Friday, September 22

Liberal Democracy In Action

Addis Voice links to a flyer from opposition groups calling for a demonstration at the at the United Nations in New York City on September 22nd to show their solidarity with the people of Ethiopia and denounce Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi, who is expected to attend the 61st UN General Assembly summit.

The demonstration will be held Friday, September 22, 2006 at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
in NYC. It is sponsored by: supporters of Kinijit and Hibret and the Ethiopian community members in Metropolitan NY, Boston, and Washington, D.C. For more information check the flyer.


Also ... EthioMedia reports that "The phones ring off the hook" at House Speaker's Office." Ethiopian-Americans are exercising their democratic rights in support of Ethiopians who can not. The calls are to House Speaker Dennis Hastert with the aim of allowing a vote on HR5680 also known as The Ethiopia Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights Advancement Act of 2006.

We discussed the bill, its passage and the challenges it faces in the post The House Does the Right Thing. There are significant efforts from the dark side of the force that don't want the bill to go through. Prof. Alemayehu Gebre Mariam (via Ethiopian Review )gave this summary after the showing of a documentary about the government directed violence against the Anuak people. The Anuak Justice Council's Mr. Obang O. Metho gave this speech about the horrors conducted against the Anuak and countless other Ethiopians.

Meles Inc. is investing vast sums of money extorted directly from tens of millions of Ethiopians and diverted from American aid to pay for lobbyists and lawyers. After all, once a dollar is in the hands of the regime from whatever source it is impossible to say that it went to to a legitimate purpose or not. At best, aid to governments like Ethiopia's just frees up other funds for transfer to private accounts & rich investments abroad, arms dealers, legions of spies and agents as well as plain propaganda.

How is that for rent seeking behavior ...

This perversion of the the freedom and laws of American government in the service of a foreign despot is against the interests of Ethiopians and Americans. In the post Icebergs and Pink Elephants we discussed how this is being done legally as well as the necessarily conjoined illegal Ethiopian government espionage and intimidation apparatus that operates under diplomatic cover. Meles Inc. has to offer as its principal export to America, only the very same climate of fear and mendacity that has defined governance in Ethiopia for decades under two successive totalitarian regimes.


And ... it is amazing how, without input from Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia, how reality is spun. Take this article from the Travel Section of the New York Times , Ethiopia Opens Its Doors, Slowly. The article gives a brief of recent Ethiopian history and goes on to say
But under President Zanawi, who has begun to show some dictatorial tendencies of his own, significant development has come to Ethiopia, including mobile phone networks, decent hotels, Internet cafes, reliable electricity, and asphalt roads — phenomena that were unheard of in the outlying provinces a decade ago.
Well, anyone who has read a State Department Human Rights Report or releases from Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch knows that Meles Inc. has been a dictator for 15 years. The 'begun to show' bit is just a fig leaf over recent rounds of killing and imprisonment that are an unpleasant footnote to the writer but an unpleasant reality for Ethiopians.

The benefits of tourism just like all money flowing into Ethiopia from aid and remittances go principally to the regime whose business and government monopoly empire owns everything from the hotels and tourist vans onto the phone networks onto every square inch of land those roads connect. Those few internet cafes, home & business internet use and phone lines are monitorred by the government - even email is tapped into (and of course phone lines) while opposition websites are blocked.

There is absolutely no freedom of information in Ethiopia and the government has one of the worst records in the world for imprisoning journalists. But ... the reporter is more interested in how 'rustic' Ethiopia is - well we guess tourism is his job and not concern for little things like human rights. We do wonder if the dictatorships of Myanmar (Burma), North Korea or Syria would be treated with such care.

Anyway, the impression that those things are approaching the writer's standards for a visit in few tourist spots, mean little to 70 million of the poorest people on earth who are treated as the serfs of their rulers.

Frankly, while Ethiopian tourism is a welcome phenomenon, part of the article reads like the "he makes the trains run on time" justification for Mussolini's dictatorship. Actually, 'the trains' aren't even running on time in Ethiopia. Aside from what the government has allowed foreign aid money to build in exchange for a massive cut of every dollar of the action and aside from foreign remittances which are similiarly snapped up by schemes and corruption - urban and rural poverty are worsening outside of a corrupt core dancing to the regime's tune.

Does the writer wonder about the tribal bantustans and ethnic divide and rule that define governance and how the people whose name the ruling party has stolen have the least political rights of all? How about the camps where tens of thousands are prisoners for suspicion of opposition and the notorious prison where the political opposition, reporters and human rights activists are in the midst of a show trial as criminal as those of Stalin's - with their lives at stake?

No ... Meles has just 'begun to show' dictatorial tendencies ... and in the meantime he is managing a real heck of a find for adventurous tourists.


The rapacious government sees native Ethiopian economic and political dynamism as a threat and controls every sphere of life there. Like the lobbyists for Meles Inc. in Washington, the reporter from the Times and so many others are a product and source of profound low expectations. They don't wonder why Ethiopians are poor and oppressed and so appealingly 'rustic' but are just glad to visit or deal with whomever gives them a good show and good business.

Ethiopia is not a rustic museum of humanity that allows one to pretend that humans aren't paying a price for planned failed policies and brutality - but a nation with its present and future being stolen from it. Ethiopian Americans, as the most free and most prosperous group of Ethiopians in history, have a moral responsibility to get the truth out.

For a corrupt few, that responsibility holds true even as they put themselves up for sale. The price is flattery, promises of property & money, the dubious pride of wearing 'Team TPLF' t-shirts (that will of course be shed for the standard of whoever is in the palace at the right moment) and invitations to meet with real live Ambassadors & hang with the aristocracy.


One more thing about low expectations ... we generally reject as a rule, rote accusations of racism and conspiracy theories about the dealings of ferenjis with Ethiopia. Unlike the government of Ethiopia, foreign governments and foreigners are looking out for their own countries or their own interests. Without their even fitful attention we have no doubt that the government would be openly dealing in slaves and sacrificing suspected opponents before altars of Marx and Lenin in mass rallies.

However, try this thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine that everyone in the corporate offices of Meles Inc. (i.e. the revolutionary aristocracy & nobility) was white. Would lobbyists and reporters be so eagerly evading reality and humanity?

Of course not ... but since the story is about what Ethiopians are doing to Ethiopians, low expectations rule ... "you can't judge those people by our standards" after all. Why not? Ethiopians are cursed by tyrants who just happen to look like them.


We will be back to our regularly scheduled programming like completing 'The Great Intellectual Dictator' this weekend - and will not stop doing our pundit thing under any circumstances.

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