Wednesday, February 22

lies, damn lies & statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Mark Twain (or Benjamin Disraeli) said this a long time ago but they could have been talking about Meles Inc. today.

Federal Police Anti-Terrorism Taskforce

Wasn't Axel Foley on one of those?


China again

In the last half of the post How About Chinese? we discussed the illusions revolving around Chinese aid, investment and trade in Africa and Ethiopia in particular. Actually, unless Ethiopia has enough oil found in the near future to justify a multi-billion dollar investment in pipelines over Ethiopia's rough terrain and pumping & loading facilities in a friendly port there is no reason for China to keep Meles Inc. afloat. The EU and the US may have billions in Euros and Dollars to spare but China can't afford to and wouldn't bother to throw big money around for the sake of 'third world solidarity'.

China may loan enough money so that repayment will bankrupt Ethiopia for further generations like Soviet arms shipments to the Dergue did before they were largely forgiven, but since the Chinese actually want to be paid back and since absent oil they have no grand strategic design in Ethiopia - loans won't be enough either. Enough money may get through for the functioning of a skeletal vampire government like Mugabe but remember that Ethiopia is much bigger, far more complex and much higher maintenance than Zimbabwe.

The China illusion is important to the government because it has embraced the notion that Ethiopians are the enemy and best kept down while foreign 'development partners' are far more reliable. The Chinese are supposed to be the magical foreigners who don't care how many Ethiopians that the Ethiopian government kills.

Think about that repugnant concept once more. Ethiopia's government is proud to have found someone to beg from who doesn't care how many Ethiopians are killed. That is what Ethiopia has been reduced to by Meles Inc.


Playing hard to get

Another set of illusions being projected by the government has to do with how allegedly well the economy is doing under Meles Inc. ownership and how aid is therefore not a big deal. This is all a rather silly strategy in the end. The politburo knows it needs aid since they abandoned actual policies to bring about development in exchange for the greater personal security of permanent beggar status.

So to keep getting aid they have decided to use reverse psychology on aid donors / critics by pretending that they don't really need the aid anyway. 'Playing hard to get' is part of the Chinese dreams being floated as much as claims of high Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

This article from the L.A. Times "Africa's 'new generation' linked to old" (link from Ethiomedia) has the requisite degree of mature cynicism about despots like Meles. Just a year ago such an article would have been totally worshipful of Meles but this one still manages to play along with government talking points
Throughout the decade that followed, [Meles] spoke of decentralizing power, building a strong parliament and restoring the economy. Last year, Ethiopia, one of the world's poorest nations, attracted $1 billion in foreign investment, officials said.
From the first part of the article one has the impression that Meles talked about that good stuff but did not deliver then the reader is presented with the $1 billion FDI figure for one year and the conclusion that Meles is at least doing something right.

It all depends on what one means by 'officials'. Ethiopian government officials, journalists who trust them and international experts / bureaucrats who parrot them are always talking in such rosy terms. The government is no surprise as the origin of lies. The message is that instead of creating a variation on communist kleptocratic crony vampire states that they are doing some good and deserve support.

The journalists are often just too lazy to do an appropritate Google search. The international types have a vested interest in the lies of the Ethiopian government. Imagine if you will - billions have been spent based on the word of all those Lords of Poverty while the per capita food production, GNP and FDI has been shrinking.

They have to pretend things are good or government's and donors will back off of giving aid and their own private empires of Ethiopian poverty will be shaken up. They figure that as long as no one is looking too closely and Ethiopians still need aid (never mind that the government policy's keep them poor) then some 'white lies' every now and then hurt no one.

When you look at any organization of humans, oh dear reader of ethiopundit, you must do so with an eye for what is really at stake. No we aren't talking conspiracy theory absurdities here like the familiar 'America / the British / Europe want to keep Ethiopia down and Meles is their instrument because they are mad about our long history / Adwa / the Soviet alliance etc.'

What we are talking about is any group from a volunteer Fire Department in rural New England to a government agency in Brussels onto a group of humanitarian internationalists in Addis. All of those structures given time take on an evolutionary imperative to survive and prosper.

If a law was passed to study if American homes had enough chairs a law would eventually be passed to ensure that all American homes have enough chairs. You should be certain that within years there would be a massive chair shortage caused by government interference, regulations and politics. It would all be on the news every night requiring massive taxes to finance a chair bureaucracy and for grants to related 'chair issue' special interest groups. All going on about the Chair Crisis that probably did not exist to begin with.

If billions can be wasted in America that way what possible chance does Ethiopia have when faced with the same mentality as its only lifeline?

The bureacracies and aid groups dealing with Ethiopia are little different. They know full well that the reason Ethiopia needs aid is because everything that made their own societies wealthy is totally absent from Ethiopia beyond rhetoric. But if they say so they are out of a job and have no purpose anywhere else either. Hell - they might actually have to go back to Ohio and Bavaria to make a living for a change.

So it is easier to go along and in fact develop a symbiotic relationship with a goverment that they all know is bad. Sharing the same lies everyone gets what they want. At least everyone who matters. The bureaucrats get to be important and live like the colonial viceroys of ages past in Ethiopia while those in donor countries carve out their own special aid niches to guard and nurture. The government gets to be taken seriously and gets direct aid and a chance to siphon of vast funds.

Everyone gets to pretend that building a few things here and there is doing wonders for Ethiopians when what they really need - institutions and accountability in a new social contract is something that they can never have. It is a delicate dance in some ways all around.

The Lords of Poverty have to acknowledge that the country is poor and needing billions without sayin why it is poor. The government balances on the collective Ethiopian neck while pretending to be all about the free market and honest.

Here is what a qick Google search turned up on the subject of FDI in Ethiopia:
-World Bank Group FDI for 2000 $135 million and for 2003 &60 million
-United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (PDF) FDI for 2000 $135 million and for 2002 $75 million
--UNCTAD seems delighted that from 2001 to 2003 FDI tripled from $25 to $75 million

A large part of all of this comes from one very generous source. Indeed the investment in the Sheraton Hotel alone accounts for more than FIVE YEARS worth of all FDI into Ethiopia since 1991. Actually, the $135 million dollar figure for 2000 may be based on when the light fixtures or the linens for the Sheraton Hotel were delivered.

Ethiopia has one of the lowest rates of FDI on the planet based on GNP or based on per capita figures. Simply put, there are few places on earth that people have so little desire to invest in. We simply don't believe that from $60 million in 2003 that the FDI flow increased to $1,000 million (1 billion) in 2005 over a period of two years.

That massive increase in FDI was supposed to be happening during the same year that the government was massacring people in the streets, warning that everyone around it was guilty of terrorism, starting civil war and ethnic genocide, when tourism was even lower than usual and a tour bus had been held at gunpoint, when tens of thousands were under arrest and so many killed ...

... and to a country where the government / party literally owned all the land and the whole economy. None of the above inspires confidence from investors who after all aren't in it for charity but to make money. In Cognitive Dissonance we tell of one official who actually said that " He sees [diaspora] investors as interested in financial gain rather than the good of Ethiopia."

The only people who actually SEND money into a ridiculous economy and situation like that manufactured by Meles Inc. are Ethiopians abroad who feel immense emotional ties or Western taxpayers who do so involuntarily through their governments and various aid bureaucracies.

The L.A. Times article and so many others take the word of the Ethiopian government and repeat absurdities like $1 billion FDI in one year so it bears repetition on the part of those interested in the truth to point out the truth.

Like every other aspect of reality this is all about lies and what will distract critics and keep the government with its hands around Ethiopian necks and deep in piles of cash for another day.

One day of lies and spilling blood at a time.


double digit growth and more

Another favorite set of lies that all like to print is that the economy grew by 'x percent' last year, this year or next year. Usually since 1991 this has been a double digit figure. In reality countries that grow at that rate are in the midst of economic revolutions like South Korea or China experienced at some point.

Ethiopia has grown progressively poorer since 1991 and the very low standards set by Mengistu. Per capita income has fallen steadily to a point where it is less than one-quarter of what it was in the mid 1970s. National income measured by GNP is less than half of what it was then. Both continue to fall in real terms every year.

The only difference has been a massive infusion of aid that keeps the whole creaky mess stumbling along as Meles Inc. strips more and more of the meat from the bones of the national economy having finished off all remaining fat. Aid and remittances from Ethiopians abroad who actually live in countries where wealth can be created have given a patina of gloss to Addis Ababa.

On the agricultural front there are regular official announcements about bumper crops always a few weeks before calls for massive aid lest X number of millions die. Chronic malnutrition and regular death have become Ethiopian traditions rather than tragedies to be noted.

At each stage the usual suspects in the government, international bureaucracies and the media play the same game with each other using the lives of Ethiopians. For them it is a win - win situation. If lies present a good face to the world then everything they are all working so hard for is really working. If reality makes things look bad then they are all needed more than ever.



A meme is
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.
It is actually just a fancy way of saying theme but with the extra emphasis on how deep set or of hidden importance it is, hence the repeated use of the word culture in the definition.

The memes of the government lies are trying to burrow themselves into the collective mind by repetition and by drowning out other voices. By violence in some places and imitation in others. Like the worst lies they are based on what people actually want and universal truths that their reality always denies and corrupts.

Take this story Ethiopian police foil "terrorism" plot - report
Quoting a statement from the Federal Police Anti-Terrorism Taskforce, ENA said security forces had arrested several members of the group and seized a cache of TNT explosives, bombs and small arms.

"The group was planning to launch simultaneous attacks... targeting various government officials, peoples' delegates, public figures as well as private and public institutions," ENA said in a report on its website.
"The clandestine group is linked to the Coalition for Unity and Democracy which it said opted to pursue the path of violence after the May elections," ENA quoted the police as saying.

Police accuse unnamed groups and individuals who live abroad of financing the group, ENA said.

Last month police said several public buildings and hotels in Addis Ababa were damaged by explosive devices planted by unknown people.

CUD officials were not available for comment.
This comes out of the Ethiopian government's "Federal Police Anti-Terrorism Taskforce". Wow that sounds so official and serious that it must all be true right? Try again - even that unit name was made up to impress ferenjis with the illusion that they are dealing with a normal government here that wants to supress bad guys instead of being a collection of them itself.

This reminds us of the end of the big action scene in Beverly Hills Cop. Eddie Murphy's Axel Foley has just finished shooting up a mansion without jurisdiction or authority. In a moment as corny and fun as Hollywood has ever had to offer humanity, the formerly straight laced police chief defends the renegade Detroit cop as he explains to his superior that Detective Foley could not be in trouble because he was really part of a "top secret multi-jurisdictional federal-local police task force."

The last bit from the Reuters article would be as hilarious if it wasn't tragic at the same time. "CUD officials were not available for comment" we are told. That would be fine if they weren't all in jail for trumped up treason and genocide, dead, disappeared, in mass detention camps or thoroughly intimidated by threats and the reality of deadly violence. One must wonder if the writer meant this to be funny.

In addition "Police accuse unnamed groups and individuals who live abroad of financing the group". Wow again. It is the vocal diaspora who are doing all this just as they pull all the strings from abroad. You see, as a matter of definition all Ethiopians (at least those within Ak-47 range) love Meles so anyone who doesn't (and who is past AK-47 range or the range of bribes, flattery and threats) is a terrorist or supporter thereof.

So dear reader what should you think? All this covers several fake memes doesn't it? The alleged care for orderly government and society, the violent unrepresentative diaspora, and the link to the main opposition group whose leaders would be dead unless the government feared for its aid fix.

This as propaganda is laughable but Reuters reports it without comment or even the shallowest mental Google search of logic. Are journalists and international news agencies this gullible or do they figure that a place like Ethiopia is such a mess anyway that why should they bother with the truth or critical analysis?

In The Natural Language of Dictatorship we discussed other occasions when the terror or law & order card was used to uncritical attention from the press.

Next time the government will continue to blame its own penchant for violence on Eritreans, the Dergue's revanchists , the Emperor's feudal agents, tribalist Oromos, disloyal Tigrayans, Neftegna Amharas, Rwandan genocide perpetrators, the European Union, the villianous diaspora, Ana Gomez, hooligans, bank robbers or Darth Vader all at the same time or alternatively.

Except for Darth Vader the government has actually blamed all of the above at various points.

Watch for journalists to lap it all up and ask for more. They apparently have no filters for truth and logic when it comes to Ethiopia. The government memes then spread like an epidemic. The best antidote is knowing exactly what they are and developing an internal filter of common sense.


related posts of note

Ethiopians are not poor even by the standards of Biblical suffering and they are not oppressed even by the standards of familiar African dictatorship by accident or fate. It is all about government and policies that many of the posts below investigate in depth.

The authors of these policies are the ones that aid donors and other development partners embraced and continue to value after a decade and a half of economic and social de-evolution masked by tens of billions of aid to one of the most corrupt, poorly governing and brutal governments on earth.

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.

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 and Cargo Cult Economics 6 - Sachs & Violence 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.

The World Is Yours Is an introduction to anothers 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:. Basically, the Ethiopian government at present is difficult to distinguish from an organized crime network. 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

'Zenawinomics' and the Aztec gods, let the ferenjis feed 'em again and let the ferenjis feed 'em take a look at the game of 'bumper crops' and 'looming famine' that is played out regularly with the result that taking care of Ethiopians or even allowing them to take care of themselves has been abandoned in preference for letting aid donors take care of it all.

The Birth of Plenty, Do the Right Thing and Luck and the Idea Trap show exactly how other nations have escaped destitution and tyranny, why Ethiopia as currently governed never will and how such horrible decisions are purposefully made by governments.

On Borrowed Time focuses on the agricultural economy and how all present trends given current policies point downwards. Malthus, Hobbes and the Red Queen looks to the future and further finds that without changes Ethiopia is heading for a horrible appointment with destiny so that a few can remain powerful and rich.

The Politburo Knows Best series looked at the prospects for liberal democracy and found them poor indeed. Almost all of the same factors predict prosperity as well and they have all been abandoned in favor of eternal power for a few. The following provide clues to the ideological undperpinnings of Ethiopia's current suffering and the policies that define it. Basically, the controls provided for below explain why the trade-off was made for eternal beggar status vs actual development.

Politburo Knows Best III - Revolutionary Democracy The national guiding ideology is still Marxist-Leninist-Maoism - so you can assume there aren't great prospects for freedom and prosperity. Since about the time this seminal essay ;-) was posted the government has not mentioned Revolutionary Democracy aloud again but it still defines their world view exactly.
Politburo Knows Best IV - Revolutionary Feudalism There are no rights to own private property whose protection is essential to all prosperity and personal & political rights worldwide throughout any period of history.
Politburo Knows Best V - The Wretched of the Earth Ethiopia's system of tribal divide and rule 'bantustans' has more in common with medieval feudalism than anything modern or decent for humans to live under.
Politburo Knows Best VI - Defending the Revolution An intense system of of control inherited from the Communist Dergue of Mengistu (known in Cuba as 'Committees to Defend the Revolution') exert absolute government control and fear at the lowest (neighborhood or block) level in unseen rural areas (85% of the people) and urban lives as well.

Monday, February 20

How about Chinese?

ever heard the old joke about being hungry an hour after a Chinese meal?

for Meles Inc. power may last a bit longer at gunpoint but it won't be with any substance from China

Take a bit of the obvious, mix in some serious sober expressions and historical memory as deep as a puddle to get this type of anyalysis - Ethiopia's Meles can weather political storms.

Sure, by using brute force and a pervasive security apparatus Meles can stay in power for some time. It is still amazing that observers act like this all began this year with the fake election.

What do they possibly think the past decade and a half was about?

Ethiopians have lived with it all for fifteen years now - only two years less than they had to deal with the Dergue and arguably more than Mengistu ruled alone. Siad Barre lasted even longer as did Mobutu and the rest of the usual suspects of those African desposts who have managed to 'weather political storms'.

Perhaps that term 'weather political storms' should be re-written more honestly as 'willing to kill' because that is what power in a revolutionary democracy / dictatorship is all about. That and being a master illusionist.

Arguably Meles made his living until just last year running an elaborate con game on ferenjis. Seizing control of a popular struggle and transforming it into the bloody reality of a Marxist - Leninist - Maoist Liberation Front (named for its first victims) whose arcane internal politics would shock Machieveli was just the tip of the iceberg of talents required to take over Ethiopia.

In a world where the old communist gods were dying before their eyes and the imperialists were winning the Cold War there was a desperate need for someone to deal with the ferenjis and Meles perfectly fit that bill. We suspect that quite a bit of his ascendancy within the TPLF had to do with the ability to be exactly what every ferenji - progressive or conservative or whatever - exactly wanted him to be.

What this last year's burst of arrogance that had the Ethiopian government imagining it could actually win an even fractionally open election with minimal cheating actually did was to rip away many careful years of images and lies served up solely to impress ferenjis.

Every drop of vengeful regime drawn tears and the streams of blood showed conclusively that there was no commitment to the rights and dignity of man as understood by any civilized government from Costa Rica to the EU to Botswana anwhere within the brain, organs or corrupt flesh of Ethiopian government.

With that democracy game over for the EU next up is the security game which most interests the US. The problem is that being an alleged bulwark against terrorism is only looking just one wrong move ahead from everyone's point of view. That is especially so when destitution, tribal - religious - regional divide and rule while cherishing an old fashioned single party kleptocratic mess are all as dear to the Ethiopian government as transit systems, votes and social security are to others.

In Washington no one ever took any of the democratic blather from the Gibee seriously anyway but eventually either the Bush administration or certainly the next will have to deal with the aftermath of a totally failed state in the Horn of Africa precisely because of Meles aided and abetted by American power and prestige while democratic alternatives existed in plain sight. Even with the security game working and helped along by fake rumors of war with Eritrea, EU monetary threats are still quite potent.

As we have often said the perverse social contract written by Meles Inc. has it that 70 million Ethiopian hostages can always be treated worse by their own government unless ferenjis pay cash and show the regime respect to protect all those innocents. The price of the regime's brand of revolutionary democratic power is national failure so the donors made themselves the constituents instead of the actual Ethiopians.

What kept up the illusions necessary to support this monstrosity erect was the force of personality from Meles himself that allowed willingly gullible folks with deep pockets to think they were in the presence of what they had always dreamed an African leader could be. From Clinton to Blair to Sachs to Bono to countless others they lapped it all up and kept coming back for more.

After a while they must have known they were being conned but they kept coming back for more because they could not admit they had ever been wrong lest someone doubt them on the next issue. It seems for now that Tony and Meles are no longer best friends forever but if the British taxpayer cash still ends up in the regime's coffers at a different level it won' matter much.

So yes, Meles may last in power and weather storms to come by killing whomever he has to and defying nations who care more for his people than he does. But he will be doing it as a common dictator before the whole world no different than all the other bloody despots of history who have climbed their way to the top of pyramids of suffering.

In so many of these posts on ethiopundit and elsewhere on these innernets it all seems to begin or end with what the ferenjis think doesn't it? The Ethiopian government is so proud everytime someone with money isn't too loud about the bloodletting that it crows about how wonderful it is before the eyes of mankind.

Critics are certainly more discerning about events but again, how loud ferenji attitudes are about the bloodletting is also an all consuming matter. For a nation so old, so proud, so manifestly able this is certainly a difficult situation to be in.

It is the function of three decades of Ethiopian Marxist Lenininst Maoism that have brought Ethiopia so low that what foreigners think matters so much. Mengistu sought alliances from the USSR rather than in Ethiopia because he was busy harming Ethiopians and Moscow willingly stepped in with guns while Moscow's enemies in the West fed his people.

Meles has sought alliances in the West since he was busy harming Ethiopians and figured the natives would not be good allies for him in the long term while he needed someone to take care of his own people. Every nation follows its self interest in foreign policy but while the West has a rather more enlightened view on that topic than Moscow did - the ultimate effect is the total absence of popular accountability from serial Ethiopian governments.

The untold story of all of this is that the Ethiopian people themselves are sick and tired of Meles and his permanent revolutionary aristocracy that own all the land and control the economy through government monopolies and party / crony businesses at every level from millions in trade to every centime squeezed from a peasant.

One popular theme of late is that China is a big factor now in African politics in general and in Ethiopia in particular. Somehow Meles is imagined to be on the verge of pulling THE CHINA CARD out of his sleeve to show all the ferenjis and all of the uppity Ethiopians that he is in control of the game.

Yeah right. With or without EU cash and with the US support for his bloody deeds not likely to continue for long Meles will be left with how many Ethiopians he can make suffer in the end while China will make little if any difference.

Once again - all nations pursue foreign policies based upon self interest - and once again there are occasional governments that care for many peoples more than their own governments do - often when no particular interest is at hand from the strategic or business point of view.

China, ruled by the party of Mao of Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution shame, is definitely NOT one of those countries.

Here is a small but representative sampling of the new Chinese - African Hype in the media: China's investment, clout in Africa cause concern, Africa a Frontier of Opportunity for China and China shifts from receiving to giving foreign aid as economic boom continues. Sounds impressive right? China is about to come out kicking ass and taking names on a global humanitarian scale right up there with the big boys!

What you may not know is that in the case of the Tsunami Disaster of a year ago that China only pledged only $60 million and delivered less. But every good intention and penny put out there received maximum coverage that at times rivalled that given the substantial efforts of the US and the EU. In 2004
China donated $24m to the WFP. The bulk of these funds went towards operations in China's poorest provinces. Only $1.5m (£780,000) was earmarked for international humanitarian work.
Basically China doesn't give anyone that much aid at all and it is not likely to start doing so anytime soon. Back in the 1960s and 70s during Mao's disastrous rule China probably gave more aid overall and certainly with less conditions than now although it was far poorer. The main purpose being competition with the USSR and / or the US most of it was wasted as most ideologically driven projects are.

Imagining a scale of aid to match what has been keeping Meles Inc. afloat is totally beyond the bounds of reality.

The Chinese are one of the great peoples of earth but China's government is just a particularly intelligent (recognizing, for example, that capitalist cats catch mice best) totalitarian regime. The Chinese politburo is all about the bottom line especially when it comes to their power and money.

They may look at their counterpart Ethiopian politburo and recognize kindred ideological / dicatorial spirits but the folks in the Forbidden City today are every bit as unromantic as the ones in the Gibee. Taking away pieces of Sub-Saharan business from Europe is one thing that is cheaply done and potentially profitable on a small scale but actually giving Meles enough money to live on is not about to happen.

The Council of Foreign Relations has one of the best takes on this issue we have come across in China, Africa, and Oil. It boils down to this
China has adopted an aid-for-oil strategy that has resulted in increasing supplies of oil from African countries.
Last year's jump in oil prices had to do with rising demand from mainly China.
China accounted for 40 percent of total growth in global demand for oil in the last four years; in 2003, it surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest oil consumer, after the United States. In the first ten months of 2005, Chinese official sources say, Chinese companies invested a total of $175 million in African countries, primarily on oil exploration projects and infrastructure.
The Chinese government is looking very far ahead to how to keep their economic engine running. They are really in a race. Their social contract with the Chinese is based upon delivering the chance of increasing capitalist generated wealth in exchange for total political obedience.

If the Chinese regime can't deliver growth then political demands will be made for accountability and they also know that will happen anyway, but they want to stay as far ahead of the curve as possible. So they need oceans of oil in the very near future. Africa is just part of the game. Territorial claims against almost every neighbor in the Pacific feature in as well as does policy towards Iran and the rest of the petro-world.

Basically, an African nation that doesn't have oil or some decent chance of getting access to some in a reasonable time frame is of little interest to Beijing beyond flooding its market with Tickle Me Elmo dolls and other at times more substantial projects - always for a profit. Actually the biggest interest may be arms sales - both Ethiopian and Eritrea spent $1 billion neither could afford and largely siphoned from aid and squeezed from peasants on Chinese arms from 1998-2000 alone.

"China is very pragmatic about this," ... "It's cutting deals with governments all over the world." China doesn't care about slavery in Sudan (well for that matter Canada doesn't either but let us conveniently call that the exception that proves the rule) and doesn't care what horrors Meles Inc. may invent for Ethiopians. If there is oil in Ethiopian it doesn't hurt to be seen as a reliably cold blooded by a fellow dictatorship and if there isn't then so what? The world doesn't expect moral behavior from China anyway.

The Chinese may loan Meles Inc. money that they definitely expect to be paid back with loan rates dependent on the level of Western aid compounding interest that will never be forgiven. However, they aren't just giving anyone hundreds of millions or billions for any reason at all including any illusory geopolitical rivalry with the West when China can barely make its power felt beyond its borders.

The Chinese politburo may look at the Ethiopian one and see a familiar structure and shapes, but fellow Communists or not the Chinese look over and see losers. Basically they don't respect and have sympathy for a regime whose grand strategic plan was keeping its own population as hostages.

There may be something to be said for just weathering storms and staying in power at all costs but there is no kinship felt beyond those slim bonds of mutual dictatorship to the Ethiopian regime at all. Basically, Meles Inc. has absolutely nothing to offer the Chinese government which is also never likely to be moved by human suffering.

THERE IS NO CHINA CARD hiding in the sleeve of Meles that matters anymore than the next giddy headline on the Government outlets Walta or ENA.

The likes of the Chinese politburo that slaughtered thousands in Tianeman Square and that are heirs to Mao's legacy built on the bones of tens of millions would go along with an Ethiopian slave trade if they could get away with it - but always the Chinese government will want a return on any investment of cash or prestige in Ethiopia that Meles can not possibly deliver.

In exchange for an endorsement of the invasion of Taiwan the Ethiopian government seems to have gotten a promise of one or two articles a month from Chinese government media that faithfully repeat the talking point from the Gibee but that is about it for support as far as we can tell. We don't expect much more of substance in the future either.

The EU seems to be backing off from Meles and the US will stick around for now at least but unless enough money can be siphoned off from aid or even more squeezed from peasants or oil discovered - it doesn't matter how charming Meles could possibly be with the A-Team of World Dictatorship in Beijing - there will be no weathering the storm with anything besides a few Chinese words and EPRDF purchased bullets.

Wednesday, February 15

... you may not see us because we will die ...

The BBC has a photo essay called Underground Children about the street children of Addis Ababa. The text accompanying the above picture
Blink and you will miss the underground children in Ethiopia's capital city.

They live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes, hidden beneath Addis Ababa's teeming streets.

They move from one makeshift shelter to the next, chased away by police or the rivers of water and refuse that flow when the rains come.

......... Links in the Chain of Suffering ..........
Several key informants also commented on the emergence of a new type of commercial sex around Awtobus Tera (the main bus terminal in Merkato); female street children were highly involved in this sex work.

According to kebele guides and sex worker informants, this group was exposed repeatedly to sexually transmitted infections and attended clinics adjacent to the area for treatment. A few street children were interviewed about their life and their health conditions.

Recurring comments from this group of children were summed up in the words of one child “today you have interviewed us but after a month or so you may not see us because we will die of different reasons — exposure to extreme cold weather or disease”.
the above is from Mapping and Census of Female Sex Workers in Addis Ababa (PDF). How did these children end up where they are? Let us try to trace their path. Deepening poverty shatters families in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has the world's largest population of orphaned children, with 4.6 million having lost parents to AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, according to a 2004 study by the United Nations and Ethiopia's labor and social affairs ministry.

Many children, whether orphaned or driven from their families by poverty, drift toward the country's urban centers in search of work or handouts from strangers.

More than a half-million homeless children roam the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Many sleep in trash-strewn alleys or abandoned buildings, often vulnerable to sexual assaults and other forms of exploitation. Children as young as 4, their noses runny, their clothes begrimed and tattered, weave amid the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the city's main boulevards, selling packets of paper napkins for one birr apiece, about 12 cents.
Opposition parties claim that much of Ethiopia's poverty is exacerbated by government ownership of the land, a vestige of the country's communist era. Opposition groups are pushing for privatization to make it easier for farmers to form cooperatives or acquire enough land to make farms profitable.

Privatizing land is a bad idea, says Zenawi, who predicts that most struggling farmers would sell their farms and flock to the cities, creating even more instability. To ensure a brighter economic future for the country's children, Zenawi says, Ethiopia needs more industry, not land reform.
No country that denies private property rights has experienced growth sufficient to eradicate poverty or given the personal security to become democratic. Zenawi knows this very well but he has other priorities such as eternal power. Where is the money for industrialization going to come from anyway?

Ethiopians get poorer every year while beyond remittances from Ethiopians abroad and foreign aid little flows in. Ethiopia is considered one of the most corrupt and poorly governed countries on earth with one of the lowest rates of per capita foreign direct investment on earth as well.

The agricultural sector crippled by government policy or dreams of massive aid from abroad won't do it. The party / government / crony businesses own the whole economy and all the land anyway so the principle economic issue becomes how can more money be squeezed from the poorest people on earth, how can more aid money be brought into siphon off and take care of the poorest people on earth and how fast it can all the money be transported right back abroad to numbered accounts.

20,000 children sold
Poverty-stricken Ethiopians sell thousands of their children for as little as $1.20 (about R8) each to traffickers who put them to work as prostitutes, domestic labour, weavers or professional beggars, said the International Organisation for Migration on Wednesday.

Families sell as many as 20 000 children, some as young as 10, every year.
Thousands of Ethiopian children sold by parents
There are an estimated 4,6-million orphans in Ethiopia, about 13% of all the country's children. About 200 000 children are believed to live on the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa.

"While this crisis of vulnerable children is depriving children of their rights to human development, it is also proving to be a growing burden on already impoverished communities," said Bjorn Ljungqvist, head of the UN Children's Fund in Ethiopia.

A legal expert with the IOM's counter-trafficking unit in Addis Ababa, Alem Brook, said Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of internal trafficking of children in the world.
Alem said the majority of boys and girls end up as domestic labourers, commercial sex workers, weavers or professional beggars.

The IOM warned that thousands of Ethiopian women are also trafficked abroad. At least 10 000 have been sent to the Gulf States to work as prostitutes, the agency said.

"There are increasing numbers of young women being recruited from here for sexual purposes," Alem said.
Ethiopian parents who do this sort of thing are not more likely to do so than the parents of any other children on earth. All have, however, been put in the grips of one of the very worst governments on earth.

All such suffering has a return address of sorts, it is not the human condition nor the fate of Ethiopians. Every lesson of the past centuries and decades of human advancement is being purposefully ignored so that the politburo can rule forever.

They have made a choice between human suffering and their own security in power. Every factor that would empower Ethiopians economically or politically is seen as a threat. Ethiopia's rulers know exactly how so many others escaped lives that were 'poor, nasty, brutish and short' but have made a clear choice here.

God and fate have not betrayed Ethiopians but her rulers have. As Rural Ethiopians Struggle, Child Labor Can Mean Survival
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of child labor in the world, according to the United Nations' International Labor Organization and the African Network for the Prevention of and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect. Nine million children ages 5 to 17 are employed, 90 percent of them in the agricultural sector, the agencies reported.
"The actual style of agriculture hasn't changed in 2,000 years, and that affects everything," said Stuart William, a Kenyan who is working on a joint environmental and development project with the United Nations and the Ethiopian Agriculture Ministry. "When the crops fail because the land is overused, then the farmers sell off the animals. The family is then totally stripped of their assets. The farmer loses out in every way. The only thing left is to send the child to work for someone else."
This article does not mention the land issue. Even National Geographic, that picturesque staple of Rousseau-like non-judgement and 'romance with the primitive' ascribes Ethiopia's suffering to land policy. This article would have us believe it just is like the climate.

Negotiating boundaries: Bar girls and sex work in Nazareth, Ethiopia (PDF)
Young people engaging in prostitution as part of their economic survival strategies is perhaps most associated with sex tourism in East Asia, Thailand in particular. A number of studies have discussed the processes at work here and implications of engaging in commercial sex for the children involved.

Child prostitution in sub-Saharan Africa has a much lower profile and subsequently received much less attention in academic research. Despite this, young people are engaging in prostitution. Little is known about the nature and extent of this in Ethiopia although many teenage girls are drawn into commercial sex work through

A recent survey of 650 sex workers revealed that this is a substantial problem with more than 40% stating they became involved in prostitution below the age of 18.
This article is a fascinating take on the lives of those children whose path in life is hijacked by factors beyond their control and who grow to maturity with a burden of accumulated, accelerating suffering as a national tradition defined by their government.

The suffering of Ethiopians serves to subsitute the constituency of Western aid donors for Ethiopian approval to rule and is also a weapon against every man, woman and child who even dreams of challenging the status quo.

A system that so dehumanizes millions in exchange for the prerogatives of a very few permanent revolutionary feudal aristocrats can only be described as evil because the necessary conditions at each step where a matter of government policy. Consider the word evil to be extreme in this regard?

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

Who will die or never be born because of tribal cleansing or a simply treatable disease or wretched poverty rooted in corruption? It could be a carpenter, a daughter, a farmer, a herder, an artist, a son ... millions of human beings. There is nothing Ethiopians can't achieve in creating a successful society for themselves if they are given a chance that they are now denied.

Only their own unelected and undemocratic government has crippled their age old struggle to join the freedom and progress of the rest of humanity. Ethiopians can easily do what billions of others have already done to escape poverty, Biblical destitution and oppression. If they are only given a chance.

Friday, February 10

The World Is Yours V - Capo di tutti Capi

If history has taught us anything,
it's that you can kill anybody.

Michael Corleone, facing his first murder
, waxes all philosophical like about how killing for business is somehow justified by the mention of history, conveniently ignoring that it is rather personal for the rest of non-psycopathic humanity. From The Godfather


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."

With the kind permission of the author, we are serializing over a number of posts, Chapter 16: The Economy of "Revolutionary Democracy" from Dr. Theodore Vestal's remarkable book Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State.

This entry continued from The World Is Yours III - The Commission.

One point to remember always is the essentially corrupt worldview of tribal opportunism and divide and rule cherished by the government. The TPLF and Meles Inc. serve the interests of the Tigrayan people just about as much as the EPRDF serves the interests of all Ethiopians.

Keep in mind that despite the insidious efforts of the Politburo to associate its activities with the good name of Tigrayans it is clear that a very few permanent professional feudal revolutionaries rule for their own benefit - NOT that of Tigrayans in general - whose potential estrangement from other Ethiopians they are dedicated to.

More on this in the post In Whose Name?.


The Economy of "Revolutionary Democracy"


As part of the party organization activity, Front cadres collect "voluntary contributions" from farmers, civil servants, factory workers, and the business community--most of whom fear economic reprisals against them should they be niggardly in "donating." The funds so contributed for both political organizations and the ethnic-based "development" associations affiliated with them are at the disposal of the parent party.

In theory, the development associations are NGOs that mobilize local resources for the development of small-scale infrastructure and social services for their ethnic constituencies. In reality, no one, other than the political organizations that control the associations, knows how the money is spent, and the parent groups make good use of this arrangement to gain additional revenues. The Front's NGOs also put pressure on non-EPRDF economic actors which might pose a threat to the hegemony of the party.

"Non-profit" relief organizations set up by EPRDF member parties, such as REST, are exempt from paying taxes on revenues and import taxes, and through agreements with international donor agencies receive aid in foreign currencies. The lack of transparency in their operations makes it possible for party-sanctioned NGOs, while posing as benevolent ethnic self-help groups, to directly serve the political and economic interests of the EPRDF.

A classic example of this strategy was the TPLF's establishment in 1995 of Tikal Igri Mitkal Tigray ("Rehabilitation of Tigray"), a profit-making NGO with over a million dollars in paid-up capital. This entity came into being through the "donation" of shares of party-controlled companies to the "Endowment Fund For the Rehabilitation of Tigray" (EFFORT). Such donations are exempt from sales taxes and thus provide the Front with a fiscally painless reallocation of capital of some of its companies. EFFORT then made its resources available to Tikal Igri Mitkal Tigray, the center of large-scale investment in Tigray Region.

While Front-affiliated NGOs are used to bolster support of the party and to control the economy, NGOs of political organizations not affiliated with the EPRDF either have been banned or severely restricted. When the AAPO attempted to form a famine relief organization in 1994, the government denied its request on the ground that aid agencies "must be free from political affiliation." Holding the AAPO to such a test while looking the other way at political affiliations of REST and the rest of the EPRDF-endorsed aid associations is typical of government partisanship of the politically correct.

Well-established and reputable relief groups, such as the Gurage People's Self-Help Organization, the Oromo Relief Organization, the Gonder Development Association, and the Wollo Development Association have been the targets of debilitating harassment by the EPRDF. Rival ethnic aid associations affiliated with the Front, however, are encouraged by the government to operate in the areas vacated by those non-EPRDF groups.

The Political Party Registration Proclamation provides another example of a two-track system used to deny other organizations the benefits accruing to the Front. Under the law, "a political party which has attained legal personality may not directly or indirectly engage in commercial and industrial activity." Before and after the proclamation was issued in 1993, individuals, "revolutionary democratic forces," and NGOs had set up income-generating business companies in behalf of the EPRDF. The acts of the Front to the contrary not withstanding, the proclamation makes it illegal for any non-Front political organization to get funds from such sources.

Through the establishment of million dollar companies, smaller businesses, and profit-making NGOs, the EPRDF is carrying out its strategic objective of dominating the economy. The power of party-owned companies especially is felt in such sectors as construction, industrial production (including textiles, cement, marble, and pharmaceutical drugs), agricultural production (with special focus on livestock and cash crops), transport (both public and freight), consultancy, publishing, advertising, import- export,wholesale trade and distribution, and transit services.

Many of the private companies that are not associated with the party have been marginalized, and even some state enterprises are not able to successfully compete with Front concern. As a result, Ethiopia is now a free- market kleptocracy run directly or indirectly by the Woyane.

One of Ethiopia's most admired businesses has not done well under EPRDF management, however. In 1997, Ethiopian Airlines acknowledged a decline in income which had been dramatically exceeded by expenditures. The low morale of employees was purportedly reflected in the deterioration of work efficiency and poor quality of service provided customers.


Beginning in 1997, the Woyane expanded the scope of its economic activities by setting up joint ventures with non- Front individual businessmen and companies and organizations (with EPRDF companies maintaining majority ownership). The Front also became more active in the financial sector, and created the nation's largest "private" bank, Wegagen, with working capital of Birr 60,000 million.

The increase in the number of banks, the expansion of the banking system, and the introduction of regulatory changes could reduce the costs of banking, encourage savings, attract investment funds, and stimulate economic growth--all a part of the liberalization of the financial system, a course of action advanced by the IMF and the World Bank. Critics of the EPRDF maintain that the Front has contorted objectives of financial liberalization and other structural adjustment programs to

1) prove its compliance with the recommendations of international lending institutions and Western donor countries to obtain further loans,

2) as a Western-sanctioned economic weapon to attack non-Tigrayans [see In Whose Name for a short primer on how the party / government does not speak for or act on the behalf of Tigrayans], and

3) as an instrument to enrich its supporters, cadres, and leaders.

In January 1998, the EPRDF leadership announced three significant changes in the Front's development strategy "to benefit the rural people." The telecommunications sector, the production of hydroelectric power, and the defense industry were opened to foreign investors. Party leaders were willing to allow private investments in the construction of infrastructures of these sectors, but they stressed that distribution activities linked with these infrastructures would remain in the state's hands.


In its fight against poverty, an overarching goal of the FDRE is to increase agricultural production. With 80 percent of the population in farming, agriculture accounts for over half of Ethiopia's Gross Domestic Product and 85 percent of export earnings. Prime Minister Meles avers that "no government can impose its will on peasants" and believes that the nation's agriculture will improve under a governmental policy of "hands off the peasants." The peasantry are free to make their own decisions about what crops to plant and when and where to sell them.

Apparently agricultural production did improve, for in early 1997, Meles announced that Ethiopia had achieved self- sufficiency in grain production. [This claim has been a regular one and has always been a lie - every time within weeks there is a major call for emergency aid to feed anywhere from 15-25% of the population with anger expressed that the world was not acting sooner.]

Furthermore, the country had produced more than 500,000 tons of surplus grain for export, including 1,246 metric tons of maize sent as relief aid to some 40,000 drought victims in northern Kenya. The optimistic report of the nation's improved agricultural output was diminished, however, when in December 1997, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission appealed to foreign donors for food aid amounting to over half a million metric tons to feed over 4 million food deficient Ethiopians.

The unpredictable rains of the highlands again raised problems in the agricultural sector that tarnished the government's claim that agricultural output had increased by 50 percent over the previous two years. The maize that was shipped to Kenya traveled through the Borana and Bale zones of the Oromo killil, parts of Ethiopia where hundreds of thousands of people were suffering from food shortages.

Agricultural production, of course, is tied closely to land tenure, and the various regional administrations have leeway under the constitution to implement land policies in different ways according to traditional local practice. Peasants are guaranteed access to land, their only social security, but they cannot sell it. The land that is left after reallocation to peasants will be available to be leased by commercial farmers. Experiments under the new regime may bring improvements, but skeptics worry that the lack of land alienation through sale or mortgage may stymie agricultural production.


Because of the dominant role played by the TPLF in the EPRDF, it is not surprising that the Tigray Region has received the lion's share of economic benefits from Front activities. Tigray has become the center for new factories manufacturing, among other things, pharmaceutical products and cement and other building materials. The infrastructure of the region is being improved by the construction of irrigation dams, roads linking different woredas, airports in the main towns, schools, special vocational training centers, colleges, clinics and hospitals, and water supply systems. Electricity and telephone services are available in many of the towns.

The massive Tiss Abay Hydro-Electric Power Project, now under construction on the Blue Nile, primarily will benefit Tigray when completed. The outpouring of economic benevolence on Tigray at the expense of other parts of the nation is described by Assefa Negash as "the pillage of Ethiopia."

The marked imbalance between the reconstruction activities in Tigray and in the other regions was justified by Prime Minister Meles as a function of the constitutional division of power between the Federal Government and the Regional States. Since each regional state is responsible for the overall development of its domain, according to Meles, the dynamic economic growth in Tigray is attributable to the successful efforts of the Tigray Regional State. The Prime Minister failed to note that the Central Government has provided Tigray with more development resources than have been available to other regions and that Tigray was receiving 85 percent of all international aid to Ethiopia.


For public consumption, the EPRDF extolls the virtues of economic liberalization, a free market, and the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Behind the scenes, however, most of the Ethiopian economy is under state ownership or control. Rural land belongs to the state and not to the farmers and is parceled out by the Front to secure political support of the peasants. Key sectors of the economy, including banking, manufacturing, foreign trade, mining, and transportation are either dominated by EPRDF-owned companies or controlled by the state.

Enterprises that have been privatized have been "sold" at low prices to the party faithful, frequently Tigreans and Eritreans, in what has been termed unfair bidding competitions. Included in the nationalized businesses and assets sold are buildings, factories, and houses confiscated by the Derg and never returned to their former owners. The government has announced plans for additional privatization of 115 state companies, with an estimated value of 40 billion birr, during the next few years.

The Front, with its nuevo conversos and crony capitalists, comfortably occupies "the commanding heights of the economy." The EPRDF has devised an encyclopedic stock of anticompetitive weapons, and they have adroitly found ways to restrain trade, rig markets, and suppress competition. According to international financial institutions, the EPRDF controls or owns more than 80% of the Ethiopian economy.


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.

Friday, February 3

Earth to Bono? ... Come in Bono ... Earth to Bono?

First off we should say that we like U2's music. Well, both U-2's in fact even though the other had no music.

The Cold War U-2 was the very high altitude spy plane, still in use 50 years later, that Francis Gary Powers was flying when he was shot down over the USSR while the U2 band took its name from said airplane in a stunning fit of cool irony and deep relevant meaning for all.

Kind of like the B-52 strategic bomber of Cold War nuclear alert and Vietnam fame, which is also flying 50 years later, gave its name to the B-52s in yet another stunning fit of cool irony and deep relevant meaning for all.

Thus it is follows naturally that Bono is the epitome of cool right? Just check out his trademark (rose tinted!?) shades if you doubt us in this Time cover for 2005's Persons of the Year. Bono has been reborn, it only seems like it is 50 years later at times, as the International Cool Ambassador for Human Goodness.

He continues to record and tour with U2 though. Back in the day there was one U2 album in particular, the one with "Where the Streets Have No Name", that became part of the soundtrack of at least one of our lives for a while there. So saying critical stuff about Bono does not come easy to us as doing the same for Bob Geldoff (seriously we've never even heard a single Boomtown Rats song!), yet, alas it must be done for the good of us all.

Bono discusses 'Meles and other African Tyrants' in Germany's own Der Spiegel (link from EthioMedia) and here is a bit of the interview
SPIEGEL: Bono, six months ago you and Bob Geldof pleaded for a debt cancellation for countries like Ethiopia. You did that successfully. But in the meantime, President Meles Zenawi's government rigged the elections, sent thousands of people into prisons and accused journalists and opposition leaders of treason. What went wrong?

Bono: I am gutted about what happened there. I know Meles Zenawi. I have sat with him on more than a few occasions. I know his story. He fought a guerilla war against Mengistu for 17 years. He is a regarded macro-economist, believe it or not.

SPIEGEL: Does that give him the right to put people into prison for publishing their opinion?

Bono: No, no. Of course not. I just want to say that he is a person who deeply cares about the poor in Ethiopia and has done some great things. But he's bipolar. On the other side we see that he's still a military man, who will not give up power, who is closing down civil society and is putting the opposition in prison, behind bars. This is shocking and apalling.

SPIEGEL: Are you surprised by the recent development?

Bono: Meles has just turned sour in the last years. For a while he was doing mostly what was right. The decisions that were made in good faith in the past, you can't hold them ransom for the present.

SPIEGEL: This government has never been democratic. The elections last summer were supposed to be the first democratic ones in the history of the country.

Bono: Aid flows are being withdrawn now. And the movement I belong to is part of the reason why the British government has pulled out of Ethiopia. We have to have a very simple standard of doing business, which is: If you are not tackling corruption, if you are not allowing civil society to do their job, we are not giving you any money. Outside of famine, and outside of those kinds of catastrophes, which need money pumped in no matter who's in charge. We are not marching the streets to redecorate presidential palaces for anyone.
As a general rule we like it when folks agree with us so we don't have too many problems with parts of this particular interview including lines like "we are not marching the streets to redecorate presidential palaces for anyone" EXCEPT that the glaring bits of nonsense sprinkled around spoil the whole thing.

The parts we are referring to are in bold above and indicate that Bono really seems to have no problem with Meles or with tyranny in general beyond the current 2005-2006 disappointment with fake elections resulting in violent revenge against a whole nation of hostages, the arrest of tens of thousands, God knows how many killings and on and on.

Before this, everything with Meles was just fine according to Bono. The main reasons that Bono's country is rich, that others with billions of people are getting richer and Ethiopia is getting poor every year is based upon simple things like popular accountability, the rule of law, private property rights and a government even nominally representative of the people it rules.

The 'regarded macro-economist' of Bono's fevered imagination was doing everything wrong in terms of the normal socio-economic development of every halfway successful human society for 14 years before the recent 'unpleasantness'. Bono should read The Birth of Plenty and Do the Right Thing for some much needed clarity on these issues.

Why didn't Bono notice the previous fake elections, mass violations of human rights and the vast web of structural corruption represented by a ruling party / government that owned all of the land and controlled the economy through a web of government monopolies and party / crony owned with the iron hand enforcers of a despotic state along for the ride?

Sorry Bono, me lad, this just did not all just happen in 'recent years'. And you know that very well.

Anyone with the most cursory appreciation of history and current events (and of reality for that matter) whose eyes were not forever covered with rose tinted shades should have known that a country getting billions in aid every year that still managed to get poorer and poorer and produce less and less food was not likely to be a pleasant place for the natives or anyone else in the near or long term.

What we can conclude is that Bono, who like Geldoff (remember readers, the scourge of our own Spice Girls) is probably a really decent guy but should also really serve as a poster boy for why the most blinding success in one field should not translate to any assumed expertise in another. A whole lot of people seem to assume otherwise.

Back when Audrey Hepburn was a UN Ambassador for Hunger or something like that the whole international caring celebrity thing was just fine because it was about drawing popular attention to a subject. Now, when celebrities expect to make policy and are listened to against all human experience and evidence in support of what are frankly bad guys, the time has come to tune out the world of cool caring celebrity.

Seriously, what was Angelina Jolie really doing at Davos? For that matter what was anyone doing at Davos?

What really matters in the end is the little guy - be he peasant farmer or worker or student or whatever. They are the very definition of human progress, who when given a break in a fair system, that has worked before for others like him, makes all of his own decisions.

He and the businessmen and the trader and the investors and the kulaks and those who actually do things and build things (and who never ever never study political science or economics) are the ones who one small step at a time transform national destitution to plenty in the short span of a generation or two - given a chance mind you.

They are the heroes and the ones who matter. Later for the celebrities we say.

Actually, given that Jeffrey Sachs, the big shot economist, probably still thinks (or at least still says) that Meles is the Greatest Man of All Time - the issue is really that many experts and those who 'deeply feel' the suffering of others and just 'want to make a difference' are most often entirely the wrong people to let loose amongst regular folk who only want for a shot at liberal democracy, property rights, the rule of law and good old fashioned capitalism to do very well for themselves indeed.

Bono knows very well that Meles is not 'bipolar'. Meles is indeed quite sane and utterly cognizant of everything he does. It is just that Meles and Bono don't inhabit the same moral universe even as they share the same earth. Admitting something like that is very hard to do for most people who have spent time with and been convinced by those that ultimately disappoint in such a manner.

Maybe, just maybe when Meles seemed to do 'great things' and to 'deeply care for the poor' while doing everything to hurt the poor and prolong his own rule - it was all about saying to Bono exactly what Bono wanted to hear since his blessing meant more money flowed into the purposely failing Ethiopian state to prop it up without the consent of Ethiopians.

Bono, Jeff Sachs, Tony Blair, and a bevy of international academics, officials and bureaucrats instinctively defend Meles & Co. while pretending they never saw or don't see any problems and make up fanciful excuses or look for cheap psychoanalysis to explain the fact that they were all simply conned by someone who made a living as a despot based on the practiced ability to be what any particular ferenji most wanted an African leader to finally be at long last.

What all the usual suspects are all defending is their own judgement and prestige in the end - acting bewildered about Meles's nature and even defending him are just sideshows. If they admit they should have known all along what every bit of evidence said about Meles and Ethiopia's Revolutionary Democracy - then they are faced with questions about their judgement and the billions they have already spent and want to spend on their holy missions to be super cool humanitarians in what are ultimately get rich quick schemes that have never worked.

Sorry Bono, if you want to help people, advocate that they have exactly the rights and opportunities that made the British rich and the Thai no longer poor. None of that can be found in one man of anyone's ideological fantasies - actually those always turn into nightmares.

Development and human progress are about doing what works. There is no third way or cool alternative or hyped new (or rewarmed) theories that can better that bit of common sense.It has served billions quite well and bad government with eager foreign help has denied it to Ethiopians.

Thinking that it is all about money and magical personalities means that Bono 'Still Hasn't Found What He's Looking For' and never will.

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.