Wednesday, February 1

The World Is Yours IV - "An Offer They Can't Refuse"


Opposition leader Merera Gudina on the 'election':
"The EPRDF would not give into defeat because without the power all its investments and luxurious life would be at risk."

To the left is the organizational chart of one of the more famous fictional family businesses. The Don or Boss is at the top and appropriately slightly out of focus behind him is his consigliere (counsellor).

Below is the Underboss (sort of a senior capo) and below him the Capos. Each Capo commands a crew of many 'soldiers' (made men i.e. full 'family' members with permission to steal and kill at will) and 'button men' (assassins).

Along with less privileged criminal associates at the bottom of the pile, the lower ranks do most of the actual dirty work of organized crime. Basically, they make people offers that they can't refuse - certain violence and death are substitutes for more conventional sales techniques and along with greed and fear serve as the glue of the organization.

The purpose of the organization is to make money and keep power so that more money can be made ... and vice versa. There is vanishingly little than won't be done to achieve those objectives and a whole internal mythology and symbology of supposed honor, purpose and history has evolved to justify and attempt to sanctify heirarchies like the one above.

One constant, according to another fictional Mob Boss, Tony Soprano, is that given the immutable rules of the heirarchy that "shit rolls downhill and money rolls up." How does this relate to Ethiopia? Isn't it obvious? See if you can follow the logic in the following passages.

The U.K. announced a cutoff of aid to Ethiopia following massive, sustained and purposeful human rights violations more gruesome than usual by the already poor standards set by the Ethiopian regime. That regime is also recognized as one of the most corrupt on earth ruling one of the most poorly governed countries.

Hillary Benn (a U.K. foreign aid bigshot) explains the position of Her Majesty's Government on foreign aid to a government that has to be begged and threatened to treat its own people with a shred of decency. You see, aid wasn't really cutoff, just direct budget support for the regime to buy bullets and pencils while siphoning off a healthy share for foreign bank accounts.

By the way, budget support wasn't cut either. Confused? Let Mr. Benn explain. Link from Meskel Square:
I have not decided to reduce the aid budget to Ethiopia, nor have I made a decision to reallocate funds to non-government aid agencies or the UN. I have made a decision not to give budget support which the Ethiopian Government can use for any purpose.

This is because the provision of budget support is based upon shared commitments between partners, one of which is upholding human rights. Recent political events have led to a breach of trust on this. That’s why all the donors who have been giving budget support have made the same decision.

I do, of course, remain committed to supporting the poor people in Ethiopia. The population of Ethiopia is one of the poorest in Africa, and it would be wrong to expect them to suffer as a result of recent political events. I therefore hope that we will be able to continue to support basic services for poor people such as education and health and water through a new mechanism.

Our future assistance will, however, be designed with increased monitoring and accountability so that we can be sure that the aid is reaching the poor people who need it.
The very reason that the poor people need aid to begin with has nothing to do with some genetically or culturally determined permanent need for aid by Ethiopians. The reason is that the party / government owns all of the land while using government monopolies and party / crony owned businesses to not only dominate but own an entire economy.

It is all wrapped up with mystical 'noble' purposes like the Lenin-Maoist party ideology of Revolutionary Democracy and insincere simulations of courts, parliaments and laws of civilized governments. The very structure of government is corrupt and its most basic purpose is eternal power for a few with the very acceptable cost of eternal destitution for the many.

The country is far poorer now than when Dergue was overthrown and Mengistu did not have the benefit of billions in economic aid every year. If any of the annually issued somehow unquestioned lies about double digit economic growth were true why are Ethiopians getting poorer every year?

If any of the annually issued somehow unquestioned lies about agricultural growth were true then why are more folks dependent every year on food aid? Along with massive increases in fertilizer use controlled by prosperous party monopolies (that use the necessary resulting debt as a political weapon against peasant farmers) agricultural production per capita and most years overall has been falling steadily.

Do you think, dear reader, that all this tragedy might have something to do with several decades of government policies under Mengistu and Meles like the absence of property rights and structural corruption? The issue is certainly not the other conclusion that the condition of permanent suffering is indelibly inscribed in Ethiopian DNA.

For fifteen years, governments like the UK, the rest of the EU and the US have in spasms of wishful thinking and ruthless cynicism seen themselves become the sole constituency of the government. Ethiopians serve as the victims of that government who can always be treated even worse if aid (really cash) is not forthcoming.

According to Wikipedia a Protection Racket is
an extortion scheme whereby a powerful organization, especially criminal organizations or gangs, coerces individuals or businesses to pay protection money which allegedly serves to purchase the organization's "protection" services against various external threats, whereas usually the actual threat comes from the organization itself.

Those who do not buy into the protection plan are often targeted by the organization and are harassed to try to force payment of the protection money.
Having made clear that any amount of Ethiopian blood, sweat and tears is well spent if it means eternal rule, the Ethiopian regime governs based on an assumption that foreigners care more for their own people than they do. Maybe this is best defined as some form of Post-Modern Protection Racket.

However, intellectuals and other observes can't find solace in fancy words to obfuscate reality here. Every modern notion of cultural understanding, being non-judgemental, respecting other political systems or non-interference in internal affairs of others is made utterly ridiculous by the perverse international social contract that 70 million Ethiopians are subject to.

Every factor that made the aid donors rich, others on their way to being so and yet others free from suffering as tradition is denied Ethiopians as a matter of routine. Liberal democracy, the rule of law, property rights and capitalism - that is all Ethiopians need because they already have the main ingredient - the human mind, to move on into a future where needing aid will become a memory.

Britain certainly takes a leading role in donor-Ethiopian relations as evidenced by Tony Blair and Meles Zenawi having become best friends for life back in the Commission for Africa days. So when the EU said it was going to cut aid according to the terms of the Cotonou Agreement, are you surprised that they did not really mean it? Here is an illuminating passage from Ethiopian Review
Some Western donors plan to channel the withheld $375 million direct budget support to Ethiopia's Woreda administrations, according to sources at the Ministry of Finance. The plan, which is supported by UK's Department for International Development and the World Bank, is opposed by the European Commission (EC).

Yesterday, representatives of EC, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank and other donors met with Finance Minster Sofian Ahmed and talked about this so-called "New Instrument." Observers noted that the British Government, which announced the cut off of direct budget support to the Meles regime last week, helped the regime to come up with this new plan to get the money indirectly, since all woreda administrations in Ethiopia are controlled by the regime.

During the discussion, the Meles regime insisted that it should select the woredas which would be provided with the money. Representatives of the donors wanted the money to be shared by all woredas equally. An economists at the Ministry of Finance said that the plan was an indirect budget support designed by the Blair government to save the Meles regime from economic collapse under the guise of helping the people of Ethiopia.

The donors are expected to make a final decision in February
A woreda is a lower level of government administration while in Ethiopia government administration is identical to ruling party administration. By law and practice Ethiopian society and government is divided into tribal and regional bantustans with the purpose of crude tribal divide and rule.

At every level of government from the very intrusive coercive apparatus of household and neighborhood committees to the highest reaches of tribal government all are ruled by the iron fist of the ruling pary and politburo. Arrests, killings, transfers, demotions, promotions and every other tactic is used to make sure that even the most slavish supporters of the government don't develop independent structures of influence or power.

No decision is made and certainly no centime is spent that is not determined or allowed for at the highest reaches of government. Indeed, even a 'cut' of all corrupt money is built into these formulas.

So, consider the reality of Ethiopian government then take a look at the organizational chart at the top of this post. What the EU seems to be advocating under British leadership and with the encouragement of the Ethiopian government is that instead of paying 'protection money' for the lives of Ethiopians directly to the Boss that they should be paid instead to the Capos.

Not only that but the Boss gets to decide which Capos get the money. The most perverse and imaginative mind could never have made this kind of tragic, lethal absurdity up and have it taken seriously as fiction by anyone. For Ethiopians this is reality.

Does anyone out there in cyberspace or in Whitehall or in Brussels really believe that the woreda Capos will somehow be righteous or that the same amount of money will not show up in the same Boss owned numbered bank accounts, the very same party / crony business and NGO contracts and in the hands of the same arms merchants where it always did?

It is often difficult for people to see something, a person / an idea / a structure that fills every part of the definition of evil and usually impossible for people to admit it is so if they are forced into sustained contact.

The kind of determination and vision required of such brave realizations is not convenient to day to day life and certainly inconvenient to diplomacy - especially given the natural threat of introspection and self-judgement to the willingly complicit.

In a situation where they clearly care for Ethiopians more than their own government, donors attempted to threaten the government at its weakest point. Its hunger for cash was determined by its characteristic will to power as a generator of poverty. The donors had long nurtured and encouraged that relationship that cut Ethiopians out of a role in deciding their own fates.

The government in turn made the donors an offer they thought given their lack of vision and instinct for appeasement that they couldn't refuse. "Give us all of the money or we will make these Ethiopians suffer even more. You know we will do it - so pay up."

The Bosses Vito Corleone, Tony Montana and Tony Soprano thought that taking over parts of Brooklyn, Miami and Northern New Jersey respectively was a big deal. They certainly never envisioned what could be achieved by taking over a whole country.


In the post No More Appeasement we discussed the issue of sanctions against the leadership, budget support and issues of accountability in current and historical detail. From a practical point of view sanctions and accountability would HELP the people of Ethiopia far more than being permanent wards of the EU and US living at a base subsistence level.

From a moral / practical point of view it seems that from this millenium's dictatorial Zimbabwe, to last century's apartheid South Africa - all seemed to think such forceful measures were a great idea. Alas, double and convoluted standards seem to be standard issue in these situations.

In the Middle-East Hamas is distinguishable from Fatah only because it does not even pretend to recognize the existence of the Israel. When Hamas, a frankly terroristic organization, becomes a government - the usual suspects in Europe may grumble a bit but they will keep sending money as usual, maybe even more because while the EU has every reason to be more secure in its strength than its enemies (whom it usually just pretends are really friends), its utter lack of will makes it a chronic appeaser.

Further to the east in Iran several years of EU 'big power' negotiations are ending with Iranian threats and a commitment to build nuclear weapons. Not only is this an issue because of threats to destroy an entire country but because no one from Brussels to Cairo to Riyadh to New Dehli wants that messianic dictatorship to have the weapons of armageddon. Watch for the same pattern of European appeasement to recur.

As we said in a previous post the only reason that the EU is even pretending to have an interest in Ethiopian democracy is because the US has opted out of the issue entirely. If the US made a point of sanctions, Meles would be winning a new European prize and getting billions in new grants every week - just so the EU could pretend to be on the side of the little guy.

Problem is if the bad guys are just bad enough or even complain a bit, the EU has nothing to offer but platitudes and pretense. They know better than any reader who has ever visited these pages exactly what Ethiopian government is all about. But then again ... what is anyone to do with a government that has to be begged and threatened to treat its own people decently?


The Prime Minister on economics:
"Unlike in [Western Style] Liberal Democracy, in [Ethiopia’s] “Revolutionary Democracy,” there is no economic area that is outside its preserve. Only available capital and procurable management can limit its investment capacity.
This will be another long series from numerous sources detailing the essentially corrupt system that Ethiopians suffer under. A system that simultaneously wastes billions in aid dollars and euros while impoverishing millions:

The World Is Yours I
The World Is Yours II - The Syndicate
The World Is Yours III - The Commission
The World Is Yours IV - "An Offer They Can't Refuse"
The World Is Yours V - Capo di tutti Capi
The World Is Yours VI - Our Thing
The World Is Yours VII - Wise Guys
The World Is Yours VIII - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game
The World is Yours IX -

You get the idea.

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