Sunday, July 27

Four Years and Counting ...

the class of 2004

ethiopundit's first post was four years ago and we are frankly shocked that it is still here. After all, in blog time - four years is an eternity. So we heartily congratulate ourselves on actually having readers, links, and many mentions in the mainstream media. It is also a delight to be any part of a community of deep thinkers and fine writers of all stripes.

Despite serious inertia & competition with real life we still try to post regularly, albeit much less frequently now than four years ago. Because of the scheming & threats from cadres & fellow travelers we will always keep writing and trying to post more frequently. Does it matter? Given the evident and urgent need to get us to stop it seems to matter quite a bit. More on that in the future.

Most important is you dear reader - you simply keep reading - thanks. (Yeah, that means you too Legesse.) Where our grammar and editing have failed (as they do regularly) we thank the many of you over the years who have gently referred us to one of the greatest books on basic communication ever written, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. And yes - photoshopping is half the fun.

Oh, and a word about the "we" - right now and for more than a year it has been more of an "I" - but the "we" still has a certain gravitas doesn't it? Above all readers Don't Believe the Hype - you can never go wrong by assuming that Meles Inc. is lying - that is the very essence of their immutable being.
A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

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

Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..."
To the point ... except the venomous creatures Ethiopians are worried about have billions of Euros and Dollars in banks, investments and real estate abroad.

Ethiopian lives to them are what carrion is to a hyena. Ethiopians deserves better - they and many ferenjis understand very well who they are dealing with. Do you?

Sunday, July 20

Sammy Agonistes

FIELD TRIP! ... or is it ... Sammy Agonistes?


There is a story in the quotes below that is by rather quick turns amusing, tragic, ridiculous, and sad. 'Ethiopia's' Ambassador (really the corporate rep of Meles Inc.) to the US is caught playing up to what was hoped would be racist complicity from an American newswoman.

In his take on reality, Ethiopia's dictatorship doesn't deserve sanctions because Ethiopians are too primitive to handle democracy anyway and they need a strong native hand friendly to ferenji interests (just like his boss of course!) to keep them in check.

The able reporter was not having any of that - she does her job and reports. She does not get all flustered and flattered as planned that an ambassador is taking the literally unprecedented step of encouraging prejudice against his own people to get her to like him and report reality as he sees it.

The Ambassador then goes and gets all hurt that his ashattir (base trickery) did not work out and tries to spin that the issue is really that he "dared to be misunderstood" by an arrogant, culturally insensitive and possibly racist reporter. He pretends the wrong quote is the issue also - all of it rather unconvincingly.

Nah, dude nobody is having any of that including your fellow cadres - the reporter understood you perfectly and so do Ethiopians and ferenjis the world over. Believe.

Sammy ends with a fascinating pitch for free press. Reading it dear reader, you just know that he wishes he could just whisper to a few fellow cadres and shut down her paper or get her and her editors arrested. And you know, dear reader that he is looking over his shoulder at what Meles thinks of this whole mess that Sammy got himself into.

Interestingly, one piece by Sammy is available in cached form only and thus gone from Addis Fortune for some mysterious reason - perhaps someone in the government that understood how absurd it was even for cadres to read - actually read it. It is presented in its entirety below - it is long but it is worth reading.


Ethiopian human rights bill stalls - Samuel Assefa, 'Ethiopian' Ambassador to the United States quoted in The Hill
The task towards democracy isn’t going to be easy because our culture is lacking.
PW Botha quoted on the need for apartheid
Most blacks are happy, except those who have had other ideas pushed into their ears.
Meles up, Mugabe down, ... - ethiopundit
If anyone believed that the government had actually won a single fake election what are the chances that Ethiopian culture would be blamed for Melesian rule?

None at all. If anyone - anyone at all even pretended to believe a single word of election nonsense the fitness of Ethiopians for democracy would be shouted from the rooftops.
Dare to Be Misunderstood - Samuel Assefa, 'Ethiopian' Ambassador to the United States quoted in Addis Fortune
One of my joys as Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United States is to tell the story of the glories and encumbrances of our remarkable history, as well as of the lofty aspirations that inform the bold political experiment underway since the fall of tyranny less than two decades ago. Not infrequently, it is also a lesson in humility.

The telling of our story to audiences, most notably, to journalists, with no patience for rich narratives and little understanding of Ethiopia, is as unavoidable as it is precarious.

My latest effort at narration is instructive. An article published in The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, quoted me saying, “I was naïve; I really thought that we were going to be a mainstream democracy overnight.” Addis Fortune, thinking no doubt that this was a strange thing for an Ambassador to say, ran the quote prominently along with my picture on its page - entirely absent of context.

Now, I made the statement to The Hill while discussing the 2005 elections. I was explaining my government’s sense of disappointment at the opposition’s squandering of a historic invitation to participate in building a democracy. Despite their huge electoral gains some, opposition leaders boycotted parliament and sought to overturn the decisions of the National Election Board through violence, mob action, and demagoguery that appealed to reprehensible instincts, rather than submitting their grievances to constitutionally mandated institutions, such as the courts. The results were tragic.

Those who rejected democratic participation in Ethiopia are still recklessly seeking to upend the government through cynical manipulation of the international media and placing all their bets on the possibility of punitive legislation by the U.S. Congress, which was the subject of the article in The Hill.

My point in discussing this is not to criticize the reporter or newspapers that published the quote. I believe, unequivocally, that a free press is a cornerstone of democratic institutions. It is a check on power, demands accountability and keeps politicians on their toes. That the press itself is difficult to hold accountable is a secondary problem.

The reporter for The Hill was an earnest young woman, and no doubt well intentioned. She reminded me of the truism offered by British newspaper pioneer Lord Northcliffe, who once described journalism as, “a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand.”

The misinterpretation of what I said offers some lessons about the perils and promise of Ethiopia’s ever more important efforts to tell its story to the world. The 16-word quote that the journalist chose to use for her story was one sentence uttered during the course of an hour-long interview. During that conversation, I provided her with extensive background about the history and current issues facing Ethiopia, recognizing that she would likely be writing for an audience with even less grasp of these complex issues than she had.

Like most Western journalists, The Hill reporter is not expected to be an expert on Africa or Ethiopia. Her job is to develop instant expertise on a variety of topics. Moreover, as media compete ever harder for our shrinking attention, journalists face pressure to produce stories that are shorter, easier to understand and more “readable.” Far too often, that translates into the simple or the sensational.

Communication is strengthened by narrative, but impatient U.S. journalists often find it easier to accept the brief, simple tales of those with the most outlandish or critical views.

We Ethiopians are proud and tend to see ourselves as the center of the world. We regard bragging as a mark of bad upbringing, and believe that our deeds will speak for themselves, that eventually the truth will come out.

Americans do not share these views. It is vexing that those in the United States who shape public opinion know little about Ethiopia. Journalists are quick to report the worst allegations against Ethiopia, in part, because that is what makes “news” and partly because some Ethiopians have chosen to loudly criticize from abroad, rather than participate in the democratic process available to them at home.

This leads to an easy, and often truthful, conclusion: The press is not fair.

It also would be easy, but entirely misguided, to recoil from that which we perceive as unfair. Yes, the press is unfair. One has to fight for fairness.

Silence will lead to the worst outcomes for Ethiopia, for if we do not tell our story, someone else will, our unscrupulous critics, who are working very hard to tell their distorted stories about Ethiopia will go unchallenged.

There are numerous instances where energetic engagement with the media has resulted in articles on Ethiopia’s successes. Reuters, the global news agency, has written on Ethiopia’s successful campaign to eradicate malaria, which has been touted as a model for the developing world. Our remarkable partnerships with America’s leading coffee companies have been widely publicized, educating consumers all over the world about Ethiopia’s legendary coffees. America’s top business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, recently ran a front-page article on the launch of our commodities exchange.

The global marketplace and instant communications have made it not just desirable, but essential for Ethiopia to tell its story around the world. We should take every chance to explain what we are doing and why. We should be prepared to responds to issues as they arise quickly, professionally and effectively.

So I say, dare to be misunderstood!

Sometimes, our words will be orphaned and our quotes botched. Sometimes we will be embarrassed and misunderstood. Sometimes our efforts will appear thankless. But, there is joy in this fight because it is a good fight. In the long run, our persistence will produce results.

Paradoxically, the only solution to bad press is more press.
David Duke In His Own Words - Anti-Defamation League
Increasingly independent black economic, cultural and political power gave Blacks more freedom to do what came natural to them. Divorced from White influence and culture, they reverted quickly to their genotype -- increasingly typical of black societies around the world.

Males exhibited exaggerated sexual aggression and promiscuity that led to the dissolution of the Black nuclear family in America. Females reverted to the age-old African model of maternal provisioning of children.
Human Rights Report 2008 - US State Department
While the constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government did not respect these rights in practice. The government continued to arrest, harass, and prosecute journalists, publishers, and editors. The government continued to control all broadcast media. Private and government journalists routinely practiced self‑censorship.
Government Prepares Assault on Civil Society - Human Rights Watch
Ethiopia’s government has already made meaningful public engagement in governance impossible in many areas by persecuting its critics and cracking down on freedom of expression and assembly. The clear intention of this legislation is to consolidate that trend by taking the ‘non’ out of ‘nongovernmental’ and putting civil society under government control.
Attacks on the Press 2007 Ethiopia - Committee to Protect Journalists
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, CPJ named Ethiopia the world’s worst backslider on press freedom over the previous five years. In addition to the 15 journalists arrested in 2005, the country has locked up numerous editors and writers for months at a time on defamation and other charges that sometimes date back several years.

The list of problems goes on: ... For journalists, “reality” meant ongoing government intimidation. ... Harassment and imprisonment have led many of Ethiopia’s top journalists to go into exile. ... The foreign press corps was often forced to practice self-censorship
Annual Report 2008 - Reporters Without Borders
Heavy prison sentences are always inflicted on those who an easily influenced court system considers guilty of “defamation” or “publishing false news”. Self-censorship is constant.

Foreign correspondents based in Ethiopia have to take care not to embarrass the government, which is facing a raft of military problems in the provinces and the region, and which reacts with extreme harshness towards journalists it views as dangerous. ...

even for ordinary press cases, the Ethiopian government has a harsh legislative arsenal at its disposal and is prepared to use it to get rid of awkward journalists and it has become commonplace for it to dig up old cases.

Can you imagine the Ambassador of any other country on earth stating that the culture of his own people was too 'lacking' for democracy? No one from Stalin to Mobutu, no matter how much he actually hated his own people, would ever have said such at thing - but Ethiopia's 'representative' believes it.

The stumbling attempts of dissociation from one of the most honest statements about the Meles Inc. mindset is rather pathetic. Pity would be misplaced though because the reporter from the Hill put it all in perfect context and she understood him perfectly.

Despite Sammy's very best slick Steppin' Fetchit routine the power of a free press and internet exposed him and his government exactly as they are.

Aside from being one of the coven of 'intellectuals' that give cover to Meles with ferenjis Sammy in his role as Ambassador also supervises the illegal intelligence apparatus of Meles Inc. in the US to silence and intimidate diaspora critics - all paid for with US taxpayer dollars.

Actually, to be fair he might not exactly run that shop although he is certainly an active participant in it. We would bet that there is a rezident style superior cadre answering directly to Arat Kilo and Meles himself at the Embassy. This person Sammy fears as sincerely as he does Meles himself (during the Cold War a Rezident was the KGB Chief of Station who really ran the Embassy).


The term agonistes
is most often an allusion to John Milton's 1671 verse tragedy "Samson Agonistes," which recounts the end of Samson's life, when he is a blind captive of the Philistines (famous line: "Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves"). The struggle that "Samson Agonistes" centers upon is the effort of Samson to renew his faith in God's support.
The only faith here is that of Sammy in the man he has accepted as his personal savior, the dictator and thug Meles Zenawi and the only struggle here is Sammy's willingness to do everything possible to serve Meles Zenawi.

So really though, the most appropriate literary reference here is to Dante's Divine Comedy and the Inferno.

The most appropriate allusion to be made here is one about which circle of hell cadres end up in. Such mendacity and such spin as the supposed representative of Ethiopia generated literally digs a deeper and deeper hole in the ground ... one must wonder how far it goes.


President Sworn-In to Second Term - from the White House web site here are the words of President George W. Bush
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
Mr. President - we suppose people like this really must set foot in the White House because that is how diplomacy works. But - must American tax dollars, power, and prestige keep them in business?