on bananas for much of the 20th century."

    In Woody Allen's wonderful satire of revolution and those it seduces, Bananas, the new revolutionary strongman of fictional San Marco announces to his captive masses that
    From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence!

    In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!
    The very same level of absurdity is amusing in San Marco but lethal in Ethiopia. Once again, this time in the first week of November, ordinary mortals have been shot down in the streets of Addis Ababa.


    Here are some basic points to keep in mind during the flood of regime propaganda in the coming days to justify its bloody hands.

    one The politburo / government / business empire is only fluent in the language of violence. Peaceful protest by the oppostion (the honking of horns and a boycott of the aforementioned business empire-government-party) had to be met with violence because the regime knows it has already lost all peaceful means of competition.

    two When the subject becomes law and order all means become justified to defend peace. That is especailly so when law & order, peace, the will of the people and democracy are necessarily defined ahead of time as being identical to the pronouncements and interests of the Prime Minister.

    three Just like all the arrests for terrorism or weapons caches of the past months - all acts of violence or evidence of such intent should be assumed to be instigated or planted by the regime. Every protester knows damn well that the regime is murderous and eager to shoot at unarmed innocents. For them to initiate violence makes no sense at all.

    In all such cases alleged violent acts on the part of civilians should be assumed to be the acts of regime agents provacateurs or to be outright lies. No one benefits from violence besides the government.

    four All accused from the opposition, Anna Gomez,, agents of Rwandan genocide, Al Quaeda, roving bands of rent seeking kulaks, old regime fuedals, Eritrean agents, Dergue remnants, Klingons onto Lord Voldemort that are put forward as planners or beneficiaries of violence by the government are by default totally innocent.

    As we said, the regime only understands force and has been just waiting to make it the only game in town. It assumes that protest will lead to its overthrow because such is its accurate estimate of the real will of the people.

    five The numbers of dead and wounded as well as arrested should be assumed to be far higher than all reports. Even more important what happens in Addis is a very restrained regime response to popular opposition.

    In the countryside far from ferenji / aid donor eyes and ears the death toll as well as the numbers of maimed dissidents and destroyed lives are beyond estimation. The government has been burning a wide swathe in revenge for its electoral loss in May that makes any possible crimes in Addis very tame in comparison.

    six Any revolutionary dictatorship, be it 'Communism of the Right' as in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy or 'Fascism of the Left' as in Stalin's Russia or Mao's China, has the power to do whatever it wants and to make anything legal or illegal that it desires.

    There is literally nothing stopping the Prime Minister from making the Woody Allen speech at the beginning of this post. His rule is more absolute than any traditional ruler in history and only matched by that of Mengistu.

    Therefore in the current Ethiopian form of governance based on the above examples, the very concept of law, order and constitutionalism becomes a tool in the service of dictatorship and has no independent meaning. Reality and truth become nothing but abstractions that justify and provide for the eternal will to power of the regime.

    seven No normal rules of civilized governance assumed by citizens of governments worldwide apply to Ethiopia. The regime will literally do anything - any infamy or bloody deed or lying or cheating or stealing or murdering or massacring - to stay in power for even one more day.

    Since it is correct to assume that such a government is unpopular it is safe to assume that only its threats are to be believed and none of its justifications or excuses for why it routinely kills its own citizens.

    Words like parliament, election board, law & order, peace and government are generally assumed to have some popular purpose by well meaning people but in Ethiopia all such thoughts must be suspended. Everything from the government is evidence of artifice and violence guaranteed to provide eternal rule for the politburo - nothing more.


    Back to the definition of Banana Republic given above from Wikipedia - in Ethiopia the cash crop is not bananas but it is the blood, sweat and tears of millions of suffering Ethiopians. This regime has institutionalized an era of eternal totalitarian dictatorship begun by the Dergue and has made the country the very poorest nation on earth, among the least free and most corrupt.

    The pretense of elections and a market economy exists for the consumption of aid donors who are the regime's only constituency. Ethiopians don't matter to the regime except as hostages to Western security interests and pity.

    Instead of fruit companies what keeps this regime's Banana Republic going is the thought that unless this government is supported by aid, that it will make its people suffer even more.

    A horrible nexus of a bloody revolutionary feudal aristocracy, willingly gullible intellectuals in their ivory towers and short sighted governments keep Ethiopians from waking up from their revolutionary democratic nightmare.

    Ethiopians are busy trying to help themselves. It is time for the world to take notice as it did in Apartheid era South Africa and find its interests in Ethiopian peace, prosperity and democracy - beyond rhetoric.

    Thousands more Ethiopians will suffer and die while the opposition leaders will face torture and death unless the West makes it clear it will accept no such outcome and that Ethiopians are also humans who deserve to live lives that are not 'poor, nasty, brutish and short.'

    Ethiopians who spent millenia fighting for independence from foreign influence and control - now have only such foreign interest to peacefully protect them from the results of the second generation of occupation by Totalitarian Communists.

    The country won't know peace and prosperity until Mengistu's Scientific Socialism and the Meles's Revolutionary Democracy, which are at the root of national suffering today, are exorcised and all such nonsense is treated with the general derision and contempt they so deservedly get in Bananas.


    Weichegud is as good as ever. Ethan Zuckerman is always a great read. Satisfy My Soul [ego] is a pleasure. Booker Rising and Foreign Dispatches too. And Publis Pundit and Gateway Pundit.

    Thursday, November 3

    and now for something completely different

    This film clip from Monty Python's brilliant movie Life of Brian gives us a glimpse at the inner workings of a Biblical era liberation front.
    In the scene, the members of one of the most patriotic, determined, extremist, and intransigent resistance groups fighting against the Roman occupier have gathered in a dark room for a secret meeting. All the men of the People's Front of Judea are masked, except for their leaders, and when the scene starts, the top honcho is ending a pep talk.

    Furious about the Roman Empire's occupation of their land, Reg spits out: “They bled us white, the bastards! They’ve taken everything we have.” He continues raving and ranting about how they took everything from their “fathers” and their “fathers' fathers”, before ending with a majestic rhetorical question. “And what have they ever given us in return?” With that, he stops, and crosses his arms, feeling very satisfied. He realizes that he has made one of the best speeches of his career.

    Just then, a shy masked commando raises a finger. “The aqueduct…”

    “What?” asks Reg.

    “The aqueduct”, repeats the man.

    “Oh yeah yeah they did give us that, uh-huh that’s true…”

    Another commando, as masked as his colleague, chimes in. “And the sanitation…”

    Stan, Reg's second-in-command sitting next to him, intervenes with naïve energe: “Oh yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.”

    Murmurs of agreement rise from the commandos in the room.

    The meeting is not at all going in the direction Reg expected it to, and he's starting to lose patience: “Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things the Romans have done…”

    Another terrorist interrupts him: “And the roads…”

    Reg, brusquely: “Oh well obviously the roads, I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they?! … But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…”

    Other terrorists, who have definitely not understood the purpose of their leader’s speech and his rhetorical question, chime in: “Irrigation” “Medicine” “Education” “Public baths” “And the wine” while their comrades nod and murmur words of agreement (“Yuh, yuh that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left”).

    Stan adds, innocently: “And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg”. Reg’s lips have become ever more pursed and his expression ever darker as he taps his fingers impatiently, but nobody seems to notice, least of all Francis, Reg’s other neighbor, who adds with joviality: “Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this!” (general laughter)

    Finally, with a sharp voice, Reg cuts the discussion short “Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, the roads, a fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

    A shy finger goes up…“Brought peace…”

    “Oh, peace! SHUT UP!”
    Thanks to No Pasaran! for the link and transcript.

    Tuesday, November 1

    Talking Points

    Here is what the Embassies and the Foreign Ministries of the imperialist camp (aka donor nations to the vanguard party) have been hearing louder and louder over the past months like a beating drum drawing closer and closer.

    Some of it is text and some of it is subtext but the message is clear to all. Some of it is silly and the rest is deadly serious, but again, the message is clear to all. Some of it is new and some of it is old but the message is of course clear to all:

    --the Eritreans are pushing Ethiopia into war (perfect timing huh?) and this time they're really out of control! Of course we accept the binding border arbitration ruling but we also don't accept the border arbitration ... all at the same time.

    A war will have far reaching consequences that will destabilize the whole Horn of Africa, even all of East Africa and across the Red Sea! In addition, the opposition is made up of terrorists bent on Rwanda style genocide. The immense humanitarian crisis caused by the Eritreans / opposition will require Western intervention for sure.

    Do you imperialists really want to bother with all that? Remember the last war ... there is no telling what all those innocents will have to suffer through by the time we get done fighting each other. The entire Western interest in containing terrorism out of Somalia / Sudan will fail while Eritrea / Ethiopia will become new Taliban era Afghanistans.

    --you donor nations can no longer press us on the issue of the opposition and democracy because what is important now is stability. Look how everything is falling apart while you go on about democratic rights this and election that. We are just waiting for a chance to crack down seriously instead of the few thousands that have so far been killed or jailed.

    Give us the word and turn away so you never even have to hear about us again ... at least until our policies cause the next crisis. Keep pressing and we might just make things fall apart anyway. Just try us, we're not playing games here - we will rule Ethiopia or there will be no Ethiopia.

    Is Ethiopian democracy or human rights worth such a risk to you anyway - all the way from the comforts of Brussels and Washington with so many other problems in the world?

    --the generals / our party / the people won't tolerate concessions to the Eritreans or the opposition at this point. No we don't control them firmly like it seems - there is democracy / rivalry that we, as democrats have to deal with in the military / party / population. We can't keep the forces of nationalism and righteous anger against the aggressive Eritreans / treasonous opposition down forever.

    Keep pushing us and the real radicals will come who want to capture a port on the Red Sea or who want to take over all of Eritrea. We are the true moderates and all that is standing between utter chaos and peace. Notice how nicely we are communicating with you now.

    --sure we're doing all the wrong things possible in terms of economic development, establishment of law & order, popular accountability and all that other touchy feely stuff ... you know and we know it. But, that all keeps us in power, and seriously, what are you going to do about it anyway?

    The only thing you hold over us is money because our policies will always keep Ethiopia the poorest nation on earth. Always remember that we'll let all 70 million of our serfs suffer even more if you mess with us, disrespect us or don't forget all about the 'democracy show' while just sending more billions of aid all around.