Wednesday, April 8

Cadre Cola

Given the recent drama about Coca-Cola stopping and re-starting operations in Ethiopia you may be tempted, dear reader, into thinking this post is about just that. No, this one is about another, not so famous, brand that has far greater global reach and larger profits with a miniscule consumer base and very little brand recognition.

In countries like Ethiopia it has absolute market share among those that matter. Folks are literally dying for it. Cadre Cola is the carefully distilled essence of Ethiopian blood, sweat, and tears. Like mushroom cultivation the manufacture of Cadre Cola can't abide light and thrives in ... well, you know exactly what.

Cadre Cola is what cadres consume. It is bottled by and for an exclusive clientele of government and quasi-government aid bureaucrats as well as third world dictators and their cronies. The taxpayers who finance it and the oppressed in whose name it is bottled either assume the Cadre Cola business is an obligation or something they can't live without.

Let us start with a definition. What does cadre mean? As usual (where none of many hundreds of millions of editors has an ax to grind anyway) Wikipedia is a good place to start:
Cadre (pronounced /ˈkɑːdreɪ/, from the French) is the backbone of an organization, usually a political or military organization. Because cadre are well developed in terms of knowledge, experience, and agreement with the organization's goals, they should be able to adapt and rebuild the organization's structure and ideological direction even if the organization has been weakened, through, for example, other members being killed or imprisoned. For professional revolutionaries the cadre consider themselves subject to the discipline and self-discipline of a political vanguard party model.

Radical Left movements in particular have maintained their minimum program of survival and growth very effectively through the strength of a cadre system. Basic success within a movement in which cadre are the vanguard comes when one core of cadre has gradually recruited and trained another group of cadre to ensure the perpetuation of the movement. This, in theory, both strengthens the movement politically and promotes a culture of emulation over that of competition. The drawback of the cadre system is the inevitable ossification of the ideology as competition is eliminated, and the cadre becoming a separate caste, "a state within a state".
We take issue with the 'Radical Left movement' bit though. In as much as left - right distinctions matter the Radical Right owes just as much to the cadre system as do groups as seemingly diverse as organized crime and terrorist movements. The part about being well developed is wrong too unless we are talking about man's more canine characteristics. Merriam Websters has a shorter definition that is just as descriptive
a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party
Exactly. Don't get us wrong here. We aren't talking about loyalty here or dedication which can be admirable qualities. Rather we are talking about people who are frankly for sale or with so little sense of self or shared humanity that they are giving themselves away. Just aching and willing to exact pain on others for the slightest gain. Imagine a village dog who bolts when someone makes a movement remotely like they might be reaching for a rock - the dog then tucks its tail in to come ask for anything at all besides a kick - another dog to bite even - anything at all to make any of a thousand masters happy.

You get the idea.

Ethiopians are familiar with the type who passionately served, lied, and spied for the Dergue when the time was right and then came to see Meles himself as their personal savior - on and on to presumably transferring their souls to whoever else is in charge from a resurrected Mussolini to invading space aliens. Even when they didn't change sides the idea holds - they were just cadres of a competing vanguard parties.

We know some cadres uncomfortably well (genetically even) who made it out of Mengistu's Scientific Socialist gulag, walked across deserts to get to the USA, and eagerly opened up franchises of Meles's Revolutionary Democratic kebeles (just as bad, actually worse, if it only happened in their own minds). The amazing thing about the cadres of Meles Inc. in Ethiopia and outside it today is that they could not exist without a group of powerful cadres just as twisted as they are to exist.

You know where this is heading of course - we are talking about ferenji cadres whose avowed aims are service to their fellow man but whose real interests revolve around getting along with dictators of poor nations, pumping billions to them, getting paid, and making up stories of their success. All with no oversight from anyone.

Aid Watch is the blog of William Easterly, the author of The White Man's Burden : Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good.(The book is summarized in this post So Much Ill and So Little Good.) He begins that book stating that there are two tragedies for the world's poor.

First, that so many suffer because they lack access to existing inexpensive solutions and second, that the $2.3 trillion (that is $2,300,000,000,000 in cash money / 23 followed by eleven zeros or 2.3 thousand billion bucks!) spent on foreign aid over the last five decades has still not managed to get those existing inexpensive solutions to the poor. Indeed, foreign aid often makes the lives of the poor far worse.

This point of view is a far cry from the Jeff Sachs (see this post Sachs & Violence) school of "throw so much money at the third world that even the most rapacious elites can't manage to steal it all ... then maybe something good will happen ... maybe - and if it doesn't why heck, it sure is a fantastic little academic exercise.". Or how about the Joseph Stiglitz school of just plain liking Meles personally because Meles so neatly parrots the scholar's words and theories back at him (see this post Intellectuals and their Discontents).

Dambisa Moyo the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa has this to say about Africa in particular
the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.
The Easterly and Mayo books manage to actually judge and evaluate human reality and the results of aid, accountability, institutions and governance. Easterly and Mayo are the anti-cadres being heard increasingly more to the great dismay of the Lords of Poverty or the Ferenji Aid Raj who run the the multi-billion dollar Cadre Cola brand. The term Lords of Poverty comes from a book by Graham Hancock titled, The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business. The introduction and first sections of the Lords of Poverty is available on line.

It begins thus
This book is an attack on a group of rich and powerful bureaucracies that have hijacked our kindness. The bureaucracies I refer to are those that administer the West's aid and then deliver it to the poor of the Third World in a process Bob Geldoff once described as 'a perversion of the act of human generosity'.


Official aid also involves the transfer of very large sums of money - so large in fact, that the resources of the private sector look puny and insignificant by comparison. It would thus be sensible, at the very least, for the official agencies to be directly accountable to the public - to be 'transparent', open, and honest in their dealings.

This unfortunately is not the case. Indeed, critical study is sharply and effectively discouraged. Those of us, for example, who wish to evaluate the progress , effectiveness, or quality of development assistance will soon discover that the aid bureaucracies have already carried out all of the evaluations that they believe necessary, and are prepared to resist with armor plated resolve, - the ignorant or biased or hostile attentions of outsiders.

Even the few apparently independent studies have been financed by one or other of the aid agencies or by institutes set up with aid money.
Keep this last bit especially in mind for later on. Now finally let us pay a visit to the Easterly blog to see the poverty cadre in action. The story starts with this Aid Watch post Why Does British Foreign Aid Prefer Poor Governments Over Poor People?.
European donors are moving towards increasing direct budget support to governments of aid-receiving countries. Leading the charge is the UK, which gives the largest percentage of direct budget support of any bilateral or multilateral donor (although the World Bank, the European Commission, the US and France also give substantial budget support).


Of this list [of nations British aid flows to], only Ghana and India were classified as “free” by the annual Freedom House ratings on democracy (according to either the 2007 or 2008 rating). For the 11 other countries that did get British budget support, how much is there “country ownership” when the government is not democratically accountable to the “country”?

Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused some of these governments of serious human rights violations. Ethiopia’s autocratic government, which is inexplicably the largest recipient of UK budget support in Africa, won 99% of the vote in the last “election.” The government army is accused by HRW of war crimes in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Nor is this brand new -- neither army officers nor civilian officials have been “held accountable for crimes against humanity that ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) forces carried out against ethnic Anuak communities during a counterinsurgency campaign in Gambella region in late 2003 and 2004.”

HRW also notes that today: “Credible reports indicate that vital food aid to the drought-affected [Somali] region has been diverted and misused as a weapon to starve out rebel-held areas.” Ironically, Ethiopia’s autocratic ruler, Meles Zenawi, was the Africa representative at the recent G-20 meeting campaigning for more aid to Africa during the current crisis, because, among other reasons, Meles said “people who were getting some food would cease to get it and … would die” (from an article in Wednesday's Financial Times.)
The good Professor has this wrong - there was no insurgency among the Anuak then and there never has been. The government just wanted the locals, who they had previously neglected to terrorize because of their remote location, to understand who was in charge and the price of even possible defiance that might interfere with drilling for oil. (See the post Blood, Oil and Ethnic Rule in Gambella.)

Back to the story at hand, the Addis Ababa-based director [chief cadre] of (allegedly an initiative to accelerate poverty reduction by making aid more transparent. Aidinfo is part of Development Initiatives, a UK-based development consultancy) wasn't having any of this. You see according to that wonderful Amharic expression Easterly is "touching his injera" i.e. "upsetting his gravy train" i.e. "narcing him out".

After all how could he continue to pretend to monitor corruption in aid in Ethiopia if the corrupt government thought him disloyal for not responding to Easterly's stubborn refusal to accept the party line? His more immediate bosses in Development Initiatives would also appreciate a stirring defense of their no doubt very profitable enterprise. The aid agencies who pay for the whole aid daisy chain would appreciate a strong defense too.

Hell, the chief cadre probably thought to himself, "if folks listen to the Easterly types of this world who are to proud to shut up and get on the short list for phat consultancies then I might just have to get a real job some day." So he gamely put down his real human skull goblet (a gift from Meles himself), carefully lest a drop of that sweet nectar Cadre Cola spill, stiffened his spine in prospect of a horrid real job (insert dramatic shudder here) where results were actually expected and wrote to Easterly ... his response was posted on Aid Watch.

The aid cadre had this to say in support of business as usual.
according to the official results of the 2005 election, the ruling party won 59.8% of the votes.
Note the absurdity of both parties even referring to 'official results' of an Ethiopian election with straight faces. Easterly's response.
I guess we really left you with a poor impression if you think we can’t even count votes! We were referring to the local elections of April 2008 (the more recent, and hence ‘last’). Human Rights Watch (the source of our original assertion) found, during two weeks of field research in the lead up to the elections, “systemic patterns of repression and abuse that have rendered the elections meaningless in many areas.

HRW concluded that the 2008 elections “provided a stark illustration of the extent to which the government has successfully crippled organized opposition of any kind—the ruling party and its affiliates won more than 99 percent of all constituencies, and the vast majority of seats were uncontested.” An Associated Press article from April 20, 2008 told the same story: “opposition parties said a systematic campaign of beatings, arrests and intimidation forced out more than 17,000 of their candidates.”
The cadre went on to say
the UK does not give budget support to the Federal Government of Ethiopia. Through the Protection of Basic Services scheme, which was introduced after worries about the election, the UK Government provides finance to local government (albeit through the existing financial transfer mechanism via central government). As well as funding health and education, the project includes significant components to increase transparency and accountability of federal and regional parliaments.
The cadre must be going for a laugh here. But sadly probably not. He just doesn't take the organizational mission statement 'making aid more transparent' that seriously does he? Well the founders probably don't either - the whole thing is sounding like a fig leaf for the Lords of Poverty. We've written about this bit of nonsense wrapped in a fig leaf in the post It's Not a Magic Solution. Our point was that paying off Mafia Capos Peter Clemenza or Salvadore Tessio and feeling all noble about not giving money directly to Don Corleone was not only dumb it was an obvious lie.

The fact that Transparency International views Ethiopia as one of the most corrupt nations on earth doesn't matter to the cadre. Somehow the central government run by Meles just might be corrupt you see but such slander can't be extended to even one mini-meles that Meles owns. Easterly responds
But wait, aren’t those the same local governments that just had the rigged elections? A recent article by Aalen and Tronvoll in the journal African Affairs points out that one of the reasons why the ruling party bothered to fix the local elections so thoroughly was precisely because international donors had cut off budget support to the federal government (in the political mayhem following the 2005 elections) and started channeling it to local government bodies instead. (Anyway, we never made any assertion about which level of government received budget support.)

You don’t think we developed our case enough that budget transfers to corrupt autocrats are bad. Fair enough, cases should always be developed more. But for now, which is more intuitive: your claim that aid to kleptocrats is “a way to make the government more accountable to its own citizens,” or our claim that aid money given directly to corrupt dictators is unlikely to reach poor people?
The cadre digs himself in deeper
The British Government's approach of giving some aid in the form of budget support (too little, in my view) is motivated by evidence that in some circumstances this is an important way of building more effective, responsive and accountable institutions.
Easterly rubs it in
“Effective, responsive and accountable institutions”—wouldn’t that include democracy and freedom from corruption? The “evidence” you cite in your post is from a report commissioned by the donors to evaluate themselves. While self-evaluation raises suspicions of bias, even so the support for your claims from this report is a tad on the weak side: “Where a separate governance matrix has been developed, progress is slow…or donors are not satisfied with quality of dialogue…or implementation is weak.”

As for corruption, the same study said that “corruption, and anti-corruption measures, have featured explicitly in the performance matrices and prior actions linked to PGBS. Most often, prior actions related to legal measures, policy development and administrative actions, but, even when formally complied with, such measures have not been conspicuously effective.” Not too surprising—isn’t giving aid to corrupt officials for anti-corruption strategies kind of like giving aid to burglars to install burglar alarms?
The cadre signs off with this supposed to be withering finish
If Aid Watch want to be taken seriously as an aid watchdog, then (a) they'd better get their facts straight and (b) they need to do some proper analysis of the costs and benefits of different choices for aid delivery in different contexts, rather than simply asserting that it is wrong to give aid to and through governments of which they disapprove.
Easterly finishes off
Thanks for your helpful suggestions on how to ingratiate ourselves with the aid establishment by toning down our criticism of bad aid-receiving governments. However, what really matters to us is not whether WE disapprove of a country’s government but whether the CITIZENS of that country disapprove of their own government—and have the right to express it. Judging from recent election practices by the government of Ethiopia, most Ethiopians don’t have that right.
Right On Professor Easterly! He gets it doesn't he? So why aren't people like him running aid programs? Because all of the characteristics required to be a Lord of Poverty, though they are legion, do not include making conclusions from facts, telling the truth, not being deceitful or at least not so desperately internalizing deceit, and taking pride in what you actually accomplish.

Along with Legesse we know many of the aid crowd in Addis read this blog. Well, Nous Accusons! You are cadres. And note that it is not a nice thing to say about someone.

What you do, unless it is purely humanitarian aid, not only helps but is absolutely vital to keeping the dictatorship of Meles in business and to the formation of an Ethiopian civil contract that includes ferenjis and Meles but excludes Ethiopians.

Meles Inc. is inconceivable without the active complicity of otherwise absolutely decent people like you in public and private bureaucracies and think tanks and international organizations every where.

Just like sex tourists, many international aid cadres are people who obey the conventions of law, common sense, and morality at home but seem to lose touch with them all when they have a willing government(to them anyway), natives (who cares if they are willing or not?), and Biblical level poverty to which they can apply their pet theories (which always fail) while getting promoted, getting a fat expense account, and living like Lords in the Ferenji Aid Raj.

With absolutely no accountability.

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

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

It is that simple. In a just world it would be the Cadre Cola brand and not the Coca Cola brand that was in danger of leaving Ethiopia.

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